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Arcam + B&O = Mistake - Looking to Rectify - Help Needed

Robtrader

Standard Member
Hi All,

Im hoping you guys in the know may be able to help me through a problem I have..

A while ago, under in my opinion bad advice from a high street top end shop, I constructed a system for both 5.1 Home Cinema and Quality Audio, as well as asthetic qualities.

The system I have is as follows - Arcam DV137 DVD/CD, Arcam AVP700 Preamp Processor. Front Speakers are Bang And Olufsen Beolab 6000, Centre is 2 x Beolab 4000 Rears are 2 x Beolab 4000 - with a B+W PV1 as the Sub. OK, Ok, I know I made a mistake on the B+O...

Anyhow - in the world of DVD's the system was great for movies, however - I have now moved onto Blue ray, through my Playstation. For music the system has always sounded wrong, the Sub way too powerful for the Beolab 6000's. Recently I purchased a Little Dot MkIv SE Headphone amplifier, and a set of Denon AHD5000 Headphones - played through my Arcam CD player I became in instant Audiophile - and have been on a quest ever since to get my speaker system up to a similar sound standard.

So, I want to upgrade the system and hopefully make the best out of a bad job, keeping the Arcam Preamp for use Home Surround through the Playstation, and also getting myself a kick-ass sound on the Audio by replacing the B+O 6000's for some decent floor speakers. (probably putting the 6000's to rear, and making a 7.1 system)

The problem is, there do not seem to be many choices as far as Active speakers are concerned. My price range is pretty flexible, well, up to 3000 for the speakers, but will consider more if its worth it. So my thoughts are this - Do I:

1) Find a decent set of Actives and plug them straight it.

2) Work on getting some Passives, perhaps running them separatley through a separate amp from the CD player - but would I lose the b+w sub this way? This would also be a pain for the surround, as the passives would not run on the same system as the rest of the speakers.

3) Making a radical, costly change to the whole system.

I would really appreciate some thoughts and advice from you guys in the know. Music wise, I listen to many types - Rock, Electronic, pop, dance, classical, ambient, and my room is fairly modest sized. I dont have to worry about any neighbours as next house is 50M away, which as Im sure you will agree, is fortuanate and needs to be taken advantage of.

Many thanks in advance.

Rob
 

rednotdead

Active Member
£3k is a hefty budget. I'd go and talk to a 'proper' hifi dealer and have some demo's. You might find that the matching Arcam power amp and some well selected speakers will give you what you are looking for.

It's been a while since I've heard Arcam gear, it used to be pretty warm sounding and needed careful matching with speakers. Don't know if that has changed but a good dealer will be able to advise.

As you've found out, B&O looks good but hi-fi it aint.....
 

Mr Pig

Novice Member
You have a huge problem. Very few stereo systems will match the sort of resolution and coherence headphones deliver with ease. Virtually no surround sound systems will.

A pair of headphones puts the music right into your ears. There are no room reflections, booms, speaker box colourations or countless other aberrations to get between you and the music. A well sorted stereo system can get close to the same level of detail, just, and can add some useful ambient noise to give a more open, realistic sound but it's not cheap or easy to do. It takes care, time and usually deep pockets unless you buy used kit.

With a surround system the difficulty in getting the sound to be musically coherent and involving is multiplied to a degree which renders the challenge almost impossible! A bleak view? Mmmm. Multiple channels of amplification and speakers puts the cost of quality kit through the roof and that's before you consider the inherent compromises involved in surround sound.

Imagine playing the same sound through each of the surround speakers in turn. Due to the physical differences between the speakers and the fact that they are all in different positions in the room they will all play that one sound differently. When you play music all of these different speakers overlap and you can hear the joins. At worst you'll get very obvious sonic mismatches, like you have with your sub, but at best you'll have a blurring and colouring of everything. It's not a patch on good stereo speakers let alone headphones.

Sorry to be so blunt but that's what I think and I don't want you to think you can tickle your system a little bit and it will sound great. It's not going to happen. If you love music and want it to sound right I wouldn't have bought anything you've bought. You'll need to decide what matters to you most and what you're prepared to compromise on because you can't have it all.

Cheery old Pig eh? ;0)
 

Robtrader

Standard Member
Hi,

Thanks for both of your information -

rednotdead - thanks comments noted. I live in Croatia now, so getting decent high street advice is not easy.....

Cheery Pig, I totally agree with what you are saying -

To be honest, Surround sound is secondary to my needs, Im prepared to change everything for the music audio set up. That said, given your comments, do you think I can get away with putting a pair of active floorspeakers to go with the b+W and my current system, playing music through those only - or am I talking overhaul?

OK, agreed, the headphone experience will be hard to match, but against the B+O tinny experience I have had so far, with my speaker budget, can I get anywhere near a decent audio sound?

If not, then I am totally prepared to sell the lot and start again, but I dont want to do it without a fight.

Thanks for your help so far guys.

Rob
 

Mr_Sukebe

Member
Based upon your comments. Your source and pre-amp are good kit to work with. I'd be inclined to suggest that you you look at s/h active speakers from both ATC and Meridian. Both are good, though whether they'll suit your personal requirements is another matter. Find a friendly dealer and go have a listen.
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
Sorry to hear about your high street woes. It really annoys me when I hear these types of stories. At least you're man enough to admit where you went wrong. Respect! Now what to do, here's my suggestion:

What you have at present is a lifestyle package, if you're serious about sound you have to get serious about speakers and their size, these puny imposters won't do, get rid of the PV1 and Beolabs. Lucky for you they hold their value well in the second hand market. Reason is they are both heavily compromised. The speakers are tiny and will give a similar type of sound, the sub (ahem!) is tiny and will only compensate partially what the speakers can't do themselves. If you buy a decent pair of floor standing speakers, you won't need the PV1. If you still crave bass you can buy a 'real' sub, not a little boom box but a proper subwoofer. If you are serious about movies/multi channel content you'll need one of those anyway. Avoid the 7.1 trap, for many 5.1 is more than adequate, in fact for some the extra surround speakers ruin the surround effect rather than adding to it. Keep the Arcam DVD, at least it has decent DACs and you can spin CDs on it. The resale value isn't great. Keep the processor as again, it will do a great job with both Blu-rays and DVDs. So in order of priority:

1: Concentrate on getting your stereo up to standard. This means either high quality active speakers or passive speakers with a couple of mono blocks. In either case go for floor standing speakers. Don't let anything like whether they come with a matching centre speaker or if they are active (amplified!) influence your decision. It doesn't matter. Make sure you take your time and listen to as many different speaker/amp combos as possible. It's your money and if they want it, they must work for it this time! Let 'em know!!

2: Add a substantial subwoofer. I can't stress enough the significance of one of these with movies. There is a great section on subs in this very forum where you can arm yourself with everything you need to know on the art of subwoofery.

3: Upgrade the Centre.

4: Upgrade the Surrounds.

3 and 4 above are not critical at this point in time.
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
2) Work on getting some Passives, perhaps running them separatley through a separate amp from the CD player - but would I lose the b+w sub this way? This would also be a pain for the surround, as the passives would not run on the same system as the rest of the speakers.

Rob

BTW, I'm a bit confused by this statement, could you please expand?
 

ozzzy189

Distinguished Member
If your passion is two channel, then I'd sell it all and start again, and buy second hand. You have 3k already, so you should be able to get a good budget together. Second hand linn or naim is where i'd be heading. Look on the linn forum and ask for system suggestions, there's some very helpful people.
Naim is a very different sound, i prefer linn, but I can see (hear), why people like it, try the same thing on the naim forum.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
I reckon your best bet is to see if you can find a second-hand matching Arcam P1000, then get passive speakers with whatever cash is left over.
 

Mr Pig

Novice Member
I don't know much about active speakers. They are fairly thin on the ground. In domestic settings few people use them, they're not very flexible and have practical limitations. Going for a passive setup will give you massively more choice.

I would start by replacing the amps and speakers with high-quality stereo ones. Hi-Fi quality has not really improved much over the last thirty years so there is tons of good quality used kit out there. If you go that route you should be able to sell what you have and buy something miles better without having to spend any money.
 

alexs2

Well-known Member
If you wanted actives,I would suggest looking at Mackie,and Meridian,and the latter are much more of a hifi speaker.

The Meridian M33 is a good solution,but not a cheap one,as it will take an analogue input from a preamp,which the digital only models will obviously not.
The much older M3 can be had at bargain prices,but amplifier repairs should they be necessary do have to be factored in.
 

John Martin

Active Member
Seems to me that you're getting lots of conflicting advice. To me what you seem to need is to get rid of the current speakers, get a decent multichannel power amp, and a nice 5.1 speaker package. Then, if you still want hi-quality stereo, get a stereo amp with a unity gain input.

Various options, and normally I would suggest going to a good dealer and listening for yourself, but I note you are not in the UK and I have no knowledge of your local dealers. Perhaps you are contemplating buying second hand from abroad?

As you may notice from my signature, I am an unashamed Naim man, but would suggest that you may find a new Arcam multichannel power amp a little over budget. Just remember that you could just get 3 stereo power amps (or 5 mono power amps), or even something like a stereo power amp for front channels only, and a 3 channel power amp (Naim 175 is one option) for the centre and rears.

Speaker package is very much a matter of personal choice, but whatever you get, just remember that for stereo music you would be using the front L/R speakers (+/- a subwoofer), so try to choose a package with speakers known to give good stereo quality.

Another option would be to sell your AV preamp and speakers, replacing them with a good quality stereo amp (with unity gain input), and getting a midrange AV receiver to integrate with it for AV purposes. Again, you would need to purchase a 5.1 speaker package to your own personal tastes. I recommend a look at my faq for how to hook it all up :

http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-setup-help/1404120-faq-integration-av-stereo-system.html

Alternatively, just forget about AV, sell the speakers, Arcam AV amp, buy yourself a decent stereo amp and pair of speakers.

Good luck! :)
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Well, this bring up a subject that has been debated to know end - Stereo vs Surround Sound, and before we go any further, I fall in the Stereo camp. At stereo can still be very powerful for video watching.

You need to take a long serious look at your priorities. What is it you really want?

Next, given no mention of power amps, can we assume all your speakers have built-in amps?

Given that you have a AV Surround Pre-amp, I think a minimum, a stereo amp to drive the front speakers would be a worthy consideration. Though, as an absolute given, you would need new front speakers as well.

If you insist on Active Speakers, indeed the Mackie or Genelec stereo speakers, as opposed to Mackie PA speakers, are really stunning.

There is a long discussion going on on Mackie and Genelec HiFi Active speakers -

http://www.avforums.com/forums/speakers/1294055-opinions-genelec.html

You might find this discussion helpful.

Given the quality of equipment you have, and your current budget. It is difficult to know what the best approach is. Since I assume you rear surround speakers are also active, you could concentrate on the front.

However, the leaves the complication of the center speaker and an amp to drive it. Generally we want the Front and Center to be brand and series matched.

Once solution is to get a three channel amp (Left/Center/Right), not real common, but they can be found. That would allow you to have all passive speakers in front. The rear can stay the current active speakers. It is not as critical to match the rear to the front.

Another alternative is to get a five channel AV power amp, and simply not use the rear channels until you decide to replace the rear speakers.

A third alternative is to get a stereo amp to drive your new front speakers, and a mono amp to drive the new Center speaker.

But, buying amps like this tends to get expensive, and this is complicated by us not knowing what is available in Croatia and not knowing what it costs.

If you switch the Acram pre-amp to Pure/Direct 2.0 or 2.1 mode, you minimize the amount of processing that takes place, and this can improve the quality of music. Something to keep in mind.

You can get multi-channel power amps for Marantz, Arcam, Rotel, and others, but they are not going to be cheap. The Arcam is priced at just under £4000 (7 channel), the Rotels are £1650 (5x250w) and £850 (5x100w), and the Marantz would range from £750 to £1200 for 5 channel, and up to +£1500 for an 8 channel.

If you insist on active speakers, the Genelec and Mackie HiFi speakers would be worth considering.

To some extend it depends on your goals, preferences, and limitations. The speakers you have now are very slim tall speakers. Are you set on new speakers in the same style, or are more conventional bookshelf or floorstanding possible?

Bang and Olufsen BeoLab 6000

Arcam AVP700

This is very complex, I would be inclined to say "start over", but you have a lot of money invest in unique speakers that I suspect would have a limited appeal when it comes to resale.

If it was me, and I was in the same situation, I would go with separate stereo amps and new passive front speakers, substantial front speakers, preferably floorstanding, then expand the system over time. This give you the greatest flexibility and wides range of choices, and has the best resale value. Gradually over time, you can replace everything with separate amps and passive speakers.

Or, proceed as per your original plan with Active Speaker, but once again, get substantial quality front speakers. "Style" speaker have a lot of 'style', but they tend not to deliver much sound quality especially for music.

The one complication is the need to reasonably match the front left/right with the Center channel, and that gets a little complicated and expensive with separate amps. But, I think it is the path I would choose.

However, if you get good substantial active speakers, assuming they are available to you, this is also a valid and workable path, and should produce good results.

If find it no surprise that the tall thin B&O are limited for music playback. In general, you can assume the size of the speaker is related to the size of the sound.

You are in a difficult situation, but I think you can salvage it to your satisfaction if you take you time and don't impulsively jump into anything. Read the thread I linked to above, and you will see the Genelec and Mackie are highly regarded in active speakers.

Good luck.

Steve/bluewizard
 

Robtrader

Standard Member
Hi all,

Thanks for your time and advice in the above messages - it is very much appreciated. Its a little clearer now as to which way I should go - rather than go for an overhaul, Im going to spend some time looking into the following:

1) Possibly adding an amp to the system, so I can run passive speakers on the system. I did not really consider that as an option, as I was worried about adding a separate amp to the system, therefore causing inconsistency with the other speakers - but as my main concern is running stereo music, not surround, then this should not be a problem (Mi55ion, that is what I meant in that paragraph) I can get a used Arcam P1000 for around 700 pounds which matches my current gear. Then, I can start by replacing the Stereo speakers with something professional - not style based, and possible the centre, moving onto the Sub and finally getting rid of the B+O should I feel the need. Also Mi55ion, regarding the PV1 - I thought this was fairly substantial for music, and for movies, its not a small unit, and is around 140W. Although I live abroad, I visit the UK frequently, hence can use the time to visit some hi-fi dealers and make sure I get what I want before importing it over here (take my time this time...). Hi-fi gear in Croatia is very very expensive.

2) Other option is head for some major Active Speakers - thanks for advice here also people - Ive been browsing Meridian, ATC, Mackie, Genelec. The latter two seem a little ugly for my lounge, but have not finished looking at the range. Again, Ill take my time with the dealers over this....

So thats my plan so far - but whilst Im at it - Im going to demand some time listening to Naim, as it seems like a recurring theme in the forums - you never know, I might just change my whole mind and throw the lot for a completley new system.

Thanks for your help again so far.

Rob
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
On the Genelec and Mackie, remember that many of their active speakers come in two styles; basic black for PA and studio monitor use, but in standard wood finishes for HiFi and Home Cinema use. There are identical speaker with different part numbers and different finishes.

Did you check out the discussion I linked to. A given speaker is referred to by two different part number, and there are links to various speakers under discussion.

But, for the most part, the Genelec and Mackie are what I call 'box' speakers. Pretty basic design, though that is not a slam regarding the sound or build quality. Just that the speakers are pretty traditional.

With either path, I think you are on the right track, and should get good results. A couple other brands that make active speakers worth checking out are Quad and Dynaudio.

Steve/bluewizard
 

CJROSS

Well-known Member
One thing that is worth investigating with actives is XLR balanced run feeds to them. I've long considered an upgrade to my current stereo system to actives, always end up looking at the Dynaudio BM12As being fed via XLR balanced connections - long run applications it is better than rca unbalanced.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Just to go back to your original remark:
For music the system has always sounded wrong, the Sub way too powerful for the Beolab 6000's
This is very probably a setup issue in the AVP700 - since it is the AVP700 which is completely responsible for that balance. Moreover the B&O speakers you have are really not that bad - overpriced for the performance, but not bad. Fortunately, the problem is trivially resolvable.

Buy or borrow an SPL meter. In the AVP700's level settings menu, set the level on the test tones for all speakers to be 75dB.

In the speaker size menu set all of the speakers, including the 6000's, to small, no matter how large you may think they are.

In the subwoofer menu, set the crossover to 80Hz (and no lower), stereo mode to Sat + Sub (or Large if you insist), but not Large + Sub. Set the DTS LFE Gain and DVD-A Sub level to normal. Fnally, tweak the Sub Stereo level until the balance for music sounds right - this will require iterative listening / tweaking.

See pages E-13 to E-15 of the AVP700 manual for additional explanatory information.
 
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