Yamaha and musicality, Part II

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jeff.bart, Oct 9, 2002.

  1. Jeff.bart

    Jeff.bart Stunt Coordinator

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    After the last go-around here on this subject, I went back to more dealers to investigate further. Surprise, surprise. I actually found two that preferred Yamaha over all else for home theater and music. One even said he thought Denon, by comparison, was a bit bright! First time I heard that.
    My conclusion? Well, my semi-virgin ears – compared to those of longtime audiophiles here – did not detect many conclusive differences between the receivers to which I listened, at least in two-stereo music. I checked out the Yamaha rx-v2300 vs the Marantz 7200, Sony ES4, Pioneer vsx 45 and vsx 49, Denon 3802 and Nad T752.
    To my ears, the Yamaha sounded terrific at both the top end and bottom end of the musical scale, with arguably the slightest touch of weakness, or perhaps it was just subtlety, in the middies. Certainly more warm than cold. I thought the Denon was the closest in sound, followed by the Pioneer. The Pioneer seemed a tad forward in detailing the highs, but I felt I had to strain to notice a difference.
    The Sony was fine, but did sound different. I don’t know how to describe it, other than to say it wasn’t for me.
    The Marantz definitely stood out more, but I can’t say I liked or disliked it. It seemed warmer and friendlier with its handling of the music, but at the slightest loss of detail. As if the edges of the music had been barely rounded off. Still, it was a matter of degree, not kind.
    The Nad impressed me most as having the best overall sound, but it wasn’t as explosive with the music. A very even keel. Again, though, I would not say it stood out head and shoulders above the others. I could easily live with and enjoy any of these AVRs.
    In short, I decided that the differences were so minute among the receivers that cost and features will be the determining factors in my decision, not the sound itself. The Yammy rx-v2300, Pioneer vsx45, and upcoming Denon 3803 and Nad T762 are my four finalists.
    Unquestionably, I noticed much bigger differences among speakers that I tried with the receivers than I did with the AVRs. And I put the AVRs thru a variety of tests with folk vocals, rock, jazz, orchestra and chamber music. I listened to B&W 603.5s, Vienna Acoustics Haydns and Mirage Omni 9s. All very nice, with different strengths and weaknesses.
    Interestingly, both dealers said, as I have heard, that the Yamaha receivers have become more “musical” in the past “year and a half.” Certainly I didn’t hear anything to persuade me otherwise.
    Why so? I’d throw out two basic theories. First, I don’t have enough experience in listening to receivers. Maybe if I listened more, I’d discern more differences. Simple enough.
    Second, the stiffer competition has pushed the products of the industry closer together, so that the differences increasingly are eliminated. To my mind, this one makes more sense.
    Competition in electronics industry, after all, appears to be entering the same hyperdrive occupied by computer makers. It only figures that everyone is utilizing the best technology to keep up with the Jones, thereby reducing differences in quality. The main brand avrs are getting better with music while the explicitly music oriented avr makers (Nad, Rotel, Integra, etc) are getting better with HT.
    At the same time, it seems to me that a consensus has developed on what’s an appropriate approach to reproducing music – making it sound like it really does (what a concept!) Not exaggerated. Not too high (bright). Not too low (boomy, muddy). Not fatiguing. Etc. Yamaha’s surrender is a clear indication.
    Also, the industry infatuation with DSPs seems to have lessened. Sure, they still give plenty of modes, but most of the work and research has been done. Now the companies appear bent on cutting prices, supplying other new features and improving the timing of new models to gain an edge on rivals.
    In short, the industry is being commoditized, just like with computers and peripherals. (It makes me wonder, then, whether much of the difference people seem to hear on the newest avrs really owes to a placebo-type effect. Or whether it's related to brand loyalty. Or is it something else?)
    Ultimately, this means prices should continue to plummet rapidly while quality and features improve dramatically, as the HT revolution steams ahead. And it won’t end anytime soon. The increasingly popularity of HDTV should drive demand for avrs (or separates) for years to come. Soon we will all be able to afford the highest of high-end audio sound and video reproduction without having to fork over a year's salary.
    Of course, this trend makes it harder for consumers. Every time I am ready to buy a new AVR, some company comes out with a new, snazzier model and the prices of the old models I was looking at fall.
    Now I find myself wanting the new model, but not wanting to pay the msrp. So I wait for the next round of products to emerge from competitors, hoping that it will drive down the price of the avr I am looking at. And then, déjà vu all over again …
    Now, if I could only see the same process play out with separates.
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    Jeff,

    As a former reporter :b I really like your analysis. I think you are on to something.

    So often, in general forums, where we like to pass on what we have learned to others, there is a consensus that accretes.

    It then becomes too easy to repeat the vile canards of yore: "Yamaha can be too bright;" "X-Speaker is laid-back"; "Y Speaker is forward."

    For musicality, how can there be any linear applications in any of this? Whose room is larger with more plush furniture and decor. Whose speakers are next to the entertainment center and who can pull 'em out 3 feet from the back wall. Whose listening spot offers better room imaging and soundstage given these factors.

    Yes, the marketplace is giving us wonderful choices. And this coupled with the CE/computer marketing model with frequent product turnover is resulting in opportunities for competitive shopping for "the last best thing" as you astutely note.

    bill
     
  3. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Jeff.bart:

    Kudos to you sir on one of the finest, most even-keeled and level-headed posts to grace these boards in the short time that I've been a member. It's ironic that I received a private e-mail from another member this morning asking about my thoughts on several receivers I've demoed at home. To paraphrase, I bascially told him that the differences, touted so vehemently by many participants here, are not nearly as dramatic or obvious as one would think. I too see the convergence of quality that you do; if that is because we are simply ignorant of subtle differences that we are unlikely to appreciate anytime soon, then I prefer to be blissfully in the dark and enjoy the equipment that is pleasing to my ear.

    And, since we're talking Yamaha and 'musicality', I can add that I recently spent the better part of a weekend A/B comparing the 630 with the Denon 1803 and the H/K 225, both of which are commonly thought of as more 'musical' than the 630. To my ears, the differences were subtle, and the Yamaha is more than pleasant enough to be lived with for a long, long time. Speakers, room configuration and listener bias have infinitely more to do with the way these AVRs are thought to perform than anything else, in my estimation.

    Enjoy your Yamaha and its sweet, sweet music (donning flame retardant suit... NOW!).

    --AM
     
  4. Matt Jesty

    Matt Jesty Second Unit

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    Jeff ,
    GREAT POST!!!!
    Thanks for taking the time to LISTEN..........
    One thought ,and one question for you:
    You might ,in addition to features, take a hard look at reliability as another determining factor in any choices that you make.......
    AlsO, knowing the D.C. market fairly well, I know you couldn't have heard all those rcvrs in one store on just one set of speakers ,with the same source and demo material...So could you ,if memory permits, list some of the related gear and demos?
    If this is too difficult ,I understand ...Also, the names of the establishments...Thanks.......
     
  5. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    I also agree with Jeff.
    Your finding wasn't "too popular" on this board,and on many others[maybe it still isn't?],and I've been saying this for years.
    I always maintained that electronics and cables don't make anywhere near, as much difference as speakers and room acoustics do.However since receivers like cars these days,coming out yearly with new models,people getting exited about them,and forget the basic principle,that sound is an acoustic energy,not electronic.
    Having said that I think speakers can't be marketed and manufactured like electronics,simply because they sound different in every room,which can't be said about any piece of electronics.
     
  6. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    Well said, Jeff.
     
  7. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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  8. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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  9. Jeff.bart

    Jeff.bart Stunt Coordinator

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    Bill, it takes a former reporter to know a current one, I guess. [​IMG] I cover telecom for a living and keep abreast of the computer world, so I have a front row seat on the great wave of technological innovation washing over our bounty shores.
    Unquestionably, the speakers and the rooms dictated most of the differences I heard in sounds. Some shops had nice setups, others didn't. And my own experience with my stereo in a variety of different rooms over the years has already convinced me that decor is crucial. It's the first thing I fiddle with to get the sound I want.
    To Lewis and Angelo, thanks for the nice words.
    As a followup, I would suggest that different brands of receivers probably have had dinstinct sounds over the years, but that those differences are narrowing rapidly.
    Clearly, both pro and anti Yamaha dealers agree that Yamaha wasn't as good for music a few years ago, and the pros say it's cleaning up its act. (I wonder to what extent the fact that Yammy makes their own processors contributed to their, ahem, 'unique' sound that so many loved -- or loved to hate).
    Perhaps early on in the HT revolution, a midpriced AVR had to choose to put emphasis on either HT or music, but new advances and economies of scale allow companies to do both well. As I've already argued, there also seems to be a greater consensus on what constitutes good sound, at least in the reviews I read around the web from the various mags and many individual users.
    With technology taking a great leap forward and HT and HDTV driving fresh demand, a new urgency has taken grip of the industry. Fresh advances in software (Pl2, THX, DTS-EX) creates fresh demand for hardware improvements, which in turn enable more sophisticated software. Looking at reviews on Ecoustics going back to 1999, and it seems like the market started to surge like a tsunami around 2000 or so. I think it's reaching what's likely to be a sustained peak.
    This trend is clearly pushing the industry closer together in terms of quality and uniformity. I saw the same trend with hard drives, motherboards, chipsets, processors, switches, etc. Everyone is peeking at what everyone else is doing and often using the same topline parts from OEMs. Case in point: the heavy use among DVD makers of Faroudja chips. If you want to be the best, you buy the best components.
    Of course, the brand leaders still can distinguish themselves, but it will increasingly involve superior power supply or extras such as flexible bass management (Sony), automatic soundroom setup (Pioneer), etc. Prices too will play a role.
    In my experience, most major capital intensive industries or high-tech industries can only support 4-5 major national players, with some niche players. Right now you have Yamaha, Harmon Kardon, Onkyo, Sony, Pioneer, Denon-Marantz, wiht JVC making at stab at it. Eventually, I expect one of two of these entries to fade or merge. On the outskirts, you have niche players like Rotel, Integra and Nad.
    What's interesting to me is that the top models of the big AVR makers are now encroaching on what used to be the low end of the separates market. Wonder how this will all shake out.
    To Matt, you are right. Reliability is indeed crucial with the level of quality so similar. That's why I lean toward Yamaha. It seems to have the fewest problems of all the manufacturers. Still, I am waiting to see the 3803 and NAD T762, both of which I would prefer to buy for the features included.
    As for my testing, here is the deal. I went to Myer Emco in Georgetown and tested the Yamaha 2300, Pioneer VSX 45, Marantz 7200 and Sony ES4 using B&W 603.5 floorstanders. Sony DVD player. Then I went next door to Pro Video to hear the Pioneer 45 with M&K speakers.
    Later, I listened to Yamaha, Denon and Pioneer at Tweeter with Vienna's Haydns and the Mirage Omni 9's. I also heard the Denon and Yammy at Audio Video Solutions (Laurel, MD) on Paradigm Monitors. Finally, I heard the NAD 752 at Sound Image in Bethesda and the NAD, Denon and Integra 7.2 at Kensington Soundworks. (I also listened to the Rotel 1055 there.)
     
  10. Jeff.bart

    Jeff.bart Stunt Coordinator

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    Also Matt, I listened to the NAD at Sound Images on PSB Image 4Ts and the NAD, Integra, Denon at Kensington on the Energy Connoisseurs and Totem Arros.
     
  11. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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  12. Matt Jesty

    Matt Jesty Second Unit

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    Jeff,
    AMAZING UNDERTAKING!!!!!!!
    I salute you and your endevour..........
    That's a good goins' over....
    What's your impression of Myer-Emco? Do they seem to be hangin' in there with the others?
     
  13. Dave_CG

    Dave_CG Auditioning

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    Great thread !!!! I'm happy to see I'm not the only one out there who hasn't been sold on all the hype. I completely agree that speakers, placement and room acoustics dwarf receiver differences so much as to make them almost insignificant. Within reason of course.
     
  14. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    This has been a great thread. It becomes so wrote and tired when we spit out "Marantz and H/K for music, Denon and Yamaha for theater, Sony ES and Pioneer Elite for nothing at all (just kidding)" or some variation thereof. In fact, the difference among receivers within a particular price category are less than dramatic.

    --AM
     
  15. Matt Jesty

    Matt Jesty Second Unit

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    I THINK synergy of components are important, and have heard some amp/rcvr and speaker combos that did not work well together , but these don't neccesarily lend themselves to longterm, blanket judgements on "bright, dull, harsh, overly-warm"..etc......
     

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