Before I begin my speaker shootout between the RT12, RT800, and RT55 I wanted to get a feel for the various components upstream first, such as the CD player, interconnects, and speaker wire. A Yamaha RX-V2092 receiver (100W) was used for testing. So begins the tweakage.
This is probably the first place that any tweaking should begin. In this case, the speakers were positioned in a WAF method: right up against the front wall, roughly 10' apart, and conforming to the other objects in the room (this put the speakers at roughly a 35 degree toe-in). The amazing thing about the original positioning is that it still could great a decent center image. The downside was that the bass was boomy as all heck.
The new positioning put the speakers 28" off the front wall and 7.5' apart with a very slight toe-in. Having the speakers this far out from the wall also put them in front of the TV/equipment rack, so there was no longer any reflection issues. I also moved the listening chair about 2' from the back wall. There's a couch to the left of the left speaker that creates a virtual wall. To the right of the right speaker is a brick fireplace. So, to make things a little more acoustically similar (and friendly), I moved a hassock in front of the fireplace to absorb the first and second order reflections, similar to what the couch was doing for the left speaker.
The new position was a great improvement. The bass tightened up quite a bit, but it was still pretty sloppy and boomy. The imaging was very good, as was the center image.
Sony CA7ES vs. Sony CA80ES
The CA7ES is my dad's changer and retails for $350 while the CA80ES is mine and retails for $500. Stepping up to the CA80ES gets you Sony's "current pulse D/A converter," separate analog and digital power supplies, and an anti-resonant aluminum front panel. You get some other niceties, but they're not performance-related. I demoed these players head-to-head a two years ago, but only for a short while. I really couldn't tell a difference then.
Now, however, I can tell the difference. The CA80ES is a better player, but it's not night and day. Still, I would say it's definitely $150 better. Moving to the CA80ES brought better seperation of the instruments, more solid imaging, better microdynamics, and slightly more detail. Audiophile buzzwords aside, the music sounded more alive and real. The remaining comparisons were done using the CA80ES only.
CD player interconnect: cheap Monster interconnect vs. MIT MI-330 Series I
The cheapie Monster goes for around $20 while the MI-330 goes for $150. I knew the MI-330 was a good cable, so I was expecting to hear a pretty reasonable difference. However, I was completely floored by how good it sounded. It was night and day between the Monster. The improvement that the MIT brought was much greater than what I experienced moving from the CA7ES to the CA80ES player. The soundstage expanded, the noise floor dropped, the imaging was more precise, the bass tightened up a bit, and there was a lot more detail. I just sat their shaking my head. Amazing.
speaker wire: Monster M-series vs. MIT Terminator 3
I'm not sure specifically which Monster cable this is, but they cost $80 about six years ago. The Terminator 3 cables with terminations cost around $150. Again I was very impressed with the MIT's. I basically experienced everything I did with the MI-330, but this time to a lesser degree. The soundstage expanded a bit more, the noise floor dropped again, the bass tightened up significantly, and there was more detail.