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Buyer’s remorse? Ever wish you bought separates?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Rich:Fi, May 25, 2003.

  1. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    I’m interested in the opinions of those of you who have bought flagship type receivers (i.e. Denon 5803, Pioneer VSX-49TX, B&K AVR-507, etc.) as to whether you’ve ever thought you would have been better off buying separates instead.

    I’m planning on getting a Pioneer VSX-49TXi in the near future and it seems to have all the features I can reasonably foresee needing and adequate power for the size of room and speakers it will be driving. I will be using the receiver primarily for home theater with what I believe will be KEF 203 or 205 mains, a KEF 202c center and KEF 201 rears. It seems to me that the Pioneer has near universal rave reviews from it owners and no longer suffers from the problem of shutting down with 4 ohm speakers.

    On the other hand, many forum members advocate going with a separate pre/pro and amplifier. As I see it, for a street price of about $2500 for most of the flagship receivers, you get a tremendous amount of capability and features and an excellent upgrade path. If you need more power down the road, simply buy the amp you need at one of the used equipment sites like Audiogon or Ebay and you can have all the power you need. Worst case, if you really crave separates down the road, a flagship receiver will always be a great choice for another room, the office, or for your kids.

    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. Alan Pummill

    Alan Pummill Screenwriter

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    Rich, good question!

    I recently lost the use of my Pioneer Elite VSX-09TX receiver. It was the flagship of the Elite line back in 1998 when I got it!!

    About a year ago, I bought a used Carver AV-705x 125wpc 5 channel amp. I was biamping my mains via the Carver, and pushing the rest of my HT with the 09TX. It sounded awesome. But since I already have the Carver, I opted for an Outlaw Model 950 pre/pro. I am expecting it to arrive on Tuesday.

    I will no longer be biamping my mains, but the Carver has a feature called Power Steering that steers up to 200 watts to any one individual speaker when it is demanded. This ought to sound great for movies!!

    It was a difficult decision for me to jump to separates, especially since my wife works for Pioneer, and I can buy equipment at employee discounts. I had every intention of buying a VSX-49TXi, but I would have had to wait until September to get it. After doing much research, I think the separate route was the way for me to go at this time. I couldn't see paying for amplification that I didn't need. But I know from experience that Pioneer Elite receivers are among the best on the market.
     
  3. ChrisDixon

    ChrisDixon Second Unit

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    Although there are many good arguments for separates, I will offer a few advantages of a good receiver.

    1. The market demand for receivers is much higher, and therefore, the consumer has to pay less of a premium to cover R&D. An example of this is the Rotel RSX-1055 receiver which is said to be almost identical to the RSP-1066 except that it costs less and has seven 75 watt amps! I'm not exactly sure of the model numbers, so pardon me if I got that wrong. A recent thread compared the innards of a rear projection TV and a pre/pro that cost about the same... I had never really thought of it that way, but it does prove how much market demand can bring down or up the cost of electronics.

    2. A receiver takes up less space and requires less wiring (since you don't have to connect the separates).

    3. One thing that most separate supporters will tell you is that they are more "future proof". That is, when new formats come along, you just update or replace the pre/pro and your amp is still good. However, if a receiver has an upgrade port, you can can do the same. I have a Marantz SR8200 which has an upgrade release (out now in Europe, coming soon to the USA) which essentially turns it into an SR8300. And if you choose to replace the pre/pro, it may still cost more than replacing the entire receiver (see number 1).

    I'm sure there are counterpoints, but I'm just sharing some of the reasons for going the receiver route. I am very pleased with the results, and if I choose to get an external amp later, I can still use the 8200 as a processor. Probably the other thing that makes me feel pretty good about my decision is the fact that my friend's Outlaw combo failed to show me that "night and day" difference that every one talks about. He has the 950/770 combo with Paradigm Studio 80s, SVS sub, and a perfect enclosed room. I have a Marantz SR8200 with Paradigm Studio 60s, SVS sub, and a rather open ended living room and I didn't hear anything that has me longing to upgrade to separates. Your mileage may vary.

    Chris
     
  4. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

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    Rich

    This decision is not one that lends itself to what others have done. Every amp, preamp, and receiver will have its own unique sonic signature. The only way you will know what sounds best to you is if you can have several of the top contenders in your home at the same time.

    In my experience the differences tend to be subtle. Even more subtle if you are going to use a subwoofer. I ended up going with Nakamichi because it produced the most natural sound (with real instruments). Others had their good points, (more bass), or more "slam".

    Unless you are on really good terms with a dealer, you may not get the opportunity to try differenct pieces in your home, especially at the same time.

    Also, remember, those who go with separates have a vested interest in finding the sound superior. I know I would be pretty unhappy if I dropped a grand on a pre-amp that sounded virtually identical.

    Couple years ago I got the yen for a big ass amp and bought a 425 watt per channel, 70 pound monster. Guess what? There is very little difference between it and my Nakamichi or even my Kenwood 6070 receiver.

    We all get upgraditis, or we wouldn't be on this forum. We all are looking for the holy grail. You might be surprised to know that reviewers of top notch equipment, (who can get it real cheap) swap out one piece for another when they get bored. Since they get high end equipment at a bargain price (cost or lower)they have the luxury to swap when they feel like it. In other words, there is no holy grail.

    Since each piece has its own sonic signature, when you start to mix and match preamps and amps you won't know what you'll get with that particular combination.

    Artie
     
  5. Donnie Eldridge

    Donnie Eldridge Supporting Actor

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    Rich,

    I don't think you can go wrong with the VSX-49TXi. But, you honestly owe it to yourself to at least audition both the receiver in question and separates before you make your decision. Both side can present perfectly good arguments going either way.
     
  6. ChrisDixon

    ChrisDixon Second Unit

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    It is interesting that Arthur mentioned Nakamichi, because they provided some proof of the over-priced nature of high-end electronics. Back in the mid 90s, Nakamichi sold three of their A/V receivers at Best Buy. I bought one at the time (and still use it for 2 channel in my computer room to this day). I'm pretty sure that I paid $350 for a Nakamichi AV-400 which was full price. I remember comparing the spec sheet to the $800 AV-2S (or something like that) and they were identical even down to the exact weight. If memory serves, they just gave it a different model number and slightly different face plate. Obviously, the move did not go very well, since Nakamichi eventually pulled the Best Buy line and is now out of that business completely. I think that it angered a lot of the high-end buyers because they paid more than double for the same receiver, and the Best Buy buyers didn't know the name and it's quality. Most average consumers probably didn't give them a second look since they knew names like Pioneer and Technics.

    Chris
     
  7. Hap C

    Hap C Agent

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    Rick, excellent question. I just answered it - I bought separates. I looked hard at the B&K 505 or 507, at the Denon 5803, and the Pioneer 49TXi. I ended up buying Rotel separates (RSP-1066, RMB-1075 amp) after reading this review in which the Rotel gear was rated tops in comparison with much more expensive separates. Here's a link to the review, reprinted on the Rotel net site:

    http://www.rotel.com/introduction/pd...0Supertest.pdf

    The Rotel stuff - less expensive than the flagship receivers I was looking at - sounds absolutely great, in another league from the Denon receiver I was using before. And, no buyer's remorse.[​IMG]

    Maybe the other question that should be asked is this: does anyone who has purchased seperates have buyers remorse for a receiver? [​IMG] I doubt it.

    Cheers,

    Hap
     
  8. Chip E

    Chip E Screenwriter

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    Once i had stepped up to a Flagship receiver a couple years ago, with a B&K 307, i thought i had all i wanted. Eventually, i swapped out my 307 for a Denon 5803 receiver. After owning the 5803 for about 4 months, i decided to go seperates. I've been enjoying my Ref50-Ref200.5 ever since [​IMG] (about 6 1/2 months now) It's a personal choice really. I have no regrets. Seperates are more flexible and, the amps are better.
     
  9. Terry.P

    Terry.P Stunt Coordinator

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    Many people buy receivers and wish they had of gone with separates instead. Few people buy separates and wish they had of gone with a integrated receiver. If your budget allows for it and you have extra space I would strongly consider separates. It will give you more long term versatility and flexibility when it comes to upgrades, format changes in the future. Separates don't seem to depreciate as rapidly as recievers when they start to become obsolete with current formats technologies. It's much easier to stay on top of the game with pre/pro as they seem to be more open to so called "future proof" upgrades/conversions. I owned a older flagship H/K reciever AVR 80MKII and a H/K AVR 525. I now have a B&K Ref. 50 with Parasound 2205 & A23 and have never looked back. Good Luck.
     
  10. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    Arthur and Donnie are definitely right recommending that we demo all equipment in our own home at the same time. I’ve got to say, I sure would love to demo the Pioneer VSX-49TX vs. either the Outlaw 950 / 770 or the Rotel RSP-1096 / RMB-1095 side-by-side as they all are in the same relative price range, all have very favorable user reviews and good bang for the buck. However, it’s unlikely to get a dealer (or several dealers) to agree to this wonderful approach. In all honesty, I don’t think any one of these will really “have it” compared to the others. All have nice feature sets and a lot of appeal.

    The next step up will obviously cost a LOT more money for what is likely to be only a marginal improvement in sound quality. After reading many reviews on all of the above, I still lean heavily towards the Pioneer as I absolutely love the MCACC system, its excellent remote control, the I-link and the ability to easily use it as a preamp. With its 7.1 amplification, another great feature the Pioneer offers is the ability to bi-amp the main speakers in a 5.1 setup.

    I’ve read some of Alan’s posts in his search to replace his VSX-09TX – I can tell it has been a tough decision for him especially considering he gets the Pioneer employee discount. However, just as he demonstrated and I pointed out, the Pioneer makes a great stepping point as a preamp. It appears as though Alan upgraded to the Carver amp and now is adding a new preamp. This seems a logical progression to me as you learn a bit more about high-end audio before spending truly big money. It will be interesting to hear Alan’s thoughts about how his new Outlaw mates with his Carver. I look forward to his thoughts on both his upgrade procession and how the new equipment sounds.

    I’m curious about the arguments that separates offer more versatility and flexibility when it comes to upgrades that many proponents of separates argue. It seems to me a flagship receiver does offer a nice upgrade path to a high-power amp and potentially a newer preamp further into the future. I would argue that by the time a person converts to separates they benefit from having a great flagship receiver for other uses along with spreading out the cost of the upgrades.

    It will be fun to hear other opinions as well. Thank you all for your thoughts!

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Alan Pummill

    Alan Pummill Screenwriter

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    Rich,

    Yes, it was a very difficult decision. When and if I can get my 09TX back up and running, I think I will invite a group of fellows that I have met here on the HTF to come over and help me in that demo. We are getting ready for our third HTF Local meet in a couple of weeks. We had the first one at my place back in Feb.

    And yes, stay tuned for my review and remarks about stepping into the separates realm with my (arriving tomorrow) 950!!
     
  12. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    Alan - I look forward to your review. I'm curious as to whether you will notice any difference in the quality of sound between your old 09TX and the new 950. Have fun! I look forward to your post.
     
  13. Mark Dickerson

    Mark Dickerson Stunt Coordinator

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    Rich:

    I personally have never been impressed with the argument that separates provide greater flexibility. As I see it, the argument is that when (not if) formats change, one can change the pre/pro and still keep the amplification; or, it allows a buyer to trade up to a bigger, more powerful amp without dumping the pre/pro. Don't get me wrong, I think there is merit to this argument, but what impresses me more is that separates simply provide better sound.

    I have had family members and very good friends in this business for over 30 years, and one thing I know is that unlike the builders of separates, the big Japanese audio cartels build everything to a price point. They will meet that price point and do not look to squeeze that last bit of sonic quality out of their product. Instead, they will focus more on the feature set (often times just "bells and whistles") because that is how they differentiate their product. Some of these features may be great (Pioneer's MCACC system) or nothing more than toys (Yamaha's soundfields - cathedral, jazz club, etc.). In short, it is almost like the audio cartels self-limit the audio quality of their products.

    Recently, I have been in the market for a flagship receiver, but I am now looking hard at separates. I have been fortunate that a number of local high end audio dealers in my area have generously allowed me to demo their high end receivers against good separates, and even when I have been double blind testing, I invariably pick the separates as the better sounding system. The only true exception is I recently heard a McIntosh receiver that was awesome, but it was $4K, a bit out of my price range. For half that, I have heard a great Adcom package, and I am very intrigued by the Outlaw packages. Rotel is on my list to audition, as well.

    In short, there are a number of separate packages that are in the same neighborhood, pricewise, as the flagship receivers, as you have correctly surmised, so it really comes down to what you like. If you don't hear much difference between a flagship and separates, then I think the flagship AVR is the way to go. However, if you do notice the difference in sound, as I have, I think buying the flagship AVR is a ticket to buyer's remorse. To me, it is the sound that matters.

    Good luck!
     
  14. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    My opinion on the matter is simple. You can not generalize
    at all.

    I joke around at car shows with my friends and I sometimes
    say "Mustang Owners dream about owning Corvette's, But
    Corvette owners do not dream about owning Mustangs".

    I have Mustang friends whom I say this to and they rib me
    back about my Vette's too.. But the truth is that my statement
    is anything but the truth.. Mustang owners are entusiasts
    of the marque for different reasons and some of them are
    so loyal they will never sway. And likewise some will jump
    ship to buy something else.

    The same goes for audio gear. You can't sit there and TELL
    me Seperates are better. Because to one person out of one
    hundred, they simply may not be.

    I am not saying Seperates are worse or AVR's are better. I
    am saying they both have thier merrits and both have thier
    drawbacks and it's up to each individual to choose what he
    or she wants and needs.
     
  15. NickSP

    NickSP Supporting Actor

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    Alan, did you consider using one of the fine Elite receivers as a prepro over the Outlaw?
     
  16. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Then comes the question...just how separate do you want to go?
     
  17. Guy Usher

    Guy Usher Supporting Actor

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  18. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Real Name:
    Lee
     
  19. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    yeah, but when one channel goes, you're SOL. or if the tuner goes, etc.
     

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