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  1. #1

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    Default RC55is sound "muddy" on punk and hard rock (advice needed)

    Here is my setup:

    6 - Polk Audio RC55i (2 in kitchen, 2 in dining room and 2 in listening area which is a very large room with no walls between it and the dining room)

    2 - Polk Audio RC85i (bedroom, not hooked up yet)

    2 - Sony 90w 6x9s in the garage 4 ohms (left over from my teenage car days, actually sound very good for the garage)

    Amp - Dayton Audio MA1240a 6-zone (12 channel) amp 40w/channel @8 ohms, 60w/channel @4 ohms

    Sub - Dayton Audio SUB-1000 10" 100w

    Player - Logitech Duet

    Source content - mostly itunes 256kbps content, some FLAC


    Here is my problem:

    Music such as the Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, Norah Jones, Doug Hammer sound spectacular, even at 128kbps. No complaints there.

    Music such as Social Distortion and the Dropkick Murphys sounds "muddy" if I can describe it in any way, like everything is just all jumbled together. Hardly any distinctness to it. I've tried that content on 256kbps and FLAC and it doesn't seem to make a difference.

    I know the amp looks to be sort of underpowered, but it's very clear and seems to be plenty "loud". There is no distortion at high volume settings.

    Maybe in-wall speakers just aren't up to the task?

    I thought about pulling the two RC55is out of the listening room and using them as front L-R speakers on the home theater surround sound, and replacing them with Polk Audio 65 RTs in the listening room. That's a huge jump in price though and I don't know if I'd be able to tell the difference?

  2. #2

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    The recordings are probably brick-walled in terms of dynamic range. One of the "symptoms" of the loudness wars is that the music is muddled, because everything has been raised in level to clipping. This kills dynamics, and the natural "air" between instruments, etc. Of course, lossy codecs are a HUGE blame as well. There's no excuse to be listening to anything but flac or other lossless codecs when you're playing in the hi-fi pool.

    Another element that can cause this is high volume levels causing your speakers to 'compress' due to them being driven past their optimal levels. A beefier, high current amp can sometimes help, but you can only push a monitor so far.
    Last edited by steveinaz; 11-05-2013 at 10:49 AM.

    Source: Squeezebox Touch/CIA Power Supply
    DAC: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Linestage: Placette RVC Passive
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Subwoofer: SVS PB12-NSD

  3. #3

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    Thanks Steve, so if I have this content in FLAC and it still sounds muddled that's probably just how it goes? This music is definitely a lot "busier" than the ones that sound amazing and I thought that might be part of the problem.

    Would replacing the RC55is in the listening area with Polk 65 RTs be worthwhile at all? The RC55is would go down to the surround sound as front speakers so I wouldn't be wasting them. I read reviews where people said the 65 RTs were worlds better than the RC65is, but you never know how to take reviews.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by sspeed View Post
    Would replacing the RC55is in the listening area with Polk 65 RTs be worthwhile at all?
    It's hard to know if it's speaker-related, power amp related or simply a dynamically squashed recording with little dynamic range. I would suspect it's the recording. Overly loud recorded music has little dynamic range and can sound very "hashy" for lack of a better term. Do you have other complex music that is recorded well? Generally, if it takes alot of volume control to get higher levels---the recording is likely not brick-walled. If the problem seems to be recording-specific, I suspect your speakers are fine.

    With that many speakers and 40watts to work with, you're likely driving that amp into clipping. BTW, that "muddled" sound you're hearing IS likely distortion. Cone break-up is SEVERE distortion.
    Last edited by steveinaz; 11-05-2013 at 11:27 AM.

    Source: Squeezebox Touch/CIA Power Supply
    DAC: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Linestage: Placette RVC Passive
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Subwoofer: SVS PB12-NSD

  5. #5

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    Thanks for the reply. The amp is 40w/per channel, so each speaker is getting fed 40w, except the 4 ohm 6x9s which are getting 60w each. It could be clipping, but it doesn't seem like it, but I'm not expert either. How can I tell for sure?

    I have the gain on each channel on the amp set to the maximum level where it won't go to sleep on the Squeezebox signal. I then use the Squeezebox for volume control. If I turn the amp gain too high for each channel, then I have to have the Squeezebox volume low and the amp goes to sleep due to what it feels to be lack of signal.

    The muddled sound, let me describe it better, the initial bass on a song may sound good, but once the guitar comes on, the bass lessens. Then with singing the bass and guitar lessen even more until it all sounds like a jumbled mess, almost chaotic. This happens at really any volume level, but seems worse at lower volumes. Since setting up these speakers I've noticed a lot different aspects of the music I listen to, and it hasn't been positive in all cases.

    I think it may be the recording as you suggest because with other music such as the Grateful Dead everything is distinct at any volume level and some songs by the same artists sound better than others.
    Last edited by sspeed; 11-05-2013 at 12:00 PM.

  6. #6

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    Try using another source...might hear a difference!

  7. #7

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    Thanks, do you mean instead of the Squeezebox? I read the DAC is a WM8501, which is just "ok". What do you suggest for piping digital content to the amp? Would an inline DAC be better than the internal Squeezebox DAC?

  8. #8

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    Using the SQB volume control is contributing to the problem as well. It's best to have a preamp for volume control, and let the SQB send a full line-level signal to the pre.

    Source: Squeezebox Touch/CIA Power Supply
    DAC: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Linestage: Placette RVC Passive
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Subwoofer: SVS PB12-NSD

  9. #9

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    It could be a power limitation of the amp... While it is rated 40wpc, it does not state how much power is available if all channels are driven...

  10. #10

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    Hmm, I just found this on the Squeezebox Duet that describes my exact problem.

    http://www.cfuttrup.com/streamingaudio.html

    "Details are lumped together and during some passages in the music, the sound becomes tinny and metallic."

    "If you really want the maximum out of the Duet Receiver, then you should probably connect the digital output to an external DAC."

    What is a good, but somewhat economical (<$400) DAC to go with?

    jon s, good call on the amp, I don't know. I do know that each channel can have an individual source or the main source or just shut off. I initially had only two zones hooked up, as I added two more the volume level or quality didn't change.

  11. #11

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    Sheesh, looking at this some more, I could get a Cambridge Wolfson WM8742 DAC for $299 or a Peachtree ESS Sabre DAC (ES9023) for $499. It would probably help a lot, but I'm halfway to the price of a used Transporter by that time.

    Is the Peachtree that much better than the Cambridge?

    http://www.crutchfield.com/p_731DACI...o-DAC-iTx.html

    http://www.crutchfield.com/p_779DAC1...100-Black.html

    Am I going down a rat hole? :)

  12. #12

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    I believe the term they use here is rabbit hole my friend....you've been bitten!!! welcome!

  13. #13

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    Ha ha, thank you!

    So, I just tried the same content through a 100w/channel amp, same result. It appears like it's either my source content or the Squeezebox. The content I tried was FLAC, so it's more than likely the Squeezebox, although it could be dynamically crunched recordings still.

    As I search around more on the Duet I see a lot of reference to it being mid-fi and people using external DACs.

    Would the linked Cambridge DAC work well or should I spring for the Peachtree or does someone have a better option? I know it's not much compared to high end equipment, but I didn't want to spend that much right off the bat, but I don't want to revisit it either. Or used Transporters are $1100 on ebay and I could sell the Duet to cover some of the cost.

  14. #14

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    I think I'm confused. :)

    I've been trying to research everything in the suggestions in this thread, pre-amps, DACs, source content, speakers. I'm such a noob. I almost wish I'd kept my older crappier speakers as I didn't notice how bad things sounded with them. I feel like I may need a small loan or an illustrious career in bank robbery. :) Having the old Bang and Olufsen Beosound hooked up to the Squeezebox dididn't hurt either, the ex-wife took that.

    I saw Peachtree has a preamp and DAC in one, but I don't see what it buys me. A preamp with tone control and volume control I can see being useful, it didn't look to have either. I think a DAC would definitely help me in the short term if nothing else.

    What's an economical solution? I know that's a very subjective question. :)

  15. #15

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    If I were you I'd be putting quality power higher on the list then a DAC.
    |Fronts - Peerless RTA-12B | Center(s) - Peerless Monitor 5 | Rears - Peerless Monitor 4 |
    |Amp for fronts - Yamaha CA-1010 | Preamp (and amp for center/rears) - RX-V667 |
    |TV - Philips 46" Smart LED | Gaming - Xbox 360 | Headphones - Fidelio X1 |

  16. #16

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    I was just thinking, too, maybe you would benefit from keeping your setup the way it is and build a 2 channel (budget, used, but better than what you have now) rig for serious listening?
    |Fronts - Peerless RTA-12B | Center(s) - Peerless Monitor 5 | Rears - Peerless Monitor 4 |
    |Amp for fronts - Yamaha CA-1010 | Preamp (and amp for center/rears) - RX-V667 |
    |TV - Philips 46" Smart LED | Gaming - Xbox 360 | Headphones - Fidelio X1 |

  17. #17

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    For starters, and on the cheap, buy a decent used receiver. Pioneer SC series would do you fine. You could use the pre-amp and dac sections which will be better than the Duets and the amp section will be better than the Dayton too. Don't know how you have the sub hooked up, but when connected to the pioneer, you could then control which frequencies go where so the lower ones hit the sub instead of the speakers.....which is probably the reason you hear that muddy sound when playing certain music. Placement of that sub will also play into things as well as the volume at which you listen.

  18. #18

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    I think those suggestions are sound, it might be the best idea to have a nice system in the serious listening area with the present system in place for the in-wall speakers, I was just hoping to have it inconspicuous.

    That's how I had it set up with the Bang and Olufsen in the mix though and it rounded out the harshness from the in-wall speakers nicely.

    If I go with a decent used Pioneer receiver, I could then use it to drive a set of nice speakers in the listening area AND use it as a preamp in to the Dayton Audio amp for the in-wall speakers, influencing tone control a bit right? If I do preamp out to the Dayton I could then control all volume through the Pioneer vs the Squeezebox? Am I right on that?

    Someone had some Polk Monitor 50s on Craigslist for $100 for the set that might get me started.

  19. #19

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    sspeed, they speak the truth---nobody likes having their baby called ugly, but......your existing system really needs a facelift from the ground up. I like Tony's idea of a good quality receiver and a dedicated 2-channel rig. I think you'll be blown away.

    Buying a DAC for your system is like putting $2500 rims on a Geo Metro; and expecting a performance upgrade. No offense intended, just trying to be honest wih you, and I don't want to see you throw money at the wrong thing. I do think your speakers are completely salvageable.
    Last edited by steveinaz; 11-06-2013 at 11:45 AM.

    Source: Squeezebox Touch/CIA Power Supply
    DAC: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Linestage: Placette RVC Passive
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Subwoofer: SVS PB12-NSD

  20. #20

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    I completely appreciate the honesty and like the Geo Metro analogy, although I'd say adding a fart can muffler and K&N to the Metro doesn't make it a race car. :)

    Two questions:

    With a good quality receiver and the 2-channel setup, is it still sound to pre-amp that in to the Dayton Audio for the in-walls? I may find the Dayton has to go, or it may complete it.

    Are the Polk Monitor 50s decent speakers for a 2-channel setup in the listening area for the music I've indicated? If not, I can just go listen to different ones at Best Buy. The budget may get in the way with changing too much, but I don't have to go crazy all at once.

  21. #21

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    Holy moly, the amount of Pioneer receivers available is mind-boggling. I see dozens on Craigslist, and most people want near purchase price for them. I found one SC series, lots of VSX series.

    Newegg also seems to have sales on Pioneer receivers quite a bit. Is there any specific functionality or feature I'm looking for? Anything to avoid?

  22. #22

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    You're looking for the SC series, if you can swing it.
    |Fronts - Peerless RTA-12B | Center(s) - Peerless Monitor 5 | Rears - Peerless Monitor 4 |
    |Amp for fronts - Yamaha CA-1010 | Preamp (and amp for center/rears) - RX-V667 |
    |TV - Philips 46" Smart LED | Gaming - Xbox 360 | Headphones - Fidelio X1 |

  23. #23

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    Costco, 1222K...rebadged SC61 for $469. Done deal...
    HT/Main- Panny 50" G10 Plasma, Pioneer Elite VSX01 AVR, Panny DMP-BD60 BDP, Polk LS90 mains, CS350LS center, LS/fx side surrounds, LS50 surround backs, SVS 25-31PC+ sub, Harmony One

    Office Rig- Marantz 2252B, Sony CDP-C8ESD CDP, Kenwood KD2070 TT, Polk RTA 12B's

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by ken brydson View Post
    Costco, 1222K...rebadged SC61 for $469. Done deal...
    It even has preouts. That's a crazy good deal...
    |Fronts - Peerless RTA-12B | Center(s) - Peerless Monitor 5 | Rears - Peerless Monitor 4 |
    |Amp for fronts - Yamaha CA-1010 | Preamp (and amp for center/rears) - RX-V667 |
    |TV - Philips 46" Smart LED | Gaming - Xbox 360 | Headphones - Fidelio X1 |

  25. #25

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    Thanks! I'll head to Costco and see if they still have them.

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    Messing around, found this full set for $800. Worth looking in to?

    Onkyo TX-SR875 AV Receiver
    Polk Audio Monitor 70 Tower Speakers (qty. 2, front right & left)
    Polk Audio Monitor CS2 Center Channel Speaker
    Polk Audio Monitor 30 2-way Bookshelf Speakers (qty. 2, surround right & left)
    Polk Audio DSW microPRO 1000 Subwoofer

    Heck, I could use this for my other thread on upgrading my home theater and still pre-amp out to the Dayton for the whole house audio. This could be my nice listening system. $800 seems like a good deal for the set?
    Last edited by sspeed; 11-07-2013 at 12:06 AM.

  27. #27

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    Have you thought about and/or checked out vintage Polks? RTA-12B's or C's, SDA 2B's, maybe even Monitor 10 are all relatively inexpensive.

    RTA-12's $200 - $300



    SDA 2B's $250 - $300



    Monitor 10 (Not sure on average price, around $150 is my guess)

    |Fronts - Peerless RTA-12B | Center(s) - Peerless Monitor 5 | Rears - Peerless Monitor 4 |
    |Amp for fronts - Yamaha CA-1010 | Preamp (and amp for center/rears) - RX-V667 |
    |TV - Philips 46" Smart LED | Gaming - Xbox 360 | Headphones - Fidelio X1 |

  28. #28

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    I've been trolling Craigslist for the vintage ones, that's how I ran it to that set I listed, which isn't really vintage. :) Looking at some of the used individual prices it seems like a good deal?

  29. #29

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    I'm not sure on the prices of the newer Monitor series, somebody will chime in.

    For what it's worth, i'd take any of the older speakers I listed above over any of the newer Monitor line any day.
    |Fronts - Peerless RTA-12B | Center(s) - Peerless Monitor 5 | Rears - Peerless Monitor 4 |
    |Amp for fronts - Yamaha CA-1010 | Preamp (and amp for center/rears) - RX-V667 |
    |TV - Philips 46" Smart LED | Gaming - Xbox 360 | Headphones - Fidelio X1 |

  30. #30

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    I'd like some of the old vintage ones. What do you think of that receiver?

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