Thiel death do we part . . .

OK, stupid title, I know...but so is my question, probably. So in spite of years of owning lots of different gear - speakers (Maggies, B&W), preamps (Bottlehead,AR), amps (C&J, Bryston) and so on, I've never quite got "the magic" I often hear about. I sort of went the path of least resistance and settled on a small setup - Theil(1.6s) & Bryston(B60) with Rega front ends (analog & digital).

The other night, however, I set it up in a near field format for the first time. After playing with speaker placement a bit, everything suddenly snapped into place, and it all sounds amazing. Magic. I found myself digging into my record collection (maybe 4000 deep) for the 1st in years and now there's not enough hours in the day to listen to it all.

One thing I've noticed is that the system is just brutal with poorly recorded media. While well produced material (Patricia Barber, Cowboy Junkies, some Rickie Lee Jones, Stan Getz and so on) can be just stunning, detailed, spacious and even deep, lots of others just aren't pleasant to listen to. Things I used to enjoy can now sound lame and muffled. I understand this may be a Thiel "take no prisoners" issue. So, just as an experiment, I swapped out the Thiels for a pair of old B&W 802s that are passing thru on the way to eBay and was surprised that while good material sounds adequate, bad material doesn't sound too least not embarrassing.

So the question is, without swapping nice speakers for not as nice on a regular basis, is there something that I can do to get the set up to be more "forgiving", at times? I listen mostly to what you might call intimate music, small groups and individual singers, often in live recordings.

Listening area is 12x18 with a low ceiling (open joists) off a corridor.

So maybe alternate cables (Zu Julian now) or a subwoofer or an equalizer? Thanks for your patience.
Like I put in my post- many bad recordings have artifacts in them (distortion, excess high frequencies) that seem to exacerbate the problems in poor playback equipment.

As many people that work in the recording industry know, if you have really good microphones you can get away with murder downstream and it will often still sound good- if you start with lousy mics the best recording gear in the world will do you no good.

This is also true in playback, for example you don't need a really expensive cartridge to make an analog system sound really excellent. What you *need* is a tone arm/cartridge combination that allows the cartridge to not mistrack even on the most intense and complex material. If the cartridge has any tracking problems, not much you can do about it downstream. So a system where the cartridge has tracking problems will editorialize, especially on poor recordings.

This is also true if the speaker and amplifier combination adds up to something bright due to equipment mismatch.
Good gear brings out the best in everything, even lesser recordings. No doubt about that!

These days, I find most every recording to sound different and something good to like in 98% of the CDs or records I listen to, and I'm loving almost every minute of it. Way more so than in any years past. I feel like the time and money I have invested in good sound in recent years has payed off in spades and am very thankful for that!

Those are reasonable expectations I think.

Expecting all recordings to sound equally good or the same is unrealistic and the sure path to audiophile hell.

The few % I listen to that have little to no technical sonic merit will at least be high in terms of artistic merit to help compensate.

I have thousands of vinyl, tape and CD recordings collected over the years. I can only think of two or three that pain me enough to even make me think about not listening.
So the responses here have far exceeded my expectations and I want to thank everyone for the insights. My own journey is now going to split into a couple paths.

First, based on the responses, I think there's an opportunity to mitigate the impact of what I think are poor recordings (& my crappy room) while still being able to enjoy the clarity and wonder I get from it on great recordings. The first step there - again from your advice - is exploring some sort of easy on / easy off equalizing (& room compensation) and do that in the digital realm.

Secondly, it's obvious that everyone thinks my analog setup is prehistoric - a lot like their owner. So I plan, after step one, to work through that chain starting with the cartridge,tone arm & their precise setup. Makes sense, I have over 4,000 records to enjoy. I did, as was suggested, relocate the speakers and it does sound richer and more "complete"...thanks for the observations...will continue tuning that - cheap and fun.

On a final (?) note, Onhwy61 asked me what recordings didn't work for me. Made me stop and think. So last night I did a little experiment (CDs only cause they were quick and convenient), rather than digging out just ones that sounded bad (definition being thin or lifeless or less than "there", whatever), I tried to pair them with similar recordings that did work for me. Sorry about how old these are . . . but then so am I.

It was a great exercise and among the things I learned was something several of you suggested, as my system gets dialed in (speaker placement in this case), some of the "bad" recordings got better but some also got worse. Sorry that I don't have the vocabularly to describe the sound any better. In any case, for those of you into self abuse, a few are below...oh yes, for argument's sake, the best recording I own is at the end . . . in my opinion, 'course.

Cheers, Dancub

Solo Guitar
Bad - Sharon Isbin's "Nightshade Rounds" (thin/flat)
Good - Leo Kottke's "Mudlark" (full/rich)

Yes, I know, he's a big 12 string guy, so I compared his 6 string work. On the other hand, she's a terrific player and is using an '88 Humphrey Millennium - pretty good tool.

(Old) Rock
Bad - The Rolling Stones "Hot Rocks"
Bad - Los Lobos "How Will The Wolf Survive?"
Good - Los Lobos "Colossal Head"

OK, there's no excuse for a "Digitally Remastered From Original Master Recordings" thingee by the richest group of old rockers on the planet to sound like it was recorded in a toilet with a Walkman. Interesting - Los Lobos, who one would think has pretty much total control over their stuff, would allow some of their best music to be published poorly.

Bad - Nigel Kennedy "Vivaldi, the 4 Seasons" (EMI)
Good - Alondra De La Parra - "My Mexican Soul"

So I love Vivaldi but this one sounds like someone forgot to flush. Nigel ought to call Alondra and find out who recorded her's terrific.

So the best recording I own?

Siris Svale Band's "Blackbird". CD or vinyl - both terrific. Great music and wonderful recording. I first heard it in Joseph Audio's demo room at a Stereophile show. He won the "Best Demo" sound or something like that that year and I suspect "Blackbird" was his secret weapon.

So why don't one of you guys start a "best record" thread? Or is there one? If there is, shoot me a link. Thanks.
RS hot Rocks is a compilation. Each track recorded much

LIsten to see if you can get the jist of each track
individually first. Or just select tracks as test cases.
Play with speaker placement to get imaging and soundstage
right. Some tracks may be mono? Use those to work on a
solid central image and then see what happens with all the
rest. Tonality/clarity/detail/dynamics will vary a lot
track to track.

I'll try to revisit HR sometime soon and get reaquainted
with a few tracks in more detail.

"Emotional Rescue" is a good RS album for sound
quality. GIve "Let ME Go" and
"She's SO cold" a listen. Those should knock your
socks off AND get your toes a tappin! "Indian Girl" is also
a very nicely recorded track.
Mapman - well heck, that's good idea. May have to wait until my significant other is out of town 'cause I think they need to be played loud.