Are 'boutique' brand high end proc/amps good value?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by John_KM, Jul 2, 2002.

  1. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,

    Hope I've not upset anybody with my subject, as I realise many have a very substantial investment in their HT equipment, and as someone who has a not too disrespectful 2 channel system, I can understand, and respect others investments in the HT arena.

    However, as a 'newbie' to HT, I'm a little unsure as to what the most important element in HT is, as regards the overall sense of involvement, the suspension of disbelief if you will, that 'being there' feeling of involvement in the 'story' that is the movie, much in the way that a good novel is an involving experience that 'takes you away' from the 'real world' for a while. I'm wondering as to whether it's the picture, or is it the sound that is the most important, or dominant element.

    I've been looking at my options for 'adding/integrating' HT to my existing 2chn HiFi, using my current 28" CRT TV as the monitor. I've listened to some 'highend' preamp/processors, eg Meridian, Naim, Tag etc, as well as less esoteric models, Denon, Sony, Rotel etc. Hot favourite for me on paper (still trying to find stock here in OZ to audition) is the Sony TAE/TAN 9000ES combo, as regards reported sound quality, bass management, flexibility, and overall quality. I'm more interested in overall sound quality, than whether it has say DPL11 for eg. even though I'm aware of it's limitations in that area.

    What intrigues me, is that when auditioning, and doing AB's with Naim, v's Rotel, Denon etc, the advantages were clearly heard with the more expensive (very!) processor/amp combo, as regards dynamics, clarity and detail, air and space around individual sounds in the movie mix, and the detail to be heard in any one sound, for eg the naturalness of timbre of dialogue, the subtleties of inflection, phrasing, breathing, acoustics of the environment, etc, etc. The cheaper components just couldn't give one that same level of performance, and in that sense, you got what you would pay for.

    However, unlike HiFi, where I've done these kind of auditions before, and heard the performance jumps as one goes up the line in equipment quality and cost, eventually reaching a point where one is really excited by what one is hearing, and whilst realizing that there is always better, is so thrilled by what one hears, that a buying decision usually results, I couldn't say the same with HT for some odd reason, that I'm trying to figure out. Even though I could hear the differences, between both the cheaper, and much more expensive esoteric 'high end' pre/pro/amp combos, at the end of the day, on familiar and loved movies, the differences didn't significantly increase my enjoyment or sense of being there of the movie, to the point that one would be reaching hurriedly for ones wallet.

    I'm wondering, is this maybe just a personal thing, in that some people maybe respond more to movies than music, and some the other way around, or is it that in the prescence of the visual, the auditory medium is of lesser importance, say as compared with HiFi, for eg 2chan, and classical music, where one does listen very intently, or at least I do!

    In that sense, is spending really 'high end' money on the sound side of HT bringing greater value relative to the other important aspect of the total equation, ie the picture, as regards the total enjoyment/involvment aspect. What is the dominant element, the sound or the picture?, and to where should one assign the most funds in purchasing/upgradng etc?

    It's a thorny question, and I'm most interested what others, more experienced in the HT world think.

    I had a sobering and thought provoking experience the other evening. Whilst watching a regular episode of my favourite police drama, an episode of the Brit. series 'The Bill' I realised even though it was just on TV, no surround or anything, I was completely 'lost' and involved in the show, the plot, acting, etc had me on the edge of the seat. To be honest, I couldn't even tell you what the sound track was like, I was totally unaware of it.

    So I'm a bit lost as to priorites in assembling the HT side of things, as to either sound, or picture. Certainly with sound, it doesn't need to be 'the best' but good enough to satisfy and enjoy, somewhere near the standards, or at least close, to what I'm getting from my 2 chann system. (BTW, I use a Naim Audio system.)

    Anyway, hope this doesn't seem to much of an oddball topic, but would really like to hear what others think.

    Cheers,

    John.
     
  2. Michael Lomker

    Michael Lomker Stunt Coordinator

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    No one will argue with the fact that high-quality content is the most compelling part of any home theater system. You touched upon that fact in a roundabout way.

    The audio in movies is almost always of a lower quality than that found in 2-channel audio. That isn't out of laziness but simply because the encoding mechanisms don't permit the same level of fidelity. In that sense you could surely get by with non-boutique equipment.

    A lot of us end up with Denon or better (I have Arcam) because our systems do double-duty for both 2-channel and home theater.
     
  3. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    John:

    Your post is quite insightful. Regarding the comment

     
  4. Ted Kim

    Ted Kim Stunt Coordinator

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  5. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    John_KM:

    I have a pretty good stereo system, with very little extra added for HT. Suits me fine.

    Larry
     
  6. Kevin T

    Kevin T Screenwriter

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  7. Justin Doring

    Justin Doring Screenwriter

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    I've been through three full-blown multichannel HT systems. The first two HT systems were 5.1 systems with mid-fi receivers (Denon and then Yamaha), mid-fi mini monitors (B&W 300 series and Paradigm Monitor series), and a Velodyne subwoofer. My final multichannel HT system was a 5.0 system with mid-fi separates (Harman/Kardon and Sherwood Newcastle) and lower-hi-fi full range speakers (PSB Stratus). This 5.0 system was definitely a huge improvement over the first two, but I personally couldn't justify spending much more than that for a HT only system, as most DVDs have poor sound quality compared to CDs. With this last HT system, I could hear how the various soundtracks were "assembled," and while this was interesting, it really brought the poor sound quality of DVDs to the forefront.

    I now watch DVDs on a small RPTV and a progressive scan DVD player that is connected to my high-end stereo system (Classe', Sony, NHT 3.3s). I'm extremely happy, and I don't feel I'm missing much. Of course if multiple people will be watching and listening (i.e. people will be outside the sweet spot), then a multi-channel HT system is the way to go.
     
  8. Stephen Dodds

    Stephen Dodds Second Unit

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    Part of the closeness could be because much of HT is based on Dolby Digital and DTS. The decoders are generally standard and are supplied on the same chips to all manufacturers. In other words the krell may use the same chips as the Denon or whatever.

    IMHO, the real differences in HT sound come from those who add something of their own to the standard decoding chips, like Lexicon do with Logic 7, and Meridian with Trifield.

    As far as straight out vanilla DD and DTS decoding go, I can't hear much of a difference between them.

    Steve
     
  9. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,
    Thanks so much everyone for responding thus far; I'm a bit of a newbie to both HT, and the forums as well (goes with my recent, but rapidly burgeoning computer skills [​IMG] ) and thought it might seem a bit of an oddball topic, but really great to be hearing others views and experiences, as both an helpful, informative and learning experience.
    The comments so far have been very thought provoking indeed. It seems there are quite a few forum members out there who like me have approached HT from the point of longer term experience in 2 channel HiFi.
    And I take the point made by Michael re
     
  10. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    John:

     
  11. Karl Englebright

    Karl Englebright Stunt Coordinator

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  12. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Karl:
    Your point is well taken, namely that movie audio is not only about special effects (though one cetainly gets that impression from following HT forums such as this one).
    Speaking for myself, movie soundtracks never move me the way "straight" music does. Not even close. Obviously, YMMV.
    Larry
     
  13. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    I think the act of integrating HT into a current 2-channel setup is a valid approach.

    In fact, I took that approach from the beginning because I didn't want to compromise my 2-channel setup.

    Doing it this way means you can change any of the HT components of the system without affecting the 2-channel setup at all.

    This is accomplished by connecting the Main L&R analog outputs of an HT processor to any spare L&R analog inputs on the 2-channel preamp (Naim in your case, Parasound in my case).

    If the 2-channel preamp doesn't have what is called an "HT bypass" capability, no problem, just calibrate the main L&R speakers for HT use by adjusting the 2-channel preamp's volume control to produce the correct 75dB or 85dB calibration level for the HT processor. Then just mark the 2-channel preamp's volume control position for HT use. This is typically the 12 o'clock volume position called "unity gain" which means no gain or attenuation of the input signal.

    This preserves the entire 2-channel setup and means all the HT stuff can be turned off while you're enjoying 2-channel sources.
     
  14. ling_w

    ling_w Second Unit

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    When I got my processor, it must have a good music surround mode so that if I wanted to hear 2ch source in a better way, the option would be there. So I ended up with the Meridian processor, with its Trifield mode besting many straight 2ch playback. To boot, it came with an Ambisonic decoder, I ended up being able to decode all the Nimbus Ambisonic discs I bought in the 80's.

    I also didn't compromise much with the 2ch setup since I use a FPTV with a drop-down screen. The main speakers had to be moved out a little, but given my planar's being less sensitive to side wall proximity, it was a fair tradeoff.

    I also had to move the audio rack to the side since with the drop-down screen, nothing would become accessable. The only thing left there is the amp. This actually benefitted the sound since there is nothing in between the L&R speakers. I don't think I would have ever put a RPTV there.

    I don't think I would have gone through the whole route if I was only interested in HT. And if I couldn't find a processor that allowed me to enhance my 2ch CDs, I probably wouldn't have gone multi-channel.
     
  15. David Guill

    David Guill Extra

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  16. Justin Doring

    Justin Doring Screenwriter

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    If one person is watching and listening in the sweet spot, two full range speakers are all you need, in my opinion. If, however, a bunch of people will be watching and listening in various locations throughout the room, I'd go with a 5.1 system with mini monitors and a sub. If the system is to do double duty with music for yourself in the sweetspot and home theater for family and friends throughout the room, I'd go for a 5.0 system with large full range towers for the mains, a matching center channel, and mini monitor rears.
     
  17. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,
    Well it sounds as if I might be on the right track with things, especially re integrating HT with existing 2 channel. And that others experiences echo my own re the center channel speaker. I think it improves dialogue slightly compared to just left and right spkrs only, but mainly for those not in the 'sweet spot' as has been suggested. And in that context, worthwhile, but not an absolute necessity it would seem.
    With regards a sub:
     
  18. Craig_Kg

    Craig_Kg Supporting Actor

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    Why not just get a midrange HT receiver with preouts John?
    It sounds like the Sony STR-DB1070 would satisfy your needs and it's down to A$999 now.

    The M&K pushpull subs are terrifically tight probably due to the sealed enclosure as you have observed with the RELs.

    Center speakers make a difference if you have more than just a couple of people watching but if you can all be near the sweet spot, then it isn't necessary.
     
  19. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,

    Sorry to be tardy in replying Craig, spot of the old Windoze problems.

     
  20. David Guill

    David Guill Extra

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