I hope this email finds you both well and staying healthy. I read your “tweaks” article today (which was great, by the way, as it reveals some opportunities to fine-tune an integrated system), and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to ask you something.
After our e-mail exchange last year, I came across an exceptional buy for an open-box set of Elac Navis ARF-51s (in the Gloss Ebony Emara finish). I hadn’t been able to consider them before, given my budget, but they are now in my house! Your review, which is one of just two I’ve found out there on the web, and your comments on these speakers are much appreciated. I subsequently purchased NAD’s C 658 BluOS streaming DAC.
Now that I’ve had the Elacs and the C 658 for several months, I’ve noticed the treble performance seems to be a bit “soft” in terms of detail. Has this been your experience? I remember you mentioning some sibilance in your original review and a follow-up reader letter, which leads me to believe you have not. Perhaps my experience is attributable to the Elacs’ soft-dome tweeters vs. the aluminum domes on my previous speakers (bookshelf Totem Acoustics)—I think the Totems are known for being lively. Your thoughts are appreciated when you have a spare moment to respond. Keep those Simplifi! articles coming!
I wouldn’t call the ARF-51s “soft,” though they’re definitely not as lively as any Totem speaker I’ve heard. Only on a few recordings do I hear that sibilance I referred to in my original review. I just looked at the Dirac curves for my NAD C 658 and the Elacs, and the response starts falling off modestly at about 5kHz. I continue to enjoy this system a lot, and have felt no need to change anything (other than adding the tweaks I discussed in the article you mentioned).
I have a couple of suggestions and a couple of questions.
Have you tried boosting the highs and/or mids with the rear-panel EQ controls on your Elacs? A +1dB lift to the highs, and maybe the mids as well, may deliver the liveliness you’re missing.
Are you using Dirac Live room correction on your C 658? (I hope you are.) If so, are you using the standard limited-spectrum version (correction to 500Hz) provided with the C 658, or have you upgraded to the full version? I’m using the full version, and find it worthwhile. With NAD’s standard target curve in the full version, HF response tilts slightly downward. You may find it worthwhile experimenting with the target curve. You can perform one set of measurements (or use measurements you’ve already performed and saved), and then drag points in the target curve (bold yellow line) in the Dirac app to produce flat HF response (or any other target curve you want to try) and then save the results into a different Dirac slot on your C 658, and compare the results in the Player section of the BluOS app’s Audio menu.
Dennis Burger recently wrote an interesting article on SoundStage! Access about room correction, which you may find useful. Dennis prefers not to do full-spectrum correction. On the other hand, other SoundStage! writers (Diego Estan, Wes Marshall) favor full-spectrum correction. I’ve experimented with both approaches. I use full-spectrum correction most of the time, but after reading Dennis’s article, I tried setting the target curve in Dirac to limit correction to frequencies of 800Hz and below. The sound was livelier with that setting, but smoother and more inviting with full-spectrum correction. I personally prefer full-spectrum correction, but I certainly see Dennis’s reasoning, and understand why many listeners would like his approach.
Hope this helps. If you try any of these suggestions, please write back and tell me how they worked for you.
All the best,
Thanks for taking time to reply so thoroughly to my question. I appreciate your insights; perhaps the one that will be most valuable is running Dirac Live—I completely forgot that I hadn’t tried it (I’ve been a little busy here evidently!). I’ll pop for the optional full-range solution to receive the optimal benefit in the upper frequency ranges. To answer one of your other questions: yes, I have the treble on the Elacs set at +1, but have kept the midrange at 0.
I played around with things the other day after reading your reply and here is the most interesting new observation: the perception of soft treble disappears when I crank the system up! I probably mischaracterized the sound as “soft in terms of detail” in my earlier message, as all of the detail is present. Elements such as hi-hat and ride cymbals are there and easy to recognize at higher volumes. They are just less prominent at lower volumes.
After I thought about it, perhaps the Totem Dreamcatchers I was using for years prior are overly lively. The Elacs are in a different league when it comes to oomph across the music scale and are likely much better balanced. I’ll know more when I run Dirac Live. Or I just need to turn it up when listening!
I enjoyed your tweaks article (and all of the Simplifi content). After setting up Dirac Live room correction, I may try iFi Audio’s AC iPurifier on my NAD C 658 to see if there is any noticeable benefit. I like to DIY on the cable side (having constructed a pair of XLR cables using some well-reviewed Mogami cable to connect the NAD with the Elacs). I may eventually try the same with the power cables for the speakers if I get motivated.