IMPULSE: Fine-tuning an already competent system using their H2 speakers

A member asks ...

I am a long standing regular reader and would very much appreciate some help in fine tuning my system. I am not sure whether this level of system detail is a help or a hindrance for you, but here goes.

My front ends are: Vinyl - Acoustic Signature Challenger, OL Silver and Shelter 5000 cartridge (with Cartridgeman Isolator) into an Audio Innovations 800 MC Transformer and a Missing Link Cryo Reference interconnect.

For CD/SACD - Denon All (with mods for Tricord Clock 4, upgraded power supply and capacitors), and a Missing Link Cryo interconnect.

These sources run into an Audio Note Meishu (Mark 1 with phono stage) with Border Patrol MB power supply and then via Electrofluidics Monolith 20/20 cable into Living Voice Auditoriums (Mark 1 version) with Townsend super tweeters.

The turntable and units sit on two separate Audiophile Star Base stacks. The electric supply is through a dedicated socket from the meter on standard 30amp cable with a dedicated earthing rod and a Russ Andrews PowerBlock and classic PowerKords.

My present focus is on whether to upgrade the MC transformer, speaker cable and perhaps the ‘speakers.

I have restrained from upgrading the ‘speakers to date as the listening room is 18ft x 12ft with the speakers firing down the length of the room. They are about 12 inches in from the corners and toed in with one of the room’s three sofas situated between them! There is another sofa at the far end of the room and one in the middle of the side wall opposite the fire place. This is a far from desirable set up but is the price I have to pay for a minimum level of marital harmony along with my retaining a focus on minimizing the number of units that make up my system, hence the integrated amplifier.

I did previously have Impulse H2 speakers but the size of these really did lead to trouble and strife and eventually, they had to go. The present Auditoriums seem to work quite well with a respectable level bass presentation despite the room difficulties. However, I recognize that the present bass is hampered with a slightly unnatural and restricted presentation and the level of detail could be improved upon. I am extremely hesitant about whether an upgrade would obtain any significant improvement in sound given the sofa issues and wondered whether I should just focus on a speaker cable upgrade. I have recently added the super tweeters and these do work very well for smoothing off any top end rough edges.

I have a wide collection of music covering heavy rock/metal, soft rock, jazz, blues and classical and, as much as I have tried, I find it difficult to listen comfortably for long periods via solid state amplification. I simply love the single ended 300B sound with the wide and deep sound stage and, in particular, the subtlety of emotion it can convey from a good recording and voice. It really makes music for me, even with CD, and I can forgive quite happily the sound compromises for presentation of poorly recorded rock music. I do not want to spoil what I have and my system upgrades have all been focused on finding a step by step balance for improving on detail and dynamics but without ‘losing the music’ and the warmth and ease of presentation in the valve sound.

Firstly, I would appreciate some guidance on whether upgrading the MC transformer might be worthwhile for the level of my system (I have found myself focusing on either the Pure Sound T10 or jumping up to an Audio Note).

Secondly, is an upgrade of the 'speakers and/or cable worthwhile and, if so, do you have any suggestions that I might explore and, thirdly, whether you have any more general observations on other aspects of the system that I should consider.

Lastly, I have no particular budget for these upgrades as my anticipation is that the level of my system is likely to dictate your responses to a sensible level of upgrade that they deserve and which I should be considering. 

Thank you for any help that you can give me.

I would not worry about the settees; they damp room bass modes and the one between the loudspeakers will slightly reduce energy from the wall behind. I prefer not to have energy zinging around all over the place (distributed treble energy) in a room and like the better damped, quieter environment lots of soft furnishings impose. Since you like valves and refer to “warmth and ease of presentation” I suspect this is your preference too.

The Living Voice Auditoriums have a good reputation (I do not know them well) but if you want to try an alternative you may well consider the Triangle Antal EX loudspeakers. They match the Icon Audio MB845 valve power amplifiers well, but they do have some small lift in the treble and are not ‘soft’. It was aurally acceptable though, I felt, and the Antals otherwise delivered a great sound, a notch above much else. I suspect they would suit your room and amplifier.

The Shelter 5000 cartridge on a Cartridgeman Isolator isn’t to my taste but this shouldn’t dissuade you of course. The Isolator may well be compensating for the brighter presentation of the Origin Live Silver, which best complements warmer MM cartridges. My immediate suggestion here is to head for something from the Ortofon budget moving coil range, or even a Cadenza Black premium moving coil cartridge. Both have smooth top ends, the Black being almost warm, and both will work in your arm, without Isolator. Stay with Audionote if you can; their products are superb. I hope this helps.

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