Searching for a little more warmth

Hello all, 

I know this might be a little open ended but I wanted to ask the crowd here for some thoughts and opinions on a matter I have been contemplating for some time now.  

To begin.  My current system is comprised of:

  • Shindo Cortese 300b amp
  • Aurieges pre 
  • Bluesound Node
  • Zu soul vi speakers
  • Thorens TT

I am looking for a little more warmth and richness from my system.  The low end is there (to some degree), however it often feels as if the sound is having a difficult time filling the room.  I'm not looking for a super boomy low end, just a little more presence from the speakers that is able to fill the room without turning to "11".  The room is decent size, about 16' x 30' with high sloping ceiling.  (Speakers are placed on the 16' wall about 11' apart and close to corners)    

I've gone back and forth on what I believe might be the best path forward and after countless motions back and forth, I figured I'd put this out there to the crowd to see what the group thinks.  

My gut tells me that swapping out my speakers might be the best option.  Currently they are Zu soul vi but I have been considering Devore O/93 or 0/96 or audio note but am open to suggestions.  

Option two might be to leave the speakers and add a small subwoofer.  

Or lastly, consider the source, where most my music is played through bluesound Node, that adding or replacing that Node with a Gold Note DS-10 or (used) aurender might add some dynamics and texture.  

Or... perhaps I need to swap out the system for something with a little more oomph..

Many variables and possible contributing factors, I know.  I figured it'd be fun to see what the group picks out as the weakest link here or suggests as the best path toward a goal.






In my experience most rooms tend to be on the bright side. Have you considered room treatments or some type of equalization?

Nice equipment. Well, the amp and preamp.

Ok. If you are like most of us, then you sit and enjoy listening to music. To do that you set up your speakers 6 - 8’ apart and position your listening position to make an equilateral triangle. Then with lots of small adjustments the whole soundstage snaps into place. The triangle can be bigger with really huge speakers and powerful equipment… the exact opposite of what you have. You have some of the most coveted warm - natural sounding equipment on the planet. So, much discussion on the setup needs to take place. Photos would be really useful… there is a place under your userID to create a virtual system.


Next, the BlueSound is outclassed by orders of magnitude by your main system. It’s like you are using a transistor radio to feed it. Your system deserves at least an Aurender N20 or better with a high end DAC… I am a big fan of Audio Research DAC 9 for it’s warm natural sound that would complement your main system.

Yeah, the midrange-forward, bass-light Zu coupled with 300B can't be filling the room that well. A pair of subs could help and will add to your system even if you change things in future. New DAC per @ghdprentice may also flesh out the music. 

@croissantfoxwine I know the Soul VI is a much more advanced speaker, but I owned both Tekton and Zu Soul Superfly speakers many years ago, powering both with low power SET amps. In my experience it is a real challenge to get a lot of warmth out of Zu speakers. The Soul in particular is a fairly small cabinet, and you have a medium-to-large sized room.

In fact, if you were to keep your amp and preamp, which George has already noted are really nice, you will likely have to invest in potentially bi-amping your setup, where the Shindo are powering 120-140Hz and above for a speaker, and you get more powerful amps for the lower frequencies. 8wpc in a room that size is very limiting if you plan to power the bass and midbass. But adding subs won’t necessarily give you the warmth you seek, as the Zu Soul are just not a warm sounding speaker. 

Devore are definitely a little softer in their presentation, as are Audio Note speakers. Fyne Audio may also be another to consider. Horn-based speaker systems may be best, where the bass drivers are driven bi-amped with a cheaper Class D amp. 

The rest of the community may have better speaker recommendations as it’s been a few years since I’ve done anything with low power and high efficiency. 

I agree with most above I like Zu speakers but they are certainly not warm at all. Devore, Audio Note are both good calls and will work with a 300B amp. However if you're streaming a lot a good Dac will do you worlds of good and a tubed Dac could inject a bit more warmth also.

Definitely change speakers….Zu speakers are made for a specific purpose. Try Legacy, or a British speaker in budget.

I like your idea of the DeVores and think they’ll get you much if not all of what you’re looking for.  Agree also that the Node needs to go asap.  Aurender is excellent, but I think I read the warranty is not transferable if you buy used so definitely something to check.  Best of luck.

I found the DeVores to be overpriced (in a fair comp) and the Zu is known to be too bright and fatiguing. 

In that price range there are much better options, I would pull the speakers closer in and add a sub.

Adding subs is probably the most economical approach but integrating them is a pain. Acoustic treatment to any possible level will help as well. Ultimately to solve this problem you need better speakers. The Devore recommendation above is solid.

Get to streamer and DAC after the speakers. You’re not going to get subterranean bass suddenly from a new streamer and DAC if the speakers aren’t capable of delivering it. As to a used Aurender, it’s like any other used component without warranty. Probably even more reliable than used amps and preamps.

+1 @blisshifi 

I'm not sure if the OP is not getting sufficient low end or the speakers overall are too bright. If there is any way the OP can play with re-positioning the speakers it may be worth his time.  For one, eleven feet apart seems a bit wide.  Has the OP ever tried using the "Sumiko" speaker set up procedure to better dial in the low end? If this isn't an option then many of the suggestions above are valid. Personally I would avoid adding a sub if you aren't first happy with the overall balance of sound from your speakers.

I'd radically change the speaker position, forget all the normal advice and see how it sounds. I've had Zu's and they are fast and lively which is fun, but can be a little on the anemic side with lots of music. 

The subs for sure would help fill things in and will only help in most areas. Yes on room treatment too! Dac too!

I've owned the O/93 and wasn't fond of them.  To my ears the woofer wasn't great with the upper mids, leading to fatigue and some ear ringing even at lower volumes.

You're on a good path with great gear, just be patient and try some large blankets and throws around the room. Don't get technical now just pile in some pillows, etc. and see if anything changes.

How reflective is your room?  If very, adding absorbers can help. You may have too much mid-treble hash.

I would add a pair of REL subs which I recently incorporated into my system. Not only did they add a better bass foundation, they also made the sound fuller. It was not hard integrating the subs by following the instructions. I would contact John Rutan at Audio Connection for his advice concerning which model REL would work best in your size room. 

Thank you all for the responses here.  This has been helpful and completely in line with my thoughts.  Love @ghdprentice comment about the transistor radio!  

Due to the layout of the room, the speakers are more or less where they must be (slightly farther apart than most would advise and closer to the corners).  It's not a completely ideal scenario from a listening standpoint, however, I do know that it is possible to achieve what I am out to given the layout of the room.  

It sounds like removing the Node as a 1st order of business is where I'll start.  This has been on my mind for some time now and I can find something the replace the node and add a small subwoofer without too much trouble.  

The speakers IMO must go too but I may see what I can find on the used market.  I'm intrigued by the Devore's and Audio Note's but I know there are other great options out there too.  I'm open to suggestions should anyone have them.  I think something with a larger box would be ideal (Cornwalls are too big!) and I love the Avantgarde but would need to find those second hand.  

I appreciate all the comments. 

Thank you all


OP I own ZUs also and love their sound enough to make decisions that bring out the best in them.As others have mentioned a dac known for it's warm characteristics, a couple of subs (SVS with equalizer is a good option),and experimenting with room treatment will get you where you want to be.I bought longer speaker cables to move the ZUs further apart but that didn't work at all.After 8 1/2 ft the images began sounding vague and thin to me.

Don’t get just one sub — two are significantly better.  You can get something like a pair of the SVS SB1000 Pros for like $1100 with a generous trial period including shipping both ways so no risk.  Innuos Pulse Mini is a good streamer and even better if you add an external linear power supply, and the Denafrips Pontus II DAC is well worth consideration given what you’re looking for.  Hope this helps.

I think Audio Note speakers would make an incredible difference in your system if they are to be placed in the corners of your room. That is the setup I run using the AN-E/LX HE SIG and the sound is amazing, I use a pair of Synthesis mono blocks to power them. My local sells Audio Note speakers and I have listened to them using a 300b amps and the sound is full and warm. I do not use subs with my system. Feel free to message me if you have any questions about Audio Note speakers. 


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I’m always of the opinion: before going for new/different speakers; before going for room treatments: spend some time, measure the sound in that space, at your listening position: with a SPL Meter and test tone CD. Armed with the results, FIX IT!

a. SPL meter, on tripod, ear height seated listing position:

paste in Amazon: BAFX Products - Decibel Meter/Sound Pressure Level Reader (SPL) / 30-130dBA Range - 1 Year Warranty (Standard)

b. Test Tone CD, (not LP)

paste in discogs: Various - Amazing Bytes (CD, Comp, Promo)

c. Your Speakers have a UNIQUE ‘GAP’ Feature (from Positive Feedback Positive Review):

a special setup that might improve things (I suspect more ‘presence’ needed not more bass).

"I did was adjust the Griewe gap. The Zu-Griewe technology functions as an acoustic impedance matching scheme that allows the main driver to better match the room’s impedance. When properly set, it produces smooth and clean bass and affects the sound well up into the mid-range. When incorrectly set it can make the speakers sound bloated or thin. This gap is not a traditional port, and in the case of the Soul VI is located at the bottom of the speaker. Setting the gap is more or less setting the distance from the ground to the bottom of the speaker. Zu has a write up on this technology as well as how to set the gap correctly on their website, and I suggest any owner or potential owner of a Zu speaker go familiarize themselves with how to properly set the gap, as setting this incorrectly is incredibly noticeable. I have a carpeted floor, so I started with the recommended gap of 10mm, this proved to be the correct gap. I also tried lowering the gap to about 7mm, which made the speaker sound very light in the mid-range. It may have been slightly faster, but I clearly had lost an entire octave of bass, which measurements later confirmed. Changing the gap to be about 15mm, produced a speaker that was very bloated and was missing bass detail as well as lower mid-range detail. I tried many values in between 7mm and 15mm and eventually landed on 10mm being correct for my room."

d. Location and Toe-In

After getting the GAP ’right’ for your space, then work hard to find the best location in your space and best toe-in (use the SPL meter and CD then adjust for taste..

e. Keep them? or try some tone controls, or an equalizer

might be needed, IN THAT SPACE for any speaker). Now or in the future.

f. Let’s not rule out your hearing, may need a tone adjustment (for existing or any other speaker).

I have a hearing test scheduled. Certainly at 75, they will find something. I bought a DBX Dual Band 2231 31 band equalizer with bypass, I’m ready to try adjusting according to the hearing test results.

IF I need/get a hearing aid(s), I may still prefer the equalizer curve to the hearing aid(s), OR, as I age, I could modify just a bit without getting new hearing aids, i.e. boost highs some.

I went for a DBX 2231 dual channel 31band (1/3 octaves) EQ with Bypass.

You can find them new on Amazon, I got this one (already in USA)

EMB Professional Sound System EB831EQ Graphic Equalizer/Limiter with Type 3 NR for Home/DJ Performance/Club/Studio/Stage/Show/Entertainment

used one, from Manchester Music Hall looks good, $130. delivered

DBX - 2231 Dual 31 Band Equalizer/Limiter Rackmount Unit - x0294 – USED

g. New/Different Speakers (get return option)

h. Room Treatments

LAST IMO, you may find _____? needed for existing or any speakers in that space. SPL? Test Tones will help your choices




@croissantfoxwine My suggestion is to swap out the Node for a streamer that is at a level that matches the rest of your system. The helpful advice I received was that I need to start with an ideal signal before I start changing other things around. You may be compensating for upstream issues.

In my case, when I swapped my Node for an N150, I perceived the greater level of detail to be less warm or less soft sounding and the higher frequencies lost the unwanted sizzle (perhaps high frequency noise), such that I perceived the overall sound being more pure and clean and thus the highs were less bothersome then before.  

Again, this is all very appreciated and great to have the different perspectives.  

All ears are different and I understand that.  After reading through this discussion, I am inclined to pursue an upgrade to the streamer/DAC.  I've had my eye on Aurender and will likely look further into those options.  I know each experience varies, but I'm open to some suggestions on Streamer/Dac's should anyone have a relevant suggestion.  


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Reference3A Speakers.  Some of the newer models have two mid-bass units to pump out a bit more, deeper, and better controlled bass.

Efficient, tube friendly.  Great service and support from the small company in Canada.

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I own 96 and heard 93 and audio note speakers. If you are looking for warmth, 93 is the warmest among these and much more mellow sounding than the Zu. Zu can be a bit harsh and in your face sometimes.

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@croissantfoxwine be sure if considering Devores and Audio Note speakers that you are allowed a home demo with your gear. Perhaps your Shindo dealer can also advise. The Cortese has gone through some minor running revisions which are typically well done and nice. The thing to pay close attention to is the recommended output impedence, which on the Cortese is 16ohm IIRC, which makes them a natural partner for Devore O’s (10 ohm) vs Audio Note E’s (6 ohm) for instance. It matters.

If "bright" were the only issue with Zu speakers, that might be dealt with by cable choices and other such changes.  But, for my taste, Zu speakers are unnaturally hard and brittle sounding with too lean upper bass/lower midrange  If you find them not to your liking with a 300b amp (something that adds upper bass/lower midrange and tends to be soft on top, a speaker change is in order.  Your looking in the direction of DeVore and Audio Note is quite sensible.  If you can do corner placement, Audio Note would be a terrific choice.  

I also like, among higher efficiency speakers, models from Charney Audio, Rethm, Volti, Songer Audio and PureAudioProject.  

I heard Audio Note and ProAc speakers at the same dealer in northern Virginia and liked them both, but felt the ProAcs had more life and energy, with the Audio Notes sounding laid back in comparison. Both fell on the warmer side of neutral. My ProAc D40R are fairly easy to drive, do not need subs, and fill the room easily, even when pushed farther apart than ideal.

A speaker change will get you closer to where you want to be than changing the source. If you can only do one thing initially I would change your speakers. 

Not familiar with your amps, but I've heard many models of Zu driven with many amps, and I would not consider any Zus to project sound as,

warmth and richness

IMO, change speakers.

I love my O/93's but your room is much larger than mine If you go with Devores (not "DeVores") my suggestion would be to go with the 96's and use Auditorium 23 speaker cables. Room placement is everything with Devores. They are not that picky but the devil is in the details for coaxing the best bass, midrange and treble balance. Anyone (uh, e.g. above) who gripes about bass and treble imbalance and/or midrange incongruence had simply failed to system-match and room-place with some mediocre degree of effort. Just my 2 sense. Tip; too far out Into the room enhances soundstage and imaging at the expense of being too dry and bass-shy. Don't be shy about placing them closer to the front wall corners. Mine are about 30 inches from the rear wall and eighteen inches from the sidewalls but that means nothing for you in your much larger room. Devores, tubes, and vinyl are meant for each other. Again, just my thoughts.