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Many of you will know that I've recently put some of my kit up for sale to help cover some of the astronomical vetinary costs for my dog Roxy, who has been so ill (but getting better). And thanks again to everyone who has so kindly contributed. Anyhoo, my Gato amp is one of the items (still) for sale and hence I have removed it from my system ready for its new owner, and replaced it with my 27 year old Pioneer A-400 that has been my "emergency backup" for a long time now and has also been on long-term loan at various stages. I've also replaced my Arcam DAC with my old Cambridge Audio 740C CD player - the transport gave up the ghost a while back but it functions as a DAC with multiple digital inputs, so I'm feeding my Cambridge CXC transport and the output from my Sonos Connect into it.

When I first fired this lot up the difference in what I heard versus what I've been used to was stark. It just seemed... lifeless, undynamic, spatially-constricted, harsh, "spitty", and so on. OK so I wasn't expecting a nigh-on 30-year old amp design that originally cost me £230 to compete with the Gato, but I was nevertheless disappointed as you can imagine. I also think the change of DAC (and cabling, possibly) made a chunk of difference too although probably nowhere as pronounced as the amp change.

Fast forward a week or so, and although some of my observations pervade (the loss of size, spatial cues and "focus" to the stereo image for example), I am finding my perception of the overall sound far more palatable (and dare I say it, enjoyable). I did remember to make some adjustments to the HF output on my speakers via the plug-in links and this helped tame the top end a little, but overall although there is still obviously a drop in overall "quality" from what I've been used to, the music itself still seems to communicate.

I'm prepared to accept that a small proportion of this change may be down to the fact that my amp is now in daily use again whereas it's been mainly in storage for the last couple of years and only recently used on occasion in a second system. So maybe it's "bedded-in" again with regular use? But I suspect that the vast majority of the "changes" I've heard are in fact simply down to me getting accustomed to the new sound over time, and makes an interesting point of discussion about our long-term, and even fairly short-term, audible memory, i.e. how we remember and perceive what we hear. I'm still aware that I am not hearing the same sort of bass extension that I had with the Gato, and that I still feel the sense of having the sound "thrown in my face" more, compared to the more relaxed presentation of the Gato. But when I first put the Pioneer back in, I was convinced that I'd not be able to stand it for more than a few days and would have to take up one of the kind offers I've had for kit loan. But now, I'm pretty sure I can not only "cope with", but actually enjoy, my new weird mix of equipment.

So what to make of this? Would it make more sense for me to "turbocharge" the A-400 when funds allow, instead of buying another more expensive amp? Can I live with the 24/384 upsampling and Wolfson-based decoding in my "new" DAC on a long-term basis? It's opening up all sorts of questions for me about how to invest my efforts into different parts of my system. I don't necessarily mean from a financial perspective, just from the point of view of what items will make the biggest improvement overall to my enjoyment of the music.

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2 hours ago, Jules_S said:

Many of you will know that I've recently put some of my kit up for sale to help cover some of the astronomical vetinary costs for my dog Roxy, who has been so ill (but getting better). And thanks again to everyone who has so kindly contributed. Anyhoo, my Gato amp is one of the items (still) for sale and hence I have removed it from my system ready for its new owner, and replaced it with my 27 year old Pioneer A-400 that has been my "emergency backup" for a long time now and has also been on long-term loan at various stages. I've also replaced my Arcam DAC with my old Cambridge Audio 740C CD player - the transport gave up the ghost a while back but it functions as a DAC with multiple digital inputs, so I'm feeding my Cambridge CXC transport and the output from my Sonos Connect into it.

When I first fired this lot up the difference in what I heard versus what I've been used to was stark. It just seemed... lifeless, undynamic, spatially-constricted, harsh, "spitty", and so on. OK so I wasn't expecting a nigh-on 30-year old amp design that originally cost me £230 to compete with the Gato, but I was nevertheless disappointed as you can imagine. I also think the change of DAC (and cabling, possibly) made a chunk of difference too although probably nowhere as pronounced as the amp change.

Fast forward a week or so, and although some of my observations pervade (the loss of size, spatial cues and "focus" to the stereo image for example), I am finding my perception of the overall sound far more palatable (and dare I say it, enjoyable). I did remember to make some adjustments to the HF output on my speakers via the plug-in links and this helped tame the top end a little, but overall although there is still obviously a drop in overall "quality" from what I've been used to, the music itself still seems to communicate.

I'm prepared to accept that a small proportion of this change may be down to the fact that my amp is now in daily use again whereas it's been mainly in storage for the last couple of years and only recently used on occasion in a second system. So maybe it's "bedded-in" again with regular use? But I suspect that the vast majority of the "changes" I've heard are in fact simply down to me getting accustomed to the new sound over time, and makes an interesting point of discussion about our long-term, and even fairly short-term, audible memory, i.e. how we remember and perceive what we hear. I'm still aware that I am not hearing the same sort of bass extension that I had with the Gato, and that I still feel the sense of having the sound "thrown in my face" more, compared to the more relaxed presentation of the Gato. But when I first put the Pioneer back in, I was convinced that I'd not be able to stand it for more than a few days and would have to take up one of the kind offers I've had for kit loan. But now, I'm pretty sure I can not only "cope with", but actually enjoy, my new weird mix of equipment.

So what to make of this? Would it make more sense for me to "turbocharge" the A-400 when funds allow, instead of buying another more expensive amp? Can I live with the 24/384 upsampling and Wolfson-based decoding in my "new" DAC on a long-term basis? It's opening up all sorts of questions for me about how to invest my efforts into different parts of my system. I don't necessarily mean from a financial perspective, just from the point of view of what items will make the biggest improvement overall to my enjoyment of the music.

I think that upgrading the amplifier (vs. DAC) will make a bigger difference.

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Posted (edited)

I have sold components in the past to help with funds - and dragooned in old components.

I had the opposite experience ie. An initial feeling that this is really quite good and perfectly acceptable.....and then after a while, I actually found that a lot of the life, naturalness and dynamics have been sucked out of the music - greatly reducing enjoyment.

I am very bad at adapting.

I hope it won't be too long before you get both your dog and your system back in one piece.

Edited by CnoEvil
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2 hours ago, Jules_S said:

So what to make of this? Would it make more sense for me to "turbocharge" the A-400 when funds allow, instead of buying another more expensive amp? Can I live with the 24/384 upsampling and Wolfson-based decoding in my "new" DAC on a long-term basis? It's opening up all sorts of questions for me about how to invest my efforts into different parts of my system. I don't necessarily mean from a financial perspective, just from the point of view of what items will make the biggest improvement overall to my enjoyment of the music.

I have an A400 in my conservatory system.  In my main system I have an Audio Research Pre and Hafler DH200 power.   Comparing the A400 to the main amp and preamp it is severely lacking in depth and detail .. in the conservatory with a small pair of bookshelf speakers it is fine.

I think there are ways and means to get what you want without spending the earth - mainly keeping your eye out for stuff second hand - but if you want one amp that will give you hi end performance for not a lot of money this can be achieved with a Myst TMA3, Sugden A21 and Sugden A48 - it can also be achieved with a Magnum and other amps all that have more than the A400 (personal view is the preamp section of the A400 is probably the let down for me).  As for DACs I cannot get to enthusiastic about them - all I know is some are drastically expensive and to my ears still do not sound "right" - so I will leave it for the more digitally attuned Wammers to comment on that one.

I hope your dog remains healthy and fit and well done you for the sacrifice you made to try and do your best for it.  

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I'm with Cno, when a lesser component goes in I often think "Hey, this isn't so bad".

And then the depressing reality gradually sinks in.... "Actually, it is pretty bad. Bugger. "

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Posted (edited)

Well I just typed in power amplifiers, £100-300, amazing what is there, just one example Meridian 555 Stereo Power Amplifier Inc Warranty | eBay

Same again except this time £70-300  April Music Stello DA100 Signature DAC with Audio-gd Digital Interface I2S | eBay  and also one with an a option of going tube outputs

Finished PCM1794A Audio DAC Hifi XU208 USB Balanced Decoder Bluetooth Tube DAC | eBay  You might like to invest £10 on the GE5670 tube :D

The reason I went power amplifiers is, even at the cheaper end of the market you can get a dac with a passable pre included, if not I have seen a £40 passive on ebay which will not be as poor as you might think to keep you going.  Is it best to upgrade amplifier or dac first, very debatable, but if it was me I'd look at what bargains come along and what I could afford, if an amplifier you fancy comes first, buy it, and vice versa.  Good luck with any searches if you decide to upgrade.

Edited by antonio66
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13 hours ago, JANDL100 said:

I'm with Cno, when a lesser component goes in I often think "Hey, this isn't so bad".

And then the depressing reality gradually sinks in.... "Actually, it is pretty bad. Bugger. "

Interesting. Perhaps I'm in some sort of delayed honeymoon period then, and the reality will hit me at some point later. I'll make the most of it while I can! I'm in no financial position at the moment to be buying anything at all.

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8 minutes ago, Jules_S said:

Interesting. Perhaps I'm in some sort of delayed honeymoon period then, and the reality will hit me at some point later. I'll make the most of it while I can! I'm in no financial position at the moment to be buying anything at all.

Think in this position,i would try and get a vintage system on the cheap together.You know right from the start,the sound would be so differant,to a modern amp etc.This way,like a fresh start,in a hifi romantic kinda listen,and just enjoy the music.Hope everything works out ok.

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Surely @Jules_S   you could pick up a Class D amp for nxt to nothing that will out perform the A-400.

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9 minutes ago, Nativebon said:

Surely @Jules_S   you could pick up a Class D amp for nxt to nothing that will out perform the A-400.

I probably could. But just to clarify, right now I have precisely ZERO money to spend on hi-fi, hence I am selling things rather than buying. At the moment I have no job, therefore no income, and am still reeling from the financial shock of paying for my dog's vets bills. So there is absolutely no way I am buying anything else, I'm making do with what I have. And also to be fair, the A-400 is a pretty decent amp - it's not doing a bad job at all, it's just showing its shortcomings in comparison to the Gato.

I created this thread more for the discussion around our perception and memory of sound, rather than looking for kit suggestions. I was interested to hear (pun not intended) how other people view "audio memory", i.e. how we think we remember something sounding, and how we adjust over time to changes. So far I seem to be going the other way to most people, i.e. finding that what sounded dreadful on an initial half-hour or so has actually become more listenable after a couple of days, whether that's related to electrical changes in the equipment from regular use, or just simply down to a combination of my audio memory and my perception of my hearing adapting to the change and making allowances for it.

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1 hour ago, Jules_S said:

Interesting. Perhaps I'm in some sort of delayed honeymoon period then, and the reality will hit me at some point later. I'll make the most of it while I can! I'm in no financial position at the moment to be buying anything at all.

Well, maybe not.

It's usually only an hour or so that the honeymoon period lasts.

The 400 has a great rep as being a special component, so you may well be OK with it.

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Hi Jonathan 

it’s always difficult to go back to what was “ before” But I’m of the opinion if I liked the sound of something 30 years ago or even 40+years I’m gonna like it now .. Without doubt modern electronics and research have created some great pieces of kit that allow us to get closer to nirvana..But I still remember systems with quad 33s,405s and Tannoy Mayfair and the like , I was in awe then and still love what they can produce, 

If it was good then as Hifi it’s still as good now .. All comes down to incomes and cost ..When you have experienced the Highs in Hifi it doesn’t do any harm to readdress priority’s and you then appreciate more what you had and can have again. Been there done that..

While sorting gear that I brought years ago, for the new mancave  . I remember why I brought it and why I never let it go , A lot of it is only worth a few quid now but it still looks and sounds as it did .Hopefully soon it will have pride of place in a system as it did all those years ago ..We should never take anything for granted ,, the human heart is huge as shown on this thread and capable of great things

The offer still stands if you would like the loan of the Sonus Faber Musica integrated.

kindest regards Julian

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5 hours ago, Jules_S said:

I probably could. But just to clarify, right now I have precisely ZERO money to spend on hi-fi, hence I am selling things rather than buying. At the moment I have no job, therefore no income, and am still reeling from the financial shock of paying for my dog's vets bills. So there is absolutely no way I am buying anything else, I'm making do with what I have. And also to be fair, the A-400 is a pretty decent amp - it's not doing a bad job at all, it's just showing its shortcomings in comparison to the Gato.

I created this thread more for the discussion around our perception and memory of sound, rather than looking for kit suggestions. I was interested to hear (pun not intended) how other people view "audio memory", i.e. how we think we remember something sounding, and how we adjust over time to changes. So far I seem to be going the other way to most people, i.e. finding that what sounded dreadful on an initial half-hour or so has actually become more listenable after a couple of days, whether that's related to electrical changes in the equipment from regular use, or just simply down to a combination of my audio memory and my perception of my hearing adapting to the change and making allowances for it.

I have to bow to you...:notworthy:

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If it had been a new piece of Linn or Naim equipment, people would have said it takes a couple of days to a couple of months to "burn in". 

In this case, it sounds like it was your ears that were "burning in"!

:(

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2 minutes ago, sktn77a said:

If it had been a new piece of Linn or Naim equipment, people would have said it takes a couple of days to a couple of months to "burn in". 

In this case, it sounds like it was your ears that were "burning in"!

:(

I'm pretty much in agreement with that. I've had music on all day long here today (which is actually quite unusual for me). It's only been on in the background while I hunt for a new job (and write replies on here!) and streamed from my NAS via Sonos. I have a random selection of songs so the production quality is very variable, but I've pretty much enjoyed all I've heard today, making allowances for the fact that I am not "critical listening" right now. Nothing has made me wince. Nothing has made me skip a track (except Bing Crosby's White Christmas - totally inappropriate in May!). It's been fun. OK, so yes I miss the additional insight and finesse (and bass extension) from my other amp / DAC but it's not like moving from a Ferrari to a Trabant. Not that I had a Ferrari in the first place, probably a decent Merc E-Class, and now I'm in a Mazda 6. Still very decent, just not AS decent.

Be good to get some thoughts from others who have notionally "downgraded" and see what their experiences were.

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