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Upgrade advice (<$1000): Outlaw 7100 / NAD T762 / Elite 43TX


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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted June 16 2003 - 04:41 AM

First, let me explain the background so it might help you all help me make the proper choice:

I own a 4 year old Sony STR-DA555 ES receiver. I recently upgraded to MB Quart QLS1030 speakers from Energy C6s. I am auditioning them from my dealer (the link) based on what I heard in his showroom. When I took them home I was impressed how much better they sounded than my C6s. But they didn't sound as good as the 530s in his showroom (which are 1/2 as big and cost 1/2 as much!) and I wondered why? At low to moderate volumes I thought it sounded fine, great bass presence in relation to the rest of the music (listen to classic rock, alt rock, classical and folk). I also flatline so I don't add bass or treble controls, just like what's on the CD. Anyway, as I turn the volume up, I notice the bass starts to lag, doesn't rise up proportionately with the rest of the sound. It "falters" for lack of a better word.

Well when I went back there, I realized his speakers were driven by NAD and B&K receivers. Now the B&K obviously is $3500, but the NAD (which also sounded better) was only their stereo receiver and cost $500?!?! I brought the CDs I'm intimately familiar with and flatlined his NAD. When I turned the volume up, the bass came up proportionately with the music, just like my Sony FAILED to do! I was like, what the hell is up with this? So I did research and found out some disturbing facts about my Sony (and Sony receivers in general).

Check out this link which reprinted Stereo Review and S&V's measured output for receivers vs. what the manufacturers claim! The two Sony they tested, the DB1070, which came out a year later than mine and was considered a peer despite being non-ES, was rated at 100W x 6 and tested at only 36W! The semi-new 4ES had this result: "Our standard all-channels-driven power measurement could not be taken because, Sony tells us, the receiver was not designed to deliver full power to all channels simultaneously."

Okay so my receiver sucks. I bought it cheap from Oade 4 years ago because I got it for $650 (MSRP $1000) and I didn't know better and didn't have something to compare it to (well an older Sony receiver).

So now I want to get something that will do my two-channel music justice as well as DVDs. I plan on upgrading to SACD within 6 months.

SELECTION CRITERIA:

Please don't suggest too many other brands because, bottom line, I want to buy from my dealer which limits me to: Sony (nope), Pioneer Elite, NAD, Panasonic, B&K and McIntosh (both are too $$$). I get great pricing from them so competitors at the price range will likely cost me several hundred more than what I'm paying. I want to keep my upgrade to under a $1000, which the three options I'm laying out for your advice and input will let me achieve. Thanks for reading, here are my choices:

1. Keep the 555ES and add an Outlaw 7100 amp.

This is my only non-dealer solution, because of the great word of mouth Outlaw gets. I realize my main problem is power. The sound at low volumes is fine for me from my 555. Also, this will open up the "separates" world for me, although i won't be able to get a new pre/pro for probably 1-2 years. My concern is:

a) Will the 555ES be a decent pre/pro? I don't care about DTS-ES or DD-EX for now, I'll be content w/ regular DD/DTS. Or are the DACs for the 555ES bad and I'm just not noticing because the 555 amps suck and it's all masking a really bad receiver? Will I wish I upgraded to a whole new receiver?

b) Will adding a 7100 give me the extra "oomph" and maintain sound quality at louder volumes that I'm looking for?

2. Buy an NAD T762

I have heard NAD with my own ears and know that they do make great sounding receivers. But I've heard some early units had probs that have been addressed. A few things that concern me, and if any T762 owners could chime in please do:

a) Does the T762 drop digital signals? During layer changes on my RP91 my 555 loses the audio and takes 1/4 - 1 second to reacquire. Also, when I spin up a DTS disc for the first time, it takes 2-4 seconds to detect the DTS signal. Will the T762 do this? I've heard that even CDs with long blank spaces between tracks (like classical CDs) may cause the T762 to drop a digital coax signal? Maybe a better pre/pro (and thus I should go with option 1 and get a pre/pro next year) will take care of this?

b) How is component video switching? I hear the bandwidth is only 30MHz which is the minimum spec, have users noticed any degradation?

3. Buy a Pioneer Elite 43TX (and a new 53TX at the same MSRP is due out soon)

Of all the Japanese makers, this one seems to get the best word of mouth. On that link their amp sections performed really well, but I don't have much experience with their sound quality. From what I've read, most people rank the NAD as better in overall sound quality, which is of paramount importance to me. I put this option in because I know it's THX Select, and has more "bells and whistles" than NAD. But if the sound is going to be markedly superior on the NAD, it's worth a few bells and whistles to please my ears.

Thanks for reading this long explanation, and all recommendations would be great!

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#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Spencer J

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Posted June 16 2003 - 05:57 AM

Carlo,

RE: Option 1

I was nearly in your exact situation with my 555ES: I wanted more clean, reliable power without busting my budget (had to pass the wife's $mell-o-meter). Since I figured out that I really want to be into separates within the next 2-3 years, the best thing to do was to snag a 7-channel amp and keep the 555 as a pre/pro.

After a bunch of reasearch, I went with the Outlaw 7100, and I'm really, really glad I did. The difference in sound is substantial, if not astounding. I've got clean lows where there used to be mud (I blamed my room previously), and much greater clarity and soundstage depth (even my wife noticed).

Granted, you can get the same result from the other brands you list, but I went with Outlaw for the value and build quality it offers. The fact that I could send it back if it didn't perform as I had hoped helped, too.

I have no complaints about the front-end of the 555 now that I've turned off its amp. Adding the 7100 gave me headroom out the wazoo, and the dreaded Sony "hiss" is forever gone. I have some SACD software, but I'm holding off buying the ICBM just because I know I'll be going to a pre/pro soon enough that'll have MCAI bass management.

#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted June 16 2003 - 07:43 AM

Hi Spencer! I just read your reply in the other thread and am glad you took the time to reply to my post, as it seems we are indeed in the same boat!

Well my main problem is cash. In a perfect world I'd get a B&K 507 or separates, something ridiculous and $$$.

It's great to hear that you did notice improvement with adding an outboard amplifier to your 555ES.

So now I have one more wrinkle in the mix. I can get NAD stereo amps (the C270) for fairly cheap. I can start by getting one for the mains, and if it makes an improvement, buy another one for the center and sub (the rears I'll let the 555 drive until I have more cash). This will allow me to piecemeal upgrade while spending less money at any one time. Since everyone says that "amps stay in your system longer than most HT gear" that means that the stereo NAD amps can be kept even as I upgrade pre/pros in the future.

Perhaps this is the way to go? And since my dealer is local and gives me great prices, I can just try one stereo amp and if it doesn't do it for me, I can simply return it and cost everyone (myself and my dealer) as little headache as possible...

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#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted June 18 2003 - 04:49 AM

Resolution:

I went with the NAD T762.

Why? Well I really wanted to get into separates, but even doing it piecemeal would have cost me quite a bit of money. Although Outlaw has great word of mouth, I have a fantastic relationship with my dealer and want to reward them as often as possible with purchases. The NAD amps would have been a bit more than the Outlaw (but not much) but the problem is that I'd have to get quality interconnects (let's not argue the merits of this here, but suffice it to say I think I need quality interconnect, not "silly money" but more than Radio Shack $2 RCAs and lamp cord), which would cost money. Then the NAD amps are able to bi-wire, and so can my MB Quart 1030s, so I'd have to get bi-wire speaker cables, yada yada, the cost started to really add up.

Then ultimately, when I finally spent over a grand and a half with all the wires and 3 NAD amps (which would have been more horsepower than the Outlaw 7100) I would be really tempted to upgrade the pre/pro as we all know the 555ES while adequate, is not really a good pre/pro, given the amps I would have been running the 555 would have been the "weakest link" in the chain. So there would go another $1000-$2000. Way too much, and I'm compulsive that way, so I didn't want to even start down that road.

The T762 gives me a great solution at under a grand, that still sounds better than my 555ES, which I can sell to a friend for cheap but still recoup some cost (whereas I'd have to keep it if I went the amps route) and which will give me component video switching.

The only problem is that they're so popular my dealer can't keep 'em in stock! He's told me that he'll earmark one for me in the next shipment, which should be next week.

I'll post about how that sounds in comparison to the 555ES.

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#5 of 10 OFFLINE   Mark Dickerson

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Posted June 18 2003 - 07:22 AM

Carlo:

Congrats on the NAD purchase! I wish I had one. I think it is a great product and your reasons for going the NAD route make sense to me. Of course, I don't think you could go wrong with either the NAD or the Outlaw, so you were in good shape. However, I do think you would have been disappointed in the Pioneer Elite. Although a fine product, it has no where near the detail of sound that exists with the other two products. It has been my experience that if you like the NAD or the Outlaw products, a Pioneer Elite would leave you unhappy.

I think you will really enjoy the sound of the NAD.

#6 of 10 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted June 18 2003 - 09:54 AM

Thanks for the kind words, Mark. Wish you'd have chimed in with the Elite comment while I was agonizing over the decision though! Posted Image Posted Image

Seriously, NAD was the reason I even considered separates! I have heard a lot of receivers in the $1000-$1500 MSRP range, from Sony, Denon, Yamaha, etc. and the NAD had something that the others didn't have. I'm not flowery enough in language to attribute terms like "spatial" "openness" "airiness" without sounding like an idiot.

I just know that the sound that came out of the NAD was more pleasing to my ears (with speakers from the same model line I own but two steps lower, and my own CDs I'm familiar with) than any of the others. And it wasn't even close. I knew that when I heard the NAD that I would have to have one, or move up to separates. Standing pat, or replacing with another Sony/Denon/Yammy was not an option. I only put the Elite in there because they've had good word of mouth too, but apparently don't play nice with 4 ohm speakers so they were pretty quickly eliminated once I found out that fact.

Now comes the hardest part of the process...

The WAIT!!! Posted Image

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#7 of 10 OFFLINE   David_D

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Posted June 18 2003 - 05:57 PM

Interesting coincidence, Carlo. I've been looking at putting together a smallish bedroom system. My dealer here in Southern California, the same as yours, I believe, has been recommending the NAD 742. I'd kind of like to buy the 762 and put my current receiver in the bedroom, but finances don't look promising for that. I'm still waffling, so I'm looking forward to your results.

#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted June 19 2003 - 03:59 AM

David, if you're talking Yawa (I linked to them w/ the MB Quart reference in my first post) then the answer is yes!

I totally hear you about the finances. Actually I probably shouldn't even be upgrading the receiver, but I'm spending $$$ I don't have yet (am getting a sizeable deposit back in September when I move out of my current apt. to one I'm sharing w/ my girlfriend so my rent & deposit will get cut in half) but there is definitely a difference. I heard it while at Yawa and realizing it sounded better than my home system, and went online to figure it out.

There was no post, here or in AVS Forum, or other places, that contradicted the opinion that NAD is superior to most of the Japanese makes in the price range (and even a bit higher). You know how people start to get argumentative and defend their own equipment (Sony is better, no Yamaha is, no Pioneer is, etc.)...well pretty much when someone sounded off on how NAD is great, no one really stepped up to the plate to say that Sony/Yammie/Elites are better.

The only negative I saw was that long thread in AVS about how early production units of the 752/762 had problems, but even that affected a small minority and seem to have been ironed out in recent builds. And I can tell you my 555ES has bugs that I've lived w/ for four years (as well as my RP91 DVD player and 47" HDTV), so I know that nothing is perfect in the HT world.

The funny thing is: now that I have an extra pair of Energy C6s, I'm moving those to the bedroom, and a friend is going to buy my 555ES from me for cheap, so I'm wanting another receiver to drive those Energys. I'm actually looking at the stereo receiver (C740 I think?) for the bedroom set - I want the built-in tuner so I can listen to baseball games in the bedroom. I might even get the matching CD player (although if I get the intro-level SACD/DVD player from Sony I'll just move the current CD player into the bedroom).

If you don't need that extra 6th channel of power have you considered the T752? I think the preamp section is the same as the T762 so if you ever wanted to go 6.1 you could just add an amp and speaker later on, and it's a bit cheaper than the T762.

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#9 of 10 OFFLINE   Lewis Besze

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Posted June 19 2003 - 07:26 AM

Good choice,I was gonna recommend it out of your 3 choices.
My second would have been the power amp and the Elite as last resort.
Congrats!

#10 of 10 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted June 20 2003 - 10:16 AM

Oh the agony! It's in the store, and those familiar with L.A. traffic know that there's no way I can get from the westside, to Walnut, and back to LAX in time to pick my friend up at 7pm with the traffic being what it is right now (checked TANN's site and it's yellow/red on the 10 and 60 for many many miles).

Then I have an all-day BDay party tomorrow, so I won't be able to pick it up until Sunday! The anticipation is killing me (and unlike Wonka, I hope it WON'T last!). Posted Image

Will post next week as to my results...

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