Hi Peter,Brad, be mindful of the time difference and please be patient. Keith's post came earlier and took little time or thought to respond to. I just saw your question. No, I do not think this thread is about SET/horn. There are many threads on that topic. This thread is about something else and how some horns and some SETs can produce a certain type of sound. Of course, you know much more than I about that subject.
It took me years to optimize my former system. I lived with it and knew it well by the end. This new system is very new, and I have no prior experience with tubes or horns. Yes, the system is settling, and so am I, but neither is "settled". David thinks it will be months for the speaker cabinets to acclimate. He is coming to fine tune the system, perhaps improve the cartridge/arm set up, and when I move the electronics from the floor platforms to the new rack, things will need time to settle again.
I do have further thoughts, but some require independent thoughts for validity. My friend who knew the old system well stopped by yesterday for lunch, music and sailing. We came back for tea and more music. We did discuss his thoughts about the overall sound and particularly the sense of balance, listening perspective, bass quality.
He found the sound very balanced top to bottom in general and at the scale of the note in particular. He did not find the leading edge/transient "de-emphasized" and lacking relative to the rest of the note, but in proportion and appropriate. He agreed with my comments that when listening close to an instrument, it is not only the leading edge and transient that is emphasize or pronounced, but rather the whole note, the attack, the sustain, and the decay. This is how my system presents the note. The highs are not more or less emphasized than the midrange or the bass. They are in proportion and balanced. This is the reason that no aspect of this draws attention to itself. It is only relative to other systems which present the music differently, that one may see something lacking and focus on that aspect. The reference should be real music, not another system.
That observation led to the listening perspective. The listening perspective depends on the size and character of the images and soundstage captured on the recording and presented by the system. An emphasized leading edge does not bring one closer to the musician if the sustain and decay are not emphasized. It only makes the attack seem out of balance and aggressive. It has nothing to do with how close the listener perceives the instruments. That depends on the ambient cues presented through the system and the scale and size of the performers.
We listened to a Beethoven piano sonata. We discussed the touch on the keys. There were soft and loud, low notes and high notes, but significantly, there was the subtle nuance of the pianist's light and heavy hand - his touch. This nuance is where the emotion lives. The Technics moving magnet gets this right. The higher output vdH in this system was too much and forced everything, but it had extraordinary resolution. The vdH now returned with lower output gets it all, the nuance and the resolution.
My friend and I listened compared the two cartridges on both the piano sonata and on Sonny Rollins, Way Out West. He heard the nuance on both, but remarked how much more resolving the vdH is. He also thought the latter had much more clarity. I think that is related to resolution.
Finally, he remarked on the bass quality of the system. This was one of the weaknesses of the former system. Although it improved over time, it was never quite balanced with the rest of the sound. David says that the bass is the hardest part of a system to get right. The new system gets the bass right, at least to my ears. It is not lacking relative to the rest of the sound. The bass has a very natural quality. It is full and hollow and nuanced. Bass strings sound looser than other strings, the body sounds bigger and woody. Drum skins are taught and resonate. Timbre in this frequency range has never sounded so distinct in my room.
This is such an improvement over what I had before that I notice it when asked about it, but mostly it sounds so right, along with the rest, that I simply listen to the music. Before, the weaker bass stood out and the lack of balance was noticeable. Not little or nothing stands out.
If pressed for a weakness, I would say the speakers, on only some specific tracks, do not disappear quite to the same extent as the much smaller Magicos brought out into the room did. I do not know the reason for that, but it may have to do with further settling, something to do with set up, or perhaps the protruding fireplace interrupting the vented output from the speakers. It is a minor issue because I am drawn into the music much more than before and not to the sound of the system which basically disappears. At least I am not aware of the sound of the system to the extent I am with most of the systems I hear.
I am very pleased with how things are sounding and improving over time. The low output vdH Colibri Grand Cru is really sounding superb. My second one has just been modified and will soon be back on its way. I have not thoughts about changes. At this point I am looking forward to my new rack, Jeff Tyo's visit next week and David's visit after that.
Smooth sailing ahead.
Thanks for the detailed response. My comment about this being a SET/Horn thread was a bit of joke.
I wanted to address the bass comments. I too have horn bass and love the way it delivers superior texture and punch to conventional bass loading. In university I had Klipsch La Scalas that also have horn bass and it was pretty awesome and effortless. My only reservation with horn bass is that with horns the size that fit comfortably domestically in a room you don't really get the bottom octave. I get around 40Hz (maybe 35) but the mid and upper bass is explosive, nuance and textured...really superior for things like kick drums, plucked bass, bowed bass, cellos, tympani etc. I find that string quartets and quintets (I especially recommend Schubert's famous string quintet that has double cellos...woody goodness!) sound extremely natural (compared to live not other systems) with good horns and SETs, which you clearly have.
I think you will have fun with Jeff's visit...he's a good guy (I met him in 2019 in Cali)...I am sure he is VERY curious about your system.
Regarding the not always disappearing like the Magicos, Have you thought about removing this grill that sits over the high frequency horn? This might be causing some diffraction at certain frequencies that could then draw attention to the location of the sound. I remember the old magazine Audio that used to measure the frequency response of speakers with and without their grills. In most cases, the grills altered the frequency response significantly because of diffraction. Smart companies, who really wanted you to use the grills, actually made sure the balance was correct with the grills on. I would try taking off the grill (I know it looks better on) just to see if the speaker does a better disappearing act.