AV amp has died. What direction to go with a replacement?

SonicHedgehog

Active Member
My current system is:

Pioneer SC-LX86 AV amp with Quad 909 driving the two front speakers
Monitor Audio GS20 towers and GS centre
BK XXLS400 subwoofer
Sky Q
Cheap Sony Blu-ray player.
Top of the range (5 years ago) Samsung TV.
Good quality branded cables

Yesterday my Pioneer amp started flashing the dreaded UE22 fault code. I have emailed a repair company but the total cost of a repair is likely to be uneconomical given the age of the amp and how far tech has moved on. My instant reaction is to get the What Hifi award-winning Denon AVC -X3700 to replace it. I then thought about what I’d like to improve with my system and the answer was:

1. Better music sound
2. Clearer voices when watching TV/films.

Can anyone please advise what I need to change in order to do this? Please note I will not buy a Pioneer product again. Their response to the many people who have suffered this fault is not what I would expect. I will vote with my wallet.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
Definitely this:


Great for music and Dirac does amazing things with soundstage, and dialogue
 
Off I go to research Arcam....
If you have had issues with faulty Pioneers in the past, then Arcam AVRs are probably best avoided. If you scan the Arcam AVR threads on here you will find much evidence of bugs, , unreliability and general flakiness.

My previous AVR was a Pio LX79 which I liked, but when I went 4K it did not unfortunately pass HLG/HDR. My solution was to get an X3700H which is great for movies, better than than the Pio to be honest. Stereo music not so great, so after advice from here I decided to add an Arcam SA20 stereo amp (much better for stereo amps than AVRs!) using the HT Bypass facility.

The Denon is easy to set up, and should provide you with Japanese reliability as well.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
The reports about the Arcam bugs and flakiness are somewhat overhyped. On first release the firmware can be buggy, but that seems to be a similar trait amongst a number of AVR manufacturers.

The Arcam AVR390 that I linked to above has been out a while, and is very stable and bug free on firmware 4.41. Arcam have promised a final firmware release for the FMJ range, but whether that will actually manifest or not, remains to be seen.

A lesser AVR and a stereo amp with HT bypass is another option, but the Arcam SA20 for example is £995 then you have to add the cost of an AVR on top of it.

I had a Denon 4400 + Musical Fidelity HT bypass amp before I got my Arcam AVR550, and the Arcam is as good for music and better for movies. You also get Dirac which will be more helpful than Audyssey with your clearer voices issue.

Arcam only refresh their range every 5 years or so, therefore end of line discounted deals don't come around very often, and with the 5 year warranty there is peace of mind.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Denons are great for film and TV but no so for music. The sister company of Marantz offer a better music performance with the same performance on film as the Denon but the Marantz models command a higher price for the respective units. Both use Audyssey XT32 for room correction which is extremely easy to set up and use and there are Apps available to fine tune.

Yamaha could be better for music although their in house room correction is not as good as that fitted to the D&M models.

Then you come to the higher end machines from the likes of Arcam, NAD and Anthem. These amps can cost you money on the north side of serious. Arcam and NAD use Dirac which is superior to Audyssey and Anthem uses ARC, again reputed to be superior to Audyssey. You have to be somewhat computer savvy to get the best out of Dirac and ARC.

You can get most models with a five year warranty, even six depending on what dealer you go for. Arcam does seem to get some bad reports from members with regular bugs appearing which can and does lead to a lot of frustration. In fairness the same can be said of both Anthem and NAD. Whether this is down to user error or the complexity of the EQ systems is hard to fathom. None of the high end amps would appeal to me because of my lack of computer skills and certainly lack of tolerance. There's no doubting their audio abilities when running perfectly.
 

SonicHedgehog

Active Member
Thanks for the replies. I’ve had a look at the Arcam and there are many plus points. We don’t crank the volume up for movies so ultimate power and loads of clever features aren’t important for me. That probably means it’s a 5 star product rather than a 4 star for what I need. Dirac also looks very good although it seems like I’ll need a whole afternoon to set it up. Finally the relative lack of power would be taken care of by continuing to use my Quad 909 to power the left and right fronts.

Reliability is very important. These amps are such a PIA to set up that faults very quickly become major headaches. I just wasted all morning driving around our local area trying to find a post office that’ll take my LX86. The repair company’s prepaid postage was 20kg and the amp weighs 20.3kg. I’m so cross they aren’t getting my business and I’m just going to buy another amp.

Arcam are British and I like that. What counts against them is that the 390 was reviewed on this site in 2016. That’s a long time ago in technology terms. I bought my LX86 when the 87 came out which was fine and I got a great deal. 5 years of technology lag might be a step too far.

So, do we think the Denon plus my Quad 909 is a better bet than the Arcam +/- my 909?
 

SonicHedgehog

Active Member
Thanks Gibbsy, you’ve mentioned a lot of brand names there without mentioning specific models. If you had to hang your hat on something and had a budget of £1500ish what would you go for?
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Thanks Gibbsy, you’ve mentioned a lot of brand names there without mentioning specific models. If you had to hang your hat on something and had a budget of £1500ish what would you go for?
This time last year I bought a Denon X6500 which I run alongside a Rega Elicit-R amp for stereo music. Cost me a mere £1300 but the replacement X6700 is still trading at it's highest point no doubt because of supply issues and the ongoing effect of Covid. The price tag with a Denon would get you X4700 which is a very good AV amp.

The X6500 is a very good amp, quick and has great sound steering, with 5.1 SACD it is also a good performer. I would expect the same with the X4700. However my decisions with the other high end amps is coloured by my attachment to the Rega and I wouldn't even consider a one box replacement. There is also the little matter of me not being very competent on computers to get the best out of them.

So the Denon X4700 would be my personal choice. I've had no reliability issues with any Denon AV amp I've owned. They are well built, reliable and so easy to set up and use.


 
Thanks for the replies. I’ve had a look at the Arcam and there are many plus points. We don’t crank the volume up for movies so ultimate power and loads of clever features aren’t important for me. That probably means it’s a 5 star product rather than a 4 star for what I need. Dirac also looks very good although it seems like I’ll need a whole afternoon to set it up. Finally the relative lack of power would be taken care of by continuing to use my Quad 909 to power the left and right fronts.

Reliability is very important. These amps are such a PIA to set up that faults very quickly become major headaches. I just wasted all morning driving around our local area trying to find a post office that’ll take my LX86. The repair company’s prepaid postage was 20kg and the amp weighs 20.3kg. I’m so cross they aren’t getting my business and I’m just going to buy another amp.

Arcam are British and I like that. What counts against them is that the 390 was reviewed on this site in 2016. That’s a long time ago in technology terms. I bought my LX86 when the 87 came out which was fine and I got a great deal. 5 years of technology lag might be a step too far.

So, do we think the Denon plus my Quad 909 is a better bet than the Arcam +/- my 909?
Not only is the Arcam 390 an old design, it also reviewed very poorly:


As for the "British" aspect, it's more marketing guff than reality these days, with the units being manufactured in that most English of counties - Vietnam :p . So I would say the Arcam option would be a poor choice and I would be surprised if anyone recommended otherwise.

As per Gibbsy's advice, the Denon's do most things well and are generally reliable.
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
Arcam is now owned by Harman a division of Samsung, make up your own mind how British that is.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
So, do we think the Denon plus my Quad 909 is a better bet than the Arcam +/- my 909?
Definitely not, the Arcam is much better.

In terms of reviews, the AudioScience Review website measured the AVR390 in stereo direct mode, it beat all of the Denon AVR's for SINAD, measuring the same as a Devialet Expert 200 which is a stereo amplifier retailing at £5495.

It was released in 2016, the advantages of that is that it has stable and reliable firmware, and is available at £1299.90 whereas the replacement model in the new range is the AVR10 which is £2499. It is essentially half price, and comes with 5 year manufacturer warranty.

I have the AVR550 in my main room, directly before that I had the Denon 4400 and 6300, the 6300 had a fault, I tried the Marantz SR7011, that developed a fault. The 4400 was okay, once I had added some power amps and a Musical Fidelity M3i HT bypass stereo amp to it. The Arcam with Dirac is significantly better though, much better than okay, and a lot less faff.

There is no eARC. Standard ARC works fine though for Dolby Digital Plus with atmos, which is as good as it gets from streaming apps on the TV.

I am wondering if the people who are recommending a Denon AVR instead of the Arcam have had the opportunity to listen to them both in the same room?

Happy to help with any other questions!
 
Last edited by a moderator:

rccarguy2

Well-known Member
The arcam is used as a avr, in avr mode it's lousy.

Avoid arcam
 

Timmy C

Distinguished Member
I don't think a £1500 AVR is going to get the best out of your very fine speakers, certainly not if buying new.

Depending on how much space you have and what is most important to you, have you considered perhaps a decent two channel integrated HT bypass amp for stereo and a cheaper AVR for movies?

Also consider what sound formats are important to you. If you aren't worried about the latest and greatest then an older secondhand processor/power amp combination is still going to do a very good job with 5.1/DTS etc and no doubt much better than a new up to date £1500 AVR. I stumbled down this route by accident and never looked back!
 

rccarguy2

Well-known Member
Have you heard one?

The analogue side and power amps in arcam are excellent. However on the test bench the digital side are one of the worst. With firmware bugs.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
The analogue side and power amps in arcam are excellent. However on the test bench the digital side are one of the worst. With firmware bugs.
Right, yes I know that is shown in measurements on ASR and is definitely interesting.

Having had a lot of AVR's, integrated amps and power amps in my room, with the same speakers though, the Arcam by far has the best sound quality. The Cambridge Audio CXR200 was also excellent, it's a shame they don't make AVR's any more.
 

SonicHedgehog

Active Member
Timmy C, an older, better amp is certainly something I’d consider. I’m a little wary about buying second hand but old stock would be fine. I‘m not bothered about tonnes of fancy features. I just want to set it up and then turn it on.

What I’m trying to do is turn this annoying situation in to a positive. Can I get clearer speech and better music playback than my LX86/909 combo offered?

So how about we widen the search? What amp combo will get the most out of these Monitor Audios for speech clarity and music playback while still doing a decent job with movies? This is a once in a decade purchase so how much to I really need to spend?
 
I don't think a £1500 AVR is going to get the best out of your very fine speakers, certainly not if buying new.

Depending on how much space you have and what is most important to you, have you considered perhaps a decent two channel integrated HT bypass amp for stereo and a cheaper AVR for movies?

Also consider what sound formats are important to you. If you aren't worried about the latest and greatest then an older secondhand processor/power amp combination is still going to do a very good job with 5.1/DTS etc and no doubt much better than a new up to date £1500 AVR. I stumbled down this route by accident and never looked back!
If the OP's LX86 drove them ok, then a current Denon X4700H / X6700H will be equally as good. Buying second hand AVRs is a complete lottery, you may be lucky, but.......buy new, and get a 5 year warranty.
 
The analogue side and power amps in arcam are excellent. However on the test bench the digital side are one of the worst. With firmware bugs.
Exactly. The science doesn't lie.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
A Denon AVR will be a like for like replacement for your Pioneer in my view, a sideways move, or maybe even a downwards move in terms of 2 channel music. The Arcam, with Dirac would be a step-up in sound quality.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
How important is music playback to you? I went down the one box solution many years ago and performance in stereo, bear in mind I bought what I could afford in those days, was poor. So much so I lost interest in music. A better quality AV amp did improve slightly, as did better speakers but still it didn't set my pulse racing. It was not until I purchased the Rega that I fell in love with music again and now most of my spending has been almost exclusively on that music side.

I can only recommend what I've listened to. I've not listened to an Arcam, NAD or Anthem that has been correctly set up in a dedicated room. I've listened to an Arcam stereo amp and an Arcam 550 driving KEFs all round in a display at AudioT, that's about it.

All recommendations will be personal. That's life. You have to cherry pick what you want or need, be it Arcam, Denon or any other make. How high in the Arcam range would I have to go for it to get anywhere near the enjoyment I get from the Rega I don't know. Right now the Denon Rega combination works extremely well for me. I can't see me changing any of that this side of a pine box.
 

SonicHedgehog

Active Member
Music playback isn’t as important as it used to be. My wife doesn’t like loud music and when I’m in the mood to listen I like to really rock. Inevitably if she’s home I don’t bother. However, a nice precise sound at lower volumes could change that. My old (broken) system was warm and fun but I’d never use the word ‘precise’.

Default position seems to be replace the Pioneer with a mid-range Denon. That’s the easy option. Precision in music which logically would bring with it clearer voices in films and TV would be worth paying extra for. Sounds like I need a minimum of a Denon 3700 and a £2k+ stereo amp.
 

Timmy C

Distinguished Member
Timmy C, an older, better amp is certainly something I’d consider. I’m a little wary about buying second hand but old stock would be fine. I‘m not bothered about tonnes of fancy features. I just want to set it up and then turn it on.

What I’m trying to do is turn this annoying situation in to a positive. Can I get clearer speech and better music playback than my LX86/909 combo offered?

So how about we widen the search? What amp combo will get the most out of these Monitor Audios for speech clarity and music playback while still doing a decent job with movies? This is a once in a decade purchase so how much to I really need to spend?

Well I would certainly look at Arcam. I have multiple sets of MA GR speakers (the model your GS speakers replaced but near identical for the purpose of this conversation) and use them on both 2 channel and multi channel systems. Usually I would always have a separate stereo amp for music but I do have one system where I use an old Arcam AV8 processor for both 2 channel and 5.1 listening. As a 5.1 processor it's not as good as something like an old Lexicon processor from a similar era but for 2 channel, I find it as good as, if not better than the Arcam FMJ A22 stereo amp I had been using before.

I'm not necessarily suggesting you consider something as old as an AV8 but it does seem from my experience with this model, along with other comments I've read about later Arcam AVR's, that they can shine in 2 channel mode where others may not.

One other option to consider if you are a little uneasy about buying a used AVR would be a used 2 channel along with a new AVR. Something along the lines of an Arcam A32 should set you back around £500 and are sought after so hold value. You could always sell it on with little loss if you felt the improvements weren't worth it.
 

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