Beforehand, my excuses if this is going to be a long (perhaps difficult) read. English is not my native language and I have tons of questions, thoughts, ideas. I'm writing down "our story" in detail as to better inform any readers about our road so far and to better understand what we want.Current setup
A few years ago we moved in our new house. I wanted to upgrade our PC-speaker 2.1 "audio system" to something better. One day we stumbled upon a "nice" set. Harman Kardon AVR-142 and a 5.1 set of JBL speakers (SCS200.5)
Satellites: max recommend amp 100 watts. 50 watt continuous handling / 160 watt peak. 8 ohm. Sensitivity y 86dB @ 1 Watt/1 meter.
Woofer: 8" 100 watt RMSFor the love of music
About a year ago I somehow started to develop an interest in "accurate sound reproduction". I discovered FLAC, SA-CD, etc. I never thought there was a problem with the "sound" our current system was producing because honestly, I didn't know any better. My interest kept on growing and one day I walked into a high-end audio store in Antwerp. That's when it all started coming together. I sat down in a comfortable sofa, with in front of me a gold amplifier and CD player (Accuphase). Left and right accompanied by some very weird but beautiful looking speakers (Martin Logan Theos ESLs)
I was blown
away. I listened to a live recording of "The Eagles" and to the soundtrack of "The Gladiator". It started to appear for me, this is how audio should sound. While I have the same albums in FLAC, I was never particularly touched by it. I went home, told my wife about it and we went back on a Sunday for another listening session. She was almost moved to tears by the performance of this setup. Afterwards again however if we heard the price of both the Accuphase amplifier, CD player and the speakers.It's all about the speakers
Luckily for us the salesman told us that Martin Logan has a smaller set, the ElectroMotion ESL which uses the same technology. They connected these speakers up to a Naim SuperUniti 2 and boy, did it sound good. So we went home, discussed a little bit and went back with our Harman/Kardon AVR, which in theory, was able to drive the ElectroMotions. We connected everything up, used the same source material as we would use at home, powered up everything, sat down and... it was disappointing.
It sounded compressed, there was no stage in front of us, there was no "3d"-feeling and worse the music no longer conveyed emotion. Obviously the AVR was the culprit here. But we were still convinced the electrostatic speakers from Martin Logan were the way to go! So I started looking for AVRs that could handle these speakers. Rated at 6 ohm, needing a 20-300 watt amp. I quickly found some AVRs that could provide the necessary power however apparently at 20kHz, these bad boys drop to 1.6 ohm - something most AVRs, even standard amps, struggle with.Dirty
During my research for an AVR that could handle the low impedance's I also came across articles that shed some light on the electrostatic speakers. Since they're charged, they attract (a lot of) dust. That's not really that bad but since the membrane moves back and forth and the front/rear is open, it moves particles in both directions. If you place these speakers close to a wall, you might actually "project" dirt to the wall directly behind these speakers and since the particles are charged, they're hard to remove and you're left with dirty walls.
Another issue seems to be the sweet spot. Even though Martin Logan claims they "fixed" the sweet spot listening position by curving the panels, they still have a very small sweet spot. I've read reports that even moving 2-3 metres away has a dramatic impact in audio quality. The misses was not amused hearing that we would pay 3000 euro's for two speakers and not being able to enjoy them in the living room as well as in the kitchen (which are directly next to each other without any wall in between)Everything becomes uncertain
Knowing that, everything became a question mark again. Which speakers do we buy to upgrade our system? Which AVR?
I know you've read this a hundred times already but we want to have one integrated system. Not meaning that separates are not an option but we don't want a separate setup for watching movies and another one for listening to music. So the final setup should be able to do both.What we wish for
- High-quality audio playback (premium hi-fi, close to high-end without actually being high end, in price)
- DLNA streaming support (since our music is stored on a NAS, Lossless FLAC - 44.100, 16-bit, own rips with EAC)
- Controllable with iOS / Android app (requested by my wife)
- Support for current video formats and preferable future-proof (4k for instance)
- Front L/R speakers will be floorstanding speakers, surround speakers are left in place (those of the JBL set) as well as woofer, for now
So while I was still convinced about the Martin Logans, I came up with the following setup:
- Martin Logan ElectroMotion ESLs
- Yamaha RX-A820 (used as pre-amp for front L/R)
- Rotel RB1572 (as power amplifier)
This setup would've been a match for the Martin Logan speakers but then I read all the "bad" stuff about the Martin Logans and wasn't so sure about the speaker selection anymore. I also heard from a few people that Yamaha isn't really sounding musical. Meaning that there are other brands that put audio / musicality performance more in the foreground.
So based on that information I started looking at different setups.Speaker options
From a price point, there isn't that much of a difference. So I'll just have to visit an audio store and ask for a comparison between the two in a live demo session. I don't know if any of you have any recommendation / remarks about those two?AVR options
With the Martin Logans possibly out of the way, I don't think a power amplifier is necessary.
- Denon AVR3313
- Marantz SR7007
- Onkyo TX-NR818
- Cambridge Audio Azur 551R + Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 (for streaming/network play, as the AVR doesn't support it)
The Cambridge Audio is the only AVR without 4k support. I know 4k sources are not widely available yet. However a few years ago HD content in 1080 was uncommon. A few years later and it's a standard. So I don't want to buy an AVR now without 4k support, only to have a 4k capable TV within 4 years and source material, without an AVR to play it. This by definition doesn't rule out the Cambridge Audio as an option, but only if you guys are convinced 4k isn't something for the near future.
The Marantz and Onkyo are placed, together with Cambridge Audio and NAD, above Yamaha, Denon, etc. by most people I talked to. Both have an app to control the streaming and as far as I know, both have somewhat the same capabilities and are about the same price.
The downside however is that I haven't found a shop here in Belgium that has both products in stock and can provide me a listening session to compare both products side by side. So I can't judge if they actually sound different. So any recommendation on that is appreciated. Why would you buy the Onkyo or Marantz over the other?
As noted above, we would replace our current AVR and front L/R speakers only at this time and leave everything else in place (that is center, sat. L/R and sub woofer). Both KEF and B&W have surround, center channel and woofers to complete the system but that's something for the future (financially).
Thanks for your attention. I know it was a long post. Any advice is welcome.