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Sound Q loses clarity when amp volume cranked - am struggling to understand


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I realise that I should know the answer to this without having to ask, but I simply don’t.

even though I’m well advanced in years, I don’t regard myself as anything other than “novice” on most (not all) matters hifi.

My kit is fairly basic. Rega Brio amp into Castle Severn 2 speakers. I know the speakers are 25+ years old and not the best around but that doesn’t explain what’s going on.

If I run the amp volume at the 9 o’clock position, to my ears, the overall SQ is crisp with reasonable detail, separation, etc. But if I crank it to say 11 o’clock, the whole thing becomes what I can only describe as a mess/muddled. Clarity and crispness seem to disappear, bass becomes ill defined (don’t know how else to describe it) and I go from an enjoyable sound to something I just don’t like listening to.

If someone could explain to me in layman’s terms what is going on then I would be most grateful. Is it amp related or am I experiencing the limitation of these speakers, or both?

I have been thinking about a speaker upgrade for some time and I know this means a trip to a hifi store at some point, but before then, I would really like to get my head round what is happening.

In all honesty, I’m a bit embarrassed in asking this question but if I don’t ask, then I’m never going to understand what I’m sure to many will be a very basic aspect of amp/speaker interaction.

Thanks.

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I am far from technical - but it may be to do with where the Brio gives full volume. You cannot necessarily equate full volume with the full rotation of the volume knob. In some Amps, full volume can be at 12 O'Clock. "If" this is the case with the Brio - and I'm not sure it is - then the Amp could be out of its comfort zone driving your speakers. 

This is one possible explanation - and you should not take it as gospel.

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It could be a number of things.  You’re assuming it’s the amp, and what you describe may be the amp running out of steam.  But in a typical domestic room with your speakers it would be pretty loud, and exacerbated if you play music with heavy bass lines. 
It might be the speakers ageing, particularly if the drivers are deteriorating.  Ferrofluid tweeters can get gummed up - I’ve not checked what yours are.  
It could be acoustic feedback, if you’re playing records and the turntable isn’t securely mounted or affected by the speakers’ output. 
Another possibility is that if you’re using a source like CD or PC that the input is overloading and it’s more obvious at higher volume. 11 o’clock implies very little volume rotation so an attenuation device (e.g. Rothwell) might be beneficial. 

Have you tried headphones?  That would eliminate the speakers from the equation.  Has this begun recently?   Have you changed anything, like introducing new electronics into the home?

Does any of this sound relevant to your setup?

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Has it always been like that or is this something more recent? My guess if it is not a fault with the equipment is that it is a room related issue - have you changed rooms or moved the set up around?

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just like buses, nothing for 46 mins and then 3 comments turn up all at once - and in classic WAM style everyone has a different opinion!xD

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, lostwin said:

just like buses, nothing for 46 mins and then 3 comments turn up all at once - and in classic WAM style everyone has a different opinion!xD

Excuse me! I'm not like a bus. I'm like a Mk2 Escort, that's bad in the ice and doesn't start when its cold. I've only turned up because it's Summer. 

Edited by CnoEvil
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Could be the room interaction? I know from my own setup that as the volume increases, I become more and more aware of reflected sound from the patio doors positioned (unfortunately) to my right, and from the corner of the room behind me. Almost sounds like surround sound on occasion. There is a tendency for the sound to "harden", i.e. certain midrange frequencies become pronounced and it becomes tiring to listen to.

Perhaps you're getting something similar at a particular volume level? Enough reflected energy to interact detrimentally with the sound waved coming directly from the driver, and causing that muddling effect you talked of. 

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As the volume increases your hearing becomes more sensitive to low frequencies, which can both change the tonal balance that you hear and make bass boom at dominant room mode frequencies more apparent.

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18 hours ago, Nopiano said:

It could be a number of things.  You’re assuming it’s the amp, and what you describe may be the amp running out of steam.  But in a typical domestic room with your speakers it would be pretty loud, and exacerbated if you play music with heavy bass lines. 
It might be the speakers ageing, particularly if the drivers are deteriorating.  Ferrofluid tweeters can get gummed up - I’ve not checked what yours are.  
It could be acoustic feedback, if you’re playing records and the turntable isn’t securely mounted or affected by the speakers’ output. 
Another possibility is that if you’re using a source like CD or PC that the input is overloading and it’s more obvious at higher volume. 11 o’clock implies very little volume rotation so an attenuation device (e.g. Rothwell) might be beneficial. 

Have you tried headphones?  That would eliminate the speakers from the equation.  Has this begun recently?   Have you changed anything, like introducing new electronics into the home?

Does any of this sound relevant to your setup?

thanks for the reply. not TT related, as I seldom listen to vinyl. Virtually 100% of my listening is now streamer (FLAC files) > DAC > amp. I’d be surprised if this source is overloading, especially as I’ve got a PEQ enabled and dialled back on the master volume.

I appreciate the suggestion for headphones. Although I don’t use them much, I’ll give my 650s a run out in the next few days and see if anything comes to light.

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18 hours ago, lostwin said:

Has it always been like that or is this something more recent? My guess if it is not a fault with the equipment is that it is a room related issue - have you changed rooms or moved the set up around?

Thanks.

I do have a room related issue (a BASS hump/standing waves at about 44Hz), which I’ve previously dialled out (or tried to) with a PEQ in tandem with REW.

I don’t often turn up the volume past 9 o’clock but if memory serves me well, it’s always been the same issue when pushing on to 10/11 o’clock with the volume dial.

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18 hours ago, Jules_S said:

Could be the room interaction? I know from my own setup that as the volume increases, I become more and more aware of reflected sound from the patio doors positioned (unfortunately) to my right, and from the corner of the room behind me. Almost sounds like surround sound on occasion. There is a tendency for the sound to "harden", i.e. certain midrange frequencies become pronounced and it becomes tiring to listen to.

Perhaps you're getting something similar at a particular volume level? Enough reflected energy to interact detrimentally with the sound waved coming directly from the driver, and causing that muddling effect you talked of. 

Thanks. “harder sound” and tiring to listen to - I can relate to both of these.

I guess one way to prove/disprove might be to temporarily move the speakers into a totally different position in the room and then crank the volume?

At the moment, they’re firing across a room which is 4.3m * 3.8m. Bass hump/standing wave problems at 44Hz, dialled out with PEQ. They are positioned about 2m apart along the long wall. Seating is centre, about 2.5 metres away from the centre line.

Does it make any sort of sense to rotate through 90 degrees and have them firing down the room, which co-incidentally opens into a dining room?

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Well worth just turning the speakers, doesn't cost anything.

If the sound is still hardening then I guess it is the amp running out of clean 'steam'.

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34 minutes ago, Cool Dude Ted said:

I do have a room related issue (a BASS hump/standing waves at about 44Hz), which I’ve previously dialled out (or tried to) with a PEQ in tandem with REW.

Do you still have a microphone to make measurements in REW? If so then you could compare frequency sweeps at your low and high volumes. My guess is you'll find the shape is the same but it would be informative if you didn't.

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17 minutes ago, MartinC said:

Do you still have a microphone to make measurements in REW? If so then you could compare frequency sweeps at your low and high volumes. My guess is you'll find the shape is the same but it would be informative if you didn't.

hi Martin

Yes, I still have the USB mic. I thought it best to keep hold of it for the time being.

I’d been planning to use it to re-take some of the measurements anyway and so your reply has prompted me to get on and do something.

Thanks

Stuart

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Trying a more powerful amp wont hurt. Your speakers has a sensitivity of 87dB, according to the manufacturer (it's often lower in real life) so while the 50W Rega will drive them, it won't make them sing at high volume.

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