Frustrated AV-Receiver shopper.....

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by GenoM, May 17, 2003.

  1. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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    To all the AV buffs out there:[​IMG]

    I'm the stereo buff turned AV enthusiast. There's where my problems started. As much as I love watching movies in 5.1/DTS, listening to good old stereo from my CD-player remains my 1st priority. Although it would be nice to have both good stereo and dolby surround/5.1/DTS in a AV receiver, it just doesn't seem to be possible on a $2200,-(max.)budget here in Holland.(Europe)

    To give you guys an idea of what I'm dealing with, I prepared an overview of my equipment:

    DVD-player: Sony DVP S725.
    AV-Receiver: Arcam Diva AVR 200.
    CD-Player: Sony CDP7-ESD.(A high-end dinosaur still performing magic...)

    Speakers:
    Main: DIY on the basis of a Eton (German high-end brand slightly outperforming Dynaudio in terms of clarity and fidelity) twin voice coil bass/mid and a Dynaudio supertweeter connected to custom made x-over with 0-Ohm transformer-coils, high end caps and silver wiring.
    Center: Dynaudio audience 42C
    Surrounds: KEF 2000 series (The silver "eggs")
    Sub: DIY on the basis of the Peerless 10" active/PR units. If you want an idea of how I build this and see my equipment have look here: (Only in Dutch I'm afraid, but the images will give you an idea of the kind of geek I am.) http://www.dvdzine.nl/thuisbios/thuisbios.php?id=57

    The AV amplifier you'll see there was my previous choice. It's the Rotel 1055 RSX. Before that I owned the Marantz SR7300, before that the NAD T752 and before that the NAD T651. Of all those amplifiers, the Rotel had the worst sounding stereo. It couldn't produce a stereo image at all and sounded extremely harsh in the upper regions. (Voice's "s" and "t" sounds, a drums' high hats and saxophone upper registers.)

    The NAD T761 sounded pretty good but suffered from no sub x-over configuration whatsoever. It had a fixed 100 Hz x-over point, making my sub's presence known in a distracting manner. It also had some problems with the DSP chip.

    Then came the T752 with the cooling-fan problems. It did have a sub management setup however. But alas, as the T651 it suffered from a disgraceful sound setup menu; calibration of speaker's loudness using the test tone was impossible because once the test tone is selected, it "skips" along the speakers without a pause making SPL readouts impossible.

    The Arcam Diva I own right now uses the exact same system setup-menu as the old NAD T761. It also sounds almost exactly the same. It has fairly good stereo imaging but suffers from bass reproduction that's a bit too dominant and muddy. (No problems there with the Rotel.)

    As I'm slowly beginning to loose hope, I actually started considering auditioning HK, Denon or even Onkyo. I then read something on the B&K AVR 505/507. Although exceeding my budget, I reached a stage that I'm willing to bleed a little and buy something that can give me piece of mind. This model has excellent bass management and is supposed to have very good stereo reproduction.

    Does anyone out there recognize this pattern of choices of AV receivers from someone looking for good stereo? Anyone have a good tip on a good sounding AV receiver that can reproduce decent stereo from CD's? You might be wondering why I just don't get a stereo rig? Well, I do love dolby with my movies and I was so taken with the added bonus of listening to stereo with a sub, I got hooked. The addition of a sub made my mains sound even more analytical without becoming harsh.

    Sorry for this opus, but I had to try and give you as much background as possible to illustrate what it is I'm looking for. Thanks for bearing with me. Please help out a frustrated AV-Receiver shopper......[​IMG][​IMG]
     
  2. CurtisSC

    CurtisSC Screenwriter

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    In my opinion, I think you should follow through and audition the H/K receivers.

    You didn't mention why you did not like the Marantz. How about some background on that one?
     
  3. Kevin_R_H

    Kevin_R_H Stunt Coordinator

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    Geno,

    Quit trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip (this is an old American idiom).

    In other words, don't try to find a HT reciver that will excel at stereo - at least no where near your price range. Spend your money on a stereo amp whose sole purpose in life is to provide high quality 2-channel music.

    Plug all you 2-channel sources directly into this stereo amp - bypassing any HT receiver you may own.

    Therefore, this HT receiver only needs to be active while watching DVDs. And even then, it doesn't need to be bothered driving your Main Speakers - your new stereo amp will handle this chore.

    Bottom line: Use Home Theater components for Home Theater. Use Stereo Components for stereo.

    Kevin
     
  4. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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    Hi Curtis:

    I was put aback with Marantz' build quality; their optical inputs use a hinged plastic door to shield the input (instead of the removable plugs more commonly found) which broke off when I inserted the optical lead. That wouldn't be so bad but that little plastic door also served as a retention mechanism for the lead's plug. Once it broke off, the input was rendered useless, leaving me with zero extra inputs. The other snag was its sound processing chip. Whenever I'd switch on the unit, I'd only hear music from the right channel. Only if I turned the mode selector back and forth would it work properly. I believe a device showing these problems in the first week of auditioning will not entice a purchase. I'll have a look at the HK then. I was thinking model 5500. Thanks very much for your input Curtis.[​IMG]

    Hi Kevin:

    I agree with you 100%. The only thing is: If I use my mains for stereo, what should I use when listening to dolby? You can't connect both stereo amp and AV receiver to the same mains. Having four main speakers is not an option because of room restrictions. Furthermore I mentioned that I quite liked the way the (easy) addition of a sub through the AV receiver brought sparkle to my mains because they're ridden of the lower section of bass reproduction. I understand that there is no substitute for a good stereo amp when listening to stereo. On the other hand I'm willing to make sacrifices. I believe there's still an AV receiver out there that could do stereo reasonably well. Only thing is, the picking is slim cause there are only so many dealers in Holland. Having said all this, I still agree with you about stereo being just that and should be treated as such. Believe me, the way it looks now, I'm a couple of auditions away from following your advice.[​IMG]I appreciate your comments!
     
  5. Rajkumar

    Rajkumar Auditioning

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    GenoM, as far as the chipset for audio processing goes, both Harman Kardon and Marantz use the Chipsets and DACs from Cirrus logic. So if you encounter a problem in Marantz and that is chipset realted you might find it occuring in harman Kardon as well.
     
  6. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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    Hi Rajkumar:

    Thanks for the info. I can only hope that the problem I had with Marantz was a fluke. I think I'll give the HK an audition just to make sure. I'm curious about it's sonic characteristics. Thanks for your input[​IMG]
     
  7. CurtisSC

    CurtisSC Screenwriter

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    Geno.....you must not be in North America.

    I wonder what the H/K 5500 correlates to here in the States. I have a H/K 525...and it performs very well.
     
  8. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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    Curtis,

    I'm in Holland, Europe. The HK 5500 is a 5x75W model where the HK525 is 5x70W. All the rest of the features seem the same. I've just downloaded the owner's manual to see how bass management is handled on this model. Coming Tuesday I think I'll return my Arcam and test drive the 5500.
     
  9. Kevin_R_H

    Kevin_R_H Stunt Coordinator

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    Geno,

    I'm sorry I wasn't more clear.

    If you add a stereo amp to a system that already has a A/V Receiver, your Main Speakers are used in both applications. It works as follows:

    For Stereo: Leave your A/V Receiver off. All 2-channel sources get input directly into the stereo amp. Life is good.

    For DVDs: Simply plug a interconnect from your A/V Receiver (Main PreOuts) into an input of your Stereo amp (possibly an AUX input). Therefore when watching a movie, your stereo amp will receive this signal (intended for the Main Speakers), and power them accordingly. Your A/V Receiver will continue to power all other "auxillary speakers" (rears/centers/sides).

    Using this configuration:
    1) You only need one pair of main speakers. They will perform as your ONLY speakers for 2-channel, and your Main speakers for DVDs.
    2) Your Stereo amp will also play double-duty. It will power your Main Speakers for 2-channel, as well as DVDs.
    3) Your A/V Receiver is only used for watching DVDs, and even then, it isn't asked to power the Main Speakers. For 2-channel, it has no function.
    4) When watching a DVD, simply select whichever source you patched the A/V Receiver's PreOuts into (such as the aforementioned AUX), and voila', you are in business.
    5) You never have to swap out speaker cables. You never have to swap out interconnects.
    6) Many will say you need to select a stereo amp that has "Home Theater Bypass". Without it, you will now have two Volume Controls in the signal path (one in the HT Receiver; one in the stereo amp). However, my stereo preamp doesn't have this feature, and it is no big deal. The worst that happens is that I spend a few seconds at the beginning of a movie fiddling with the preamp's volume - matching it with the rest of the system.

    I hope I did a better job this time. Even if it's still a little fuzzy, trust me - it works. I have a 2-channel system that is the foundation of my HT. I am not alone.

    Good luck,
    Kevin
     
  10. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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    Hi Kevin,

    I got you now[​IMG] Very good plan indeed. There are some stereo amps around that have a pre-amp input.(Now opportunistically called "Home Theater Bypass"[​IMG]) It does seem like the best option although I'm sure I'd miss my sub's contribution to my stereo sessions. I like to listen to Bach organ music every now and then and the sub really makes them bass pipes come alive like on Sunday's mass[​IMG]. Also, I never managed to get Madonna's CD "Ray of light" to sound as good since I'm using the sub. My main speakers suffer from the added bass reproduction if I filter out the sub. Thanks for your excellent explanation!
     
  11. CurtisSC

    CurtisSC Screenwriter

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  12. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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  13. Ferran Mazzanti

    Ferran Mazzanti Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't know what quality level are you looking for, but I have a Marantz SR6200, use it for music in Source Direct mode and love it simply. I would say you deserve the Marantz a second chance. My receiver also has the plastic doors you comment, but it hasn't given me a single problem. Just plug the connector and never touch it again. And I'm pretty sure you teste a defective unit, according to what you say about problems with your stereo mode. Don't give up so easily! Marantz receivers sounds nice...
     
  14. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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    Hi Ferran,

    You auditioned other brands as well? My impressions with NAD seem to outlast the one with Marantz. Having said that I'm not ruling out Marantz because I did mention that the model I auditioned probably was a fluke. The Marantz has a lot in its favor. It does have faster switching of audio modes and a good bass management setup. I owned the SR7300 but can't remember a source direct option.....Maybe I overlooked this...? I'll check next time I'm in the store. Thanks for your input.[​IMG]
     
  15. Shiu

    Shiu Second Unit

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    Kevin, I tried using my stereo to drive the front speakers for a while but it is scarely to have to turned the volume on the preamp so high.

    GenoM, if you want to use the subwoofer for music, why not use your DVD player to play your CD. For Madonna CDs, it would not make much difference whether you play it through your DVD player or your "high-end dinosaur" CD player. You could use your DVD player's coax with the H.T. receiver, and the 5.1 analog out (just the two front and sub)with your stereo amplifier and the subwoofer. I assume you have multiple inputs on your stereo preamp.
     
  16. Dean Mar

    Dean Mar Stunt Coordinator

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    Geno

    I can attest to the sound quality of the B&K. I have the B&K AVR305. In stereo direct it is wonderful. However, in stereo direct it bypasses any processing and you cannot use your subwoofer. The bass management features otherwise are very good which will allow a variable crossover setting.

    Not sure about the newer 505 and 507 if this is still the case in stereo direct. I'm sure if you do a search here you can find out.

    The 305 that I have is essentialy a Ref 30 preamp built into the receiver. The Ref 30 preamp has gotten great reviews over the years. Sometimes I use my receiver in stereo direct and sometimes in the processed 2 channel mode with my sealed subwoofer depending on the music.
     
  17. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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    Hi Shiu,

     
  18. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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    Hi Dean,

    Looking at the B&K it sure makes an awesome impression. I already found out it's not for sale in Europe as there are no dealers[​IMG]

    Besides, AV-receivers in Europe always come at a premium when compared to the US. I got my previous amp, a Rotel 1055 RSX on sale for €1,850,- which is about $2,125,-(!!). I've read about buyers in the US who got theirs for $1,100,- on a regular sale with an authorized dealer!

    Seeing how the B&K 505 has a MSRP of $3,498,- I'm afraid I'll have to double that figure for the European market. That's a bit out of my league I'm afraid. One would wish for US MSRP in Europe![​IMG]

    And....the receiver has good looks to boot! (I should become a B&K dealer for Europe[​IMG] )
     
  19. Shiu

    Shiu Second Unit

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    Geno, I think you are right about the ".1" of the DVD player. I have not tried it on music CD. Now that you mention it I am sure it will work on 5.1 movies only. Sorry about the confusion.

    BY the way, I know how you feel about your "dinosaur". I got one myself, its a Kenwood that weighs about 30 lbs, with 7 transformers in it, separate transformer for separate functions. Those days are gone. My Kenwood also seems to do well in bass, and its probably around 14 to 15 years old too. It cost me a fortune back then.
     
  20. GenoM

    GenoM Extra

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