Matching AVR and amp for B&W speakers
I’m new to hi-end hi fi and joined this forum to get some advice, as selecting the right system can get pretty confusing. I’ve been shopping around and have narrowed down some choices, but am still a bit confused and hope I can benefit from some expert opinion.
I want to essentially replace a standard Sony home theatre setup with a new TV and, more importantly, a better sound system. The Sony, of course, was barely adequate for movies, but it was torture using it for audio recordings, so I’m looking for an entirely different set up now: good speakers, with high-end hi fi and AV components. Will upgrade to a 65” flat panel LED or OLED (willing to wait for this year’s models), but want to go ahead with the rest of the purchases now.
First, a word about my room layout, since it is peculiar (about 24 x 26 ft). I have a long couch facing a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf which houses the TV and stereo components, along with the front and center speakers, which are about 16-17 ft from my normal watching position on the couch. The couch is about 5-6 ft away from the back wall, so there’s room to put rear speakers against the wall, about 13-14 ft apart. However, I only have space for bookshelf front speakers, although can have floor standing ones at the rear. The room also has other seating in front facing the other way, about 18 ft from the rear wall, which I use when listening to music. So I would like to use the floor standing speakers mainly for music (connected to Sonos, an Oppo BD 95 BluRay/CD player and other source inputs), but as rear speakers in a 5.1 ch home theatre environment when watching movies. I can place the sub wherever it works best in this configuration (am advised on a front corner location).
Now in terms of the equipment options, I’m pretty much sold on the B&W for the speakers: a pair of CM10 S2s for music and as rear HT speakers; a CMC and ASW10CM center and sub; and either a pair of CM5 S2 or PM1 for the front HT speakers. For the record, the other rear floor/front bookshelf/center/sub speaker combos I considered were Focus Aria 948/906/CC900/REL218 and Martin Logan Theos/Motion 35XT/Motif X/Dynamo 1000. Where I live, I will not be able to demo each combination, so am essentially making what I think is a safe choice based on brand reputation and reviews, plus I really prefer the B&W aesthetically over the rest (I know this should not be a deciding factor, but in my living room, it is!).
So, given these speakers, I’m now in a bit of a conundrum regarding the remaining components. Initially, the B&W vendor had suggested the following Rotel components (same parent company as B&W) in a package deal that at the time I thought was wholly adequate: RSX1562 7.1 ch HT AV receiver, RC 1570 stereo preamp, and RB 1582 200W 2 ch power amp. However, I now think the AV receiver is a bit dated (no Dolby Atmos, no HDMI 2.0, no HDCP 2.2, etc.), and the amp could also be upgraded. For the receiver, I’m now looking at the Denon AVR x7200W (which has all the bells and whistles missing in the Rotel, so is forward compliant with my proposed 4k TV). For the amp, I’m leaning towards the Quad Elite QMP mono blocks, with 260W per channel. I also could go for the Anthem A5 (5x225W), PVA7 (7x125W), or PVA 8 (8x125W) power amplifiers.
Here’s where I need help: I was thinking of using the AVR pre-outs to drive the power amp connected to the main music CM10 speakers, and using its built-in amp for the front, center and sub. Is this a workable solution, specially without a separate preamp for the main speakers, or would I be compromising both the home theatre and the music experience in the process (I’m getting conflicting views on this from salespersons I’ve spoken to)?
In terms of the amps, I’m sure the Quad mono blocks would be the best choice, although I would have a problem with their non-standard form factor (the 17"-wide Rotel components would have stacked very neatly on my shelf). However, this is not a deal breaker in case the QMPs are definitely a better choice over the Rotel and Anthem alternatives. I know matching the amps with the speakers is critical, so would really need some assistance here. If a separate preamp is imperative, will the RC 1570/RB 1582 combination do or should I pair a different preamp with the QMP (possibly a matched Quad Elite Pre?).
Finally, would it be worth splurging a little extra on the PM1s instead of the CM5s as the front speakers? Would the former sound good driven by the AVR, or should they be hooked up to the power amp as well? I’m not sure if I’ll ever listen to music simultaneously from all four speakers, but now it could be a possibility!
Thanks so much for any help on offer. Please bear in mind that the choices above are, of course dictated by an overall budget, but I’m willing to fork an extra grand if that makes a huge difference.