********** PART 1 *****************************
Iâ€™m shopping for a receiver and I'm just a joe who likes music. My main priority is sound quality for music (regular CD and DVDA). Movies sound and features is not that important as long as I have at least DD and DTS. I currently have an old Arcam AV50 5x50w that is only Dolby pro logic. My speakers are a pair of NTH 1.3 main, a pair of NHT 1.1 center, a pair of NHT Mod.1 rear and a NHT sub powered by MA1A mono amp.
My short list is the NAD 753, the Cambridge 540R, the Marantz 7500 and the Arcam AVR250.
Today I got a chance to get the NAD and Cambridge.
Where I live, the NAD sells at $1500cnd and the Cambridge $850. By the price difference I was clearly expecting more features on the NAD and yes it has. However, I was also expecting better sound but I was in for a surprise.
On 2 channel stereo analog music, the Cambridge was quite a bit nicer, richer, more definition and warm. Side by side, the NAD was kind of dull however well defined. I know these terms are not objective but this is a bit how I felt. So the Cambridge wins hands down. By the way I listened to Patricia Barber, Enya and Lenny Kravitz.
So that's it, I thought some of you might be interested by these comments. My quest will continue on Saturday when I'll get the Marantz and the Arcam side by side. Yummy, I predict I will endup with either the Cambridge and my wallet still half full or the Arcam and my wallet empty! haha
********** PART 2 *****************************
Tonight I did a one on one between the Arcam 200 and 250. Speakers were Proac Studio 100. Unfortunately the store did not have the Cambridge 540R.
So both of those Arcam receivers really sounded impressive. A step up in musical quality from the Cambridge and the NAD. They both have certainly a bit more detail and a little more natural sound than the Cambridge. However, I'm not sure yet if it is night and day or just a bit better since I did not have the Cambridge side by side but I should have that tomorrow at another store.
Now, I had the 200 and the 250 side by side, so, is the 250 worth the difference in price from the 200. I think yes. The 200 was $1400cnd and the 250 was $500 more. The 250 has a little more character, tighter bass and a tiny bit more detail but really not much. So was is it worth the $500 difference, for me I would say yes because if you're already willing to pay $1400 well I prefer opening the wallet a little wider and getting the best I can get. However, the real test will be tomorrow when I compare the Arcam AVR250 at $1900cnd versus the Cambridge 540R at $900. That is double the price!!!
Remember that my main criteria is music sound quality so for me I'm not considering much the movie features because if I was, then sure the Arcam would justify it's price difference more easily.
********** PART 3 *****************************
Well today was the final test. I went to the store with my NHT 1.3. He had the Cambridge 540R and the Arcam AVR250. So we started with the Arcam and wow is this receiver well matched with my NHT. I think it is an even match with the more expensive Proac Studio 100 I heard it with last night. So then we hooked up the Cambridge. As expected, it is not as nice but by how much and why. Well the bass generated by the Cambridge was less tight and more present which kind of resulted in a loss of detail in the mid. Donâ€™t get me wrong, the Cambridge sounds better to my taste than all the other receivers Iâ€™ve tested but the Arcam is clearly a winner. Is it worth double the price, probably not if you are objective, probably yes if you are a bit crazy about music sound quality like me.
Today I also had one of my friends with me who is shopping for a kit of 5 speakers around $1000. Since my testing was over, we decided to do his testing. He owns a Cambridge 540D so hey, we just had to move some speakers around to continue the test. We started with a pair of Mordaunt-Short, I think it was the Avant 902. Very nice but my NHT sounded better. Then some Gale, na, not too nice. Then the Monitor Audio B2, oups, hum, wowwww. This Monitor Audio speaker is really, but really well matched with the more rounded bass the Cambridge produces. It was a clear difference versus my NHT. So bottom line, the Cambridge for itâ€™s price would be a really incredible value if I also needed speakers and I would match it with those Monitor Audio B2.
Well, now that Iâ€™ve heard both the Cambridge and Arcam side by side, itâ€™s clear that Iâ€™m an Arcam sound lover, so more so with the match of my NHT speakers. I have to admit that if I did not already have speakers, I would have bought the Cambridge with the Monitor Audio B2. Since I have my NHT and donâ€™t intend on changing them, I think I will have to stick with Arcam. However, I have to sleep over it because this is way more money than I intended to spend in the first place and it again brings me back to my original dilemma, wouldnâ€™t I be better to get myself a separate pre-pro and be able to expand even more later. I donâ€™t know why a company like Arcam doesnâ€™t take the pre/pro they have in the AVR300 and make separates with it. They could sell it for a more descent price than the receiver and make a lot of people happy!
Anyway, this was all fun, I'm not sure yet if Iâ€™ll buy, but one thing for sure, if I buy it will be either the Arcam AVR250 or 300. The AVR200 is not a significant enough price difference, Iâ€™d rather spend a bit more and be happy for a longer time. The Cambridge 540R is a definite best buy if matched with the right speakers. The NAD T753 is nice but not a musical sound that I like that much.
Please remember, my main priority is music and Iâ€™m just a joe with absolutely no pretension of having any kind of talent in judging audio equipment. I just thought it might be interesting for some of you to read my comments.
Donâ€™t hesitate to give me yours, itâ€™s fun to read your opinion or if you have suggestions for me and the tough decision I have to take!!!