Friday, 28 February 2014

Hell Freezes Over?

There's a follow up posting to this story, 3 weeks later here.  Read this post first then check out the follow-up.

As a starter for a weekend of hifi, I guess this is one of the more exotic ways to kick off. 
After the usual week of work, everything was planned and ready to go for the Wigwam hifi show at Scalford with travelling on Saturday and the show itself on Sunday.  Friday evening was supposed to be time at home before disappearing off for a weekend of sonic indulgence and maybe the occasional glass of beer.  But "Richard Is My Naim", my local Naimist and co-conspirator at Scalford dropped a killer call at knocking-off time on Friday evening.  Another black box had arrived.  It needed setting up.  It needed listening to.  Now.  An NDS had landed.
Back Story
In 2 parallel universes, somewhere in North Wales, 2 journeys from CD to streaming have been played out.  Myself predominantly with Linn,  Richard consistently with Naim.
My starting point:  Meridian CD508.20 / Meridian 541 Pre / Rotel power amps / Active Linn Keilidhs.  Via Squeezebox, CA and Cyrus DACs, Cyrus and older Linn power amps, Linn AV5103 pre etc., at the end of 2013 I was at Linn Akurate DS/0/1, Linn Akurate Kontrol/0/D, Linn Majik Dynamik amps and active Majik 140 speakers.  And very happy was I.  Until a "friendly" Linn forum member let me hear a KDSM versus the Klimax Renew (KRDS) streamers.  With the advent of Linn Exakt, a good few Klimax DS/1s (KDS/1) came on the market, the prices fell, and, at the beginning of 2014, a black KDS/1 stepped in to my system and completely re-wrote the rule books.  I could almost see the cogs whirring in Richard's head when he heard how profound a change the KDS/1 brought to my music.
Richard's starting point: Naim CDX2, XPS power supply, NAC252 pre with HiCap PS, NAP180 power and Wilson Benesch Arc standmount speakers.  Then, via the second version of the CDX2, and improved XPS2, NAP250 power amp, NDX with XPS2, he has ended up with NDX / 555PS DR streamer, NAC282 / HiCap pre-amp, NAP250 power amp and Kudos C20 Super floorstanding speakers.  He was also very happy.
So here we have 2 very different ways of getting to a decent quality streaming solution.  And they sound very different too.  Both have bags of detail, but the Linn system is very precise and instruments are really well separated whereas the Naim system sounds more like it wants to get on with everything (like there's not enough time in the day), it has a particularly expansive soundstage and, for me, can occasionally sound a bit strident.  Guess what?  We both think we have the correct answer, but we also seem to respect what the other is enjoying, if that makes sense.
Why Is Hell Freezing Over?
This is a reference to a couple of things.  First, the live album by The Eagles - when they originally split up, one of the band was quoted as saying they would only get back together, "when Hell freezes over", yet there they were, playing live again together.  The second reference is to the relationship between Linn and Naim as companies.  Back in the 1970s, when Linn started out with the LP12 turntable and Naim started out making simple but well engineered amplifiers, the two companies had very similar outlooks - they were out to challenge the establishment and did so very effectively.  When Linn added speakers to their range, and Naim expanded their line of amplifiers, all was well.  The components worked well together and became the "established" route for UK audiophiles.  But when Linn added amplifiers to their range (rumour has it that the Naim MD used one as an office doorstop), then Naim produced a tonearm for the LP12, it all started to go a bit off-kilter.
Despite that, many dealers and customers still work with and enjoy combining the 2 manufacturers' equipment today.
So perhaps this isn't Hell freezing over, but putting the top of the range (almost - more later) Naim streamer on the same rack as the top of the range Linn streamer is probably not something that happens too often.
Naim NDS on a shelf above the Linn KDS/1
Richard's usual streamer solution is Naim NDX with the 555PS DR power supply.  The most recent upgrade step was to swap out the XPS2 for the 555PS DR power supply a good few months ago, and we were both stunned by the improvement this brought in terms of imaging, leading edge attack and more atmosphere to the music.  In source terms, there's only one place its possible to go from there, and that would be to swap out the NDX streamer for Naim's current top of the range NDS streamer.  The NDS can use a single 555PS DR power supply - the one Richard currently uses with his NDX - so its a straight swap, NDX out, NDS in.
Having packed up the KDS/1 into its Linn box, I was round to Richard's house fairly sharpish.  Down to business - get all this stuff up and running to allow us to make the comparison.

A bit untidy with Ethernet and power cables. Left hand rack consists of Naim NAC282 pre-amp, Naim NDX, Naim HiCap PS for the 282, Naim 555PS DR for the NDS, Naim NAP250 power amp.  In the foreground the Kudos C20 Super (in cherry veneer).  Racks are by Quadraspire.


Get Set, Before Go
An unmanaged switch was connected into the Devolo Ethernet over mains plug to allow 2 x Ethernet connections.  The KDS/1 was hooked up to the network, and with the wifi password sorted out, was pointed at the correct UPnP database from my Android phone (using BubbleDS control point) and that was sorted.  Linn Silver interconnects into the back of the NAC282 (actual phono sockets!) and that was ready to go.
The Naim is a little more complex as it needs two very large ("bundy") cables connecting - both of these are intended to be connected to the 555PS DR power supply.  It took us a while to work out which is which cable - apart from the different arrangement of pins in the plugs, there's not much to go on.  Until we worked out that one cable had a single white band at one end with the other having 2 white bands.  Turns out that this correlates to input 1 and input 2 on the back of the NDS.  Easy when you know how!  One more cable to carry the signal to the NAC282 pre-amp and we're good to go.  The NDS pops up on the iPad and music is available from both sources.
Where Did That Come From?
The previous weekend I'd been at the Bristol show organised by Audio-T and WHF magazine.  Naim had been there, with their first European public demo of the Statement amplifier which you can read about here.  Turns out that what we had there in front of us right now was the NDS streamer that Naim had used in that demo in Bristol.  Surprisingly, they seemed to have used a brand new unit that weekend, so perhaps it got better over the weekend and those who heard the system on Sunday may have heard something more enjoyable than the demo I was lucky to get into, first thing on the Friday.  So it had some burn-in time, but not a great deal.  My KDS/1 has about 15 months use, so no chance of any burn-in issues there.
Worth pointing out, at this point, that the KDS/1 and the NDS with a single 555PS DR are pretty much on a par, price wise.  The KDS/1 is the top of the Linn range at the moment (of the conventional streamers that is, excluding the Klimax Exakt DSM which is a different kettle of deep fried fish in technology approach), but the Naim NDS can be upgraded further by the addition of a second 555 PS DR power supply.  Apparently one serves the analogue circuits, the other the digital circuits, hence separating stuff even further.
Listen Up
Testing my memory a bit now, but I think this is what we listened to:
Steely Dan - Any Major Dude
Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (24 bit)
Ane Brun - Worship
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
James Taylor - Gaia
Eagles - Hotel California (Live)
Eagle Eye Cherry - Shooting Up In Vain
Some Radiohead, which I choose not to remember, and some other stuff I can't remember due to advancing age (probably).  Maybe Richard will be along soon to provide an update - although he is one year older than me, so maybe that's unlikely  ;-)
Strangely, for us, Blues Company didn't feature at all.
So What?
Well, that's a very good question.  So what?
I like my Linn system.  Richard likes his (almost all, but thank goodness there are no Ovators in the area) Naim system.  Can you guess where this is going?
I've suggested a "Part 2" where we put the NDS into my Linn system.  The NDS is on demo at the moment, so we're not sure if we'll find a mutually available time to give that a go.  If it happens, you'll read about it here.
Interestingly (maybe?), this bake-off fitted with the Scalford Hifi Wigwam show weekend very well.  How so?  Did it sound like vinyl, played through valves and a set of extreme home made horns?  No.  No.  Not at all.  The alignment is this - Scalford is about variety and variety, with some added variety.  For example, when exhibiting with my budget system and playing a Yello DVD (with a projector too), we had some people who walked out in less than 30 seconds (I think 3 minutes would be a fairer time to decide, but hey, I'm kind of known for being unreasonably reasonable, sometimes), and some who watched the whole video end to end - 40 minutes.  Equally, I like to give every room a try, but some I stay in, others I find 3-5 minutes with a couple of different tracks and I want to move on.  There is a theme with the Wam - there are some systems that do lots of things very well, but there are many systems that do one or two things exceptionally well, but don't do all the other things well at all.  And that's what it seems to be about - enthusiasts playing what they think is right, whether you, dear visitor, like it or not.
Variety.  See?
And whilst I wouldn't accuse either the Linn, nor the Naim, of doggedly pursuing a very narrow set of goals, you can very much hear a house sound from both devices, even in a predominantly Naim system (hence my suggestion we do this again in a Linn system at some point, to get some balance, maybe).
How is it that 2 expensive, highly engineered solutions, using exactly the same source material across exactly the same network, create such a different feel?  What's happening to those bits and, further down the chain, those analogue waves that crunches them out so differently, and yet with some commonality?
What's common?  Detail, layers upon layers of intricate detail.  Tiny nuances in voices, subtle touches of cymbals which are normally hidden underneath other cymbals or percussion on lesser components.    Bass lines that aren't one instrument, but are 2 or 3 that play tunes that intertwine with each other.  That extra level of control that is only stunningly apparent when its there, and then when you step back to a lesser component and notice that the looseness is back.  It amazes me that what sounds great on a system is suddenly put into a perspective of inadequacy when you hear it done "right".  What is "right" anyway?  I wasn't there at the recording so I don't really know, and yet its somehow obvious.  A bit like colour in a photograph - its often obvious what's been changed in Photoshop (other programs are available), yet you weren't there to see the real thing - you just instinctively know its not right, not natural. And rhythm.  Both of these players time superbly.  Tap tap go the toes - its involuntary, its pretty much inevitable.
What's different?  Everything else. 
The Linn sounds so much like its fully in control.  The music will do what the Linn tells it to do.  The instruments are carefully "placed".  The imaging is immaculately controlled.  You can imagine the subtlety with which a string is plucked, a cymbal brushed, a sigh is delivered.  Its precise.  And yet, it flows so smoothly.  There's something about the Linn that makes the music feel crafted by hand with skill and attention by musicians who care. Not lacking in attack, but instrument attack is precisely delivered - starts and stops are there to be heard.  Decay is beautifully extended yet the instruments don't blur together.  Clearly this works brilliantly on material such as James Taylor, the Eagles and Eagle Eye Cherry.  Does this make Nirvana and Radiohead polite and lacking in bite?  No, strangely not, the bite and anger is there, the emotion flows through.
The Naim is clearly a Naim component.  There's very little chance that you would mix up the 2.  It punches, it attacks the music, there's no doubt whatsoever that it means to get on with the job, to tell you that this is the way the music is, get on and enjoy it, or get out of my way.  Its a much more raw experience than the Linn, and I think that's what Richard enjoys - he takes this as being more emotional, more like real life.  For me it gets too much at times - pushing my limits of enjoyment, getting close to the point of aggression and boarding on harsh.  Its not my cup of tea, but I can absolutely hear the appeal.  The Naim has a tiny more expression in the vocals, especially female vocals - just a bit more texture, if you like.  It also has a wider soundstage, filling the room more from left to right, but not quite so much front to back - delivering this as a counterpoint to the precision of the Linn.  Sometimes the decay of instruments is lost a little in the mix, in comparison with the Linn - perhaps that's something that contributes to the need to move on, to deliver the next bit of excitement.
So there it is.  Not much of a conclusion really, is it?  Guess what?  I'm very happy to have chosen the Linn, but that's not a slight at the Naim which I fully respect for what it does and what it achieves.  Put the Naim in a Naim system and you get exactly what you might expect, just more of it, to a finer level of detail and with that extra bit of passion.  I suspect that Richard will also choose the Naim.  He's leaving it playing during the week, so maybe a bit more time on the NDS will change it further.
But I'm left with a bit of a nagging doubt, and we discuss it a number of times over the weekend at Scalford.  Is the NDS worth the asking price over and above the NDX?  On the basis of this session, upgrading the NDX / XPS2 to NDX / 555PS DR delivered a bigger step.  Yes the NDS is better than the NDX, but it hasn't delivered as much as the power supply change.  Seems counter intuitive really doesn't it?  Surely a different DAC, analogue output stage and improved physical isolation makes a bigger change than a better, beefier, tighter power supply change?  Not on this showing it doesn't.
Lets see what the week's extra burn-in brings.  For this test I come away happy with the KDS/1, Richard comes away wondering about that 10 year old Porsche Boxster...
There's a follow up posting to this story, 3 weeks later here.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Bristol Interest

A new peak daily viewing number for this blog yesterday - 1,413 views.
Clearly the Bristol show generates some interest.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Bristol Show 2014 - Wilson Benesch and Audionet

Pretty good sound here, clear and clean from the turntable into the new Square speakers. However, the usual caveat for many of the rooms in that they played safe well recorded jazz, so no idea what it sounds like with female folk vocals or the Stereophomics.

Bristol Show 2014 - Arcam and Q Acoustics

Arcam disc spinner and AV receiver into Concept 20 then Concept 40.  Good range  of tunes played, but annoyingly most of them changed to the next track about halfway through. The 20s are very good for 350 - sharp, controlled, tuneful. Theyre quite expensive when you add the stands. 

The 40s (which are the floorstanders) add weight but not as much as you might hope. Both image very well. If someone said the Concept 40 was 600 to 700 pounds I'd be impressed.  But at 1k theyre not the knock out I would hope for. They genuinely did have a rubbish room though, with a semi-domed ceiling. Not helped by the Q staff nattering and giggling with some mates at the back of the room. Why can't these people step out into the corridor? !?

Bristol Show 2014 - Bryston and PMC

Launch of PMC Twenty.26  At 6k I rather enjoyed them more than the FACT 12 which are twice the price. First time I've heard a PMC that seemed to have a properly integrated bass. Enjoyed the music in here and they hald the audience in the room too.
Sorry about the rough picture. When the battery gets low on my phone the flash sswitches off.
Twenty.26
FACT 12

Bristol Show 2014 - Quad

 
Quad were playing their new Air Play wifi bluetooth integrated amp into electrostatics.  Lowish volume with surprisingly extended but very woolly bass. Also suprised to hear these speakers lacking sparkle and life. Have heard these sounding far far better so it must be the amp or the unknown digital source to blame.

Bristol Show 2014 - KEF


The KEF blades are pictured above (the orange was a bit more vibrant than they look above), but they weren't playing when I was in the room, mores the pity as I've heard them before and really enjoyed them.
The tiny LS50 (on the stands) was playing, and its fair to say that it took a minute or so to be sure it was them and not the blades, which has got to be a complement!  They sounded very good to be fair, but I didn't hang around in here too long as small standmounts don't interest me too much at the moment. 

Bristol Show 2014 - Cyrus and Vienna Acoustics

For me, the Lyric doesnt look any better in the flesh:
Vienna Acoustics 

Unfortunately, due to my being wrapped up in getting to as many rooms as possible during the day, I forgot to keep an eye on my watch.  Which meant I missed my appointment time at Cyrus (apologies Cyrus, I hope you were able to let others into the room to fill your seats) when I was booked in to hear the new Stream X Signature, something I was genuinely interested in hearing.  So I was in there when they were playing the Lyric 09.  Generally I get on well with the Cyrus / Vienna combination but this was somewhat uninspiring today.  A bit lifeless really, but they were playing it quite quietly. 

Bristol Show 2014 - Chord

It was late in the day when I got here and there was no music playing, so I didn't hang around to listen to the technical discussion which was ongoing (not a presentation, just chatter). 

Bristol Show 2014 - Audio Note and Snell

Turntable being played here, through some of those boxes on the table and floor (who knows which ones, another jumble of stuff where the visitor is expected to guess what's going on).  First track was a bit uninspiring but the second track was great - a real flow to the music and a sense of naturalness, if that makes any sense.  One of the best rooms today. 

Bristol Show 2014 - Lumin, Albarry and Amphion

One of the most musical rooms today.  

I have a Linn Klimax DS/1 which shares many of the same design approaches (machined from solid case, separate internal compartments, Lindahl output transformers etc.) of the Lumin streamer so was really interested to hear this kit.
By combining it with the Albarrys which I like very much and the Amphions which are new to me at this show, a very musical and unforced presentation resulted.  Very fluid, smooth across the frequency range, speakers sounding very comfortable with what they were doing.
How does the Lumin compare to the Linn?  Well, they'd have to be in the same system in the same room on the same day really, so no way to make that comparison here.  On the basis of this though, it is a comparison worth making.
I understand the Lumin is available at a very good price to introduce it to the country and its price will increase later, so probably worth checking out sooner rather than later.  The finish isn't up to the standards of the Linn, but its significantly lower cost too.
Another room where they were happy to play a good variety of music too - I'm learning that this is often a good indicator of a good system.

Bristol Show 2014 - BMC

Including belt drive cdp.

Not bad sound in here - too many lights and dials though - they can be dimmed but not turned off.

The aluminium extruded speakers didn't sound like tin cans, so that's good.  I think the thing that stands out for me in this room is that it didn't stand out.  When I think back, I can't really recall much about the sound here - so take that as you will - it must've been either bland, neutral or somewhere in between.

Nice to see some original thoughts around design though.  It's not to my taste, but it is quite refreshing.
 

Bristol Show 2014 - Dali, Anthem and PS4

In this room they were playing movies on a decent flat screen TV using an Anthem receiver and this tiny speakered Dali 5.1 system.  That subwoofer you can see above is only about 35cm cubed and the little cast aluminium boxes on lollipop sticks are about 10cm high and 6cm deep.  They have wood fibre cones to the mid driver (not sure what the difference is between wood fibre and paper, but it sounds like it might be more rigid.

Usually something this compact and "lifestyle" sounds thin, hard, harsh and rather unpleasant. However, for movies, this lot was rather impressive.  I know Anthem have a good reputation so that will be contributing, but, to be fair, this tiny little set up gave a really good account of itsself and if that was what I needed in terms of space or cost, this would do very nicely indeed.  No music heard when I was in there so that's a bit caveat, but for TV or film this was a big, and pleasant, surpise. 

Bristol Show 2014 - Sony

Promoting hi-res audio which is a good thing. Music wasn't really demonstrating much except how to send you off to sleep perhaps.Not sure if that was the choice of music or the kit itsself though.
The electronics below were playing through some Sony gloss black floorstanders containing lots of drivers.

Bristol Show 2014 - Musical Fidelity

M8 cdp pre and power and the very cute little V90 DAC/integrated amp playing into the Spendor floorstanders below.

Another lifeless and rather unexciting listen.  Not even particularly detailed to be honest.  It all sounded a bit "small".  Was expecting more, given all the good reviews this kit has.

Interested in the minature kit - the V90 is tiny yet has lots of functionality.  Perhaps a pair of phono inputs rather than the 3.5mm input would've improved it further, but it seems to be focussed on desktop audio with a printer style USB input which looks to mean a PC is the primary target.

Bristol Show 2014 - Focal and Naim

It must be said, I haven't really had good experiences with Focals to date.  The likes of the Diablo always sound too aggressive and waaaay too bright, topping off a very "technical" sound that doesn't seem to offer much in the way of music.
However, today, these are the best I've heard Focals (and that includes the ones used in the Naim Statement demo) the floorstanding Aria 900 being far less bright than their usual offerings. 
Mid range Naim electronics (NDX / XPS and SuperNait / HiCap) feeding streamed music into these really bounced along with deep and reasonably controlled bass lines.  Still a touch on the bright side, but without the aggression and it wasn't overpowering.  They let you play your own music in this room too, and this was popular - had to wait in the queue of 4 other tracks on USB sticks before we got to the Malia / Boris Blank I brought along.  Yet another example of how much better Naim can sound when not using Ovators...

Bristol Show 2014 - Heed, The White Room

Possibly best decorated room with white sheen drapes all-round and the black and white spotty rugs hiding the usual hotel room carpet challenge. Sounding thin and lightweight with the Foo Fighters on the TT. Much richer sound from mac mini. Enigma speakers remind me a bit of Shahinians.   I do like the all white simplicity of the kit, but not sure that glossy white plastic fronts look very expensive.
Often at these shows the room host will be seen to exaggeratingly nodding their head, rocking their bodies or waggling their toes.  The Heed room took this to excess with our host clearly out to prove how rocking the Foo Fighters were sounding - with head banging and air guitar to prove it.  On the flip side, he did say that the Enigma 5 speakers "won't suit everyone" due to their sloping baffle which disperses the sound into the room.

Bristol Show 2014 - Antelope, Amphion, Audeze

If I remember correctly there was a Canor amp hiding behind this lot.  Playing from the Mac through the Antelope DAC into some Amphion floorstanders this room was playing some music very well indeed.  I liked what I hear and it was another of those rooms that was playing lots of musical variety.  Is there a link between musical variety being played and the confidence in the system?
Also had a play with the Zodiac DAC / headphone amp playing into the Audeze cans shown below.  Not bade, but I preferred the Grados I heard later in the day which were fed by an Arcam disk spinner and a Graham Slee amp. Not sure which component it was here, but there was a certain hardness to the sound.  I suspect the cans as I didn't get on with them on the A&K hi-res portable players either.


Bristol Show 2014 - Sound of Eden

Not sure about the electronics in use here (not the Marantz in the picture), but the big orchestral scale had a very harsh top end during the loud passages so I didn't stay in here very long.

Bristol Show 2014 - Norma, Elac

Superb!
Stayed in this room for a while, and guess what?  They were happy to play a large variety of music and music brought by punters.
I've never heard ELACs before (the ones playing and pictured below are £3,800) and never even heard of Norma electronics (I'm afraid it put me in mind of Last of the Summer Wine, but that's not really relevant eh?).  This system had bags of unaggressive energy, sweet treble, suprisingly deep bass (for the size of the speakers - however, they're a lot deeper than they appear to be in the photos) and played music.
The speakers are made from and alumimium extrusion and they truly disappeared from the soundstage - there was no impression of any boxiness or box-bound sound here.  Definitely worth a visit, and will be looking into the Norma electronics too.  They were using a Mac into the DAC inside the CD player.

Bristol Show 2014 - Linn, Nytech and ARC

Pheonix brand Nytech playing some great music through ARC 102 speakers (the larger of the 2 shown).  Source is heavily modified Linn Akurate with changed psu and DAC output stage - you can read about the modifications on the Linn forum here: http://forums.linn.co.uk/bb/showthread.php?tid=15549&page=8

Nytech were playing their "still prototype" pre-amp, active crossover and monoblocks into the also revived ARC branded speakers. They have 2 ranges of amps - a very tiny pre / pre PSU / 2x monoblocks for £2k that are about to go into production (they look great and feel like quality kit but they weren't playing when I was in the room) and the prototype stuff that was playing.  Each uses the same basic classic Nytech circuit design but using updated and better quality components.  The main difference between the 2 ranges is the quality of the components and the size / quality of the power supplies, and the larger range has the active crossovers.  The crossovers are designed to be able to support the same speakers as the originals (so Linn Isobariks for example), but I think they'll need to update that significantly for more modern speakers, otherwise there's going to be a very limited market for that box).

On the evidence of this showing, they're doing something right - very fluid but dynamic sound.

Also nice blokes to speak to and clearly passionate about what they're doing.

Bristol Show 2014 - Clearaudio, Canor and Kudos

Master Innovation (magnet drive, counter-rotating, centre clamp and perimeter ring weight) turntable, Canor valve amp and Kudos Super 20 speakers.
And a range of phono stages.

One of the best sounding systems, but then a £36k turntable should sound pretty good, right?

A lot of faff to play a record - the deck has a centre spindle clamp and an weighted ring that goes around the perimeter of the disk.  Gives the room host lots of time to explain all the technical bits of this deck when changing the disk though.  Kudos speakers were doing a good job - nothing fancy, but very effective.
 

Bristol Show 2014 - ProAc, Naim

Making good sounds from Naim CDX2 and a Nait of some description into (probably the SuperNait) Response D30 which is the larger of the two pictured below. Perhaps a touch bright in balance but doing great things with vocals. Bass not the deepest but tuneful. Excellent imaging, unlike my cameraphone photography!

Bristol Show 2014 - Michell, Trichord, sugden, ProAc

Orbe SE.ex with new motor and laminated base.
 
I've enjoyed Mitchell turntables in the past, but this was smooth, inoffensive, a bit boomy and therefore a bit of a disappointment .  The system looked a bit "plonked" in the room - no clear position to listen to it and speakers looking too close together.
 

Bristol Show 2014 - Ming Da and Janszen

Ming Da integrated with 24/192 DAC, Ming Da cdp and Janszen Hybrid electrostatics / cone woofers
 
This system was sounding really good - valve amp with a bit of oomph and some creamy speakers that married smooth sweet mids and trebles with a decent bit of bass.  Occasionally a touch boomy, but it sounded like a positioning challenge rather than the speakers themselves.  Rather bizarrely the speakers were pushed as afar apart as possible, butting right up against the wall.  It wasn't a big room, but I think they might've benefitted from more space around them.