SPEAKER FORUMS >> Betsy Open Baffle >> Low volume listening

Message started by AlanS on 06/29/20 at 23:09:38

Title: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 06/29/20 at 23:09:38

Hello all, I am currently shopping for new high efficiency speakers. I am using a Triode Labs SET 2A3 amp with a whooping 3.5watt output so they need to be quite efficient. I was using Omega 3i and liked the sound but wanted "more".

I am now moving into a new condo so I want my new speakers to be enjoyable at lower volume too.

Any thoughts? Betsy? Lii15?

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 06/30/20 at 01:30:08

I have the Decware 2.3 watt Zen amp and the CainTuck Audio Lii15 and I can listen and hear clearly at quite low volumes. The Lii15 is an extraordinary value at the price. It reminds me of my former electrostatic speakers except with quick, powerful and articulate bass, excellent dynamics and surprisingly good high end. It also has the best sound stage of any speaker I've ever had. I highly recommend it.

As much as I have upgraded many aspects of my system, it has always been easy to hear the changes through these speakers. I constantly find my toes tapping with the music. This is a 15 inch full range speaker that works. I am as happy as a clam.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 06/30/20 at 02:28:10

Thanks for the reply, from what I have read online, they do sound like a fantastic fit for me. I appreciate Randy's casual approach and his craftsmanship, may have to order a pair.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 06/30/20 at 04:35:01

One thing Steve has mentioned is the driver has a moving mass of 13.7 grams, which is typical of a 5-6 inch driver.

From a conceptual basis, imagine a 5 or 6 inch full range driver combined with the bass, efficiency and dynamics of a 15 inch driver. It doesn't cover the bottom 1/3rd octave or the top 1/3rd octave but it is likely you will never miss it. I can listen to organ music without ever think I am missing anything. It is just the opposite. It sounds more real than any speaker I've heard that has deeper bass. It also has mid bass to die for.

From a sound stage perspective, it can go from intimate to absolutely huge. The sense of scale is another aspect that make this such an extraordinary achievement. It is that good.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 06/30/20 at 05:17:07

Wow, that's a glowing review! Sounds like the sonic performance I have been looking for! The Omega's were good but my room was a bit too big for them but I love the organic sound that they produced. In terms of the bottom end, I have never been a fan of over powering bass but I do like fast, articulate bass. As for the top end, my old ears don't probably hear much over 12k anyways due to miss spent youth and construction work.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 06/30/20 at 18:59:36

As far as not likely hearing above 12k, you might be amazed how good the highs sound. Even though the highs are coming indirectly via the 15" driver and I am probably sounding overly enthusiastic, I like the highs from this single driver speaker more than any previous speaker that I've ever had. You will like what you hear. Part of this may be due to the single driver type, there are no crossovers or phase distortions. The efficiency is also an essential part of what makes this work in the real world. There is less loss of energy being turned into heat or the direct effect of heat dissipation. It is a more pure signal without the changes of the sound going through crossovers and different radiation patterns. They are not perfect and I've never heard a perfect system. But the sound is of one cloth and that purity shines with these speakers.

I cannot really explain why the highs sound so good but my ears are hearing a high end orgy of sounds without hearing any discernible harshness. It is easy on the ears.

Just my thoughts.

I say this within the context of having an excellent source (Denafrips Pontus) and silver based cables. Yours may have a different balance but you will be impressed.

Just make sure you get enough sleep prior to their arrival.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/01/20 at 06:57:31

Thanks for the reply, now, here is the question... Based upon listening to the Betsy, Alnico and Lii15 which of them has better highs (sound.. Not measurements). Are the Lii15 as fast as the Betsy?

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by benzxc on 07/01/20 at 08:22:36


I have both the Betsy and Lii15 from Caintuck Audio and it is my opinion that the Betsy's are a bit faster. The highs and mids of the Betsy's are very good but it took my pair quite some time of burning in before it sounded good to my ears. At the beginning it sounded a bit sharp, but that feeling resolved itself after 200 hours or so of playing music. The Lii15 sounded essentially the same as it does now right out of the box. Haven't tried the alnico's but I've heard nothing but good things about them. I love both my speakers from Caintuck Audio!

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 07/01/20 at 14:25:45


One additional thing I love about the Lii 15's is being able to physically feel the bass.

I haven't heard the Betsy's and would love to hear your thought about the differences in the bass between the two speakers.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by benzxc on 07/01/20 at 14:55:49


I agree that the bass of the Lii15 is very impressive. To me, the Lii15 baffles don't really need supplemental bass.

I think bass is where the Lii 15 really beats out the Betsy. I got the Betsy & Buck baffles from Caintuck Audio. Basically it is the 8 inch Betsy drivers plus a 10 inch bass driver installed on the same baffles. It gives the Betsy a bit more lower end then it otherwise would have. It is a very nice and clean sound, but to my ears the bass is not quite as much as the Lii15 even with the help of the 10 inch bass drivers.

Both are very nice and I enjoy switching speakers every once in a while. It takes some time to get oriented and used to the sound when I switch but I usually relax into the music within 30 minutes of switching.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/01/20 at 15:25:11

I mostly listen to acoustic music and vocal jazz so I need to know that the speaker can reproduce a piano (many don't) but I also want to feel the texture of a guitar and a cello. To me that is where the Omega's shined, they did a great job of the strings but struggled with the piano, especially the lower end of the piano.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 07/01/20 at 19:11:18


Thanks for your thoughts. I think Randy says his favorite speaker is the one that he is listening to at that moment. They are all excellent but different perspectives of the music. I can appreciate that. I would guess if I switched between the Betsy's and the Lii 15, I would be drawn into strengths of that system rather than focus on what I might be giving up.

I really love the open baffle bass of the Lii 15's. I can feel the bass driving the beat of the music and for me, drawing me deeper into the music. It is really nice to be able to get this quality of sound and having a number of possible choices and for such a modest amount of money.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/01/20 at 20:56:37

Thanks for all of your replies, I have just ordered a new pair of Lii15 from Randy!!

Two tone Sapele/Maple/Sapele, if they look anything like the photos on the website, they are going to be beautiful!

Now the waiting....  :-/

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by HockessinKid on 07/01/20 at 22:23:26


That's the wood combination Randy built for me and has a picture of on his website. You'll love them. Congratulations!


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/01/20 at 22:35:13

HK, thanks for the inspiration! For the first time ever I asked my wife what she thought of the speakers and she said that they look good enough to have in our living room (that is a first too!! Lol).

Then I asked her to look at Randy's website and pick a favourite, and she talked about important things like whether they match the hardwood floors, whether they clashed with her decorating vibe, and she was not convinced until she saw yours! She said yes, order them right away but only in that wood/colour combination!

Appears that you sir, have impeccable taste!

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by HockessinKid on 07/01/20 at 23:05:09

The colors match up well with the phase plug and interior white cone too. That's why I got the combination. Randy does an excellent job with sanding, linseed oil & beeswax. Very high quality finish.

Hope you are both happy with them😊.


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 07/02/20 at 00:05:10


Congratulations. Every piece of music you listen to will sound new and fresh. You are in for a treat.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/02/20 at 01:39:51

Thank you for your help with this decision, I am very excited to hear them with my Triode Labs SET 2A3 amp and Au Pré preamp, I think it will be amazing! This truly has to be one of the best bargains in the audio world where every other efficient, single driver speakers sell for 3 to 30 tines as much money! There is also something comforting knowing that a real human is building these beautiful speakers just for me.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by Lon on 07/02/20 at 01:56:04


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by cmdc on 07/02/20 at 16:05:37

My own Lii 15s just arrived last night. They are beautiful and the sound is outstanding.  I've found them remarkably fast, almost liquid, out of the box; and I agree with others that you can feel the bass. I've been listening this morning to a live album by Bela Fleck and Toumani Diabate, and it's like the notes were falling like rain. I haven't tried them yet with my ZMA, but plan to do that tonight.  As I told Randy, the highest possible praise I can give them is that my wife--who doesn't usually care at all about audio--decided she wants them in the living room.  Which means we'll probably need another pair.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/02/20 at 16:57:40

Thanks for your initial impressions, buy something as "personal" as speakers online without ever hearing them is a bit of a leap of faith, so reading posts like this really help.

If you have more time after you spend more time with them, more impressions would be fantastic too.

So thrilled that you got the thumbs up from your wife, it just makes the purchase feel like an even bigger bargain if you are not trying to justify something big and ugly by saying "I know they are ugly, but they sound good" lol. (Maggie's come to mind).

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/03/20 at 02:53:23

Just out of curiosity, as I learn more about the Decware gear, has anyone paired the Lii15 and a ZRock? Is the ZRock a useful component for lower volume listening?

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by benzxc on 07/03/20 at 03:15:51


I have both the Lii15 and the ZRock2. I'm not sure what level you consider to be low, but I almost never turn my amplifier (SE84UFO) up more than the 9oclock position. That is plenty volume for my listening purposes.

I really like the ZRock2 in my system. I sometimes bypass it when I know a recording very well, to compare. It gives the perception of more bass, a bit more warmth, and it really helps with thin sounding recordings.  I turn the ZRock2 to about 2 to 3 o'clock position, anything past that sounds a bit muddy to my ears.

Hope that helps.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/03/20 at 05:03:06

Thanks Ben, that does help. I think I will wait to hear the Lii15 with my amp, it is a sweet unit. I am curious about Steve's designs though, and the ZRock is a fantastic idea for systems that are lacking that bottom end punch.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/04/20 at 15:38:16

Dmdc, any more thoughts about your new speakers? I would love to hear your impressions now that you have had them for a few days. While I wait, maybe I can live vicariously through your experiences... Lol.


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by cmdc on 07/04/20 at 21:31:37

TL;dr--We're definitely gonna need another pair.

I've had the Lii 15s for a few days now, and have tried them in three rooms with multiple audio and video sources.  The short story is that they are so good in so many ways that my wife has encouraged me to get another pair so she can keep these in our living room, and I don't have to keep carting them around.  (Her encouraging me to spend even more money on even more audio gear put it mildly...not common.)

The living room was going to be a fallback: if the speakers somehow didn't fit or didn't impress in places where I do more critical listening, then I could still use them to replace the audio system for the TV because (a) they're gorgeous and (b) our current system has real trouble with delivering dialog clearly if you're off axis.  Just by chance, we ended up trying that setup first. The difference was immediate: dialog was suddenly crystal clear not only throughout the living room and kitchen, but even two rooms away.

This points to another benefit of the Liis (and Randy's baffles): the sweet spot is very large, which means they've sounded great even when the setup was just roughed in.  The added benefit of having them in the living room is that they're a vast improvement over the in-ceiling speakers that we were using for streaming audio there, which means I can listen to music in the living room again without cringing.  

Listening in the living room also confirmed a couple of observations from other commenters. They do benefit from being elevated a bit in the front. Even 1/4 in. makes a nice difference; and I've found that 1 inch is more to my taste, though you may lose a bit of bass extension. Even elevated, however, I agree with others that you definitely can feel the bass down into the middle bass frequencies. One of the ways I test this is with the opening scene of Thor Ragnarok, much of it backed by Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song.  The Lii15s did admirably with the scene, but benefited from a subwoofer assist to get the punch and weight from the lowest frequencies.  

Since the lowest frequencies in a superhero movie are more than a little exaggerated compared to what I generally listen to, I played the same song with and without a subwoofer in my listening room.  Candidly, I didn't notice much difference.  Even without the subwoofer, it sounded like Led Zeppelin invoking a thunder god. So, it's got that goin' for it, I guess.

The Led Zeppelin brought me to the other place where the speed of the Lii 15s really shines through: percussion.  The shimmer and sustain of the ride cymbals, the sharp snap of the snare, the depth of the toms all depend on subtle transients for much of their character, and I found the speed of the Liis made them much richer and more realistic. The same was true for the ticking clocks, clanging registers and breathless footfalls on Dark Side of the Moon.  The impacts were even clearer when I put on a flamenco record by Carlos Montoya.  I could feel the impact of boots on the hardwood dance floor; the clapping hands, snapping fingers and castanets all came into sharper focus and reached several feet out into the room--deeper, in fact, than with the Von Schweikert VR4jr III speakers that sat behind them.

And just like the Bela Fleck & Toumani Diabate album I played on the first day, the steps and fingersnaps on the Montoya album came with a speed and fluidity that had me hearing things I'd never heard on those albums before.

I love my VR4jrs, and I'm not yet ready to say Randy's Lii15s are better. But given that a used pair of the former cost 3 times what the Lii15s do (and that the VR4jrs are often compared to even more expensive speakers), the fact that's even a question is pretty high praise.

It's unsurprising, I think, that the Lii 15s are faster than the Von Schweikerts.  What's more surprising is that they come very close in holographic imaging, at which the VR4jrs are exceptionally good. In addition to the Montoya album, one of my favorite tests for that imaging is a live acoustic album by Colin Melloy.  He talks with the crowd alot; and the clarity and location of voices, and depth of the crowd can change dramatically depending on the equipment I'm using and how it's set up.

Which brings me back to the point I made earlier about the Lii15’s generous sweet spot. The Lii15s performed almost as well on this test as the VR4jrs. But what's really notable about that is that I spent months getting the latter positioned, angled and dialed in just right--literally measuring distances down to the millimeter.  (I understand that this is not healthy behavior; I'm not proud of it.)  But the Lii15s haven't had the benefit of that: I just literally plopped them down in the only place they'd fit.  And connected them to my ZMA with 9 gauge zip cord rather than the more expensive cables that run to the Von Schweikerts.  And they still sound amazing.

This may be why, at least so far, the Lii15s haven't bested the VR4jrs in what I find the toughest test of imaging: female vocals.  With the Von Schweikerts set up just right, Adele and Shirley Bassey become not just voices, but a real, physical presence in the room.  I haven't gotten the Lii15s to quite that point yet.  But given that I just plopped them down on the floor with speaker cable I got off Amazon, they're really, really damn close.  And they sound amazing.

And when I compare them with the otherwise very nice (and about equally priced) Totem Rainmakers in my office, the difference is night and day.

Which is why we're gonna have to buy another pair.  Cause, portable as these speakers are, I can't be constantly hauling them around to all the places we'll want to listen to them.

In the meantime, they'll be providing the soundtrack to our family fireworks tonight.  And I have to go set those up now.

Hope this helps.  Sorry it was long.


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/04/20 at 22:44:45

Hi Carroll, what a wonderful write up! Never apologize for writing lots of detail because, generally, we don't say enough about this stuff. Thank you for taking the time to write this review when you were probably busy running your Lii15 up and down the hallway from room to room... I can just picture it! My wife, similarly to yours, has been less then thrilled with some of my audio acquisitions, reacted the same way when I showed her Randy's creations!

So, it sounds like Randy has created another winner, getting full spousal marks for design and full audiophile marks for sonic performance. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of mine!


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/18/20 at 05:02:33

So, it's been two weeks of waiting now and I am getting excited for the call or email to tell me that they are ready... I have googled/YouTubed /forumed every article I can find on this beautiful speakers but nothing will satisfy me until I get them hooked up... No wonder they called audio suppliers "dealers"!

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by kevinS on 07/19/20 at 16:37:23

ha-ha.  Foreplay.  Or Carol King's Heintz commercial, Anticipation

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/19/20 at 16:41:19

Yes, I suppose that is true. Randy did email me with an update and an expected shipping date which was very kind of of him! Might be best that I have a wait as the summer has no end of projects and recreational activities with the family... I can get that junk done while I I wait... Lol.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/27/20 at 06:07:16

So, I believe that Randy is shipping my Lii15 tomorrow! Of course, I am on the west coast of Canada so shipping my be awhile.. But getting closer!

What placement have people tried in terms of distance between, distance to rear walls.. Any tips or tricks for set up?


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 07/27/20 at 18:47:03

Alan, This is what works for me.

1. They should be a minimum of 3 feet from the rear wall.
2. Toe in by ear.
3. Raise the front of the baffles by approximately 1 and 1/2 inches.

I would actually recommend you do #3 after the speakers are broken in, especially if you want to see the effect of raising the baffles. It really dials in the sound stage.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 07/28/20 at 05:20:24

Thanks Artman, I will try to set them up accordingly! One of the things that I have read about open baffle speakers is that placement is not usually as critical and from watching Steve's review of the original Betsy, he just seems to to place them almost randomly but I suppose he knows that room so well that it is second nature to him!

I have a beautiful pair of Coherent model 8's and I will be facinated to compare them to the Lii15. The Co are a point source design but I tend to favour the single driver sound...

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 07/28/20 at 13:01:45

Alan, Yes, they are easier to place than box speakers.

My experience with elevating the front of the baffle and a final tweak of the toe-in elevated both the sound stage and my experience of listening to the music. It sounded like there was greater density of information within the sound stage and the highs sounded both smoother and extended.  I found music easier to listen to and found myself feeling more emotionally effected by the music. It is hard to put that in less than abstract terms but it showed the speakers were capable of an even more elevated performance  than were my expectations.

I made this change with at least a couple hundred hours on the speakers so I'm not sure how easy it will be to hear the above on a new set of unbroken in speakers.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 08/04/20 at 05:01:34

So, my Lii15 are scheduled for delivery tomorrow! Randy is certainly a man of his word and his estimate of construction and shipping were exactly as he was said they would be!

So, here is my struggle... I sold my house last week and I am living in a rental place until Aug 28th. The rental has a bedroom that I could sort of use for music but would be less than ideal... Do I try to set up my system for 3 weeks or do I wait until I get my new place and set up there.?

Opinions? Ideas?


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by deucekazoo on 08/04/20 at 13:46:46

I would set them up. This way you have a base line of what they sound like in a not so ideal setup and plus you will get some hours of burn in on them. So if they sound good they will sound great when you setup them up properly.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 08/04/20 at 16:30:56

It all depends on how much sleep you want to get.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by lobo on 08/04/20 at 18:18:52

Awh go ahead , hook'em up you know you want to. Listening to Ruthie Foster on mine now. I hope you enjoy them, I sure do.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 08/04/20 at 18:22:37

I think you guys are called "enablers"... LOL. I will unbox them for sure, and I am sure that as soon as I drool all over them, I will hook them up! Sleep is overrated anyways!

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by Bottlehead on 08/05/20 at 08:42:47

Lobo, +1 on Ruthie Foster.

AlanS, +1 on setting them up now, less-than-desirable listening space and all.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 08/05/20 at 17:51:44

Thanks for the feedback everyone! I have received my new beautiful speakers and I must say that Randy does amazing work, they look better in person than they look on the website. My wife said that, of all of the many speakers that I have had over the years, these are the most beautiful she has ever seen and she can't wait to hear them... (wtf?).

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 08/05/20 at 21:11:41

I've reached the point of burn-in where I have a minimum of 200 hours on all my equipment and more than 500 hours on my Lii 15's. These are all the equipment I've been burning in for the last number of months:

Curious USB cable
Denafrips Pontus with DSP ugrade
Decware Interconnects, speaker cable and power cables
Caintuck Audio Lii 15 speakers

I have well over 1000 hours on my SE84UFO. The overall direction is one of greater clarity and sophistication. The system continues to sound sweeter and sweeter. As a result of this burn-in, I decided to play around with input tubes again, if nothing else to verify that my National Matsushita 7DJ8 was still the best compromise in my system. The only real main competitor it had was a Reflector 6N23P-EV, a tube that I loved the high end but still had a slight edge in the highs. Recently, for the first time and probably due to burn-in, the highs sounded glorious in my system, that edge was gone. It does elevate the top end some but has turned out to be a very synergistic match with my speakers.

Yesterday I re-inserted the National Matsushita and I noticed the sound stage was still large and the instruments were all heard well. But the Reflector, when re-inserted, allowed me to clearly hear the acoustic space. I could hear the sound bouncing off the walls and it was easy to hear the space the music was recorded in. That is why I waxed so enthusiastic about he highs of the Lii 15's. It is the Reflector tube that allowed the highs to be so clearly revealed by the speakers.

If you have the Lii 15's and the SE84UFO, I recommend you hear this tube. It has been a real synergistic match in my system.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 08/05/20 at 21:20:00


May the bass be with you.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by Geno on 08/05/20 at 22:36:56

Art, if you have not done so, try the stock 6N1P.  And also a 6N5P.
Cheap, and both sound very nice.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by HockessinKid on 08/05/20 at 23:12:42

Yup, what Geno said. Both tubes sound excellent in Decware amps and preamps where appropriate.


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 08/05/20 at 23:20:20


I have both. The Reflector is the tube that allows me to clearly hear the sound bouncing off the walls of the sound stage.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 08/06/20 at 01:38:42

In order to get some hours on these new bad boys, what is the general opinion of using an old receiver and run it 24/7 rather then burning up those hours on my tube gear... Thoughts?


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by Lon on 08/06/20 at 07:02:09

No harm in doing that as long as you don't overdrive them.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 08/13/20 at 03:38:57

So... I thought I could wait until I move into my new place at the end of the month... But I decided to pull out the Lii15 and get some hours on them. I hooked them up to an old Denon "all-in-one", placed them on the floor, popped in a cd and hit play... OMG!

So, out of the box, zero hours, connected with crap wire to a crap amp and just placed on the floor without any "placement" work, Diana Krall is in the room with me! I can't imagine what they are going to sound like when I get them broken in and set up properly with my Triode Labs SET 2A3 amp! The soundstage! The imaging!

Randy was kind enough to include a cd with some great music but my old Denon doesn't even read the cd...

Thanks to all of you for your help and patience with me!

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 08/13/20 at 13:29:54

It there is one thing we all have in common is the love of music. When music is reproduced, our brains fill in the missing information that gives us a sense of realness to the music. These speakers contain much more of the information and hints, that makes music sound real. Our brains have less work to do while listening to music.

For me, one quality that these speakers have is the sense of aliveness. I can really relax into the music one moment and find myself tapping my toes another moment. I can feel the bass, sometimes even when the sound is reasonably quiet. It is more like a subtle vibration. Other times the bass can be quite jarring due to the weight and quickness of the bass. I've never enjoyed my system more than I do now.

Congratulations! You had the wisdom to choose these speakers. They will give you many hours of joy and excitement.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by HockessinKid on 08/13/20 at 14:40:29


Enjoy your new speakers. As Tony The Tiger once said, "they're great".


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 08/21/20 at 01:55:38

So, I am not sure this is the correct place for this post... But I will ask anyway.

My current set up is a Triode Labs SET 2A3 amp with a Triode Labs Au Pré preamp and a Bluesound Node 2i as source. I am loving the sound but, as always, wondering about next steps.

Should I upgrade my Dac/Streamer?
I have never fussed with cables too much?
Decware amp?

Suggestions welcomed.


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 08/21/20 at 18:36:57


These are my thoughts:

1. Should I upgrade my Dac/Streamer?
No matter what upgrades you make to your system, your speakers will make it easy to hear the changes. Reading reviews of you present Dac/Streamer, this is the one upgrade that would make the bigger difference in sound.

2. I have never fussed with cables too much?

Cables make a difference in the sound. Below are some quotes from Steve in his tiny radial speakers topic:

Interesting observation...  I replaced the speaker cables, a thinner gauge version of the ZSTYX, with some test leads that were nice and flexible, something the ZSTYX are not, especially when they are only 1 meter long as is the case here.  So the test leads were the same length.

To put this in context, the test leads are copper stranded, super thin strands in a fat silicon jacket.  The smaller version of the ZSTYX is first of all about 10 gauge rather than 18 gauge like the test leads.  Also it is silver coated copper and the jacket is Teflon.

Anyway, for about well, all day, I have been listening to these speakers waiting for them to sound good.  How can something that looks this good sound bad?  The wood was super light compared to normal exotics, and maybe it just sucks?  I kept waiting, and waiting... why is it so lean, so dry, to etched, so mid-fi?

A sense of dread started to build as I began to accept something is actually wrong here... these really don't sound good.  This is the first pair that I didn't like.

Then I remembered the speaker wire... test leads... that has to be the problem.  SO I put back the good ZSTYX 10 AWG clones (ZSTYX are 8 AWG about twice as thick) and bang, there we are.  The density is back.  The liquidity is back.  The dryness is gone.  The image is 3 times the size.  Not even the same speaker.  Seriously.  

So this is a reality check.  Since it is the only speaker wire I ever use (for a reason) it is all too easy to forget how the speakers might sound in another system without good speaker wire.

I can tell you that using the test leads, which are similar to regular cheap speaker cable, made these speakers sound like a con job.  Seriously.  It's scary.  Don't treat Tiny Radials like toys.  That is the lesson.  

I have enjoyed the sound more in the last hour since I changed the wire, than I have in the past 24 hours with the wrong cables.

Learn from my mistakes.  No doubt someone with Tiny Radials hasn't heard them yet.  The difference was on a scale of 1 to 10 like comparing a 4 to an 8.5

Of course the EXACT same thing happens in the listening room with big speakers.  I believe cables are as important as the speakers themselves, in fact they are probably the biggest choke point in audiophile's homes world wide so far as I can see.

It's another discussion better placed elsewhere, but surface it to say, good speaker cables are not an option.  Zip cord is not acceptable.  In fact most speaker cables are not acceptable.  You have to go outside the playground to find the right stuff.  Silver plated copper, heavy gauge, Teflon jacket.  Simple. Get one wire for each polarity.  

I've said it over 60,000 times so far, and that is that you only hear your system rise to the weakest link in the chain.  In the hi-resolution work of single-end triodes with zero feedback, you can't and don't want to use regular speaker wire.  It is a filter.  You don't want a filter.

Here's a closing hypothetical example...  Person buys a Decware amplifier, a great DAC, perhaps even a power conditioner, really awesome speakers, and left over speaker cables from a mainstream hifi system.  Left wanting, he sends the amp back in for anniversary mods.  After getting it back , he hears a 10% improvement and is happy.   Now, had he been running proper speaker cable, the improvement would have been in this case 40%.  That means that with the right cable he was 30% ahead of where he ended up after spending money on anniversary mods.  So following this line of thought a bit further, had he had the right cables to begin with, he would have been 40% better than he was with the wrong cables, and then after doing the anniversary mods his money would have bought him another 40% improvement over where he was, totaling 80%, not 10%.

I have Decware's silver interconnects, speaker cable and power cables. They are excellent and an outstanding value for the money.

3.Decware amp?

I would recommend upgrading your DAC and cables before changing amps. Without a better front end and cables, you will never know how good your present amp sounds with your speakers. For perspective, Decware amps do not sound like typical SET amps. They are very neutral sounding and fast amps due to the high bandwidth transformers and video tubes used as output tubes. Replacing the output tubes (6P15P - via Decware $22 each) will be a fraction of what it costs to replace your 2A3 tubes. I am running my speakers with the SE84UFO amp and it is an outstanding combination.

I hope this helps.

Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by AlanS on 08/22/20 at 01:17:57

Artman, I sincerely thank you for taking the time to write such a fantastic reply! Seriously, thank you for your advice!

I do suspect that my source is likely the best way to upgrade because my amp/preamp are special pieces and the Lii15 baffles that Randy at Caintuck built for me are amazing too. The interconnection cables and speaker cables are both from WireWorld and are decent cables but there may be some gain there too.

In terms of sources, what is the common concensus on Streamer and DAC Vs. Files ripped and stored on a local drive and DAC? Currently the Bluesound Node 2i is Streamer and DAC.


Title: Re: Low volume listening
Post by ArtMan on 08/24/20 at 15:02:57

If you want more information related to digital front ends, I suggest you read and/or start a new thread in the Digital topic. There are likely to be many options discussed there.

As for me, I am very happy with my Denafrips Pontus DAC and recommend it highly. A really thoughtful review is at

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