A little experiment: Using a $500 receiver as a dedicated HT processor

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Serge Breton, Aug 24, 2002.

  1. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    Ok,
    It is said(by many) that in recent years for home theater purposes that receivers (including cheap ones) are becoming more and more capable of competing with seperate processors(the big boys). I'm conducting these tests just to see if this is just hype or to see if there is some truth to it. Who knows, maybe nowadays seperates aren't really that much better stricktly for home theater!
    My 2 channel set-up is all set-up, now i'm just in the process of figuring out my home theater part of my system. In the past i have owned a Parasound AVC 1800 processor, an Acurus Act-3 prepro and an Outlaw 950. I have considered the Rotel 1066, Anthem AVM 20 and Lexicon DC-1 processors but am trying to spend less rather than more while at the same time not compromising anything for home theater sound quality. My new philosophy is to upgrade every year or two as new formats arise rather than put all my eggs in one basket in purchasing an expensive preamp processor. It may seem that i'm asking for the impossible here but read on....
    The only receivers available at Future Shop were the Panasonic HE100 among others, the Kenwood 6070 receiver and a HK 320 and 520. I chose the Kenwood 6070 for this test and it cost $774CAN which equals approx $500 retail (yes i know i overpayed for this receiver). I have 30 days to conduct my experiment before returning the unit which will give me ample time to decide if a receiver is suitable or better yet worthy to belong in my home theater rack[​IMG]
    A few positives on the Kenwood:
    THX surround EX post processing
    DD/DTS, DD EX, DTS Matrix, ES
    DTS Neo 6
    DPL II
    8ch preouts
    large speaker setting or standard 80HZ crossover which i find acceptable for HT purposes but i would prefer an adjustable crossover below 80HZ. Still better than the 100hz crossover points found in the cheaper receivers such as the HE100.
    looks are acceptable
    negatives:
    big and bulky,
    remote
    artificial DSP modes, silly active and speaker eq's that aren't used anyways
    no RS-232 control[​IMG]
    had to use the units manual for set-up, this is a first for me since usually i am able to figure everything out without the help of the manual.
    receiver clicks when switching inputs
    On to the review:
    The Kenwood is being used as a prepro, running the preouts to my ATI 1502 amp for the front channels and a B&K AV 5000 for the remaining 5 channels.
    Popped in several DVD's and the Kenwood had no problem figuring out which surround format was on the DVD. The nice thing when compared to my Outlaw or Act-3 prepro is the lack of loud pops when switching surround modes. An audible click would occur from the receiver but this is much better than the loud static noise heard from my speakers when using my other prepros (potentially harmful to my speakers).
    How did the unit sound you ask? Pretty good considering and more than acceptable. The sound was nice and clear, fairly neutral and well controlled. Let's just say i wasen't reaching for the remote due to my ears bleeding attesting to horrible sound. These are only some initial tests but i ALMOST could live with this receiver as a prepro and more tests will be conducted over the next couple of weeks. I'm not saying this receiver is a winner but i expect from my tests so far that in finding the right receiver that i can have good surround sound for movies all the while spending 1/4-1/3rd the price to that of a dedicated prepro. Sure the prepro will beat the pants off a receiver for music (that's a given)but this is not part of my tests here. All i want from the said receiver is all it's surround formats and the preamp section. The amps, 6 ch input and everything else are simply not used; so if Kenwood or the said manufacturer decided to skimp on the amplification which is where most manufacturers cut costs nowadays, i don't care because i'm not using it anyways. More to come....
     
  2. Paul Clarke

    Paul Clarke Supporting Actor

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    Good Luck with the testing. You should really try the H/K 320 with your setup as well. I'm betting you would be pleasantly surprised.
     
  3. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    oops,

    i was just guesstimating the US retail on the 6070, i guess it's around $700 not $500. I wonder why it's closer to the same price in Canada.

    So far so good, there are some slight differences between this receiver and my other prepros but all in all this receiver is pretty solid as a preamp.

    Paul,

    i am looking into the HK line, particularly in their new 325 or 525 if they come out soon. I'm also looking at the Sony DAES and the Pioneer Elite VSX-43 or 45tx. All these above receivers have better bass management that the Kenwood and seem to rank up there in terms of sound quality as far as receivers go. I just rented an average receiver and the Kenwood 6070 fit the bill...

    Has anyone else tried this experiment? You always hear people saying that receivers when pushed at higher volume the sound really starts to get compressed, especially with a subwwofer in the chain. I hear no sign of compression, lots of detail and cristal clear as mentionned thanks mostly that there is no big burden on the power supply since there are no amps to drive. So far i'm impressed, not as good as the Outlaw 950 as a pre but much closer than i thought. I'm actually IMPRESSED.
     
  4. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    You seem to be going backwards as far as quality is concerned. It might be possible for a receiver of middle
    road quality to sound "like" a prepro for relatively undemanding movie sources (not action-adventure) but once
    the demands on the amps become large, no receiver, especially not a lower end unit will be able to keep up
    with even an entry level prepro with separate amps.
    The dynamics under load are simply not there.
     
  5. Bill Lucas

    Bill Lucas Supporting Actor

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    You're concerned about no RS-232 control but you want to spend LESS money? RS-232 is generally used for VERY expensive control systems such as Crestron and AMX. It doesn't exactly blend with your *less is more* theory. I think RichardMA is dead-on in his assesment. With a few exceptions, you DO get significant improvements when you step up to true separates.
     
  6. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    ummm,

    why do i feel like i'm under attack here....

    Richard, i'm not using the receivers internal amps so what's your point? I'm missing something with your reply.

    Bill,

    what i mean by RS-232 control is a 5-12volt trigger to turn on my external amps, this is a basic feature found in many mid priced receivers. Also, i have owned seperates and i know seperate prepros offer a significant step up for MUSIC in particular.

    Shopping for a receiver to be used as a pre is just like shopping for a seperate prepro, one has to find the one that suits and sound best on his system. Keep in mind that i was very skeptical in doing this comparison but i'm finding that the preamp section in this case for the Kenwood is more than adequate for home theater.

    No need for a flame fest.....
     
  7. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    I have found the 3802's preamp has enough juice to drive my low impedance Proceed (10K input impedance which is a lowest I have seen on a SS amp) to ear bleeding levels. This is only in two channels. Hopefully one of these days I'll hookup a three channel separate amp. I am sure the 3802 would sound fabulous in a HT system as a dedicated prepro. Any one else tried comparing the 3802 as a dedicated prepro with the 950 or the 1066 in strictly HT. I would be interested to know.

    Also for two channel music I am planning on adding a tube pre with unity gain in my setup which should give me separates quality (2ch) music and HT for much lower price.
     
  8. Phil M

    Phil M Stunt Coordinator

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    Interesting test... the only problem I see is that it is subjective (from your memory) vs. objective, which I think would be the way to do it. I've demo'ed many pairs of speakers (side-by-side) before and I sometimes have a hard time remembering what the pair I just listened to 5 minutes ago sounded like.

    I'm using a HK 320 as a pre/pro with a Rotel 1075 5 channel amp, and I've recently considered bringing home a Rotel 1066 just to do a side-by-side comparison to see (hear?) if I can tell much of a difference with either in music or HT.

    Phil
     
  9. AndyHangartner

    AndyHangartner Stunt Coordinator

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    Serge,
    Got your flame suit on? Those with more expensive seperates don't like to hear the comparisons, whereas the receivers H/T processing kicks the crap out of their outdated boutique overpriced units IN H/T. Don't give up on the Da4es. Like I said before they always resort back to two channel sound but it has no bearing here. By the way. If your not using the internal amps, how does the load affect your H/T performance? I'll just bet you CAN"T watch action movies. Although my Sony reached 115db last night.
    andy
     
  10. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    I see, you guys are saying that the receivers preamp stage is insufficient to feed enough juice for the power amps at high levels. I haven't tried reference levels yet but am having no such problems. I'm still waiting on a subwoofer; once this is added we'll see what the Kenwood can dish out. I doubt the Kenwood will last a whole month in my system before i bring the unit back but at least it's a holdover until i decide which route to go which is receiver or processor as a prepro.
    Phil,
    yes in theory these tests are subjective but let's just say that i'm used to the sound coming from seperates since this is all i have owned for the past few years. The Kenwood survived the 5 minute initial tests without me reaching for the off button on the remote and i actually found myself enjoying parts of Gladiator, JP 3, The Haunting. So far the gap performance wise between receiver and prepro for movies is very small. From speaking with Andy who ownes a new Sony DAES and a few others folks, receivers pass this test. I'll be harder on the unit in the next week or so, i'll push this receivers limits[​IMG]
     
  11. Eric Sevigny

    Eric Sevigny Stunt Coordinator

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    Serge, nice intro to your testing - hope to hear more of it soon as it is a subject I am personally interested in. You may want to ask the help of someone to perform true blind testing if it all possible (to switch out cables for you for example) - if not you are going to face major criticism on that point alone and your findings will, sadly, be lost in the shuffle.
     
  12. Justin Lane

    Justin Lane Cinematographer

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    Serge, I have found the very same thing you have...a receiver can act as a decent pre/pro. Currently I am using a THX certified Pioneer Elite 35TX as my processor with an external Parasound HCA-885 on the 5 main channels, and a Parasound ZAMP for the ES/EX channels. I find that the Pioneer drives my Parasound gear to sufficiently high levels. My system performs very well on movies, and since upgrading to DVD-A I have been even more impressed. The thing I like best about receivers is that they seem to get the newest formats, and many times provide more inputs then a more expensive processor.

    The only downside I can see from using a receiver as your processor is that it will be larger in size compared to a similarly featured processor due to the internal amplification. This could be a problem if space is limited.

    J
     
  13. Bill Lucas

    Bill Lucas Supporting Actor

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    Serge,

    No one is flaming you. RS232 and amp triggers are quite different. That's why I asked the question. RS232 is a high-end add on and doesn't typically come on inexpensive products. Triggers for outboard amps are also fairly uncommon on receivers. Regards.
     
  14. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Serge- I like it! [​IMG]
    I have been contemplating doing the very thing you are doing. For example, right now I have an almost 4 year old Sony TA-E9000ES pre/pro. I have been debating switching to (for me) a $700-800 receiver-as-a-pre/pro, and then upgrading every 2 years or so instead of every 4 years (or worse).
    I actually had a Yamaha RX-V793 receiver-as-a-pre/pro before the Sony. In the end, the Sony was more flexible (especially bass management) than the receiver, but I did prefer the DSP movie modes on the Yamaha a lot more.
    I am currently deciding between the 950, 3803, and the 525. *None of which* is currently available. [​IMG]
    The biggest problem I see with going the receiver route is ... bass management. No receiver that I know of has as flexible a setup as I have now with the Sony, or with the 950. Plus, the 950 has analog bm on the 5.1 analog inputs. But that slowly becomes less of an issue as DVD-A/SACD player makers incorporate bm. But none of them has done a *complete* job yet. If the ICBM had volume level adjustment for each channel, we'd be all set. But that's not the case.
    More frequent, cheaper upgrades; or more costly less, frequent upgrades is what it really boils down to, I agree.
    In order for the above model to work, though, I think you have to believe as I do, that there just isn't a lot of difference in sound quality or performance between cheap separates and cheap receivers. I'm not going to sweat those differences, especially since I've already done such things as add an EQ before my sub to take care of the worst of the room nodes I have, to properly set the phase and crossover freq between my mains and sub, to properly place my mains, added a balanced AC power unit to my whole system, strategically placed sound absorbance material around my room, etc. Any of those changes makes a lot more difference than a pre/pro or receiver-as-a-pre/pro IMO.
     
  15. Stephen Dodds

    Stephen Dodds Second Unit

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    Serge,

    You might be better off with the H/K 520 (or 525). This is mainly because it has a full of pre-out/main-in connections to completely decouple the preamp section from the power amp section.

    It also means you can use the receivers power amp section as a stand alone five channel amp should you choose, ie to drive extra rears, sides, subs or buttkickers etc.

    And the H/K has a very good power amp section.


    Steve
     
  16. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    Kevin,
    this i know. I have room treatments which consist of absorptive panels, bass traps and even room lenses. Sound is the most important aspect of my home theater. I'm just finding that receivers and processors whether mid or high end perform similarily for home theater purposes when utilising both as prepros. Now i'm trying to confirm this in my own set-up.
    The new Sony Da4ES seems like a good buy and a good performer for HT as well. I know Andy swears by it[​IMG]
    Who knows, maybe the new Denon and HK receivers will be out sometime this months so we'll have to see. I also like the Pioneer Elite (VSX-43tx) but can't find a reasonable price for this unit.
     
  17. Stephen Dodds

    Stephen Dodds Second Unit

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    I compared the H/K with my Lexicon, and for straight DD/DTS, I could be happy with either. It is the added flexibility and modes that tip the scales for the Lex.

    Steve
     
  18. JohnDW

    JohnDW Agent

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    Yogi - what is the output voltage and impedance for your denon 3802, and what is the voltage needed to drive your amp to those loud levels ?

    jdw
     
  19. Craig_Kg

    Craig_Kg Supporting Actor

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    I think this is a sensible setup. Why blow huge money on a prepro which costs more and does the same job? HT isn't that hi resolution anyway since the audio sources are almost always lossy compressed.

    The only other thing I'd suggest is a stereo preamp between the receiver and the poweramp. Then you will get high quality stereo performance for your stereo sources as well.
     
  20. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    Craig,

    yes i think it's sensible but i highly doubt a receiver will do the EXACT same job as an excellent dedicated processor. So far i'm finding it pretty close. Add to that that if i were to replace the current Kenwood receiver with an H/K, Rotel, Sony or Denon then i think the gap would be so close that it would be worth saving 50-70% the cost of one of these processorswith almost equal performance for HT. On the Outlaw 950 for instance, it would still equal a 40% savings. Not bad in my book and when upgreaditis sets in a year or two later you can just buy another receiver that sounds good and with all the latest bells and whistles.

    I just wish the receivers nowadays were more compact like say for instance the new Rotel 1055 receiver. This unit isen't much taller than the 1066 processor! A big receiver mated with 2 large power/multichannel amps sure take up alot of valuable rack space.....Can i live with it, maybe.
     

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