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Opinions regarding an upgrade path

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by larry crimmins, Apr 4, 2003.

  1. larry crimmins

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    About two years ago I caught the HT bug. After making some initial errors about hardware and spending many times what most people would consider prudent, I have a system which is fairly good.
    Along the way I discovered that I enjoyed listening to music as much or more than watching HT or TV in general. I realize this is the Home Theatre Forum but I suspect that others might have a similar viewpoint. Whatever, I am asking for advice on how to improve music playback in addition to HT.
    Present System:
    Sony 34XBR800
    Hughes GAEBO Receiver & Directv dish
    Cambridge Audio DVD300 (interlaced)
    Arcam AVR200 receiver
    Sonus Faber Concertino Homes as fronts
    Sonus Faber Solo Home Center
    Polk Audio F/X300i surrounds (bipole/dipole)
    Monitor Audio ASW 110 sub
    Sony scd775 SACDP (modded by SACDMODS
    room size 13x22
    have changed the receptacles to Pass & Seymour but still use OEM supplied PC's.
    cables: Outlaw PSA IC's on 5.1 analog
    Harmonic Tech. Silver Truthlink for stereo
    Harmonic Tech. Precision-Link for satellite inputs
    NBS Omega Jr. on three front speaker and a Wireworld single crystal copper to the surrounds
    I have heard audible defferences in wires that carry signals but am on the fence re: aftermarket PC's.
    I plan to relace the DVD player w/ the Samsung HD931 when it is released to see DVD in HD.
    I don't believe I can afford a separate dedicated 2 channel system and after hearing SACD, I think I need to allow hardware for 5.1 playback.
    What do you think is the path I should take from here. I admit I listen to the system sometimes and not the music.[​IMG]
     
  2. RayJK

    RayJK Stunt Coordinator

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    Some people hook up a passive preamp in line for their two channel sources. I don't myself but this might point you in the right direction.
     
  3. larry crimmins

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    Thanks for the reply.
    I expect that I could keep my receiver and pass the front pre-outs to a stereo preamp > power amp > front speakers for multi-channel inputs (DVD, SACD) and connect my stereo inputs directly to the new preamp for stereo only
    Another way to go would be to use a higher quality, higher power amp for all three fronts. Or throw out the receiver and go totally separates (pre/pro, power amp.)
    I think the Arcam is a nice piece but I was wondering what direction would provide the best quality bang-for-buck and what hardware fits this system?
     
  4. RayJK

    RayJK Stunt Coordinator

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    As you said, the Arcam IS a nice piece. Without a total upgrade of preamp, amps speakers etc I doubt you will hear a difference that can be measured.

    Except for analog of tape, phono and radio everything else is now digital. If you have a direct or bypass feature on your unit this will be limited only by your power amp in terms of output quality.

    If you do listen to vinyl still perhaps an outboard phono stage would help but otherwise you could spend a ton of money for very little (if any) improvement.

    Take a few years off from the upgrade treadmill and enjoy your system.
     
  5. larry crimmins

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    Thanks, any recommendations on a TT, tonearm and cartridge that provide a good value, used is good too. I'm wondering how the sound of records will feel after years of cd's. I've read that it is less tiring. I really don't know the hardware at all.
     
  6. Marc H

    Marc H Second Unit

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    Larry,
    Try a power cord. I recently did that in my two channel system and I'd have to say it's the best upgrade I have ever done to date. People look at me like I'm a loony when I rave about it though. A friggin' power cord?
    I'm going to try them in my HT tonight.

    Music Hall has good sounding low cost record players if you go the route of a new one and they come with pre-mounted Goldrings that are good enough to get up and running with.
     
  7. RayJK

    RayJK Stunt Coordinator

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    For analog you can spend whatever you want. If you don't already have a large investment in vinyl I would suggest going used for the TT. A nice Dual or Thorens will work well. Just do some research before you buy as you don't want to get a 30 year old unit. Of course, you can get a Technics SL-1200 direct drive quartz lock for $300 or so used too. Some people like belt drive and some don't, your choice.

    For a cartridge I like the AT OC9 for a midpriced ($300 street) moving coil and a Grado Red or Blue ($110-80) for moving magnet style. Stay away from "DJ" cartridges as they track much heavier and will ruin your records.

    There are a few outboard phono stages in the $100-200 range from Parasound, Rotel, Creek and NAD. Creek is probably the better one in this price range.

    Good Luck.
     
  8. larry crimmins

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    Thanks for the insight. The suggestions about used analog gear interests me greatly.
    I guess it couldn't hurt to try a PC from diycable or some equally cost conscious supplier. I was a sceptic about cables in general but have heard vast improvements in my system through the addition of good, not necessarily costly cable. I needed time to learn how to listen.
     
  9. Guy Usher

    Guy Usher Supporting Actor

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    I for one do not miss the ritual of preparing a record to play and wearing a path in the carpet. IMO the best thing to happen in Audio was the CD and the remote control. . . .
     
  10. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    I think 2 things could potentially improve your 2 channel sound:

    1.) An external amp. The Sonus Fabers aren't exactly easy to drive. Then again if you keep the volume way below reference, you may not need an external amp. Then again every owner of Sonus I know of uses an external amp. Doug over at HTGUIDE.com uses a Proceed to power his Sonus Faber's.

    2.) external Dac. While I haven't used one, I've heard that they can offer substantial improvements.

    This is all assuming you have done all the speaker placement/tweaking and have the calibration.
     
  11. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    I've got one Gary, but amen to what you said.
     
  12. larry crimmins

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    The Arcam is a receiver and as such, the amplifier section may have some compromises versus a separate amp. I'm trying to figure out, even going the used or diy route whether the addition of an external amp for the fronts (plus interconnects) or a pre and power amp (again plus interconnects) would produce that great an increase in sound quality. Were I to talk myself into that wouldn't I soon be looking at getting new speakers to take advantage of the new electronics. Where do you draw the line?
    The suggestion of an analog source means another investment (including a rack and all the other accessories.) Another set of components to continually upgrade.
    Ray's suggestion to enjoy what I've got certainly makes sense.
     
  13. Ricky T

    Ricky T Supporting Actor

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    Larry,

    Do you listen to CDs in 2 channel or DPL2? What frequency do you integrate the sub for music? Does the Arcam have pure analog bypass (for your modded SACD player)? I couldn't tell from the website.

    http://www.arcam.co.uk/diva/cinema/avr200.html
     
  14. larry crimmins

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    Ricky:
    I listen to Red book CD's in stereo which includes (decent bass management) the sub with its high pass adjusted to 40 hertz, all speakers are set to large. The Arcam has 5.1 pre-outs of which I presently only use the sub out.
    For SACD, (or DVD-A) there are 5.1 direct inputs with no processing going on.
     
  15. Ricky T

    Ricky T Supporting Actor

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    Larry,

    Since your mains are large, I assume that in stereo, the sub is NOT on. Which connection is better for your CDs: the 5.1 inputs or regular analog input?
     
  16. larry crimmins

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    Ricky:
    If I didn't use the CD inputs I wouldn't get the bass management. The sub is on in stereo and integrates well.
    For 5.1 inputs I've been using Outlaw Audio PCA IC's, very forward and grainy when used in anything but DSD playback where they add spice.
    So I am using 4 pairs of IC's from CD to receiver.
    I like the CD playback best through the Harm. Tech.- a little laid back but smoother, more detailed and better bass. Plus music just sounds more real with that last bass octave.
     
  17. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    Other than the option of adding a 2 channel pre and amp, which is always a good way to improve music capabilities in a HT system.

    I think an area where you could get a good amount of improvement is upgrading your front channel speakers, the Sonus Faber Concertinos.

    Options I would throw out would be SF Concerto's, Signums or Electo Amator II's the later two can be found used on Audiogon although it looks like everything posted there is currently SOLD.

    If another speaker brand is at all an option Reference 3A DeCapo MM-I's would be a good option to investigate.

    A fairly cheap option as a way to upgrade your stereo pre and amp would be the Italian made Unison Research Unico integrated.

    My thoughts.
     
  18. larry crimmins

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    In an attempt to see what better amplification might accomplish I auditioned an Anthem MCA30 amp yesterday. Heard it with an Anthem preamp PVA2 driving a pair of JMLabs Cobalt 826S, frontend was an Arcam CD92.
    Very punchy, fast, great transient response. Crisp, clean image with great detail. A nice clean background. Wonderful fast bass w/ the JMLabs. Also listened to it with Meadowlark Ospreys, not as good a combination. The Ospreys image very well but seem to have a bass hump built in that was distracting.
    Does anyone know Anthem and could share their experience?
     

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