Best of both worlds – Stereo quality sound with an AVR? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 03-28-2014, 09:35 AM - Thread Starter
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I was walking around my local hi-fi shop a few days ago and heard the new B&W 686 S2 speakers with a Rotel RA-12 amp. I’m no expert but to me the speakers sounded very good, especially for their size and price. This got me thinking.

 

At the moment I have a Denon AVR-1610 / 5.1 system which I use with a Bluray player, an Apple TV and also for listening to TV. The speakers are 16 years old and listening to the B&W speakers has made me want to buy a new system.

 

I don’t, however, want a new 5.1 system. I really liked the stereo sound I heard from the B&W speakers and Rotel amp. Given that I want to watch DVDs etc, and use my Apple TV, I think using an AVR is the best option. I have considered a stereo amp with optical connections but I think I would probably run into AV sync problems when watching DVDs. I do understand that stereo amps will give me better sound quality but I really do need to make sure audio and video are in sync.

 

By budget is limited so I will have to get the B&W 686 S2 speakers first and use them with the Denon AVR-1610 in ‘direct’ mode for now.

 

Can anyone give me some advice about setting up the AVR-1610 for 2-channel stereo? I’m familiar with the setup for 5.1 but I’m not sure if I need to run Audyssey or not with only 2 speakers connected. Are there any other settings I would need to make?

 

Once I’ve done this, I’d like to start doing some research into what new AVRs would be better than the Denon AVR-1610 for 2-channel setups with the priority on stereo sound. Are there any AVRs that you would recommend? My budget would be around 500 to 600 Euros. 

 

 

I'd very much appreciate any thoughts, comments and advice you can give.

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post #2 of 16 Old 03-28-2014, 11:48 AM
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When running in either of the Direct modes, both Audyssey and bass management are disabled. However, an Audyssey calibration applies to the receiver's Stereo setting just as well as it does to its multichannel modes. Be sure to run a full calibration after you've upgraded your speakers. You'll have to determine from your own listening tests if it provides an improvement over Direct when listening to stereo audio. Part of that will depend on the quality of your subwoofer. Often the receiver's software (not Audyssey itself) will configure high-performance speakers as "Large", disabling bass management. Usually it's appropriate to manually set them to "Small" and raise the crossover to 80Hz.

Personally I'm biased toward Marantz, but in Europe they're often sold at a much higher premium over their Denon counterparts than they are in the U.S.

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post #3 of 16 Old 03-28-2014, 12:09 PM
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I don't know about Audyssey but the Pioneer receivers have a choice between defeating calibration in stereo mode or allowing it. So you can get the same kind of amplification you heard in the store with a receiver like mine. Perhaps true with other brands as well. Audyssey, truthfullyl, isn't very flexible. It does what it does well but doesn't like to be adjusted.

The amps you don't use in the AVR simply don't do anything. You can use as many of them or as few of them as you like. It doesn't matter. Setting the processor to a stereo mode will turn your preamp into a stereo preamp. Couldn't be simpler.
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post #4 of 16 Old 03-28-2014, 02:37 PM
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Audyssey can be disengaged, too, if you want, leaving the other processing options available, like ProLogic and bass management. As you say, though, it does have very limited adjustability.

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post #5 of 16 Old 03-29-2014, 05:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, Selden and FMW. That clears things up regarding Audyssey. 

 

I wasn't going to use the sub, just the B&W 686 S2's as front left and right. 

 

Regarding a new AVR. I've been told that if I like the 'Rotel sound' a Yamaha would be nearest? What do you think? Perhaps the RX-V675?

 

Thanks again guys.

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post #6 of 16 Old 03-29-2014, 08:45 AM
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Sorry, I can't comment on comparing Rotel to Yamaha, since I've never owned either.

In general, though, if their amplifier circuitry isn't being stressed, then different audio equipment should "sound" the same. If they don't, then something is distorting the sound. Most quality modern a/v electronics devices are linear (i.e. accurate) to well below the limit of what our hearing can detect so long as they aren't running near the limits of their capabilities. The subtle differences that people claim to hear usually can be explained by "placebo" or "expectation bias" effects. These effects are very real: people really do "hear" something different when they know what devices they're listening to.

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post #7 of 16 Old 03-29-2014, 09:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MBrom View Post

Thanks, Selden and FMW. That clears things up regarding Audyssey. 

I wasn't going to use the sub, just the B&W 686 S2's as front left and right. 

Regarding a new AVR. I've been told that if I like the 'Rotel sound' a Yamaha would be nearest? What do you think? Perhaps the RX-V675?

Thanks again guys.

Hopefully there is no such thing as a Rotel "sound." That would mean that the amps are not linear. I'm pretty sure Rotel makes linear amps. So does Yamaha. Neither should have a "sound."
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post #8 of 16 Old 03-29-2014, 03:14 PM
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Rotel was the in thing 10 years ago. But now their outdated style has caused them to fall out of fashion and be perceived as "bright" and "edgy" sounding. Hence why someone recommended a Yamaha as an alternative for a similar sound as Yamaha is also perceived as having a "bright" sound.




Classe is the new Rotel if you want to be cool and trendy in the eyes of other audiophiles.



Because of the better styling these are perceived as having a softer warmer sound.
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post #9 of 16 Old 03-30-2014, 07:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

Sorry, I can't comment on comparing Rotel to Yamaha, since I've never owned either.

In general, though, if their amplifier circuitry isn't being stressed, then different audio equipment should "sound" the same. If they don't, then something is distorting the sound. Most quality modern a/v electronics devices are linear (i.e. accurate) to well below the limit of what our hearing can detect so long as they aren't running near the limits of their capabilities. The subtle differences that people claim to hear usually can be explained by "placebo" or "expectation bias" effects. These effects are very real: people really do "hear" something different when they know what devices they're listening to.

Thanks again, Selden. 

 

I hadn't really thought about it like this. You're right, I fell into this trap when in the B&W section in my local Hi-fi store listening to their speakers with the Rotel amps. I was told by the sales guy that Rotel are part of the B&W group and are built to match their speakers. I assumed that the Rotels were better than other manufacturers. 

 

When I said 'Rotel sound' I guess I meant 'bright'. I'm new all of this and find it difficult to describe the sound I like. I did like the sound of the Rotel amps. To me the sound was very 'clear'. I haven't heard an amp or receiver that you would class as 'warm' yet. I think I need to ask the Hi-Fi shop to hook up a Yamaha and Marantz and see how I like the sound.

 

I also need to make sure that a new AVR meets the speakers' requirements. I'm attaching a photo of the B&W 686 S2 specifications. What wattage/power would you say is right for the speakers? My room is 5 x 10 m and don't play music/watch movies very loud due to neighbours either side of me. I do have the occasional party, though. 

 

Thanks again for your comments.

 

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post #10 of 16 Old 03-30-2014, 08:06 AM
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Those B&W are fairly easy load @ 5.2-8ohm, but sensibity is a b low at 85dB, so you need a bit more power, like double the power relative to a speaker with 88dB, or triple the power with speaker with 91dB sensibivity. Compared to my other speakers, my efficient rear speakers are louder with all channels set to 0 on the av amp...something like -6dB to get them equal in volume to the other speakers.

I have a older set of B&W speakers, I found them a bit bright, so I'd partner them with more natural sound amp. I find they worked with Yamaha. But not Audiolab.

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post #11 of 16 Old 03-30-2014, 08:29 AM
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Speakers and room acoustics have by far the largest effect on quality of the sound you hear. Electronics usually is a distant third. The general rule of thumb is to spend 2/3 of your budget on speakers and 1/3 on electronics.

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the audio showroom was carefully treated to best show off the speakers that they had. They will sound quite different if you take them home, which is one reason for trying to get loaners or a 30-day-return with no restocking fee. Considering the very low sensitivity of the 686 speakers, I suspect they'd be inappropriate for when you host parties, although they'd be fine for listening to quiet music in a small room. A sensitivity of 90dB or higher probably would be more appropriate. Note also that they have a relatively high low-frequency limit. A quality subwoofer and bass management are required.

Modern receivers which include automated room equalization (whether it be Audyssey, Yamaha's YPAO, Pioneer's MCACC, Anthem's ARC or something else) are designed to be able to produce accurate (flat) audio at the primary listening position. If speakers sound bright while EQ is active, this usually indicates that there was a problem during the calibration procedure. Doing a calibration properly sometimes can be a challenge. The instructions in receivers' owner's manuals are woefully inadequate. Using a receiver which includes EQ usually is a much easier solution to taming "difficult" speakers and rooms than trying to find electronics which might or might not be a better match to whatever speakers you get.

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post #12 of 16 Old 03-30-2014, 08:50 AM
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If you use source direct, or a stereo integrated amplifier you have no EQ. There are pros and cons to each amp type, generally though if you're more into audio, with no video sources, and no multi-channel or DD/DTS sound, I'd choose hifi amp.

But if your sources include BD, DVD, a HTPC, media streamers, consoles, I'd get a av amp. Also if your room is bad, EQ could help. Plus if advantage of bass management.

Sound from my 2 channel Hi-Fi sounds superb, and that doesn't have any EQ. That Rotel would have better current delivery and power than a similar priced AV amplifier. Also it has digital inputs so can upgrade poor quality analogue stages on lower end devices (say cheap CDP) Ideally though you want to know if it'll be able to decode DTS (to 2 channel) I know DD is compatible with PCM, so that works..but for DTS audio you'll get no sound, which for a video system...bit useless. But if your sources are PCM only, ie CDP, audio streamers, DAT, MD, a computer, etc - no problem.

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post #13 of 16 Old 03-30-2014, 09:09 AM
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S/PDIF connections transport up to 5.1 Dolby Digital and 6.1 DTS ES lossy formats in addition to lossless stereo PCM. The inability to hear DTS is a deficiency in whatever is being used to decode the audio. E.g. using a receiver which predates the introduction of DTS encoding (like my Pioneer VSX-D906S which has been gathering dust for many years).

In contrast current HDMI connections can transport up to 8 channels of lossless (or lossy) audio in LPCM or a variety of Dolby or DTS formats, limited only by the capabilities of the encoding and decoding devices. (Some future implementations of HDMI using v2.0 features will be able to transport up to 32 channels of audio, but there's currently no way to know when that'll happen.)

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post #14 of 16 Old 03-30-2014, 09:15 AM
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That Rotel doesn't have HDMI, and I fully aware that spdif carries DD/DTS, and PCM but then relying on that DAC to decode it. If you bought a 2 channel DAC, and send DTS you'll get no audio, or worse digital noise.

This isn't a problem if your system is going to be a Hi-Fi with regular sources like CD transport, Squeezebox. My 2 channel Hifi doesn't decode DD/DTS but it doesn't matter as I don't run into "no sound or static problem". But since he's using video based sources then probably best to get a av amp.

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post #15 of 16 Old 03-31-2014, 12:33 AM - Thread Starter
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As I will be using video based sources, I agree it's probably better to use an AV amp. 

 

When I listened to the 686 S2's in the showroom I turned the volume up to the level at which I would play at a party. For my ears it was great and I couldn't detect any 'stress' or 'distortion'. The amp that was connected is rated at 60 w. As these speakers are the smallest in the B&W 600 range and cost 500 Euros here in Germany (and

 

300 GBP in the UK), they weren't in the 'premium' sound lounge where the room is carefully treated as you mention Selden. 

 

I do also have a B&W A7 wireless speaker (specs attached). I bought this because of its convenience e.g. playing music from iTunes on my Mac. I get a wonderful sound from this small speaker and find I can play music at the volume I would at a party. The downside to this (as it's only one speaker) is that you have to be sitting in the right position to experience the best sound. This is another reason why I'm thinking about stereo speakers for movies and music. I miss the separation of sound you get from two speakers.

 

If the power/volume I get from the wireless speaker is plenty enough for me, what would you now say about the B&W 686 S2 connected to a suitably powerful AV amp? Would the Yamaha RX-V675 have the power for example?

 

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post #16 of 16 Old 03-31-2014, 03:48 AM
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I used B&W 601 with 671 and that was great, but listenig at near field..but if I ramp it up seems to cope fine. Also if you just run into 2 channel you get more power, compare to full 7.1 as the power drops.

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