Originally Posted by NashvilleMark
I just bought and set up a 3500. I read/skimmed this entire thread and the Audyssey thread.
I'm open to any suggestions about how to get this to work, since most folks seem really happy with the receiver. Thanks in advance.
First, it is impossible to diagnose online since there are so many moving parts. I can only suggest some basics to try and getting human ears into the setup process than just rely on technology. It is also going to require time. But given what you have invested in it, it is worthwhile. Or pay a professional to come and check it out.
There are any number of reasons why you might hear a bad sound after replacing a component, some acoustical, some technical and some psychological (used to a different sound).
I would start with the basics.
1. Remove all speaker cables from the AVR and speakers and clean both ends of each cable with DeOxit Gold cleaner. If you have banana plugs attached and they have been there for more than a year, this would be a good time to either replace them or take them out and clean them with contact cleaner. (Rationale: sometimes, oxidation builds up over time on surfaces not making contact and when you reconnect, the oxidized surfaces may be making the primary contact which can have strange effects, I once had a friend whose center speaker was making no sound because the contacts were corroded and he thought his amp was bust).
2. Connect only the BluRay source and just the FR and FL speakers. Let the amp warm up for about 30 minutes.
Turn off Audyssey. Play some music as well as quiet dialog and some action sequences. Don't worry about what is in the room. Just sit, close your eyes and listen. Note down impressions (voice quality, highs, lows, stage location, detail, etc). Listen for about 30 minutes. If the stage is not centered for music or quiet dialog, experiment with speaker placement.
Now do a 3 position Audyssey set up with just the two FR, FL speakers. Repeat the same material as above and note down impressions. Listen again and using the app remote turn off and on Audyssey every 30 seconds to do a A/B comparison. What is Audyssey doing that is modifying the sound? If there is a significant difference then you have a serious problem that may or may not be solvable such as incompatibility of speakers with amp, broken or damaged speaker cones, room acoustic set up that is actually hurting the acoustics by over-absorption or destructive canceling. Ironically, some problems like this are only exposed when you get a BETTER amp.
While it may not give the full rich sound and the wide sound stage with two speakers, you should get 90% of your final full set up sound quality with just those two speakers especially for music. If the sound is really poor then either you have a poor room setup acoustically, or some connections are bad or the amp is really not a good fit for the main speakers (it happens). There may be some deficiencies such as narrow stage, lack of low end, muted dialogs etc., but if it is really unsatisfactory then you do need to consider a different amp match. No amount of Audyssey triangulatiosn are going to help. Your ears are the final judge.
If the above 2 speakers set up seems satisfactory other than what other speakers add to it such as better center dialog, low end, etc. now add just the center speaker. Repeat the above process with 3 speakers.
What difference do you notice without Audyssey and with Audyssey A/B test? At best, you should hear better middles and dialogue (popping out more) and a more centered sound stage. However, if the sonic quality deteriorates from 2-speakers set up without Audyssey or the difference with/without Audyssey is very large, then you have a potential problem with the center speaker that needs to be investigated. With this three speaker set up, you should hear everything to your liking, except perhaps insufficient low end.
If the above sounds OK and you are just missing the low end punch, now add the subwoofer and repeat the process. Observe the same as above. This might indicate a problem with subwoofer or its compatibility or connection to the amp. If there is a problem, try switching the subwoofer connection between the two subwoofer outs.
If you aren't happy with the above set up then adding side/rear speakers are going to do nothing for your sonic quality. It is time to either ditch the amp for something else or really see if you have hurt rather than help the acoustic treatment in the room.
Yes, it is natural to wonder why a cheaper amp was sounding better. Not to insult you but sometimes it can be because the cheaper amp was giving out some exaggerated boost in some frequencies or the room treatment was hiding/enhancing missing portions but the new amp has a different sonic profile that doesn't suit the sound you were used to.
The latter can be circumvented by listening to your set up for a week or two. You might find that you are liking it better after those two weeks. This is the most common occurrence after people switch from a cheapo amp that they liked to a more sonically neutral amp or when you switched from listening to a boom box to a real stereo system.
PS: the X3500 or anything in this line is not sonic nirvana. They all have limitations in this middle-tier equipment and when you pair it with a good speaker system and a well-treated roo, they really do show up the deficiencies. It could very well be that you are reacting to those while the cheaper amp was actually better suited to the speakers or its reticence in some areas that evan equalization could not solve actually sounded better. For example, an amp/speaker set up that has poor middle and highs can sound warm and a new more neutral amp sound harsh. Or an amp/speaker that has exaggerated low end when replaced can sound very cold with something more neutral. The point is, don't worry about how the previous one sounded but focus on what works best for you going forward and give each amp a chance for a week are two to get rid of the psycho-acoustic factors.