2/3.1 amp/AVR for TV/movies questions & advice

Quizzical

Active Member
Hi, I’m after an amp/AVR (budget £500 or less) to replace an old Denon AVR-2312 for TV/movies. Video hardware is an Apple TV 4K and an Xbox One X connected to an LG OLED with audio fed to the AVR via ARC. The room is 4m wide and 7m long. The TV sits in the middle of the 4m wall and we sit 2m or so away.

F/L&R are Kef Q150 and sub is a BK Elec PR12-300SB-PR.

Some background (not sure if at all relevant/useful). My current Denon is 105w @ 2ch, 8 ohm, 20 Hz - 20 kHz. I play films no higher than 70 with the Denon set to display output on a 0-100 scale. 70 is pretty (almost too) loud in that room.

1. Benefit of centre
I’ve read a centre is really important in HT. But can be negated if the speakers aren’t too far apart. My TV is 65” and the L/R are either side just under 3 meters apart. Should I bother with a centre with that separation between L & R? Kind of answering my own question, but I’m very happy with the 2.1 setup. Also this is a dedicated room for TV with the seating position close to perfect as outlined here: Speaker Placement for Stereo Music Listening

My plan was to source an addition Q150 laid sideways for the centre. But I honestly don’t think I’ll get benefit to warrant the cost.

2. Audio formats
As mentioned I really like the sound I get from my 2.1 setup. However there are a plethora of sound formats from DTS, Dolby Digital etc. and in my current setup the amp displays various things on the screen depending on the source. Am I right assuming due to me having only a 2.1 setup the fancy encoding of the audio is kind of a moot point. My AVR will be sending everything to the fronts or sub accordingly as there are no surrounds or height speakers involved. Therefore can I choose a stereo amp over an AVR and not worry about the audio formats supported?

3. Cables
Everywhere I read that ARC/eARC is preferred over optical (format support and bandwidth reasons). But I’m guessing that again doesn’t matter in my use case as I’ve only got 2.1? So TV to amp via optical would be ok.

4. Subwoofer integration
I looked at a few stereo receivers/amps and it appears many don't filter LFE to the front speakers only to the sub.

e.g. the Marantz NR1200 (link to comment):
The subwoofer integration allows you to only filter output to the subwoofer and not the front speakers. Because of this, the full signal is sent to the front speakers. You are not getting the full benefit of having subwoofers TAKE OVER the low bass and more power is being unnecessarily sent to the front speakers.

or the Cambridge Audio AXR85/100 (link to FAQ):
When connecting a subwoofer to the dedicated Subwoofer Output on either the AXR85, AXR100 or AXR100D, the frequency of the connected speakers is not adjusted and they remain at full range.

Think the same applies to Audio Labs 6000a.

I noticed on my current setup when I set my front speakers to 'small' they have less low end and that helps the dialogue sound clearer (with the sub taking over those duties). It's a feature I'd want to keep. Even in the manual for the Denon DRA-800H I couldn't find a way to set the size of the fronts. Does this mean I'd be better off opting for an actual AVR? Something like an AVR-X1700H which allows setting the size of the fronts and crossovers properly.


To conclude
  • Assuming the answer to 1 is stick with a 2.1 setup and 2 is yes get a stereo amp. What would be good amp recommendations?
  • Alternatively if the answer to 4 is yes get an AVR would the AVR-1700H be sufficient?

Thanks in advance.
 
Last edited:

Quizzical

Active Member
I've been reading (a lot) and trying to learn - I think I've got what I need. To answer my initial questions:

  1. No centre, I'm happy as is.
  2. Yep, anything the amp can't process it doesn't get.
  3. HDMI ARC is a must as CEC is important to UX/WAF (turning all devices on/off, single remote for volume).
  4. Whatever I choose needs bass management/High Pass Filters.

So I started looking for a stereo amp. Choices like the Marantz NR1200, CA 6000a, many NADS all fall short - no bass management. Arcams, Anthems are too expensive (didn't even check the feature set).

Then I stumbled upon the Bluesound Powernode (2021). Checks all the feature boxes, but their main USP is streaming and their software looks great. But I have no need for it. At £829 I'd be better off just grabbing a new Denon AVR and save a few quid. Reading more I noticed there were a few other new style class D amps with the feature set I desired.

The Harmon Kardon Citation amp looks really good on paper (2x 125w output at 8 ohms) and a fair price £525. The things putting me off were the lack of user reviews and a lot overheating reports. Pass.

Next the Sonus amp. Same power as the Citation. But it's steep at £799. Pass.

In and amongst all the reading I saw that Powersound and NAD have the same parent company. The HybridDigital amps they use are, I assume, from NAD. The M10, M33 great but so expensive.

I stumbled upon the Nad D 3045. 2x60w. High pass filter. HDMI ARC + CEC. Interesting. At £599 it's steep. But an online retailer had an ex-demo unit for £399. I pulled the trigger.

Arrived today and set it up. It's fantastic. I was worried 60w may have been a little low. But it goes louder than I need it whilst remaining crystal clear (and haven't gotten close to it's limit). I've tried a bit of A/B testing and I think the sounds from my fronts is better (can hear more nuance), the bass from the sub is close, but not quite as good as I had it with the Denon - I'm sure some tweaking will iron that out.

The future... as I researched I stumbled into the Kef LS50W II, speakers which I've heard nothing but good things about and are way out of my price range. However I watched and read some reviews - I wasn't aware they had a sub out and HDMI eARC + CEC. At £2500 they blow the budget. But it got me thinking about what else was out there as not having to deal with an external amp box + the excellent default sound of some of the active speakers would be ideal. The LSX would suit but don't have HDMI (rumours/leaks of an LSX II but not sure if HDMI is confirmed). At ~£1000 w/ HDMI I'd certainly consider them. The others I saw were Klipsch's the fives. They tested well, the downside is they're not pretty IMO. Not a fan of the retro look unfortunately. When the time comes to upgrade I'll definitely check the active route. But for now I'm happy with the NAD D 3045.
 

Quizzical

Active Member
Final update for those that may stumble upon this.
the bass from the sub is close, but not quite as good as I had it with the Denon - I'm sure some tweaking will iron that out.
I obviously needed a stereo RCA cable not mono. That fixed it. Now the bass is indistinguishable between the Denon AVR and NAD amp. Happy.
 

password1

Suspended
If you're going for a 2.1 system, a good stereo amp with sub out and digital spdif input should be suitable, assuming your TV has digital out.
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
Not many stereo amps have bass management.one that does is outlaw. Possibly parasound I recall seeing one with that feature.

Not having Dsp and bass management could possibly mean you lose lfe audio information.
 

Quizzical

Active Member
If you're going for a 2.1 system, a good stereo amp with sub out and digital spdif input should be suitable, assuming your TV has digital out.

Yeah originally I thought I would go down that route. But HDMI is 100% a requirement for the 1 remote family friendly solution using CEC.

Not many stereo amps have bass management.

Absolutely. After searching a didn’t find a lot that has BM and HDMI. I don’t really know what constitutes ‘bass management’ (either low pass or high pass filters, both?), all I wanted was a high pass filter to take the lower stuff from the mains (I feel that the balance of sound and dialogue clarity is better when I enable a HPF).

Under £1000:
  • NAD D 3045
  • Sonos amp
  • Harman Kardon Citation amp
  • Bluesound Powernode

Over £1000:
  • NAD C 700
  • NAD C 399
  • NAD M10
  • NAD M33
  • Cambridge Audio Evo
  • Naim Unity Atom

I’m sure there are others.

I’m not an expert at this stuff (previous posts back that up!). But I know what I like the sound of. My old Denon AVR-2312 was good to my ears. But I used a fraction of its features, it was big, a little unsightly and ran warm. The NAD D 3045 sounded identical when I A/B tested. It’s cheap, cooler and smaller. No fancy measurements to back that up. But in my 3 test scenes:
  • Opening minute of Edge of Tomorrow (really deep bass tones when the Village Pictures logo appears)
  • Car race scene about 11 mins in to Ready Player One (car engines, tyres screeching, lots of cars crashing, train crash, T-Rex, King Kong)
  • The big bomb going off in Ready Player One at about 1h 49m (sustained bass note from the explosion for about 15 seconds)
The NAD, subjectively, delivered all the above really well.

At a technical level I have no idea if I’m losing the LFE channel using the NAD or it’s being down mixed or whatever - but I couldn’t tell an audible difference.

One final and probably the best test is subtle. At about 57 mins into WALL-E he gets fired into space from the main ship in a capsule. There’s a tiny pop of deep bass. I can feel a gentle rumble too. It’s a smile on your face moment when a sound system just enhances/compliments the visuals perfectly. The new amp delivered this with aplomb.
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
That's why the outlaw was useful, I was also running big speakers in small room for hifi, so was boomy..outlaw ICBM solved to that and helped sub integration. Even the standmounts were too bassy also
 

Ataripower

Well-known Member
I would add the Cyrus One Cast to your list. Hugely discounted at the moment, I've just slotted it into a 2.1 system and the performance is superb, paired with Focal Aria 906's
 
D

Deleted member 901590

Guest
In my opinion, you describe your MLP as about 2m away from the TV and your L and R to be about 3m apart. That makes the triangle wider than the distance you are away and, in that case, I would suggest using a centre speaker. With the triangle that shape, not much offset from centre will mean you'll majority hear the speaker that you're closer to rather than speech being "locked" to the screen.
 

Quizzical

Active Member
So a bit of a plot twist, the NAD developed a fault. Gutted as I really liked the unit. So back to the drawing board. Leaning towards the Sonos.

I would add the Cyrus One Cast to your list. Hugely discounted at the moment, I've just slotted it into a 2.1 system and the performance is superb, paired with Focal Aria 906's
I did have it shortlisted, great reviews. But, no bass management as far as I can tell (sometimes the specs aren't clear so I could be wrong). If it does it'd be top of my list.

In my opinion, you describe your MLP as about 2m away from the TV and your L and R to be about 3m apart. That makes the triangle wider than the distance you are away and, in that case, I would suggest using a centre speaker. With the triangle that shape, not much offset from centre will mean you'll majority hear the speaker that you're closer to rather than speech being "locked" to the screen.
Sorry that's just my shoddy estimation. The MLP and L/R form a pretty neat equilateral triangle. Dialogue feels central.

I went to watch The Batman at a Dolby Cinema screen last week (mini-review here in The Batman thread). It cemented my choice of sticking to a 2.1 setup. A few days later I watched No Time To Die at home and I didn't miss the superb Atmos sound from the cinema. Better than my setup - yes, but something I'd strive for at home - nope. The cost to benefit isn't worth it to me.
 
D

Deleted member 901590

Guest
The cost to benefit isn't worth it to me.

Completely understand your position on this. Something I said here may interest you:


For me, 5 floor channel speakers is that compromise. But, don't get me wrong, due to a big move around of our room last year we were using 2.1 for a couple of months and were very happy with it.

Yes, if I had a bigger room and wasn't trying to also make it a lounge, then we could have more speakers but (as said in the link) I'd be quite adamant that they were meeting the SQ level of the others. Even at the moment, I'm looking at a new experiment (see below) that I'm thinking may be nice to use with just two channel TV:


AVF can sometimes feel like you're being a bit pressured to have more channels and more speakers. Like a competition, "I've got 9.4.8 now, it's amazing." Of course, I'm not saying everyone with multiple channels is like that, the priority here has to be all helping each other to achieve as close as possible to a sound nirvana within the limitations of their budget, their rooms and "the views of the other people that they live with" 🤣
 

Quizzical

Active Member
Something I said here may interest you:

Thanks, interesting stuff.

For me, 5 floor channel speakers is that compromise. But, don't get me wrong, due to a big move around of our room last year we were using 2.1 for a couple of months and were very happy with it.

Yes, if I had a bigger room and wasn't trying to also make it a lounge, then we could have more speakers but (as said in the link) I'd be quite adamant that they were meeting the SQ level of the others. Even at the moment, I'm looking at a new experiment (see below) that I'm thinking may be nice to use with just two channel TV:

Yeah I've been planning this upgrade for a long time. And I was almost certain it would be at least 5.1. We used just 2.0 for a long time, then added a the sub which was a big improvement.

I'm in the process of re-doing the loft and it'll be a man cave/cinema type room. So I have the space and a fair budget (Atmos was ruled out due to the sloped low ceilings). But I'm not going to splurge if it's not adding enough value. I'd rather divert funds to content.

AVF can sometimes feel like you're being a bit pressured to have more channels and more speakers. Like a competition, "I've got 9.4.8 now, it's amazing." Of course, I'm not saying everyone with multiple channels is like that, the priority here has to be all helping each other to achieve as close as possible to a sound nirvana within the limitations of their budget, their rooms and "the views of the other people that they live with" 🤣
Absolutely. I'm no audiophile. I don't do the REW graphs and other measurements. I just like good sound. I know people who love their soundbars, that won't believe me when I tell them they sound meh.

Likewise I'm sure there are people who would hear my 2.1 and roll their eyes at my love for it.

When I got the Kef Q150 it took a few different songs, movie scenes and A/B testing for my wife to appreciate the difference compared to my old Kef Q1. She instantly said the old pair had more bass (which I assured her wouldn't matter when the sub was hooked back up). And I could see she was wondering why I was excited/had spent this money when to her they sounded so similar. But after a while she could identify shortcomings on the Q1 - the muddier/flabbier mids and the brighter highs (on a high volume test 'the old ones hurt my ears' she noted). As well as pointing out better clarity on the Q150 (spotting sounds were poorly reproduced on the old pair).

Had it not been for that trip to the cinema the other week, which was very impressive audio wise, I probably wouldn't have appreciated just how good and how far my 2.1 gets me. And I likely would';ve ended up with 5.1 in the man cave, spending ~£1000 on surrounds and a centre which I can safely say I don't miss having.
 

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