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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’ve begun my quest for a nice audio system, with help from many of you here. I’ve been auditioning speakers, many so far and many more to try. The price I’m willing to spend on the main speakers has been creeping up as I hear more and more. :) I think I’m at around $3,000/pair at the moment. And the speakers I’m favoring (Totem, Linn, ATC, B&W) seem to do much better with a lot of power. Which has me wondering about a good way to get decent power/electronics running the speakers.


What I’m looking for: 95% 2 channel music listening, 5% movies. So I do need some way to watch movies (5.1 is fine). But sound quality is the highest priority. I don’t need any fancy features. If I get a receiver, it needs to have pre-outs so that I can add amps (right away or later or both). And the ability to EQ it to the room would be nice, although I could maybe buy something else to compensate for that? FWIW, used and tubes are fine by me.


At first I thought maybe just get, say, a Yamaha A/V receiver with preouts for $400-ish and start collecting amps for the mains, etc. Should be cheap, functional, and sound OK. But as the speaker budget increases, I wonder if a cheap receiver will diminish the quality of any sound put through it. I listened to equivalent Yamaha versus Denon receivers next to each other and could hear quite a difference (Yamaha being my preference). So if there is a sound quality difference at a given price, and I’m getting into expensive speakers, maybe I should up the budget. Around $1,000 gets you to the Rotel 1056 (hiss problems), Outlaw (never heard one), Integra 6.5, Cambridge Audio Azur 540R (various problems), etc. range. And if you go up to $2,000 you get to the very nice Arcam AVR300, which I’ve heard and liked. The Arcam has at least as many features as I’d like plus a pretty good amp, preouts, etc. I’d guess sound quality is pretty much as good as I’ll get with the Arcam and I wouldn’t need to add any amps (for a while, at least). So maybe that’s a way to go. I have not yet decided to spend that much, but it could well happen.


But if I’m in the $2,000 range, maybe I should think about alternatives to an all-in-one setup? I don’t want the receiver to become something I have to replace down the road for, say, a pre-pro (which is not painful with a $400 receiver). Seperates?


Related question: There are a zillion 2 channel amps (or 2 x monoblock) out there. How does one ever go about picking one?


Just curious as to your thoughts and wisdom. Thanks folks.
 

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If your ceiling is hard at $2K, there are very limited new choices - Outlaw and Emotiva come to mind. At $2K used, you could get a Rotel, Sherwood, NAD other other combo. As an Arcam owner (I have the AVP700, based on the 300 preamp section), I would propose getting the 300 and adding a 2 or 3 channel amp down the road as funds permit. Again, in the used market you can find Bryston, Krell, Musical Fidelity and others at great prices. Just my thoughts,


John
 

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Agreed. With your musical bias, an AVR300 will give you the sound quality that you require, and you can still power a 5.1 setup. You can try it out with the on-board amps with bi-amped mains and see how you like it. If you need more power, there are plenty of great low cost 2 channel amp options in the used market. If you go with a cheap receiver, you'll regret it.


Chris
 

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Of course, there are other receivers with good pedigrees: units from NAD and Rotel. Give them a listen too. I'd avoid mass-market receivers if you really want the best sound you can get.


$2k is pretty limited for electronics, do seriously consider the used market. Meridian processors are always highly rated for their musicality, and even very old units have at least 5.1 and often 7.1 channel support. Amps by Parasound, Acurus, Adcom and a host of other makers sell for a fraction of cost of new ones.
 

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The Arcam avr300 is a great choice for your situation. Just make sure if you buy lower impedance speakers that you have enough power. The avr300 is rated at [email protected] but I don't know if you can get say [email protected] 4 ohms. Having tried the 4ohm/8ohm switch on the back I have my doubts. Upshot is if you go with the avr 300 I would try to stay with 8 ohm speakers in the absense of another amp or smaller 4 ohm speakers. If you buy a second amp then you shouldn't have any problems going with larger lower impedance speakers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Robert
If your ceiling is hard at $2K, there are very limited new choices - Outlaw and Emotiva come to mind. At $2K used, you could get a Rotel, Sherwood, NAD other other combo. As an Arcam owner (I have the AVP700, based on the 300 preamp section), I would propose getting the 300 and adding a 2 or 3 channel amp down the road as funds permit. Again, in the used market you can find Bryston, Krell, Musical Fidelity and others at great prices. Just my thoughts,


John
The ceiling is not hard at 2K. I was just figuring the Arcam does everything I need for now plus allows adding more power later. So no need to top 2K at the moment.


Sure, used is fine- especially for amps. If I were to get a used amp (or 2 or 3...) is there a decent receiver to hook them up to that's cheaper than the Arcam?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
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Originally Posted by ChrisDixon
Agreed. With your musical bias, an AVR300 will give you the sound quality that you require, and you can still power a 5.1 setup. You can try it out with the on-board amps with bi-amped mains and see how you like it. If you need more power, there are plenty of great low cost 2 channel amp options in the used market. If you go with a cheap receiver, you'll regret it.


Chris
So are there noticeable sound wuality differences between the Arcam and, say, a $400 Yamaha, assuming equivalent power (amp added to the Yamaha)? It's tough to find the two at the same shop to compare. If the technology changes and I want to upgrade the receiver, tossing the $400 one out later is not a big deal, but $2,000...


I'm not into gadgets too much. I just want good sound. Heck, I don't even know what "HDMI switching" is. But I also don't want to spend 2K on something I'll need to replace.


Trying to come up with a strategy that will sound OK now and also allow add ons later (e.g., more amps).
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by AcuraCL
Of course, there are other receivers with good pedigrees: units from NAD and Rotel. Give them a listen too. I'd avoid mass-market receivers if you really want the best sound you can get.


$2k is pretty limited for electronics, do seriously consider the used market. Meridian processors are always highly rated for their musicality, and even very old units have at least 5.1 and often 7.1 channel support. Amps by Parasound, Acurus, Adcom and a host of other makers sell for a fraction of cost of new ones.
Sure, used is OK. And thanks for the recommendations. Yeah, it looks like used amps are the way to go- much cheaper than new. And not too much can go wrong with them, I guess. So what to hook those amps up to... hmmm... Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
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Originally Posted by jakeman
The Arcam avr300 is a great choice for your situation. Just make sure if you buy lower impedance speakers that you have enough power. The avr300 is rated at [email protected] but I don't know if you can get say [email protected] 4 ohms. Having tried the 4ohm/8ohm switch on the back I have my doubts. Upshot is if you go with the avr 300 I would try to stay with 8 ohm speakers in the absense of another amp or smaller 4 ohm speakers. If you buy a second amp then you shouldn't have any problems going with larger lower impedance speakers.
I'm still speaker shopping. I'm taking my time with that. And the speaker decision will come before the electronics choice. But I was just thinking about receivers as well...


Yeah, that's what I like about the Arcam- it will sound good now and you can still add amps later. What I don't like is spending 2K on something that may need to be replaced (unlike simple amps).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrJon
So are there noticeable sound wuality differences between the Arcam and, say, a $400 Yamaha, assuming equivalent power (amp added to the Yamaha)? It's tough to find the two at the same shop to compare. If the technology changes and I want to upgrade the receiver, tossing the $400 one out later is not a big deal, but $2,000...
The quality of DACs and amp/pre-amp stage is really what drives music, and lower-priced receivers really skimp in this area. The fact that you don't need the most cutting edge features is a real advantage for you. If you want to bring the price down, you could find a very good used higher-end-but-older receiver from Marantz, Rotel, NAD, or one of the other more musical brands for less than a grand.


Chris
 

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Do you care about having the ability to use HDMI connections, as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray is coming around the corner? Or do you just plan on getting another processor later for that?

From what Kris Deering from Secrets is saying, you will need either HDMI (with at least ver. 1.1) or i.Link (if using a Toshiba HD DVD player) to pass the PCM audio stream after it has been decoded in the upcoming Hi-Def DVD players.


It sounds like you would not be too concerned about HDMI and Hi-Def video and audio though, so probably not a problem for you in this case. It would be a shame to spend $2000 now and then drop another $1000-$2000 in another year or two though if you decide you want the capabilites that HDMI give you.


HDMI, not withstanding though I have never heard the AVR300, from what I hear it is one of the best available for music. I have read a few people here on AVS that have directly compared it to other (slightly cheaper) AVRs and have commented that they really heard no differences in HT use however. And though they thought the AVR300 was indeed better for music, there are people who will question if the sound difference is $1000 worth. ;)

I can't remember the member, but someone compared the AVR300 directly to another slightly cheaper brand, and said he thought the AVR300 was a little better for music, but in his opinion it was not that much better. Then again, you'll hear from allot of Arcam owners that say it is much better than anything else out there for music (with regards to other AVRs).


Anyway take it for what its worth. It's one thing to get opinions, but in the end you should go out and demo as much as possible, and then let your own ears and pocketbook decide. For me I'm always considering upcoming technologies as well. Especially when those technologies are already available in some AVRs/Processors.


Good Luck,

Patrick
 

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Even better, take it IN and demo. Like many others, I was reading the hype hear about Arcam and thinking, "can it be that good?". I bought an Anthem AVM30 six months ago, and my wife would not be pleased if I drop another two grand only to find out that it wasn't any better, or just marginally so. I called the only Arcam dealer in my area and asked if he allowed for home auditions. He said no... I said Ok, bye... and went about my business. To my surprise, he called back later that day and said that he wasn't expecting the amp in for another week or two, and that I could try it (AVP700) since it was just going to sit in the box until then anyway. I'm glad he did, because I was NOT going to buy another processor without an in-home trial. There are too many variables that cloud your judgement when auditioning in a store (most importantly the speakers and room).


Chris
 

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Good advice Chris for sure. If the dealer will allow it, in home trial is without a doubt the best demo possible!
 

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Before you successfully select your electronics, you need to choose the speakers. A less expensive receiver may work fine as a pre-out with speakers that have stable 6 to 8ohm load and are neutral.
 

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if 2 channel music sound quality is what is most important to you...I would recommend the Arcam AVR300. SOund quality is amazing and your speakers will dissapear. I tested many receivers, set-ups and determined this receiver is the best sounding so I went on e-bay and bought one..hehe
 

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btw...regarding separates, I tested Sherwood Newcastle's stuff, and this other brand that had "Audio" something in it's name, neither of them really had the finesse of the Arcam PLUS with separates you have to buy all these extra cables ($$) and just takes up too much room...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks for all the excellent advice, folks. I'm still auditioning speakers. Once I settle on those, then I'll turn to the electronics. But the more I read, the more it looks like that Arcam AVR300 may be the thing for me to buy. I have heard one so far and it was very nice. Although tough to tell how much of it was the Arcam adn how much was the speakers. Lots more speakers to hear. The front runners right now are the Totem Forests. We'll see what I get in the end.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrJon
Thanks for all the excellent advice, folks. I'm still auditioning speakers. Once I settle on those, then I'll turn to the electronics. But the more I read, the more it looks like that Arcam AVR300 may be the thing for me to buy. I have heard one so far and it was very nice. Although tough to tell how much of it was the Arcam adn how much was the speakers. Lots more speakers to hear. The front runners right now are the Totem Forests. We'll see what I get in the end.
I got the AVR300+B&W N804. Simply breathtaking :). Before that I had Yamaha + Polk Audio. I have friends with Sony ES + B&W 604 and Pioneer Elite + B&W 603. For music, I have yet to hear anything that touches the Arcams (with revealing speakers) under $5k. With DD5.1, I can only tell the difference when background music is playing. Vocal's to me sound about the same on all the difference classes. For explosions, you need a good sub no matter what receiver/speaker you get, unless you get very high powered amp and $$ full range speakers.
 
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