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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, this is my first posted thread on this forum and I would like some honest advice. I have been forced to combine my 2 channel system with my home theater system so therefore I'm in sort of a compromised position. I would like to retain the great 2 channel sound I had before with my current HT system. My current equipment list is as follows:


Denon 3801 receiver

Cary/AES DJH Signature SuperAmp (driving L and R front)

Coincident Partial Eclipse speakers (Front L and R)

Monitor Audio 12i Center

Monitor Audio Silver Surrounds (SL, SR, SBL, SBR)

HSU 1220 Sub

Pioneer DVD Player (Soon to be replaced, I'm too ashamed to post the model)


Well, based on that equipment list, I would like some feedback on what to add. I've been thinking about adding a decent DAC like the Cal Audio Alpha 24/96 and a passive preamp with 2 inputs like the Creek OBH-12 which could be used to switch between the pre-out's of the Denon and the DAC outputs.


I guess that brings up the question: does the Denon receiver have a good enough preamp section to complement the equipment I have listed or would I be better off purchasing a separate preamp which would do a better job matching up with the DAC?


Another question would be: does the denon receiver have really great DAC's and would I be better off just adding a preamp like the Creek and connect both the tape loop and the pre-out's from the Denon to the Creek?


I guess I'm looking for the weakest link in the chain.


I welcome any suggestions or feedback.


BTW - I have found this forum to be extremely helpful and the people seem to be generally curtious and honest.
 

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I am a guy who loves my 2-channel.

I am also an AVR-3801 owner.


Considering you have excellent speakers, your Denon will be a week link for your 2-channel enjoyment, both as a pre-amp and as a DAC. This is just my opinion.


What is your, mix of HT versus 2-channel listening ?

And what is your budget to work with ?


Me, I watch very little HT, so I manually switch interconnects when I want to watch a DVD.


The OBH-12 passive would work as a nice simple input selector with minimal "interference". Good idea there ! My friend uses that with his Sony 777 SACD player. I used a Placette passive my my 777 SACD player.


Or if budget permits, keep your eyes out for a "better" 2-channel pre with HT Bypass. Something like a used Sonic Frontiers Line 2 will be very neutral as far as tubes go, lots of inputs, great looks, great remote.


Used DACs are plentiful. You really cannot go wrong with spending $600 on a used Bel Canto DAC-1, Perp Tech P-3A, MSB Link-3. Down the road, each fo these DACs can be better tweaked with better power cords and digital cables and interconnects. The Monarchy 22C and 33 DACS also have volume control in them, but no remote control.


- Andy
 

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Quote:
I guess I'm looking for the weakest link in the chain.
It's probably your room acoustics. For as much money as you'd piddle away on cables, you can do acoustical treatment and make a huge improvement. An aftermarket DAC may make a very subtle difference, but most are perceived as "better" than the stock ones because the level may be higher. Years ago, I had an Audio Alchemy setup that didn't sound as good as the DACs in my Pioneer CLD-95...once I matched levels and did a double blind comparison. Without balancing the levels, the Audio Alchemy was around 5 dB louder, and, to the uneducated ear, better. It wasn't.


Kill your first reflections. Avoid bare floors and walls of glass. A simple loud hand clap will tell you if you have problems like slap echo or flutter. When you get the room right, THEN you can play hobby-time with cables, DACs, Tip Toes, etc.
 

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Scotty,


Paul has given sage advice. Fix the room, and it's always fixed. And if you buy the right stuff, this is something that you can take with you ;)


You're not going to like my other suggestion one bit ;)


You did not list the video display device, but I'm betting it's either a Direct View CRT or an RPTV set.


My suggestion? Go FPTV. This opens back up the space and will drastically improve the stereo performance of your system.


Ok, not a realistic suggestion, I realize :)


So, alternately to that, you could try some acoustic foam to dampen reflections off the sides of the TV, which might help.


And yes, the Denon 3801 is the weak link of the setup, without a doubt. An External DAC will likely improve its performance, assumng the 3801 has analog bybass (aka direct mode).


Good luck in your quest for succesfully integrating an HT and Stereo setup, it is no easy feat.
 

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Room acoustics do have a huge impact, I totally agree. Still I think the most gain often comes from upgrading speakers but...if you want to change electronics here is one idea. What I did for my 2-channel audio was add the Perpetual Tech P3A DAC and an Anthem Pre 2L with theater bypass. It works great in combination with my Acurus Act-3 for HT. The Anthem is a deal. They can be had for new or demo for just over $600ish and is a very well built piece of audio gear.


Just an idea.
 

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I started as a limited budget 2 channel guy (still miss that old McCormack TLC-1 passive line stage).


You haven't mentioned a budget... there are PLENTY of Pre/Pros out there that have a decent, if not outstanding line stage and well designed DAC section. You'd be able to combine both (I'm still around 75/25 music to HT on my system) and it'd be still pretty convenient to operate.


LOL, don't knock the "ashamed" about the DVD player bit, hehe - I still have my $89 Apex hooked up to make the "jump" (ha! late!) in DTS. *flexes* :D Still on the sidelines on how to upgrade the video section of the HT setup (I'm looking down the lines of John's suggestion of a FPTV...).


Christian
 

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The Coincident speakers are a great sounding & well-built line:
http://www.coincidentspeaker.com/partial.htm


Another consideration is that a side-firing woofer will load the room differently then a front-firing one. ( I used to have NHT VT-2's ). How do you have them placed from the side walls, and is there anything "substantial" in between them ?


#1 I still say that a $600 DAC mated to your DVD player will give huge improvements. Both Perp-Tech and Monarchy have a 30-day trial period for new units. However, if you buy used and it doesn't work out, you can always resell and not lose much in between.


#2 would be a 2-channel pre-amp

Is the direct-mode is the AVR-4800 any much better than that of the AVR-3801 ? ---> go 2-channel pre-amp !


- Andy
 

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I've made this statement in here before, and it's appropriate again in this case: The three areas that have the biggest impact upon sound quality in a system are 1.) the room acoustics, 2.) the speakers, and 3.) the program material.


I did a demonstration in a client's home once to illustrate the point, because he didn't want to acoustically treat his main sound room, and he didn't like the results. I played a CD on his $$$ Apogee Divas (not the Divas you guys are enthralled with...these are very high-end ribbons) and his Meitner electronics in his very reverberant room. This was a $25,000 2-channel system, properly set up. Then we went into his kid's bedroom which was smaller and acoustically dead, and played the same CD on a pair of Polk Audio Model 4s, ($250 for the pair), and a harman/kardon receiver, and the sound was much more accurate and revealing. He was shocked, and I was what I usually am...smug. :D


If you're listening to 90% reflections and 10% direct sound, it matters not what cables, amps, DACs, speaker stands, CD player, or DVD you're using. Kotches is, as usual, absolutely correct. You need a controlled environment...a treated room...before you can effectively make other more subtle improvements.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Paul Scarpelli


If you're listening to 90% reflections and 10% direct sound, it matters not what cables, amps, DACs, speaker stands, CD player, or DVD you're using.
For sure, you could buy BOSE and be done with it!
 

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Don't get me wrong, but I'm in completely full agreement with Paul (and John) re: room acoustics. My living room's pretty durn [sic] reflective and a bit asymmetrical, pulling my soundstage very slightly to the left, muddying things up a bit, and roughing the lower treble a bit. Problem is, trying to put Sonex up on the walls or a bass trap in the corner needs to get past my better half (though she loves the rosewood finish on my KEF 104's - she's wondering when I'm going to upgrade to Martin Logans [she likes the look of those too, esp. with rosewood trim panels]).


Also, we all need to admit that room treatment, though most of us acknowledge as being the most significant factor of how our gear sounds, isn't as sexy or gratifying than upgrading to, say, ML monoblocks. :D


Incidentally, are there any "better half friendly" room reflection treatments on the market? I know in showrooms they have those that look like cloth squares, painted to match the decor, and I can probably make them myself - but I can't find the time...


Christian
 

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Paul,


We're going to have to stop agreeing with one another ;) People will think we're the same guy


I just upgraded my speakers imaging a few weeks ago. How? I put in the first room treatments. Just the basics. Kill the sidewall reflections and the back wall reflections.


This is a permanent fix that will be with me wherever I am -- and I now consider it to be indispensable.


Regards,
 

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I just went through this and finally decided to "separate" 2 channel from HT. The DAC's in my controller (Sony TA-E9000ES with firmware 2.01) are good - but definately not great. I got an Aragon 28K preamp (which has unity gain) and then got the Dan Wright Level 2 modded P3A to mate with the P1A (which I already had). I use a separate transport

for PCM (a "heavily modded one by DW) and the results are I now have tht "best of both worlds". I think trying to combine these areas is not really possible. For me, they are two totally different kinds of "listening" experiences. I think if you find a preamp you like (one with a surround loop or unity gain is nice) and a good quality external DAC

you be glad you did.
 

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*Realizes he jumped off subject*


*Sheepishly gets back into his box*


Actually, daleda, there IS a way that I combined the best of both worlds (at my level of satisfaction right now, at least): the Aragon SoundStage. Take an Aragon Aurum preamp (couldn't buy it back then - too expensive) and mate it to an Aragon DAC section. It sounds incredible.


Now, I know is this WHERE I want to be in two channel? I'd love to have a BAT pre, 2 Cary monoblocks, etc., ad nauseum... :D, but I can't swing that right now.


I have auditioned the Classe SSP-75 (had to drive out of state, but it was worth it), and it's two channel performance is outstanding.


You CAN get a less expensive two channel setup that rival either the Classe or Aragon, but that puts me back to my original question: what's the budget?


*Continues to milk more blood [money] from the turnip*


Christian
 

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PanamaMike,


I also want to know how this works. I have a seperate Carver amp on the way as we speak to add to my 2-channel enjoyment and I would love to add a pre-amp. Can anybody tell me if I can share my front speakers between my Yamaha RX-V800 receiver and a 2-channel pre-amp without much hassle of changing things around every time I want to listen to music? Thanks! David
 

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My passive 2 channel preamp awhile ago (TLC-1) I had used in conjunction with a Yamaha surround decoder/amplifier (it had powered the center and surrounds) hooked up thru the tape loop. You can hook up a unity gain (the TLC-1 volume turned all the way up) preamp so that it "looks" like a piece of wire to an HT system. All my sources went thru the passive preamp. For two channel listening, I switched off the tape loop, and used the preamp normally. To switch to HT viewing, I turned the preamp volume all the way up (i.e., no gain), so the signal now ran from source thru preamp (no gain), out the tape loop, into a input into the decoder/amplifier, then the front L/R signal went back into the tape loop of the preamp and to the mains. The decoder/amplifier would drive the surrounds and center.


I know, some may be thinking volume all the way up = zero gain? Passive preamps are really just a high quality variable resistor with source switching capabilities. It just attenuates the incoming signal.


Now, how to do this with a preamp without unity gain? *Scratches head* U can, but it would take some tweaking to get the relative volume levels between the mains and the center/surround.


Gads... that might me confusing. I may need to work on a diagram. :D


Christian
 

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Panama Mike - I just run the L/R RCA out (from my processor) to the RCA L/R Aux In jacks on the Aragon preamp. When listening to HT I put the volume control on the pre at 12:00 (which is where all the other levels are matched to). When listening to PCM I select CD on the preamp and there you have it (best of both worlds)! Works great! I agree - Classe SSP-75 is truly one of the "few" digital controllers which has good 2 channel performance (but you gotta pay big bucks for it)!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I would like to take this time to thank all of those who have contributed feedback and suggestions to my thread.


Especially:


Andy - I think we are similar in that I probably use the system about 20% for DVD movies, 20% for Dishnetwork Sat and over 50% for music. I have picked up a used Cal Audio Alpha 24/96 DAC which I will expect to give me some great sound. I will be keeping my eye out for a Creek OBH-12 and if that does not work out I will probably go for an Adcom GFP-750 preamp which has both active and passive modes plus a HT bypass switch. I actually owned one of these for a year and have kicked myself several times for selling it. It is a great (Nelson Pass designed) preamp.


Paul - I do not use any special room treatments right now but have lots of furniture and wall treatments, thanks to my lovely wife. I done the "clap test" from my listening seat and the rooms tends to be quite dead which is great. It is not an ideal room for sound but it is the only room I have available to use at this time. In the future I hope to have a dedicated room that will be professionally designed from the ground up as a "sound room."


John - You are right, I do have a RPTV which does get in the way but I didn't have the cash to go all the way and purchase a DLP. This will be a future investment which will improve the soundstage by eliminating the "big box" in the middle.


Blaine - I'm extremely happy with my Coincident Speakers and I can't even imagine a better speaker for the money which is so tube friendly. I will never go back to solid state unless there is a giant step change in SS technology in the future.


daleda - I'm getting there, little by little. I agree with your approach.
 
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