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Why Are YOUR Separates Better???


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13 replies to this topic

#1 of 14 OFFLINE   oldac3

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Posted February 02 2009 - 02:12 PM

Hi all,
I currently have an AVR-4800 Denon receiver. It's circa 2001 and is THX certified with 140 watts per channel x 5. I'm wondering: A- Do you have separates? B-Are they providing a better listening experience than a reciever you had? C- How much better?

I ask because I'm thinking about upgrading. I was told by a salesman at a local B&M that I'd have to upgrade to much pricier gear to get a significant improvement in sound. He said don't bother with entry level separates at all. So, what do you think?

Also, if I added just a separate multi channel amp do you think I'd get much sonic improvement? I often wondered since even adding a 200x5 watt amp would not necessarily increase output by even 3 db. I know power output is only 1 small portion of the game, but still...

Oh, BTW, I'm running a Diva Swan speaker set with the 6.1 towers and a big center and dipole surrounds... and they're not particularly efficient.

#2 of 14 OFFLINE   Kevin. W

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Posted February 03 2009 - 02:12 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by oldac3
Hi all,
I currently have an AVR-4800 Denon receiver. It's circa 2001 and is THX certified with 140 watts per channel x 5. I'm wondering: A- Do you have separates? B-Are they providing a better listening experience than a reciever you had? C- How much better?

I ask because I'm thinking about upgrading. I was told by a salesman at a local B&M that I'd have to upgrade to much pricier gear to get a significant improvement in sound. He said don't bother with entry level separates at all. So, what do you think?

Also, if I added just a separate multi channel amp do you think I'd get much sonic improvement? I often wondered since even adding a 200x5 watt amp would not necessarily increase output by even 3 db. I know power output is only 1 small portion of the game, but still...

Oh, BTW, I'm running a Diva Swan speaker set with the 6.1 towers and a big center and dipole surrounds... and they're not particularly efficient.

Everything depends on your room size and wether you were under powering your speakers with the amp stage in your rec'v. If you weren't then adding an external amp is only going to give you more headroom. The sonic characteristics you will hear is that from the type of amp you would be adding.

#3 of 14 OFFLINE   Dan Driscoll

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Posted February 03 2009 - 04:03 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by oldac3
Hi all,
I currently have an AVR-4800 Denon receiver. It's circa 2001 and is THX certified with 140 watts per channel x 5. I'm wondering: A- Do you have separates? B-Are they providing a better listening experience than a reciever you had? C- How much better?

Yes, I have separates and yes, the sound quality is much better than the when I was using a receiver. However, I upgraded from a Yamaha RX-V596, which was at best a mid-range unit. My current preamp is an Audio Refinement Pre-5 and the power amp is a Sherbourn 5/1500A, both far superior to the Yamaha.

That's not the case for you. The 4800 is out-dated, but it's still a very good receiver. Basically, it's just missing a lot of modern features, like hi-rez audio decoding, HDMI, switching, etc. But the sound quality should still be pretty good.

Quote:
I ask because I'm thinking about upgrading. I was told by a salesman at a local B&M that I'd have to upgrade to much pricier gear to get a significant improvement in sound. He said don't bother with entry level separates at all. So, what do you think?

I think it depends on your goals. Do you want to upgrade the feature set of your system, particularly hi-def audio? Or is the primary goal to improve your overall sound quality? To upgrade the feature set a new upper range Denon, Onkyo, Marantz or similar receiver will provide all the new features and sound quality comparable to your 4800.

Quote:
Also, if I added just a separate multi channel amp do you think I'd get much sonic improvement? I often wondered since even adding a 200x5 watt amp would not necessarily increase output by even 3 db. I know power output is only 1 small portion of the game, but still...

If the main goal is to improve sound quality, separates are the way to go, IMO, and I would start with a power amp. Adding a separate power amp does more than just add power, it also takes a load (literally) off the receiver. My first upgrade was to add a power amp and it made a major difference in the performance of my system.

The nice thing about power amps is that there a a lot of excellent ones on the used market. Unlike processors and receivers, power amps don't become obsolete just because a new audio codec came out. A power amp that sounded great 5 years ago will still sound great today, assuming it has not been abused.

As always, IMO, YMMV, etc.
Dan

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#4 of 14 OFFLINE   John Brill

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Posted February 03 2009 - 06:24 AM

In theory, I would only have to upgrade the pre-amp every bloody time new codecs came out or at least only have to change a card inside it (plug for NAD here, I think their latest products are pure genius and I hope their HD codec card upgrade feature for the T-7X5 series actually works!).

If this theory were actually true, it would be cheaper to simply upgrade the pre-amp as the power amp section should be the expensive part. Doesn't actually work because preamps are just as expensive as most mid-high end receivers.

In the flip side, I enjoy that my poweramp takes the load off driving the more power hungry front speakers and gives the receiver more breathing room to handle the rest of the job. Did I see a difference when I put in a power amp? I think so. My receiver (Rotel) seems to run a little cooler and my front speakers appear to have more definition. Of course, my wife claims to not hear the difference but she tolerates my hobby none the less.

JB

#5 of 14 OFFLINE   oldac3

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Posted February 03 2009 - 11:51 AM

Thanks for the info guys. The room's a 16x20 and the Diva Swans plus 2 of the older Hsu VTF-2 10" subs really fill the room. I have the subs handling everything below 80 hz.

Dan, to answer your question, I think I'm more interested in increasing the sonic quality at this point. When I get an HDTV I'll probly just go hdmi out of my Denon 2910 straight to the TV and not bother using the receiver for switching.

I was thinking of the amp upgrade first, perhaps going with an Anthem MCA-50 or a sunfire amp as both are available used relatively inexpensively. Any other amp suggestions?
So, i'd be only using the receiver as a preamp. I know subtle but real changes can be made upgrading. When I A/B the same music in my Denon 2910 vs. an older Sony changer I hear a difference.

I do have an old Integra M502 amp that I've tested running the mains to see if I could hear a difference from the Denon doing the work. I couldn't tell a bit of difference, for what it's worth.

#6 of 14 OFFLINE   Dan Driscoll

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Posted February 04 2009 - 03:38 AM

What's your budget? That's going to be the deciding factor. You will probably need a pretty decent amp to improve on the 4800. One option to stretch your money would be to go with a good quality stereo amp or a pair of mono-blocks for the mains and let the receiver handle the center and surrounds.

Also keep in mind that your 2910 does not handle Blu-Ray or HD audio. When you do get a BR player either the player will have to decode the HD audio and output it on the analog outputs, or you will need to upgrade to a new reciever or pre-pro.
Dan

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#7 of 14 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted February 04 2009 - 04:58 AM

I had a high quality reciever, went to separates, and am now back to a high quality reciever. I can't tell the difference with my speakers and it's not worth the trouble for me.
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#8 of 14 OFFLINE   oldac3

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Posted February 04 2009 - 09:09 AM

Dan- I'm exploring what would I have to spend, and on what, to get an appreciable sonic difference. So, I'm not looking to stay within a budget per se.
I did run the mains using an Onkyo Integra amp but it's probably not fair to compare that amp to the other lines I've mentioned.

What would be a step up from Parasound, NAD and Rotel? I figure if I buy used I'll be better off as well.

Phil-What receiver and separates if I may ask?

#9 of 14 OFFLINE   Dan Driscoll

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Posted February 04 2009 - 10:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by oldac3
Dan- I'm exploring what would I have to spend, and on what, to get an appreciable sonic difference. So, I'm not looking to stay within a budget per se.
I did run the mains using an Onkyo Integra amp but it's probably not fair to compare that amp to the other lines I've mentioned.

What would be a step up from Parasound, NAD and Rotel? I figure if I buy used I'll be better off as well.


There are a lot of options you can look at. McCormack, Levinson, Pass Labs, McIntosh, Linn, Naim, BAT, Bryston, Theta, Bel Canto, Goldmund, Odyssey, Jeff Rowland, etc., etc.

One thing I'd like to point out, most of the amps I mentioned would be a class or two above your speakers. If your main goal is to improve sound quality, you might be better off replacing your speakers. The Swan 6.1s are very nice, especially at their price point. But there are definitely better speakers available that your 4800 could still drive very nicely.
Dan

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#10 of 14 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted February 06 2009 - 04:25 PM

One thing I would look at is upgrading your subs. There are many options, including more capable Hsu models.

The Hybrid System

The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

The Surround Part: Sherbourn PT-7030, Thiel SCS3, Emotiva XPA-5, Polk & Emotiva Surrounds.


#11 of 14 OFFLINE   chaswr7

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Posted February 07 2009 - 02:02 AM

I Have a HK AVR 340 with Infinity TSS-1100 satellites and sub. They are pretty decent but not great. They were in my price range during college, got a 50% discount on em, so what can I say. Anyways, I that had the center and surround left channels go out on the receiver. So I am now using the HK as a pre/pro for a Rotel RMB-1085. I can't believe the difference something as simple and an amplifier made to my listening experience. I've never heard these Infinities sound so crisp and real. Can't wait to upgrade my speakers to either some axioms or paradigms.

#12 of 14 OFFLINE   RAF

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Posted February 08 2009 - 02:21 PM

Many years ago I had a Denon 5700 receiver and one of the first things I did when finances permitted was to purchase a bunch of Monoblock Amps (Marantz MA-700a units - no longer made) to use the 5700 as just a pre-pro (most quality receivers have pre/pro outputs). I found that not using the amps in the receiver makes it work and sound much better (plus, of course, the separate amps sound better). Receivers have a problem with balancing quality of performance with size and cramming 7 amps into the same box as the pre/pro inevitably leads to some performance compromises (unless your speakers can't resolve the difference in sound.)

This can become a highly individualized situation because no two installations are the same. Since your speakers are not especially efficient (your words) I would recommending getting some separate amps (or a good multichannel amp) first. Quality amps can be long term investments and whatever you decide on the pre/pro side of things will be able to incorporate them later. In other words, good amps are always a good investment for now and for the future.

Incidentally, the amps I purchased 10 years ago are still performing remarkably well with my latest pre-pro (a Denon AVP-A1HDCI) so even though I now have what I consider to be one of the finest pre-pros out there I'm still reaping the benefits of Amps that I used with my 5700 a decade ago. Check out my HT website for more details.
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#13 of 14 OFFLINE   Greg_R

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Posted February 09 2009 - 10:10 AM

Quote:
I was thinking of the amp upgrade first, perhaps going with an Anthem MCA-50 or a sunfire amp as both are available used relatively inexpensively. Any other amp suggestions?
IMO those will only give you a slight improvement (if any) and would not be worthwhile.

Question -> Why do you think your amp stage needs upgrading? Are your speakers starting to distort at high output levels? Do things sound 'strained' at high output levels? 140W can be more than enough power for most home theater speakers.

If your speakers are efficient then an amp upgrade will likely not make a big difference. If your speakers are not very efficient then an amp upgrade (i.e. capable of driving more power, not just a more expensive amp) can provide a noticeable improvement at higher volume levels. Frankly, I think you will need to step up a good bit to make upgrading the Denon's amp stage worthwhile (large Bryston, etc.).

Alternatively, go rent a good pro amplifier (QSC, Crown, etc.). I did some demoing of the better Parasound and Rotel amps and the Crown K2 blew them away (and the K2 is not Crown's best in terms of sound quality). You can buy a stack of cheaper pro amps for less than a multi-channel consumer amp. IMO, this option will give you the best bang/buck.

As for receiver upgrades, I am still using my Denon 5700 (about as old as your unit, if not older) but have added some peripheral units to bring it up to date. I've added an Oppo HDMI switcher and a HDMI->RGB converter for video switching and use my player to decode lossless audio formats.

#14 of 14 OFFLINE   Bryce Miner

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Posted February 11 2009 - 03:29 PM

My history is as follows:
Denon 2802 with Swan Diva C3, 6.1, 2.1 and R3s
bought B&K Ref 50 and used denon as amp
bought adcom 5503 200x2 and then a B&K 125x5 amp
sold B&K ref 50 and went to Denon 2809 and continued using amps
returned 2809 and bought B&K ref 50 series 2

I'm using monoprice hdmi switching and decoding newer codecs in the player

The highs were a huge difference between the denon and the B&K. I would rather have sound quality than the latest bells and whistles for the time being until i can afford a Ref 70.


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