To Receiver Manufacturers: Less channels, more watts! (WARNING: LONG)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by EmetW, Sep 25, 2002.

  1. EmetW

    EmetW Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2002
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Before flaming of myself ensues from the subject caption, I must say that I love six and seven channel audio, given that the room they are being used in is large enough (in a smaller room, the sixth and/or seventh speaker just doesn't break away from the imaging that two to five speakers have plus a well done soundtrack). I also have five pairs of speakers plus a center channel lying around the house (all timbre matched) so my reasons against 6+ channels are not due to a shortage of speakers. Having said this, let me move on...
    I was raised as a child on a steady diet of large 40-60+ lb. Pioneer and Yamaha receivers that would bench from 20-20khz in the range of 100-180 wpc into 8 ohms and would handle 4 ohm loads with little effort and no apparent thermal strain (heck, they're my subwoofer amps now after being passed from my parents to me so they've survived 20-30 years of abuse and work like new so we'll assume they're reliable [​IMG] )
    A few years ago I heard about this thing called Dolby Pro Logic (okay, maybe eons ago) and so I invested in a Denon AVR-2500. Dolby Digital or "AC-3" was out at that time as well, but my budget did not allow me the luxury of buying a laserdisc player and the expensive discs they played, so I was stuck with VHS and DPL surround sound. That Denon was a sheer brute of a receiver and I wish Denon still made them that powerful (Sure, the 3600 and 4800 are probably just as powerful if not more so, but how much do these cost and they only add a few little microchips and equal power all around?). It has preamp inputs for the front three channels and I would recommend to anyone out there looking for a nice separate amp to buy two of these and use the two as a total of six discrete DDSC channels of high powered music (I never ran a sub, only the built in power of the '2500 and large front speakers-talk about beautiful).
    Then I roamed off into the car audio world because many commuting hours spent in my car required some decent sound. I sold the Denon AVR-2500 (*sniff*) and invested in sound deadener, a nice Alpine preamp/CD headunit, MCM component speakers with hand made crossovers designed to match the natural rolloffs of the chosen mids/tweeters, a sub (or sometimes two depending on what I was trading with friends) and the amps to power it. This year I don't have the long commute anymore so I sold my subwoofers for photography equipment and left it at that-no home audio but a Denon DC-30 shelf system I got at a UPS auction for $20 powering two bookshelf speakers I put together for free from random components lying around the house and a Koda SW-1000 I paid $65 for. Not bad sound for a total invested price of $85. This summer I visited my uncle's house and he invited me to watch "Behind Enemy Lines" on his Integra/Velodyne home system. WOW! I had forgotten all about this new DVD thing and what the discrete world of surround sound had to offer to the movie viewing audience. Of course, a $1500 THX certified DVD player, a $1200 receiver, and a $2000 speaker system had better sound good, but I was determined to find my own setup now that digital surround sound was possible with DVD's.
    To make a long story short, I put together a surround system rather quickly (as a freelance professional photographer I have lots of off-time: good for traveling or the next best thing: watching movies). But in my quest to find the right equipment, I encountered some snares along the way: to 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1? I first experienced 6.1 in a theater watching Star Wars Episode I where Jar Jar Binks is leading the two Jedi Knights through the forest and there is a rustling of trees in the rear 6th channel. Oooooo, I thought, pretty neat. But was it worth getting an Onkyo TX-DS696 (or insert 6 channel receiver here)? They were so much more on the used market than 676's (I almost always support my fellow man and buy used from a reputable seller on ebay, Elitecaraudio, or Hometheaterforum and in five years of trading almost $25,000 total worth in merchandise I have yet to have a problem (hint: caveat emptor (if its too good to be true, it probably is, e.g. a Linn CD transport Buy It Now for $300 on ebay [​IMG] ))) What is not explained is that most of these new receivers have the same power supply as the older receiver, but it must be split 6 or 7 ways instead of 5 so the power to each channel decreases. My uncle's Integra DTR-7.2 for example has been rated at a measly 40 watts per channel. He paid something like $900 for it brand new and the thing won't drive large size speakers at moderate to high levels below 100hz. worth a nickel. At low volume there is almost no soundstage with large speakers. However, with his small Velodyne satellites and monstrous Velo sub, the system sounds superb. Am I missing something here? It appears that he paid over twice what I did for a receiver that adds extra channel processing but has half the power output. It sounds to me like the audio marketplace has become computer savvy more than anything else. Watts just aren't "hip" anymore-it's your processing capabilities that win the market.
    Not this market. Not only did I decide on an "inferior" Onkyo TX-DS676, but I found it drives large front speakers to acceptable volume levels with authoritative bass without any equalization or other post-signal processing. Look at our turnover rate these days: DPL stood its ground for many years, untouched by the AC-3 market. DVD changed that. 5.1 was cool for a few years, but then came 6.1 and 7.1 within only a few years. Many manufacturers offer these processing functions on even their cheapest receivers, making older higher end recievers obsolete (compare the price of a used Pioneer VSX-29tx-a beautiful receiver with over 120 watts per channel and THX Ultra certified. You can get one used for between $300 and $400. A new VSX-811S sells for this much new and doesn't offer near the robustness that the 29tx and its "Elite" designation has to offer-only a few more channel processing functions. The turnover rate is simply mind-boggling these days. Even a Harman Kardon AVR-80II which originally sold for $1200 can be had for less than $200 on the open used market today. Although it had one of the best THX receiver amps out there, it doesn't have built in offerings such as DD, DTS, DTS-EX, THX EX, DTS NEO, DTS 7.1, etc. etc. etc.
    It is safe to say that, these days, the price of a receiver is not based on its ability to play music well and have power to boot, but only how advanced its computer system is. What costs a manufacturer more to make? An advanced computer chip? Or a power amplifier to be reckoned with? And which sells for more? Well, both of course, as shown by the Pioneer Elite VSX-49TX's, Denon 5803's, Onkyo 989's, Sony 7ES's, Harman 8000's, and Yamaha RX-V1's to name a few. But a receiver with less processing capabilities, regardless of upgradability, will sell for MUCH less than a lower powered, poorer quality machine with the newest surround sound.
    We don't want more channels, we want more watts! Why pay more for something that is marketing the use of more speakers, more upgrades, and has such a limited media available for it? Seriously, how many movies have 7.1 encoding? Does everyone buy home theater in a box speaker systems? The newer underpowered receivers only mock us audio guru's with front speakers that scream meat'n'potatoes. Not everyone has the budget for dedicated separates. Believe me, I'd give up a 7.1 channel system almost anyday for my friend's Martin Logan ReQuest electrostatic towers and Audio Fidelity preamps and amps-it sounds better than most surround sound systems, but it only implements two speakers! Is more speakers and processing what we really need?
    To conclude my thoughts on the matter, I would like to leave you with this: Whose game are we playing with extra channels of sound? What happened to the days of high quality amps? And is the speed of light really slowing down? [​IMG] I'm not saying don't buy 6.1 or 7.1 or two channel systems are the way to go-they're not when it comes to movies. But are we allowing the audio market to become a hyped up computer market? I hope that it will not, although the computer itself makes a great centerpiece in an HT. And if it does, you will know where to find me-surfing the pages of ebay and random classifieds for audio components of yesteryear. So before everything goes the way of the computer chip, as it will, I would like to make one last request to audio manufacturers: Give me watts or give me nothing. I will not replace my beloved full range fronts with satellites and a boomy sub. And the last thing we need is a receiver with power output made for 5 channels trying to drive 10 separate full range speakers in a 10.1 system.
    Ah, who the heck cares. What could a 19 year old possibly know about audio...
     
  2. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2002
    Messages:
    538
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    10.1 is not that far away. I quote the new sound and vision feedback section (pg. 20 Too much surround).

    "People like THX developer and surround sound guru Tom Holman believe using more speakers can only enhance the realism of the sound. In fact, Holman has been advocating a 10.1 channel system- complete with a ceiling channel- for years and has demonstrated it at the consumer electronics show"

    I hear what you are saying, and I am not too much older than you are. However, I think the problem is that most of the receivers that come out these days are crap. Ironically, I find them high powered crap. To me it is not about wattage, but quality. Just the other day there was a thread kicking around along the lines of "inexpensive receiver that can handle a 4ohm load" Give me a break! A lot of these new boxes cannot even handle 4ohm loads. Speakers that have this impedance are considered tough louds or exotic. That is wrong.
    I don't want or need 150wpc for ht, just give me 50 good ones!


    -rob
     
  3. Nick V

    Nick V Second Unit

    Joined:
    May 7, 2002
    Messages:
    421
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Why wouldn't you consider just buying quality standalone amps, and a "cheap" receiver that has all the processing you could possibly need? And, when new formats come out, instead of having to spend a whole bunch of money for a new mid-fi receiver, all you need is the cheapest receiver that has all the processing once more.

    If you were gonna do that, obviously, you would want to invest in a decent 2ch. pre-amp for your music, but this is the way I'm gonna go about things for my next upgrade, and that way I can have a GREAT 2ch. listening experience compared to a mid-fi receiver, and I can have good HT.
     
  4. Joe Szott

    Joe Szott Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2002
    Messages:
    1,962
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Emet,
    First off, let me congratulate you on your knowledge and finely tuned ear. For your age, you are already an accomplished audiophile [​IMG]
    The rest of this is IMHO, please no massive flaming on my opinion:
    For the present state of audio equipment, don't confuse business with entertainment, they are two separate entities regardless of what BS the 'sound' companies spout. I've worked in tech (DSP, DVD, uP, MP3 chips, marketing) for 10 years and it IS a feature game. Understand that all these companies sell their products by distributing little 2 page glossy product briefs at trade shows and then demoing their units later AFTER there is interest. So the more formats and catch-phrases you can list as bullets on your marketing material, the better your chance at actually getting to the demo in the first place (which then wins you space on shelves.) About the only company I don't see taking this path today is Outlaw Audio, but currently they are the black sheep for choosing quality over features and not really having any marketing at all.
    Also, there is an upgrade attitude that is fueled by the entre industry -- from salesman to speaker manufactorer. The more people that take the leap to 6.1, 7.1, 9.1, whatever, the more speakers they sell. The more speakers they sell, the more people buy the newer receivers to power those speakers. Even audiophiles who are happy with their systems wouldn't be caught dead without the new formats. After all, how many people you know who are true audiophiles stop with a kickass 2 speaker setup? They always get at least a 5 speaker setup to see what the hoopla is about (and to not look out of date.) Even if they listen to 90% music, most all of them I know have at least a 5 speaker setup with a separate dedicated 2 line amp for music.
    It's a real scam but it's here to stay. I say just buy the best of the old world and be happy if anything ever arrives to take it's place...
     
  5. Paul Clarke

    Paul Clarke Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Emet,

    Your complaint is a very familiar one around here. The trend you refer to had it's genesis before DVD's final arrival but was truly consolidated afterwards.

    We are left to think What? of the former audio reality. Was there ever a necessity for 30-60lb receivers delivering minimal channels? Were people misled into thinking that sound quality, power and low impedance rating were inter-connected and desirable? Were these ever really necessary?

    To me, the current audio trend, like so many unrelated companion ones in general life, serves as useful metaphor for the devolution of standards which occurred all throughout the 90's and rapidly accelerated at the decade's end. Also known as 'the emperor has no clothes' phenomenon. Oh yes, times were good during the 'party'. Aren't they always?

    So where are the watts? The low impedance capabilities? And where is the quality Rob speaks of? They still exist of course but you must go further up the model line to be certain nowadays.

    Personally, I don't need anything over 5.1. It's difficult enough trying to find the desired attributes in a 5.1 receiver let alone anything beyond that.

    Just my $.02.
     
  6. Felipe S

    Felipe S Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Well, there are a lot of options available depending on what you're looking for. If you're more interested in sound quality, then you can spend a lot of money in that area... if it's big clean power per channel you're looking for, then again, you can spend a lot of money in that area. If you want both... then... you get the picture.
    Most manufacturers just make it easy for the average consumer to have an 'all-in-one' audio solution. Processor, decoders, ampliers,etc all in one box.
    Plus, if they make for example a $10,000 machine with all the bells and whistles.. will the average consumer be willing to spend that kind of money on it? Probably not. So that's why there are hundreds of "under powered" (if you will)-multichannel receivers out there with 'adequate' processors. Because it's cheaper to manufacture, which in turn makes them affordable... which means there will be more demand for it.
    People want the 'feel' of a movie theater at home. Will a $200 receiver w/5.1 sound and adequate speakers give them that? Yes, it will. Does everyone 'need' a 7.1 w/ dual subwoofer setup + $15,000 worth of speakers? No... but it is available for those who want 'more'. For those who find joy in this great hobby which is home theater.
    You can say the same thing about cars... "Less options, MORE HORSEPOWER!!!"... well it's not gonna happen. But those who want it, there are options available to get it.
    so in conclusion...... *ugh.. i need lunch.. I'll be back later with a conclusion*
    [​IMG]
     
  7. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2002
    Messages:
    538
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
     
  8. Craig_Kg

    Craig_Kg Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2002
    Messages:
    768
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    The answer is outboard amps. Just about any mid priced receiver has adequate processing for HT so just use external amplifiers for the most important channels (front, center, sub) and then you don't feel bad when you upgrade for new formats every year [​IMG].
    As for 10.1, cinemas use 5.1 or 6.1 tracks so what is the justification for 10.1 (or 10.2) except to help manufacturers sell us more gear?
     
  9. MichaelFusick

    MichaelFusick Second Unit

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2002
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    you get what you pay for... There's lots of good stuff out there with scary power and multi channels... Just people don't want to pay for quality anymore. They think they should have it all for less than $500... And, the MFG's make this crap for those people who will buy it.
     
  10. Karl Englebright

    Karl Englebright Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 1999
    Messages:
    122
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
     

Share This Page