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Rega Brio R / Chord Mojo Dac / Q Acoustics 3020 - disappointing !

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  1. Iggz79
    Hi all,

    I am a newby wanna-be audiophile (for now :) who did his research and came up with a combination of a rega brio r / chord mojo dac and acoustics 3020 speakers. Basically the typical fallpit that someone who listens to reviews can possibly do. Does it sound like what’s been promised - No ! It sounds slightly dull, lacks openness not to mention stage or dynamics if challenged with more complex stuff.

    Now that you have the picture I desperately need help of experienced listeners who do have experience in matching equipment and may point out what the weak link is ? Lacking comparison my opinion is subjective. Is this what’s to be expected in this price range ? Is it the speakers ?

    Sorry for keeping it brief but I didn’t want to bore you with waffling :)

    Looking forward to your precious help !

    Kind regards,
  2. Iggz79
    Ps I’m using AudioQuest Tower cable for DAC to Amp connection and very standard usb to micro usb connection for mojo to tv box usb port getting 180k hz or so according Chord Mojo light. I think mojo can go up to 700k or some other DSD craziness. Speakers are connected via VanDamme 2 times 4mm without banana plugs for now..
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
  3. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    It can be any number of things that aren't even those three, like your room. Your soundstage problems specifically can be due to bad reflections around the speakers. At minimum, unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer, speakers need to be around 3ft from the back and side walls (and even if they can be closer than that, they'd need to have some kind of absorption panels). Even if you're at the correct distance the room can still affect the sound, so you might still need acoustic panels to not reflect the soundwaves at you and scatter or absorb them.

    Past that you need to have the speakers at a proper toe-in angle, which can vary between speakers and rooms, while at the same time the speakers need to be far enough apart and you have to sit at a minimum distance away from and equidistant to the two speakers. That's mostly the soundstage issue but it can also affect all the other things you've noted.

    At the same time there's perception. If you're used to headphones and your standard for "not dull" is having a headphone where the imaging is practically non-existent since one ear hears only the same side driver, which results in imaging the cymbals right by your ears, that's not exactly the standard for good imaging or even a wide soundstage. The whole soundstage needs to be proportional to each other, so if the width of your head is the soundstage, having the cymbals there is kind of like if you're standing where the vocalist should be (as the voice is inside your head), or the drummer has ridiculously long arms as to reach cymbals at the flanks of the stage where the guitars are. Given speakers that image more correctly, even if you got the toe in angle by accident, you'll have the cymbals imaged closer to the center where a non-gorilla/non-Fantastic Four leader drummer would have his cymbals. It can also sound dull by comparison since it will image the cymbals farther to the rear, and the whole stage isn't pushed towards your face.

    Basically, unless you can still return some of your gear, I'd experiment with toe in angles and moving the listening chair and speakers around the room first than buying something else.

    If there's anything with your current equipment that might be causing this, most likely it can be the speakers. What sounds "dull" to you could be just like if you're used to Grados and going to an HD650 or LCD-2C, except this time it's the Q Acousics speaker. It's also at a relatively somewhat low 88dB/1mW at 1M sensitivity. And I'm not a fan of Rega CDPs and amps either - they have a tendency to sound a little bit too warm which might be exacerbating the speakers', like running a very warm OTL amp on an HD650.

    Maybe try Paradigm or Focal Chorus driven by something like a Passlabs, NAD, Sugden with more power if you want it to have that very dynamic - ie, clean and loud - sound.
    stoobot and Iggz79 like this.
  4. Iggz79

    Thank you for your thorough comments. I see from your view that it is mostly due to incorrect positioning of the speakers that I don’t get that soundstage effect. Well I did place a long enough cable to experiment with positioning in my living room which is rather small btw. I didn’t gain much, while I am not really comparing to any headphone sound. I did buy the DT990s and was equally disappointed with its sound. I don’t have a specific sound or benchmark in my mind when listening to music. Either I like the sound i.e. to me it means clarity while depth and pronounced accents combined with smoothness and good dimension or I don’t like it. To be honest I am missing all that with my currect setup. I have to listen in with a very positive mind to enjoy some sort of clarity with certain songs when turning that thing up to half or so.

    It is ironic to hear the first negative opinion about the Rega Brio R and that after my purchase. What makes the story even more sad is that I did look at the NAD 3020 V2. With no negative reviews at the time of my purchase I was more than positive about Rega‘s performance. If what you are saying is true then those other 28 reviews are wrong and potentially misleading. I am a newby but I can theoretically imagine what changes I could get from swapping the amplifier or the speakers. Providing of course performance is reflected in reality.

    Therefore I am heavily considering changing the speakers first as I would love to believe that this class A/B amp isn’t challenged properly.

    Second option is that speakers don’t perform well because of the amplifier. However, general reviews suggest that the Q3020s are heavily overstated speakers. Didn’t hear that said about Rega Brio.

    Let’s stick with the first thesis for now and assume it’s the speakers. So in brief I am planning to get the Kefs q150. Again raving reviews though much less reviewed speaker for some reason. Maybe Q Acoustics pays more for advertising ? :)

    Do you think Paradigm and Chorus would have a chance with Rega or you are totally allergic to that idea ?

    Thanks again for your attention and time you spent advising me.

    All the best,
  5. Iggz79
    Ps could you please precise what Paradigm speakers you have in mind ? I had trouble looking them up as they seem rather rare ? What model did you have in mind ? I see that Chorus speakers are 40 cm high and my limits are around 30cm. Larger would be difficult to place without discussion with Missus :)

    In any case I see that Q350s are recommended as an alternative. What would be a smaller alternative from the same brands you mentioned?

    Thank you so much.

    Best regards,
  6. stoobot
    I think this has already been very well covered, but the Brio-R is a very 'warm' sounding amp (at least in my set-up with B&W 685's).

    I think different speakers will certainly give you a less subtle change than changing the amp. The Kef Q150s seem to work very well in smaller rooms - but its still important to experiment with positioning and placement - both of the speakers and listener!

    Sounds like the Q150s might give you back some of the detail that your current set up is smoothing out.
  7. joostdh
    I have the Q2020i speakers (predecessors to yours) and they certainly are not dull or easily cluttered. In my experience they are also not picky regarding placing at all. They do like a bit of toe-in if you are close to then.

    If I were you I’d try to find out where in the chain things go wrong. I’d start with source. Try a modern phone playing flac/alac to the mojo. See what happens when you go straight from phone audio out to Rega. Maybe borrow a friends amp. Etc.

    You’re nearly there, hang in and you will be rewarded!
    Iggz79 likes this.
  8. ladon
    Can we elaborate a bit on the source? I agree with the guy above, what exactly is the TV box and I'm surprised it has USB audio interface? What is the source file / stream?
    Iggz79 likes this.
  9. Iggz79
    Hi Ladon,

    About the source, i am streaming stereo sound indeed off a Nvidia Shield TV box via a USB plug from the TV box directly into Chord Mojo with a micro usb in on the other side. I stream Spotify & Netflix with 192k Hz with USB rather than with optical cable from the TV where I got 44k Hz maximum so stuck with the USB connection directly from the TV box. It does make a huge difference in SQ. Let’s say with 44k Hz there is no sound quality at all - that would be more precise to describe. So something within my setup seriously sucks. Btw I have a Rega Rp1 turntable connected on the phono channel of the Brio R but there is no surprise regards SQ there too.

    Hope this clarifies.

  10. megabigeye
    Hi there,
    I'm by no means an expert, but to me it sounds likely to be a placement issue.
    According to What Hi*Fi?:
    But that doesn't mean they aren't insusceptible to other placement issues. To me, the above sorts of quote are mildly irritating because they don't give you a sense of what the rest of their room looks like or take into account other placement issues. It also assumes that the reader knows what the heck they're doing.

    I don't know what your room looks like or how you have things set up, but some general rules of thumb are:
    If possible, speakers should be on a solid surface. Things like Ikea shelves which are hollow can reverberate. Speakers can be decoupled from a hollow surface by putting them on a something more solid or that will absorb some of the vibrations. I have my speakers on a 20cm stack of books.
    If possible, speakers should be placed near the forward edge of a surface or raised above the surface. Again, that stack of books helps.
    If possible, tweeters should be approximately at ear height when you're in your primary listening position. (Hi there, stack of books!)
    If possible, don't place speakers in a corner or near side walls. This can cause boomy, smeared bass, unclear mids, and an indistinct soundstage.
    If possible, there should be no objects between the speakers. Objects between speakers (like a television) can cause reflections which will also affect imaging and soundstage. If it's not possible to have nothing between the speakers, then pulling the speakers forward of the object may help.

    You might also consider that it's you... I don't mean that in a bad way, necessarily, but you are the final piece of the audio equation. If I'm in a bad mood or otherwise not feeling relaxed, nothing will sound good to me. If you're looking for faults, you're likely to find faults. Try to go into it with a relaxed frame of mind. Sometimes a glass of wine helps, sometimes simply saying to myself, "Okay, I'm going to relax now," helps.
    Also, remember to keep your expectations in check. You are listening to relatively low end equipment, so despite reviewers' flowery descriptions and superlative language, you're not listening to $2,700 (and definitely not $27,000) speakers, you're listening to $270 speakers. So, while your equipment may "punch above its weight class," don't expect miracles. Don't get me wrong, though-- I think "frugal-fi" can sound lovely, but don't think it's going to be like having Pavarati in your room. It's simply not.
    And the part nobody wants to think about: make sure your ears are up to snuff. There are plenty of online hearing tests which will give you a rough idea of your hearing health before you go to a doctor.

    You might also consider getting a friend to come by and take a listen to your system. Does it sound okay to them?

    Anyway, I hope this helps and that you get it all figured out! Good luck!
  11. Iggz79
    Hi there,

    Thanks for the tips. All very useful. Had to laugh a little about that glass of wine )) well I remember from the good old days that any music sounded great provided we had emptied all bars within a 5 mile radius. Great times where there was always good music around for free. I remember growing up musically with Kazaa, eDonkey and Co. Those companies disappeared along with the Nokia phones )

    Now that I am willing to spend reasonable money I am hoping not to have to drink to enjoy the sound )) Please don’t tell me it’s unreasonable money - in many countries on this planet this constitutes a yearly salary, so if someone cannot get decent sound quality for that money, the industry must be doing many things wrong.

    I heard others also say how fantastic the Brio R combination sounds with speakers supposedly inferior to the Q3020s. Pick a single one component and say, this is crap therefore it all sounds like cows puke (Sorry, couldnt come up with a better analogy). Previously a member said it was the Brio - well, would be the first one who is finally right and others were afraid to speak their mind ??

    I think it’s the speakers and will order asap those q150 unless maybe someone is so kind to recommend something up to 32 cm height for up to 700 € for decent monitors, I can hook up to my „****ty“ Brio R Amp (laughing and crying at the same time) and get decent enjoyable sound (for real please without quoting any reviews by press which I do NOT trust). Would you know anything?
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
  12. megabigeye
    Oh no! Please don't get me wrong! I have absolutely nothing against "low end" and honestly shrink from having to use a term like that. And I don't think that what you're spending is unreasonable in any way. Maybe "entry level" is a better way to put it? Even that sounds vaguely off-putting to me. In fact, I was just commenting the other day that in some ways I actually find "frugal-fi" to be a more satisfying pursuit than "hi-fi." My point was that when you're reading reviews, more often than not it's unclear how good a certain component actually is in comparison to another component. Reviewers-- maybe even all reviewers I've ever read-- tend to use the same sort of language no matter what level of equipment they're reviewing. So if they say "megabigspeaker that costs $10 billion smells like a bundle of roses" and then say "littlefunspeaker that costs $150 smells like a bundle of roses" it can get a little confusing and upset realistic expectations.

    I guess by way of analogy, it's like saying an F1 car is fast and so is a BMW M3. Is an F1 car fast? That's so obvious, it's a stupid question. Is an M3 fast? Also, yes. You could even say that they're both too fast for public roads. But is an M3 anything like an F1 car? Uh, nnnnnooooooo. Is there something wrong with an M3 because it's slower than Lewis Hamilton? Not at all!
    I was simply suggesting that your M3 isn't as fast as an F1 car and you shouldn't expect it to be.

    Granted, I have no idea who you are or what your expectations are or anything else about you (well, except that you're Spanish and therefor probably know who Lewis Hamilton is :wink:)-- I was only making a suggestion.

    I think my main advice is to mess about with what you have to see if you can get it closer to right before spending more money on it.
    Iggz79 likes this.
  13. Iggz79
    I quiet like this comparison with cars. If up to 700 € speakers can get me the same satisfaction an M3 can give compared to an F1 car, I will be totally happy with that. Maybe I am spoiled by comparing what comes out of those two weird boxes to my wife playing her grand piano at home. Is this what a super dooper 1 Mln Euro speaker would sound like if you played an unplugged piano track on it ? I mean if you sit next to a piano played forte then you can feel every lower vibration with your skin and with your guts in a pleasantly clear and true way while the pure unfiltered sound floats in your hair going down the spine? That kind of quality I didn’t even hear in a professional studio yet !
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
    megabigeye likes this.
  14. megabigeye
    I'd be willing to bet that even a million euro set of speakers aren't going to sound as good as your wife. Why? Because your wife isn't a recording. Well, I hope she's not anyway. For your sake.
    I always find it somewhat amazing (and a little sad) that there are so many people that spend so much money and energy to get their systems to sound like live music. It's an expectation that's never in a million years going to be met.
    Iggz79 likes this.
  15. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Were they at least 1.2M apart and 0.5M away from the walls on the rear and sides of either speaker, while equidistant to the walls on both sides? How far were you sitting? You need to be at least 1.2M away. If you can't place them within the room with those minimum distances then your room is just too small for you to get any semblance of imaging that won't get messed up by reflections. In larger rooms, staying farther from the walls can sometimes mitigate that well enough, so one thing that you can do is line the walls with acoustic panels, but you need to figure out whether you need absorption or diffusion. Or a mix of both.

    Did you also experiment with toe-in angles? You need more toe-in to image soundstage depth.

    As much as those speakers aren't exactly best known for imaging, if the room is the problem, then it won't matter even if you put a pair of Duevel Venus in there (regardless of what amp is driving them), more so when speakers like these need to be around 2M apart and well over 1M from the walls on the rear and sides, in other words, you need an even bigger room. At best, if the room is that small, maybe try studio monitors instead since they're designed specifically for nearfield listening.

    Well it's not exactly known for imaging, and not that well known for everything else.

    Think of how the HD600 is known as a jack of all trades, not exceptionally good at one thing, but not as good.

    But you do have an idea how imaging is, right? Because the reality is it's the last thing people get to realize about sound reproduction.

    Past that, barring sitting you down in the same place and roll out speakers one by one, you're really going to have to get into more detail about exactly you find lacking about the sound. In this case what you're looking for generally is something that you can get from a system that is effortlessly running, ie, you have more power and current (ie you have power to spare for the dynamic range) on reasonably efficient speakers. However even with the lower sensitiviity I wouldn't just get a more powerful amp for that speaker, considering that part of what you're looking for might also be easier to find on something that also reaches deeper into the bass region, however there is also a size limitation in your room.

    If anything maybe I'd try the Focal Chorus 706 or maybe the Paradigm 200B. Or just go with powered speakers like Genelec and Focal-JM Lab monitors.

    I've hard the 3020 drive the Q 3020 several times and it's practically like having a Grado SR80e in speaker form, though given that it's a speaker the imaging is a little better.

    If you get a speaker to "challenge" that amp it'll sound even lazier than what you're hearing now. In any case that's about as low as sensitivity goes these days as far as standmount speakers are concerned. The only way to "challenge" that amp more is to buy a bigger house with a bigger dedicated audio room.

    I was thinking of the 200B and 706V ut check the measurements.

    The thing is though there's the possibility that you need a larger speaker but that comes with the need to use them in a larger room and any gains to the sensitivity might just be offset by that. You could also try something relatively cheap first, and then compare notes between that and the Q 3020. Look at the Dayton B652-AIR.

    Sensitivity is slightly higher on those so it might have some improvements to the dynamics. Treble on KEFs tend to be more detailed as well. However, imaging would normally be likely better given the coaxial layout, however I don't think time alignment between the tweeters and midwoofer is your problem regarding the imaging.

    More likely that they send out more review units.

    Iggz79 likes this.
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