Help building first 2-channel hifi setup around Klipsh RB-51ii's - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 03-30-2014, 04:46 PM - Thread Starter
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I have a set of Klipsch RB-51s speakers and a Yamaha YST-SW215 sub-woofer. Because I am currently moving around a lot, it didn't make sense to get larger speakers, so I'm using this subwoofer I've had for awhile to supplement the low end. I am trying to get the highest fidelity sound I can out of these speakers for use with my computer. Right now I am using a Yamaha RX-V450 A/V receiver that I've had for a few years receiver to power the speakers. I am sending a digital PCM signal from my computers dedicated sound card via an optical cable into the receiver. I also have a Monster HTS1600 power conditioner. I have a decent library of FLAC audio and a subscription to MOG that I usually listen to. I listen to all types of music but lean towards electric stuff.

As is this setup sounds GREAT to me as its my first experience with a decent setup. Now that a few months has passed I am considering upgrading to really get every last drop out of these speakers. My thought is that this A/V receiver, 300$ when it was new, just isn't really designed for a 2 channel setup, and that a lot of the price tag was dedicated to useless features.

I am considering buying an external DAC and a 2 channel amplifier but I have no experience with either of them. Ive been looking at Schiit DACs, seems like a really cool company that id be happy to support. Even though I have the ability to send an optical signal it seems like it makes more sense to just use a USB DAC, is there any difference? The 99$ Modi DAC seems like it would be all I really need probably? As for the amp I want something thats probably more powerful than I need for these speakers so that if I ever upgrade them I can keep the same amp (hopefully). It needs a subwoofer channel I guess, id prefer if this wasn't a requirement but I really like having the extra bass. Id like to keep the amps price tag below 400 if thats reasonable to still expect great fidelity.

Does it seem like my system will benefit a noticeable amount from these upgrades? Does it seem like the money spent would be relatively balanced among the components and wouldn't introduce bottlenecks? Id love to hear some peoples thoughts.
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post #2 of 18 Old 03-30-2014, 07:21 PM
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None of the upgrades you are contemplating will make a bit of difference. The AVR you are using is just fine for the system you have. The idea of "bottlenecks" is bogus. Almost no matter how much you spend, speakers will always be the 'bottleneck."

If you aren't going to upgrade speakers, there isn't much point in upgrading.

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post #3 of 18 Old 03-31-2014, 06:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Quinlan276 View Post


As is this setup sounds GREAT to me as its my first experience with a decent setup. Now that a few months has passed I am considering upgrading to really get every last drop out of these speakers. My thought is that this A/V receiver, 300$ when it was new, just isn't really designed for a 2 channel setup, and that a lot of the price tag was dedicated to useless features.

Before you get caught up in the throws of audiophilia think things through. You have to decide whether equipment collecting is what your new hobby is all about or whether it is home entertainment. If you want to collect equipment, fine. Jump right in. If you want home entertainment then go back and reread your comment about your setup sounding great.

A lot of people collect equipment. There isn't anything inherently wrong with it other than it involves people spending money for things they believe will satisfy them but never do. It becomes a treadmill. The reason is that, as McNarus says, the sound of the system is in the speakers and the room acoustics. The electronics have almost nothing to do with it. In many cases they have absolutely nothing to do with it. But people believe they do because they fall prey to hearing bias and the treadmill continues endlessly.

You are at a crossroads. Think long and hard before you choose a path. I've been down the equipment collecting path and it was possibly the most foolish thing I ever did. Be sure that is what you want before you travel it.
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post #4 of 18 Old 03-31-2014, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Quinlan276 View Post

I have a set of Klipsch RB-51s speakers and a Yamaha YST-SW215 sub-woofer. Because I am currently moving around a lot, it didn't make sense to get larger speakers, so I'm using this subwoofer I've had for awhile to supplement the low end. I am trying to get the highest fidelity sound I can out of these speakers for use with my computer. Right now I am using a Yamaha RX-V450 A/V receiver that I've had for a few years receiver to power the speakers. I am sending a digital PCM signal from my computers dedicated sound card via an optical cable into the receiver. I also have a Monster HTS1600 power conditioner. I have a decent library of FLAC audio and a subscription to MOG that I usually listen to. I listen to all types of music but lean towards electric stuff.

As is this setup sounds GREAT to me as its my first experience with a decent setup.

You've already made one potentially costly mistake, being the power conditioner unless power is really bad where you are.

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Now that a few months has passed I am considering upgrading to really get every last drop out of these speakers. My thought is that this A/V receiver, 300$ when it was new, just isn't really designed for a 2 channel setup, and that a lot of the price tag was dedicated to useless features.

Unproductive thoughts.

AVRs are the deal of the century these days because they are so competitive and volume production has brought their costs way down. It is said that only Yamaha is making money on AVRs right now.

You are already using one feature on your AVR the digital input, that much 2-channel equipment lacks.
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I am considering buying an external DAC and a 2 channel amplifier but I have no experience with either of them. Ive been looking at Schiit DACs, seems like a really cool company that id be happy to support. Even though I have the ability to send an optical signal it seems like it makes more sense to just use a USB DAC, is there any difference?

Short answer: Nothing audible. There might be some technical differences, but in many cases I check out the add-on DACs that are people buying and find an equal or worse DAC chip in the add-on then they had in their AVR.
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The 99$ Modi DAC seems like it would be all I really need probably? As for the amp I want something thats probably more powerful than I need for these speakers so that if I ever upgrade them I can keep the same amp (hopefully). It needs a subwoofer channel I guess, id prefer if this wasn't a requirement but I really like having the extra bass. Id like to keep the amps price tag below 400 if thats reasonable to still expect great fidelity.

Upgrading your subwoofer itself could be of some benefit, but I thought that was off the table due to your frequent changes of residence?
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Does it seem like my system will benefit a noticeable amount from these upgrades? Does it seem like the money spent would be relatively balanced among the components and wouldn't introduce bottlenecks? Id love to hear some peoples thoughts.

The meaningful system sonic upgrades in sound quality for a person with a nice little system like the one you have are in the realm of speakers and room acoustics. You are already at the point where you've spent some big bucks for not that much of an advantage and the current direction you are looking in seems to be like falling even further down that cliff.
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post #5 of 18 Old 03-31-2014, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Quinlan276 View Post

My thought is that this A/V receiver, 300$ when it was new, just isn't really designed for a 2 channel setup, and that a lot of the price tag was dedicated to useless features.

I don't know why you make this statement. There is nothing about an avr that makes it unsuitable for 2 channel use. In fact there is alot about it that makes it very useful for 2 channel use. One you run a sub, and an AVR will have much better bass management than most 2 channel integrated amps. I don't feel the extra features are 'useless'. In fact I find I use more and more of them. Like internet radio, ability to stream, play directly from USB port, etc.

I'm not familiar with Yamaha's implementation, I use a Denon. I really like audyseey, not that it corrects alot for my room, but because i use dynamic eq, which is a better implementation for what 2 channel integrated amps use a loudness button for. Very good for low level music listening. I'm also a fan of dynamic volume which helps tone down background sounds and sound effects so they don't drown out dialog for movies.

I spent a bundle and bought supercharged song towers. I toyed around with the notion of buying a 2 channel integrated to drive them with, but to be honest, I can't find anything that matches the ability and sound of my Denon 3311ci. If anything and you have upgraditis, I'd look at a more capable AVR, perhaps an audyssey unit with sub eq.
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post #6 of 18 Old 03-31-2014, 11:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the comment guys, I had a feeling that it might not be the best money spent but I wanted some opinions. As for my current setup Arnyk, "You are already at the point where you've spent some big bucks for not that much of an advantage ", could you elaborate on this. I feel like Ive don't the bare minimum so far to get decent sound. The power conditioner was only 80$ on sale and bought more for surge protection than anything else. Ive lived in a few old apartments in Boston with really substandard wiring and very few outlets leading to dangerous daisy-chains ect. The receiver and subwoofer were bought 10 years ago when all I did was plug in my iPod and play stuff too loud. Now I have just tried to fine tune what I have a little bit by adding a decent pair of speakers.

FMW, that post was really well put. I would have to say that I definitely use things like audio setups as hobbies more than just a way to listen to music, I'm an engineer and love tinkering. I built a nice computer, not because I needed it necessarily but I enjoy the process and am into that kinda thing. I build all my own wiring harnesses, ect., you get the point. While I don't want to get into spending crazy money (however seductive the path may be), I am really attracted to having a setup of modestly priced stand-alone components.

Glangford, good point about the sub and bass management system inherent to AVRs, something I was wondering about. Besides that however, a lot of the benefits of AVRs you highlight I do not possess with my current model. 2005 technology lacks internet radio, usb/ipod digital in's, and HDMI. The fact that it does not have HDMI means I really can't use it as an AVR. Also, the decoding technologies are outdated by todays standards and 5.1 surround isn't supported by things I use like netflix. So this thing has 100 ports on the back, and I only have 3 populated, kinda bugs me. If I somehow had a brand new AVR my attitude would be different. I would use much more of the features probably, but I really don't want or need them as I use my computer for all media (music, blu rays, radio, ect). Since I do not have anything new though, why upgrade to something knowing I don't want those features. I'm attracted to the simplicity and longevity that an integrated amp could offer me as the technologic advancements are pretty negligable.

Side note: I have a macbook air that does not offer digital out so a USB interface would be really nice as I currently can't use this computer for sound. This isn't a huge issue for me but kind of an annoyance.
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post #7 of 18 Old 03-31-2014, 05:36 PM
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Don't get me wrong. If you have some specific need or desire and your current equipment doesn't provide it then replacing it makes perfect sense. I don't view that as equipment collecting. It is just replacing gear that needs replacement. I went through that last year with my bedroom system. My wife asked me why we couldn't watch blu rays in the bedroom. I told her we didn't have a blu ray player there but only a DVD player. She asked me to get a blu ray player for that system and I did. The blu ray unit I bought only had an HDMI and optical output - no analog. I had been using an analog stereo receiver to power the system and that meant putting the receiver in the closet and buying an AVR that had a DAC and HDMI inputs. That isn't equipment collecting audiophilia either.

I agree you should have HDMI in this day and age and, in your shoes, I would replace the old receiver as well. My main receiver dates back to 2007 but it does have just enough HDMI inputs for my purposes. I still use it to power my main home theater. The newer ones don't do anything I need that I don't have. When that happens, or if it breaks, it will also get replaced.
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post #8 of 18 Old 03-31-2014, 06:37 PM - Thread Starter
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I think I have decided I'm going to wait before I do anything, you all made good points and I feel like I really wouldn't get much or any benefit by switching anything up right now. For the sake of argument though, when I do ditch this receiver and upgrade why should I buy an AVR knowing that I will never used any features besides a 2 or 2.1 setup without the video component. I don't believe that say a 500$ AVR would beat a 150$ DAC and 350$ integrated amp for my criteria. Would it be noticeably better, I guess thats the big question, but I don't see how it could be worse...
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post #9 of 18 Old 03-31-2014, 06:51 PM
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I don't believe that say a 500$ AVR would beat a 150$ DAC and 350$ integrated amp for my criteria.
What criteria? Sound quality? You'd be very wrong. The AVR would as good or better—some of those features you disparage actually do make a difference. In fact, you could pay $300 for an AVR that would outperform an integrated amp/DAC combination. The AVR will integrate your sub better and compensate for some of the vagaries of your room.

So a $300 AVR has dozens of features, of which you will use only 2. Versus a $500 separates system, which doesn't give you the two features that you will actually use. How is the latter a better choice?

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post #10 of 18 Old 03-31-2014, 07:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Thats surprising to me, and yes sound quality was my only criteria. Is it just the price point that this stuff is at? like would a $1000+ separates setup be better than $1000+ AVR, neglecting subwoofers and assuming basic 2chan.
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post #11 of 18 Old 04-01-2014, 03:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Quinlan276 View Post

Thats surprising to me, and yes sound quality was my only criteria. Is it just the price point that this stuff is at? like would a $1000+ separates setup be better than $1000+ AVR, neglecting subwoofers and assuming basic 2chan.

I think when you are talking sub 1000 range, the AVR will always be the better solution. Most integrateds less than that are not any better from a parts and quality standpoint. I get your comment about simplicity and have thought about it myself, but the only integrateds I could find I liked were a luxman and a mcintosh.

AVRs have the advantages of economy of scale. They sell alot of them. Integrateds are a botique purchase. One advantage you'll get with very high end integrateds is parts quality and overall quality control. Bryston puts every unit through a torture test and provides a 20 year warranty on the analog stages of the unit for example. So unless you are willing to spend a bunch of money an AVR is a more sensible choice.
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post #12 of 18 Old 04-01-2014, 05:48 AM
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I don't believe that say a 500$ AVR would beat a 150$ DAC and 350$ integrated amp for my criteria. Would it be noticeably better, I guess thats the big question, but I don't see how it could be worse...

The DAC/Amp combination would generally lack the following very useful capabilites:

(1) Bass management
(2) HDMI support
(3) Support for the newer formats available on Blu Ray discs
(3) An automated system optimization facility
(4) More than 2 power amps so that you can grow from 2.0 into better sounding systems.

At $500 you will probably also get:

(5) Support for portable music players
(6) Support for web music sources
(7) Simpler set up and operation because the AVR is delivered with the DAC and the amp already integrated with each other.

If you go with the DAC and the amp, you will get no audible benefits to offset these losses.
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post #13 of 18 Old 04-01-2014, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Quinlan276 View Post

Thats surprising to me, and yes sound quality was my only criteria. Is it just the price point that this stuff is at? like would a $1000+ separates setup be better than $1000+ AVR, neglecting subwoofers and assuming basic 2chan.

Understand that if an amplifier or preamplifier (without signal processing) has a sound, then something is wrong. The units aren't linear. If you have an unusual situation such as inefficient low impedance speakers that are operated at very high volume levels, then a stronger amplifier might be useful. But this is actually fairly rare situation. The AVR manufacturers design their equipment to handle most home audio situations.
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post #14 of 18 Old 04-01-2014, 10:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Alright alright, you've convinced me. I guess ill just casually start looking for a good deal on an AVR I can afford and stop fretting.
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post #15 of 18 Old 04-01-2014, 10:09 AM
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Is it just the price point that this stuff is at? like would a $1000+ separates setup be better than $1000+ AVR, neglecting subwoofers and assuming basic 2chan.
The $1000 separates would not sound any better than a $300 AVR. (Unless you had extremely demanding speakers.)

I know you don't believe it, but the primary reason AVRs are cheaper than separates is economies of scale. Major manufacturers can buy electronic components much, much cheaper than boutique audio brands. Yes, the separates will use technically better parts, in order to justify the premium price. But better parts often doesn't mean better sound quality, just better measurements.
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post #16 of 18 Old 04-01-2014, 10:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Yeah that makes sense about the volume the things are selling in, it really is the only way to keep cost down to a consumer level with electronics. I just know too much about the manufacturing world and the techniques things like these AVRs are made by and it makes me uneasy. But I guess if they work, they work, and thats all there is too it. One things for sure though you won't be seeing any vintage 2014 models 30 years from now...
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post #17 of 18 Old 04-01-2014, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Quinlan276 View Post

FMW, that post was really well put. I would have to say that I definitely use things like audio setups as hobbies more than just a way to listen to music, I'm an engineer and love tinkering. I built a nice computer, not because I needed it necessarily but I enjoy the process and am into that kinda thing. I build all my own wiring harnesses, ect., you get the point.

There are still good opportunities left for tinkering. Put aside some of the money you were considering for a separate DAC or amp "upgrade", etc., and earmark some of it for a good mic and (often free) measurement software. You can then begin to play with speaker and subwoofer positioning, measuring the resulting changes within the room.

Also, additionally begin incorporating EQ software (built into most replacement AVRs you will be considering. Some EQ software is more advanced and user "tweakable" than others). Maybe also begin working in some absorption and/or diffusion products, as your budget and room function & aesthetic preferences allow. Remeasuring & reassessing after each change.

All of these can have significant impact upon the sound quality in your room with the necessary active participation of your brain to get there (and not just your wallet).

Mourning the disappearing usage of the -ly suffix. Words being cut-off before they've had a chance to fully form, left incomplete, with their shoelaces untied and their zippers undone. If I quote your post (or post in your thread) without comment, please check your zipper.
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post #18 of 18 Old 04-02-2014, 06:13 AM
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Yeah that makes sense about the volume the things are selling in, it really is the only way to keep cost down to a consumer level with electronics. I just know too much about the manufacturing world and the techniques things like these AVRs are made by and it makes me uneasy.

Many power amps are made in the same plants with the same labor and engineering support.
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But I guess if they work, they work, and thats all there is too it. One things for sure though you won't be seeing any vintage 2014 models 30 years from now...

I've got a store room full of 30 year old 2 stereo separates and a new AVR in the listening room.
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