Bright sounding system

Hi, I’m hoping someone can chime in as I’m fairly new to the world of hifi and it’s mostly confusing so far. I have a system that looks like this: Naim nd5xs2, rotel rc1590, rotel rb1582, 2 B&W DB4S subs, and dali optikon 6 Towern speakers. Some decent cables.

I think it sounds good but a bit bright. Now, can I make it a bit warmer by swapping the speakers? Does warmer mean less detailed? What makes a system bright? Is it all the components combined or mostly in the speakers or the amp?

Please don’t tell me to change amps :sweat_smile:

What is your room like?
If very sparsely furnished with no carpets, chrome furniture, minimalist, you might improve things if you introduce some soft furnishings/curtains/cushions/carpets.

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I believe these are ribbon tweeters reaching up to 32 khz. I’d expect them to have great clarity but may sound a tad bright with some amps. It would be worth getting a demo of alternatives.

I have had a Rotel Rc1070 and RB1080 combo. When I changed to Naim NAP200 I found the answer you might seek as well. :slight_smile:


What cables are you using? What is the system supported on?

More importantly to begin with, can you describe your room/furnishings?

The absolute first thing to do would be to experiment with speaker and seating position. Sometimes you can be sitting in a bass suckout, which will make them subjectively bass-light (bright), or close to the speakers with them angled inwards towards you, which will increase direct sound, and make them sound brighter than if you’re sitting off axis…

There are a whole bunch of things which could be at play here and you want to eliminate all others before you start changing equipment, which is expensive.

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James hit the nail on the head & has some great advice. Most new & many seasoned audiophiles have no idea how much the room impacts the sound. No point in getting on the gear Merry-go-round, when a large portion of the problem is likely the room itself. As he said, lots of areas to look at before swapping kit.

As for the ribbon tweeter being an issue just because it’s a ribbon, that happens to have good extension, that I would not agree with. As with most things in audio, it’s all how it’s implemented, ribbons can be very sweet sounding & just because a tweeter can play to extended levels does not automatically means it will sound bright.

There are several excellent books available on HiFi setup. Just google it. It’s honestly best if you take the time to teach yourself!

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I think my room is reasonably treated. Big rug, not minimalisticly furnished, stuff on the walls. I do have the speakers quite far apart because of furniture, about 3,4 meters.

What happens when you choose warm sounding speakers and pair them with brightish amps like rotel? Does it even out or do they mid-match?

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I’m using supra xlr cables between the preamp and the power amp. Audioquest Yukon rca between the nd5xs2 and the preamp. Audioquest rocket 44 speaker cables. Audioquest black lab to the subs.

Should I experiment with placement?

As others have sad almost certainly a bright sounding system is because the system is playing in a ‘bright’ reflective room. This can be a room with lots of reflective surfaces like smooth plastered walls, glass, thin or hard floors with just rugs on hard floor. Try and address that.
It can also be speaker position with respect to listening area… where there is a big null in the lower frequencies giving the perception of a bright system… try changing significantly speaker position and changing angle.

Brightness is often characterised from around 3 kHz to 10 kHz which is not that high overall but susceptible to room reverberant and reflections (you move into presence and stereo positioning with higher frequencies)

One thing it is unlikely to be is anything to do with electronics… but you could rule that out by using/ borrowing a pair magnetic planar headphones and see if your system still sounds bright.
You can buy cables with different characteristics but I would avoid relying on them significantly , as you won’t be addressing the issue which will be detracting from overall performance . Although you could tune slightly if only subtle… sometimes it’s about getting a pragmatic balance if you have done all you can realistically do in a domestic setting to treat your listening room. Copper cables are often slightly warmer than silver or silver alloy cables.

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Speaker positioning can make a large difference, as can the seating / listening position.
Toeing in the speakers can adjust the sound, as can having no toe in.
Regarding seating position, for example, I know how moving my sofa forwards or back by a couple of inches / 50mm makes a surprisingly big difference to the overall sound.

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Definitely experiment with speaker placement/listening position/speaker toe-in first. It can make a huge difference and is free.

Go on YouTube or the Dynaudio website and search for their speaker placement videos, which are a good starting point.

You could try, e.g., 1/5th placement for speakers and listening position, at least as a starting point and go from there… This means speakers 1/5th of the distance into the room from the front wall (measure from the wall to the baffle, where the drive units are on the front of the speaker, not the rear of the speaker). And 1/5th distance in from the side-walls. Listening position 1/5th distance in from the rear wall. Then play!

After that, you would look at speakers and electronics in that order…

[edit: GIK Acoustics website/YouTube also have good setup info/videos]

@ErikSebell One thing is when you have the speakers far apart you lose bass and midbass. Try to get them 7-8 feet apart

Controversially i am going to point at the nd5xs2. When i introduced mine to my system it sounded a bit toppy. Couldnt conceive that it was the streamer, at the time the most expensive component in my system! So embarked on the journey of up grading almost everything from the amp to the speakers. Sound certainly improved greatly, but top end still bugged me! Finally added an external DAC (more expensive than the streamer now!) and hey presto it sounds bloomin amazing!

Clearly this was in my room with my setup and my ears, which almost certainly hear differently to any body elses and if i am honest are over sensitive to the upper register sometimes

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Yeah, it can be any component in a system, for sure. I’ve experienced it with sources and amps, as well as speakers, room and placement.

The only reason to try placement first is it’s often a huge magnitude effect, and it’s free.

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I would try to borrow first a Naim integrated amp from a dealer, to see if the problem comes from the Rotel.
Then, if the problem is still the same, only playing with different speakers positions and some room acoustics will be the only way to solve the brightness.
GIK for instance does a free 14 days trial for their panels and bass traps. And good advises too.

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Agreed go for placement then room treatment. I have achieved measurable results with GIK products

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I agree room treatment can be good (I use GIK also). Be careful how you use it, though, as e.g., floor/ceiling reflections can sometimes roll OFF the treble, and mitigating those reflections with panels might actually make things sound brighter (been there, done that). I’m not saying don’t pursue that, just take some expert advice and solve the actual problem you’re trying to solve, not creating another, or making it worse by using room treatments when you don’t know your way around them. GIK are nice guys though and will give free advice.

I also like the comment above to see if you can get a friendly dealer to give a home demo of e.g., a Naim integrated instead of the Rotel. Amps can definitely alter the sound of things quite dramatically.

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Changing speakers is always going to give you the most dramatic change. Yet the Opticons are rather nice in my view and I’d be inclined to echo every comment about positioning and room treatment.

You mentioned the room is carpeted and not sparse. But what are your first reflection points? These are the space between you and the speaker and the wall immediate next to the area in front of the speakers. So a window next to a speaker or large or glass coffee table between you and the speakers will be bright first reflections. If you have such things, just for troubleshooting, it might be good to close the curtains or move and coffee table. Not as a solution. Just to test and understand the source of the problem.