Upgradeitis, speakers vs. room treatment vs. amp vs reciever - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 11-11-2012, 03:32 PM - Thread Starter
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I've got the itch to upgrade something and really not sure where to best put my money to use.

Currently running a paradigm monitor version 7 setup (monitor 7's, center 1, atom monitor for surrounds) through an older Pioneer 1018 reciever. Overally I am happy with the setup but want more/better. Im happy with my current dual sub setup so its not on the list.

Speakers, these paradigms are my first quality speaker and to my ears they sound great but I know there is better, lots better. I might consider something along the lines of salk song towers with the RAAL tweeter, but would want to go 'shopping' for a while and get a good feel for what I truly like.

Room treatment, I would have started here allready, however its a complicated room, about 14x19' with 4 doors, an open stairwell, 2 windows, and a patio door. The typical treatments people do would be complicated to incorporate and still have the room looking nice. On top of that a new home is in the near future...

Amp, the pioneer 1018 is ok for volume, Ive never felt its lacking during movies however I cant run at reference. With music I'd like a little more. I mean it gets loud but I can start to hear some distortion at lower than where id like, but its certainly not quiet at this point.

Reciever, really something more current with better room correction. This is probably the last item Im considering.

So truly what will make the biggest impact?
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post #2 of 16 Old 11-11-2012, 06:33 PM
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I'd say move-up to separates (amplifier - processor) and/ or get some decent room treatments. The move to separates is pretty amazing. My suggestion would be to buy as nice an amplifier as you can find and spend the rest on a solid processor. If you're brave, you could throw some money at an Emotiva UMC-1 www.emotiva.com, get the upgrade card that comes with it, and either upgrade to their new model or sell the upgrade card to offset the cost of the UMC-1.

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post #3 of 16 Old 11-11-2012, 06:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plasma_fan View Post

So truly what will make the biggest impact?

Most would agree that speakers will make the biggest impact. You're in the unique situation where you're itching to upgrade but potentially moving into a different house in the future. Maybe upgrade the receiver now to something with Audyssey XT32, continue to research/audition speakers, and hold off on room treatments until you get settled in the new place. I noticed a big improvement when I switched to Audyssey from MCACC (1019 and SC-05).

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post #4 of 16 Old 11-11-2012, 08:47 PM
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The speakers compete with the room itself as the biggest force affecting your sound (well, those and the recording you are playing back; but not much to do about that).

Receivers with correction (audessy) are excellent; and you always want to make sure you have enough amp (after which: I'd assert there's no amp-side improvement).

If you've got the funds for a pair of Salk's (which you mention), I cannot recommend them enough (my SuperCharged SongTowers are with FedEx and should arrive Wednesday).
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post #5 of 16 Old 11-11-2012, 09:08 PM
 
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Speakers, hands down...
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post #6 of 16 Old 11-11-2012, 09:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plasma_fan View Post

Speakers, these paradigms are my first quality speaker and to my ears they sound great but I know there is better, lots better. I might consider something along the lines of salk song towers with the RAAL tweeter, but would want to go 'shopping' for a while and get a good feel for what I truly like.

That is where I would start - speaker audition.

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post #7 of 16 Old 11-11-2012, 10:04 PM
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If you like the RAAL you could look at Sierra Towers @ www.ascendacoustics.com in addition to the Salks

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post #8 of 16 Old 11-11-2012, 10:05 PM
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I mis-read your post - I thought you said you were pleased with your first quality speakers... if you're open to selling them, it's almost always best to look at speakers first. I think the rule of thumb is to spend 60-80% on speakers, is it not?
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post #9 of 16 Old 11-12-2012, 06:21 AM - Thread Starter
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I am very open to new speakers, thats where it started in my head but then I thinking could I have as big of an impact with other options at less money.

Looks like its time to put together a demo disc and start some auditions smile.gif
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post #10 of 16 Old 11-12-2012, 06:21 PM
 
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Since our company does this and I spend more time measuring and listening to rooms than most it is pretty easy choice. The room will have the greatest impact on sound, speakers second, electronics third. The one area where I would consider upgrading the speakers first is if your speakers are not capable for your situation. Like they distort if you play them loud or their directivity is a big problem. you probably wouldn't know the latter unless measuring them. You probably don't have either issue with your speakers unless you like it loud.

Acoustic treatments are tricky without measurement equipment. You'll get all types of advice on placement of them and not all of it will be good. If you don't plan on getting some measurment equipment and spend a good amount of time educating yourself look into an acoustic design plan. The one AVS offers is a true bargain for what it is and is easily 1/5th of what a good set of plans would cost from the better designers. I know it is not as fun to pay for designs or put up acoustic treatments but if you want the best improvement you should consider it.
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post #11 of 16 Old 11-12-2012, 07:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobL View Post

Since our company does this and I spend more time measuring and listening to rooms than most it is pretty easy choice. The room will have the greatest impact on sound, speakers second, electronics third.
You can't know that without knowing the parts in question.

The link farthest from optimal will be the one with the greatest room for improvement.

Put another way: If your system is a 1982 Sharp boom box playing audio cassettes in an "average carpeted room"; the room is not the area with the most improvement to be made.
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post #12 of 16 Old 11-12-2012, 08:38 PM
 
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You are correct you want to fix the weakest link. I know his speakers and receivers and they are decent and definitely not junk. Is there better? Certainly! But, if he is using his equipment within its limits, his room is most likely the weakest link. Neither his speakers or amplifier are up to producing reference levels at normal seating distances. If he wants to get to reference level or listen very loud both of those need ot be upgraded but that doesn't mean the room shouldn't be corrected. The saying of "turn down the pain so you can increase the gain" applies. Poor sound played loudly is not good sound. I'm not saying his room is poor but in my experience the biggest improvement in sound quality is usually the room.

If you value sound quality over loudness fix the room. If loudness is your goal upgrade the speakers and amp. There are many forms of acoustic treatment and ones that will work in many decors. If you go this route you have 3 options.

1. Hire an audio calibrator to calibrate your room and install necessary treatments. Most expensive option

2. Have an acoustic design plan done and put up the treatments as suggested. Not as good as #1 but less expensive and will stil be a good improvement.

3, Get some good measument equipment and learn how to calibrate yourself. Least expensive option but most time consuming.
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post #13 of 16 Old 11-13-2012, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plasma_fan View Post

I've got the itch to upgrade something and really not sure where to best put my money to use.
Currently running a paradigm monitor version 7 setup (monitor 7's, center 1, atom monitor for surrounds) through an older Pioneer 1018 reciever. Overally I am happy with the setup but want more/better. Im happy with my current dual sub setup so its not on the list.
Speakers, these paradigms are my first quality speaker and to my ears they sound great but I know there is better, lots better. I might consider something along the lines of salk song towers with the RAAL tweeter, but would want to go 'shopping' for a while and get a good feel for what I truly like.
Room treatment, I would have started here allready, however its a complicated room, about 14x19' with 4 doors, an open stairwell, 2 windows, and a patio door. The typical treatments people do would be complicated to incorporate and still have the room looking nice. On top of that a new home is in the near future...
Amp, the pioneer 1018 is ok for volume, Ive never felt its lacking during movies however I cant run at reference. With music I'd like a little more. I mean it gets loud but I can start to hear some distortion at lower than where id like, but its certainly not quiet at this point.
Reciever, really something more current with better room correction. This is probably the last item Im considering.
So truly what will make the biggest impact?

The statement in bold makes me think that room treatments should be crossed off the list. Room treatments are great and highly recommended, but may not work in your new home. If you are utilitarian and single like me then it may workout if you bring the treatments with you, but if you are concerned at all with aesthetics and WAF then I, personally, would hold off on until you get your new house. Lest you end up paying for room treatments twice.

I will agree with the poster who mentioned that getting a new receiver with Audyssey XT32 would be your biggest gain here. No need to go with separates. All-in-one AVRs nowadays are very, very good. I'm not going to go into the debate about how all amplifiers will sound the same within their rated output. A new AVR can be used in any home decor really. Especially if it's sitting in a cabinet or closet.

Second option would be speakers. I will agree with the others who have said that speakers and room interaction make the biggest impact on what you hear, but ou current speakers are not at all bad. I think your weakest link is your receiver. You can get better speakers now, but how will they fit in your new home? What if your new house can't accommodate a pair of front towers? Maybe the nice new, red cherry speakers you just spent $$$$ on don't match at all with the wood trims?

Here's my experience for reference:

Before I put acoustical treatments in my room, there was a huge difference going from a Harman Kardon receiver with no room correction to a Denon with Audyssey XT. There was even a difference when I upgraded from Audyssey XT to Audyssey XT32, though not as huge. The receivers were powering a pair of Revel Performa F52s. Adding room treatments made just as huge an improvement as upgrading receivers. I added an external 400Wx2 amplifier, but could not hear a difference until the volume went above 93dB minimum on the SPL meter. That difference was minimal and only affected the upper range of frequencies.

I'm going to throw a wrench into all this and add now that I've nearly completed my room treatments, I have found that listening to music actually sounds slightly better with no Audyssey room corrections applied. Of course I must admit that my source is an Oppo BDP-95 going analog out to the MCH analog inputs in my receiver though. For movies, I still use Audyssey as I have no choice if I want expand the cound field to use all channels.
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post #14 of 16 Old 11-14-2012, 07:37 AM - Thread Starter
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How much better is the XT32 than Pioneers MCACC? I have proper sub EQ in place on both subs and it was my understanding that XT32 made the most gains over MCACC sub 60Hz?
Also am I wrong in saying that. assuming the speakers have a flat response, the better the room treatment the less need for a room correcting EQ?
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post #15 of 16 Old 11-15-2012, 04:47 AM
 
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In a well set up system EQ should be the final tweak and often very little is needed. However, it is often used in lieu of good seating, speaker, subwoofer placement and acoustic treatments. Sometimes with good results and sometimes not. These auto EQ systems take very few measurements and have very little idea of what is going on your room. They EQ frequency and some EQ time response without a knowledge of what is causing problems in these domains. They can't beat manual calibration and EQ by a good calibrator which will take a lot more measuremnts to fully understand speaker and room interaction.

There are also aesthetic ways to treat a room. People don't like acoustic panels for non-dedicated spaces. But show them how paintings or pictures of their family can be used as well as other decorative objects and you have a win-win situation.

BTW, your speakers are reasonably flat and have a very good off axis response which is very beneficial in many rooms. There is a lot more to measuring speakers then just on axis frequency response but that is a good start.
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post #16 of 16 Old 11-15-2012, 01:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plasma_fan View Post

How much better is the XT32 than Pioneers MCACC? I have proper sub EQ in place on both subs and it was my understanding that XT32 made the most gains over MCACC sub 60Hz?
Also am I wrong in saying that. assuming the speakers have a flat response, the better the room treatment the less need for a room correcting EQ?

Not sure how much better XT32 is over MCACC, but there are many staunch Pioneer supporters who have switched over to Audyssey and are much happier. The biggest advantage of XT32 over MCACC is the subEQ. That's possibly negated by your current sub EQ system you have so I can't say it would be an upgrade or not with that thrown in there.

Yes you are correct in that if you start with accurate speakers and have good room treatments, then the less EQing you will need. For my setup, I slightly prefer to disable Audyssey and run full analog when listening to music. For movies though, Audyssey is a must.

I agree completely with BobL. Good room treatments can be made to look like art, but again, will it work in your new home? That is a decision you'll have to make. If I was in your shoes, I would wait on room treatments until I know definitively. Good acoustical treatments can be quite expensive to begin with not including getting fancy/custom jobs that are nice looking. Unlike electronics and speakers, acoustical treatments are harder to sell if you find they don't work with the new decor.

I also agree that an automatic room EQ will never be as good as getting a GOOD QUALIFIED calibrator to do it for you, but that could cost you quite a bit. I've been over to places a couple of places where the system was "professionally calibrated" and I felt that the sound was ok at best. XT32 takes 512 samples per channel when it performs its calibration. I'm not sure if that's considered "very few" or not, but it's a huge step up from its predecessor's 16 samples per channel and 128 samples for the sub.
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