Sugestions to improve audio

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Rui, Dec 12, 2002.

  1. Rui

    Rui Auditioning

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    I need some recommendations from the experts of HTforum about a possible upgrade of my system. Currently, my setup is composed of:
    AV receiver - Onkyo 595 (no preouts)
    DVD Player - Pioneer 757Ai (DVD-V/DVD-A/SACD/CD), connected to the AV through 5.1 output to get DVD-Audio and SACD sound. DTS and DD decoding using this player seems the same as using the Onkyo decoding.
    Speakers: Front - Tannoy Profile 632 (monitors), Center+Rears - Energy Take 5, Subwoofer: Mirage FRX-S8 (100 watts).
    Cables: straightwire+wireworld+QED
    I also have a 2-channel amplifier (Denon PMA-480R) that is not being used.

    I find the quality of sound not very good, at least for audio only. For HT, the system seems reasonable.
    I would like to significantly increase the quality of sound (more detail, tighter bass, more tridimensionality) but I dont know what would be the best upgrade path? Here are some options, so please comment on that:
    1- Add a reasonably priced AV processor (Rotel RSP-1066, Outlaw 950) and use the Onkyo as amplifier.
    2- Change center and rear speakers to Tannoy (tannoy mercury mx?).
    3- Change all speakers (suggestions?) except the subwoofer.
    4- New and better AV receiver (Denon 3803?) with preouts in order to also use the now unused 2-channel Denon amplifier?

    Which solution (if any) do you think would give the best improvement?
    I would appreciate it very much your input. Thanks.

    Rui
     
  2. Lin Park

    Lin Park Second Unit

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    You might want to consider picking up the HK 520 everyone is talking about and using the 2-channel Denon amp to drive the mains. I'm not saying it would be "night and day" differences from what you have now, but I personally think it would sound better.

    I would not try to keep the Onkyo AV amps in the mix.

    Lin
     
  3. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    what's the room that your present system is in like? out of curiousity, if you find the musical aspect of what you own severely lacking, was there a compelling reason why for instance you selected your present components?
     
  4. Rui

    Rui Auditioning

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    The room is about 16x14x9 feet. Music is not that bad, but i feel it can be better. The reasons that led to the choice of such items were dictated by several factors, like magazine reviews, internet browsing, and, at the same time, financial constraints. Also, where I live, hifi stores do not give us a "money back if you don't like it" guarantee, like it seems to be the case in the US.
     
  5. Douglas_H

    Douglas_H Stunt Coordinator

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    Rui,
    Upgrade advice is tough because it depends on how patient you are and how much money you want to spend and when.
    To make to most difference right now:
    Get a better AV receiver with pre-outs and use the Denon amp where ever it fits best. Probably better to use the new receiver for L/C/R channels and the Denon for surrounds.
    Get a center channel speaker that fits better with the Tannoys.
    Get a SPL meter a test cd and calibrate. This will make your system sound better instantly and help compensate for the different in speakers.
    Longer path:
    1. Get a Pre/Pro, Rotel would be a great long-term solution.
    and use the Onkyo and Denon for power.
    2. If you have funds left over, get a new center channel.
    3. Get a 5-channel amp, Rotel makes several nice ones.
    4. Upgrade the speakers.
    These are my opines only of course.
    Others might suggest doing speakers first but your speakers are good and will sound A LOT better with better processing and power.
    I would do the SPL and calibration first. It's cheap and will give you a valid baseline to evaluate your system and the upgrades you make.
    Also, invest in decent interconnects and the best speaker cables you afford for L/C/R, especially if you have runs longer than 2 meters.
    All it takes is money[​IMG]
     
  6. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    That's a tough situation there Rui with not being able to return something even for store credit with the idea that you could select something else. Not being familiar with the Tannoy speakers you have (didn't see that model on their website) I'm guessing they're something like a large bookshelf type speaker. If so, rather than suggesting other speaker alternatives (Tannoy's not a bad name afterall!), myself I'd focus on what it is that you have presently and try to get the most out of it. Buying new wires or new cables will not address your situation but it will help the economy, although not yours. For the moment, I'm going to make the tentative assumption that you're not pushing your receiver beyond what it can deliver in terms of power. If you are, you'll have to consider some means that's suitable for you to address that which may involve selling the Onkyo in order to pick up a receiver with preouts for use with external amps.
    I think you need to focus your thoughts and efforts at the moment strictly on two-channel sound and forget about the centers and rears. You should examine things like speaker placement with regards to your preferred listening position and work at optimizing that as best you can. Things like speaker placement from both the back and side walls, as well as the speaker's height (tweeters at ~ ear level), and toe in need to be better defined. While this is a complex and time consuming effort, the payoffs are long lasting. Also you need to consider the nature of your room. Is it carpeted? Are there many hard reflective surfaces that are interfereing with the sound's arrival to your ears...I've sent you something that I came across that perhaps may get you started. Once we've done the most we can with regards to the Tannoy's, then we can work on the center channel, followed by the rears and then finally get that sub into a happy place.
    The only things I'd recommend you buying at this time would be a calibration disk and an SPL meter if you don't already have those to assist you with regards to balancing and calibrating your existing system. Before we spend serious money, let's make the most out of what you do have.
     
  7. Brian Treinen

    Brian Treinen Stunt Coordinator

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    Rui,
    If you haven't already, I'd second the suggestion to get a calibration disc and a sound level meter. Great tools!
    I was in a similar situation as you not long ago. Hometheater sound was good but two channel just stunk. When I upgraded my receiver, surround speakers to match the rest and sub to an SVS, HT sound went to great!! But two channel didn't improve that much. I then added a 5 channel amp and the two channel went to OK/Good. I've since added a preamp and 2 channel is now GREAT too!! The preamp is a B&K 2 channel preamp used only for stereo. I got it used at audiogon. Great piece.
    For you, where I would start is dependant on cost. A Rotel pre/pro will be great for HT and decent for 2 channel. Definately an improvement, but you'll soon want a 3 or 5 channel amp to add to your Denon amp so you can get that Onkyo out of the loop (which I see as the weak spot in your system now). Under this scenario use the Denon to power the L&R main speakers and leave the Onkyo to power the rest.
    Another option is to get a new receiver with pre-outs. Use the Denon to power the L&R mains, which will improve 2 channel. HT will be maybe a little better than it is now. Next I'd try and find a good used 2 channel pre-amp. Almost anything you get will be better than the 2 channel pre section in your receivers and probably better than the Rotel or Outlaw pre/pro's. Parasound's P/HP 850 can be had for about $150 or so and has gotten great reveiws at http://www.audioreview.com - search at http://www.audiogon.com or ebay or your local audio shops.
    I think #2 and #3 in your options won't do that much for your situation. I'm not saying that eventually you won't want to upgrade but I think other things will make a bigger impact at this point. Good luck!
     
  8. Guy Usher

    Guy Usher Supporting Actor

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    I am going to make a suggestion, dont start throwing things at me. . . Go to a Paridigm outlet (retailer) and pick up 5 Titans and set them up at all 5 positions including center match the levels and if you dont hear a big difference I will eat my hat, besides I know you can return the Paridigms, but if they do like I think, keep an open mind, you will be amazed. These guys have all the atributes you listed, remember price doesnt always improve the sound as it goes up. There is a lot to be said for using all the same speakers, kinda like driving you learn how to go straight first, then you start on the curves.
    I have played with this stuff for too many years and every so often I get all out of wack and start over, Titans are cheap but critically acclaimed, you wont break the bank and after all results is what counts.
    I was using . . . . we wont go there long story but I feel your uncertainty.
     
  9. Meaux

    Meaux Stunt Coordinator

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    I know this is not popular on HTF but see if you can pickup an Aural Exciter C2 w/big bottom for cheap, ($100). Adjusted right it makes small speakers seem larger, tightens bass, I'm sure you can connect it thru the tape loop. Other than that, save up some money, shop ALOT.
     
  10. Mike_Ch

    Mike_Ch Stunt Coordinator

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    Rui,
    I don't know about your particular Tannoy speakers, but I am guessing they are pro monitors- the Tannoy Reveals (their lowest end pro speaker) I have heard were amazing in their clarity and imaging, and I therefore assume your Profile 632's are equally as good, if not better. I would not recommend changing speakers if a 2 channel audio improvement is what you are looking for. Seeing as you already have a 2 channel power amp, I would suggest getting a good-quality stereo preamp. I heard the preouts of a Denon 3802 A/V receiver driving a Rotel RB971 power amp, and the improvement switching to the pre-outs of a Rotel 2 channel integrated amp was very pronounced- better soundstage, imaging, and tonality (voices now had texture), not to mention a big improvement in detail retrieval. Adding a dedicated 2 channel preamp would yield an even bigger improvement. If you could name a price range, then some suggestions can be made as to what models would suit you.

    If you are reasonably satisfied with the HT sound, and listen to a lot of stereo music, I would not recommend you get a multichannel preamp or another receiver. This is just a waste of money IMHO, and a much bigger improvement can be made with a 2 channel preamp for the same cost. And seeing as your source player (Pioneer 757) is pretty decent, there will be no need to get a separate cd player.

    Cheers,
    Mike
     
  11. Guy Usher

    Guy Usher Supporting Actor

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    IMO if its not right for music it is not right for HT either. I am of the opinion that HT can be even more demanding than music, I know it opened my eyes when I went with all the same make and model speaker, I had to change all at once because of a lightining strike, replaced all my speaks with NHT super Ones and the driving force to Rotel, kept my Pre-Amp as it wasnt hooked up at the time (Marantz AV550) anyway I still have the same speaker/amp combo, upgraded my Pre to an AV9000 I have never looked back, solved problems I didnt know I had. . .
     
  12. Mike_Ch

    Mike_Ch Stunt Coordinator

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    Guy,

    Multichannel pre/pros can indeed make a big difference to sound quality, however, for the same price, a stereo preamp will make an even bigger (actually, much bigger) difference to music in my experience. I think trying this first will hopefully save Rui some money in the long run, since it will almost certainly be cheaper than getting a full 5 matching speaker set that is of equivalent or better quality than his current fronts.

    Cheers,
    Mike
     
  13. Craig_Kg

    Craig_Kg Supporting Actor

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    To clarify Mike's statement, I'd get a mid level receiver with preouts (take your pick - there's plenty around eg Denon 1803, Marantz 5300...) and use the front preouts to source a stereo preamp connected to the Denon 2ch poweramp.

    At a pinch, make line level converters to create preouts for the Onkyo and get the stereo preamp. Without having to power the fronts, the Onkyo will do a better job with the rears and center.

    HT formats change so often it isn't worth spending big on a HT prepro or a flagship receiver. And the demands of HT tend to be more in the area of dynamics than finesse (which is where stereo comes alive or dies).
     
  14. Rui

    Rui Auditioning

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    Thanks everybody. I might follow the stereo preamp path. However, before that, I will make some adjustments on the speaker positions/orientations to see if it improves the sound.
    Rui
     
  15. Guy Usher

    Guy Usher Supporting Actor

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    NAD makes one of the finest stereo PreAmps at a budget price, I dont remember the model number but it should be easy to find. I have a Marantz AV550 that I am going to retire to stereo only use, been unable to "give it away" and it does great in 2 channel, hell it does great at everything except DTS which it does not have.
     

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