Fading Background Vocals Conundrum

So here's an interesting one...perhaps someone has an idea of what's happening and why.

System about a month ago....Turntable --> Aesthetix Rhea Signature phone stage --> Primaluna Dialog Premium integrated --> Focal Kanta 1 speakers

A couple of weeks ago, in starting to move from an integrated to separates, I bought a used ARC Reference 6 preamp.  That now sits between the Rhea and the Primaluna which is now just acting as a power amp.

The ARC is a beautiful piece and I love it but I have noticed some peculiar results.  When I play Steely Dan's "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" from the "Can't Buy a Thrill" album, the vocal on the line, "Now the food here ain't so good no more" are greatly recessed, as in barely audible.  There's another line that has a similar result but otherwise all is fine.

My turntable has two tonerarms / cartridges and the result is the same with both.  I also have two different pressings of "Can't Buy a Thrill" and the result is the same with both.

When I remove the ARC from the chain the line is back to normal.  When I stream the song from the Wiim Pro --> Gustard A22 --> ARC --> PL it sounds fine and normal.

I've noticed some other odd interpretations of albums as well but this one definitely seems to be the most pronounced.  What am I missing here?  Any thoughts?

Thanks for your help.


I am not sure this applies… but it might.

One of the qualities that Audio Research equipment excels at is getting the gestalt of music correct. It does not overly highlight details that should not be. So it differentiates nuances in volume really well. Some equipment over emphasizes certain sounds and frequencies.


As my systems got better and better over the years it seemed the treble went down in volume more and more relative to other frequencies. After studying this effect and comparing to real music I realized my system was getting closer and closer to the real thing and that a lot of the treble was over emphasized high frequency hash and distortion, which brought out details, but actually sounded terrible. But I was growing up in the ‘70 where concerts and solid state gear threw terrible distorted treble at you.


Any possibility that is the way it was recorded?

I had an Audio Research Reference 5SE for many years and now use a Ref 6SE. Truly great preamps.

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@tablejockey do you mean did I try different inputs on the ARC?  No I didn't but I'll give it whirl.

@ghdprentice thanks for your thoughts given your experience with ARC preamps.  That's kind of what I was thinking initially as well.  The problem I'm having is that the difference is so stark.  That one line is so incredibly recessed that it almost disappears.  Is it possible to attach an audio file to this thread that I record on the phone?

Alright, I figured it out.  And as I suspected it was a case of dumbass operator error.  

The ARC being new to me, I'm able to connect the Rhea and DAC to it via XLR cables that I just purchased.  The Rhea has two pairs of XLR outs and I inadvertently plugged both XLR cables into both right outputs.  So that one line on that track comes predominantly through the left channel, I couldn’t hear it.

I've been listening to the right channel on both speakers for two weeks now!  Glad it was an easy fix and thank you both for chiming in.


Great!  It is great when you solve a problem like this and there is a really simple fix!

I am impressed with your honesty.

If this happened to me, I would probably plead the 5th.

That being said, as I get older I have noticed that these types of things are happening to me more frequently than they did previously. I know it's not me, so I can only conclude that it's the work of gremlins.


Okay, so OP’s boo-boo not withstanding, I can’t agree with @ghdprentice on his analysis. Fine details like a vocal line becoming recessed would indicate a failure to retrieve vital detail within the track. And blaming a system that does retrieve the detail as being in possession of "over emphasized high frequency hash and distortion" does not get one that fails to retrieve the detail off the hook. Your hearing wouldn’t filter it out at a live music event, so why should your equipment be tolerated doing it?