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General separates education

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Jamie<>N, Oct 20, 2005.

  1. Jamie<>N

    Jamie<>N Auditioning

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    I'm new to anything beyond a home theater w/a receiver for controlling/amplification/etc. I've looked at the FAQ on this site, and I'm on my 3rd home theater book. I kind of have a vague grasp of what controllers/pre-pros/amps etc. do and their role when working with each other, but it's only that - a vague grasp. I want to learn more - I'd like to have a complete understanding of it all. I was wondering if anyone knows of a good beginner to advanced website that covers controllers/separates/pre-amps/amps/power-amps...this stuff has got me pretty confused. Also, I'd like to know what the best brands/models are for various price ranges (whatever they may be).
    While I'm at it, I'd like to know the best brands/models are for the various price ranges in receivers. I currently have a Pioneer VSX-812 and so far from what I've read...it's crappy compared to what's out there. I will be making an addition to my house in the next year or two, and one of the main reasons I'm doing it is so that I can have an actual home theater.
    And then the straight up question that I think I already know the answer to - separates...or receiver? From what I understand, separates is the way to go, right?

    thanks so much everyone...I know I'm in good hands,
    Jamie
     
  2. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    Depends on your price range. Unless you are looking used, you aren't going to get into separates inexpensively, and even used you are still likely looking at about $1K-2K minimum, and that would probably be without some of the latest processing, depending on the model.

    "Separates" would be a separate preamp/processor and amplifier, vs a receiver which is those two combined.
     
  3. Alan M

    Alan M Second Unit

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    I moved in to the seperates range by buying outlaw gear.Both purchased from Outlaw.The pre/pro(#950)was purchased new (A stock),and the amp(#7100,7channel) purchased as B stock. Total came in around $1500.While these models have new counterparts,give outlaw a call.They may have B models (with the new specs) availible.
     
  4. BrianWoerndle

    BrianWoerndle Supporting Actor

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    The basics are not that hard to understand.

    Seperates consist of a Preamplifier (or called a processor) and an Amplifier.

    The Preamp/processor has all your decoders built in, switches between sources, and provides volume control and sends the signal to the preamp-out jacks.

    An amplifier simply amplifers the signal and powers the speakers.

    A receiver just does the exact same thing, just all in 1 box.

    By seperating all those tasks into 2 boxes, you have the ability to make better products taylored to each task better. And since you usually do not have to replace the amplifers as often. The processors come out with new sound formats and can be replaced while keeping the same amp.

    Many processors offer a lot of extra features like multi room setups.

    As for price ranges, they can range for $1k to the sky is the limit.
     
  5. AlbertD

    AlbertD Stunt Coordinator

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    This industry is changing so quickly that what may be right today, may be the exact opposite a year or two from now. With the advances in the electronics industry made in just that last year, some might argue, and effectivly, that a receiver may achieve as good a sonic sound as seperates, at a fraction of the price. Some believe that there may soon start to be a consoladation in the industry as the B&K's, Anthem's and other seperate companies of the world will just not be able to compete, long term, in a market that is in a race to zero. To move down the marketplace in terms of price, will just not enable them to continue to drive a healthy revenue stream. Case in point, Denon. Look at the 3806. Arugably, with its feature set and sound, it competes favourably with units and seperates that sell for a LOT more. As this trend continues, what does that spell for the future of companies like B&K? Perhaps they may exit this marketplace to one that is more profitable. These are just opinions. I don't have any crystal ball. But some argue that receivers today have closed the gap with seperates to a point that there is little seperation other than price with receivers easily winning that battle. What will happen in the next year? With only modest advances, receivers will continue to favourably compete, prices will continue to drop, and businesses that are trying to sell high end seperates will find themselves behind the eight ball of, not much more in the way of sound, but a heck of a lot more expensive. All just my opinions and just an easy way of saying that you shouldn't rule out a reveiver. [​IMG]
     
  6. John S

    John S Producer

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    Yes don't rule out higher end AVR's....


    But, separates are fantastic. I recently went to external amplification using my AVR as a pre/pro and I did achieve much greater headroom. Sonically, I think the AVR power amps may have actually sounded a tiny tiny bit better, but now I am clean way way above reference type volume levels.

    But I did choose some cheap amps, but they perform and are certainly audiophile level. I do think it takes flagship or veyr near flagship recievers to really start to compete. I use a Denon 4802, pretty high end AVR.
     
  7. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    The #1 place where most receivers still will NOT compete with separates is in the power department. Separate amps will outperform those of receivers in the vast majority of cases, until you get up into the top teir models. While receivers have closed the gap, there is still, and likely always will be, a gap. The questions will remain, are you willing to spend more to step up from a receiver to separates and at what price point does it make more sense to go separates?

    There is also an interim step as well - using a receiver as the pre/pro (with preamp outputs) with an external amp. With this path, you can pick up a decent amp and use an exsiting receiver, then upgrade from a reicever to a pre/pro down the road.

    Preamp and processing are two different things, which is why it is called a preamp/processor or pre/pro. You pretty much always need a preamp between your sources and the amp, but you don't always need a processor (at least for 2ch you don't). For home theater separates, it wouldn't make much sense to separate processing from the preamp stage the way it does to separate the amp section from the pre/pro. As Brian points out, that allows you to keep the same amplification through a few pre/pro upgrades and you also can choose whatever amps meet your needs.
     
  8. AlbertD

    AlbertD Stunt Coordinator

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    I used to have a Sherbourn 7/2100 amp and B&K Ref 50 pre/pro. Not high end but clearly midfi at the very least. Sounded fantastic. Best system I ever owned. Cost me $4500, discounted when I bought it. I now have a Denon 3806. Sounds so close to my seperates system, that its really not funny as it cost me under a grand. This is a huge step up in the industry. Two years ago, this statement could never have been made. My argument is that as these type of improvements continue and prices continue to drop, who really knows what the future holds. And don't discount digital amps over the next few years. Seperates sound better than receivers at the high end now, and "may" sound marginally better in midfi now, but who knows what it will be like next year? I see a lot of these seperates companies either consolodating, going out of business, or dramatically changing their business model.
     
  9. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Don't believe everything you read..... I'm using an old 1997 VSX-D606 Pioneer as my receiver, and it's fantastic. I downgraded to this old refurbished receiver from separates and am much happier now than I was with the "better" stuff.
     
  10. Joe Szott

    Joe Szott Screenwriter

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    There you have it Jamie, just as clear as mud [​IMG]



    Honestly, I love my outlaw gear. I highly recommend going with them to "sample" separates if that is what you decide to do. And with the release of the new 990 model pro and new amps, the older ones are cheaper than ever. Check on this forum's buy/sale thread or audiogon.com to get an idea of prices, bang for the buck is ludacris at the current price range.
     
  11. Ryan Tsang

    Ryan Tsang Second Unit

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    Separates or Receivers? That is the the eternal question....

    Honestly, it boils down to the size of your bank account. A receiver like a mid-level Denon would more than suffice for an average family room HT with easy-to-drive mainstream speakers like Paradigm.

    Where separates is going to make the difference is if you plan on owning higher-end speakers that maybe difficult to drive. If you have a larger dedicated room, you might decide on free-standing placement in which imaging, toe-in, and controlled reflections, possibly make it easier to appreciate the superiority to receivers. I define "free-standing" as couple feet from walls or not flanking substantial boundaries like RPTVs and bookcases. You may also enjoy your movies at louder volumes in which you need separate power amps. Separates gives the flexibility to upgrade parts of the system as needed. Consider also the added cost of interconnects and shelving required to house the additional gear. Separates make sense if the rest of the gear, speaker placement, and the room itself is up to snuff. It's not automatic sonic nirvana just because you plunked $5K down on a prepro and a 5ch amp.

    I second the notion of the used market.
     
  12. Robert_Gaither

    Robert_Gaither Screenwriter

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    The biggest bang for the buck will be used gear so if you can try to invest in the best set of speakers you can afford. Amp is a pretty constant thing if you get a good sounding powerful amp then this might be one component you may not need to upgrade in the next few years.

    I think where the main weakness in HT is currently is whatever processor you have since chipsets advance, formats change, DACs improve, and now we're starting to see the advancement in digital amps (I'm becoming a believer after buying the Sonic Impact class T amp, I can state it's the best bang for the buck I ever spent!), I don't see the death of separates right now but do see that it will be most rare in about 10 years. AVRs are of much better quality in terms of cleanliness of sound, processing, and usage (the menues are more intuitive as well as greater integration with other components) compared to when I first got into the hobby (I don't encounter the hissing AVRs like it seems all the under $500 in past were). I think the second weakness currently happening is speakers unless you buy them from online only companies (most companies their quality seems to me to be much worse).

    If I was to start from scratch now I would buy the best speakers my budget would allow, buy an AVR with upconversion on the video and room correction, and then throw rest of the budget into furniture and sources. I'd consider some of the Panasonic digital AVRs and would assume that within every two years you're going upgrade due to new formats released. I think we're going to see major improvements in AVRs due to the advancement of digital amps and would not be surprised that we'll see entry level ones meet 100 wpc honestly in the future.
     
  13. Jamie<>N

    Jamie<>N Auditioning

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    Wow, I thank everyone for sharing all of their experiences and knowledge with me. You've given me something to think about.

    It's weird, because ever since I've started trying to learn about separates, it seemed weird to me that separates costed soo much more than receivers in general, and I thought that the one I have (the VSX-D812 as I mentioned) sounded really good to me. (I'm also using a set of 6.1 JBL speakers and sub...they're little satellites). So I wondered how much better things could really sound...maybe they don't sound a whole lot better...for at least how much more it's going to cost. Or maybe they did, and my current ignorance is bliss. I don't know. I guess I need to go find someplace I can listen to higher-end receivers and separates. I wonder if part of it too, is that my current family room that the 'home theater' is in is pretty small so my receiver doesn't have to work hard, and the speakers being small (and pretty cheap) work fine too.

    But I thank you guys all again...I have now more options and things to think about in order to make a more informed decision when I'm ready.

    Jamie
     
  14. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    That's been my experience. At least with my modest B&W 602 speakers.
     
  15. Elliot_W

    Elliot_W Agent

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    My NAD AVR is being used in a 2-channel set-up. While I want to sell it and go the separates route, it is hard to justify given its fine dual qualities as both an integrated amp as well as an AVR. Add to the mix the amount of fine, available AVRs in the market today which has brought down the resale of AVRs in general...and one has to seriously question 'upgrading' to separate components given the money involved when many a decent $1K AVRs will do.

    Nonetheless, with a niche group of crazed, dedicated people endlessly seeking the unobtainable goal of perfect sonics (and perhaps vanity as well), I believe the high priced world of separates will continue unabated for years to come....Now would someone please buy my NAD AVR so I can get busy?
     
  16. MikeyWeitz

    MikeyWeitz Supporting Actor

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    Jamie, you need new speakers, not a seperate pre/pro.
     
  17. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I'll second that. Your money will go a LOT further towards improving your sound in speakers vs any pre/pro/amp or receiver is going to do, especially if you only have satellite speakers. Speakers have the single largest impact on your sound.
     
  18. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Or just don't upgrade anything and just enjoy what you have..... [​IMG]
     
  19. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    [​IMG] There's a lot to be said for being happy with what you have. Just don't go listen to anything else nice [​IMG]
     
  20. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Those are not mutually exclusive. [​IMG]
     

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