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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking for some help and feedback from current or former B&W owners.

My use is about 50/50 for HT and music, however, I am much more critical when listening to music.


I recently purchased a 5.1 B&W setup with 1NT mains on FS-CDM stands, CNT center, SNT surrounds and an ASW650 sub. I also purchased a Pioneer Elite VSX-45TX A/V receiver and a Panasonic RP62 DVD player connected via MIT digital toslink. Retail price was just over $5K.


My room is 21x14 with a 13 foot cathedral ceiling. I set up the speakers using the MCACC feature on the Pioneer and checked everything with the AVIA disk and my R/S meter. Crossover is at 80hz with all speakers set to small.


Surround for movies is pretty good - not awesome. A significant upgrade from my Bose setup - althouth my wife isn't happy with all the extra speakers in the room. 2 channel music however is a bit of a disappointment. My 12 year old 50 wpc Nakamichi TA-2A/CDC-3A combo with ADS L1290 speakers was far superior. My dealer suggested that I needed an amp with more current to drive these speakers - so he loaned me a Rotel RMB-1075 - 120x5. The sound improvement was marginally better.


I'm not sure what to do next - in other words what is the weak link in my system? Is it the DVD player used as a transport? Is it the Pioneer Elite DACs? Are the B&W 1NT not as good as I originally thought - would the 7NT or 9NT be a great improvement? (I originally decided on the 1NT believing the midrange and tweeter were identical to the 7NTs and my ASW650 would cover the lower range quite nice.)


Bottom line is that I thought I would have a pretty awesome system for $5K and I don't. Do you need to spend a lot more to get a significant increase in sound quality? I am hoping to hear from other B&W owners expecially users with experience with the CDM line.


Note - I listened to a lot of equipment prior to making a decision, however, to be perfectly honest - I find it difficult to really separate speakers and receivers until I have it set up and properly configured in my home. I just don't have the time to set up several 5.1 configs in my house for a demo - so your help and experience would be greatly appreciated.


Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Forgot to mention that my dealer is pretty good about offering upgrades...
 

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Ive listened to all of the equipment youve mentioned, and IMO Id say your sub is the weak link in the system. I am a dealer of B&W and I have designed literally 100's of systems using either the 1NT's or CNT's for my entire front soundstage, but Ive found the older B&W subs to be pretty lacking. Thier newer subs (ASWCM, ASWCDM, and ASW800) have been pretty impressive, but Id look to Velodyne's HGS series or Sunfire's architectural series. The Rotel amp is very nice, and Im really impressed with thier 1065 reciever.


One other thing to check on the Elite's setup, make sure your base output is set to both for Stereo and Surround, these speakers can sound great off of the power your current reciever is sending them with the right amount of Sub adjustment.
 

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The CDM speakers should sound fantastic. The old ADS towers were nice speakers, but they can't hold a candle to the better speakers made today with a good subwoofer. It could be a simple matter of acclimatization. If I recall, the big ADS speakers of that vintage were quite bass heavy and "warm" sounding. I suspect that the CDMs are considerably brighter and more dynamic.


I suspect that there is something really basic missing in the equation somewhere.... something simple like not selected the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on DVDs or perhaps not liking the Pro Logic decoding of stereo CDs, or some strange setting on the Pioneer.


When you calibrate with AVIA, are all of your speakers reading 85 dB? Is the sub reading about 82 dB on average?


Could you provide a little more information on what you are, or are not, hearing that doesn't meet your expectations.
 

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I just realized that this "MCACC" feature uses a 9-band equalizer to give you the response that some Japanese engineer thinks you should have. I wouldn't let a Japanese receiver EQ my B&W speakers if you paid me. The results are almost guaranteed to be horrible -- just listen to a set of Japanese speakers sometime. My guess is that this automatic EQ is trying to get "flat" response at the listening postion, which is going to sound bright and irritating, not to mention that it adds gobs and gobs of phase response problems, destroying your imaging.


Go in and get rid of the EQ feature on the Pioneer. There must be a way to defeat it, removing it entirely from the circuit. You B&Ws do NOT need this knid of equalization and probably sound downright nasty with it. That kind of equalization, even assuming it is set properly, wipes out ALL of the design work B&W does on things like phase coherency and the non-resonant properties of the drivers.


Forget the MCACC -- it's a gimmick feature for the bells and whistle crowd and has no application for someone with a good audio system. Just use the test tones and the Radio Shack meter to manually calibrate your system.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
First of all thanks for the suggestions. I have experimented with speaker placement - and I believe I have the best possible setup within the constraints of my room - i.e., my 55" RPTV is setup diagonally in a corner with the 1NT's on either side sitting on 24" B&W stands, 10" from the side of the TV, front cones 6" in front of the screen, tweeters 7' apart - listening position 11' away. Because of the diagional placement the left speaker is 12" from the left wall and the right speaker is 30" from the back wall. ASW650 sub placed along left side wall behind left speaker. The alingment and bass management seems fine.


The setup is like I said - not perfect, but the best I can do with my HT/Family Room.


Yes the sound is good. But I want great sound. I equate it to the difference between a perfectly enjoyable 2000 Select Robert Mondavi Cab and a sit back and relax, WOW - 1997 Robert Mondavi Napa Cab. Sure the later is twice the price of the former, but neither wine could be considered "expensive" by most standards.


Now to further my analgy with the B&W line, will the 7NT/9NT or a better sub give me the WOW? Would upgrading to a better receiver/seperates or DVD player give me the WOW? (An additional Rotel RMB 1075 did not add much.) Are my room constraints limiting the performance - like drinking that Napa Cab with a McDonalds cheeseburger? Or - is the WOW something that some people may not get from the B&W line - like a preference for Merlot over a Cab?


Again, I'm looking for help from owners/dealers of B&W's because they truly know the sound from personal and extended experience.


Thanks!
 

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You front speakers are bit too close together for your seating distance, but that's a fairly minor quibble. Your system should sound fantastic.


It is pretty much impossible to say whether or not a particular upgrade will improve the system because none of us really have any idea what it is that does not impress you. We don't know what surround modes you are using. We don't know how loud you are listening to the system. We don't know what the EQ settings on the Pioneer are, etc. etc.


The system should sound very good, but it apparently doesn't. The addition of the Rotel RMB-1075 should make a rather significant difference, especially at higher volume levels, but it apparently doesn't. Neither of those findings make sense to me, so without knowing your exact system settings and what it is that is not pleasing you, I would be very hesitant to recommend any upgrades. For whatever reason, either your system is not behaving in a predictable fashion or your expectations of a good surround system are radically different than mine.


If I were to come to your house, I would go through every connection and every setting on the Pioneer to make sure that there are no gross errors in setup -- including the use of a 9-band digital equalizer.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Hakwuzhere -


I'll look into different subs. I belive my dealer carries the Velodyne along with the B&W subs. The ASW650 is marketed with the 600 series and the ASW CDM is marketed with the CDM series. Although lack of bass does not seem like a problem - it is set up correctly on the Pioneer. What do you feel the HGS series will do better? It sounds like you don't think I'll get any benefit from the 7NT/9NT?


I did not mean to imply that I don't like the sound I'm getting - just that I don't feel the WOW. I can't feel the soul on Miles' trumpet on Freddy Fleeloader, the sound of James Taylor doesn't take me back to my college days in the dorm with my girlfriend, and I'm not tapping my feet when I turn up Born in the U.S.A.


Thanks again for your thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
hwc -


Thanks for all your suggestions. I'm listening to 2-channel stereo not surround modes for music. I've tried using the Pioneer with Direct - which bypasses all the equalization and MCACC settings. I actually perfer the added benefit of the MCASS - it opens up the soundstage a bit and takes away some of the harshness from my room - hardwood floors and leather furniture. BTW the 45TX only has a 5 band eq.


At low volumes the sound seems flat. It dramatically improves as I increae the volume to about -25db on my Pioneer. But as I said in another post - I can't feel the soul on Miles' trumpet on Freddy Fleeloader, the sound of James Taylor doesn't take me back to my college days in the dorm with my girlfriend, and I'm not tapping my feet when I turn up Born in the U.S.A.


Still searching...
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Mit07
Still searching...
I'm afraid I don't have a solution for you. I know what you mean about the "goose-bumps" and "magic" from the college dorm. But, to be perfectly honest, a lot of that "magic" came from "accessories" that came in plastic baggies rather than corrugated carboard stereo cartons and just maybe some of that "magic" had to do with the fact that your girlfried was a nubile 20-year old. Ya know what I mean?


Rather than mess around with old-fashioned CDs, why don't you find out what a multi-channel A/V system can really do. Go to Best Buy or Netflix and get your hands on a couple of recently recorded Dolby Digital 5.1 concert DVDs. Sit down one night after dinner with a nice bottle of wine, dim the lights, and play one (with a generous twist of the volume knob) on your surround sound system and big screen TV. I think that you will find some of the missing excitement.


Some that you might like are:


Springsteen's tour from 2001 (I haven't seen this one, so I can't vouch for the sound)


Eric Clapton's "One More Car, One More Rider" (great performance, better than he's played in years -- very good sound)


Paul Simon's "Live in Paris" (incredible band, incredible live sound -- this is what 5.1 channel audio/video is all about, IMO.)


Tina Turner "Live from Amsterdam" (very dynamic good live rock n' roll show)


Roy Orbison's "Black and White" (with Springsteen, James Burton, Bonnie Rait, kd lang, etc. -- with Elvis' studio band, this performance is outstanding).


"Down from the Mountain" (unbelieveable acoustic bluegrass and vocal live show from the movie, "Oh Brother Where art Thou). If some of the vocal harnonies on this disc don't give you goosebumps, nothing will.


Appalachian Journey (live trio - violin, cello, and string bass featuring Mark O'Conner and Yo-Yo Ma)


As far as resurrecting horrible old recordings from the college days, here are three to consider:


Yellow Submarine: totally remastered Dolby Digital version of the Beatles movie. Fortunately, there's an option to just listen to the songs, uninterrruped, without the movie. I guarantee you've never heard the Beatles sound this good.


A brand new Dolby Digital 5.1 remaster from the original multi-track masters of the Monterrey Pop festival. Disc 2 of the Monterrey Pop has the complete Jimi Hendrix performance -- his first American show. The resurrected sound quality, while not up to modern standards, is pretty impressive. This is the only Hendrix video that is worth having.


A brand new Dolby Digital 5.1 remaster from the original multi-track masters of the Band's Last Waltz. This has some really nice stuff and sounds pretty good given that it was recorded 25 years ago.
 

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Quote:


I'll look into different subs. I belive my dealer carries the Velodyne along with the B&W subs. The ASW650 is marketed with the 600 series and the ASW CDM is marketed with the CDM series. Although lack of bass does not seem like a problem - it is set up correctly on the Pioneer. What do you feel the HGS series will do better? It sounds like you don't think I'll get any benefit from the 7NT/9NT?
Im not saying you will not get any benifit from the 7/9NT, but that a better sub crossed over a bit more agressively will get you very big sound from these bookshelf speakers. I really havent used alot of the Pioneer Elite recievers for the simple fact that they come with alot of "bells and whistles" that really just make the setup of the system easier, they really dont add that much to the sound.


Go to a few stores and listen to some B&W setups, figure out what that "WOW" is for you, is it the deep base? the acuracy of a horn or violin? Or is it the feeling you get when you sit down in a room and have the entire experiance going on around you? Ive met people that I can WOW with a $1000 satallite subwoofer package, and other people that have sat down in my Meridian DSP8000 theater and said, ahhh its just "Ok"...
 

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Some thoughts


1. Is it possible that you like brighter speakers than what you have? It is possible you are looking for more detail from your speakers which you are probably not getting.


2. Are your front speakers set to small? I believe the MCACC feature defaults the fronts to large (you should then manually set them to small).


3.What is the ohm rating of your speakers? Are these 4ohm or 8 ohm? If these are 4 ohm, perhaps you need an external amp?
 

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Before my actual speakers I had a sattelite/subwoofer-system. Sounded nice with films, but not with music (classical, e.g. opera's). That's the reason I went out to get larger boxes.

I have listened quite long to the 600's, the NT1'2, 7's and 9's, before deciding to buy the NT 9's and the CNT. Why? My decision was made by playing just stereo, as I wanted a very musical sound at home and concluded that if I like the speakers (by the way also my AV-receiver) sound well in stereo, they would do right in surround mode.

The 600's, exspecially the 604's sounded not but, but when I heard the NT's there was no question that I should buy one of them. I liked the NT1's very much (detail, ...), but missing - of course bass. The NT 7's had better bass, but ... Then I came to the NT 9's and they had both of what I liked about the other NT's. So I bought them and the CNT. As surround speakers I am using B&W's Matrix 3/2 (speakers which where replaced by Nautilus). I don't use a subwoofer. Nice about large speakers is that they also fitted for hearing SACD and DVD-audio music.


Well it's only my personal opinion. But I would advise you to get a chance to listen to the NT 9's as front speakers and the NT 1's as sourround one's.


Jürgen
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Jurgen-

Thanks for your note. I think I'll try to get the 9NT's home for an audition. I did listen to the 7NT/9NT's before deciding on the 1NT's - reasoning that the midrange and tweeter were essentially the same and the bass would be coverred by the sub. I am a big fan of action and special effect movies and have always believed that you need a sub to really shake the floor and get everything out of the LFE channel. How do your 9's handle the LFE? What A/V receiver are you using? Do you listen to CD's using your DVD player or do you have a separate CD connected to your AVR using analogue cables. I'm guessing that the 9NT's w/o a sub will be an improvement over a 1NT/Sub combo for stereo - but not quite as good for movies. If I go with the 9NT's I'm not sure how to best integrate the sub - it would be nice to have separate sub connections for music and movies. Anyone have experiecne with 7NT/9NT's with a good sub for music/movies??


hwc-

I'm off to BB to get some DD 5.1 DVDs from your list. I think you make a good point at using the system for its strenghts. BTW I enjoy the humor in your responses - what speakers/amp are you using?


petiteface-

1. No - I actually lean toward the warm side

2. Yes - crossed over at 80Hz

3. 8 ohm - tried a separate Rotel RMB 1075, 120 wpc - no significant difference
 

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Mit07,


1. My DVD-player is a Toshiba SD-900E. As a CD-player I have a Marantz CD-80 (an older model, but build like a tank) and with an optical en coaxial output as well. My receiver is the Marantz SR-14mkII (European Model). It is quite powerfull, but as I am use 5 large boxes and have the opinion that one can't never have enough power, I use my power amplifier Quad 606 (I had it anyway, as I used it before for my Matrix 3/2) for both front speakers. Well that's my system.

I have listened to cd's with the cd-player and changed from analogue output to coaxial output (and vise versa) but couldn't here a difference.

I still have to compare the sound of the Toshiba versus the Marantz (I connected the cd-player not so long ago and must have the same cd twice). But anyway I said before I use the dvd-player also for classical music and a few pop music (like Bruce Springsteen ... Live in New York City): they sound very very well with the DVD-player. Some of them have DD 5.1 and !stereo, so one can choose and I mostly choose the surround sound. The original first three tenors concert, Rome 1990, is also very exciting.


Jürgen
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Mit07
BTW I enjoy the humor in your responses - what speakers/amp are you using?
Thanks.


I no longer have a system that would qualify for "audiophile" status. Actually the last audiophile system we had -- 2- channel with Linn speakers, Audio Research tube preamp, Audio Research amp -- never got played at all. It was great for "critical" listening, but between letting the tubes warm up and the fact that audiophile systems often sound downright nasty with marginal program material, it just gathered dust. It was just easier to play the TV by itself. I found it it very dissappointing to listen to because I have had multichannel surround, in one form or another, pretty much non-stop since the mid-1970s and two-channel just doesn't cut it for me.


We replaced it with a very good "mid-fi" surround system and it gets played probably 6 hours a day, every day. It's four identical cheapo B&W DM303's, a matching LCR3 center, driven by an a/d/s/ PH6 which was a ridiculously overbuilt $2500 6-channel amp. I use the pre-amp outputs of a cheapo Pioneer Dolby Digtial receiver to drive it. The subwoofer is a heavy-duty 10" driver in a 1.4 cubic foot sealed enclosure, eq'd with a new Marchand Bassis and powered by an Audio Research solid state amp bridged mono to "160 watts".


The system sounds very good every time I turn it on, no matter what the source material -- including broadcast TV sound. Just a good, all-purpose, everyday system. Nobody sits around with a notepad jotting down critical evaluations. We just enjoy the music or movies or concerts or TV that are played on system. There are two striking things about the system: the dynamics are outstanding -- the direct result of five speakers, a sub, and lots of amplifier channels sharing the load. The second is the cohesiveness of the surround field with identical speakers -- it's the first time I've owned a system with perfectly matched speakers and it was instantly apparent that this solves all of the problems with "surround sound". The thing that most surprised me about the B&W's was that are bright and detailed, but never harsh or brittle. That's a rare combination in my experience.


The other thing I enjoy about the system is that, with an MX-500 remote, it is painless to operate. Basically, just set it and forget it. One button turns it all on, one remote controls everything, every remote button is properly labled.


Of course, it lacks the "purity" of a "straight wire with gain" audiophile system. By going to a digital processor I had to say "forgettaboutit" to some long held notions about simple signal paths -- after all, I hadn't had a tone control or an IC chip in a high-fi in 30 years, so accepting the concept of digital processing was a struggle. But, I just made a concious decsion that, if you want the many benefits of Dolby Digital processing, then you might as well just accept it and move on. I mean....it's not like there's much "audiophile" circuitry in TV sets, digital cable boxes, or DVD players. All of these things are just computer chips with some analog IC's tacked on.


If I were going to upgrade the system, I would upgrade the Pioneer "pre-pro", which I will probably do if I can find a home for some of the audiophile gear in my collection boxed up in the cellar. My two reasons for wanting to upgrade have little to do with "sound quality" per se. But, my Pioneer was the last generation before Pro Logic II and I would very much like to have its wide center-width music modes and improved surround performance with 2-channel sources And, the Pioneer has some limitations in the bass management configuration options. I don't honestly think that the IC chip op-amps in a $1000 receiver or pre-pro are going to make any huge difference over the op-amps I have now -- not when you consider how many op amps and digital processors all modern source material goes through between the microphone and my receiver.
 

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I agree with the guy about the sub being the week link! I LOVE these speakers and I have, what I think is the PERFECT sub to match the CDM series, or any of the B&W line. The M&K 350, or even the 150! Of course, you could go for the even more awesome 5000! These subs are so musical and are perfect for HT. Yes, theres a few that will go lower, but none that Ive heard that has the INPACT of these excellant subs/deep, tight and fast are the 3 words I use to describe the M&K's. They complement the CDM's in wonderfully!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Well - sometimes I have to just sit back and laugh at myself. Let me explain...


I worked my way through college in the 70's selling at a local hifi shop. My gear at the time consisted of McIntosh amps, Rega turntable and new speakers about every few months or so - Magnepans, Cornwalls, Quads, ADSs, Kefs, JBLs, etc. I also had a Nakamichi Dragon and Tandberg reel for some time. Listening to music was a serious hobby.


All my vinyl was ruined during a move into my new home about 12 years ago. The movers stored everything in a truck for 3 days in intense August heat. Reluctantly I moved into CDs, solid state and "modest" speakers. I even bought - God forbid for an audiophile - a Bose surround system for the living room. Thought process - the Bose played 4-5 hours a day, WAF -the wife and family could use it for everything, it was decor friendly, and my source material wasn't always very good anyway - including playing MP3's the kids downloaded from Napster/KaZaa - I used my Nak and ADS speakers for more "serious" listending in another room. But to be honest - "serious" listending became less and less. I laughed when hwc remarked that he had to wait for his tubes to warm up and any flaw in the recording was pain to the ears - this was me when I was an audiophile. I was listening to my speakers and gear more than I was listening to the music. Recordings that weren't "perfect" gathered dust because they didn't do justice to my precious equipment.


Last month I decided to become more "serious" about home theater - hence the new Pioneer/B&W gear. Something clicked back in my subconscience and I turned the clock back a decade or two. I was looking for that audiophile experience of my youth and it didn't happen. But in retrospect my new gear wasn't exactly "audiophile" nor were my source CDs. I have decided (I think) to simply sit back and enjoy my new equipment for what it is - pretty darn good digital surround. The last 2 nights we watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Star Wars Episode II - and the family had a terrific time. Following a suggestion I also tried some DD 5.1 concert DVDs. I wasn't sitting still between the speakers "sweet spot" listening to the difference in my new phono preamp or cartridge - I was absorbed in the music. In a word - it was FUN. I also got a Home Theater Master MX-500 and every source is programed. (BTW - a great investment in a home theater for the folks that like the tactile feel of real button remotes.)


Will this system be the last work in 2 channel stereo - most definitely not. Will the family use it 4-5 hours a day for music (including MP3s), movies and television - absolutely.


Will I continue to "tweak" the system - most definately yes - it's in my DNA. I am currently looking for a possible sub replacement and I have to do something about my surround speakers with my room/furniture configuration. The Mitsu RPTV (tweeked by Greg Loewen is sweet) - but new DLPs are coming out and Plasma is getting affordable and...
 
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