Midrange Increasingly Harsh

Lately I've noticed some harshness in the mid-range, especially with violins, clarinets and female voice.  I recently bought a CD of female plainchant, and she hits the un-sweet spot so frequently I can't listen to it.  I don't listen at high volumes, rarely over nine o'clock on the volume knob.  The sound is not anything unnatural, just a less musical presentation and an unpleasant harshness.


I have twenty year old Forest Totems with their original cones, a Prima Luna Dialogue One amp which got new tubes about five years ago and an Arcam CD-73 which got a factory rebuild about three years ago.  I have neither the money nor inclination to just start arbitrarily replacing parts, but would appreciate some insight and guidance on likely culprits. 


John Cotner

New Ulm, MN


I listen at lunch and again in the evening with my adult beverage.  I have post-concussion phonophobia, which I suspected at first.  But my wife also noticed it so I can rule that out.  I don't have any sources for spare gear around here to swap in and out.  What I may try is plugging the CD player into other output taps from the amp, and fooling around with some different cables.  By my estimate I have over 5000 hours on these tubes, so they need to get replaced in any event.  I don't recall the brand but the were made in England and sounded wonderful for a long time.  Hopefully Upscale has my purchase history if I can't run down the receipt.

Yep, I’d do a full re-tube. Your power tubes are definitely shot and the pre-amp tubes are at the end of their life. Try to avoid using it until you get the power tubes replaced at minimum as the distortion from spent tubes can damage the speakers. Fortunately you don’t play at high volumes so hopefully the drivers are unscathed.

Congrats on averaging 1k hours a year of listening! That’s tremendous. I work from home and even then I doubt I’m half that.  I think I'll do some listening now and try and catch up lol. 

Even if it is not the tubes getting worn, it is helpful to have a full complement of replacement tubes.  Any time you suspect tubes are going bad, you can then do substitutions to see if that cures the deterioration.  Even when you don’t hear an obvious problem, performance can decline gradually and you may not notice this until you do substitutions.

OP mentioned the problem persists from BOTH CD and TT, sooo, that rules out source equipment.

It is unlikely both speakers would develop problem(s) at the same time. So, simply switching speaker wires, left to right, right to left, NO OTHER CHANGES: IF the problem moves to the other side, it's that speaker.

Tubes: get paper, make notes, easy to confuse yourself or forget. Swap all tubes L to R, problem move? Next: using tubes from the 'good side', swap l/r one at a time, any single tube swap make a difference?

Many tubes last 10,000 hours, so 5,000 hours is not a DEFINITE answer. Ask seller about the tubes you bought from him, what are the life expectancies of the tube types your unit uses?


How many times have I advised a simple tube tester to give answers when problems occur????????????????????????? Blindly buying tubes is an expensive shot in the dark.