Arcam AVP700 vs Yamaha RX-V1400 I currently use the Yamaha for my 5.1 SACD playback and HT Movie duties. I pre-out all channels from the Yamaha to dedicated amps for surrounds and center channel, and back to the HT pass-through on my ARC Pre amp to the main speakers. Why the change, and the players involved: While the Yamaha has performed flawlessly over the past couple of years, I have wondered what a dedicated processor would sound like in place of the Yamaha. I considered the following processors: Arcam, Aragon, Meridian, Lexicon, Cary, & Krell to name a few. They are priced from around $2k used up over $10k new, depending on the manufacturer and model. Current budget restraints from money-sucking college bound children limit me to the $2k-$3k range hopefully closer to the lower end. Main goals for a new processor: The main goals for a processor replacement is improved Multi-Channel SACD playback, but I also need HT Movie ability (DTS, Dolby) for family movie night. With used equipment, all the companies mentioned can fit the bill for price, but the Meridian did not have the 5.1 analog-in that I needed, as I do not run a Meridian player for the proper connection. So unfortunately I had to rule out the Meridian units. The Aragon Stage One was in the price range, but they use a DB25 RCA connector for their MCH out, and I am a big cable person, and did not like the idea of this connector for my MCH output. So this was struck from my list. The Lexicon processors are nice, but trying to find a MC-8 is very hard, and the MC-12 is just overkill for what I would like to have. So for now, I have struck the Lexicon from my list unless something pops up all of a sudden. The items left were the Cary, Krell, and Arcam. I had a chance to listen to both the Krell Soundstage and the HTS, and the HTS was better sounding. And it should as the Soundstage is just a whittled down version of the HTS for those that cannot afford the HTS. While Krell certainly makes some very nice equipment, I was not sure if I could afford the better HTS 7.1 unit instead of the Soundstage. Getting to hear the Cary (Cinema 11) was difficult as I could not find anyone within a few hours driving distance to listen to it. Locally there were two Arcam dealers so I started there looking for the AVP700. As you may have already read, one dealer refused to loan me a unit to try at home, so STRIKE THREE they were out, and the other dealer was visited making arrangements for the audition. Testing: This past weekend, I just finished up comparing the AVP700 vs. the Yamaha RX-V1400 for MCH SACD music, which is basically pass-through, and also with movies and Concert DVDs. All tests were done making sure all speaker settings and levels were matched between the two units. Volume levels of materials listened to were also level matched as close as possible along with no EQ-ing of speakers with the Yamaha or Bass/Treble settings on the Arcam. I first did some extensive listening to the Yamaha with SACD, Movies, and Concert videos, taking notes along to way to use as a reference point when swapping over to the Arcam. I then switched over all the connections to the Arcam and went through the entire setup for level matching. During this time, cable management was also tackled to take care of the cable mess that had accumulated over time. All of this took almost 45 minutes to accomplish, greatly hindering accurate comparisons between what I just heard from the Yamaha to what I would hear from the Arcam. When I first played the Arcam, music sounded good, movies sounded good, and so did the concert videos. But was it THAT MUCH better than the Yamaha??? In other words was it $2k+ better??? Hard to say, so I just sat there and listened to the Arcam for the rest of the night and most of the next day. On the next day, I got a game plan together for moving the connections from the Arcam to the Yamaha as quickly as possible, but without putting any components at risk. This time, I was able to do the swap in less than 5 minutes. Still, not optimum for comparison testing, but it was much better than 45 minutes. Conclusion: The Yamaha: What I will describe is not what I had thought I had heard with the Yamaha. Over time, I had become accustomed to its sound, and never had anything else to compare it to. I was quite surprised at the results. The Yamaha was bright (too much or accentuated high end) and edgy sounding in the high end - the sound was anything but smooth. I never realized it was affecting the music like this, as I had become accustomed to the sound signature over time. I also never had listened to the MCH Classical selection in Stereo, so there was no comparison ever made there either. For the bass, while there, it was almost laid back from the rest of the music. Could this have been due to the high end over-powering the rest of the music, or was the low end lacking detail or authority? Again, I cannot stress the surprise I had when I went back from the Arcam to the Yamaha and the sound I was hearing. I guess it goes to show you that over time ones ears get burned-in and used to a certain sound. I am glad I have finally done a comparison to see what I was really missing by using this main stream receiver. It was now time to swap back from the Yamaha to the Arcam processor so again, I went through the 5 minute dance of getting things hooked up. The Arcam: In comparison, the Arcam produced a high end that initially "appears" to be laid back compared to the Yamaha. But after listening to the Arcam then switching back to the Yamaha and then back, the Arcam was producing the high end more accurately and not accentuating it. Next, the detail between instruments was better with the Arcam enabling me to hear things in the music that I had not heard before. Lastly, the bass of the Arcam with MCH SACD well defined but never overpowering the rest of the music. The overall balance with the Arcam was superior to the Yamaha. NOTE: I checked the firmware on the Arcam and found it was at 3.20, with the latest firmware at 3.44. I will inform the dealer about the lower code in the unit when I return it. To see how much the Arcam may be affecting the sound, I also did a comparison of my 2 channel playback (ARC/Plinius/ML), compared to the 2 channels on the Arcam and Yamaha pass-through, back to the ARC HT pass-through and then to the main system. I found that the sound from the Arcam was far superior when doing the same test through the Yamaha. The Yamaha time and time again in all my testing did not sound as good as the Arcam. While the straight 2 channel playback was superior to both units, the Arcam proved to be a valiant competitor. HT Movies: We have been using the Yamaha for movie playback both for DTS and Dolby movies along with a few concert videos. Let me state that video is not a big thing with me. If I put in a DVD and it plays and I can see the video, I am happy. I have seen both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD and while the picture is a great improvement, I am going to wait out the wars for now. Within the past year we have purchased a new TV, a Sony 34XBR960 HD Widescreen SFP set. It had the best picture of all the tube TVs out there, and fit the budget very well. For video I use an Oppo player, and for now I use component video (RGB) connections to the TV, as my HD Fios uses the current HDMI input on my TV. (A HDMI switch or a processor with HDMI is in the future to be able to use the HDMI on the Oppo) As before, we did not realize what we had been missing with the Yamaha for movies. When I switched over to the Arcam, both the DTS and Dolby playback was a great improvement over the Yamaha. As we sat there and watch some of the same chapters, we started to hear things in the surround sound track of the movie which we did not hear before. It was: did you just hear that, or what was that? The Arcam gave us more of the surround experience over the Yamaha. For video playback, the picture improved on the Arcam over the Yamaha. Everything just seemed to be clearer and more defined. Not being a big video nut, I was surprised at the change I saw with the Arcam. This was a part of the processor which I was not concerned about, but was pleasantly surprised to get. What did I find out about MCH pass-through: In the end a main stream receiver will affect the sound quality of the music either when using its amplification, or just in pass-through. I was doubtful of the affect on pass-through myself, as no one else had ever posted doing a test like this. So when I did my evaluation this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised at the improvement in sound quality obtained with the Arcam and amazed at the affect the Yamaha had on the sound. I need to return the Arcam back to the dealer, and decide on purchasing it, or possibly looking at another company. For now, I highly recommend auditioning the Arcam AVP700 for those looking for a dedicated process (no amplification) in the lower price range of the available processors out there. If music is your number one priority, then the Arcam should be on your list of items to review.