The Third Way? Between AVRs and Separates

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jeff.bart, Dec 2, 2002.

  1. Jeff.bart

    Jeff.bart Stunt Coordinator

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    Time for agonizing almost over. Time to purchase almost here. And yet, still torn. This receiver, or that? A move to separates? Or is there a “third way?”

    Ideally, I’d love to buy separates. I can spend as much as $1250 on a receiver, so why not $2000 or so for separates? I just got some extra, unexpected cash.

    Except that leaves me with only one choice if I buy new (I don’t want used). And that’s Outlaw, of course. The 950 looks nice, but is the hiss problem truly fixed? And I’d want to pair it with the 100 watt x 7 amplifier, the Outlaw 710, that is still not available. It may not be until early next year. If I wait, figure $1700 plus shipping if the Outlaw pricing pattern holds up.

    Alternatively, I could buy a 5-channel Nad 925 THX amp for $1000 and add a 2-channel amp later (I need 2 more for a pair of speakers in kitchen). This would work especially well if the Outlaw 950 had an A and B speaker design, though that doesn’t appear to be the case.

    The question is, is it worth it? Whatever I buy will have to last 10 years at least. Getting WAF has been harder for me than most. My wife only agreed to let my build a home theater by extracting my approval of a $30,000 remodeling of the master bedroom bath and the attic (for her home office). I have to make what I spend count and have some left over next year for the HDTV that she is (still) resisting me on.

    If I don’t go separates, I am leaning toward the Nad T762. It has only six channels, but an A + B switch that supposedly can be controlled via remote. That would allow me to use it for HT room and kitchen, with the help of some IR repeaters. I couldn’t use both rooms at once, but that’s unlikely in my situation anyway.

    Of course, I could add a 2-channel amp later to power the kitchen. Which begs another question. Would I get near-separates sound by buying the Nad T752 ($750), a 5-channel AVR (80 watts x 5), and adding a powerful 2-channel amp to drive the main speakers. Say the Nad C270 (120 watts x 2), which I can get for about $450.

    The remaining alternative is to buy HK’s 525 ($700 and tax) and whatever I save, put toward purchase of separates in a couple of years. A good multichannel amp to drive the HKs, and then a pre/pro.

    When I listen to good midrange AVRs these days, they seems to sound just fine. In fact, damn good. But in the back of my mind is this nagging fear that I am missing out -- buying half a loaf, so to speak -- by resisting the extra dollars to move up to separates. In turn, that fear is countered by a skepticism of how much better the sound of separates really is. My ears can't always tell in the confines of audio shops where the game is always rigged.

    As someone else here said recently, “you people are trouble.” You’ve got me drowning in choices. Once I make a purchase, I don’t get a second chance for quite some time – barring a winning lottery ticket.
     
  2. Adil M

    Adil M Supporting Actor

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    Go listen. Compare.
    I'm sorry.
     
  3. Jeff.bart

    Jeff.bart Stunt Coordinator

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    Except I can't listen to the Outlaw stuff because it ain't sold by dealers. So i can't compare. And no one who has Nad has the HK, so I can't compare head to head. And every room I listen in every dealership is different, and everyone uses different speakers and different amps/AVRs to drive them.

    If only it were so easy ...
     
  4. Sreeni

    Sreeni Extra

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    I have a B&K Ref 30 with Ref 442 (modded 2x200) and Ref 7250 (5x200) amps. I also recently bought a HK 320 for 299 @ Frys. I hooked up some of my speakers and they did sound very good. Hooking up through the amps did make a difference and it was really good. I think you will be happy with the 520. You could always wait till next year and get the Outlaw 7x100 or even a 3x200 amp which should cover your FL, FR and CTR.
    Also determine what you really like to have and not what someone else says is a necessity. Some people say Logic 7 rules, but other than Lex and some HK users no one else has it. But I sure the others are happy with their systems. (I know I am, I am still amazed at the DTS and DD tracks coming out in movies nowadays)
    Dont worry too much about this and go listen. If you like it, buy it and go enjoy it. Look at some tweaks later, like room treatments, better power (cleaner), etc. which will give you a percieved(I cannot prove it) boost in sound clarity. I did feel the sound of my system sounded much cleaner and crystal clear after I added my Power Center.
    But I think your wife is getting the better end of the bargain. Remodel of 30K for 2K of sound equipment. I should make sure my wife does not talk to her !! [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Good Luck,
    Sreeni
     
  5. Gianni

    Gianni Agent

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    Jeff,

    See my reply on your other thread.
     
  6. GregLee

    GregLee Stunt Coordinator

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    Speakers and amps might last you 10 years, but that's an awfully long time for receiver/preprocessor. Couldn't you keep something in a special fund for upgrading in 5 years to 8 channel sound, or whatever?
     
  7. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

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    Buy used, get a lexicon processor and acurus amps. They will last!

    -rob
     
  8. Jeff.bart

    Jeff.bart Stunt Coordinator

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    Gianni, thanks for the link. The story helped.

    Thanks for the replies. The reason I deliberate over this so much is, naturally enough, because of the money involved, plus the fact that whatever I buy will have to carry me for 10 years or so.

    Why can’t I put aside some money over the next few years for an eventual upgrade? Well, I might be able to, but not right now. The kids are young and my wife is only working part time. So most of my income goes into the house, home repairs, child-related expenses, future college costs, vacation, etc. I have little left over at year end.

    I simply can’t foresee having $2000 lying around for a new pre/pro every 8-10 years – at least until the kids graduate from college. And I can’t understand why pre/pros can’t last that long (changing standards aside).

    Sure, my wife is getting that $30,000 makeover of the bath and attic. But she’s contributing to a $3,500 fund for my stereo stuff. I’ll kick in another $1500 entirely of my own, so it’s not such a bad deal. Just as important, it frees up cash to let me buy an HDTV sooner rather than later. I’ve also got a concession from her to accept an HDTV. She was dead set against it before to the point of unusual (for her) anger. Believe me, it’s a bargain in getting WAF. Besides, I sort of wanted the attic and bath makeover, too (though I suggest the opposite to her as a bargaining chip).

    This whole exercise over AVRs vs separates reminds me of my experience with wine. When I first became a wine lover, I thought a lot of wines tasted good. As I tasted more and developed a more discriminating palette, wines I once liked suddenly seemed flabby, insipid, lacking in fruit, and so forth. I learned to better appreciate finer wines and to find better values.

    Right now, when I listen to separates vs AVRS, I don’t notice as much difference as others here do. Given time, I am sure my experience would mimic that of learning about wine. I would develop a more discriminating ear.

    On the other hand, if I stop going to audio shops and buy a good receiver, I won’t be exposed continuously to the sound of separates and I’ll never truly realize what I am missing.
    At this point, I am leaning heavily toward buying the Nad T762. I can add amps later and eventually get a good pre/pro as prices come down a bit and new tech standards solidify. Still, there’s always a chance that I might take the plunge …
     
  9. NickSP

    NickSP Supporting Actor

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    "But she’s contributing to a $3,500 fund for my stereo stuff. I’ll kick in another $1500 entirely of my own,"

    Seems like you have a total budget of around $5K then? That should definitely get you some serious stuff.
    Things that will last you for 10 yrs are the Amps and Speakers. Prepros and receivers are a different story. I have seen some B&K prepros which are truly upgradable and you should look into those.
    However, you need at least 7 speakers plus a subwoofer, 2 speakers in the kitchen and 5.1 in the main room. Add a 5 channel and a 2 channel amp(kitchen) and this in itself will go over your 5K budget but also keep in mind that you can get some really good used equipment at places like Audiogon.
    I would definitely look into the NAD T762 as a prepro. I tried it for a couple of days and loved it for music and the HT wasn't that bad either. However, the receiver did have some other issues.

    BTW, you did well in your negotiations with the wife. Most of us would have caved in around $1500! (LOL)
     
  10. Martin Rendall

    Martin Rendall Screenwriter

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    Given your stated financial position, here's what I would do, given my experience to date.

    I would get a decent mid range receiver and speakers which match well (or do you already have speakers?). Yamaha, Denon come to mind. Stick with 5 channels. 7.1 is nice, but not worth the gain over a better TV.

    Buy a boombox for the kitchen (or a used integrated if you already have the speakers, or can't recycle them to the HT), and save the rest on a good quality TV. Keep a few hundred back for a decent calibration if you get an RPTV. Don't buy a power conditioner. Run Home Depot speaker wire. Buy mid/low priced interconnects.

    Calibrate, relax and enjoy. No upgrading!

    Martin.
     
  11. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  12. Jeff.bart

    Jeff.bart Stunt Coordinator

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    You got it about right, Nick. I’ve got $5000 to play with on just audio and accessories. If I stay at that number or below, I’ll have at least $2000 for an HDTV by the end of 2003. Still haven’t done my research on digital tv yet. That will take 6-9 months the way I go about it. At any rate, I don’t have to cheap out to the extent that Martin might have thought, though I appreciate the advice.

    At the moment here are my plans

    ***Speakers. 5-piece set with towers. JMLabs Chorus 715 or Dahquist QX10
    $1500 or so

    ***Sub. SVS 20-39 Pci. $700 (shipping plus Better Cables cord)

    ***AVR. HK525 ($750) or Nad T762 ($1100).

    ***Rack. Lower end Sanus Systems, 4 shelves. $180.

    ***Second room speakers. PSB Inwalls. $450.

    **Inwall installation, wire run. $$300-$400.

    Total: $4000 to $4350

    I have wire for the surrounds. I’ll replace front and center wire with good stuff. Runs of 8 feet for center and 10 feet for mains. $40.

    3 S-Videos from DVD, Satellite and TV. Toslink from DirecTV box. Toslink from CD player. $100

    That brings me to $4500. I’ll also need an IR repeater or two. If I sell my old stereo stuff and hand-finished oak entertainment center, that might pay for a new CD or DVD player.

    Final option is the Outlaw 950 matched with a 5 and 2 channel amp. That would add another $900, which I might be able to squeeze out. It would put me at near $6000 and push back the HDTV by six months, but I could live with that if the separates proved worth it.

    Dropping the kitchen inwalls for a boom box is not satisfactory. I tried the boombox, but it’s a pain and takes up space on my breakfast bar. Plus it doesn’t sound so great. The way my kitchen is designed, the movable tweeter on the PSBs can be positioned so that my eating chair, cooking area and prep work area in the kitchen are all directly in the sweet spot. Since I do most of the cooking in our house, I want to be able to have good tunes to make the daily dinner routine more enjoyable. Once I get that mega changer, I’ll have plenty of music to choose from.

    Oh, and I agree with Ryan. I've had my current speakers for 14 years and AVR for 12. They are as good as they day I got them. Take care of things and they last.
     
  13. Jeff.bart

    Jeff.bart Stunt Coordinator

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    By the way, Ryan, how does the fan sound on the HK? I was thinking of holding out for the 7200, but I've been waiting to buy an AVR for six months already. Love the sound of Nad, but wonder if I should save the money ($400 at least) and add separates in the next few years.
     
  14. NickSP

    NickSP Supporting Actor

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    Jeff, although your question regarding fan noise was directed towards the HK and not towards the Nad, I do feel like chiming in. The fan on the NAD was pretty audible even on fairly decent listening levels. That was one of the reasons the NAD went back. Also, the NAD (2 units tried) got hot as hell and they were only being used as a prepro.
     
  15. Adil M

    Adil M Supporting Actor

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    Jeff,
    You're in DC and seem to be in no rush, but more intent on making the right decision, but you don't trust you're ears yet. Go to some NAD dealers, maybe someone who lives in the area will let you audition their separates. Ask for some loaners. You put the deposit down. HK can be found at any CC. Pick up an OpenBox. Don't give them the loaner pitch. Compare at home.
    2 days and your ears will be "there" or close enough. Personally I believe you should go the separates route (longterm), but I have not heard the Outlaws either. Keep a lookout for good deals. Just lately our local dealer was clearing out brand new B&K avr307's for 1700 upfront. That automatically means you'd be able to pick them up in the 1400-1450 range. The 307 is essentially a Ref 30 and B&K amp. Keep your eyes open and compare yourself. Don't get caught up in the hype. Good luck.
     
  16. Mary M S

    Mary M S Screenwriter

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    Still haven’t done my research on digital tv yet. That will take 6-9 months the way I go about it.
    And THAT might stand you in good stead. I believe my display premiered at 8K I purchased at 5.700 this June. and this years on the floor new improved model launched at 4,8 4,9ish? Prices are coming down in 6-month jerks on some of the new technology we are all contemplating.
    Final option is the Outlaw 950 matched with a 5 and 2 channel amp. That would add another $900, which I might be able to squeeze out. It would put me at near $6000 and push back the HDTV by six months, but I could live with that if the separates proved worth it.
    Personally I’d recommend that choice, but then I’m a club convert. [​IMG]
    My new set of speakers were vast improved run by the Outlaw combo. I was assuming much of this was contributed by the 770 (prob out of budget at the moment but worth your future consideration) which was responsible for me hearing these differences. My current FL/FR area are a hungrier 4 Ohms impedance and the 770 seemed to provide the ‘power’ they require for output, over the Pioneer Elite built-ins and the B&K separates in my demos at dealers. Even if you select a different model and/or wait on the 770’s little brother. I just personally feel power is important to your end result and that its easier to achieve with separates.
    The 950 to me just gets ‘out of the way’ of the sound. It was originally sometimes described as ‘bright’. I disagree for the following newbie reasons. I tend towards warmth and fullness to my sound. When I have heard units which others describe as ‘Bright’ they often (to my ears) are not just forward but can color the sound to an often objectionable and quite harsh degree, sometimes even to a level which can approach something I perceive as distortion.
    The 950 is uncolored, transparent but by no stretch of imagination bland. It is dynamic and exact to the source it reproduces. And I ‘color’ the sound to my personal preferences by choosing a speaker that some label as warm. I don’t consider them heavily so, as I also perceive this choice in speaker to be transparent in regards to rather faithfully passing the quality of what they are fed. To my ear they have that ‘richness’ of timber and pitch, a correct reproduction of strings/horns which captures more of the feel of the pressure levels and well-rounded pitch of instruments when at live performance.
    Personal opinion ONLY, Marantz just doesn’t do anything for me leaving me quit cold. I often like the HK branded receivers and in the past some of their separates. I have liked them through the years even when the non-audiophile lay-people (around here anyway) considered them not ‘in’ and subject in years to malfunctions. I have long felt various models were still a good purchase with judicious selection.
    If you can stand the dealings…(I thought I could not at first and had no patience for such but am finding myself doing much more of these type actions) of demo’s and returns.
    I’d listen to what you have time and ability to access first, in house, at dealers, then order the Outlaw since your intrigued. Its worth your time to demo and CS makes dealings easy. Then you’ll know for yourself and will never be second-guessing your choice at this time or later down the road. All of what comes from the forums/reviewers can be a comprehensive valuable baseline collective for feature comparisons, pricing, dependability issues etc on different units.
    But when we all list our personal likes and dislikes of the way different models sound, it just should not factor to you other than as a barest start point. Let your ears decide.
    Have fun and don’t let it (and the home remodel) drive you too crazy, the search for upgrading my visual and audio has represented some great fun AND also some of my most aggravating moments in the last year.
    Happy Holidays!
     
  17. Jeff.bart

    Jeff.bart Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks, Mary. It's clear you know what I am going through. Usually, I know exactly what I want. It's been a long time since I have been this indecisive.
     
  18. Claude D D

    Claude D D Auditioning

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    Go check out the Rotel RSP-1066/RMB-1075 120wx5 combo,you won't be dissapointed.I had gone through several very good receivers before getting this combo(I run a RB-1080 for the front 2 channels 200wX2)The sound quality improvement is awesome.Separates are the only way to go.
     
  19. JeremyX

    JeremyX Stunt Coordinator

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    So I am still trying to learn all this:

    A Pre-Amp + Amp = A/V Receiver (right? to seperates equal, by function, not performance, an av receiver?)

    So say you buy the Rotel pre-amp and amplifier. The pre-amp is the brains that decodes the MP3 file..right? So If you buy a DVD/CD player...does it need to decode MP3 as well? Or is that covered by the pre-amp?

    I love the idea of seperates, wringing the most quality out of a system..but two things make it tough to commit.

    Aesthetics and price. Seperates mean having different looking components in your rack..that idea does not appeal to me.

    And price, well that is just something we all have to deal with in one way or another.
     
  20. Michael Marklund

    Michael Marklund Stunt Coordinator

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    Jeremy,

    Perhaps another option is something similar to what I'm in the process of doing. My old receiver died. Needed a replacement asap and even though I wanted separates, I didn't have the cash for the "full Monty". I bought a "decent" AVR (Denon 3802). Got me all the Dolby/DTS modes I wanted and is capable of 7.1 speaker system (w/internal amps). My next move is to add the amps. Probably a 200w+ 2ch for the mains, followed by a 5ch amp for the surrounds and center. Eventually the 3802 will be replaced by a pre/pro.

    The receiver filled the immediate bill. My system is up and running sufficiently to watch movies. The amps being added over time will just improve the sound over the AVR's internal amps. The system will rock once the pre/pro goes in. The amps can then stay in place in the system indefinately and any future upgrades are done by replacing just the pre/pro. This plan works for me b/c I do not have to buy everything at once and the system will simply get better with each addition.

    Instead of just a AVR or just separates an AVR w/ added amps is a great alternative that can be spread out over time and yet the system is never down waiting for a needed component.

    FWIW, I don't know anything about the NAD, but if I had to start over, I probably would have gone w/ HK just for Logic7.

    Just my $0.02,
    Michael
     

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