B&W 803s - pairing with new amps: Classe or McIntosh? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 01-23-2013, 04:11 PM - Thread Starter
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I know, I know - B&W/Classe is a "classic" pairing from the same audio group. But in spite of a comfortable budget I have to keep my costs in mind.

I'm replacing 3 x Musical Fidelity XP-200s (LCR, 200w each bridged) and a Rotel 1562 (100wpc). I have 2 x B&W 803s, an HTM2 center and a pair of B&W in-ceiling rears rounded out with a Paradigm sub. The front end is a Meridian G61R/HD621. The room is about 17 x 18, carpeted, draped, and has a couple offset angles along with a large micro-fiber covered u-shaped sectional.

Maybe it's old age, but I'm finding that when pushed a bit in our new TV room (SIM2 Mico50 and Carada 114" screen) the 803s have a bit of an edge. The room is great and it loads the bass really well while remaining tight and controlled. Voices are good, midrange is good - it's the "edge" that seems to have crept in that I'm trying to get a handle on.

I can't afford a full gear swap out and I've tried some interconnect and cable cable swaps with no luck. I thought about a Meridian swap to DSP-5200s but that would still set me back about $12K after selling out the amps and B&Ws. So it's a Classe CT-5300 or a Mac 205 (again, a bit of apples to oranges from a power perspective).

Thoughts?
(Note I have some dealer loyalty here, so it's Classe, Mac, or NAD and Audio Research is out of my league).

gordon

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post #2 of 19 Old 01-23-2013, 07:53 PM
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I don't have any experience with Classe but my guess would be the Mac based on what you are looking for. Have you thought about two amps, say a stronger three channel and a bit less of a two channel for surrounds? Say MC303 and perhaps a Parasound A21?

Main Kef: Reference 205/2 & 202/2c, Surrounds: Kef XQ40, Velodyne Optimum 12, Integra DHC 80.3, Oppo BDP-103, Bryston 4Bsst2, Parasound Halo A31. Second B&W: 685 (3), CCM618, Def Tech Powerfield 1500, Onkyo TX-NR1008, DBP 2010, Samsung BD-C7900, Zone 2 Klipsch AW650. Sitting still CCM616, Kef...
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post #3 of 19 Old 01-23-2013, 08:04 PM
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The speakers, placement, setup, & original source make the most significant impact on sound quality.

Amps, preamps, cables, DACs, players make a lot less significant impact on the overall sound.

So I would get something with excellent build quality with good power output like Parasound & ATI.

MAC, Classe, Bryston, etc, are excellent. But if you have to watch your budget at all, I wouldn't even look at them.

BTW, ATI makes some amps for Mark Levinson, Lexicon, Cary Audio, B&K, & Theta Digital; ATI owns the later 2.
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post #4 of 19 Old 01-23-2013, 10:35 PM
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Both Classe' and McIntosh will help tame the edge of the B&Ws, but I think the latter will tame it more. Both are superb amps (I've used both), but neither are inexpensive.
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post #5 of 19 Old 01-24-2013, 06:02 AM
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I use McIntosh MC452 with my 802 Diamonds.

I think speakers make the biggest difference then the pre-amp, then dac and finally the amp makes the least difference (as long as it has enough power).

I looked at a lot of amps:
Classe CA2300: very nice at low volumes but and high volumes the sound seemed a bit harsh to me. couldn't listen for too long as it was fatiguing.
McIntosh MC302 & MC452: didnt like the 302 that much. it somehow felt detuned. i was all set on buying it but was dissappointed. thought the sound would be identical to the mc452 but an audition proved me wrong and ended up buying the 452. the amp is beautiful which doesn't hurt. ended up being an easy decision because i felt if i regretted it, compared to practically any other amp in the world mac amps hold value the best so i can enjoy them till i get bored and still recover 80pc of my cost smile.gif
Parasound Halo A21: fantastic sound and great value. 90pc performance of the others with 30pc of the cost.
Pass Labs X150.5: My favorite in terms of sound, but was too big for my rack.

i recommend any mcintosh amp because you can change your mind a few years down the line and get most of your money back. chances are you will pass them on to your kids smile.gif

Look at this one:
http://www.mcintoshlabs.com/us/Products/pages/ProductDetails.aspx?CatId=amplifiers&ProductId=MC303

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post #6 of 19 Old 01-24-2013, 08:15 AM
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If you have the budget, then get the MAC or PASS or Bryston or any of the high-end amps like Krell & Mark Levinson.

But if you have to cut/ watch your budget, I would put the money into the actual speakers and a lot less into the amps & preamps.

For example, I would rather get a 802D2 + Parasound or ATI vs 803D2 + MAC. Of course, I would rather have 802D2 + MAC. But if I have budget limits, then the speakers come first.

The biggest and most significant component is the speakers.
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post #7 of 19 Old 01-24-2013, 12:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Actually I did. That would be a variation of what I'm doing now... Food for thought.

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post #8 of 19 Old 01-24-2013, 01:14 PM - Thread Starter
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My bad - I did consider a three-channel/stereo pairing.

Although I have a budget - it's still fairly generous. That said, even used 802d's are outside the cost boundaries. I figure that I can get about $1,500 - $2,000 for the three Musical Fidelity XP-200s plus the newer Rotel and my "list price" budget for amps was in the $8K-$9K range. The reason I was sticking with the 803s and HTM2 was simply cost (maybe $3.5K to $4K sell price?). If I replace all three speakers and the amps and go the A-gon route for everything I'm still netting out somewhere in the $10K-$12K range rather than a net of about $7K. In the good old days $5K wouldn't matter that much but with "fixed income time" only a year or so away I actually have to start thinking a bit more like an adult and a bit less like a "Toys R Us" kid (sigh).

It's not as though I'm deprived - I've got a really good system. But last night as I auditioned the Celine Las Vegas concert on Blu-ray (no comments please, not my ususal fare) I was reminded that at higher volumes the system is sometimes pushing back a bit on the high end.

In any case - thanks for the suggestions and keep them coming. Fortunately there are a number of fine retailers in the Seattle area to which I can turn for help if my primary source just doesn't pan out. I confess to a bit of a Mac attack - long ago in a land far away I had Klipsch Cornwalls with a Mac preamp, amp, and FM tuner (purchased from HiFi Hutch, Mt. Prospect, Illinois in the late 60's/early 70's; I actually had the pleasure of meeting Paul Klipsch at one of their events).

One other general comment is that the room is pretty good acoustically, has a large sweet spot, minimal bass issues/good room "loading", and I had some excellent help setting the speakers and adjusting the system from my dealer using the Meridian g-61R.

gordon

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post #9 of 19 Old 01-24-2013, 05:42 PM
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Hi Gordon.

Your speakers and gear are really nice. Those who state upgrade your speakers from your current? You have nice speakers but if you really need to move to Diamonds I would get it.

Money is important to most of us and I know you are looking at high end amps with Classe and MC. I own a Simaudio Titan which I feel is a great amp but prior to the Simaudio I owned NAD Masters M25. You know looking back that amp was like $3500 I think and the Simaudio is $10k. The NAD Masters is one of the best buys I think in mid-level separates .
I really think if you might want to save a bit don't be shy to try it. It's an awesome amp.

I own the Classe SSP-800 so I certainly am familiar with Classe and I love this pre-pro but once again I also owned the NAD Masters M15 non HD pre-pro (the original HDMI 1.0 Version) and once again it had fantastic sound quality. it was like $3k and the Classe $10k.
I think the latest NAD pre-pro might be closer to $5500 but still that is near half of the awesome Classe pre-pro. Hmmm?

I have been reflecting back over my purchases over the last several years and the boat load of money spent and I really think the NAD Masters can hang with some of the best for a good deal less money. Perhaps consider the matching pre-pro?

I would really consider NAD for your set-up but I understand the love for McIntosh amps. They are beautiful. I am learning to really appreciate a single box solution. I think multiple amps in the front of the room would begin to push my nerves but I have a smaller room.

Just want to throw out a different option with the NAD Masters. And if you really want to stay closer to double digits for amp I do love my Simaudio Titan. You may add that to your list as well. By memory and it's been several years but after I swapped out the NAD and set up the Simaudio the first thing that popped in my mind was the bass coming from the front stage . I was quite surprised at first by the thought that the Sim grabbed my Dynaudio's by the balls and the front stage was more lively and bass was increased but then time goes by and who knows. That NAD was nice as well.

In my opinion NAD and McIntosh are closer in sound characteristics then not. Maybe a bit on the lusher side not bright (at least the pre-pro)

Simaudio and Classe closer (more neutral but not bright)

You own Musical Fidelity and while not in the same category I do own a Musical Fidelity headphone amp and to me it's a bit forward with my Sennheiser headphones.

Maybe that is indeed the issue....


Rick

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post #10 of 19 Old 01-24-2013, 06:27 PM
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My listening experience with B&W together with NAD was a very positive one, but it goes back about 10 years, so things might have changed. If Classe' or McIntosh is not in the budget, I would definitely look at NAD.
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post #11 of 19 Old 01-24-2013, 08:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beaverlake View Post

My bad - I did consider a three-channel/stereo pairing.

Although I have a budget - it's still fairly generous. That said, even used 802d's are outside the cost boundaries. I figure that I can get about $1,500 - $2,000 for the three Musical Fidelity XP-200s plus the newer Rotel and my "list price" budget for amps was in the $8K-$9K range. The reason I was sticking with the 803s and HTM2 was simply cost (maybe $3.5K to $4K sell price?). If I replace all three speakers and the amps and go the A-gon route for everything I'm still netting out somewhere in the $10K-$12K range rather than a net of about $7K. In the good old days $5K wouldn't matter that much but with "fixed income time" only a year or so away I actually have to start thinking a bit more like an adult and a bit less like a "Toys R Us" kid (sigh).

It's not as though I'm deprived - I've got a really good system. But last night as I auditioned the Celine Las Vegas concert on Blu-ray (no comments please, not my ususal fare) I was reminded that at higher volumes the system is sometimes pushing back a bit on the high end.

In any case - thanks for the suggestions and keep them coming. Fortunately there are a number of fine retailers in the Seattle area to which I can turn for help if my primary source just doesn't pan out. I confess to a bit of a Mac attack - long ago in a land far away I had Klipsch Cornwalls with a Mac preamp, amp, and FM tuner (purchased from HiFi Hutch, Mt. Prospect, Illinois in the late 60's/early 70's; I actually had the pleasure of meeting Paul Klipsch at one of their events).

One other general comment is that the room is pretty good acoustically, has a large sweet spot, minimal bass issues/good room "loading", and I had some excellent help setting the speakers and adjusting the system from my dealer using the Meridian g-61R.

gordon

If you are ready to get used amps, I suggest Bryston. You can easily get one for reasonable amount of money and still have more than 10 years of warranty left in it. For new - did you consider something like Emotiva? They would likely work quite well with 803s. Some use them to drive 802D2.
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post #12 of 19 Old 01-24-2013, 09:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Once again thank you all for your input. The NAD is certainly an option and with that choice I could consider 803d replacements (including the center). Having been in sales for 30+ years I'm kind of stuck in the "loyalty" space with my local dealer - which then precludes Audiogon for the bulk of the purchases. However, once I sort out my 2012 taxes and balance this purchase with, hold on now, the possible purchase of a wood burning pizza/bread oven and/or electric smoker (I LOVE to cook and we host a lot of parties) who knows?

I certainly welcome any other input - and the responses have been very thoughtful, but I think I've got enough feedback to guide me on my way after a few more weeks have passed and I have a better handle on the budget.

I will do a follow up several weeks from now to let you know how things turn out.

Again - thanks to you all.

gordon

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post #13 of 19 Old 03-07-2013, 03:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Well - time for me to confess. I'm going planar...

I've sold off the 803s and HTM3 and the MuFi XP200s. Week after next I'm getting "wall of polyester" - 2 x Maggie 3.7s, Tri Center (2 x MMC2 + CCR), and 2 x DWM bass panels all powered by a NAD M-25. I'll have one channel of amplification for each of the seven panels. I'm keeping my B&W in-ceiling surrounds/Rotel combo and my Paradigm Seismic 12. In for a penny, in for a pound. Go big or go home. Pick your phrase.

I've been on the periphery of Maggies for about 3 years, ever since I heard the "early, prerelease" demo of the Maggie DWMs and ??? panels at a "Sound Matters" put on by the local dealer in Seattle. My concern was always the "head in a vice" sweet spot issue. With the advent of the tri-center that shouldn't be an issue. And if it is, I can return all the kit and start over again with a store credit - and with the brands available I'm not too worried.

Again - thanks for the input. The consistent message in the three forums in which I posted was effectively "start with the speakers". The Maggies raised the hair on the back of my neck during that 20-minute demo and I haven't forgotten it. Now I get to see if the marvels of Mylar are going to work for me in my room.

All the best guys,
gordon

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post #14 of 19 Old 03-07-2013, 07:26 PM
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That's awesome and good for you. You went with the M25! Very good. I really enjoyed that amp as posted above. It's heavy! Careful..

Would love to hear the Maggie's. I have yet to hear them. I really do like the Martin Logan Summit and I have read the Maggie's are even better.

You'll have to report back after set-up.

Rick

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post #15 of 19 Old 03-10-2013, 06:52 PM - Thread Starter
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I will follow up. The NAD is in town and the Maggies ship early this week. The current plan is to hook up all the electronics and speakers next week when I'm back in town , put a CD on the Oppo and loop it for the 2.5 weeks that I'm traveling (1 week business, 1.5 weeks vacation). When I get back our sales guy will come over to work on speaker placement, speaker level setting, re-run the Meridian room correction etc. So I should be having a "launch" party with some friends the weekend of April 12-14! I'll do a write up about a week later and include some photos of the "polyester place"/"mylar mansion". I'm so excited I actually ordered a Blu-ray of The Silver Flute! (Thought I'd expand my musical horizons now that I'll have speakers that (apparently) excel at music like opera.)

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post #16 of 19 Old 07-12-2013, 07:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AcuDefTechGuy View Post

If you have the budget, then get the MAC or PASS or Bryston or any of the high-end amps like Krell & Mark Levinson. But if you have to cut/ watch your budget, I would put the money into the actual speakers and a lot less into the amps & preamps. For example, I would rather get a 802D2 + Parasound or ATI vs 803D2 + MAC. Of course, I would rather have 802D2 + MAC. But if I have budget limits, then the speakers come first. The biggest and most significant component is the speakers.

I agree 100% the speakers are key, get the best speakers you can afford!

I would choose CLASSE over McIntosh tried both and for me the Classe was much more musical and with a lot more detail! But I am very analytical so that's why!

Now if funds are limited I have owned Parasound and I could not agree more you get 80 % for a lot less money

My humble Cinema
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post #17 of 19 Old 07-12-2013, 07:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.SoftDome View Post

Hi Gordon. Your speakers and gear are really nice. Those who state upgrade your speakers from your current? You have nice speakers but if you really need to move to Diamonds I would get it.

Money is important to most of us and I know you are looking at high end amps with Classe and MC. I own a Simaudio Titan which I feel is a great amp but prior to the Simaudio I owned NAD Masters M25. You know looking back that amp was like $3500 I think and the Simaudio is $10k. The NAD Masters is one of the best buys I think in mid-level separates . I own the Classe SSP-800 so I certainly am familiar with Classe and I love this pre-pro but once again I also owned the NAD Masters M15 non HD pre-pro (the original HDMI 1.0 Version) and once again it had fantastic sound quality. it was like $3k and the Classe $10k.

Just want to throw out a different option with the NAD Masters. And if you really want to stay closer to double digits for amp I do love my Simaudio Titan. You may add that to your list as well. By memory and it's been several years but after I swapped out the NAD and set up the Simaudio the first thing that popped in my mind was the bass coming from the front stage . I was quite surprised at first by the thought that the Sim grabbed my Dynaudio's by the balls!

In my opinion NAD and McIntosh are closer in sound characteristics then not. Maybe a bit on the lusher side not bright (at least the pre-pro)

Simaudio and Classe closer (more neutral but not bright)

SIMAUDIO they ae beautiful but so expensive! I agree Classe is neutral, I felt the Mc colored the music not my taste for the B&W 800 diamond 2!

Now for Sonus Faber with a McIntosh MC275 yum!

My humble Cinema
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post #19 of 19 Old 07-13-2013, 12:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Since making this post in the Maggies thread I have replaced the NAD M25 with a McIntosh 8207. I'm still getting indications from the Mac that I'm occassionally clipping - even with 200+ "Mac Watts" per panel! (I'm about 12' from the panels and I listen to music in the high 80s to low 90s dB SPL (movies can obvioulsy hit higher transient peaks). For my ears I like the Mac/Maggie combination. Anyway - here's the system as of a month ago. I'm adding a few cable tweaks (I'm a marginal believer based on some more-or-less blind A/B listening).

gordon
From a post on 6/7 (without photos - http://www.avsforum.com/t/1086093/the-official-magnepan-owners-thread/2700_100

Update on our B&W 803s Replacement:

It's been a while since I posted - to recap I replaced B&W 803s/HTM-3s/Musical Fidelity XP200 x 3 with Maggies and a NAD M25 (more on that later). The front end of our HT now consists of 2 x DWMs + 2 x 3.7s with a CCR + 2 x MMC2 (non-motorized) for a tri-center set up. I've included a few photos, listening notes, and comments from Wendell Diller who visited me yesterday to check out the installation. Sources include an Opp BDP93, Comcast DVR, Wadia iPad base, XBox, and AppleTV. Control is through a Meridian G61r + HD621 combo. During the process I replaced my Paradigm Seismic 12 (which integrated very well) with a Paradigm SUB1 (which adds an increased amount of musicality plus lower reach for HT LFE). Our HT has 14' wide u-shaped sectional as the listening position and the 3.7s are in a triangle of about 12 feet apart and from the listening position.

Notes:
1. The system is set up per Magnepan instructions and the NAD M25 is set up with one amp channel per panel. Note that I am returning the M25 to my dealer here in Seattle and replacing it with a Mac MC8207 - still one panel per channel. When a source is really well recorded/mixed and is an excellent performance the tendency I've found with Maggies is to turn up the volume. I know extended listening in the low 90dB level (at the listening position) isn't good for one's hearing, I just can't resist increasing the volume on some material. The NAD just couldn't sustain that level (the tri-center is really a 3-ohm load). The dealer was supportive enough to loan me an MC207 for a weekend and although I on some material the Mac "red lights" flickered off and on, the amp kept up. As a side note after the weekend I can say that for my ears the "Mac sound" and Maggies are a good fit.

2. Our guests vary from "interested in music/movies" to music lovers to music performers - everyone has commented on the level of detail they are able to hear. This was often with their own source material. I can confirm that poorly recorded/mixed/mastered content sounds really bad on this system. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

3. Although Wedell's time here was brief (he had to get to Portland OR), he provided additional input for my sales rep from Definitive to use for some adjustments and the additional tweaks paid off. At least during the time he was here it was clear that Wendell doesn't crank the volume as high as I do (hey - I'm nearing retirement and I have tinnitus). What was clear is that properly set up, there weren't any discontinuities in the soundstage resulting from the tri-center. The additional layering and depth was noticeable when comparing stereo with Dolby Pro Logic Movies (the setting Wendell has typically used) and with Meridian Trifield. The lack of center "collapse" from side to side was very noticeable comparing stereo to tri-center. For movies the audio is seamless including wrapping to a pair of second model from the top B&W 8" ceiling speakers (powered by a 125 wpc Rotel stereo amp). We have the CCR and MMC2s at the same output levels from the amp and the center channel is at the same level as the 3.7s. The MMC2s do a good job of pulling the sound "up into the screen". Wendell noted that he prefers to use classical music in Dolby (or now Trifield) for checking out the tri-center set up since classical music isn't typically close-miked and therefore the width and depth of the soundstage are more dependent on the speakers' ability to reproduce the soundstage rather than having the sound engineer/mixer make these determinations as they might well do with jazz, rock, etc..

4. With 2 x 3.7s + 2 x DWMs the mid-bass slam is incredible. Combining Maggies' quickness with the additional surface area is very effective. I haven't heard 20.1s, but with even more "bass panel area" the sound must be awesome. We're crossing over the system to the sub at about 55Hz. When the Mac arrives and we replace the NAD we're also going to rewire and put the sub into the system full-time. Right now, following Wendell's suggestions (the logic of which I now understand), the sub is only active on multi-channel material and not during any two-channel listening (including Dolby or Trifield). I want to have the sub engaged and contributing for all music.

5. Although I mentioned the urge to crank up the volume, I'm actually finding that I'm listening at lower levels, particularly with highly dynamic material. The reason, I think, is that I can hear so much more detail at lower levels that I don't need to constantly fiddle with the volume control or listen at higher levels in order to hear the low-level detail.

6. I have added Magnepan-supplied wall treatement behind the center and the two MMC2s (1/2 inch material wrapped in Magnepan-supplied cloth). I'm running with NO resistors, only jumpers and the overall system sound is very balanced, especially with the Mac.

7. No surprise here - there is a lot of really poorly recorded/mixed music out there. That being said, even Pandora at the premium 192kbps streaming level sounds amazingly good.

8. I invested in Mye stands for the 3.7s. I notice improved coherence and slightly tighter bass. So did my sales rep - and he has two pairs of Maggies at home connected to two separate systems. I chose the "stealth" stands with no foot extension in front of the speakers. I used some leftover cabinetry wood as a platform, then went to Pier One and purchased two black suede pillows. I removed the stuffing, then put a heavy duty plastic bag in as a liner and filled each one with 60# of builders sand. It looks good and combined with the spiked feet from Mye the speakers are rock-solid.

In closing I'll dispense with the "reviewer hyperbole"; the system works extremely well for Redbook CDs, lossless streaming from my iTouch, DVD/Blu-ray concerts, and movies. Based on my dealer listening sessions, attendance at several "Music Matters" type events, and input from others I will state that as a multi-channel system with a total cost of approximately $30K, I have not heard a system that costs less than $100K that sounds any better (e.g., Wilson/ARC, Mac/Mac, Meridian, Sonus/Mac, Focal/Parasound, etc.). So although this is not an inexpensive system, for me/us it is extremely high value.

gordon
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