Cambridge Azur 840E or Emotiva XSP-1 - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 01-20-2013, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
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(Sorry for the rampant posting recently - I am very excited and very close to having a complete system.)

I am building a new music/HT system. I've decided to do a separate amp, a 2-channel pre-amp with HT bypass for music and an AVR for the HT part. I intend to use an Oppo 103 to play DVDs and music CDs. The next piece is the pre-amp (then on to AVR and sub).

At the moment I am looking between a used Cambridge Audio Azur 840E and the new Emotiva XSP-1. I've read posts on both and hoping someone might be able to help with this comparison. Drawbacks, must have features in one (or missing from the other)? They both seem to elicit high marks.

My speakers are Synchrony One towers and the amp is a Bryston 9B-SST (which I plan to bi-amp to 4 of the 5 Bryston channels).


Jeffrey

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post #2 of 19 Old 01-20-2013, 06:17 PM
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As far as a stereo preamp I would go with Wrd4sound. I have a bottlehead Quickie. Thats a tube pre kit. I love it, but its a kit. My second choice would be wrd4snd.
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post #3 of 19 Old 01-21-2013, 06:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by earwaxxer View Post

As far as a stereo preamp I would go with Wrd4sound. I have a bottlehead Quickie. Thats a tube pre kit. I love it, but its a kit. My second choice would be wrd4snd.

earwaxxer - thanks for the reply. The kit is an interesting looking idea but probably not for me. I'll need something a little more finished for the wife to accept into the living room with the rest of the AV equipment. :-) I did find wyred4sound and they have a few products, if not slightly outside what I was hoping to spend. What do you like about wyred4sound?

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post #4 of 19 Old 01-21-2013, 10:55 AM
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My current setup is a hybrid much like what you are wanting to set up. I use an Emotiva USP-1 preamp and a Crown XLS1500 to drive the mains. The preamp is the only link in the 'chain' that does nothing for multi-channel audio. I don't see much difference between the XSP-1 and the Cambridge preamp other than MSRP. Both have very similar capabilities and do what they do very well. Maybe a third option might help you decide - take a look at the Harman Kardon HK 990 integrated amp. It has all of the capabilities as those two preamps plus it contains a pair of mono block amps with 150/300wpc into 8/4ohms - internal DACs - and has home theater bypass - all in one box. If I had to do it all over again thats what I'd do. And actually I owned one for a while but I sold it. Wish I hadn't done that! Now I have 3 boxes where I used to have one - the preamp - amp - and DAC.

When all else fails - RTFM!

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post #5 of 19 Old 01-21-2013, 11:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Knucklehead90 View Post

My current setup is a hybrid much like what you are wanting to set up. I use an Emotiva USP-1 preamp and a Crown XLS1500 to drive the mains. The preamp is the only link in the 'chain' that does nothing for multi-channel audio. I don't see much difference between the XSP-1 and the Cambridge preamp other than MSRP. Both have very similar capabilities and do what they do very well. Maybe a third option might help you decide - take a look at the Harman Kardon HK 990 integrated amp. It has all of the capabilities as those two preamps plus it contains a pair of mono block amps with 150/300wpc into 8/4ohms - internal DACs - and has home theater bypass - all in one box. If I had to do it all over again thats what I'd do. And actually I owned one for a while but I sold it. Wish I hadn't done that! Now I have 3 boxes where I used to have one - the preamp - amp - and DAC.

Knucklehead90 - I think I am confused. Do I need a DAC in the setup I described? I assumed I only needed the amp, pre-amp and AVR.

Second question - what is the difference between putting two amps in the pre-amp or the AVR? I have the Bryston to run the mains/center so I figured the AVR would have some amps to drive the rears. I guess I am not seeing the advantages of the HK 990 but want to learn.

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post #6 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 12:03 AM
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You probably don't need a DAC but you will be relying on DACs built into other components such as computers and CD players. Some of them may not be very good. Computers are noisy and its difficult to get clean clear sounds out of some of them. I've been down that road many times. I use an optical signal from the computer to the external DAC - problem solved. A digital source will need the signal converted to analog at some point. Some prefer it done in an external DAC. The Oppo 103 should do just fine. Good DACs these days aren't all that expensive so most sources tend to have acceptable performance. LOL! That statement alone is good for a 6 month thread with hundreds of responses!

The HK 990 is kind of an odd duck in the audio world. It has the preamp - amp - and DAC built into a single box along with decent room correction. You don't see that with 2 channel setups very often. The reason I mentioned it was because it makes for a tidy install - a single box solution and few makers have one with the capabilities the 990 has. You obviously don't need it since you have an amp already and are simply looking for the preamp.

As for which preamp to choose - I'll restate what I said earlier - they are both very good at what they do although the XSP-1 has built in home theater bypass - the Cambridge does not. It does have a tape loop and some guys use that for a make-shift HT bypass.

When all else fails - RTFM!

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post #7 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 05:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olfac87 View Post

(Sorry for the rampant posting recently - I am very excited and very close to having a complete system.)

I am building a new music/HT system. I've decided to do a separate amp, a 2-channel pre-amp with HT bypass for music and an AVR for the HT part. I intend to use an Oppo 103 to play DVDs and music CDs. The next piece is the pre-amp (then on to AVR and sub).

Wow! So you're going to rebel against modern technology and do everything you can the most expensive and difficult way possible?

What motivates this sort of thing?

Does it hurt so good? ;-)
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post #8 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 05:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Knucklehead90 View Post

You probably don't need a DAC but you will be relying on DACs built into other components such as computers and CD players. Some of them may not be very good. Computers are noisy and its difficult to get clean clear sounds out of some of them. I've been down that road many times. I use an optical signal from the computer to the external DAC - problem solved. A digital source will need the signal converted to analog at some point. Some prefer it done in an external DAC. The Oppo 103 should do just fine. Good DACs these days aren't all that expensive so most sources tend to have acceptable performance. LOL! That statement alone is good for a 6 month thread with hundreds of responses!

The HK 990 is kind of an odd duck in the audio world. It has the preamp - amp - and DAC built into a single box along with decent room correction. You don't see that with 2 channel setups very often. The reason I mentioned it was because it makes for a tidy install - a single box solution and few makers have one with the capabilities the 990 has. You obviously don't need it since you have an amp already and are simply looking for the preamp.

As for which preamp to choose - I'll restate what I said earlier - they are both very good at what they do although the XSP-1 has built in home theater bypass - the Cambridge does not. It does have a tape loop and some guys use that for a make-shift HT bypass.

Phew! I am hoping my equipment choices, as you point out with the Oppo 103, satisfy any DAC requirements. While I am trying to do as much of the whole system now as possible (i.e. be happy with it for many years to come), I recognize I could make some changes.

I thought the Cambridge did have HT bypass - maybe it was the tape loop option. Well, that unit disappeared anyway but I have my eye on a Krell KAV-250p. It also seems to have HT bypass. I figure I can keep searching until the Emotiva is shipping again (2/15) and always go with that as a great option. It's killing me to have the speakers and amp in my living room and I can't use them! They came yesterday.

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post #9 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 05:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Wow! So you're going to rebel against modern technology and do everything you can the most expensive and difficult way possible?

What motivates this sort of thing?

Does it hurt so good? ;-)

Arnyk - I am still learning and always open to suggestions. I haven't done anything too irreversible yet. I have an external amp already (Bryston 9B-SST) and speakers but nothing else. What would you suggest?

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post #10 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 05:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olfac87 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Wow! So you're going to rebel against modern technology and do everything you can the most expensive and difficult way possible?

What motivates this sort of thing?

Does it hurt so good? ;-)

Arnyk - I am still learning and always open to suggestions. I haven't done anything too irreversible yet. I have an external amp already (Bryston 9B-SST) and speakers but nothing else. What would you suggest?

Sell the 9B SST and put the money into a 2.1 system based on an AVR, L&R speakers with smooth response and good dynamic range, and a really good subwoofer.

The Synchrony 1 speakers have the following specs:

3-way with dome tweeter and 4 inch midrange,

4 ohm impedance with 88 dB/w (average) sensitivity.

3 x 6 1/2” (165mm)

I'd say that you've got the L & R speaker situation already under control! ;-)

Their dynamic range at low frequenices models out as follows:

Freq,Hz Max SPL, DB

10 79
20 91
30 98
40 103
50 107
60 110
70 113
80 115
90 117
100 119
110 120
120 122
130 123
140 125
150 126
160 127
170 128

As true high end speakers, these speakers have good (110 dB) SPL down to 60 Hz, and excellent (115 dB SPL) down to 80 Hz.

One or more powered subwoofers (12" or larger) would seem to be imperative An AVR with approximately 100 wpc into 8 ohms is a good match with the actual clean dynamic range of these speakers. For example they might be a good match with a 100 wpc @ 8 ohm AVR down to about 60 Hz, and overpowered below that.

If you want to stay with PSB for the subs that could be good, or you could go with larger competitive devices from people like HSU or SVS. At the price level of the Synchrony One's, an wise investment of upwards of $2000 in subwoofers would seem to be indicated. A system of this stature might benefit from acoustic treatments for the room. I would plan on spending between $500 and $1,000 on the modern AVR with Audyssey Multieq XT 32 on its feature list.
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post #11 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 06:54 AM
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That is an excellent amplifier. Whatever you do, keep it and use it. Since it is a 5-channel amplifier with 140 watts per channel , why on earth would you need anything else??

IMO the Emotiva amplifiers are a big step down in sound quality from it, in any case. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the Bryston a 9, and the Emotiva a 6 or 7.

I would get a Marantz AV7701, hook it up to the Bryston 9B, and connect 5 speakers. That will be a really excellent system.


Quote:
Originally Posted by olfac87 View Post

Arnyk - I am still learning and always open to suggestions. I haven't done anything too irreversible yet. I have an external amp already (Bryston 9B-SST) and speakers but nothing else. What would you suggest?
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post #12 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 07:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

That is an excellent amplifier. What ever you do, keep it and use it.

IMO the Emotiva is a big step down in sound quality from it.

commsysman - Assuming I stay the route I originally laid out, finding a 2-channel pre-amp with HT bypass has been a challenge. The McIntosh C48/C50 type of equipment is way out of my range so I am still looking in that "mid-fi" area. Any suggestions? I have found many lists of 2-channel amps in other posts (mostly from the 2008-2010 time frame). In addition, people include this "tape loop" option for doing HT bypass.

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post #13 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 07:06 AM
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I think the Marantz AV7701 has everything you want, but you will need to look at all of the specs to be sure.

That is a 7-channel preamp/processor, which will eliminate the need for any other preamp completely. Just hook it to the 9B and go.

The of course there is the Bryston SP-3, but that is $9500!
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post #14 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 09:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

I think the Marantz AV7701 has everything you want, but you will need to look at all of the specs to be sure.

That is a 7-channel preamp/processor, which will eliminate the need for any other preamp completely. Just hook it to the 9B and go.

The of course there is the Bryston SP-3, but that is $9500!

Would I love to hook the Bryston to a Bryston but alas, not this year, at least. I have considered the single multi-channel pre-amp option (instead of 2-channel + AVR) and clearly there are two schools of thought out there. Some say for the best 2 channel performance a 2-channel pre-amp is the way to go with HT bypass for my HT needs. Others say just go with a multi-channel pre-amp like the AV7701, AV8801 or Integra 80.3. It sounds like you are in the camp that a single unit would serve just fine for both needs.

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post #15 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

That is an excellent amplifier. Whatever you do, keep it and use it. Since it is a 5-channel amplifier with 140 watts per channel , why on earth would you need anything else??

IMO the Emotiva amplifiers are a big step down in sound quality from it, in any case. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the Bryston a 9,

Your opinion of Emotiva - or any other inexpensive amp doesn't square with real world use. As an example - this. Well - at least you're starting to use phrases like 'IMO' which separates your opinion from fact. Buy hey! If you really could distinguish one amp from another you could win some money! So far Richard has managed to keep his money. I suspect there are a lot of amp buyers who could keep some of their hard earned money too if they quit buying overpriced/over-hyped audio products based on gushing reviews from audio magazines - and their less than informed readers. The 'fact' is one amp is difficult if not impossible to tell apart from any other amp in good working order and not over-driven.

Oh yeah - the Parasound 2100 preamp also has HT bypass.

When all else fails - RTFM!

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post #16 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 01:38 PM
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Just got an email from Emotiva - the XSP-1 is in stock and ready to ship.

When all else fails - RTFM!

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post #17 of 19 Old 01-22-2013, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Knucklehead90 View Post

Just got an email from Emotiva - the XSP-1 is in stock and ready to ship.

Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I really appreciate it. I am pursuing a used Krell KAV-250p but the Emotiva remains very tempting...

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post #18 of 19 Old 01-24-2013, 01:46 PM - Thread Starter
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So I thought I would update my own thread in case anyone is still following. My (almost) final setup now looks like:

Panasonic P65VT50 television
PSB Synchrony One towers
PSB Synchrony One center
Rears (TBD)
Bryston 9B-SST 5 channel amplifier
Krell KAV-250p pre-amplifier
Marantz SR5007 AVR (ok, not ordered yet but it's next)
Oppo BDP-103 (ok, not ordered yet but it's next)
Power Sound XV15 subwoofer
Cables (TBD)
Standout Designs Haven 72" Media Console

Thanks everyone for the help and I'm sure I will be posting some more. Feel free to provide any comments or suggestions on the setup above as I look forward to the setup stage.

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post #19 of 19 Old 01-25-2013, 11:11 AM
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Looks like excellent, excellent, and more excellent stuff to me...lol.

Given the outstanding hi-end gear, though, I would suggest that you go for the OPPO BDP-105. It (and the 95) do have better D/A processing than the 103 and sound superb for music.

I have the 95 and it sounds as good as my Ayre C5xe/MP, which was the best you could buy when I bought it 6 years ago (for $6000).
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