Convince me that separates are better

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dan Mackowski, Apr 25, 2002.

  1. Dan Mackowski

    Dan Mackowski Auditioning

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    I currently have a low end Yamaha receiver (RX795a), and I have been intrigued by all the discussion concerning separates.

    I have been debating as to whether to upgrade my receiver with another higher end receiver, or to go the separates route.

    Do separates really offer a night and day difference compared to higher end receivers (eg. Denon 3802, Yamaha 3200)?

    I am not interested in listening to movies or music at extreme volumn levels, so does all that extra power that separates provide offer me any advantages?
     
  2. Mark C.

    Mark C. Supporting Actor

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    Hi, Dan:

    The only way to really tell if separates are for you is to listen to a few different set-ups, either at the homes of friends or at quality audio shops.

    Does your receiver have preouts that allow an outboard amp to be plugged in? If so, that might be your first step: a multi-channel amp running through your receiver would probably be a real eye-opener for you. I know it was for me. The top-end is so much higher with an amp over a receiver, even a good receiver like yours.

    Good luck

    Mark
     
  3. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    From my experience with the 3802 i can say the design was focused on features and digital performance which is excellent. BUT, not much there in the amplifier section. This seems to be the general design with sub 1200 dollar receivers (before anybody flames me because they love their receiver i'm making very broad sweeping statements that do not apply to everything).

    but really only listening can tell you if its worth it.
     
  4. Aslam Imran

    Aslam Imran Second Unit

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    Another potential thread for the DBT debacle.
     
  5. ManojM

    ManojM Stunt Coordinator

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    I used to own a Yamaha 795a myself mated with DefTech speakers. The sound was OK, but I then replaced the Yamaha with a high end receiver, the B&K 202 (the predecesor to the 307, and considerably higher up the rung than a 3802 or 1200). That made not just a small difference, but an absolutely enormous one. The B&K would just grab the BP8s by the throat and force great sound out of them. They sounded so good, I started wondering why I was shopping for new speakers... I then bought B&W Nautilus speakers, 804/805/HTM2. The B&K sounded surprisingly good with them, and did a very reasonable job. I have since upgraded to a Classe CAV-150 amp and a Sunfire processor. The difference is now signficant again, with the Classe being much, much smoother, more detailed, and much more authoritative in controlling the bass. Now the soundstage is bigger and the already solid imaging is totally rock solid. BTW, along the path, before the Sunfire, I temporarily had a less expensive processor in my system for about 2 weeks, the very well reviewed Adcom GTP-830. The switch from the Adcom to the Sunfire was like night and day, the Sunfire let the Classe do its work, and the sound just opened up as if somebody took the wrapping off the speakers. The point of this story is, a high end receiver is much, much better than something like a 795, but we are talking about somthing like a 5803 or 305/307 here (the 202 is an absolute bargain and can be had used for about $1000). A 3802 or 1200 will be better, but by no means can be construed as a quantum leap. The use of a mid-level receiver as a processor probably would not be all that different than the Adcom processor, and perhaps not quite as good, as that is a stand alone processor for $1200, and no money went into amplifiers. I found that processor did stifle my amplifier, but the combination of a good amp and a weaker processor was still fairly good. Separates are really very good, but the difference can be heard mainly when the other equipment allows the full effect to come out (mainly the speakers). I would not recommend someone who owned speakers like my BP8s to buy my Classe and Sunfire, but rather go with a high end receiver. I would not tell them to run out and buy a 3802 if they owned a 795. I would tell them to buy a used high end receiver such as a 202, and if they then upgraded their speakers, add an outboard amp using the reciever as a processor, and eventually replace it with a better processor.
     
  6. Ken Situ

    Ken Situ Stunt Coordinator

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    There are many people believe separates are better, as there are just as many people believe separeates are no better. So you will just have to pick one or the other, but I am sure you will be happy with either direction, if you don't go too low-end.
     
  7. Ritesh_M

    Ritesh_M Extra

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    Ken,

    it really depends on the speaker setup. If you are using $600 speakers with a $2k+ processor plus amps. i doubt you speakers will be able to product the kind of detail and bass repsonse the better equipment can dish out. because if you are using expensive power hungry speakers, you cannot seriously drive them with the amplifiers in receivers.

    so

    Dan, the question is what speakers are you using.
     
  8. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    $600 for the mains only or for the whole thing? [​IMG]
    Seriously, my Paradigm Montor 7 are in that price range. I want to slowly move from my Onkyo 575x to separates. If I plop $1500 on the Outlaw 950 and some decent amps and don't hear a night and day difference then...
    --
    Holadem
     
  9. Evan S

    Evan S Cinematographer

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    The rule of thumb is this. Great speakers will sound like crap with a crappy front end. So, getting $10,000 Aerials mated with a JVC receiver will produce $300 sound. However, good speakers mated with GREAT amplification and front end will sound GREAT. They won't sound as good as if you did have the $10,000 Aerials, but you will be getting the best out of your system that you can get.
    So, if you are going to go the upgrade route, get a great front end first (amps, pre-amps and source components) and THEN down the line...upgrade your speakers. I think you will see a greater enjoyment of your system if you do it this way than the other way around.

    I need to slightly edit the above statement. I am going on the assumption that your speakers are fairly good to start with...not junk. Obviously you have to have something decent to start with otherwise you should just go ahead and get everything at once!!![​IMG]
     
  10. Dan Mackowski

    Dan Mackowski Auditioning

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    For additional information, my speakers consist of:

    Klipsch RF3 - mains

    Klipsch RS3 - surrounds

    Klipsch RC3 - Center channel

    Klipsch KSW12 - subwoofer (will be replaced with SVS PC+ when available)
     
  11. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    Considering a "do all receiver" now runs from $3000

    to $4000, and you can buy a Outlaw or Rotel processor plus a good multichannel amp for $2200-$2700, why buy a receiver?

    The only possible reason might be for space saving.

    Separate pre/power amps generally perform better.

    If you have even marginally good speakers ($1500 for 5 of

    them from a good company) you should be able to hear a difference. If you're speakers are JBL, Bose, Cerwin Vega, Klipsh and the like, the receiver is probably fine. The differences will probably be in the mid-high frequency range, where the sound is likely

    to be better defined, clearer. This helps dialog sound

    better in the centre channel. There is nothing worse on this EARTH than unnatural dialog emitting from a centre speaker. Also, receivers are supposed to keep the power amps out of the digital/analog areas of the single box and

    this isn't always done well. Results are EMI interference

    and other noise. Also, the multiple power amplification

    sections of a receiver are often fed from one toroid (good

    receivers) or an old-style iron core transformer which is multitaped to provide voltage/current to each power amp

    section.

    Crosstalk and other distortion generally goes along with

    this. The better separate power amps generally use better separated amp channels so this is minimized. Some even have entire discrete amp sections for each channel. These

    are kind of like "monoblocks" in the same housing.

    Separate power amps also have greater headroom, meaning

    they are capable of handling much greater demands than

    the multiamps shoe-horned into a receiver. 100wpc in a

    receiver is generally NOT as good as the 100w you'll get

    from a separate amplifier. I had a Yamaha (RX-V2090) that

    was rated at 100wpc and it would constantly kick into

    "protection" mode because it had a hard time driving 4 ohm

    speakers of any size. My Adcom amps (100wpc) never have

    any trouble with the same load. The way to determine this

    is to see how they rate the receiver amps. You might see

    something like "100wpc into 8ohms, 125wpc into 6 ohms

    and they may not even recommend you try to drive 4 ohm speakers, especially across all 5-6 channels.

    A separate power amp will likely have 100wpc into 8ohms,

    then 150 into 6ohms and up to 200 into 4ohms. The current capability of separate power amps is generally higher than a receiver, despite having the same wpc capabilities.

    The net result is more effortless driving of the system,

    and cleaner sound.

    However, "night and day" differences in sound in this

    "digital" one chip age are unlikely unless the receiver is

    a real dog (read: JVC or the like). The differences are

    likely to be noticeable but not hyper dramatic. But after

    long term listening, you will appreciate the better sound.

    One thing is for sure, if your source has harsh or distorted

    or coloured sound, changing speakers will do nothing to help

    it.
     
  12. Kevin. W

    Kevin. W Screenwriter

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    Dan,

    Your speakers are very sensitive(95-97db), so your reciever should have no problem powering them. An amp on the otherhand will add a whole new dynamic to the sound that comes out of the speakers. To hit reference level your rec/amp would only have to produce 8-16watts(104-107db).

    Kevin
     
  13. Bobby T

    Bobby T Supporting Actor

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    How can you include Bose and Cerwin Vega in the same class as JBL and Klipsch?[​IMG]
     
  14. Keith Ro

    Keith Ro Agent

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    Fierce battles have been waged over this topic for years in the audio world. I know I'm stirring up a hornets nest, but I actually don't understand what the controversy over double blind testing is. I remember seeing a report in an audio magazine a number of years where they pitted a $250 pioneer receiver against multithousand dollar McIntosh separates. The result? As long as they were both run without causing cipping, statistically, no one did better than chance telling them apart. My understanding is that most double blind testing tends to bear this out.

    I'm not trying to start a flame war, but I'd appreciate it if someone explains the anti DBT POV to me...As in I understand how you can dispute how well specific studies were conducted...but if in repeated, controlled tests a diverse group of people can't tell expensive cd transports vs run of the mill cd players, zip cord vs. expensive wire or cheap receivers vs. expensive separates apart, then how does one dispute the notion that the differences between these components are in fact insignificant?

    Even people who swear that separates are better would probably concede that dollar for dollar, your biggest bang for the buck comes in investing in speakers.

    i.e. Does anyone disagree that $1000 speakers driven by a $300 receiver probably sounds a lot better than $300 speakers driven by a $1000 amp?
     
  15. BeatCrazy

    BeatCrazy Stunt Coordinator

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    Keith Ro,

    You bring up an example of a DBT with a cheapo Pioneer vs. McIntosh seperates. Do you really believe this statement? Have you ever upgraded amplifiers/receivers before and heard better sound?

    I agree that speakers are a better bang-for-the-buck improvement, but realize that you can only go so far with just decent speakers. Eventually you'll need the juice to back them up. Where in the price point does that happen? Well, that's for everyone to decide for themselves. Personally, I think its OK to spend the same amount for all 5 speakers as you do for amplification/pre-amp, i.e. $5K worth of L/C/R/surrounds= $2500preamp & $2500amp (or some combination).
     
  16. Claude M

    Claude M Stunt Coordinator

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    Convince yourself. Get a two channel amp hooked up to your receiver and see what you think. I'm sure you can find a local that has some demos to let you have for a weekend.
     
  17. Stephen Houdek

    Stephen Houdek Second Unit

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    Ignore this.
     
  18. Keith Ro

    Keith Ro Agent

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  19. BeatCrazy

    BeatCrazy Stunt Coordinator

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    Keith,

    You are confusing me. First you say that you agree with the DBT test where the cheapo Pioneer would have the same sound as $10,000 (presumably) McIntosh seperates. Fine. But then you say the Yamaha receivers sound "'sterile, 'bright' and 'harsh.'" So obviously you can distinguish among different sounding amps/receivers. If the the Yamaha can sound bad to your ears, cannot the McIntosh set-up exhibit "non-harsh", "smooth" or other good qualities over a Pioneer?
     
  20. KonradN

    KonradN Stunt Coordinator

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    imo, as long as all the amps have a flat frequency response, thd less than 1%, and are are not driven to the clipping point, then the combined voting results of about 10 randomly chosen ppl will not statistically show a difference in sq among the amps. However, I am not precluding the fact that there may be one person or more that can discern a difference in sq among the amps and this is where I can offer a critique against the dbt done at abx.

    I have not read the entire abx site , but during my short visit to their site I could not find the following information that would have strenghten their test results:

    -who were the listeners and more particular how well trained are their ears? are they casual listeners, audiophiles or teen that listen mostly to mp3?

    -abx only list the combined voting results, but not the indivudual results which makes it impossibe to tell if there might have been at least one person who statiscally was able to hear a difference among certain amps.

    If somebody can address the two points I have raised, I see no reason not to believe that there is no difference in sq among amps.
     

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