I am in the process of buying a home theater setup, but am looking for one that will also have a good 2 channel sound for playing old CD's and other audio. I would say that listening to music would be 75% of the use of the receiver, but I have come to appreciate how much better movies are with a good surround system also.
I guess my starting point of reference is my previous audio system purchased circa 1990, which was a pair of JBL L100t3 and a Yamaha RX-550 receiver rated at 60 watts rms. The 60 watts rms may seem underrated for the 400 watt capable speakers, but it actually did fine since the speakers had a 91db sensitivity. Needless to say, this receiver turned up to halfway would drive the speakers to an extremely loud volume, but one that is clean and powerful - it wasn't straining the amp or speakers, just a really full and defined sound. I am really starting to regret having left them behind in a recent move, but the speakers needed reconing and the input selector knob on the receiver needed replacing so I figured I'd update instead of repairing.
I have picked up some Polk Audio for the speakers and am pleased with their price/performance ratio, especially with the good deals I got on them. For the fronts I went with RTi10 and got matching CSi5 center and RTi6 surrounds and backs as well as a PSW505 for the sub. So the final step was to get a decent receiver to drive all this hardware, and since I had a good experience with Yamaha in the past, I gravitated towards them. The new models have just been released so there are some good deals to be had on last year's models and I found a great deal on the RX-V573 which is rated at 80 watts into 2 channels for 20-20khz and .09%THD.
As soon as I get the receiver, I hook up the 2 fronts in a Bi-amp configuration and a blu-ray player to see the out of the box sound. Run through the speaker configuration, enabling only the fronts in large and fire up the disc with the amp in Pure Direct. This receiver obviously has the new digital volume control which ranges from -80 to +16.5 db and from what I have read, 0 db is full power on an amp. As a matter of fact, the old Yamaha receiver I had was scaled from Infinity at 7 o'clock to 0db at 5 o'clock (which was the physical limit) but you would never turn those old amps to past 1 or maybe 2 o'clock since distortion would begin at that point. But on this new receiver I got to -20db and it was still not very loud, on to -15db, ok getting a bit louder, but not very full sounding. At -10db it's a decent volume but the sound is shallow and seems to be shifting towards more high end output, the bottom is not gaining linearly anymore. I even go all the way to 0 and yes, it's fairly loud at this level, but you can sense there is strain on the amp, which is not good for the brand new speakers. So me and my brother in law are wondering, is it a defective unit or something?
We decide to go get his old HK AVR30 circa 1995 rated at 60 watts into 6 ohms, so even a bit less than that into these 8 ohm speakers, and hook it up. The difference is unreal, what was -15db on the new amp is between 9 and 10 o clock on this one and this is with a much fuller and defined sound. Push it to 11 o clock and the speakers really start to open up - you feel the bass, not just hear it. This is what I remembered 2 channel audio to be like. We went to halfway and the volume is to the point of hurting your ears a little bit, but it is still clean and powerful, the woofers are dancing, not straining at all. So the new receiver is defective we decide, and send it back. This turned out to be cool, since a couple of days later we found an even better deal on a RX-V773 and got it instead - it is rated at 95 watts continuous 20-20khz into 2 channels.
Long story short, we hook it up and it is roughly the same as the 573 - have to push the volume to -15 to -10 db to get a decent volume (in pure direct again) but it is not a satisfying sound, does not sound anywhere near as full or present as the nearly 20 year old supposedly weaker amp. Hooking up the other speakers and trying full surround is similar - a real lack of punch. And yes we did run the YPAO and messed with about all the settings, but it keeps coming back to there just seems to be a lack of power.
Not sure what to do at this point, and I have not seen others posting about this, so I'm back to wondering if this one is defective too (which would seem unlikely) or this is just how new receivers sound nowadays. I was trying to keep the cost of the receiver between 500-600 and I realize this is mid-fi at best, but the 773 is Yamaha's best mid-fi offering and it compares spec-wise to their low end Aventage receivers. I'd be interested to know how they can say 95 watts continuous when it is obvious this is not the case (unless this one is defective too I guess). I did notice that they don't advertise is as rms like they used to.
Looking for some answers/opinions. I do like the feature set on the 773 (which is what receivers seem to focus on now - checklist designing, instead of good sound) and it does have pre-outs which is pretty rare for mid-fi so maybe getting a Emotiva UPA 500 or 700 would solve my problems, but that's adding another $400-500 to the cost , which would put me more in the range of $1k receiver, which is more than I wanted to spend for now, but if that's the only way to get back to that sound, I might consider it.
Is it perhaps another defective unit or are other manufacturer's receivers (like HK or Denon) more honest about their power? Would spending $1k on a receiver get me a substantially better amp (don't really need more features, zones, etc).
My biggest question is this 'wimpy' sound and lack of volume the new standard for receivers, I'd especially like to hear from those who are familiar with the older gear.
Ah, those first world problems!
Thank you for reading!