Congested sound - more power or resolution?

My sound has improved markedly with the upgrades I have done. One part of my music collection still isn't right though. Previously at higher SPLs all music got bad slap echo and bright, room treatment has sorted that out.

Now with some tracks mainly rock with guitars especially, the sound gets congested, image is lost and it gets grungy. Have I met the limits of my room, or with more power would I have better control of my speakers under a lot of stress? Or would a better quality spinner give more improvement through better resolution in the first place?

My system in in my signature, but breifly Arcam DV27, Meridian 861, Krell Showcase amp, Wilson Sophia.

Both player and power amps will get upgraded, I'm just trying to prioritise my budget.
It's not the room and although one component or another may be contributing to this grunge to some extent, you are probably experiencing the results of untreated AC noise and the bi-directional digital noise generated by your cd player.

Digital noise is bi-directional in that the noise it generates goes back into the AC line, even back to the service panel, and in then infiltrates into your other components.

Before you do anything with your equipment, you should investigate proper line conditioning. I say proper because there are plenty of popular line conditioners that do nothing and worse. Furthermore, some to many line conditioners do not have bi-directional filtering capability.

Once you have acquired proper line conditioning, your system is now resting on a solid foundation, eliminating any grunge or digital hash and therefore should be far more pristine and musical. As a result your present and future components will be exhibiting more of their true potential.

Also, keep in mind that some to many ics and scs induce a time smear that will also sound like a grunge or digital hash.

Dealing with power is very important. I had horrible congestion on a Krell which was plugged into a surge suppressor power board. When I plugged it straight into the wall with a shielded power cable, it transformed to be light and airy like no other tweak or interconnect has ever done for me in my 25 years listening.
IIRC - I seem to remember reading that power conditioning was not necessarily the best thing. Note that many of the top end systems here on audiogon do not use them. Would a similar effect be gained by using more specialist power cables?
Name specific recordings where you have this problem. It could be that there are problems with the recordings themselves. It's not unheard of for guitar tracks to be recorded clean and distortion/grunge added later via various effects processors and heavy signal compression. This could be what you are hearing.
Room acoustics and speaker placement can have a ton to do with it as well, although above not believed, yes power is problematic too, but I can say with heavier music stuff your speakers might need to come further off the sidewalls and further into the room to relieve some congestion and reflection.. also could need to be toed in more, by like a quarter inch or so.. this can add a lot to the image density in the center of the room making it far more clear and dynamic. Especially moving the speaker to a new more optimal position if they were in the same one before room tweaks you mention, cause everything will throw them off that was added to the room in comparison to the original position they sat.
Dmurfet, your specific issues / concerns could be one or a combination of problems. Still I find your response about line conditoners interesting but not surprising.

My initial response is, what is your experience with AC line conditioning?

You are correct in that some very expensive and beautiful systems have no regard whatsoever for line conditioning. And I'll also bet dollars to doughnuts their systems are experiencing much the same deficiencies you note above.

That's because AC noise is very real and universal and we all have it to one bad degree or another. Furthermore, digital noise is also very real. All this noise left untreated will leave virtually every system sounding fatiguing to one degree or another.

You may have noticed in my first post that I used the term 'proper' line-conditioning, thereby implying that there exists 'improper' line conditioners which are very abundant in the marketplace and often carry very popular name brands.

Sub-standard line conditioners are also very real. There are those that rob amplifiers of necessary current and thereby strip away all dynamics from the music rending it rather lifeless. There are those that do absolutely nothing. And then there are those that, even though they may clean something, they induce their own sonic harm and thus make the sonics worse than without any line conditioners.

With regard to the owners of these otherwise desirable systems, there are those who have never had an encounter with any, much less, proper line conditioning.

There are those who have tried line conditioning but since they've only tried inferior models, they walk away saying or thinking all line conditioning must be bad because I just spent $500 - $5000 on these units and they made my $200,000 system sound the same or worse but not better.

There are those whose systems need so much help that it really doesn't matter what they do.

There's alway those who simply cannot hear any difference no matter what they do.

There are those who own one or more components where the manufacturer (say a cd player mfger) has made their own attempt to address AC Filtering within the component itself. It's usually a half-assed attempt and sometimes with a $5 AC filter that may simply suppress certain offending frequencies. Some of the owners of this type of equipment audition line conditioners (good or bad) and almost always when one doubles up on line conditioning (especially when each employs different filtering methodologies) the end result is almost always disastrous.

So again they walk away saying or thinking all line conditioners must be bad or of no value.

And finally, there are those have acquired performance-oriented line conditioners and fully realize the significant gains that proper line conditioning provides. So much so that rarely is there a system worth listening to that does not have proper line conditioning as part of their system, regardless of the price of the system.

Given the above (assuming it's true), is it any wonder that an enthusiast or reviewer wrote that line conditioning may not be a good thing? Given the sub-standard performance of some line conditioners, the author is correct. But in the end that author is no different that one of the siutations I described above.

I can pretty much assure you this: If you did install 'proper' line conditioning in your system, (and barring any other potentially serious deficiency you may have) your system's sonic performance and ultimately your listening pleasure will meet or exceed almost every one of those very expensive and beautiful systems that use inferior or no line conditiong.

At least your equipment is certainly capable.

Try auditioning a better CDP. Slurring in dense R&R RBCD is pretty common in midrange digital front ends.
Stehno, I overall agree with the theory, however some components are built far beyond others power supplies and do not exhibit anywhere near the problems of some components regardless of cost in comparison to A/C coming in. Some have even extensive stages of line conditioning built in and can only be harmed by more filters in front of them. Not saying it is the case here or all the time, but always experiment.. Of course Dedicated very clean stable voltage A/C lines are Un-arguably a step in the right direction, but not necessarily all these Re-creation and or conditioning products.
Onhwy61 - I'll revisit some tracks and post.

Matrix - I have tried moving the speakers around a lot as per WASP, but it only seems to happen on tracks with say >6 instruments at high SPLs. I'll try again when the Wilson's are repaired.

Stehno - thanks for your comprehensive reply! My experience with power conditioners is "zip" - I'd love to audition some units - which would you recommend? And can they provide units capable of UK voltage / frequency?

DGarrettson - certainly the Meridian 800 is on my shopping list - obviously well matched with my 861 - I'm thinking of holding off until they decide which way to jump on bluray/hdef-dvd, but an older model should easily upgrade.

Thank you all for your advice.
Matrix, yes, there are some (actually very few) components built far beyond other's power supplies as you stated. In fact, though there are a few out there, I only know one by name and model and that is the APL modified NWO-1 Esoteric ucdp. But even that unit may not contain much in the way of correction.

On the other hand, it does not appear that you or I have any such components in our inventory. If that is true, then AC noise is definitely a problem we must contend with if we hope for a pristine, musical presentation that also does not induce negative sibilance (when it's not in the recording itself).

And though dedicated circuits/lines are also a necessity, they exactly two things that I am aware of:

1. Help ensure that power supplies, particularly amplifier's, receive the nessarity juice to reproduce more fully reproduce dynamic and/or complex passages.

2. Minimize or eliminate AC noise that is generated within the house such as dimmers, appliances, etc..

But dedicated circuits/lines do nothing to cleanse the AC noise coming in from the street. That is why 99.5% of us are in desparate need of 'proper' line conditioning.

And that is why I made my suggestion to you in my earlier post regarding 'proper' line conditioning.

While this post is very old - there is always useful information to individuals searching for similar information.

The OPs post about congestion at higher volumes is not uncommon. In this case, I think the cause is one or more of several problems or issues:

1: The room can just become over saturated with snund. There is a limit that any room size can handle in terms of sound volume. Improving the accoustics of the room can address this, but it only increases the volume a room can handle.

2: The CD player, as the OP questioned can certainly be contributing to this problem (as can any component, but in this systems case, I think the cdp is a good starting point with equipment). I once owned a AA capitole that did not present this problem, but sent it in to be serviced and upgraded. Bought a AA Prima for interim use, thinking I would get 80% of the Capitole. The prima could not play large scale recording without becoming congested, more noticeable as volume increased. This went away with a better cdp.

3: Vibration control of components, speakers, et al. As sound volume and levels increase, everything in the room is subjected to more vibration and this notably start to break down the soundstage quickly. The Sophia come with spikes, yet many don't use them. Components don't typically come with good grounding/vibration devices (excepting some, ie. esoteric, etc. . .).

4: The Krell amp, while much less likely than the cdp could be a partial cause. The Showcase Series is by no means their best series; however, I am not saying this with any degree of certainty.

5: Power supply - dedicated lines, "proper" power conditioning, etc. . . can definately play a role. My concern here is that th OP reports this problem with only specific types of music. The same anomoly should occur with moderate scale but dynamic music as well if the problem is purely power quality related, IMO.

This same phenoma occurs at rock concerts when they have the gain turned up too high or the soun is just too loud. Contrary to what Spinal Tap says, 11 may not be better!

To find out how real the problem is in terms of the quality of the media, go out a buy a good Chesky records test CD that is known to be well recorded and should not fall apart or congest at high volumes. This will help id whether it is the recordings or the other causes.

As an FYI, this past week I had a $9300 preamp in my system that I was testing/considering. I encountered the same problem when I turned the volume up past my regular "loud" listening levels. I can't say whether it was my amps power (which I am in the process of replacing), my room or the preamp. Speakers were also Wilson (W/P in this case). I have owned Wilson speakers (5 pair) over the past few years. I know it wasn't the speakers from familiarity with use in prior equipment settings.

So in the end, one cannot answer such a question with 100% accuracy, but only point out the most likely scenarios which may require more than one step or change. Personally, my suggestion is to start with the cheapest corrections first - in this case the recording. Followed by the speaker placement/set-up. Listen in a nearfield environment and see if this addresses the problem (as it takes away much of the rooms interaction on what is heard). The go to vibration controls, then start replacing components or listen at slightly lower volumes?

I have owned Watt/Puppy 8 and now own Sasha i.e. similar speakers tnat you have and I have had similar problem to that you described.

Now question that good electrical supply will improve the performance of your system, I believe its a given beyond discussion. IMHO, the first step is having dedicated power line feeding your stereo system it is the cheapers and the best. After that, I personally good power cord(s) abd finally high quality power conditioner with passive filters and no trasformers in them.

The most of my effort and pay off was in finding the right amplifier which can provide power in demand. I believe your problem is identical to mine because you complain on the congestion when you play rock - which require more power (average power on demand of rock, particualrly har rock is much higher then that of classic music) and when you need higher SPL.

Sasha is the most power hungry speakers in Wilson line but my Spectron monoblocks I am in paradize. Sofia may or may not need so much power - so this is area of your personal preferences.

Good Luck and Happy New Year
Here are some suggestions:

Try adding absorption to the first reflection points on the ceiling and bass trapping in the corners to get better resolution. I couldn’t see you side walls from the photos of your system, but they should also have absorption at the first reflection points.

Remove the equipment rack out from between the speakers to get better imaging

Try a Richard Grey’s Power Company 400 Pro to clean incoming power

Try speakers with dual mid-range cones to eliminate the congestion