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Panny SA-XR57 vs Pioneer Elite A-35R w/Digital Source

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
I have two different setups. I believe that, in theory, setup A should sound better than setup B, but, to my ears, the opposite is true.

In both cases, the source is FLAC-encoded (standard) CD audio.

Setup A: Soundcard is the Chaintech AV-710. Using the optical output to connect to a Panasonic SA-XR57. Speakers are Paradigm Monitor 5 and Paradigm PDR-10 subwoofer. This is used in our living room for music and movies; this is what I believe should be the "theoretically" better setup, compared to...

Setup B: Soundcard is unknown, but probably cheap as it's integrated into the budget motherboard. I do know that the card only supports 48kHz input, so the CD audio is being resampled. Amplifier is a Pioneer Elite A-35R, and speakers are Paradigm Monitor 3 (no sub). This is used in the basement strictly for music.

To me, Setup B, sounds better (with regards to music; I don't care about movies right now). Setup A doesn't sound bad by any means, but B sounds warmer and more "immersive". For lack of a more sophisticated description, Setup A is just kind of there: I don't notice any particular flaws in the music, but, in comparison, Setup B is more captivating, more "alive".

So, a few questions:
  1. Does anyone have any general thoughts on the (perceived) difference between these two setups?
  2. I haven't played with too many settings on the XR57. Would I be better served using the "big" or "small" speaker setting with the Monitor 5s? Also, would bi-wiring make a significant difference?
  3. Given my observations above, it seems like I could really make Setup B shine if I skipped the built-in soundcard+resampling, and got something like a USB DAC to go between the computer and the A-35R. Thoughts?
  4. I bought the Panny SA-XR57 off ebay a few years ago when this (and the XR55) were all the rage for good sound at a low price. I'm wondering if this is still a recommended setup for someone like me who wants to optimize digital music (sourced from a computer) stereo (i.e. 2.0 or 2.1) playback? Or are there other options I might want to consider? For example, I was reading about the Harman Kardon HK-3490, which has a digital inputs, and a built-in DAC (but not class D like the Panny).

post #2 of 2

methinks that it has more to do with the room that they are in and the way that the speakers are positioned than anything else...
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