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Devanz's picture
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Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

Hi,

Being a newbie in sound systems, I just made the jump from a 1-year old stereo system to a 5.1 home cinema:

- Stereo: Marantz PM6003 + Arcam rDAC + 2x Monitor Audio BX2 (chosen thanks to whathifi best buys, and very satisfied)

- HC: Marantz SR5008 + Monitor Audio Mass 5.1

 

Ok, I gained surround in movies, but I must say that I am very very disapointed by the general sound quality drop, which is very frustrating for music or even simple TV (sound is much less "powerfull" / sharp / clear... I don't know the technical words, but it's obvious to my untrained ears).

I don't know if this comes from lower quality DAC and/or Amp and/or speakers, but after some reading I suspect the main responsible are the speakers. Therefore I consider replacing the 2 small front speakers by 2 floor standers (e.g. MA BX5 or Q Accoustics 2050i) to improve Music/TV stereo sound, while keeping the rest of the MASS system (central + 2 surround + subwoofer) for surround in movies.

Does this plan make any sense? Do you think I will achieve a perceptible improvement? Or I am just about to make another mistake???

 

Thanks for your help!

 

 

Leeps's picture
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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

One thing you might try before drastically altering your system.

Your surround set-up is primarily designed to do just that - send a 5.1 signal to all your speakers including the sub.  The MASS system has fairly small satellites, so if you send a 2.0 signal just through two of the MASS speakers (by using any kind of Pure Direct mode), then of course, compared to what are relatively large standmounts (the BX2's), there'll be no competition without your sub engaged.

A way around this depends somewhat on your AV receiver and whether it has the same facility as mine (not all do).  When playing 2.0 music, I use a setting on my AV receiver called "Extended Stereo".  It's rather similar to a typical car stereo, sending a 2.0 signal to all available speakers, including crucially the sub.  I then alter the fader half way in favour of the front speakers which sounds more natural.

Engaging all the speakers in this way sounds much more fullsome, particularly bringing the sub to life.  Having said that, I only use that setting for music.  For 2.0 TV signals, I continue to use pure direct because primarily dialogue-led signals just won't sound right with extended stereo.

If having tried that you're not too keen on the results, then you could consider replacing the front 3 speakers.  If you only replace the front left & right speakers and keep the MASS for the centre channel, then (to borrow an excellent illustration made on another thread), a motorbike going from left to right across the screen will sound like this: motorbike - moped - motorbike.  The centre channel is equally as important as the left and right channels.

If you like the MA sound, which you appear to, I could happily recommend the MA Radius series and if you wanted to beef things up with the front three speakers, you could use the same set-up as me, R270HD / R250HD.  These go considerably lower than the R90HD (around 48hz from memory).  My speakers have been replaced by a new model, which means there are some cracking deals around on the R270HD / R250HD.  You ought to be able to pick up the R270HD for around £400.  Look up Sevenoaks in-store clearance for example, or just Google R270HD price.

The only caveat I'd mention is that the R270HD's aren't overly happy being close to a back wall.  They are rear-ported, so I've had to bung the ports slightly to counter-act interaction with the wall and they're placed around 450mm into the room.  They'd be even better slightly further out than this if possible.

You could always use the Radius for the front 3, then use 4 of the MASS speakers in a 7.1 set-up, using the two spare MASS speakers for front-height or front-wide duties. Or, if you haven't sold your BX2's yet, just buy a BX centre speaker.

Hope some of the above helps.

The_Lhc's picture
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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

Devanz wrote:

Hi,

Being a newbie in sound systems, I just made the jump from a 1-year old stereo system to a 5.1 home cinema:

- Stereo: Marantz PM6003 + Arcam rDAC + 2x Monitor Audio BX2 (chosen thanks to whathifi best buys, and very satisfied)

- HC: Marantz SR5008 + Monitor Audio Mass 5.1

 

Ok, I gained surround in movies, but I must say that I am very very disapointed by the general sound quality drop, which is very frustrating for music or even simple TV (sound is much less "powerfull" / sharp / clear... I don't know the technical words, but it's obvious to my untrained ears).

I don't know if this comes from lower quality DAC and/or Amp and/or speakers, but after some reading I suspect the main responsible are the speakers. Therefore I consider replacing the 2 small front speakers by 2 floor standers (e.g. MA BX5 or Q Accoustics 2050i) to improve Music/TV stereo sound, while keeping the rest of the MASS system (central + 2 surround + subwoofer) for surround in movies.

Does this plan make any sense?

Err, why don't you use the BX2s as your front speakers, rather than buying another new pair?

spiny norman's picture
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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

I agree with The_Lhc (don't look so shocked, it happens occasionally!): assuming you still have both systems, I'd use the BX2s as the front /R speakers, and either buy a BX C centre speaker (about £130-150) or use the system in phantome centre mode (ie with no centre speaker) to get the best balance across the front channels.

If you still have your Marantz stereo amp and want to continue using it, you can do so by using the preouts on the receiver to feed its front L/R channels through the stereo amp and on to the BX2s. If you want to do this, let us know and I am sure someone will explain how.

If you don't still have the stereo set-up, then I'f go down the BX 5 route, but budget for the matching centre speaker or opt for the phantom centre method.

Leeps's picture
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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

Alternatively, use the entire MASS system for 5.1 and use your AV receiver's zone 2 for stereo (through your BX2's if you still have them of course).  Depending on the facilities of the receiver, this may not work with all sources though. 

Another thing to check and play about with is your crossover settings.  This can drastically affect the overall presentation.  I found a crossover of 80hz about right for my system/room, but you may like to experiment.

Worth experimenting before resorting to expenditure.

Devanz's picture
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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

Thanks for all your replies guys. I have finally decided that pure sound quality is more important to me than surround, and that I just don't have the budget to get the equivalent of my PM6003/BX2 set-up in 5.1 ...

So I will revert back to a stereo system (and maybe come back to 5.1 in a few years), but since I already sold my PM6003/BX2, I will just get back the money from the 5.1 system, and buy a new hifi system with the larger budget: PM6005 + Q Accoustic 2050i or MA BX5. 

 

Two last questions:

- Do you have any opinion/preferences between the two speakers?

- I also consider keeping the SR5008 amp instead of getting a new PM6005, so I can keep the A/V benefits (mainly "HDMI switch" and Airplay receiver) and I can upgrade more easily to 5.1 later (with better speakers than MASS). I know that sound quality will be lower (same price, but 7 amp channels instead of 2), but do you think the difference will be significant? Also knowing that I could use bi-amp on my stereo speakers (other way to look at thisquestion: do you think that the huge quality drop I experienced mainly came from BX2 -> MASS speakers, or PM6003 -> SR5008 ?)

Many thanks for your help!

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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

If you are able to return the mass kit, you could keep the SR5008, and purchase some BX5 and a BX center.  Add extras as you can in the future.

spiny norman's picture
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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

IMO, the quality drop is down to the speakers. Stick with the SR5008, and try to listen to both the QAcoustics and Monitor Audio speakers with it before deciding which stereo speakers to buy.

Leeps's picture
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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

Frankly, you've opened a can of worms with that one.

There are such strongly held views over stereo amps vs AV receivers, I think you have to go away and hear the differences for yourself.

i made a similar journey to you a couple of years ago.  My impression is that yes, I've lost 5% in terms of outright discernible detail from my previous stereo set-up.  However my stereo's balance was more forward anyway, and vascillated between stunning and unlistenable depending on the musical genre and quality of recording. My AV receiver isn't as "hi-fi" perhaps, but the difference is small and I happened to have gained a better balance in the process.  My receiver is less fatiguing and more successful with a higher percentage of music, but I don't think that has much to do with it being an AV receiver per se.  It's about individual component balance and getting the best out of each part of the system by good system-matching.

My own experience has led me to conclude that 2.0 vs 5.1 is almost the wrong question and a potential red herring in finding audio nirvana and that the old quest of getting synergy between source, amp & speakers is MORE IMPORTANT than the whole stereo vs surround debate.  Which goes back to the well-worn advice on these forums of actually going to hear ALL the components TOGETHER before you hand over the cash.

 

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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

Try to test out Q Accoustic 2050i or MA BX5 bi-amped by your SR5008 in Pure Direct mode and you might be surprised at how good it sounds.  (when using it in bi-amp mode you will be using 2 amps per speaker)

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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

Hello,

Sorry to hear of your issues but maybe don't abandon your setup just yet. In my experience for reasons I haven't fully established while stereo systems tend to give their best sound with little effort, surround systems need some tweaking to get the best results, and small settings changes can have big effects on the sound.

The bass is critical in the sub / sat systems, and even if you don't want stomach churning depth and are more interested in the treble, the bass tends to give the drive and solidity to the whole sound so it needs to be right.

I don't think it's black and white that similalry priced av receivers / stereo amps can't produce similar sound quality, or that a sub / sat system can't produce results similar to bigger speakers.

I'd recommend a few things to try if you haven't done them:-

- Choose a good position for the sub. To increase bass put it near walls, and to reduce boom move it away. I found I got the best sound from my enclosed sub by making it fire forward rather than down and within the plain of the front speakers, so pretty much shooting straight toward the main listening area.

- If the sub has settings for music or films, set it to music, (usually tighter / deeper bass). With test tone on experiment with phase setting to get loudest sound at listening position. 

- Run the Audyseey room equalisation, and see if that helps, maybe just in one position, (I've started to find fewer positions gives the benefits without over processing and restraining the resultant sound, which may be preferable for music)

- Make sure all the distances are correct

- Ensure that the test tone sound levels of all speakers is the same (use a free sound meter on your phone or similar, not your ears)

- Stick the amp into Dobly PLII Music and set the width and rear / forward balance to suit. This will allow you to leverage the sub, but also the centre and surround speakers to the extent you want. Many may decry this lack of purity but I've found it gives good results.

- Don't engage the volume processing of Audyssey, but set the equalisation to flat, and if you don't like that try turning it to off

- Experiment with the crossover of frequency from sub to sat. Don't necessarily take the Audyssey setting as best. Ideal is 80Hz, but you may find your sats can't reach below down to that and it leaves a hole. However, try some experimentation. Things that speakers are stood on like cabinets can give them improved bass response and make them seem like bigger speakers to an extent.

- I've found you also have to think about position. You can't tell the direction of sound below 80Hz, but at around that or above, you can. If you sub is at the front for example and you set the rear crossover to 110Hz then you're getting a portion of their sound coming from the front not the back. In these cases even if they're a bit less good than the sub at those frequencies, it may be preferable to have the sats produce those sounds.

I've gone through the process of having a surround amp and thinking it did not compare to my stereo setup, but persevered, and over time have found that I can produce good music, (and obviously good cinema sound), with a sub / sat system and AV amp.

There are actually big benefits for music in surround systems that people tend ot overlook and think it's less pure than stereo. But stereo has inherent sweet spots that surround can eliminate and also the surround speakers can provide a more enveloping sound which is important to enjoyment.

Hope this helps and good luck!

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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

Thanks for all your replies guys!

I have finally changed the MASS 5.1 pack for two Q Accoustics 2050i, while keeping the AV amplifier (Marantz SR5008). The result is incredibly better. I know it would be even better with a stereo amplifier of the same price, but think the trade-off is ok with the AV amplifier since I have other benefits:

- HDMI switching and Airplay features

- Option to add other speakers later, and to upgrade progressively to 5.1 surround (but with better speakers than the MASS pack)

 

Thanks for all your advices

Devanz's picture
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RE: Help! Damage control after disappointing Stereo->HC jump

Thanks for all your replies guys!

I have finally changed the MASS 5.1 pack for two Q Accoustics 2050i, while keeping the AV amplifier (Marantz SR5008 ). The result is incredibly better. I know it would be even better with a stereo amplifier of the same price, but think the trade-off is ok with the AV amplifier since I have other benefits:

- HDMI switching and Airplay features

- Option to add other speakers later, and to upgrade progressively to 5.1 surround (but with better speakers than the MASS pack)

 

Thanks for all your advices

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