the sound of massed violins in classical orchestral recordings

why do massed violins have this sort of gritty sandpapery reverberation in classical orchestral recordings?even in some sections of a piece, when the violins are playing softly in the background, you hear that gritty overtone more than the melody.when I listen to the Houston symphony in Jones Hall,sitting fourth row, facing the violin section, I don't hear that sound.I have three systems { two of them mid-fi ] and I hear the same thing-even with all instances, the other parts of the orchestra are clear.  my main system : Vanalistine Trancendence 10 tube preamp,a 35 year old solid state Proton D1200 amp, [have tried NAD,Project, Musical Fidelity amps--they don't sound any better],Onkyo dx7555 CD player [Stereophile class B],and Project Carbon turntable with Grado Black 2 cartridge [ the Ortophon Red was too bright ] through Magnepan MG12/QR speakers.Tried a highly regarded Elac speaker--no change as far as the violins go, but way inferior to those dramatic Maggies.So, there you have it. Is it the equipment? Is the state of the art not up to recording violins? Is it me? [its o.k.-I can take it}. In closing,a couple of years ago,I had phone conversation with a well known person associated with a major speaker company about this. His response :[ paraphrased ] Violins are a problem--don't like 'em.  Any input will be appreciated. Thanks.
This is not a problem that is ubiquitous; it affects perhaps a good number of recordings, but certainly not all of them, and to varying degrees.  From which I conclude that it has to do with the various recording conditions: the space, the mikes, the recording equipment, the most-recording processing, etc.
The old Telarc CD orchestral recordings always sounded right to me.  Pretty much nothing else.  That shows it can be done.  Most everything else was done with multiple microphones too close to the violins and equalization.   

In my case, I have been facing this massed violins sound quality issue for many years. I am using Vienna Acoustics Mahlers and Beethoven Baby Grand on different setup while both of them having the similar issue. Everything else sounds great especially for jazz and vocal music. These speakers are highly regarded as one of the best for classical music or symphony but still I was struggling for the massed strings sound quality issue.

Now, what I went through in the last few years are the following to improve this massed strings sound quality issue:


1. I found plugging the power amp power core to the wall outlet directly helps but cannot eliminate the issue.

2. I changed my power amp from Citation 7.1 to Pass Labs X150.5 or XA30.5 helps but GamuT D200 is even better. But still having some massed strings sounding issue even using GamuT D200. I actually like Citation 7.1 for jazz, vocal, cello, and piano music better as it has more body of the music.

3. I was using Oppo 105D as the streamer from my NAS hard driver or as CD player but both having the same issue. CD sounds little better though but not perfect. Streaming from my computer to Oppo USB port sounds better but not perfect either.

4. I was using the fixed output from my Oppo 105D to my preamp. I have both NAD and NuForce MCP-18 preamp and they do not make much difference for this massed strings sounding issue.

5. Setting the Oppo 105D to variable output and adjusted the volume from Oppo to 50~75% range feeding to the preamp seems having significant improvement for the massed strings sounding issue. I cannot detect other sound quality degradation but doing so.

6. I did try to use Oppo 105D directly connecting to my GamuT D200 and it sounds much more airy and transparent but my ear will get fatigue within 30min so I gave up on this setup.

7. I finally went to different DAC and it seems the DAC does help to reduce this massed strings issue quite a bit. Part of this is due to I found using my Denon AVR to feed my power amp actually helped to reduce the massed strings sound quality issue but it will have other sound quality degradation.


Am I out of the woods yet, no, but it is much much better now and I can enjoy the classical symphony music for many hours. Before all these changes I was having trouble to listen symphony at all and I have to change the music within 10min.

The other experience I have is that my Oppo 105D can play the HiRes music file for symphony without this massed strings sound quality issue, this probably shows the ESS 9018S DAC chip used in Oppo can decode the HiRes flac files much better, or it could be just the source of the HiRes music file is better. But since I do not have problem for all the HiRes symphony music files that I have played so I tend to believe the former one as the reason. It was just the red book CD music that I had problem with by using Oppo 105D which is sort of a known issue from the forums like this. Flac conversion from the same CD I have was worse on the massed strings sound until I found the improvements mentioned above. Using foobar2000 from my computer to feed Oppo USB port with the same flac file sounds better which also shows the issue is from Oppo DAC. Now using different DAC in my system I bypassed this weak point. But I still like Oppo 105D for HiRes music playing.