Old 05-16-2020, 01:20 PM   #1
eq1
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Default Opinions about upgrading old passive studio monitors?

I used to be into making mostly electronic music a long time ago, and over the past few years kind of waded back into music in general. I dabbled a little with a couple of my old songs and Reaper, and then more recently started messing with 'remastering' some recordings... I use that term loosely because, although I probably have a good ear and quite a bit of musical background, I generally don't know what I'm doing, not a ton of true 'engineering-like' experience...

I use some really old Alesis "Monitor One" studio monitors with matching RA100 amp. I think I bought them back in, like, 1994. These are the original Monitor Ones, Mk I. They were supposed to be an alternative to Yamaha NS10s I believe they were, the white coned ones, an inexpensive alternative probably mostly for newbies. They sound pretty decent to me, but I don't have much of a comparison basis... I find that when I mix or master with these I have a hard time getting that mix to translate -- I typically miss the mark in some way, making the high-end too high, too much bass, etc.

So here's the question: I'm thinking I should probably upgrade to newer, active monitors, that chances are pretty good that my old monitors never were very good, and that now, as they've been used a lot and with newer technologies, I'd probably be much better off with new ones.

Does that sound reasonable, likely, a 'no-brainer'? Or perhaps I shouldn't expect new monitors to help much?

Have any of you upgraded from old passive monitors to new active ones and have opinions about how much that change mattered, in terms of the quality of your mixes or masters?

Basically, I'm open to any opinions, insights roughly about 'upgrading old monitors'...

I've been thinking about Presonus Eris E5 XTs, mainly because I dealt with Presonus back in the day and they seemed like 'good people'. The reviews, specs, descriptions of what they are and do sound about right for me...
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Old 05-18-2020, 03:35 AM   #2
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Hi eq1. Just some random thoughts here from someone probably at the same stage as you (is that even helpful?)

My concern with the existing setup would be what had happened to the amp as much as the speakers over the years! But as you say powered monitors will solve that too.
Main thing seems to be that room treatment is the key here so it will be interesting to see what others have to say about how best to budget for that vs new speakers.
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Old 05-18-2020, 01:24 PM   #3
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Hi eq1. Just some random thoughts here from someone probably at the same stage as you (is that even helpful?)
Yes, it's helpful. I think ideally someone would chime-in who's faced the same decision, upgraded, and can say, 'my new monitors made a huge difference, it was like night and day. Old passive monitors just can't hold a candle to new, active ones.' Or, 'Until you move to the real high-end, expensive models, all the fairly inexpensive studio monitors are about the same, old or new, passive or active'. Or, 'You really need full-sized monitors to master - near-field with only 5-inch cones just can't reproduce the bass accurately enough - it will always be a guessing game'. etc etc...

But, any input here helps a lot as it just helps me wrap my brain around all the things to consider...

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Originally Posted by martifingers View Post
My concern with the existing setup would be what had happened to the amp as much as the speakers over the years! But as you say powered monitors will solve that too.
Yeah, my amp is a concern. It makes a lot of noise, too - hums loud and it's sitting right on my desk. Plus, I loaned these to a friend for years and years and they were used a lot. Seems like the speaker cones would just wear and get sloppy. I'm thinking electronic bits in the amp might develop ...'crud', corrosion, or what-not...

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Originally Posted by martifingers View Post
Main thing seems to be that room treatment is the key here so it will be interesting to see what others have to say about how best to budget for that vs new speakers.
Yeah, not sure how much the room factors-in. It's a very small room and I sit close to the monitors. I take a step back often, from the listening position, and size-up the sound, basically try to use the room as part of the process. It's sort of like 'triangulating' in on the right mix, where stepping out of the listening position helps to identify frequency ranges that are emphasized too much, as certain areas of the room will accentuate or mask certain frequency ranges... It's a bit like auditioning mixes on different systems...

But I almost always miss the mark in the same frequency ranges, and I wonder whether it could be because my monitors simply don't reproduce those ranges very accurately. Seems like I often end up over-emphasizing around the 3-5k range, and under-emphasizing around 200-450Hz.* And as I mentioned earlier, I really struggle with the bass, either too much or too little, though I'm getting a lot better with that (I added about +6db to the low-end on my monitored mix and that seems to have helped a lot)...


* edit: Yeah, thinking about this some more, I'd have to say that is the problem I have. Cutting around 200-450Hz can often clean things-up, but then I often end up with a thin, tinny mix. Boosting around 3-5k can really bring out some definition - but then I often end up with a grainy, grating, too-searing mix. I have a tremendously difficult time finding the right balance with approximately these two frequency ranges. And I often end up going back and forth, around in circles, trying to find that right balance...

When I audition on different systems (my car stereo, a pair of Sony V6 headphones with and without 'correction', and a set of old Altec PC speakers with subwoofer), one mix or the other will sound from good to bad depending on the system, and the difference is usually the balance between these two frequency ranges. One mix will sound good with less 3-5k, more 200-450; but it will be just the opposite on another system.

So I'm thinking a new set of modern studio monitors might tip the scales, help me decide which is the good mix, be the arbiter... Could that be true or is it just me, my ears, etc??

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Old 05-18-2020, 02:05 PM   #4
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Sounds to me like your room is more detrimental than your monitors...
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Old 05-18-2020, 02:51 PM   #5
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^ hmm, could be. It seems pretty easy to distinguish the 'room sound' from the sound coming straight out of the monitors, like when I'm sitting right in front of them. Is that more likely to be folly - I just think it's easy?

Seems like the room could/would become more of an issue if I were having problems with more detailed stuff. I feel like I never even try to get too detailed - that I'm just trying to get the broad-brush strokes right...

* * *

After I wrote that edit above and felt like I kind of honed-in a bit on my major issue, I did a search and found a pretty decent little article about dealing with midrange issues. There's a graphic that nicely sums-up/delineates some of the things I was trying to delineate - problems with the 200-450 and 3k-5k range, et al... Here's a link:
https://www.justmastering.com/articl...ids-part-2.php

Here's just the graphic. My issue, based on the terminology in this graph, would roughly be achieving "weight and warmth" and "clarity, forwardness, and presence," staying away from the descriptions in the "too much" or "too little" boxes above and below those frequency ranges:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg MidrangeZones.JPG (63.6 KB, 179 views)

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Old 05-18-2020, 03:28 PM   #6
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Your half way there you know where the frequencies are that you need to listen too to balance the mix
simply the low is a problem and the high is also.
I had this and I still have this problem my recording room is now excellent however my pretend mastering room tells me tales just like yours does.
I am not going to mess to much with my event ported actives or room but what I did do was purchase two programs the first Harbal and the second Izotope tonal balance 1.
Harbal told me my bass was way too high and what Freq's needed boosting etc.
Tonal balance gave me an in view as I listen commentary of what was going on in my mix. They both let you in on to knowing what to listen for.
I have to let the bass in in the mix room so I can just hear it in the mix not how I want it as a gut tugger and my vocal has to be out there above everything with guitars etc coming behind but well clear of the bass.
Not nice to listen to in the mix room but take the mix anywhere else and .. fine.

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Old 05-18-2020, 10:06 PM   #7
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I have 3 pairs of headphones and one pair of monitors. I switch between them a lot. I also listen back on my home theater system and in my car.

If you do something similar you can start to get an idea of how each playback device sounds. I use some Beyer DT770's, Shure SRH440's and a pair of bluetooth over the ear cans that I use around the house. I go between all of these constantly. I find the Bluetooth phones the most helpful, since I listen to those the most while doing chores etc.

https://www.tribitaudio.com/products...ess-Headphones

For 40 dollar cans they sound pretty nice and the battery lasts forever. Unfortunately with Reaper I have to use the cable to plug them in. Reaper doesn't play well with Bluetooth for some reason.


Change up your listening devices regularly. You get used to how things sound pretty quickly and it becomes difficult to remain objective.
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Old 05-19-2020, 02:35 AM   #8
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If you have access to a measurement microphone, you might try the Sonarworks demo. As I remember the Alesis speakers, they're fine (while not exactly high end), so I'd rule out the room issues first.
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Old 05-20-2020, 12:17 PM   #9
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Thanks for the replies, all good suggestions...

But, they're all more difficult to implement than just buying new monitors and trying them out! I don't have a microphone, for instance, and even if (when) I find that the room is a or the problem, I'm not in a position to do anything about it, not for a while... The idea about turning to analysis programs -- not sure, I have misgivings about that; I want to be able to rely on my ears and listening rather than risk becoming too reliant on a program to tell me what's right. There'd certainly be a place for such tools, but I'm probably not there yet...

So, I just forked over a little cash and should have new monitors shortly. I figure it's the easiest way to answer the most direct question - Would upgrading my old monitors make a difference?

If/when I have an answer to that question I'll be sure to report back...
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:40 AM   #10
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Quote:
I have misgivings about that; I want to be able to rely on my ears and listening rather than risk becoming too reliant on a program to tell me what's right.
So there's several kinds of "flat", you mean? The general question is: do you want to hear your speakers reproducing music or your room distorting it?
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:12 AM   #11
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Aside from what's being said about parameters outside of the speakers and amp, I replaced an Alesis RA100 amp (that was free of noise and issues) that was powering Monitor Ones in a midi room in a studio I worked in about 25 years ago, with a low end Crown. The difference was not subtle. The Alesis amp had been mushing the detail in the audio and had terrible headroom. It originally went in there because it was a room that didn't need much power and there weren't too many options at that price. But it was like night and day with the same speakers.

Jumping through hoops with room treatment without getting a power amp that's going to put out balanced frequencies and detail doesn't make sense.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:09 PM   #12
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I do not regret having one to two programs letting me know how to listen to my mixes.
Being a composer, performer amateur mixer and master-er not to be confused with the likes of Bob Katz.
I am and most of us have to be all rounders good or not so good.
What are we faced with?
There is no perfection in our mix rooms.
Have you got the perfect listening environment?
Have you got paper lying around?
Guitars lying around in the place you mix the odd chair that was not there yesterday, unopened /opened deliveries you got in after you made your perfect listening environment. The odd faulty equipment you have yet to fix.
The room changes day by day for most. Those two programs I mentioned previously taught me to not be scared when I could only just hear the bass in my computer room period it was well worth the money I paid in the first instance. I know now how to listen to my room and not get worried about things.

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Old 05-21-2020, 12:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beingmf View Post
So there's several kinds of "flat", you mean? The general question is: do you want to hear your speakers reproducing music or your room distorting it?
I may have misunderstood what grinder was describing - I thought he was describing programs that analyze the mix itself, not the room, kind of like a spectrum analyzer would. I was thinking that if my ears/listening said "this sounds great," but the analyzer said, "this is not balanced," or vice-versa, or what-not, I couldn't get myself to go with what the analyzer said... Maybe I'm just not understanding 'it all'. It didn't seem like this was an issue of flat room response and flat monitor response; I thought it was an issue of tools that can allow you to disregard the room and the monitors entirely, such as by basing decisions on graphical representations/statistical analysis of the music/mix...

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Old 05-21-2020, 12:49 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by vdubreeze View Post
...I replaced an Alesis RA100 amp...The difference was not subtle. The Alesis amp had been mushing the detail in the audio and had terrible headroom...it was like night and day with the same speakers.

Jumping through hoops with room treatment without getting a power amp that's going to put out balanced frequencies and detail doesn't make sense.
Haha, you're pulling my leg, right - just saying what you think I want to hear??

I hope you're being serious - it'd be nice to get these new monitors and find that - voila - problems solved. On the other hand, even if they don't, I'll still be able to get this huge, humming amp off my desk top.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:57 PM   #15
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Here's a quick question about roughly room response: Can't one mix at relatively low levels, with near-field monitors, and significantly reduce the impact of room response?
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:13 PM   #16
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Here's a quick question about roughly room response: Can't one mix at relatively low levels, with near-field monitors, and significantly reduce the impact of room response?
Yes. The lower the overall volume, the less the room will affect the sound. But if you go too low, you might not be pushing enough volume through the speakers to make them operate in their optimal range. Plus, the Fletcher-Munson effect will make you less and less able to judge the low end properly. So it's a trade-off.
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Old 05-21-2020, 02:35 PM   #17
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Those programs helped in no small way me to understand what volumes I should be listening for in the mix from what my room and the speakers were producing.
They are not snake oil and they do not interfere with me and my originality.
I actually have my monitors never any higher in volume that speaking level I am 67-ish and have pretty decent hearing I plan to keep it as long as possible.
I am not affiliated to the makers of the software providers in any way shape or form.


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Old 05-21-2020, 02:57 PM   #18
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Those programs helped in no small way me to understand what volumes I should be listening for in the mix from what my room and the speakers were producing....
Well, we'll see, maybe later. I just looked up that 'Izotope tonal balance 1' - I see a price tag of $350. That's a little rich for me, for software. The monitors I just bought cost a little less than that. So...
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Old 05-21-2020, 03:10 PM   #19
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You have to do what you figure you have to do
I am just saying how I have found it.

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Old 05-21-2020, 05:23 PM   #20
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Aside from what's being said about parameters outside of the speakers and amp, I replaced an Alesis RA100 amp (that was free of noise and issues) that was powering Monitor Ones in a midi room in a studio I worked in about 25 years ago, with a low end Crown. The difference was not subtle. The Alesis amp had been mushing the detail in the audio and had terrible headroom. It originally went in there because it was a room that didn't need much power and there weren't too many options at that price. But it was like night and day with the same speakers.

Jumping through hoops with room treatment without getting a power amp that's going to put out balanced frequencies and detail doesn't make sense.
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Haha, you're pulling my leg, right - just saying what you think I want to hear??

I hope you're being serious - it'd be nice to get these new monitors and find that - voila - problems solved. On the other hand, even if they don't, I'll still be able to get this huge, humming amp off my desk top.
Dead serious, but I didn't mean to imply that if you swap the amp you don't have to tweak the space. Just that I found the RA-100 so coloring (in a bad way) that it's a waste to do the room stuff if you're not going to replace that.

Just to throw this out there to you, I got a pair of powered Kali LP-6's a year and a half ago for under $300 shipped. Still very happy with them. They're not $2,000 speakers but that wasn't in the cards. One of the better powered speakers under $500 for the pair.
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Old 05-21-2020, 05:52 PM   #21
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^ Gotcha. I was making the leap in my head, not implying that that's what you were saying exactly. I was like, 'hey, if the amp could be that bad, it's possible all my problems will be solved.' But realistically, I could simply be in a better position to move forward with new problems - that's what I hear you saying...

On a side note, I never mentioned that the right channel pot on this amp crackles - it's hard to match the levels on left and right, because the right signal will intermittently drop out when I turn the knob.

Does that hint at its abilities (or lack), and, more importantly, does anyone know if I'm likely to be able to fix that simply by opening it up and cleaning the pot tracks - or something like that?
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Old 05-22-2020, 05:58 PM   #22
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Got my new monitors setup and have listened to a few things, tried to do some quick A/B comparisons. At this point I'd have to say my problems have been the monitors. In general, the new ones sound quite a bit clearer, cleaner, more definition. They sound good. I like them.

I popped in an 'old standard' - Massive Attack "Teardrop" - and tried to EQ the Alesis Monitor Ones so they'd sound closer to the Presonus Eris E5 XTs. You'll have to forgive the ancient Winamp Eq I was using, it was just the easiest and quickest way to get going. Here's the curve I had to apply - to approximate the sound:



Even after applying this EQ curve, the Monitor Ones still didn't quite have the definition that the others did. The low-end, about 400Hz down, kind of sounded muddled together compared to the E5 XTs. The same could be said of the ~3-5k range, and I guess upward even. The 3-5k or so seemed recessed, and the very high-end wasn't really there...

Anyway, we'll see how it goes over time as I work with these. I'll probably try to take apart the RA100 amp and see if I can clean some contacts or what-not, and see if that alters the sound quality.
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Old 05-23-2020, 03:01 PM   #23
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Thought I'd post this link to a thread in a DIY audio forum where some guys troubleshoot repair of an Alesis RA100: https://www.diyaudio.com/forums/soli...00-repair.html

It's too much over my head, but figured someone else down the line may find it useful.

What's interesting is that these 'audio guys', a couple of whom sound like they really know their amplifiers, heap praise on the RA100. For instance, one says this:

In short - RA100 is a sweet, sweet "reference amplifier". It may not have the ultimate power that some might want...but it still has those nice 48 volt rails, letting it easily burst upwards of 100 music watts before clipping, and even more at the lower end due to excellent current sourcing and sinking...if you see economically priced RA100's on Ebay or CraigsList, and they're supposedly "tested and working", then get them. They are, for the price, about as close to the "gold standard" for a transistor-based amplifier as I have yet found.

I'm pretty curious as to whether or why my amp might be mussing stuff up. The more I've listened to my new monitors over the last 12 hours and on, the more obvious it becomes that there's a problem with the old.

It's...unfortunate I didn't realize there was a problem earlier. I had always thought that - and it seemed like - my Alesis monitors were at least a lot better than my decent PC speakers and my headphones; I could switch to the monitors and it was always like lifting a veil on the mix, for instance bringing out detail that I didn't hear with the computer speakers, as well as other qualities that just didn't shine through with headphones (two sets - ATH M40s and the Sony MDR V6s). But now, the new monitors bring that 'veil lifting' to a whole 'nuther level... Now, commercial mixes don't all sound bad!

A couple quick observations comparing old to new:

-the new monitor setup is SO much louder. When trying to do A/B comparisons I needed to match levels on both old and new. I had to turn new monitors down near minimum, while the RA100 amp was set at about 7 of 10. (old only has unbalanced -10dB output, while new has balanced +4dB)...

-One clear difference I hear across (commercial) mixes is the definition in the kick drum: with new I can actually hear the kick beater on the skin, as I recall something that occurs around 4k Hz, and the bass 'blooms' rather cleanly and naturally downward from that hit. With the old, that taught hit of the beater pretty much disappears, and the bass of the drum is a sort of ill-defined 'blob' of sound, rather than that natural bloom...

Anyway, I'm adding these observations thinking it might help others determine whether their old monitor system might be lagging...

So far these Presonus Eris E5 XTs seem just about perfect for me. I remember listening to slightly smaller speakers at the music store a while back, such as some slightly smaller Mackies, and thinking, 'God, these things sound awful'. I hear none of that from these E5s, they sound very natural, have a surprisingly full, rich sound, not thin and 'plastic-y' as I recall from some of those other monitors in the music store.

-The bass is surprisingly rich and deep, too, even given that the 'big speaker' is only about 4.75 inches in diameter, whereas my Monitor One's are larger, 5.75 inches...

[Later...] I did a little more research, looking for stuff people have said and done with the RA100 amp, and also opened up mine. There was one thread that talked about modding the amp, which characterized it as being roughly 'dark' and lacking high-end, which this modding fixed... Made me think that at least part of what I've experienced/been hearing is inherent to the amp itself.

In any event, I fixed the crackle in the right volume.

It's really easy to open up the unit to access volume pots: just remove the two middle allen head screws on left and right side and the top comes off. The plastic knobs pull off - they're really tight, just get a good grip on them and gently wiggle them off. Then there's just a nut that holds the pot in place. You can pull the pots up and out of the way to access. I just gently pried the backing cap off, first bending up 4 tangs. It wasn't dirty, nothing obviously wrong, it was tight and the 'wiper fingers' and another contact looked good. I used some alcohol on a napkin and used the edge to clean the carbon wiper track thing, then put the back back on and made sure it was tight. All back together and crackle was gone...

While in there I also noticed some kind of sloppy looking solder joints - all the joints that attached the 4 transistors on the right channel, which attach to the aluminum heatsink, were slightly scorched and had some splatter. I just cleaned around them with alcohol...

Hard to say, but something I did, whether the knob or the simple cleaning around those solder joints, seemed to have helped the overall sound quality. Doing the same comparison I did yesterday - with that 'Winap EQ curve' in the previous post - it now sounded too extreme. It seems like there's some more high end, now. But, who knows, could just be in my head.

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Old 05-24-2020, 10:22 AM   #24
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I did a little more research, looking for stuff people have said and done with the RA100 amp, and also opened up mine. There was one thread that talked about modding the amp, which characterized it as being roughly 'dark' and lacking high-end, which this modding fixed... Made me think that at least part of what I've experienced/been hearing is inherent to the amp itself.

In any event, I fixed the crackle in the right volume.

It's really easy to open up the unit to access volume pots: just remove the two middle allen head screws on left and right side and the top comes off. The plastic knobs pull off - they're really tight, just get a good grip on them and gently wiggle them off. Then there's just a nut that holds the pot in place. You can pull the pots up and out of the way to access. I just gently pried the backing cap off, first bending up 4 tangs. It wasn't dirty, nothing obviously wrong, it was tight and the 'wiper fingers' and another contact looked good. I used some alcohol on a napkin and used the edge to clean the carbon wiper track thing, then put the back back on and made sure it was tight. All back together and crackle was gone...

While in there I also noticed some kind of sloppy looking solder joints - all the joints that attached the 4 transistors on the right channel, which attach to the aluminum heatsink, were slightly scorched and had some splatter. I just cleaned around them with alcohol...

Hard to say, but something I did, whether the knob or the simple cleaning around those solder joints, seemed to have helped the overall sound quality. Doing the same comparison I did yesterday - with that 'Winap EQ curve' in the previous post - it now sounded too extreme. It seems like there's some more high end, now. But, who knows, could just be in my head.
That's great - there's a RA300 sitting in front of me feeding a single Auratone speaker with its remaining working channel Which also suffers from the issues you are describing. I guess I'll do the same in the nest days, thanks for the detailed description!
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Old 05-24-2020, 12:20 PM   #25
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The sound you want in your mastering/mixing room is not the one necessarily
that may sound the best in your mastering / mixing room.
If your mastering/mixing room is wonky for sound it will not necessarily equate also to good sound in your vehicle, kitchen , lounge or whatever.
In my humble opinion it is dangerous to assume that because you get a perfect sound in your mastering/mixing room that this will always happen in those other places.

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Old 05-24-2020, 02:27 PM   #26
eq1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beingmf View Post
That's great - there's a RA300 sitting in front of me feeding a single Auratone speaker with its remaining working channel Which also suffers from the issues you are describing. I guess I'll do the same in the nest days, thanks for the detailed description!
Happy to be potentially useful... Just a note, I gather you're talking about the volume pot problems, but since I mentioned 'modding' too, I should point out that I read the RA-100 is different from all the others, such as the RA-300. I imagine there'd be no difference with the volume pots, but I don't think any of the other stuff, the 'modding' stuff, applies to the non-RA100 models.
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Old 05-25-2020, 06:36 PM   #27
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FWIW, pretty much all transistor amps are exceedingly linear WHEN USED WITHIN THEIR LIMITS. If you have a 100 watt amp and only need 10 watts to acheive the desired listening level then you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between Behringer or Bryston. But only when used within their limits.

It's when the amp is asked to provide voltage at or exceeding what it was designed to do. This is where the difference lies. A Behringer may go to mushy shit while the Bryston you may not notice the onset of clipping.

So pretty much any solid state amp is "audiophile" when used within it's limits.


This is not only my opinion, but is backed up by a lifetime of live sound engineering. Many guys that are way smarter than me have researched this ad nauseum.
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