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AVR600-v-Pioneer LX90 Susano

Discussion in 'Arcam Forum' started by coldmachine, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. coldmachine

    coldmachine Member

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    Sorry this has taken a lot longer to post than I had intended.

    The test systems varied slightly from my initial AVR600 testing. 2 channel listening was done in the main HT, which is in mid install, with the Genelec HT330A active speakers. These are large, accurate and dynamic. Each speaker having 1300w of remote active tri-amping. These are the units Ive chosen for the front 3 in my main HT install.Subbage was courtesy of the HTS6. This system was used simply to test both units as processors and thus eliminate the amp stages.

    Surround listening was carried out, in receiver mode, in the media/games room using a Dynaudio Confidence 7.1 arrangement with a Gotham sub. This room is treated and the system is fully corrected and EQ'd and has good general acoustic performance, including RT60. Visuals were provided by a C3X1080/ISCOIII combo using a 10.5ft Stewart masking screen.

    I don't have time to fully describe both units, so anyone unfamiliar with either should do some research. Suffice to say that the LX90 is certainly seen as a heavy weight in the receiver stakes, in terms of function and fidelity. I have no intention of comparing every function, or facility, but will concentrate on sound quality alone. This brevity may lead to the assumption that the tests were rather brief, that's not the case. The installer who provided the Susano is very familiar with the unit and the test would not have been possible without this familiarity. I consider myself familiar enough with the 600 to be able to handle any relevant points regarding that unit.

    In 2 channel listening there was very little to choose between the 2 units. The preference expression was pretty evenly distributed and probably reflected the similarity rather than the differences.The self generated noise floor of the AVR600 was lower than the Pioneer. This was only noticeable at SPLs vastly higher than either units own amplification could produce anyway, so its a not issue for for most. There was a slight anomaly with the 600 in that, at high gain, and in the absence of a signal, the noise floor would raise noticeably. The presence of even an inaudible source removes this, so it wasn't a real issue. Both units were fed CD and SACD and the results were crystal clear. Imaging was impeccable on both units. It was a revelation to see what great receivers are actually capable of when freed from the shackles of their amplification

    Moving to the smaller room saw both units used fully as receivers. Both units certainly performed well, and presented a fantastic soundstage with great detail. Localization was also great when called for. Both units were initially run with manual distance and levels set, neither had any correction applied at this stage. We followed the same sort of test protocol as the initial test routines. It emerged after looking at the results from 3 different listeners that on certain passages there was a definite preference. This was due to a slight increase in detail and voice ineligibility. Dynamics were also slightly better with faster transients. Parts of the beginning of Master and Commander are great for that as there is some very low level ambient detail and then the obvious sonic violence of the first exchange of fire. As an aside, I do have to say that the great bass performance delivered by the Gotham is exceptional. Similar response was returned when using SACD. An expression of preference was returned in close to 60 % of cases, 40% with no preference. Of those where a preference was indicated, just over 70% were in favor of the AVR600. Both machines then had their correction software run and engaged. As noted earlier, the room itself has had extensive treatment at the structural level and had the requisite absorption and bass trapping.This meant that the effect of the correction was less than would be seen in the average room. For that reason I cant comment on the performance of either. Both did add a touch of clarity and definition. On spec alone, it seems obvious that the Pioneer is the more sophisticated system. The results of preference expression was basically the same when tests were re run.

    At this point we were able to experience what could only be described as a truly incredible surround experience. One of my fellow testers is a mastering engineer and had brought some rather special BD software with him. Whether or not anyone likes Gregorian Chant is a matter of personal taste, but the long reverb tails can be a test for many systems. This particular BD (not yet released) was recorded in 7.1 with the monks actually arranged in a circle around the listener. Individual voices were easily located in a unison performance and solos were obviously very localized. The whole envelopment was utterly incredible. The real kicker came when the monks were singing and then began walking round the circle. I have NEVER heard anything like it. it was mind blowing. In this test the AVR600 was able to handle the low level ambient detail with greater clarity, the decision was unanimous on that point. Obviously that will have a carry on to normal movie viewing. This was apparent on a couple of street scenes in The Dark Knight, as mentioned in my earlier review. Low level ambience and subtle cues were more revealing.

    Further 2 channel testing was carried out at this point. Both units were solid performers, but the 600 again returned a statistically significant number of blind preferences. This was mainly reported as fine detail and vocal ineligibility. With some really dynamic classical pieces (1812 cannons etc) and some full on dance music, the 600 handled they heavy lifting with a little more poise than the Pioneer. Kraftwerk's Minimum/Maximum DVD provides a very stern test of bass handling in some parts, again listeners reported an elevated rate of preference for the 600 in this round 2 channel testing.

    The Bottom line here was that the AVR600 was able to edge out the Susano on some critical tests and easily hold its on in any tests where it wasn't ahead. I don't want to sound too gushing here, but the AVR600 is certainly looking like king of the hill for the current crop of receivers. As well as the friends who have helped me run these tests, there have been a few others who have participated in critical listening tests. All have had nothing but praise for the sound quality. One has actually dumped his Halcro for an AVR600 to use as a processor till the new AV888 arrives. I am in a similar position. The 600 was simply for an apartment, but it has now been pressed into duty in my games/media room. On release of the 888 I will be looking towards that unit to take over in the games room and another to quarterback the main HT with an active install. The 600 with then go to its intended work place, I will then not need to upgrade for some time.

    I hadn't intended to comment an the feature set of these machines, simply the sound quality, but I must make one exception here. Over the last few weeks I have grown to love Dolby Volume and what it does for the lower SPL experience with movies. I am fortunate enough to be able to listen at reference level in both rooms at any time and not disturb anyone in the house, but I don't always want to. The linearity of response that happens at higher volumes can be replicated fairly well with a carefully set Dolby Volume. Thats something I don't want to do without at any time in the future. Thankfully its rapidly becoming standard. I only include the above to explain the effectiveness of this new technology. Obviously the inclusion of this feature could have no possible effect on the statistical results posted above, so the integrity of the blind test results remains entirely intact. I hope i have provided sufficient clarification as to negate any possible accusation of bias. Perhaps, time permitting, I will start a new thread on this subject.

    Here are some other points on the 600 that are being looked at. If I get time I will add to it....


    1.Dolby Volume calibration offset needs to be retained in non volatile memory. Being looked into and should be fixed soon

    2.When using Sonos, use analog ins if you need to sync a number of zones. There is a 100ms delay on the digital side. Being looked into.

    3.Management of added URLs is being looked into, but Im not too hopeful on that one.

    Any sensible comments or questions are more than welcome.

    I hope this is helpful, and is in some way informative.
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    Last edited: Mar 20, 2009
  2. Starred

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    Superb review!
    Thanks
  3. Quintus

    Quintus Member

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    Great review Coldmachine. Thanks for taking the time. I guess my purchase choice has been well validated although my ears already validated the purchase especially after watching King Kong on BD last night!
  4. BOR15

    BOR15 Member

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    Another great review coldmachine. As Quintus said, thanks for taking the time.

    I was very happy that i got the 600. I am even happier now after reading this latest comparison and the chat with Andy regarding the technology inside the box.

    now all i need to do is get home early enough to tweak this thing.

    Boris
  5. Ssak

    Ssak Member

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    These tests require good speakers...

    Companies like Thiel, Revel, Focal, Dali, B&W, etc... are much better choice for a reviewer ...

    Gelenec maybe good but not that good for that kind of test.

    Try the test with proper speakers and the results will be different.. totally different ...
  6. Quintus

    Quintus Member

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    I think Coldmachine's very thorough review of the AVR600 v. the Pioneer LX90 should be duplicated in the Pioneer owner's forum.

    Let the games begin!:devil:
  7. crestron boy

    crestron boy Member

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    you do know the genelecs coldmachine has are studio grade monitors that are used in professional mastering studio's ie its what the sound engineers use when they are mastering the soundtrack with the director.

    great review coldmachine i've been thinking of partnering the 600 with some dynaudio's myself but probably the excite range rather than the confidence speakers you have.
  8. Mark.Yudkin

    Mark.Yudkin Active Member

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    Of course coldmachine's review is biased, we all know that all reviews are biased and since this is an Arcam forum, we know what to expect.

    Of course he tested with his choice of kit and of course his choice isn't the same as ours. For example I wouldn't be testing with Genelec, Thiel, Revel, Focal, Dali or B&W, as all are dynamic speakers. My kit list should make obvious what I'd be using.

    Whilst I might use Gregorian Chant and would quite probably use instrumental music on historic instruments and more recent atonal classical music, I would not even consider using rock music for testing anything. I'd also be using opera Bluray disks rather than action films (any receiver with adequate power can make a very big bang, and such bangs are indistinguishable). Any review I write would be quite biased, albeit in a different way - perhaps the main reason why I post "you should audition" rather than "you should buy" advice.

    Coldmachine posted a fair review that we can read, appreciate and consider. It doesn't alleviate us of the need for testing for ourselves, or of considering yet other options (Denon AVP-A1HD vs Arcam AV888 anyone?). It gives us a view, it can be interesting to read and informative; I gave him a "thank you" in appreciation. Yet we also disagree, sometimes quite heatedly, in other threads.

    I have owned / still own Pioneer and Arcam equipment over the past 35 years as well as Sansui, Technics, Denon, Panasonic, Philips, Loewe, KEF, Quad and Martin Logan and some smaller specialists. If Pioneer had a 42" Full HD Kuro Plasma screen, I'd be doing my best to convince SWMBO that we need it (the 50" is too large to get past her).
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2009
  9. coldmachine

    coldmachine Member

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    Mark, I'd firstly like to say that your thanks are greatly appreciated.

    Please let me clarify a couple of points here. The rest of you comments may have some merit, but I certainly do not agree with the above. Both of my testing schedules involved 3 listeners, and all were blind to the unit in use at any given time. That included myself. On both occasions one of the listeners was a mastering engineer. I explained the use of matrix switching in my first review. Results were written down and collated before anyone knew which was which. The statistical results were not subject to any bias, and are also immune from any hyperbole. Whilst the rest of both reviews can be totally ignored, the numbers stand on their own.

    I also explained that i did not have the time or inclination to detail every single test and source.The review would have ran into pages. Classical music, and spoken word saw a good deal of use. As a classical music fan you may be interested to know that, as mentioned on AVS, I was privileged enough to have 2 guys from Deutsche Grammophon spend a day with my system just after it had been installed, one was actually a Tonmeister. After watching, and listening to, my demos, they asked to listen to their own SACDs and other sources. The Tonmeister actually shook my hand and congratulated me on having such an incredible sounding system, that equaled any commercial mastering facility. That meant more to me than all the combined platitudes I ever received. My current install will certainly eclipse that in terms of both performance and scale. Also, your comment regarding action films is may be misleading to some people, though I know that wasnt your intent. Great transient handling is not something that's common to all speakers, so its NOT an issue of indistinguishable bangs. There are also many action films with a great deal of fine detail and general HQ sound. Master and Commander is a good example. Anyway, I digress.

    The fact that this is an Arcam forum means nothing to me whatsoever. If the Susano had been a better unit I would have reported that, and simply dumped the 600 for the Pioneer.

    Your comments regarding the need to audition are most certainly apt. The ultimate arbiter is the users eyes and ears.

    Thanks for your measured contribution. At least, unlike others, it has some substance to it, and experience behind it.

    If you need, or wish for, further information or clarification please feel free to PM me.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2009
  10. Starred

    Starred Member

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    Coldmachine, what type of speaker would be a better match for the AVR600?
    A bit warm, round sounding speakers (like Sonus Fabers Concerto's), or more bright and less revealing speakers (like the Kef XQ series)?
  11. coldmachine

    coldmachine Member

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    Im going to give you the worst answer possible.......I just don't know:eek:

    As Mark was explaining above, we all have preferences. Mine is for absolute accuracy, with no flattery whatsoever. That may sound obvious, and it would be what everyone would want. Its not. Some poeple simply prefer a warmer sound or a less analytical sound.. You will need to test for yourself. Any decent speaker should give a decent result, but it's that little extra, that is the domain of the individual, that elevates the experience beyond "decent".

    I had great results using the Dynaudio Confidence I mentioned earlier. Its also been paired with Wilson, Linn Klimax and some PMC actives with great success.

    Im sorry for such a lame assed answer.
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    Last edited: Mar 20, 2009
  12. Mark.Yudkin

    Mark.Yudkin Active Member

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    I think it's fair to state that a visitor to an Arcam forum expects an Arcam bias.

    We are all prone to be being biased, no matter how much we want to believe we are neutral. A while back I compared the AV9 with the Anthem Statement D2 here and attempted to give a frank statement of my bias by giving the reason:
    What I failed to mention (since this is an Arcam forum and I'd bought Arcam kit) is that some others present actually preferred the Anthem, although my wife was undecided (else I'd have followed her opinion). The power amplification in the "big A/V room" with the 5.1 Martin Logan electrostat surround system was the Anthem P5, and it was definitely better at handling the difficult load that ML's ESLs present than the Arcam P7. The Anthem amplificaton was designed for stable handling down to 0.5 Ohms. Since I wasn't replacing my Quads, and I did want a 7 channel power amplifier, I saw no need to buy Anthem amplification at that time.

    An example of your bias (since you're claiming neutrality): The Pioneer SC-LX90 is a 10 channel, THX Ultra 2 Plus certified receiver; the AVR600 has 7 channels and no THX, but includes Dolby Volume. You made no mention of having compared what the extra feature set on the Pioneer meant to the total HT experience, but singled out Dolby Volume for praise. Facit: we are all biased. That's OK, we expect it and know to expect it, so it doesn't bother us. Your review is not disqualified by these details.

    Your review was on the electronics - not the speakers - and so was my side-remark. Great transient handling in speakers is obviously important to me, as should be apparent from my kit list. I was merely pointing that any decent amplification produces exciting crashing and banging, and so I'd be looking elsewhere in a performance comparison. This was meant as an illustration of my bias, not as a critique.

    My post was actually an attempt to address Ssak, not to take issue with your review.
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  13. coldmachine

    coldmachine Member

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    I made it clear that I was interested in SQ not feature set. I mentioned dolby volume as it is a new technology and clearly explained I was making an exception in this case. This was simply as it is a new technology, and the vast majority have yet to hear it. I will now amend the review to better reflect that. Your claim we are all biased is utterly rejected. I made the test methodology clear. Testers were unaware of which unit was driving the speakers at any time. As stated earlier, the whole review narrative can be ignored, but the stats stand on their own.

    Thank you for not disqualifying my review, that comes as a great relief to me.:D

    Thanks for the clarification on your previous post. The issue had become somewhat confused with everyone throwing speaker names around.

    Hopefully we understand each other a little now, and can get the thread back OT.

    Thanks for the valued contribution.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2009
  14. Haroon Malik

    Haroon Malik Member

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    Great review CM! :smashin: You really do put in a lot of effort and go great lengths to test equipment and your reviews help a lot of people.

    Arcam is well known for their exceptional audio quality in their products. I would have preferred a more powerful amplifier section in the AVR600 to enable the handling of power hungry speakers without clipping. Pioneer has done a super job of introducing the Susano which is a really good receiver IMO. I believe on the audio side Arcam's expertise will definitely give the edge however as a whole package there is room for argument that Pioneer may not be a 10 in every area but it can be an 8 to form a better rounded receiver doing a bit of everything.


    CM,

    Did you bi-amp the fronts and provide them more power while using the 7.1 mode from the Susano or did you assign one amp per channel and use the 7 amps only?


    P.S. CM has the ability to be much more ruthless than he was in one of this responses! :devil: This was only the PG-13 mode. :rotfl:
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  15. coldmachine

    coldmachine Member

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    Wow, there's a familiar friend from distant shores:D You presence here only serves to make this a better place.Thanks for your kind words.

    H, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Susano is an incredible piece, and in many ways has serious advantages over the 600. Being a totally unbiased guy, i have to say that, for some people, depending on their install, it is simply a flat out better choice than the Arcam. In terms of receivers, we are certainly at the top of the food chain here , a long way above the competition. Both these units are more than capable of taking many pro/power combos and handing them their ass on a plate. You know how well the Halcro is regarded, the fact that one of those got dumped for a 600 is telling indeed. I too would have preferred more power, but cost was already straying outside normal receiver prices, and the traditional Arcam sector. I look forward to testing the 777/888 combo.

    We bi-amped the fronts on the Susano, and I'd recommend that to anyone who uses it. We actually did the same on the 600 for 2 channel testing on the Dynaudios.

    Regarding my posting style...as you know this level of restrained discourse is not really my natural habitat. Its difficult to adjust, but refreshing at the same time. I like the different vibe here, although it would be funny to see Peter unleashed here on occasion....or maybe not.:D

    Take care.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2009
  16. Dav1dF

    Dav1dF Active Member Assured Advertiser

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    Arcam should be applauded for what they've done for the money - I don't think there's any other AV amp out there to compare quality wise. Also, the Susano will shortly be twice the price of the Arcam.....
  17. Mark.Yudkin

    Mark.Yudkin Active Member

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    Over here: AVR600: CHF 5,990 / 6,200 (DAB+), Pioneer SC-LX90: CHF10,990. But I don't think price comparisons were the point of this thread, although it's obviously nice when the preferred solution is also the one with the lower price.
  18. Wag

    Wag Member

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    CM. I know you made it clear that your review concentrated on sound quality, but I was just wondering whether you can enlighten us on how well video is handled by the Susano compared to the AVR600. I'm not expecting a review, just your immediate impressions. Thanks.
  19. Haroon Malik

    Haroon Malik Member

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    It's a small world mate. :)

    Both the receivers are excellent in their own right. Arcam deserves special credit for keeping the price in check and offering a wonderful product.
    I am really looking forward to the 888 as well. It goes without saying that your review of that piece would be really appreciated. :thumbsup:


    I noticed the restraint in your posting style immediately. :rotfl: It's like a tiger in a cage wanting to let loose. Qualio's (Peter) arrival here will be a sight to behold! :cool:
  20. coldmachine

    coldmachine Member

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    I really wish I could give some real insight, but all we did was equalize the images. The following may also help explain why the testing took so long.

    Prior to viewing, both units were ran on their nominal null points on the video side. 2 memories were utilized on the projectors, including adjustments to brightness, contrast, color, gamma etc. This included a CMS adjustment (rec 709) of the primaries and secondaries using a PR-650. The images were adjusted till these metrics were close enough that switching between both would not reveal the source.

    When using the Genelecs we projected an 18ft 2.35 image and used an ISCOIII lens. In the smaller room with the Dynaudio, using a C3X1080/ISCOIII and Stewart VistaScope that unmasks to 10.5ft@ 2.35. The C3X1080 had an MC of around 0.25 pixel and zero at center. Very accurate and very analytical.

    At no time was there any unexpected stupidity coming from either unit. De-interlacing and scaling were fine. No banding or motion issues were added. As I said, this was an audio test but any glaring VP issues that were present would have easily been seen.

    Sorry I cant provide a specific answer. Hope this helps.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2009
  21. Timbo21

    Timbo21 Active Member

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    I think there's only so far you can go when you're putting everything in one box, and I reckon the AVR600 is right up there. Yes, it's wait for the AV888/P777 if you want more, and then of course you could think of going higher with firms like Bryston et al.
  22. Starred

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    CM, do you have any experience with the Z-models of Yamaha? I constantly read very good reviews about the Z7/11 (especially their surround qualities)and am wondering how these models would compare versus the AVR600
  23. Ssak

    Ssak Member

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    A very good review in Audio magazine for AVR600... 110 points for Arcam...

    But the SC-LX90 got 117 points 4 months ago by the same magazine...
  24. Haroon Malik

    Haroon Malik Member

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    I believe that CM and his knowledgeable well-founded posts based on pure facts are an asset to any forum because he willingly shares information for the benefit of others.

    CM clearly stated in his post that he would be focusing on the audio side of the brilliant Arcam piece. He also mentioned that the Pioneer was a brilliant unit. It's not like he is dissing one unit to show the superiority of another.

    Both units are very good. The review in fact helps people to determine which unit would suit their own HT based on the type of set-up and associated equipment they have.

    Don't hate, appreciate. :) Thanks CM. Please continue your reviews of the products you come across. I'm sure they will continue to benefit many. :smashin:

    By the way, I don't know if you advocate spending $30 K on a SSP but in a few weeks the Krell Evolution 707 will be getting its much awaited DTS-HD card which will make it a complete package. This one will go down as Krell's best SSP by far IMO. The price of admission is prohibitive for many but for sound quality it is worth checking out. It allows 8.4 channels with dual centre channels. It's like a big rig-wrecker of SSPs. :devil:
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  25. AVch

    AVch Member

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    Hi,
    my experience with the susano:

    I have a susano buyed: connect at home to the Pioneer LX91 GREAT bluray player, another Denon3800BD, the plasma KURO and my B&W serie 8 speakers:

    the Susano is returned the same day to the Dealer!!
    10 channel at 10watt!!! :thumbsdow:thumbsdow
    dynamic, full of rings, cleaning
    the sound has no sound, there is nothing positive in this machine!
    A Real disappointment.

    A unique solution: use Susanoo as bedroom stereo or attack/connect POWERAMPLI for the 5 / 7 channels -> only a PREAMPLI.

    I have the combo Classe SSP800&CA5200. This is the live:devil:
    greetings from Switzerland
    Omar
  26. WillyP

    WillyP Member

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    CM, a very good review. In the German magazine Heimkino there was a favourable review of the AVR600. It was considered as a reference. There was a minor issue because the measured S/N ratios weren't as good as with some other tested units, but the testers forgot to mention if the hiss was audible.

    You have guessed my question, of course: were there any (audible) differences in hiss levels between the Arcam and the Susano during the tests?

    Thanks,

    Willy
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2009
  27. coldmachine

    coldmachine Member

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    If you look back at my posts you will see that i mentioned a noise anomaly prior to any of this reporting. I'll run over it again.....

    At a certain gain level some apparent low level noise appears, it sounds similar to a noise gate opening. In the presence of any signal, even if totally inaudible, the hiss is totally absent. I also tested it with a digital stream with zero audio information, no hiss apparent. This was tested at a gain level that can deliver 140db SPL@ 2m. Arcam are aware of, and are actually looking into,this issue atm.

    Both units were silent in operation, but we never had time to do a full s/n breakdown. Sidetracking my installers for a task like that would just hinder my ongoing work.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2009
  28. coldmachine

    coldmachine Member

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    Thanks H.

    I absolutely do advocate throwing down for a unit like that....if it delivers the goods and the customer has the cheese. I will hopefully audition the Krell fairly soon. I have heard incredible reports. Ken Taraszka was raving about it. If I do I will post on the other place.

    The 600 will be moved to my apartment soon, this will then mean a possible 888 for the media room and I will audition the Krell at that point. I need to do some serious researching on the use of arrays as that's what I will require in the main HT. There are plenty of options, and my installer is more than familiar with this area, but I need to clue myself in. I will run the Krell on the Dynaudios and do a full surround audition (post correction) with the Genelecs.

    I must now chastise myself for an OT post.:)
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2009
  29. WillyP

    WillyP Member

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    CM, thanks for the answer. My loudspeakers have a high efficiency so they make even low levels of hiss audible but as long as I can't hear the noise I am not interested in S/N ratios.

    Regards,

    Willy
  30. AVch

    AVch Member

    Joined:
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    hi,

    Sorry but the Susano is for you a "gear" from €. 7000ca. ???

    Are you really happy with this product?

    I have tested this Susano for one day, in bi.ampli, with 2only2 5 channel but yeh don't know what do you have have as "reference" for a Sound quality but this Pionner is not at the level (in power and quality sound) from a reciever from this price!!

    Oke, a lot of possiblity to all the last codec, Ipod, great design, ethernet,...
    but DONT GIVE POWER, or better SOUND SENSATION!!!

    If your dealer say you: I sol the Susano NEW for €. 3500.- for me is not a good investiment!!!
    I like Pioneer very much: I have the BD LX91: THE bluray player forget denon, sony or other teh LX91 is the Nr. 1,
    the plasma are the BEST plasma never avialable, with the new oled, lcd-led, or ?? the KURO plasma is very amazing.

    I have a real disappointment for the Susano!!! I'm sorry is the reality.

    Please a feed back.

    Omar

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