My Experiences (So Far) Shopping for a New Receiver

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Gary Dehardt, Apr 21, 2005.

  1. Gary Dehardt

    Gary Dehardt Agent

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    Last week, my five year old Sony ES Receiver just died. Out of nowhere. I found myself catapulted into the nebulous world of shopping for a new receiver - something I hadn't done in about 5 years. My budget is about $1,000. These are my experiences (all NYC stores).

    First, a bit of quick background. I'm not an audiophile and a lot of the technical-speak on this board is over my head. But, to be blunt, I like stuff to sound good. Five years ago, I was looking to put a system together right before I started grad school. As fate would have it, I walked into a local hi-fi store and the sales guy had me listen to B&W 602's with Rotel electronics. I bought the B&W's and took the Sony ES over the Marantz and Dennon's I listed to; it wasn't even close. I live in a small NYC apartment. Along with the 602's, I have the cc6 as a center but no surrounds yet. I'm going to get an Adire Rava one of these days. The HT setup is actually used mostly for television, then 50/50 between music and DVD. The Sony did everything I wanted for music, but I found it lacking power for 3 channels. I felt I was outgrowing it a bit anyway and was thinking about adding an external amp at some point. Now, of course, finding a replacement receiver is somewhat urgent. I don't have the luxary of prowling the demo/used market.

    Store 1 - The sales guy kept asking me the same questions over and over again. He wasn't listening at all. He was pushing Arcam. I listened to the $1,000 model, the 250 and the 300. He was pushing the 300, hard, which, of course, is twice my budget. I've got to confess that the Arcams sounded great - at the same time, I didn't hear a whole lot of different between the 3 models for 5 channel surround. The 250 and 300 looked a lot more solid, though. I didn't bring my own music, so I decided to return to test 2 channel stereo. I also listened to a Cambridge Audio receiver there. I'm not sure of the model # but it was $699. Of course, I didn't sound as full or realistic as the Arcams, but the Arcams didn't sound $1,300 better. In any case, I'm not going back there because the sales person also tried to sell me a $1,000+ power conditioner and a DA converter. Also, as I listened to the gear, he pointed out what was wrong with each receiver - except the Arcam 300. Clearly, he was just interested in the commission.

    Store 2 - Great place. People were open, honest (my impression at least) and not at all condescending. I auditioned the Marantz 7500 ($1,000) and the Integra 6.5 ($1,000). He predicted I'd find the Marantz better for music and the Integra better for HT. He was correct. It seemed to me that the Marantz was holding something back in the HT mode, it just wasn't as forward or envoloping as I wanted it to be. For music, though, it was warm and detailed. The Integra was more detailed and aggresive in HT mode but in two channel it just lacked that something special that Maranrz had. The sales guy said he's got the 6.5 and that, unless I'd be doing much more music listening than HT, the Integra should be my choice. I don't know. I'm going to go back but I just wasn't wowed by it and for $1,000, I feel like I should be. When I originally bought my Sony, I always wondered whether I should've gone with a higher end Marantz model or a Rotel. I've had something of a crush on Rotels and Marantz's ever since. The Integra, frankly, didn't look all that attractive to me and, sad to say, that IS a consideration (I am going to be looking at this thing all the time, after all). By the way, I auditioned this gear on KEF speakers ($450 for the front bookshelves). They sounded fantastic - better than my 602's for HT, but perhaps not quite as good for music.

    Store 3 - I autioned the Rotel 1056, the Arcam AVR 200 and a Marantz (5300, I belive). Worst sales person ever. He conceeded he just started working at the store and knew nothing about the products but was a self-described audiophile. Everything, in his mind, was crap (NAD, Marantz, Yamaha, etc.). He conceeded that the Arcam AVR 200 wasn't bad and that was it. It was a hard sell for the Rotel 1056. As I was leaving, someone walked in asking if they sold BOSE. The sales guy laughed out loud, said the person should go to Circuit City and finished by saying that Bose is crap that stands for "Better Off with Something Else". Needless to say, I don't want to give this guy a commission. BUT - the Rotel DID sound great. I mean, really good - it was clearly more full to my ears than the Arcam for music.

    To anyone who has made it all the way here, here's a recap of my needs:

    * good sound for both music/HT, ease of use and durability/warranty. I need 5.1, nothing more, though I would love to get a receiver with Zone 2 capability so I could hook up more speakers in the bedroom. Also, easy hookup is necessary (both Marantz and Integra have microphones that allow the receiver to calbrate themselves, I believe).

    My questions:

    1. Is spending around $1k for a receiver overkill for 602's? Remember, I don't yet have surround speakers or a sub (but I'll probably get a sub soon).

    3. Should I be auditioning anything else? I may check out NAD tomorrow (763, perhaps - though 2 of the stores I went to already told me they stopped carrying NAD due to defective products). Most of the stores I've spoken to don't carry speakers less than $700 and frankly, I don't think I want to take a step down from my current receiver (rememeber, I was contemplating adding an amp for more ooomph on HT).

    4. I did love the Rotel - and it's 5 year warranty. Does Rotel have a good rep for customer service?

    If I'm going to spend $1k on a receiver (Marantz, Integra), I can justify spending an extra $200 to get the Rotel. I just need to make sure I can't get what I need from a $500 receiver. $1200 would really be my ceiling, though. Finally, I'd like to buy the receiver from a store that does not reek of attitude. Of the 3 stores I've visited so far, only 1 fits the bill (and they don't sell Rotel).

    Thanks for listening to me vent, and I'd appreciate any suggestions.
     
  2. Steve_L

    Steve_L Stunt Coordinator

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    I think you should check out the Pioneer VSX-1014TX-K, whic h is essentially a Pioneer Elite TX52, minus a couple of small features you prolly wouldn't use anyway.

    It's a $1000 Pioneer in a $500 package , thanks to the mass markeing of BB.

    PS all that other stuff is really nice, but I doubt you'd find they do anything better than this inexpensive Pioneer.
    IMHO
     
  3. Mark C.

    Mark C. Supporting Actor

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    Forget the Pioneer "flavor of the month,'' Rotel is superior to the mass market receivers. The 1056 is not overkill. In fact, you could at some point in the future make your 602s your rears and add new mains. (I have B&W Nautilus 805s for the fronts and 601s for rears and have never been disappointed.) The 1056 will accept outboard amps, so you could even add more power in the future if you'd like for new mains. Good luck.
     
  4. Gary Dehardt

    Gary Dehardt Agent

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    Thanks for the replies.

    Steve, I've been reading the rave reviews that 1014 has been getting on this site. The only problem for me is that I don't believe stores that carry it around here carry B&W as well. But it sounds like it might be worth a listen.

    Mark - with respect to the 1056 - can I set up zone 2 speakers in another room even if I'm using the full 5.1 setup in my main room? I couldn't tell from looking at Rotel's website. Also, I didn't get a chance to play around with the 1056 too much at the store - how have you found it in terms of ease of use? Just as important, how easy was it to set up?

    Thanks again, guys.
     
  5. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Gary,

    If you're sure you'll be sticking with 5.1 only, I would recommend taking a look around at used gear. here, Audiogon, ebay, there are a lot of great bargains on 5.1 stuff for people "upgrading" to 6.1 and 7.1 systems. You can get yourself quite a bit better stereo music sound with what was a $2-3K 5.1 receiver (or even separates) justa few years ago. You may have to settle for straight prologic over the gee-whiz DPLII modes, but I don't think you'll miss them.

    Why do you say that your system lacks power? Do you hear clipping? In my experience it doesn't take much juice to run 602s. (I've been running 602s for years with many different front ends).
     
  6. Gary Dehardt

    Gary Dehardt Agent

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    Philip,

    The Receiver is great for music. Just for TV viewing (and DVD, to a lesser extent), I need to turn the volume all the way up and it just feels like I'm pushing the receiver too hard. Literally. It gets really hot and just doesn't sound as punchy as I want it. I have been looking online for deals on demo's and used receivers or separates. Besides my generally trepidition with buying used/online (i.e., no warranties, etc.), I just haven't had anything jump out at me and I need something NOW - my receiver is dead! I can't listen to music in the living room and can only get audio on the TV. I have about another week until my job kicks back into its typical 75 hour/week mode, so now is the time for me to buy.
     
  7. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    Gary,
    It's early to predict what you will like but I think you will enjoy what you hear from NAD. The Rotel isn't a bad choice either and considering what you are after, it is probably the best choice or the NAD.

    Both are Music focused and have tons of power.

    Harmon Kardon might not be a bad choice either. They have a model called the 635 that should fit the bill. It seems low powered but it isn't. The NAD and Rotel might have a bit more though and I predict they will sound better by a good margin on music. HT wise they will give up a bunch to the HK. Then again HK's reliability is not well known to be good.

    But then again I've read alot of issues with NAD and Rotel(hissing especially).

    If you do buy a Rotel 1056, then you might do a search on google for Club Rotel as they have a club there to support your products.
     
  8. Mark C.

    Mark C. Supporting Actor

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    Gary:

    There are product manuals on the Rotel site under "support.'' To use Zone 2 on the 1056, you need to connect the preouts on the rear of the 1056 to a two-channel outboard amp. I have the RSP 1066 pre/pro. I use a Rotel RB-1050 amp to power my zone 2 outdoor speakers.
     
  9. Dalton

    Dalton Screenwriter

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    Gary,
    You wouldn't be dissapointed with the Rotel. It's a fine receiver well worth the $$. But as Shane mentioned, you might want to check the Harman Kardon 635. I am currently demoing one in home and it is lights out fantastic for music/HT. Very smooth and detailed and does not lack for power at all. It has built-in room setup with Parametric EQ. I got it from J&R.com for a fantastic price. I just sold my Pioneer 1014 and it was a real good receiver for the $$ but it isn't in the same league as the Rotel or HK IMO. Good luck with your search.


    Dalton
     
  10. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    Unless the fixed a few of the quirks with the 635, I can wait. I'm in the market too. I need 7.1 though so the Rotels, NADs etc are out as I would have to spend $2,000 to get their 7.1 receivers.

    The HK has the power but has some quirks. Whether these quirks will bother you is another story. It does have an RS232 port they plan to use so perhaps it will calm my fears a bit.
     
  11. Gary Dehardt

    Gary Dehardt Agent

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    Shane, I assume you're aware that the 1056 provides 7.1 processing, no? I believe you just have to add an extrenal 2 channel amp (which, understandably, is a bit of a pain).

    I'm going to test the 1056 vs. the Marantz 7500 this afternoon.

    I've been getting cold feet about the 1056 - specifically, it's lack of features. I may be crazy, but (as I just posted in Club Rotel) auto-calibration and 7.1 amplification are both attractive features. The Integra 6.5 and Marantz 7500 both have these features. What I'd really like to do is listen to the 1056 side by side to the 6.5. I guess I just need to determine how important these features are to me.
     
  12. Dean Arizona

    Dean Arizona Agent

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    There are a lot of very good choices in the crowded $1,000.00 receiver market (including those mentioned in this thread). Before pulling the trigger, do yourself a favor and look at the Denon 3805 or even the 2805 - both are as good as warm apple pie (sweet and warm to coin a phrase). My only qualification to this recommendation is my lack of familiarity of the power req's for the B&W 602's. I believe the current 602 series (there have been several issues of this speaker) is rated at 8 ohms so the 3805 should fit the bill nicely. You also have the option of using the preouts and add external amps.
     
  13. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    Not necessarily auto calibration but auto EQ is the biggest thing. Of course the Rotelians will preach on SQ..
     
  14. Lee Distad

    Lee Distad Stunt Coordinator

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    Features = bah. IMO, features are entirely secondary to build quality and the total amount of jam the amplifiers deliver.

    Key Features = the number and type of inputs that you require for your install, and a UI that is straightforward.

    Non-Essential Features = 1001 DSP Sound Fields, mic calibration, or any other flavour-of-the-month feature that it is my job to convince you that you need.

    IMO, if it's built like a tank, sounds like a million bucks, and meets your interface needs, then that's 99% of what matters in a new product.
     
  15. Lee Distad

    Lee Distad Stunt Coordinator

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    To be fair (and less negative) features like component-video conversion can be darn handy. And having run mic-calibrations many times in-store and in client's homes (hey, I'm basically lazy. if the feature is there, Ima gonna take advantage of it!) it is a useful toy, but hardly life-or-death.

    OTOH, look at brands like Sony, whose recent AVR's are feature-riffic, but sound like tin. Really, what matters most?
     
  16. MarkusP

    MarkusP Stunt Coordinator

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    Don't underestimate the auto EQ feature of the HK 635. It EQ's the sub and this can have a huge effect on sound quality as it helps to correct poor acoustics in a room (room acoustics play a huge role in sound quality, right up there with speakers and sources).

    I tried the EQ solutions from Pioneer, Denon and Yamaha and none had the effect in my room that the HK had (thanks to its ability to tackle bass frequencies and EQ the sub). As a result, I sold my Anthem separates and kept the HK.
     
  17. Ron T

    Ron T Stunt Coordinator

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    I'd recommend the NAD T763. Head and shoulders above most receivers for music AND HT.
     

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