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To IA or not to IA?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
[Going to retry my previous question in a different form. ]

Based on the assumption that "all decent amps are basically equal", i'd like to ask about the path *to* the amp.

I've got, what many would consider, a decent amp for my front channels. When I swapped out my old receiver for a new one I felt like the sound was missing some fullness (overly bright perhaps some would say?) A diagram of my setup:


My music is served by a SqueezeBox [SB] (via analog now to make as few changes to the pathway as possible). R1 is the old AVR and R2 is the new one. FWIW, the amp A was recently checked out by the shop I purchased it at and was decreed to be "functioning to spec".

I tweaked R2 in an attempt to make the path from the SB to A as unprocessed as possible but still felt it was lacking. So, I started to think about putting an integrated amp into the mix (one with AVR bypass) in hopes that my situation would be improved. Am I kidding myself this would make *that* much of a difference? I would have believed this was a very different conversation than the AMP vs AMP debate. Isn't there something to be said for improving the path from the source to the AMP (or is it more likely that any investment would only bring negligable return?)

I conceed the points arnky made in his response to my previous post (no to mention the numerous other times he's made similar comments) regarding controlled experiments. I also conceed the point that speakers and room treatments are going to have the most impact on SQ. Is this new configuration even worth considering?

For those who are curious: R1 = 20 yr old Nak AV-2; R2 = Onkyo TX-NR818; A = McIntosh 7100D.
post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by cfineman View Post

[Going to retry my previous question in a different form. ]

Based on the assumption that "all decent amps are basically equal", i'd like to ask about the path *to* the amp.

I've got, what many would consider, a decent amp for my front channels. When I swapped out my old receiver for a new one I felt like the sound was missing some fullness (overly bright perhaps some would say?) A diagram of my setup:


My music is served by a SqueezeBox [SB] (via analog now to make as few changes to the pathway as possible). R1 is the old AVR and R2 is the new one. FWIW, the amp A was recently checked out by the shop I purchased it at and was decreed to be "functioning to spec".

I tweaked R2 in an attempt to make the path from the SB to A as unprocessed as possible but still felt it was lacking. So, I started to think about putting an integrated amp into the mix (one with AVR bypass) in hopes that my situation would be improved. Am I kidding myself this would make *that* much of a difference? I would have believed this was a very different conversation than the AMP vs AMP debate. Isn't there something to be said for improving the path from the source to the AMP (or is it more likely that any investment would only bring negligable return?)

I conceed the points arnky made in his response to my previous post (no to mention the numerous other times he's made similar comments) regarding controlled experiments. I also conceed the point that speakers and room treatments are going to have the most impact on SQ. Is this new configuration even worth considering?

For those who are curious: R1 = 20 yr old Nak AV-2; R2 = Onkyo TX-NR818; A = McIntosh 7100D.

Please expand on how you use 2 AVRs in one system with one power amp.

I don't know of another living soul who runs 2 AVRs into the same power amp in one system.

I don't know why one would do such a thing that seems to be horrendously unecessarily complex.
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Lol... running R1 xor R2... not both at the same time :-) Just showing that, other than that, the paths were the same.
post #4 of 6
Quote:
I tweaked R2 in an attempt to make the path from the SB to A as unprocessed as possible but still felt it was lacking.
It's possible that there's some control you've overlooked which is responsible for the difference. But it's quite likely that your problem is some combination of expectation bias and comparisons with mismatched levels.For example, perhaps the first time you listened to your new receiver, you had the volume turned down a bit, and it sounded kinda flat, and that's now created a subconscious expectation that your conscious mind can't erase. Unfortunately, our heads work that way.
Quote:
Am I kidding myself this would make *that* much of a difference?
If R2 is altering the frequency response, then substituting an integrated with flat response will change things. But that's why it'll change things, and it would be better to adjust R2 appropriately.

If the problem is (meaning no offense) more psychological than physical, then substituting an integrated might make a HUGE difference, but that'll be psychological, too.
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
[apologies if this violates site policy... seems the conversation got a little more traction (thanks mcnarus for playing the field in both locales :-) ) from where I cross posted it and I've included a snippet from there]
Quote:
Originally Posted by cfineman View Post

Hmm... not sure what happened to my previous response to this but....
You mean there's not a little audio engineer inside the AVR? ;-)
The point I was getting at is: I have the impression that AVRs optimize for a home theater listening experiences and use various bits of DSP trickery to achieve that end. Even when it's (almost?) all turned off, it's still a less pure pathway. My concern was how much that "alters" the signal. If, instead, I chose something that had fewer, cleaner processing stages for music, would I see a noticeable improvement?
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

I think you're wrong about this. Accurate reproduction is generally the goal, whether for music or movies. Yes, AVRs offer many ways to stray from accuracy, but accuracy is almost certainly the starting point, unless the unit is really badly designed.
Assuming it's all turned off, it is as pure as any integrated you can buy—or at least close enough to pure that you couldn't tell the difference. in a fair test.
No, at least not for the reason you think. There really aren't more "processing stages" in an AVR.
My recommendation is to spend some more time with your AVR's manual, to see if there's a way to turn all the processing off. (It's often called "pure" or "direct" or something.)

As an example... I was reading people comparing the Anthem AVRs against the Arcam AVRs. There was a fairly strong/consistent sentiment leaning towards the Arcam being better if music is part of the equation but the Anthem's room correction be far preferable if you are just focused on home theater. Now I grant you all this is hearsay... but it still influences my own thoughts on the matter. Sadly I'm not sure I will have the luxury of doing a true controlled experiment without bias... it is likely to be impractical for me.

Got no problem with "accuracy is the starting point" but I gotta wonder (and please take this in the rhetorical spirit it is intended): Do you believe in your heart and mind that different AMP/Processor combos (of which AVRs are a subset) do not exhibit different sonic qualities? That adjectives like warmth, resolution, imaging, and speed are not significant aspects of these different combos? My preconceived notions tell me they are.

I re-read an article on the "carver challenge" the other day when I was starting to think about this. Here's a quote from the article:
Quote:
Originally Posted by stereofile View Post

Carver claims that the original, unmodified M1.0 amplifier had been designed to sound "the way he wanted it to." If, in fact, he could make it sound any way he wished, as seemed to be proven with his success in this experiment, why then did he elect to go with a typical mid-fi "solid-state sound" instead of emulating the sound of one of the best-sounding solid-state or tubed amplifiers on the market? There were, it turns out, some good reasons.

Perhaps I'm better off focusing my time/$ on my new speakers rather than the AMP/AVR. I am spending more time fiddling with the AVR as you suggest.

In the end... I remember (albeit through the veil of time) how happy I was with my purchase some 20yrs ago. This did not yield the same emotional charge (for music anyway) that previous purchase did. Perhaps my emotional dialects have withered with age biggrin.gif
post #6 of 6
Let's stick to one thread, OK?

For those who are interested, here's where this conversation has been going on.
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