Originally Posted by Yanec
Originally Posted by dsmith901
Well, I confess I am one of those people who claim to have heard differences in power amps and receivers while admitting that none were controlled DBX tests. OTOH, I bought and sold almost a dozen power amps (as well as several preamps and pre-pros) and listened to them in my own LR using the same speakers and source material, and I am willing to swear on a stack of bibles that I heard differences. Those audible (to me) differences explain why I kept replacing them until I finally reached power amp nirvana with the fabulous ESL amps designed by Roger Sanders, founder of Innersound and now of Sanders Sound Systems. Roger's patented Magtech amp is arguably the best high power amp in the entire world regardless of price and is a true audio bargain at only $5K.
I also believe that we all hear differently, not to mention we all have different tastes in music and what we like to hear, and our rooms (critical) are different. So every time someone asks about which equipment to buy I offer my experiences with certain brands and then end with advice to listen for yourself and decide what works for you. The good news is there are tons of resources on the internet, one of the best which is ecoustics (see link). But even reviews, whether pro or consumer, should always be considered as one person's opinion, not gospel. So-called "pro" reviews especially can be suspect if the venue is one of those salon magazines like Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, or Positive-Feedback, where the reviewer has little or no technical expertise and they derive income from the overpriced brands they review with such glowing praise. Sound and Vision (magazine, previously Stereo Review and Audio Review) reviews, OTOH, are typically more straightforward and objective, with solid bench testing by technical experts that you can rely on to support their opinions. But even then the ultimate judge has to be you. Good luck.
Thank you for your comment on this question! As I said unfortunately due to some conditions I am unable to audition myself any gear, otherwise I wouldn't be posting - I really care just about what I personally like.
As you said I take with a grain of salt all online reviews. Being a photographer myself I know very, very well how biased and even wrong are some online gear reviews. Thanks for recommending and pointing to Ecoustics!
Would you please share - based on your experience - which brands/receivers have a warmer and more laid back sound? I prefer warmer and laidback sound but my Epos M16i/Epos M5/Monitor Audio Silver 10i although quite flat and neutral are so detailed and revealing in the mids and highs that they are unforgiving to harsh/bright recordings and sources.
As I said in my first post my preference historically would be Harman Kardon, but I have not heard how they sound with their Class D amp sections. Also, I have not used a receiver for more than a dozen years, having long ago gone with separates. My brother and my nephew both use H/K receivers I recommended and they are very pleased with them - but their H/K receivers have the older Class A-B amps. Since you are unable to audition then you really are just shooting in the dark. Even if I swear on a stack of bibles that you will love the H/K AVR you may decide otherwise. I'm not an expert on room corrections but from what I have read it is mainly intended to smooth out bass response and so I doubt if it will have much effect on harshness or brightness, which I believe is best handled with acoustic treatment to tame the higher frequencies. Then there is your source to consider - are you using a CD player or a media player? Are you listening to MP3 or WAV files (or CDs)? Of course you should avoid lossy compression, even high bit rate, if you are bothered by harshness. Then there is the matter of what do you consider harsh? Harshness, like beauty, can be in the eyes (ears) of the beholder. I am very sensitive to high frequency noise and vibrations, which is one reason I went through so many devices to get where I am. But it was trial and error listening that literally took years. So in the end there are no shortcuts - you have to buy and try. If you can't audition (which itself is iffy since you are not in your own room) at least buy from dealers or manufacturers that have a 30-day return policy. But first make sure your source (CD, PC, Media player, DAC) is free of problems before focusing on the reciever or amp. Also, keep in mind you can use an AVR as a pre/pro and use a separate power amp if the AVR has preouts.
Most of the amps I auditioned are no longer available, at least not new. But just for the record, here are the power amps I found most easy on the ears, if sometimes lacking in detail: H/K PA-5800; Sherwood Newcastle A-965 (much better than the PA-5800, note Sherwood Newcastle made a nice receiver using the same basic power section, the P-965, at one time); Theta Digital Intrepid (highly recommended if you can find one). Then of course there are the Roger Sanders designed Innersound ESL and Sanders System power amps, but I'm guessing you are not ready to put down $4K for a 2 ch power amp. But if you are you cannot do better at any price, IMO.
As to "auditioning" you can buy fully-warranted refurb receivers direct from Harman Kardon at their on-line outlet store (see link below) or from their eBay store, and they offer 30-day satisfaction. In all honesty, I suggest you start there, and you can save a ton of money. The H/K AVRs used by my brother and nephew are refurbs and they have never had any problems with them. You really can't go wrong going this route. Here is the link:
PS: One last thought - for high quality stereo music I would avoid using the AVR's DACs if possible and rely instead on a CD player's DAC or a separate DAC. Unfortunately not all AVRs have a true analog bypass that avoids ADC and DAC conversions. I think H/K AVRs do (they used to) but cannot verify if current models have a stereo bypass.
One last tip: For some amazing music in either stereo or surround consider a Citation 7.0 analog (no digital inputs) pre/pro. I used one for years and loved it. You will need a separate power amp of course. A good used 7.0 can probably be had for $200-400 (originally $4k).