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My next upgrade?

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Joined: 17 Aug 2009
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This post and the questions asked may offend die hard audiophiles. If so, I apologise in advance...

I recently bought a Yamaha RX-A810 receiver, primarily for use with films, but I'd also like to get the best out of it with music. I appreciate that an AVR will always represent an element of compromise in terms of stereo performance.

While I love the spread of sound and detail the Yamaha produces with films, especially DTS HDMA and Dolby True HD soundtracks, it's less talented with music. The tone and detail produced with music are very pleasing, but the sound lacks some bite and authority at the bottom end. Compounding this problem, I'm sure, is the fact that I'm using a budget Panasonic Blu-ray player as a CD transport. 

I'd like to introduce another system component to address this problem, without spending a fortune. If money and space were not important factors, I'd love a dedicated stereo system. However, this really isn't a possibility in the foreseeable future. 

Option one is to buy a dedicated CD player, which would be connected to the Yamaha's analogue inputs, thereby taking advantage of the CD player's onboard digital to analogue converter. It would of course need to be a CD player that produces a more forthright sound at the low end; maybe something like the Teac PDH600, which is available in a few places for £300. 

Option two is to buy a DAC as an intermediary between the Panasonic BDP and AVR. Again, a more dynamic sound at the bottom end is a priority.

Any advice from hi-fi enthusiasts would be hugely appreciated.

Cheers...

 

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Hardware: Panasonic TX-P50VT65B (calibrated); Cambridge Audio Azur 651BD; Yamaha RX-A810; Teac PD-H600; PS3; B&W 601 & 600LCR (series 3); Q Acoustics QAV (rear)

Furniture and Accessories: BLOK Classix 3000 Oak AV Cabinet; Atacama Nexus 6 (atabite metal filled); 3D3 A1112

Blu_Blu's picture
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RE: My next upgrade?

what speakers do you have?

Joined: 17 Aug 2009
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RE: My next upgrade?

Sorry, it occurred to me after posting that this would be useful information!

I have B&W 601 series 3 speakers as mains, with a B&W 600 LCR centre. They're old, but still do a very respectable job. In a perfect world I'd look to upgrade my speakers, too, but I can't afford to replace the B&Ws with speakers that would represent a worthwhile upgrade in terms of performance. 

I also have an Acoustic Energy Radiance subwoofer, which lacks a bit of low end clout, but is fairly musical for the price. For rear speakers I use Q Acoustics QAVs, which create a really impressive spread of sound with films. I almost bought B&W M1s, but upon audition they sounded too directional for rear speakers and gave their position away too easily. They would have been a better tonal match with the B&W fronts, but for rear speakers that create a more seamless sound field I preferred the Q Acoustics.

I mention all this as I'd occasionally listen to multi-channel music, though my priority (music-wise) would be stereo through the 601s. 

I should also add that I will be listening to CDs predominantly, though I might make an occasional foray into lower bitrate territory.

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Hardware: Panasonic TX-P50VT65B (calibrated); Cambridge Audio Azur 651BD; Yamaha RX-A810; Teac PD-H600; PS3; B&W 601 & 600LCR (series 3); Q Acoustics QAV (rear)

Furniture and Accessories: BLOK Classix 3000 Oak AV Cabinet; Atacama Nexus 6 (atabite metal filled); 3D3 A1112

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RE: My next upgrade?

thanks. your amplifier should be able to drive your speakers perfectly well, so it may be worth looking at improving the source, though whether you'll get more low end authority from doing so is debatable. I think a music fidelity vdac or something similar might be worth a punt, ideally on a sale or return basis, or you could try and source a used one that you could move on for minimal loss if it doesn't bring the improvements you seek. 

if a dac doesn't help then i feel that changing the speakers is the only way you're going to get more low end authority, though i appreciate that that may not be an option right now. i wouldn't risk spending too much money trying to achieve this any other way though.

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RE: My next upgrade?

strapped for cash wrote:

For rear speakers I use Q Acoustics QAVs, which create a really impressive spread of sound with films. I almost bought B&W M1s, but upon audition they sounded too directional for rear speakers and gave their position away too easily. They would have been a better tonal match with the B&W fronts, but for rear speakers that create a more seamless sound field I preferred the Q Acoustics.

 

The QAV is a soundbar, do you mean the 7000LRs?

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RE: My next upgrade?

Hi there SFC, I will tell you what I would do....which is just a little controversial.

- Make the most of what you've already got by bi-amping the fronts (if possible).

- If speakers are on a suspended wooden floor, isolate them from it.

- Get some Clearer Audio Copper-Line Alpha / Alpha One power cables to try (can return for a refund within 60 days)

http://www.cleareraudio.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1 

- Try to get a home dem of Rega Dac / Rega Apollo R (if in budget)

- Musical Fidelity V-Dac 11 if budget a problem.

- Avoid silver plated cable.

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ear's picture
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RE: My next upgrade?

get a stereo amp  and add it to your yamaha

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RE: My next upgrade?

BenLaw wrote:

The QAV is a soundbar, do you mean the 7000LRs?

Hi Ben,

I mean these: http://www.superfi.co.uk/p-3910-discontinued-q-acoustics-qav-wall-mount-...

They are the rear speakers that accompanied the sound bar as part of the QAV speaker package, but were sold separately as "QAV Wall Mount Rear Speakers." The QAVs were cheap, but their ability to vanish and create a diffuse rear sound field meant I preferred them to more expensive options. I auditioned them with B&W 683s and found they actually integrated well, which has also been my experience at home. I needed a neat, small speaker option, as my sofa sits flush to the back wall of my living room.  

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Hardware: Panasonic TX-P50VT65B (calibrated); Cambridge Audio Azur 651BD; Yamaha RX-A810; Teac PD-H600; PS3; B&W 601 & 600LCR (series 3); Q Acoustics QAV (rear)

Furniture and Accessories: BLOK Classix 3000 Oak AV Cabinet; Atacama Nexus 6 (atabite metal filled); 3D3 A1112

Joined: 17 Aug 2009
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RE: My next upgrade?

Cno and ear, many thanks for your suggestions. And feel free to be a controversial as you like!

I considered adding another amplifier to drive the main speakers, but there are two reasons this is impractical for me.

First, my kit is housed in an open-backed but otherwise enclosed AV cabinet. Another amplifier kicking out heat is probably not too sensible an idea in this set up, as it's already a little cramped in there.

Second, as much as I want to get the best out of music, adding a separate amp through the Yamaha's pre-outs would affect the tonal characteristics of multi-channel film soundtracks, which remain my priority. I did mention that I'd potentially offend die hard audiophiles. If my priority was music then adding a second amp would seem a logical solution. 

Overall, I want to preserve the receiver's performance with multi-channel sources, while achieving slightly more kick with music (with a firmer grip at the bottom end).

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Hardware: Panasonic TX-P50VT65B (calibrated); Cambridge Audio Azur 651BD; Yamaha RX-A810; Teac PD-H600; PS3; B&W 601 & 600LCR (series 3); Q Acoustics QAV (rear)

Furniture and Accessories: BLOK Classix 3000 Oak AV Cabinet; Atacama Nexus 6 (atabite metal filled); 3D3 A1112

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RE: My next upgrade?

I would suggest that the issue that you describe is attributable to the relationship between your speakers and amp.

To get the best out of your current system, as is, you might need to upgrade your speaker cable to something more substantial, a 2.5mm to 4mm multi strand twisted OFC cable of generic mnanufacture.

As Cno has suggested, you could  'bi-amp' your speakers. This means connecting separate amp channel pairs to the upper and lower drivers of the speakers, remembering to disconnect the jumber plate/cable.

You could also try positioning the speakers differently, either toe in/out, or move closer/further apart etc. This can have a dramatic effect.

Have a look at the AVR settings, play around with stereo mode, if available, various effects and source direct or AV bypass, if available.

I would not recommend tinkering with anything else.

Beyond this, you are looking at replacing speakers and possibly then the amp, so optimise what you have, because the changes might be quite suprising.

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RE: My next upgrade?

strapped for cash wrote:

Cno and ear, many thanks for your suggestions. And feel free to be a controversial as you like!

I considered adding another amplifier to drive the main speakers, but there are two reasons this is impractical for me.

First, my kit is housed in an open-backed but otherwise enclosed AV cabinet. Another amplifier kicking out heat is probably not too sensible an idea in this set up, as it's already a little cramped in there.

Second, as much as I want to get the best out of music, adding a separate amp through the Yamaha's pre-outs would affect the tonal characteristics of multi-channel film soundtracks, which remain my priority. I did mention that I'd potentially offend die hard audiophiles. If my priority was music then adding a second amp would seem a logical solution. 

Overall, I want to preserve the receiver's performance with multi-channel sources, while achieving slightly more kick with music (with a firmer grip at the bottom end).

Normally I would have suggested a 2 channel amp, but picked up on your reservations....hence the "making the most of" suggestions.

I have a couple of observations re the possible 2nd amp though:

- It is possible to get a satisfactory match, but depends on the importance you place on stereo.

- Class D amps don't give off much heat, but would be harder to match.

FWIW. I agree that you should maximize your system and see if you can get music sounding how you want it for the foreseeable.....you can always add another amp at any stage if your priorities change. I have often found that as people's 2 channel gets better, it starts to have a greater priority.

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Joined: 17 Aug 2009
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RE: My next upgrade?

Thanks Overdose. So is the consensus that adding a dedicated CD player or DAC wouldn't represent value for money?

I've experimented extensively with speaker position, including changing the subwoofer's location, the main speakers' distance from the back wall, and various toe-in/out adjustments. I haven't changed the speaker cable -- I'm currently using QED silver anniversary bi-wire cable that's as old as my speakers. Not to open a can of worms, but would changing speaker cable really create a greater sonic difference than adding a dedicated CD player or DAC?

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Hardware: Panasonic TX-P50VT65B (calibrated); Cambridge Audio Azur 651BD; Yamaha RX-A810; Teac PD-H600; PS3; B&W 601 & 600LCR (series 3); Q Acoustics QAV (rear)

Furniture and Accessories: BLOK Classix 3000 Oak AV Cabinet; Atacama Nexus 6 (atabite metal filled); 3D3 A1112

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RE: My next upgrade?

I'd say upgrade your sub. 

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RE: My next upgrade?

strapped for cash wrote:

 I haven't changed the speaker cable -- I'm currently using QED silver anniversary bi-wire cable that's as old as my speakers. Not to open a can of worms, but would changing speaker cable really create a greater sonic difference than adding a dedicated CD player or DAC?

I don't like silver coated cable, which for me introduces an artificial hardness / brittleness to the sound. I would be looking at something like Linn K20 off ebay. At the cheaper end (of cables), it's more about a change in presentation, than a dramatic overhaul of the sound. Copper cable should sound more musical, and may help the bass.

Are you bi-amping atm or bi-wiring?

I would say introducing a CDP / Dac would be the single biggest improvement you can make, without looking at an amp. The other suggestions were about maximizing this (because you aren't getting an amp).

 

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RE: My next upgrade?

CnoEvil wrote:

I have often found that as people's 2 channel gets better, it starts to have a greater priority.

Perhaps, but I'm as much a die hard home cinema enthusiast as regular contributors to this section are die hard stereo fans. To put this in context, I own in the region of 300 Blu-rays and countless DVDs besides, while I own something like 80 CDs. It's unlikely that my priorities will shift markedly in future. Again, no offence to audiophiles and musos is intended whatsoever.

 

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Hardware: Panasonic TX-P50VT65B (calibrated); Cambridge Audio Azur 651BD; Yamaha RX-A810; Teac PD-H600; PS3; B&W 601 & 600LCR (series 3); Q Acoustics QAV (rear)

Furniture and Accessories: BLOK Classix 3000 Oak AV Cabinet; Atacama Nexus 6 (atabite metal filled); 3D3 A1112

Joined: 17 Aug 2009
Posts: 4314
RE: My next upgrade?

BenLaw wrote:

I'd say upgrade your sub. 

Thanks Ben,

That's something I'm genuinely considering. If so, what would represent a notable improvement without spending silly money? Bearing in mind that I've spent quite a bit upgrading my TV and receiver in the last month, I couldn't spend too much. If I could get £200 for my AE sub, I could look for an alternative in the region of £500.

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Hardware: Panasonic TX-P50VT65B (calibrated); Cambridge Audio Azur 651BD; Yamaha RX-A810; Teac PD-H600; PS3; B&W 601 & 600LCR (series 3); Q Acoustics QAV (rear)

Furniture and Accessories: BLOK Classix 3000 Oak AV Cabinet; Atacama Nexus 6 (atabite metal filled); 3D3 A1112