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Advice - time to ditch the hifi?

drpatterson

Established Member
Hi

New to this forum but I'm looking for advice

I've currently got a very nice audiolab and musical fidelity 2-channel system, what passes for surround is provided by an aged Yamaha DSP_E800.

The thing is I'd really like to upgrade the surround system and keep very good stereo performance. Are there any receivers or amps I should be looking at? Or am I better trying to build up two systems (and risk alienating t'other half)?

Budget would be about £1500 if I just change the amps or about £3000 if I can find a disc player that will better my Audiolab CD/DAC.

Any advice would be appreciated. Somebody mentioned musical fidelity might be entering the surround world. Does anybody know more about this?
 

Knyght_byte

Distinguished Member
welcome to the forums, your wallet is now ours....lol

first off, Musical Fidelity on their own website say that a return to the surround world is on the books, however my man at my local 7oaks doesnt have any hard knowledge himself yet, and he is usually pretty tight with the manufacturers, so they definitely keeping it under wraps.....with such little info i'd be guessing not till a lot later in the year if it is this year....

if you are happy with the stereo performance of your hifi, then stick with it and build up a separate surround setup tbh......altho, if the missus is a troublemaker in the 'not MORE big boxes making sound???' arena then a simple solution is to buy an av amp with pre-outs, this way you can feed the front left and right pre-outs to a free pair of source inputs on the current stereo amp.....keep your current hifi speakers (if they do it for you) hooked up to the stereo amp, then just buy a centre speaker that matches their sound as closely as possible and a pair of rear speakers.........unless of course you have a matching centre already?.........if you list all your equipment it will help folks here offer advice :)

if you like your music and have considered dabbling in multi-channel discs (DVD-A/SACD) then its worth looking at Arcam surround amps (if you not gonna wait for MF to get back in), or if you would like lots of future proofing features and gadgetry, then any of the main Japanese giants are the best bet, ie Denon, Pioneer, etc......there are others of course, best thing is to set yourself a budget per item then find some models you think might be worth a shot, come back here and list them, people'll comment if any are truly crap or worthwhile, then go get demoing ;-)
 

drpatterson

Established Member
Thanks for the reply.

The solution I have at the moment is roughly what you've described:
Audiolab 8000CDM/DAX transport and DAC
Musical Fidelity XP-100 pre-amp
Musical Fidelity X-200 monoblocks
Monitor Audio Studio20
Yamaha DSP-E800 processor
KEF centre and rears

The audio side of it is very nice but surround is extremely disapppointing. The rears and centre dont' seem to have anyhting to match the fronts, either or terms of volume or resolution. The integration with the stereo side is not too good either, having to set the volume on the pre-amp to the same level each time is a hassle as the remote can't do preset volumes.

I guess my question is, is there anything out there that can give me a very good sound through 2 speakers and good sound through 5? Is AV amp with pre-out the way to go? Thats pretty much what I have at the moment but the DSP-e800 is extremely aged and probably wasn't in that great in its hey day.
 

Knyght_byte

Distinguished Member
well, you could get a receiver (tbh anything above £600 should suffice for movies, for multi-channel music then you do wanna spend a good bit more to be safe)......then swap the pre-amp you have now for the A5 preamp, this means you can still use the monoblocs if you like their sound....far as i remember the A5 pre-amp still has the HT input that nulls its volume control (in other words the A5 will just send the signal on as a fixed level to the power amps).......however the A5 pre-amp is the same cost as the A5 integrated....so its up to you....might be worth demoing your fronts on the A5 integrated to see if you prefer it to the monoblocs, if you do then buy the integrated and use the MF pre/monos you own to pay for it (or some of it anyhow..lol)....

or, keep your stereo hifi, buy a receiver and some good quality satellites and sub for surround sound......options abound and this way you dont have to worry about integration etc......for movies satellites are fine, some indeed sound fantastic.....

pop in to a local dealers and ask them to set you up a couple of sub/sat combos and see what you think......try a few different price levels too just to see if extra money will buy you even more happiness.....

:)
 

Falp

Established Member
You could try a good surround processor for surround and music or... a good AV Receiver as stated... Marantz, Arcam and Rotel offer very good sounding options.

See if you can arrange a demo of Anthony Gallo Micro Ti or A'diva Ti so if they match your front MAs you can use them as good and very discreet center and rears...

Os even the small MA Radius series...
 

tfboy

Prominent Member
Just to throw a spanner in the works...

I'll bear with those of you who cry blasphemy, but I'm in a similar position (although only have a AV amp which isn't good enough for my stereo liking) and I'm seriously considering the Sony 7100ES. Its musical abilities are apparently absolutely amazing in terms of clarity and soundstage. Plus it's a pretty decent AV performer too...

If you are prepared to buy into the whole Sony ideology, you could eventually get a CD player with i.link / firewire and let the digital amp do the DACing.

Radical, I know, but worth considering imho :)
 

Knyght_byte

Distinguished Member
if you buy a cheap CD player which is known to use a stable and well made transport yes.....let the amp do the DACing if it has better quality chips.......but tbh an AV amps chips are unlikely to be as good as a decent level CD player for CD DACing.....its possible the AV amp will do better than a DVD player for movie DAC.....but only if its a more expensive model......even then there is a good chance they will be similar quality anyhow.....

granted there are exceptions to the rule, quite happy to admit that.....the digital world moves forward, better chips are released every few months......however the same as any piece of kit, they still need to work in harmony with everything else in the chain....

owning reasonably high level kit in both fields, AV and stereo, i can say its really worth keeping the two separate if you can......more for the sake of the stereo sound obviously....

as fantastic as my speakers and amp are, they are still hindered by my £1,000 (rrp) 3910 DVD player being the source......to my mind it matches the £400ish Arcam CD73, which is no mean feat.......but for an £800 pair of speaker and £1,500 amp, i know that i can get even more enjoyment out of using a CD player around the £1,000-£1,500 arena...and i intend to get one eventually!..lol......just held back by fundage atm....

but tbh, i wouldnt go back to one mixed system again at all.....altho i watch a lot of films and love the kind of experience i get (WOTW the other night at pretty much reference level....omg.......talk about floating!)......i still listen to a lot of music, especially classical and jazz, and you just cant compromise with this kind of music.....not if you want to sit in your chair.....lean back, relax, and truly feel the instruments in your room, the composition of the music become you and merely smile in utter delight at every dip and crescendo.....

ok, i've had a little drink so im being a tad poetic here, but i hope you get my drift.....if the love of the music is first and foremost, even if you possibly spend more actual time with the movies, think long and hard before you decide what you spend your money on.....as i've said, i took an 8 hour session in the demo room deciding on my stereo amp.....and then borrowed the demo model for a whole weekend to make my mind up for certain....not because i was unsure, but because i wanted to hear it with everything i might listen to......

ok, ramble over...sorry..heh
 

drpatterson

Established Member
Thanks all for the advice. I'm most tempted at he moment to go the route that Knyght_byte suggests, look at getting a decent sub £1k receiver and use that for all surround duties.

Outboard processors don't seem to exist except at the very cheap and very expensive ends of the spectrum, and then more power amps mean more boxes to try and explain:thumbsdow I'm running out of answers to the question "Have you seen those really nice looking all-in-one stereos that you can get?"

I like the sound of my hi-fi at the moment and am not to happy with letting my lovely vinyl source into the same box all those nasty bits and bytes.

The A5 certainly looks like a good solution and smaller satellites would make the whole thing a little more partner friendly. Falp, I'll take a look at Anthony Gallo ones.

Thanks all for the advice, now I just have to choose a great big stack of test material and wander down to my local hi-fi store. I'm sure they'll be quite willing to help me spend :)
 

drpatterson

Established Member
BTW Knyght_byte, its good to hear somebody really enjoying their system :) Far too many of these online forums are full of people who've lost the point of WHY they're buying all this kit.

(sounds like the drink helped a little as well:))
 

Knyght_byte

Distinguished Member
hehe...cheers....the drink always helps loosen up the fingers on the keyboard..

i do love my system, i've spent a few years putting it together and im pretty much done now, just the CD player to go.....

but why i love my system is because i get lost in the music, i can do various things like relax in to a stupor, fall asleep, sit there wide eyed in fascination, track individual instruments through their journey, follow sounds around the room (even in stereo with some music!)........and it is all just so nice to do at the end of a long day......so it cost a bundle, i dont care it'll last a long time and provide more fun in its lifespan than anything else could for the cost :)

so i hope you do find the solution that makes you as happy, everyone should :)
 

Welwynnick

Distinguished Member
tfboy said:
If you are prepared to buy into the whole Sony ideology, you could eventually get a CD player with i.link / firewire and let the digital amp do the DACing.
I overlooked this thread, so want to catch up a bit.....

I-Link / firewire connections when used for audio only are usually the preserve of universal players; the only CD player I can think of with i-Link is the expensive Sony flagship SCD-XA9000ES. Around £2k, but up there with the best CD/SACD players made at any price.

The more usual do-everything choices are Pio 868 & 969, Denon 3910, Marantz 9600, Yamaha S2500 and Sony DVP-NS9100ES (which doesn't play DVD-A). My Pio 757, and the Denon A1 & A11 have i-Link, but no HDMI.

What is surprising about i-Link (and Denon Link 3 I hear) is that even with CD and DVD audio, the sound is significantly better than SPDIF or toslink alone. But surely, both are digital, I hear you say?

Well, just because it's digital doesn't mean it's perfect, and not all digital is the same. I-link is better than SPDIF because it has much higher bandwidth, and closed-loop adaptive rate control that minimises jitter, and seems to reduce the bit error rate. The audible improvement is significant and really worth having. Unless HDMI V1.2 & 1.3 can pull a rabbit out the bag, I don't think I would have another player without i-Link.

The really exciting thing about the Sony S-master pro (digital) amps for me is that they maintain digital operation throughout the whole chain. Far from having internal DACs, the whole point of them is that (apart from some analogue inputs & pre-outs) they do not have any analogue processing or amplification at all. With i-Link input, all audio is processed digitally, even down to the output transistors, which are either on or off. That's it - no analogue!

I'm not an analogue basher - far from it; I love vinyl, valves & CRTs - but if the source is digital, then why change it? I don't want to knock other people's equipment, but I used to use what was recently considered the best surround amp ever made, but my my DA9000ES makes it seem pointless listening to. Yes, it's big and ugly, but I love it.

Just my opinions, Nick
 

Knyght_byte

Distinguished Member
some very valid points there......the main one tho being you listen to what you like to listen to.......its best to investigate every avenue, whether its all digital, digital to analog, or even analogue to digital....then just buy what sounds best to your ears, not what the 'and now for the science' bit tells you you should be buying........colleague of mine is saying he needs to get a HD TV so he is ready.....said hes gonna buy one for £800....i said you do realise the picture may not be much good, he argued but its HD and when i get HD player or Sky it'll look fantastic......i said not necessarily, if it produces a crap picture then it'll still be crap, HD or SD source...lol......

when people start worrying too much about how it should all be connected up etc, then they are basically the same as people who like to overclock every last aspect of their PC....not to improve the actual gaming experience, but to get the best benchmark result.....heh..its a fun hobby, nothing wrong with it......but if the music is what you are after, then forget how its hooked up, just listen to it....if it makes you go goose bumpy on the crescendo's, or inspire an elevation of spirit during mellow passages then its worked, regardless of the domain it works within ;-)
 

Craig

Established Member
That's a lovely hi fi rig you have there, and it seems bloody daft to be chucking that away to integrate the AV side better

My suggestion would be two-fold, perhaps three

1 ) Dunno what your centre speaker is but get the matching, or similar MA centre
2 ) Get yourself a good spec Yamaha or Denon AV amp, and use this for the processing of signal and powering of centre (see below) and rear speakers.

As someone mentioned, you could change pre to a model with a fixed gain input, but what I do is set the AV sound levels with a meter with the integrated (pre out-ed from the AV amp) set at an easy to remember 12 oc lock on AUX - this way, whenever you go AV, switch to AV and 12 on the integrated volume, and the AV amp controls the overall sound level.

As I said, if you are happy with 2 channel, why change it??

3 ) Final move could be to run another MF monobloc on the pre outs from the AV amp to power the centre speaker: this will give you the best interation of the front three speakers. heresy round here, but unless you are into multichannel music I don't find the rears as important (assuming they are only for effects).

HTH, Craig
 

drpatterson

Established Member
Right, got all that advice, spent a lot of (work) time browsing internet and reckon I have a plan.

First step is a Denon 3910 or Pioneer 989 to replace the 6 year old sony dvd player that died on me a few weeks ago (partner can't stand the £20 argos temporary player so have been told to spend more :)) After that a new AV amp to replace the Yamaha processor, looking at the pioneer AX4i or denon 3806. Sound quality is important but not vital here, we're in AV territory so bells and whistles are what counts!

To begin with I'll go with what I currently do, put the volume up on the amp to the little magic marker mark that shows the level I calibrated with. Then look at shifting out either the pre or power amps for ones with HT inputs. The more I look at the a5cr range the more I like it. I really like the smooth yet weighty sound that comes from my MF kit but the noise floor on my current amps is quite high. Hopefully an a5cr pre would get rid of the very slight hum (inaudible at normal listening but I know its there...)

After that my dream list would be to shift the other part of the amp, replace my project TT with a gyrodec, move to the lovely sounding Chord CD player and then spend a lot of time and money getting and listening to more music. I have a little rule in my head that my hifi should never have cost more than the media I play on it. My last upgrade was 500 CDs and 60 LPs ago so I have some catching up to do.... :D

If anybody would be interested I'll post my thoughts as I go through this rather major system change.
 

fongster76

Standard Member
Hey dr patterson

interesting thread and i like what knyght byte has said, its all about what you like :)

if you are looking at the denon and pio universals, consider the arcam dv79 as well. i demoed the pio a couple of weeks ago and the pic is amazing, very detailed running 720p. then i went to a sevenoaks and checked out the dv79 again. the sound and picture are so amazing. The pic is not as engaging as the pio but its less tiring to watch and the sound is warmer and more rounded (to my ears) than the pio.

mind you i am running this through analogue connects into my mf a3 (old i know but still really nice sound) and i kid you not its a very viable option. the most amazing thing about the arcam is that it doesnt upscale and still looks as good as the pio, IMO :)

my 2c worth. happy shopping mate.
tone
 

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