What's the best sound for HT, Rotel, or Sony?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by John_KM, Jul 5, 2002.

  1. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,
    I'm a recent 'newbie' to the forum, but enjoying it greatly, although I fear my enthusiasm is reflected in some rather lengthy posts, but hey, I'm excited about all this!, especially putting a HT together, albeit in small steps [​IMG]
    From ny own thoughts, and reflecting upon the advice and comments re integrating HT into my existing 2 chan. HiFi, I've decided to go that route, intially due financial constraints, sans center channel, and possibly minus a sub at first as well. Hope no probs here, as have full range L&R front speakers.
    So. The hardware. Hot favourite is the Sony TAE+TAN9000ES Pre/proc, and 5 chan amp combo. The other alternatives being the new Sony ES receiver with DPL2, and the Rotel 1066 pre/pro with a matching Rotel power amp.
    Finish, build, perceived quality, all those non sound related issues attract me to the Sony's. Also as I will of necessity be using mixed speakers (front v's rears) the bass management and equaliser features of the Sony appeal as well. So they're my on paper favourites.
    The difficulty lies in trying to find a dealer who has at least the two Sonys in stock to do an AB, the only fair way to tell IMHO. I have heard the Sony pre/pro, and the receiver, but on seperate ocassions, and neither under any where near ideal circumstances, and a Rotel ( the new receiver - dealer didn't stock the new 1066, but said sound quality re 'sonic signature' was similar, but more detail,).
    I'm hoping someone may have compared say the two Sony's and be able to give an opinion, and also anyone who's compared Sony to Rotel. My use is for HT only, and I'm not troubled by the omission of DPL2, or DTS ES discrete etc. Sound quality is the overiding factor. I've also heard the Denon 3802, and liked it re it's dynamics on HT, but thought its' sonic presentation a little on the thin and bright side for my tastes, and also as to how it would fit in with ny Naim HiFi system, whidh is very dynamic, but leans toward the bright side of things as well, or at least doesn't paper over the cracks with sources with that sort of balance.
    I thought the Rotel had a very rich, and dark sound, lovely on music, but a bit slow dynamically and rythmicaly again to ideally fit in with my 2 chan setup sound wise.
    The Sony pre/pro had a very clear and detailed sound, but quite rich, similar to the Rotel, but not as 'dark' in it's sonic presentation. The one thing I didn't like about it, was that it seemed 'slow' as in the sense of pace, and tension in the music was very laid back. Stangely, it did well on dynamics, both subtle and large, and had a reaonable amount of 'swing' and get up and go, on some musical parts of an DVD soundtrack. But somehow, this feeling of laid back almost a lazy sound, couldn't really work out why. Would poor set up cause this? The dealer just gave it his best guess re speaker distances etc, so things would be far from well aligned. I don't want to be blown away with a too upfront presentation, but I don't want to bored either.
    Any thoughts anyone please?? Should I maybe be thinking of a different amp from the TAN Sony to put with the TAE pre/pro, I belive the amp is the 'weak' point, or at least in 5 chan. mode,-its said to be ok in either 2 or 3 chan mode, which is the way I would be using it. Bear in mind that in OZ, things like the parasound are not readily available AFAIK, or would likely be out of my price range with import duties taxes etc, here.
    I guess it all comes down to compromises. In an ideal world, I'd have the Naim processor and 3 channel amp, but it's hugely expensive, and in other threads, I've come to the conclusion that for HT use only, whilst brilliant, probably wouldn't give me as much bang for the buck, so to speak, as a new widescreen TV re overall HT enjoyment.
    Lastly, the amp would be used to drive the rears, and center only, front L&R being handled by my existing equipment. I'm wondering in that light, if I'd notice the same lack of 'pace' that i noticed when auditioning the Sony, and also the Rotel.
    Anyway, sorry about the long post, one of these days I'll be clearer about everything, have my HT setup - finally,- and won't need to be asking all these convuluted questions!!
    Thanks everyone,
    John. [​IMG]
     
  2. Craig_Kg

    Craig_Kg Supporting Actor

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    Where in OZ are you, John?
    Compared with your Naim based stereo setup, almost any HT setup will sound inferior. HT is a different animal and the visual element reduces the audio requirement as you noted in your other thread.
    Try joining the forums at the Plaza for some local advice.
     
  3. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,
     
  4. Craig_Kg

    Craig_Kg Supporting Actor

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    I'm not sure how to interpret the "slow, lazy" categorisation. I have been informed that the TAE/TAN9K series was developed to the tastes of the Japanese market while the 555ES was intended as an export item from the start. This may explain the sonic signature of these otherwise very similar HT devices.
    I think just about everyone here agrees that stereo is a much more demanding medium than multichannel (except, perhaps dynamically). There are many other ways to step on people's toes and start flames, however [​IMG] [​IMG].
     
  5. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,

    Re the 'slow lazy' catagorisation. Flat earthers call this PRaT. That is, pace, rythnm, and timing. Martin Colloms, engineer, and well respected HiFi reviewer wrote an interesting essay on this, which can be found on the US stereophile magazine archives.

    In essence, the language used to descibe the sonic signature of HiFi equipment, tends to run the scale of things like soundstage width, depth, height, focus of sounds such as instruments, vocals etc within that soundstage, and their spatisl relationships; timbral accuracy, both from the point of realism, and listening fatigue, all aspects of the 'presentation' of the sound. Or the effect of 'being in the concert hall' as some people like to put it. The other element, the one that conveys the MUSICAL aspects of the performance, would be the dynamics. Studies have been done, that show that we respond to music mostly by subtle shifts in dynamics, and tempo, as regards our sense of emotional involvment with the musical performance, and how we respond to it.

    Speaking as an musician, I agree with this 100%. PRaT is really just simply about the systems ability to do well, or not as the case may be in this area. I'm simplifying, but that's the 'jist' of it. The subtlties of rubato etc in a musical performance, the things that make us feel invovlved, happy, sad, foot tapping, air guitar etc.

    Very few HT systems I've heard do the PRaT thing well, but as I'm discovering, arguably don't need to, or at least again, in the context of visual focus, and wrap around sound, it's less noticeable, or important. But coming from a 2chan system that excells in the area of 'PRaT', I thought the Sony quite 'slow'. Certainly the 555ES had more 'get up and go' but again, unable to comment if that was re the procesor, or the amplification side of it.

    Anyway, didn't mean to be longwinded, but just wanted to explain what I meant by slow and lazy sounding.

    Cheers,

    John.
     
  6. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer
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    Hello John_KM

    What is your budget? If you are looking at flagship receivers I would recomend looking at the following.

    Pioneer 49TX Elite Receiver
    Denon AVR-5802 Recevier

    Here are some lower priced sugestions.

    Harman Kardon - with Lexicons Logic7 surround
    Yamaha

    IMHO I find Sony receivers to be lacking in many areas. I realize that you may like the Sony. And that is no problem but you may find something else you might like better. Sony has a bad habbit of using low grade parts in alot of there products. The only way you can get around this is to go with the Sony ES line. Let us know how everythings goes and I look forward to hearing from you.
     
  7. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    PRaT Eh I like the way that sounds[​IMG] Anyway I just sold me TA-E9000ES and bought the Rotel so I guess I'm a good person to ask about them. There were several reasons why I sold the Sony and got the Rotel with all but one being feature related. I simply needed a second zone out that the Sony lacked plus I wanted to take advantage of PLII and the 7.1 abilities of the Rotel. I was also somewhat dissatisfied with the 2 channel performance of the Sony so that made the jump to the Rotel a little easier. I wrote a review here when I first got the Rotel and made several mentions of the Sony there. Basically though the build quality was a little higher on the Sony but the Rotel is well built as well just not a "flag ship" unit. The Sony does offer better bass management and has the built in eq for all speakers except the LFE channel which is a nice bonus. Sound quality between the two though is quite different. The Sony was much more lively and open sounding compared to the more laid back Rotel. That's not to say the Rotel isn't detailed its just less bright sounding so depending on your speakers and room it might be tip the favour one way or another. Either way both sound very good and you won't be dissapointed owning either. I guess one way to compare the two is to ask if I miss the Sony at all and the answer to that is a resounding no. I've been very happy with the Rotel...it sounds fantastic and offers more features that I desired. My room is long and narrow and IMO 7.1 in this room is much nicer sounding then 5.1.
     
  8. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,
    Once again a big thank you to those writing in; as I've come to realise, being a relative newcomer to HT and forums in general, it takes quite a bit of time writing up posts, being mindful of ones 'audience', checking for and making replies etc, so really appreciate the effort others make in responding, and the sharing of knowledge and experience, and the resultant learning curve. Well, for me at least! [​IMG]
    Dave, thanks for your most kind thoughts and comments. It's hard to 'qualify' a budget for guidance, as you are in the US, and I in Australia, so it's a relatively different market. But I'll try. Firstly, products like the Pioneer Elite series are not imported into Australia. I've seen an receiver, and DVD, brought in by an expat US citizen, running on batteries, to cope with our 240V power supply, and the finish with the wood end pieces, the gloss black and gold pinstriping etc was stunning, and nothing approaches it from Pioneer here unfortunatley. As far as I know, the Denon is, but not called a 5800; it's an AVC10Se I think it is. (I'm not very 'up' on Denon nomeclamature)
    Harmon Kardon has a very small market share here, with a very limited selection of models, and I'm not aware of the model you mentioned being available. Yamaha is, although again, they don't bring in all the range, although I believe the top of the range receiver is available, at around the Aus$5000 mark, which is about on par $$ wise for the top Denon as well.
    I haven't tried to see what sort of discounts one could get for those two products, however the Sony TAE/TAN combo which also lists for the Aus$5000 mark, can be had for somewhere around the 3.5 to 4k mark, which makes it exceptional value for money. As a comparison, the Naim AV2 processor i've mentioned is Aus$7000, and the matching 3 channel amp Aus$4000. As a further comparison for HT 'upgrading' the top of the line large widescreen HDTV CRT Sony Wega TV, list for $7k, with a street price closer to $6k.
    So you can see how markets vary, and budgets and value can change of necessity, and from market to market. My Sony DVD player costs less here, than for eg the Arcam DVD88 DVD player; the reverse of the situation in the UK. Exhange rates, freight, duties, taxes etc.
    From my other thread 'are boutique pre/proc good value' I've come to the conclusion that the visual side offers the greatest improvement for the money in the context of HT, and am budgeting accordingly.
    I'd love the 'best' which for me would be the Naim combo, but NOT at that price, for solely HT use. Now if mainstream music goes multichannel, that may be another story, but meantime,,,
    I agree with your thoughts of quality re lower end Sony. But then, I think that about almost any receiver on the market as well, or at least the ones' we see here. Given the rapidity with which the market adopts new technologies the lifespan of such products is not much of an issue, and apart from the so called 'crash and bang' aspects of HT, would have difficulty in taking any of them seriously as Hi Quality items where the design emphasis is on obtaining the best sound possible.
    In the absence of the Elite Pioneers, the top ES Sonys, and the Rotels, represent about the best compromise of a mainstream quality product available here at more 'common sense' if that's the word to use, prices. For me, value means many things, overall quality is probably my main prerequisite. How many gadgets, features is of lttle importance, as I use it too listen to, not make toast. So I look at the quality of design, engineering, build, and finish, along with sound quality. Call me old fashioned maybe, but I also like to take my time, make the right purchase, and KEEP it. Continual upgraditis, or feeling the need to, is not my bag. Buy right the first time, with something that will keep one happy for a long period of time, and enjoy it, free from the mindset of commercial interests shouting upgrade, upgrade, etc, etc, - newer is not always better.
    True, in the world of say DVD, processors etc, this is hard, but certainly amps and speakers can last for many, many years. Quality, is quality, no matter how old it is. My previous amp, a NZ made rarity called a Rait, intrinsically a copy of a Radford, lasted around 23yrs, till it bit the dust with thermal runaway, and no parts could be sourced for it, but it still sounded better than any reciever available on the market, and it took a great deal to better it with new equipment. Anyway, I'm waffling on a bit here! :b
    Hello Andrew, and thank you too for writing in, and for the review URL which I promptly read, thank you. And especially for your most helpful, and objective and fair comments re the Sony v's the Rotel. I only wish more would voice such opinions, merely being told that something is 'better' is not particularly helpful without some qualification, as the old axiom goes, one mans meat is another mans poison, so when I get to read about how a product actually sounds, it helps immmensly from the point of getting a handle on it, and being able to make up ones own mind according to ones own tastes and preferences etc. Re the build quality, I'd have no doubt that on the amplification side (talking say the TAN9000ES, v's say a Rotel 1095 multi-channel power amp, the Rotel would have the edge in component quality, and possibly in the pre as well. Certainly they'd be comparable. VERY interested to hear your comments re the Sony being more open and lively, re the Rotel, richer and more laid back. They were my thoughts as well from the limited auditioning I've been able to do, and hence a slight leaning towards the Sony from that point, as a closer match to Naim, which is very dynamic. That PRaT term again. (No pun intended! [​IMG] )
    As a matter of interest, what amps did you put with the TAE?
    Choices here are very limited, unless one goes way up the line to Krell etc, way out of my budget, the choice of a reasonable quality multichannel poweramp is down to just about the Rotels and the Sony TAN9000ES. The other option would be Naim, but just too costly unfortunately, and almost unavailable second hand. People have a tencency to keep them!
    One thing you may be able to make an opinion on. As my total system will 'hang' from the TAE if I go with it, and the matching TAN amp running in only 2 or 3 channel mode to drive center and rears, with the fronts being handled by my Naim, would the 'slowness' I've mentioned (Sony relative to Naim) be overly noticeable in that context? Bear in mind it's just a 'guess' as I'm not able to do the literal comparo.
    Anyway, this is turning out to be another 'long' post, thanks once again all for reading all of this, and look forward to hearing from you all with any further comments.
    Thanks once again,
    Cheers,
    John.
     
  9. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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  10. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,
    Yes, Andrew, I know just where you're coming from, as the 'lack' of DPL2, and the additional inputs for 6.1 etc are a concern, and a point against the Sony, not whithstanding that for extra $$$ one can get the TAP9000ES pre for use with SACD, and DVD-A etc. But still no DPL2, or 6.1 etc.
    But, and isn't there always one of those, [​IMG] if DVI or similar becomes the new 'standard' interface, there's the promise of a very fair degree of instant obsolescense for the majority of equipment that we own already today, as I understand it, so nothings eventually immune from the newer gadget just around the corner syndrome unfortunately.
    But you're right, it's a point against the Sony nonetheless, and one that does irk me, and puts me off it, as against the later 555ES receiver (the new one with DPL2 etc) or the Rotel 1066 etc as you mention.
    The other fly in the ointment out here though is cost. Sony Australia bring in the TAE/TAN combo, RRP is Aus$5k, but getting quotes as low as $3.5k. Rotel is brought in by an independent wholesaler, who's retail arm I've had some superficial dealings with, and found to be somewhat unethical in their dealings and general business approach, which puts me off dealing with them as you can imagine. Also, whilst the rrp of the 1066 with a matching 5 channel amp is Aus$4.5k, there's no discounting, effectively making the Sony $1k cheaper, which is a worthwhile saving to say the least, especially as it would appear that the 'overall' sound quality would be much on a par, only different as regards the lighter brighter, v's more laid back darker/richer sound etc.
    Personally, i like the Rotel, but think the Sony, despite the handicap of a slightly lessor feature set, is more likely to integrate with my existing 2chan HiFi sound quality wise than the Rotel.
    If you've ever heard Naim, you'll know where I'm coming from there. BTW, love those Musical Fidelity amps, great sound indeed. Harmon Kardon I can't unfortunately comment on, as I've not heard it, very rare here, and I've not heard of seperate amps being available at all, only receivers I think.
    Also thanks for bringing up the point about the 2 channel pass through, although it's something that won't be of concern, as I'm intending to keep the HT completely away from the 2chan, mostly because the very individualistic wiring schemes that Naim employ would make putting their CD players output through the Rotel near impossible, and also my deire to not compromise my two chan system in any way by having HT processors etc, any where in the signal chain. I'm intending to run DVD to processor, and then processor L&R outputs to a spare input on my 2chan pre, and the other center, and surround outputs from the processor to the Sony 5 chan. amp, but running it in 3 channel mode, or if a Rotel, then again just using 3 channels to drive center and rars. It's slightly 'fiddly', but if there's going to be any sound compromises, it won't be with the 2chan, which is, and will continue to be, IMHO, by far the better sound per se, so not really wanting to 'mess' it up.
    I guess my two channel roots are showing through here!
    Anyway, must away, as I've got a demo set up to audition the TAE/TAN v's the new 555ES later today, so must get a few things done in anticipation.
    Thanks once again Andrew, and to all for taking the time to write in, and looking forward to any additonal comments/advice. I'll keep you posted as to how things go.
    Cheers,
    John. [​IMG]
     
  11. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    Just keep us posted with what ever you decide to go with...both are great choices and neither will dissapoint you.
     
  12. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Hello All,
    Andrew, the vibe from this forum and the assistance and advice I've gained here have been quite something, and I'll be not only keeping you all informed, but hopefully have something to contribute on a regular basis, when I've finally got it all sorted out. [​IMG]
    Well, yesterday I finally got to hear the STRV-A555ES (DA5 is the equivalent model I believe in North America) v's The Sony TAE/TAN combo.
    No one here on this forum has suggested that the 555 would outperform the TAE/TAN. However, I've read comment to that effect on the AV forums, and elsewhere, and as the 555Es has the advantage of DPL2, as well as lower $$, wanted to hear for myself. I could not again say that the setup was ideal, however both amps suffered the same disadvantge, and both were run in auto decode mode, ie no sound modes engaged.
    The 555ES has a very good, and impressive sound, and I can see that to the uninitiated, or inexperienced, or casual listener, that it would appeal a great deal. It was very clear, detailed, with a good sense of dynamics, most especially on large 'swings' and a reasonable sense of timing, and rythm, and was most impressive in it's sense of weight, and drive; a typical Home Theatre sound if you will. However, I also felt, that a lot of the detail present was due to a forward projection in the upper midrange, such that the tonal balance became at times over bright, and somewhat harsh. If you were going to listen at high levels, or perhaps over a period of several hours, ie a 'jam' session of say two or more movies in an evening, then I think listening fatigue would be a real issue with this amp. Certainly, on dynamic crescedos, the sound would noticeably harden, as the power supply started to run out of 'puff' and the audible distortion climbed. Not clipping mind you, just audible 'strain'.
    I would rate this as about equal to, or perhaps a little better than the Denon 3802 I've also auditioned, but would dismiss both for MY tates, as being a little too thin and lightweight; (Denon), and a tendency to be forward and hard (Sony). Again my comments here re the Sony, are as auditioned, and neither of the amps had been warmed up.
    It was immediately apparent that the TAE/TAN combo was in a different league. Whilst not as immediately attention grabbing as the 555 with it's very upfront and lively presentation, there was a much greater wealth of fine detail on offer, with a smoothness, openess and naturalness to the sound, particularly noticeable on dialogue, that the 555ES could not approach. On the debit side, the sound was very slightly veiled, and opaque compared to the 555, less that sort of clear transparency if you will, but the other qualities more than made up for it. It did sound a little 'slower' in terms of pace, compared to the 555, but surprisingly considerably better than when i had heard it in isolation several days earlier. However, it had a breadth of scale, and dynamic range that again the 555 could not match.
    Importantly, I felt both relaxed, and yet involved by the sound, I definitely had one or two emotional reactions with the sound of the TAE/TAN, always a good sign, and one that I can only remember feeling/noting with hearing both the Naim, as I've mentioned, and whilst auditioning for my DVD, a Sunfire/Dynaudio combination - all had that sense of involvement and being there with the overall experience, such that ones emotions were engaged, rather than just somehow abstractly being entertained, or rather left cold if you will, which is what a great deal of HT equipment I've heard manages to do for me unfortunately.
    I've heard so far, Naim, (wonderful, but too many $$ for HT in the context of the visual element as well as the sound), Denon and Sony receivers as mentioned, Rotel receiver, (very smooth and nice, but too laid back for my tastes re feeling involved etc for HT, possibly a little better than the Sony for music) and now the TAE/TAN, which is so far the most impressive of the 'affordable' HT seperates.
    The one remaining possiblity is the Rotel 1066 pre/proc, as I've discussed, and matching power amp. I haven't heard it, only the new receiver, and might try and do so, but on paper, as I've mentioned, I'm a little less in favour of it than the Sony; should be similar sound to receiver, ie dark, smooth, a bit soft and laid back, but probably more detail, and perhaps more 'get up an go' but maybe a bit less on the finish, bass management, equaliser, side of things, and last but not least an importer, whos' retail arm I've had some superficial dealings with, as I mentioned, and found them to be very unethical in their approach, which puts me off buying product which they import and service.
    So the Sony's looking very good indeed, the only fly in the ointment being the omission of DPL2, but I'm not overly concerned, as sound quality is what I listen to, not specifications, or surround sound fields etc.
    I think I owe it to myself,despite the onpaper differences, to try and get an audition of the Rotel pre/pro/amp combo, before making a final decision; as I'm discovering, listening is the most important thing in assessing a new purchase in HT field, just as much as it does with 2 channel. I hope my impresions with the 555 v's the TAE/TAN combo will be of use if anyone else out there has been thinking of that one as well.
    Anyway, must away, but will keep you all informed. Once again thanks for all the advice, and the benefit of everyones knowledge and experience.
    Cheers,
    John.
     

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