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Fix my old Arcam AVR200 with DD or buy an STR-DH800 with DHD?

amdowney

Active Member
OK,

So my first post on here was questioning whether the 8 Yr old Arcam AVR200 I was given is faulty, turns out it is.
My local shop say Arcam can fix it for £150, but they also say that for £300 I could just buy a new amp with Dolby HD etc and I will hear better than what the old Arcam can do with Dolby Digital.

Now online I could get the STR-DH800 (good reviews) for £220 (RRP £300), which makes doing this even more tempting.

The replies in my old thread however said that I should stick with the Arcam! So I am confused, I know Arcam are a top make (despite the DVD and Amp given to me being faulty) but surely for home cinema, HD Audio with the modern and super value Sony Amp will be best?

(I have 5 x Monitor Audio Baby Boomer speakers and a BIG Mission sub - acording to the Arcam Manual the power is 70W x 5 and the Sony is 85W x 7)
 
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Jamie

Distinguished Member
Well Personally I borrowed an Onkyo 605 from a mate. Straight swop in my system so tried it using my speakers, room cables etc. The swop was simply the amp (and I disconnected my PS3 optical cable and ran the HDMI via the amp rather than direct to my TV)

The results: Check my signature to see which amp I still have :)

I tried 3 different things

DD/DTS from my DVD player via optical - The Onkyo was good at effects, crash bang wallops if you like. Films with an expansive soundtrack or an orchestral score were obviously better on the Arcam. Hard to describe in words but even my Mrs commented on the difference.

HD Soundtracks vs DTS Core via Optical - As you may already know DTS-MA includes a full bit rate DTS track (1.5MB) so already an older amp will get superior sound to a DVD even using the non HD sound track. My test disc for this was Casino Royale. While the difference wasn't so pronounced with the HD soundtrack closing the gap and being obviously superior to the previous test, both myself and my wife felt we could tell the difference and both preferred the Arcam doing DTS to the Onkyo doing DTS-MA

Music - No contest whatsoever (unsurprisingly) Even without comparing the 2 immediately I started playing some CDs on the Onkyo my wife went Urgh. My 10 year old Cambridge Audio A1 stereo amp soundly beats the Onkyo for music.

So to our ears it was a clear 3-0 win to the Arcam.
While I don't doubt the HD formats are pretty convincing and could defenitely hear differences to the Onkyo doing the old and new formats I still felt I'd have to spend significantly more than the price for the 605 to get comparable quality to my 2nd hand 150quid Arcam, especially for music.

I've not heard the Sony 800 but at that price I can't see it being significantly different to the Onkyo. I'll also add maybe the Onkyo isn't as bad as we thought it was. I have Mordaunt Short Speakers (the THX set comprising floor standers with integral active subs in the base, DiPolar surrounds and a massive 3 driver centre) which I believe can be described as on the bright side (no idea if this is true, I certainly love the detail I can hear) so maybe they weren't the best partnership with the Onkyo. Maybe the Onkyos style just wasn't our taste who knows. The one thing the tests did bring home was just how good my Amp is and just what a bargain 150 quid was.
 
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Jamie

Distinguished Member
Sorry should add, I'm one the posters in your original thread so this post just clarifies what I said there, but in more detail.
 

amdowney

Active Member
Sorry should add, I'm one the posters in your original thread so this post just clarifies what I said there, but in more detail.
I realised and appreciate your input!

No doubt the Arcam is a quality bit of kit - here's another question on the Arcam then that may swing my decision. Reading another article it would seem that it is possible to get HD Audio with the Arcam, by using the 5.1 analogue inputs with a blueray player with 5.1 outputs?

(Such as the PANASONIC DMPBD80 - available for £230)

Perhaps this way I would end up with an Arcam with HD Audio and an even better picture with such a good player?
 
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Passingbat

Distinguished Member
I realised and appreciate your input!

No doubt the Arcam is a quality bit of kit - here's another question on the Arcam then that may swing my decision. Reading another article it would seem that it is possible to get HD Audio with the Arcam, by using the 5.1 analogue inputs with a blueray player with 5.1 outputs?

(Such as the PANASONIC DMPBD80 - available for £230)

Perhaps this way I would end up with an Arcam with HD Audio and an even better picture with such a good player?
HD audio from analogue outs on a BR player is possible. The ease of doing it will depend on the flexibility of the analogue inputs on your amp and outputs on the BR player. It is slightly complicated by needing to setup bass management manually.

This article explains all about it.

How To Set up a Blu-ray Player Using Multi-Channel Analog Outputs... And Why: BigPictureBigSound

Another BR player with analogue outs that has a little more flexibility than the Panny bd80 is the Sony S550. You can adjust the front L&R outputs to up to -12db on the Sony, it's only to -6db on the Panny.
 

Jamie

Distinguished Member
I realised and appreciate your input!

No doubt the Arcam is a quality bit of kit - here's another question on the Arcam then that may swing my decision. Reading another article it would seem that it is possible to get HD Audio with the Arcam, by using the 5.1 analogue inputs with a blueray player with 5.1 outputs?

(Such as the PANASONIC DMPBD80 - available for £230)

Perhaps this way I would end up with an Arcam with HD Audio and an even better picture with such a good player?
I have to admit I may be biased. Also my opinions may be coloured slightly with trying to persuade myself I'm not missing out on the HD formats.

Personally in an ideal world I'd have either a newer Arcam AVR350 or an AV9/P7 pre-power combo and a decent BD player with analogue outs. In the meantime I'm more than happy with my 200 and Ps3 via optical. Another player thats worth looking at is the Oppo (can't remember the model number) thats getting some good reviews from members in the Arcam sub-forum
 
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PSM1

Distinguished Member
I have my bluray player (Pioneer LX71) going into my Arcam 350 via the multichannel input and am very happy with the end result.
As above I would not swap your Arcam for a Sony 800 as you will only be dissappointed by the sound quality of the Sony.
 

amdowney

Active Member
For your info, I spoke to a helpul Arcam customer service guy who told me this about the AVR 200 - It is now a very old unit (being their second) and technology has come a long way since. Back then (10+ years ago) their receivers were mainly music focused and the unit is still as good today as many £400-500 ish units, for music. (Today they only do AVRs at above £2k! so they have left this end of the market)

However for home cinema use, due to the latest technologies I'd likely get a better cinema experience even from a £300 Sony as tech has come a long way and so has the demand for home cinema experience.

Then I did question the option of using a Blueray player with analogue outs with this unit and he said then really the AVR200 is just being used as a volume knob - but would be his preferred option - as of course he prefers Arcam and the British sound.

Going down this route what is left for the receiver to do? As in will the AVR200's quality/musical ability still shine if the Blueray player is doing the decoding?
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
The musical ability comes from the quality of the amplifiers etc. within the Arcam. Hence lower niose levels and better separation of sound etc. This will not change even if the bluray player is doing the decoding.
I do not know about the 200 but I would certainly not replace my 350 with even a £400-£500 HD reciever let alone a £300 Sony. The improved non HD performance given by the Arcam more than makes up for the slight hassle of setting up the analogue inputs. When I got the Arcam I was amased at how much better normal TV and DVDs sounded. I realised just how much I had been missing in these soundtracks.
 
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