Review: Panasonic SA-Xr55 with B&W 802D - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 105 Old 11-07-2005, 07:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Well I have decided to dedicate yet another thread to this unit for reasons that will be obvious....

Equipment:
Auralex Treated room (bass traps / absorption)
Panasonic SA-XR55 receiver
B&W 802D mains (powered in bi-amp mode)
B&W HTM1 center
B&W SCMS rears
standard oxygen free copper 12 guage speaker wire
coaxial output from m-audio soundcard with bit-perfect output

Prior system same except:
Rotel 1095 200 wpc 5 channel amplifier
M-Audio delta 1010 10 channel computer DAC with balanced output to amp

I won't go into long drawn out discussions about sonic characteristics of amplifiers. All I can say is that there is no clear audible difference between this $230 unit and my prior $2500 amp+d/a . What is clear is that without a signal this unit is dead quiet as all class D units are. The sound quality is simply excellent and if there were any deficiencies the 802 Diamonds should have made them obvious.

Every song I know and listen to all the time, I tried on this amp... and they all sound superb. I'm not so sure with 100% certainty that this is better than my old setup and I don't want to make sensational comments that it is.... but it certainly might be. I am not setup to do a proper a/b comparison to prove this to myself.

High end clarity, bass response.... pretty much fantastic.

I popped Star Wars episode III that I have seen on my prior setuo several times this week. Again I could hear no difference between this setup and DD 5.1 decoded by windvd and the m-audio d/a.. Again reproduction was fantastic.

Guys I don't know what to tell you.... Class AB has seen it's last days on this Earth when a ridiculous company like Panasonic can implement a third party chip (in this case TI Equibit) and come out with results this good. Don't get me wrong, the fit and finish of this thing are completely lame as has been said before. This thing has boring cosmetics and it really doesn't need ANY buttons or knobs on it.... I'm not sure why they made this thing cost more money with that stuff.

I vote for a version with better rear connectors, COMPLETE elimination of video switching circuitry, no radio tuner NONSENSE, no buttons or knobs (just remote), and an increase of wattage to 200 per channel. Pretty much the cost could be brought down to around $150 making this the greatest audio value in all the universe if it isn't already.

My old stuff is going on sale ... what a waste of money. I'm going to use the money for a velodyne DD sub or something.

Blazar!
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post #2 of 105 Old 11-07-2005, 07:37 PM
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From soundstage's review of your 802D's: http://www.ultraaudio.com/equipment/bw_802d.htm

"B&W specifies the 802D's impedance as "8 ohms nominal," which is positively disingenuous alongside the admission that the speaker's minimum impedance is 3.5 ohms. According to my measurements, the impedance falls to around 3 ohms in the power-hungry midbass region, indicating that the 802D's nominal impedance is actually around 4 ohms. This will pose no problems for any decent solid-state amplifier, but might give unpredictable results with low-powered, single-ended tube amps -- or, indeed, output-transformerless (OTL) tube amps."

Any problems driving the 802D near 4 ohm load with the XR55?
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post #3 of 105 Old 11-07-2005, 08:30 PM - Thread Starter
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I was a bit concerned about this myself and nobody was sure if there would be a problem or not. So far there have been no issues.

I'm not really sure under what circumstances that the speaker drops to 4 ohm load.... any examples? deep bass or high volumes or what? How does the fact that they are in bi-amp mode help or hinder this situation?

Blazar!
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post #4 of 105 Old 11-07-2005, 08:52 PM
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Blazar,

nice review, thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blazar View Post

I vote for a version with better rear connectors, COMPLETE elimination of video switching circuitry, no radio tuner NONSENSE, no buttons or knobs (just remote), and an increase of wattage to 200 per channel. Pretty much the cost could be brought down to around $150 making this the greatest audio value in all the universe if it isn't already.

I want one of those too!

Boo!
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post #5 of 105 Old 11-07-2005, 10:15 PM
 
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Nice Review!

I hope more is to come as you gain more experience with the XR55.
With all being equal as you said, at least now your setup is DEAD QUITE. No more hiss, no more noise floor. I believe that it is at least one bit of an advantage.

Well blazar, this review is very meaningful and another win for the "little beast". I wouldn't say that it is a bit odd as more and more people are getting in the "groove", but to match a $200 receiver perfectly with a $20,000 speakers must be quite a sight to see. As they say... PRICELESS! And you may take that literally.


...
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post #6 of 105 Old 11-07-2005, 10:39 PM
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I think it's safe to say that nobody who knows anything is the least bit surprised by your findings.

However, if you want to see if it'll strain at low impedances, IMO a movie soundtrack isn't the way you want to go. Try something big and orchestral, or a studio sonic spectacular (e.g. Dark Side of the Moon, Brothers in Arms) in DPL2 (unless you have a hi-rez multichannel version) at volumes that will probably require earplugs to see if it's an issue. Of course, if you don't regularly listen with earplugs in it probably will never pop up.

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post #7 of 105 Old 11-07-2005, 11:34 PM
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Thanks for your impressions Blazar:

But seriously.... how do the highs sound to you?

Not harsh? Not "phasy"? Crystal clear?

Many report brightness on top for the first few days/weeks... what level is your treble set at?

TIA
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post #8 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 12:04 AM - Thread Starter
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I have had a chance to sit around with it all evening and listen some more. It really sounds quite good right out of the box so I have no idea about burn-in and all that.

It basically sounds crystal clear with the 802d's. I don't use the tone controls at all. Like I said, my room is treated with a reasonable amount of absorption panels in my rather large 20x23 room.

I'm not really sure what you mean by "phasy".

I'm not trying to make the 802's sound like a jet engine so I haven't really cranked up the volume like I could. -20 is the highest setting I have been comfortable with and the amp doesn't strain at all at that level. So far I have been a bit scared to drive the amps too hard given the potential impedance issues and some people having "blown out" their xr55 with too loud of a volume. As great as this unit sounds, I'm sure I will eventually get the next bigger and better version of pcm->pwm technology. I need this one to tide me over until the next best thing. I am just not willing to test the "limits" of this in my current system... I can't afford to break the speakers lol.

I am sure I will never get a separate d/a converter and separate analog->pwm amp or a separate pre-amp. I am convinced now that the "d/a converter with gain" concept is what I'm going to look out for in the future. This is such a well setup unified component it makes no sense adding more noise to the system by trying to create "separates". Perhaps the IcePower pcm->pwm modules will also be good and we will see more receivers from that camp as well. Perhaps the Nuforce people will come out with a 7.1 integrated amp like the panny.... only time will tell.

Blazar!
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post #9 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 01:23 AM
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Thanks for that.

I used to have the XR45 on my B&W Signature 805s and I loved the clarity thru the bass and mids, but just couldn't stand the high end: harsh, and sounding out-of-phase on my tweeters (same tweeter as those in B&W's top line 800).

Hence my curiousity.

Based on your impressions, I guess I'll just have to try 'em for myself...

BTW, you don't happen to work for Panasonic do you??
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post #10 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 06:25 AM - Thread Starter
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no I defintely don't work fr panasonic.... and for that matter I think their user interfaces and lack of a full complement of discreet IR codes is abysmal on on their stuff.

I do own a panasonic ae700 projector also which is a decent product for the price.

If a more respected audio brands build a pcm->pwm 7.1 channel class D receiver with built in bi-amp capabilities I would very likely buy another brand.

Blazar!
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post #11 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 06:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by valvaholic View Post

Thanks for that.

I used to have the XR45 on my B&W Signature 805s and I loved the clarity thru the bass and mids, but just couldn't stand the high end: harsh, and sounding out-of-phase on my tweeters (same tweeter as those in B&W's top line 800).

Hence my curiousity.

Based on your impressions, I guess I'll just have to try 'em for myself...

BTW, you don't happen to work for Panasonic do you??

The 802D's are definitely less harsh than the original 800 series speakers... I know because I own the old 802's as well. I think that attribute is one of the speakers and may be a fault of the speakers themselves and not the receiver.

The high end extension of the 802d's is about as good as it gets and the xr-55 at least sounds decent in the upper end. I can't claim "huge veils have been lifted ... blah blah blah" because I had a pretty good setup before this. The best I can say is that I can't hear any significant differences. it's certainly not worse at the very least.

The rotel 1095 and m-audio da have individually higher signal to noise ratios and better THD stats than the panny but I'm not sure what the combined signal to noise and THD is. The end result of "separates" MUST be a lesser s/n and THD compared to either of the individual components.

Blazar!
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post #12 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 07:07 AM
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Wow, cool review blazar. Agree with you that the traditional analog amps are seeing its last days.

LOL! For me, a "huge veil have been lifted" with the Panny...
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post #13 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 07:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blazar View Post

I vote for a version with better rear connectors, COMPLETE elimination of video switching circuitry, no radio tuner NONSENSE, no buttons or knobs (just remote), and an increase of wattage to 200 per channel. Pretty much the cost could be brought down to around $150 making this the greatest audio value in all the universe if it isn't already.

I think there's a market for something like this. A digital amp with 5.1 or 7.1, lots of coax and optical digital connections, maybe 1 or 2 analog connections, no video, no tuner, and a couple of USB or firewire ports that handle an AC3 stream.
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post #14 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 01:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Actually gcbrowni, Here is a similar wishlist I made on another thread... I think it has everything most people want.

As an HTPC owner and a projector user with a room with great room treatments I don't need a receiver or pre-pro with 6 million spurious functions and switching capabilties or a fancy remote. I want quiet, efficient, compact, low-heat, and most of all audio fidelity that I can HEAR.

MANY of the products on the market are selling me 600 inputs and 500 surround modes... in reality I need GREAT stereo playback and decent movie sound. I only need ONE frekin input and the rest is a waste of money.


If I had my way, my perfect integrated amp would be:
1. signal to noise > 120db A weighted
2. THD <0.005% for all channels and ALL frequencies and wattages.
3. 200-300 watts per channel
4. An excellent surge protecting power supply with inbuilt hum/noise suppression.
5. efficient, compact, lightweight, cool (qualities of class D in general)
6. Sounds fantastic ... of course.
7. has inputs for coax, optical, USB and whatever other digital interfaces exist
8. NO VIDEO CRAP.... this is just noise and extra circuits that add complications
9. all known audio processing you can think of
10. voltage rail regulated volume control
11. direct PCM->PWM ONLY if it can meet criteria 1 and 2 above.
12. excellent remote control discreet functions for automation. I don't need a good remote, just great IR code functions to program into a good remote or computer.
13. The stereo bi-amp capability of the panasonic is now on my wish list for ALL units I ever buy... but I am unlikely to see this happen from most manufacturers. Frankly I'm shocked that panasonic introduced this to mainstream. Bi-amping of the center and main channels with active crossovers such as that found in the new TacT system would be amazing.
14. GREAT jitter reduction technology like that used in professional DAC's such as benchmark dac-1 etc. This involves proper reclocking before the pcm -> pwm transition occurs.
15. REMOVE radio tuners... what rubbish to add this potential noise into the system.
16. NO phono inputs on digital units.
17. NO useless spurious analog inputs.... I haven't used one of these in almost a DECADE. WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING THAT REQUIRE UNBALANCED INPUTS... The back of some of these receivers is RIDICULOUS these days.
18. 7.1 channel BALANCED analog inputs. If there wasn't so much nonsense on the back of receivers... you could put in balanced connectors easily.
19. 7.1 channel BALANCED analog outputs so you can use the unit as a movie processor only.
20. Automatic selection of surround modes on surround tracks so you never have to touch the remote for this.
21. All the usual bass management presets with a wide variety of crossover presets. usual delay and level features.
22. Onboard sonic testing utilities such as pink noise and sweeping tones, etc.
23. Room EQ, but only if it's any good...
24. better styling than the panasonic
25. lights on the front panel that are kept to a minimum or none at all. lights that can be completely turned off for those that want a dark environment.
26. case design that offers good RF shielding.


measured and audible performance should be outstanding and measurements should include the d/a conversion, volume control, and amplification in the final numbers.

Blazar!
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post #15 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 01:16 PM
 
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You pretty much summed up the perfect amp for all.

Another question to add and I'm really curious, if such a product exists, how much is one willing to pay for such?


...
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post #16 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 01:39 PM
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I think the best part is that the unit will probably cost considerably less than what we'd be willing to pay. I personally can't imagine paying much more than $500 for a receiver again, given what the panasonic costs now. I am guessing that the next receiver I buy will cost under $400. I mean, correcting for inflation or whatever, since I like the Panny enough that it may be a while...
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post #17 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 03:02 PM
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Thanks for the review. I really like what I hear so far.

I know you guys don't like non-sense stuffs, but I need to know. Does the XR55 have On Screen Display (OSD)? Thanks.
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post #18 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 03:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpectralD View Post

I think the best part is that the unit will probably cost considerably less than what we'd be willing to pay. I personally can't imagine paying much more than $500 for a receiver again, given what the panasonic costs now. I am guessing that the next receiver I buy will cost under $400. I mean, correcting for inflation or whatever, since I like the Panny enough that it may be a while...

I don't think $2000-$2500 is out of line for a receiver that's basically the Panny but with the addition of a good EQ (such as the Audessey design) + calibrated mic, more high-end design/construction, finer resolution of level and delay settings, maybe a little power bump, etc. I'd buy such a beast right now if it were out there, even over a $500 unit that had all of the above except for the better design/build quality. I'd just as soon keep the video switching in the box, though, because I don't care enough about video to buy a separate box and running a whole bunch of long wires to the TV is ugly.

However, I think (hope?) that the next logical phase of mass market audio is ironically enough a return to separates of sorts. That is to say, instead of integrating the amps with the switching/decoding, they'll finally go where they belong: in the speakers, preferably at a ratio of 1 amp per drive unit. If they're not already, I suspect that soon enough assembling speakers using TI-type amps with on-chip crossover/EQ/room correction functions will be cheaper than designing, voicing, and building passive good passive crossovers. Hopefully, in the process we'll be able to get rid of proprietary audio cables/connectors in favor of piggybacking on the Airport networks most people already have at home. Polk's started with their IP-addressable class-D amp'ed in-walls, though I don't know if they're wired or Airport.

Then, from my perspective the best part of that revolution is that soon enough after the first wave of commerical stuff comes out somebody's going to start selling those modules as plate amps with a computer program to configure easily configure/calibrate the DSP, and then DIY types will be able to combine whatever drivers they want with the latest-greatest in signal processing. Imagine slapping something like that on the back of an Altec VOTT, Lowther, or Tannoy Gold! Or seven of 'em!

PS: No OSD, or even remote setup of your speakers. You have to twiddle the smaller knob on the unit itself.

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post #19 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cucoo View Post

Thanks for the review. I really like what I hear so far.

I know you guys don't like non-sense stuffs, but I need to know. Does the XR55 have On Screen Display (OSD)? Thanks.

The XR-55 does not have O.S.D. I wish the next version would have a USB port which you could use a laptop to setup.
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post #20 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 05:46 PM
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interesting comments. Now i would like to see a comparison against Rotel's expensive digital amp. I expect digital to be digital, but who knows? Something about that huge price disparity sparks my curiosity to ask "what gives?"

That being said, would the "no noise" benefit still be there if you use a normal pre/pro with a digital amp?
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post #21 of 105 Old 11-08-2005, 10:00 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonomega View Post

interesting comments. Now i would like to see a comparison against Rotel's expensive digital amp. I expect digital to be digital, but who knows? Something about that huge price disparity sparks my curiosity to ask "what gives?"

That being said, would the "no noise" benefit still be there if you use a normal pre/pro with a digital amp?

I believe Dozer42 has both (Panny XR55 and Rotel 1077).
It is susceptible to hums and noise just like the others. But once cleared, yes it is DEAD quiet.


...
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post #22 of 105 Old 11-09-2005, 01:13 PM
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Thanks for the review blazar - i think at least a few more people will give the panny a shot based on this alone. Besides, it makes me feel better about my purchase
Quote:
Originally Posted by blazar View Post

no I defintely don't work fr panasonic.... and for that matter I think their user interfaces and lack of a full complement of discreet IR codes is abysmal on on their stuff.

I just wanted to note that the panny does in fact have discrete codes, they're just not all on the original remote. You can get power via a pronto or any JP1 remote (or potentially any other PC programmable remote). The input and audio mode discretes are directly on the original remote. Panny has them for my TV as well. The key is that they hvae it in their library.

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post #23 of 105 Old 11-09-2005, 01:26 PM
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Quote:


The stereo bi-amp capability of the panasonic is now on my wish list for ALL units I ever buy... but I am unlikely to see this happen from most manufacturers. Frankly I'm shocked that panasonic introduced this to mainstream.

To think that Panasonic introduced a feature merely for its sonic benefits is a bit shocking.
As I understand it, the 55 goes into dual-amp mode automatically when reproducing a stereo signal, apparently engaging the back-surround amps for this function. That being the case, I wonder why you can't have the dual-amp function active for the L/R in multichannel when you don't have back surrounds.

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post #24 of 105 Old 11-09-2005, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Gilvey View Post

To think that Panasonic introduced a feature merely for its sonic benefits is a bit shocking.
As I understand it, the 55 goes into dual-amp mode automatically when reproducing a stereo signal, apparently engaging the back-surround amps for this function. That being the case, I wonder why you can't have the dual-amp function active for the L/R in multichannel when you don't have back surrounds.

I think it has to do with the way the relays are configured. Hopefully they'll pull it off with their next-gen model. Or maybe they didn't want to have unequal power going to the fronts? The need to advertise equal power to all channels? Who knows...

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post #25 of 105 Old 11-09-2005, 03:20 PM
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Blazar, havent you ever tried separate powerfull amp with your setup ? The 802 needs LOTS of power to sing.
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post #26 of 105 Old 11-09-2005, 03:50 PM
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audiman,

Quote:
Originally Posted by blazar View Post

.
.
Prior system same except:
Rotel 1095 200 wpc 5 channel amplifier
.
.

how much more power than 200wpc?

Boo!
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post #27 of 105 Old 11-09-2005, 07:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audiman View Post

Blazar, havent you ever tried separate powerfull amp with your setup ? The 802 needs LOTS of power to sing.

THe most I have done is bi-amped with 4 of the 5 channels from the rotel 1095... that's pretty decent power output. It sounded the same as using a normal single amp configuration. At first I thought maybe I heard a difference (psyched myself into it) but then with further listening I couldn't really tell when I switched back and forth on songs that I knew.

They 802's are singing with the 80 watts per channel + bi-amping of the panny too.... so im not sure it was wattage they were missing...

Blazar!
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post #28 of 105 Old 11-09-2005, 07:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Gilvey View Post

To think that Panasonic introduced a feature merely for its sonic benefits is a bit shocking.
As I understand it, the 55 goes into dual-amp mode automatically when reproducing a stereo signal, apparently engaging the back-surround amps for this function. That being the case, I wonder why you can't have the dual-amp function active for the L/R in multichannel when you don't have back surrounds.


when doing 5.1 the mains are still bi-amped. Only in 7.1 do they revert back to single amps per channel for the mains.

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post #29 of 105 Old 11-09-2005, 07:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mikea28 View Post

Thanks for the review blazar - i think at least a few more people will give the panny a shot based on this alone. Besides, it makes me feel better about my purchase

I just wanted to note that the panny does in fact have discrete codes, they're just not all on the original remote. You can get power via a pronto or any JP1 remote (or potentially any other PC programmable remote). The input and audio mode discretes are directly on the original remote. Panny has them for my TV as well. The key is that they hvae it in their library.


in some of the products I have owned from panasonic, it's not the lack of discreet codes I had problem with.... it was a lack of a FULL complement

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post #30 of 105 Old 11-09-2005, 07:37 PM
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when doing 5.1 the mains are still bi-amped. Only in 7.1 do they revert back to single amps per channel for the mains.

Ok...when you set up the bi-amp mode with bi-wire speakers. How about dual-amp?

Jack Gilvey
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