Are my ears deceiving me?

Danhifi

Active Member
Years ago I bought a Monitor Audio A100 with a pair of Wharfedale 9.1’s. I enjoyed the system, however I wanted more and invested in a Rotel A14 and CD 14 and a pair of B&W CM1 S2’s. I also enjoyed this system and began buying many expensive preferred mastered cd’s. My “friend” who had a much more expensive system suggested I could use more bass, so I traded up to the CM8 S2’s. I certainly got more bass, but it felt overwhelming at times in my apartment. I have young ones and eventually moved the CM8 S2’s to a safe place and moved my amp, CD player and Wharfedales to the top of a IKEA unit out of reach of the kids. In addition I subscribed to Apple Music and I have my iPad connected via the camera kit to the USB input on my amp. I am listening to more music then I ever have. I did some very scaled down A/B comparison of my mastered cd’s to Apple Music’s version and found in all cases the Apple Music version was “better”.

Tonight I thought I would bring out the B&W’s and compare them to the Wharfedales and see how they would sound with Apple Music. My first assumption was that they of course would have more lower frequency response (they did). My second assumption was that they would absolutely crush the Wharfedale’s in overall sound quality (they didn’t). In fact in some cases I preferred the 9.1’s. There was only one case where the B&W’s sounded “better” was with Dexter Gordon’s “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry”, from his album GO. The saxophone was much fuller sounding. However albums like Sade’s “Lovers Deluxe”, The Benny Green Trio’s “Green”, Denis Solee “Sinatra on Sax” and an amazing new album from Bill Frisell “Valentine” and many other albums did not sound “better”,yes sometimes fuller and of course more obvious lower frequencies, but over all I did not find myself thinking that the B&W’s were “better” in terms of sound quality, which I guess include transparency, depth, detail and all those other audiophile terms.

What I have found with the Apple Music Wharfedale (I forgot to mention that they were stored under my kids bed for sometime and outside under a bench wrapped in plastic garbage bags in severe heat and they survived) combination is that I am really a music lover and not a component lover or chaser of supposedly superior mastered albums “cough SH”. For those who know mastering will know those initials.

Can I really think that a pair of 99 British Pound speakers are comparable to a pair of 2000 British Pound floor speakers? In my ears there was not much difference!

Just my thoughts and opinions. That being said I still want a “better” pair of bookshelves speakers as they are easier to move around and who knows may sound better then my current offerings. My arms and legs are sore from lugging the CM8’s around!

Dan
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
Apple music vs CD - you are not really comparing these; what it seems your are doing is comparing the DAC in the CD player with the DAC in the amp which are different DAC chipset families from different manufacturers (kind of annoying when hifi manufactures cant stick to the same DAC in the companions of a device model - ie A14 and CD14).

It is not surprising to me that you may prefer the sound of the AKM DAC in the amp. I am however not familiar with the DAC family in the CD player, but I have generally found even the cheaper end of AKM DACs to be quite punchy and enjoyable sounding. Of course as you go up the price bands of DAC families and supporting chips then the differences tend to diminish as they approach an ideal.

I cannot remember what the stream format of apple music is these days - ie if lossless or compressed still. I have come across people who sometimes prefer the sound of compressed (high bit rate AAC, MP3 etc) over lossless just because it thins out the sound very slightly which I guess can work better sometimes for some people especially in a speaker+room situation that may muddle the sound slightly. I am not saying this is the case, I cannot know one way or the other for your system in your room with your interpretation of what you hear, but just something to consider. I would think it is more likely you just prefer the sound of an AKM DAC.

Onto for the speakers, well some speakers may suit a room much better than others. Excess room bass boost can have the affect of masking mid and upper range detail. If you can balance the sound out again, one might hope that the much more expensive speakers would get a chance to shine again by exposing or detail.

In the end its also personal preference and familiarity (or even lack of) in the moment too. Who knows if you would make the same choice on another day? Different people latch onto different aspects of sound when deciding what they prefer too and different music can suit one system more than another because it suits some imperfections more than others. Just because someone can discriminate extra detail specific equipment, that does not mean it may actually be more enjoyable for you if what grabs you is something else and to be honest, discriminating detail is I think something people learn over time and tends not to be what what grabs most (non-professional) people about a the sound of a system initially.
 
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Danhifi

Active Member
I am using the Rotel A14’s DAC in both cases.
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
Hi. For what it's worth, i'm not surprised about the B&W disappointment that you felt. For years my dream speakers were 685's. I finally upgraded to 685 s2's, from QA 2020i's, and spent the next 2/3 years, until I could justify changing them to the wife, regretting it. I found the sound incredibly fatiguing and ended up listening to far less music and actually preferring my kitchen Sonos system. Eventually changing to Neat's immediately fixed this. I now listen to more music than ever.
In my experience, and apparently others if you search online, the B&W house sound is a bit marmite. You either love it or hate it. Great for house music, but not not for a wide range of styles. Again, just my opinion.
 

ItsNotAllSnakeOil

Active Member
Interesting post for me this. I have just subscribed to a free trial of Apple Music to see how the lossless sounds via Airplay into my main system and have been very impressed indeed. Better to my ears than the Tidal lossless and MQA nonsense I've been listening to for the last few months. It's just a shame Airplay doesn't support full Hi-Res but the lossless is still very good. On another note I purchased a pair of 9.1's for my office setup, being driven by a Yamaha 85wpc AV amplifier and have been hugely impressed for the money. The tweeter especially on these is something special to my ears, regardless of the price tag. They were hugely well received when they were launched and I can see why.
 

ashenfie

Well-known Member
The standard Apple Music offering is very poor and therefore any amp is simply making the noise louder. Try a decent service like Qobuz music and you should hear the better speakers in terms of detail and punch. The speakers do need to be correctly setup and you can use a db meter on your phone to ensure the sound levels are the same (very important).
 

ItsNotAllSnakeOil

Active Member
The standard Apple Music offering is very poor and therefore any amp is simply making the noise louder. Try a decent service like Qobuz music and you should hear the better speakers in terms of detail and punch. The speakers do need to be correctly setup and you can use a db meter on your phone to ensure the sound levels are the same (very important).
Are you talking about the lossless or 256k AAC? I’ve got Qobuz, Apple Music and Tidal and the Apple lossless more than holds its own but that’s to be expected as it’s ALAC vs FLAC and hi-res stuff aside it should be virtually identical from what I understand.
 
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ashenfie

Well-known Member
I would class standard as aac. Assuming your device is setup and supports ALAC then yes that is true.

I have many purchased ALAC format recording I downloaded from Qobuz years ago before Apple Music could play Apples own losses less format. Just the OP has not stated exactly what he is doing.
 

gava

Active Member
It's very difficult to create proper controlled listening test comparison conditions at home. It's not that you didn't hear any differences, but really that there are too many variables and in particular that short-term auditory memory is very unreliable.

Between Apple highres music and CD there should be no difference if you are sure you are getting the same master (and of course using the same DAC pipeline) - but that's not an easy thing to tell for sure. You can do it with the right software.

Doesn't mean you won't perceive a difference though. Brains are like that. Unless you can repeatably reproduce your findings in blind tests chances are that your conclusions are unreliable.

It's definitely possible that given your room, speakers, electronics, mood, source material, time of day, etc. etc. etc. that you can spend lots of extra money and not hear much of a difference, or hear a difference in the wrong direction.
 

ItsNotAllSnakeOil

Active Member
It's very difficult to create proper controlled listening test comparison conditions at home. It's not that you didn't hear any differences, but really that there are too many variables and in particular that short-term auditory memory is very unreliable.

Between Apple highres music and CD there should be no difference if you are sure you are getting the same master (and of course using the same DAC pipeline) - but that's not an easy thing to tell for sure. You can do it with the right software.

Doesn't mean you won't perceive a difference though. Brains are like that. Unless you can repeatably reproduce your findings in blind tests chances are that your conclusions are unreliable.

It's definitely possible that given your room, speakers, electronics, mood, source material, time of day, etc. etc. etc. that you can spend lots of extra money and not hear much of a difference, or hear a difference in the wrong direction.
I think in theory, Apple Lossless should be the same as cd at 16/44. The high-res is better than CD quality.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Hey,

How big is the room you listen in? My experience of using HiFi in small spaces (apartments and typical UK sized bedrooms) is that bigger speakers can, sometimes, sound worse than smaller speakers in small spaces. They might be able to go louder and have more bass and punch, but, to me, the sound can easily get too "compressed" and overwhelming. Personally, I have my floorstanders in the lounge downstairs (largest room in the house). Upstairs in a small room I have some modest 6 inch 2-way standmounts, and in the office, very small space, a tiny pair of 5 inch 2-way standmounts. If I put the floorstanders upstairs in a small round, it sounds, well, rubbish, unless I keep the volume low. Perhaps you are experiencing a similar issue, since you like the smaller CM1s over the CM8s using the same room and equipment.

Hope that helps :) Good luck...
 

Danhifi

Active Member
I am in Israel in a small apartment. I do have found memories of the CM1's as they were my first "Hi'Fi" speaker after my Wharfedale (which I am currently really enjoying). I am quite sure that the smaller bookshelf speakers fit (sound and space wise) better in the apartment. As I listen to the Wharfedale's now I am not missing the bass, actually enjoying the lack of "boom", even though there is plenty of bass for me. I really only listen to jazz and classical.

On a separate note, I am wondering if one is really only listening to music in the background opposed to serious/critical listening does speaker choice matter? This will make an impact on my next question.

Secondly, as I think of possible changes in my speaker choice I was thinking about the following. All second hand
Dali Rubicon II ($2021) in Israel prices are higher!
Dynaudio Special 40 (from Slovakia $2,568) does not include shipping and import taxes.
B&W CM5 S2 (from Germany $1,000) does not include shipping and import taxes.

Will my Rotel drive the Dali or Dynaudio sufficiently?

They all have a larger woofer and wonder if maybe the 5"(130mm) of the Wharfedale might be the right size for my room.
 

davidf

Well-known Member
It’s a case of choosing the right amplifier and speaker combination. Chances are, if you put a better amplifier with the CM8s, you’ll find that they’ll improve a fair bit, as the amplifier will have better control over the bass, and give you proper punch rather than a loose, unexciting bass. That’s not to say the A14 isn’t a good amplifier, but putting a less demanding pair of speakers on the end of it will actually sound better. Too many people end up with an amplifier not fit for the speakers they’re using, and this is probably down to buying blindly online and not using a local dealer who will provide guidance.

Smaller loudspeakers can work better in some rooms. A floorstander may produce too much bass in a particular room which will just end up smothering midrange detail.

Smaller speakers also provide a different insight into music. Their “leaner” bass puts more emphasis on midrange and treble, where all the detail is, and can provide quite a different listening experience. Cheap speakers are designed to be easy loads, whereas speaker ranges like B&W CM, KEF R, etc etc, are far more demanding due to their impedance curves which aren’t curtailed by adding more crossover components, which in turn affects sound quality.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
I use a pair of 6.5 inch bookshelf speakers in a small UK-size bedroom (approx. 4mx3m floor area) with no real issues. I use minimal amounts of acoustic treatment and but do listen in a more or less nearfield setup (approx. 1.5m from the speakers). I use an 85w amp (into 8ohm) and its sounds okay. It produces a narrow, slightly squashed soundstage, but the centre image is clear and stable and the treble, midrange and bass all sound quite agreeable and integrated. Obviously, its nowhere near as good as when I set it up in the lounge downstairs, which is nearly 3 times the size with more space between the speakers, front wall and side walls.

My impression is that it requires careful speaker placement to get a larger speaker in a small room. Using smaller 4-6 inch bookshelf speakers may be more forgiving if space is limited. If little fingers (and the kids attached) are an issue, giving you no choice but to place speakers in odd places, it might be worth considering a pair of small wall mounted speakers with a subwoofer or even two. Might work well.

I feel that the Rotel A14 should drive the speakers you mentioned to a reasonable level. Just a bit unsure about the Rubicon's 4Ohm nominal impedance ating. How low does it drop? Might be hard to drive. My own experience with Rotel combined with Dali has not been very positive, but I havent heard the Rubicons, only the Spektors and Oberon range, both were not too my taste with the Rotel A11 Tribute I own.
 
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Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
I have only skimmed through the tread, exactly which speakers are we talking about? CM 8 S2 with Rotel 14?

If he has room so they can breathe properly, then why not.

Rotel has always, and we’ll continue to produce power amplifiers.

If I am not mistaken the sensitivity on the CM8 2 is 8 ohm speakers, 88 dB. Although they drop down to 3,8.

If he has room for them that’s the only way to decide.

Me personally no. You have to move to Rotel 1572 MK2.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Again that’s the only way to decide if he likes the the sound.

But why not just buy 8-6 ohm speakers? Then the Rotel 14 we’ll have no problems.

However there is a tread regarding KEF LS50 with Rotel Tribute 11, and many members said why not.

Then I can’t see any problems with the Rotel 14.

Forgive me if this tread doesn’t discuss speaker matching.

Tips, the CM8 S2 is rated 88 dB. Do the math roughly and he needs around 40 watts give or take. Let’s say 50 watts to get more head room.

Personally I think people are obsessed with watts, still I am the same.

So maybe I’m contracting me self. Still there are many 50 watts amplifier on the market which can drive many speakers.

Not all watts are the same.
 

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