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ARTICLE: Post AV - the stereo gear gunning for your AV Receiver

Ste7en

Distinguished Member
Some of the best systems I've ever heard have been 2.0, or even 2.1. Once you get speaker placement and viewing position right you would swear a centre channel was present.
 

steve sph

Suspended
Any half decent two channel setup will always better an av receiver for music, (unless you're financially capable of entering Lyngdorf or Trinnov territory).
So for me the logical solution is to deploy an Arcam for home cinema, (now I've managed to master the dark arts of Dirac), and use a Rega Brio for music.
These new all-singing-all-dancing pre-amp/streaming/ kinda-av-but-not quite bells and whistles gadgets just don't appeal.
Although they may be just the ticket for some - different strokes for different folks and all that.
 

Jules

Distinguished Member
I just don't think people who grew up in the post iPhone era know what a fully fledged av system can do, less still understand how to install it or how many speakers you need to do it.

Those who enjoyed the rise of av in the 90s an 00s (like me) are getting older and are not as enthusiastic about it as we once were...just an age thing.

Most people I know just want something to connect their iPhone to and maybe something to make they TV sound less crappy.
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
Those who enjoyed the rise of av in the 90s an 00s (like me) are getting older and are not as enthusiastic about it as we once were...just an age thing.
I don't think it is just an age thing though. I think that part of the problem is that the AV sector drained the enthusiasm of many people with over rapid product cycles, inescapable obsolescence, and heartbreaking depreciation.
 

petrKrenzelok

Standard Member
The biggest problem, at least for me, is a cable mess. I don't find my Denon x3500h good enough for stereo, even if I have pretty sweek MA Silver 200s. But still companies like Denon quite refuse to give you the best of both worlds - they have removed ht bypass option from the pma-1600 line. So much for a top AV company, which should support joining of both worlds.

I think, that the world needs more modern devices, definitely being combined with BT and streaming. Marantz pm7000n might be good step in the right direction. Something like modern NAD M10, Naim Uniti Atom might be the direction.

So basically - give us 2.0 or 2.1, streamed wireless sources, and the ability to grow to something like 5.1 wirelessly. Modern living asks for convenience ....
 

jeeriko

Member
Well, I did this 4 month ago. Sold my AV equipment, kept only QA Concept 500 and sub, bought NAD M10.
As for me, music is primary and movie as mostly visual art is secondary, the current 2.1 setup worked out very well!
I do keep an eye on development of soundbars, some of the products are very promising already. Who knows, 2-4 years and there might be something ....
 

gibbsy

Moderator
The biggest problem, at least for me, is a cable mess.
It's ideal for spiders. They deserve to live somewhere.:smashin:

Behind my cabinet is a mess, a real rat's nest of cables. I bought into the AV all in one when it first began to come out and gave my music separates away. A decision I soon came to regret and have since added further separates to run the music side adding to that nest of wires.

I do love surround sound though but I'm not falling into the trap of upgrading receivers every time something new is added and my current receiver is going into it's fifth year of ownership.
 

petrKrenzelok

Standard Member
It's ideal for spiders. They deserve to live somewhere.:smashin:

Behind my cabinet is a mess, a real rat's nest of cables. I bought into the AV all in one when it first began to come out and gave my music separates away. A decision I soon came to regret and have since added further separates to run the music side adding to that nest of wires.

I do love surround sound though but I'm not falling into the trap of upgrading receivers every time something new is added and my current receiver is going into it's fifth year of ownership.
I don't plan on upgrading my Denon x3500h. Good enough imo. Don't also plan any special cinema arrangements of my apartmen (e.g. adding atmos), so I am just going to finish the Monitor Audio Silver 200AV route. Well, maybe except for the sub, as some ppl are suggesting getting REL instead.

I am really looking into effective combination of the AVR and stereo, hence will need the amp with the ht bypass. Would like to stay with Denon, but they have it with the pma2500ne only, which is really old and big. I might add some lover Denon models without ht bypass, but would have to treat two separate levels of volumes. There's also the power amp way adding it to AVR, but it's a bit "old school", but surely would give some juice to my fronts.

I also thought about going just to 2.1, but so far I would really miss the centre, or so I think. Some ppl say, that I would get used to it. There are also some 3.0 or 3.1 amps, but those are mostly rare and quite expensive ....
 

Stinger69

Active Member
Ironically the huge depreciation on high-ish end full surround av receivers, make them pretty bloody good as bargain stereo only setups. When those power supplies are only powering two channels, they can do wonderful things for not much money. Also leaves you the option to go full surround in the future if required.

Andy
 

dante01

Distinguished Member
Ironically the huge depreciation on high-ish end full surround av receivers, make them pretty bloody good as bargain stereo only setups. When those power supplies are only powering two channels, they can do wonderful things for not much money. Also leaves you the option to go full surround in the future if required.

Andy

Yeah, but you will not get the same kind of stereo performance as you'd have gotten if usin a dedicated stereo integrated amplifier. The audio is compromised by the AV receiver's more complex signal paths and the AV receiver's heavy reliance upon processing. An audiophile wouldn't use an AV receiver because of this. It is suggested that you need to at least spend double what you would have spent on a dedicated stereo amp on an AV receiver to get anywhere near the same stereo performance from said AVR. Even then, you'd still not be getting something that isn't compromised by it being an AVR.

If wanting quality stereo performance then you are still better off looking at dedicated stereo solutions.
 
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Hoku

Active Member
I believe Dolby Atmos, while offering the potential for an even more immersive surround experience (subject to the source material’s degree of use of height channels), with its emphasis on 7, 9 or 11 speakers plus sub, has helped distance some people who may have been in the middle ground of music and AV, to put them off entirely, particularly when even 2-channel seems to be going in the direction of lifestyle products that visually disappear into a room. And behind many a budding AV enthusiast is often a significant other who needs considerable convincing to have anything more that a soundbar making its presence felt visually. So I can understand the appeal of a minimalist 2-channel system, and indeed if the choice is ONLY between that and a soundbar, then go for it!

Certainly a 2-channel, one-box set-up would have been a great deal easier than what I’ve had to go through having moved house recently: installing wall-mounted surrounds, feeding speaker wires and long HDMI cable to the PJ, ceiling mounting etc etc and the rats nest of cables behind the AV rack: just plugging in all my speaker cables, sub cable, 12V trigger and interconnects took a fair bit of time.

But as appealing as it is to simplify and go back to 2-channel for music and AV (as I had a very punchy adept stereo system doing both in the past), my argument for doing so evaporates every time I fire up a DTS-MA Bluray and experience a movie or something like Hans Zimmer Live in Prague on my 5.1 system. It‘s just awesome.

it even makes average movies awesome. I saw the Lego Movie 2 the other day. Average movie that made me chuckle a few times, but the surround mix was just jaw-dropping, in a way that a 2-channel system just can’t get close to IMO. Even a less bang-crashy movie like The Walk was just far more satisfying with decent surround capability. I was feeling truly vertiginous when Petit stepped out from the twin-towers, because there was such a sense of space.

it’s just SO much better than stereo for movies, that for me it’s worth the effort. And as a real music fan, my itch is very satisfyingly scratched by my beloved Anthem amp, which is more adept at 2-channel than my old stereo amp, and more adept at multi-channel than my old Pioneer AV receiver. People who say AVR’s don’t do music have clearly never heard an Anthem on full song. And I’m sure other makes exist that can do a similarly adept job at 2-channel.

My answer to keeping the cost down and eschewing the never ending product cycle refresh so prevalent in AV is to buy used and keep a few years behind the very latest developments.

Yes, I’m only running 5.1
- but my argument is that a higher quality 5.1 system will not only be superior to a 9.1.4 system for the same money, but because a higher proportion of my budget has been aimed at the amplifier and main L&R speakers, it makes it more capable for 2-channel too than, say a cheaper sub-sat system with 11 speakers, for a similar cost.

Yes, my display is only 1080p
- but a higher end 1080p PJ gives an overall better picture quality than a lower-end 4K PJ that would have cost me at least another £500. And I spent about the same on my stunning 92” picture than most people spend on a 55” TV (or even less if you went for a higher end TV)

- Yes, my Anthem MRX710 doesn’t pass through Dolby Vision, 4K HDR etc, but it cost me £700 used instead of the £2500+ of its more recent relative.

We all have different tastes and different priorities, but as appealing as a minimalist 2-channel set-up is to some, I shan’t be taking that route any time soon.

Solid article though Ed, and a genuinely big thank you for your consistently insightful reviews. Keep them coming.
 

Khankat

Active Member
I have stuck resolutely to two channel music reproduction and do not have any intention of changing the Amp- that's currently away being serviced and upgraded.
 

acgingersnaps

Active Member
2 channel, either side of the tv, works just fine. Especially in small UK rooms, with neighbours in close proximity. I have a quiet PC conneted to the tv (hdmi) and the amp (usb dac) and couldn't imagine needing a different set up.
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
It think the big difference between the AV and HiFi worlds has been that AV absolutely has to have considerable digital processing. With Hifi, the heart of many good systems is still analog designs that havn't changed massively for a long time., and thus last a long time and you can easily justify spending a lot on them knowing they will remain good at the price point for a long time, even if discontinued.

Personally I almost refuse to spend a lot on digital products that may become near obsolete in a few years or less. Of course stereo networked hifi is becoming like that as well, so the same rule applies. I just wont spend a fortune on something that for some reason I am going to find very limited in a few years (probably not its fault, but because some new tech makes half of it to far behind). I have also been burned by manufacturers abandoning their technologies, so another reason not to buy into anyone new digital home ecosystem.

It was for this reason that when I bought an amp, I bought a good analog amp - I will be relatively as good in 10 years as the day I bought it. OTOH I have a relatively cheap AVR to pair with it for AV sound. I have no problem replacing the AVR every other year because it was relatively cheap especially at end of cycle.

But - one thing all these new little AV/Stereo hybrids cannot do is give me an immersive surround sound. I don't need amazing details, but I do like the immersion and just cant go back to watching in less than proper 5.1. (We have 5.1.2 atmos). I really dont like sound bars either - even the good ones.

Also most people dont have a clue about choosing the bunch of components that go together that we are comfortable with. For them its less about convenience and more about not having to understand anything at all, and I guess ideally not having to see it either.
 

coolcat

Active Member
I’m not lucky enough to be able to have a separate cinema room, so the living room has to cater for both stereo and AV. To me the sound quality of films is just as important as the picture quality. On saying that I am running a 20 year old TAG McLaren system in 5.1 and it still works for us. I do not feel the need to keep updating to the latest format in our size of house.
Unless we have to down size I can’t see us ever giving up on proper surround sound.
 

coolcat

Active Member
Btw started off in AV via Nicam VHS player into the amp and speakers either side of the TV. Funny if we are now going back to that 😂
 

Fairly Jones

Standard Member
I find the newly announced NAD M33 all-in-one integrated amp incredibly compelling for exactly this reason. With eARC the M33 can connect directly to my TV allowing the TV to act as a source switcher when I'm watching movies or playing video games or streaming, while the amplifier section (Purifi) and digital section are of the highest quality, unlike receivers which cram 13 channels into a tiny chassis. And the M33 like its brethren have full Dirac room EQ and bass management.
 

lmccauley

Well-known Member
Btw started off in AV via Nicam VHS player into the amp and speakers either side of the TV. Funny if we are now going back to that 😂
That's exactly how I started too :)

Interesting article, and I have been heading down this path for about the last 15 years.

I started my AV journey, as mentioned above, with a Nicam stereo VHS player plugged into a stereo amp. I then went through a Yamaha DSP A592 DOlby Pro-logic amp, an Arcam AV50 (plus Alpha 8 power amp) with a Pioneer 606D DVD player plugged in via 6 cables for Dolby Digital, then settled on Arcam Alpha 10 DAVE DD/DTS amps, which lasted me over 15 years, before I replaced them with a NAD 758v3 last year.

About 10 years ago, I took down my rear surround speakers to do some decorating, and never put them back up. I found that I didn't really miss them much. A good quality front soundstage, including a quality subwoofer gave me the vast majority of what I wanted. SO, I ran a 3.1 system for a while. Then, I turned the centre speaker off, and found that I preferred the sound - for one thing, pans didn't travel down below the screen, then back up again (I had the classic LCR setup of identical LR speakers to the left and right of the screen, and identical C speaker below it). SO, I was down to 2.1.

At this point, I started looking into whether I could get an integrated stereo system with HDMI inputs, room correction, and bass management. It looked like there were a number of contenders, but when I looked closer, I found a big problem. All of these stereo amps (with the sole exception of the Arcam SR250) only accepted a stereo input. They did not do any DD or DTS decoding themselves - even the ones with HDMI inputs. Not a problem, I thought, as you can simply set your Blu-ray player, or TV, or media player, to downmix the multi-channel signal to stereo, output it over HDMI, and let the amplifier do its bass management to output to speakers and subwoofer without losing anything other than the surround steering.

Wrong.

The Dolby Metadata Guide, in the section on downmixing, says that: "In all downmixes, the LFE channel is not included. "

Note, this isn't talking about bass management done by an AV Receiver or Processor. It is talking about a source device like a Blu-ray player or TV.

So, unless I am mistaken, using one of these two channel systems (except for the Arcam SR250) means that you will be missing out on the LFE channel from the programme. And that's why I went for an AVR for my current 2.1 system.
 

Captain Ron

Well-known Member
Extremely happy with my current setup. Movies sound awesome, music whether 2 channel or surround sounds great. No plans on upgrading or changing anything. Only thing I am missing is a decent single box solution that will give me all the main streaming services I want in the best quality they can be delivered in. Basically I want a UHD/Dolby Vision/Atmos capable Apple TV/Disney+/Amazon Prime/Netflix/YouTube/iplayer device.
 

Rockets

Active Member
And so the problems begin for the user with the three R's

Redundancy
Reliability
Re-sale value

All issues that never really bothered stereo amps before.

I have no doubt that this is the future of a big chunk of the stereo amp market and there sure are benefits for the user as outlined in the article. Unfortunately for those benefits you will give up some of what made a stereo amp in the past a solid investment.
 

Stinger69

Active Member
Yeah, but you will not get the same kind of stereo performance as you'd have gotten if usin a dedicated stereo integrated amplifier. The audio is compromised by the AV receiver's more complex signal paths and the AV receiver's heavy reliance upon processing. An audiophile wouldn't use an AV receiver because of this. It is suggested that you need to at least spend double what you would have spent on a dedicated stereo amp on an AV receiver to get anywhere near the same stereo performance from said AVR. Even then, you'd still not be getting something that isn't compromised by it being an AVR.

If wanting quality stereo performance then you are still better off looking at dedicated stereo solutions.
Agreed, a proper stereo amplifier is best if that's all you want it to do, but the depreciation over 5 or so years for av receivers is so massive that very capable bits of kit can be bought for not much money, so the spending double to get the equivalent performance rule is negated quite quickly if you don't require, for instance atmos etc. And the dedicated stereo amplifier won't be so convenient for multiple video sources. Worth thinking about at least....

Andy
 

Hoku

Active Member
Ironically the huge depreciation on high-ish end full surround av receivers, make them pretty bloody good as bargain stereo only setups. When those power supplies are only powering two channels, they can do wonderful things for not much money. Also leaves you the option to go full surround in the future if required.

Andy
Agreed. Case in point: who would like a capable stereo amp with HDMI switching, effective room correction and bass management, multiple digital inputs and high quality power supply for £700, which is what my Anthem cost me.

Depreciation isn’t costly if someone else pays for it. I’ve had three amplifiers in the last 16 years (one of those a vanilla stereo amp). And I’ll keep my Anthem until it breaks.

And being prepared to stay a little behind the times means you swap boxes a lot less often. The whole HDR/HDR10+/Dolby Vision/Dolby Vision IQ is a money-spinner I’m staying well out of. Seems to make operation quite complex too constantly delving deep into menus to switch settings depending on the source or source material.
 

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