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AV192R/dual-SHARC AV32R - good stuff!

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by NicolasB, May 19, 2003.

  1. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Had a listen to one of these over the weekend. Had to go a long way - too many London dealers know me. :(

    Speakers: KEF Reference 205 fronts, 202 centre (too bad they didn't have a 204), 201 rears. Amplification at the front was Tag McLaren 250, at the rear Tag McLaren 100. I can't remember what the sub was, which is a shame because it was quite nice. Possible a PMC model...?

    Listened to the Tag against an Arcam AV8 and Meridian 568.2 (with an Arcam DV27 player, so the Meridian and Tag processors couldn't get an advantage using a proprietary connection).

    The Tag was really quite impressive. It was very sharp and clear. The steering in the surround channels was particularly impressive. Tag also seem to have more or less fixed the thing which used to irritate me so much about the way the old AV32R does dialogue. But it wasn't perfect: there was an ever so slightly thin quality to the sound - I think it was fractionally over-emphasising the treble while maybe slightly under-emphasising the bass. By contrast the Meridian (for example) wasn't quite as clear and sharp, sounding just the tiniest bit veiled or muffled by comparison, but it was somehow slightly richer underneath that. It would be tough to choose between those two.

    The Arcam didn't do as well on this occasion, although I'm not sure it was adjusted very happily. I've been to an awful lot of AV8 demos where it sounded rather bass heavy. I wonder if there's a setting somewhere that boosts the subwoofer by 5 or 6dB, but most of the dealers don't know about it? :)

    Oh, one problem: the Tag really fell down BADLY when it came to stereo music using the analogue bypass - very cold and unpleasant. Sounded really quite good using the processor's DACs, though.
     
  2. lovegroova

    lovegroova
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    I am surprised to hear you say this, I reckon music sounds much better on the bypass than it does through the Processor's DACs.

    Which CD player were you using for the bypass test?
     
  3. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Arcam DV27.
     
  4. michaelab

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    Well there's your answer then. The cold and unpleasant comes from the analogue output of the DV27. You can't seriously expect the DV27 to perform any better than a mediocre CD player at best. The DACs in the Tag (AV192R) are streets ahead of those in the DV27.

    It's not really fair to make a judgement on the analogue bypass of the AV192R unless your feeding it a decent analogue source. Many people who have done this regard the AV192R as a stunning analogue pre-amp in its own right (as they do with the AV32R) so that would suggest that the analogue bypass is really rather good :)

    Michael.
     
  5. bamber

    bamber
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    I have both a Tag AV192 and Bryston SP1.7 at the minute and have borrowed a Marantz CD7 CD player.

    I have found that the Tag does tend to filter out low level detail using the bypass compared to the Bryston.

    I would agree that an Arcam DV27A sounds better using the Tags DACs However it sounds even better using the SP1.7 bypass.
     
  6. warrj

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    Michealb wrote:

    AV192R and AV32R bypasses must be much better than that of the AV30R then cos the AV30R's is enormously disappointing.

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  7. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Michaelab,

    One thing I can say for certain is that the DV27 played back through the AV8 in analogue bypass mode sounded much, much better than it did when being played back through the AV192R in bypass mode. (In fact DV27/AV8 sounds better in bypass mode than it does with the processor doing the conversion).

    I've also heard several people say the DV27 is as good a CD-player as dedicated players costing £800. I can't speak from direct experience on that point. But many people seem to agree that, by the standards of DVD players in that sort of price bracket, it does a good job with CDs. Clearly one wouldn't expect it to compare to with players costing £1000 or more, but it's not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination.

    So I find your hypothesis difficult to accept, I'm afraid. It is conceivable, I suppose, that there was some specific fault with this particular AV192R which is not true of the model in general. But on the basis of that demo, I would say that the Tag bypass is really not very good - certainly it is the weakest aspect of the machine by some way. And if you scan through these forums you'll find I'm not the only person who thinks this.

    And yes, I would also agree that the SP1.7's bypass is the best of any home cinema processor that I've heard. In that respect it even beats the Lexicon MC12. I've no direct experience of dedicated pre-amps, either, but I've heard that the SP1.7 is comparable to Bryston's own BP25 pre-amp, which (according to some) is not a bad buy at £1650.
     
  8. michaelab

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    That's correct. The analogue bypass was one of things they cut costs on on the AV30R compared to the AV32R. I can't remember the deatils but the bypass on the AV32R (and AV192R) is a pretty complex affair that avoided the need for a switch in the analogue input circuitry. The one on the AV30R is just a cheap switch :rolleyes:

    NicolasB - the DV27 as a CD player (using analogue outputs) isn't bad to be fair and if you compared analogue bypass of Tag vs. Arcam using it then fair comment. I've heard conflicting views on the bypass of the AV192R/AV32R though. Quite a number of people have said that it's an outstanding analogue pre-amp in its own right :eek: Myself I've only heard an AV32R using it's onboard DACs (with an Arcam DV27 as it happens) and that was pretty impressive.

    Michael.
     
  9. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Michael,

    Sorry if I bit your head off a little bit, there, I'm in rather a fragile mood this morning. :blush:

    You're right that there is considerable contention on the subject of the Tag bypass. Maybe all the people who say it's wonderful are Tag owners trying to justify their purchase. :devil:

    (Just kidding! ;) )
     
  10. CounterWhine

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    For once I'm innocent. My Tag doesn't have an analogue bypass and I wouldn't have any use for it even if it did.

    So, are you any closer to picking one yet?

    D.
     
  11. spiderv6

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    Nicolas, don't take this the wrong way, but, are you actually planning on buying anything? You are a very active poster and apparently so active in getting demo's that London dealers don't let you through the doors anymore (if I interpret the above correctly).


    Just curious.
     
  12. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Oh, eventually, eventually. :)

    This is getting less fun anyway. There was one occasion recently where I had to book a demo under an assumed name. :rolleyes:
     
  13. warrj

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    NicolasB wrote:
    Ivor Hugewad?
     
  14. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Actually I'm much more paranoid about dealers than I probably need to be. I can only think of one- er, well... (counts on fingers) maybe three I would actually be anxious to talk to (and in fact one of them was happy enough to take my money when it came down to it). It's more that I feel bad about taking up people's time.

    Cornflake, for example, have been really good and helpful, and I must have been to at least four demos there, now, possibly even five; and to be fair I did actually buy their ex-demo Bryston 9B-ST off them a while back, which was a quite significant amount of money; but even so I'd feel too guilty to go back there yet again, unless I was almost certain I would be buying from them.

    It's difficult. It's partly that (what with this being a capitalist economy) it's nice to have the option to shop around for a good price; but of course the best price may well be obtained from someone who doesn't have demo facilities, or isn't anywhere neat you, and it isn't really fair to expect a shop to offer you a demo and then turn around and buy elsewhere.

    A lot of dealers reckon that it's worth buying from them at a higher-than-you-could-pay-elsewhere price because you are also paying for their expertise and advice. Based on my own experience I would say this is true roughly 25% of the time. With the other 75% of shops I felt I knew more about the equipment being demoed and, indeed, about AV equipment in general, than the salesman did.

    But the biggest problem, actually, is nothing to do with being mercenary, it's simply the fact that you need to be able to compare two or more components within the same setup to get any useful information about them. If you listen to a processor in one shop and then to another processor in another shop with different DVD player, amp, speakers, sub and different acoustics in the listening room, that tells you nothing. If one dealer actually sold all of the models you might reasonably consider buying, then you could probably work through them all in a couple of demos. But if you've got 6 or 7 processors to work through, and no one shop sells more than 3 of them, finding a place where you can compare two specific processors head-to-head can be really quite difficult.

    And with me, I really knew virtually nothing about the subject when I started out, and it took me several months just to get to the point where I had any idea about what sort of price bracket I wanted to be operating in. Coming into this as a newbie, it's surprisingly difficult to get information about that. Lots of people have an opinion about what's the best CD player at any given price level, but it's difficult to get an answer to the question "how much do I need to spend to get it to sound good?" - not least because everyone has different standards.

    I actually suffered another huge prolonging of the purchase process because of an obscure wrong assumption about the capabilities of my television, but that's another story....

    Finally, of course, it's awfully easy for a demo to be messed up to the point that it becomes useless. Probably nearly half the demos I've been to have ended up not actually telling me anything for one reason or another. So you end up going to twice as many.

    However, sooner or later I'll get to the end of it! I will, I will, I will! :)
     
  15. AV Geeza

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    Nicolas,
    I think you need to stop looking for the next best thing and decide what your main priority is.
    I think you will only confuse the issue if you keep having all these demo's!!!

    When I was comparing processors I knew that my priority was music, with films coming a close second.
    I have a Krell cd player and needed a processor with not only an excellent bypass but also one that could deliver movies to high standard.

    I therefore compared what is considered the best for movies by most, Lexicon MC12, against what I thought had the best bypass, Bryston SP1.7

    The Lexicon was better with movies, but not by much, and the Bryston was better with music but by a fair margin to my ears.
    The decision based on my criteria and budget was therefore simple.
    Bryston all the way!!! :smashin:

    I am more than happy with my purchase!!! :clap: :clap:

    You may be too, if you actually buy something!!!
    Go on!!! Give the 9B ST a play mate!!! :laugh: :devil:

    BTW, i don't want to make you paranoid, but I wouldn't go back to Cornflakes if I were you!!!! :laugh: :mad:
     
  16. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    The thing with my TV did scupper my plans really badly. :(

    It's not a bad TV for its age, does Prologic, has line-outs for all 5 speakers and even a subwoofer output, and I'd been using it for some time with the front L&R hooked into an integrated amp and external speakers, and it always sounded very good. What's more, both the main volume and all the individual level adjustments for L, C, R and surround channels all apply to the line-outs as well the internal speakers. In my head I had sort of equation, pre-amp = volume control, and so I assumed (without really realising it was an assumption) that there'd be no problem feeding the line-outs straight into a power amp.

    So my plan was to carry on using the TV as a prologic decoder, buy an amp, front L&R speakers (use it without a centre channel for a bit), then a centre, then decent rears, then a sub, and then invest in a processor only as the final stage.

    Unfortunately, the TV line-outs are designed to be comfortable producing a signal comparable to what's produced by a source - a CD player, say - and I hadn't realised quite how much a pre-amplifier attenuates this at normal listening levels. You can easily turn the output down that far - but when you do, it sounds like crap. All distortion and mains hum.

    So at that point I pretty much had to go right back to the beginning again and start auditioning processors. (Thought about getting a simple pre-amp, but 5 channels worth of pre-amplification would have cost as much as a cheap processor).

    Ah well, hopefully we're on the home straight now. Linn Kisto is going to be too expensive anyway, and with no store anywhere around London having any Parasound Halo kit to demo, I've run out of things to listen to :) .

    And I'm quite comfortable with what my priorities are, it's just a question of deciding what I can afford. (I want an MC12B, but then again I'd like to live in a 10-bedroom house with its own country estate too, and that ain't gonna happen either).
     
  17. martintyler

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    Nicolas, I am amazed that you still dont have a processor. Instead of demoing everything under the sun and waiting for the next version of everything wouldnt it have been better to just buy a cheapy av amp for a couple of hundred quid until you could afford a high end processor? I find it hard to see why you go to so much effort to find differences between processors costing upwards of 3k, when you seem happy to live without it for months.

    I actually hope you dont ever get a processor coz i do quite enjoy the threads you start about them :)
     
  18. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I can see why you'd say that. :)

    It's a weird thing. Although my current setup really isn't very good, it's not good in a way that I'm used to. A cheap, new setup would sound different enough for me to be very aware of it, and that would make it more annoying. As I've said before, my in-built quality threshold is pretty high. I started off (God knows how long ago, now) with the idea that maybe a Denon 3802 and Acoustic Energy Aegis Evo 3B would be a nice setup - based on magazine reviews, you understand. Having actually heard a system of this calibre, it was a case of "Ah, okay; next!"

    It's also partly a financial thing. I can't really afford the sort of system I'm assembling. If I were to start buying cheaper components specifically intending to get rid of them again as soon as I'd got what I really wanted then that would add even more to the overall cost. This becomes even more true when you've actually bought some bits and pieces. Nautilus 803 speakers are pretty current-hungry, so hooking them up to some cheapo AV receiver would conceivably not just sound awful but actually blow out the tweaters when the amp started clipping. I've now got a good power amp and good speakers - but even a cheap processor is likely to set me back at least a grand. That's an awful lot of money to spend on something you don't intend to keep.

    There have been a number of specific delays along the way too; there was a time, for example, when I'd virtually made my mind up what I was going to buy - but then they announced that the MC8 was going to be out three weeks later, so I figured I might as well hang on and check that out, then there was the dual-SHARC Tag.

    I guess what it really comes down to is that if I'm spending this kind of money I've got to be not just fairly sure that I'm buying the right thing, but certain. :)
     
  19. garmtz

    garmtz
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    Nicolas, I feel your pain... :)

    I am in the very lucky position to be a reviewer and can get my hands on pretty much anything I care to listen to IN MY OWN HOME. This is a very luxurious position to be in. Up till now, I have heard the following products: Lexicon DC-1 (I used to own), MC-12 (I now own), Meridian 861, Theta Casablanca II, Audionet MAP, Sunfire Theater Grand, Arcam AV8, Bryston SP1.7. On several occasions, I have heard the Meridian 568(.2) and Tag McLaren AV32R. If you like any comments on these products, don't hesitate to ask me.

    Another perk is you get to visit some major manufacturers. I am just back from a trip to Tag McLaren where I got a demonstration of the new AV192R and it's TMREQ Room Equalisation... :cool: I have been very impressed up till now with the level of technology in the Tag products. If they sound good to your ears is another matter though. They sound very faithful and analytical (not really a 'British' sound), which might not be your taste.
     
  20. michaelab

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    Here's another processor for you to consider...as if you didn't already have enough :D

    http://www.belcantodesign.com/html/p_prepro.html

    A friend of mine has heard it and says it's outstanding (compares favourably with Lexicon, Tag etc and is not outrageously expensive). Partner with the eVo6 digital power amp and you should be close to HC nirvana :cool:

    Michael.
     
  21. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    GO AWAY!!!!!! :mad::mad::mad:

    ;)
     
  22. garmtz

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    Nicolas, a very important thing to consider is if you want to use the processor to play music in surround. If this is the case, only Meridian and Lexicon are able to do this convincingly. Also, their proprietary modes for 7-channel playback are unbeatable.

    Every time I must review a 5.1 or EX/ES product without any decent steering I definitely miss the exciting soundfields my MC-12 can creaft. Furthermore, since the last version of Logic-7, alle my music is played in Music Logic... Just some thoughts...
     
  23. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Garmtz,

    I suggest you start a whole new thread describing in detail what you think the relative advantages and disadvantages of all of those processors are. :)

    Provisionally I'd suggest you divide that into two groups: MC12, 861 and Casa Blanca II in one group, and the rest in another. (There are a couple I'm not familiar with, there, so I may be guessing the prices wrong). Probably not worth spending too much time on the DC1.

    As I said above, the Tag AV192R I listened to sounded a shade bright to my ears. (Assuming "bright" means what I think it means - slight over-emphasis on the treble is what I'm trying to describe).

    I would be interested in your opinions of the Lexicon MC8, although it doesn't appear on your list. What else...? Hmm.... How about the difference between balanced and unbalanced versions of Lexicon processors?

    And I've no experience of the Audionet and Sunfire processors at all, so any comment there would be interesting.
     
  24. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Oh, and it has to be said that both the MC12 and the Meridian 861 are miles beyond what I could ever afford. I agree that Logic 7 for music (based on a brief exposure) is a good thing, and Meridian's Trifield mode is nice too.

    Out of curiosity, does the MC12 sound any better when you do a an A/D and D/A conversion on a source than it does in analogue bypass mode? I didn't have the time to test that. The bypass seemed to me to be the MC12's only weak spot.
     
  25. nathan_silly

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    Nic, based on your comments I think you're just confusing yourself...

    "MC12 and the Meridian 861 are miles beyond what I could ever afford."

    So why demo MC12 if it's out of your reach? Set a budget, and look for processors in that range either new or second hand.

    I would have loved to get a MC-8 but at 5K just way over my limit (plus I would need better speakers and amps to justify it. So I settled for the MC-1 instead.
     
  26. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Why assume that I must be stupid? Why not start by assuming that I have a good reason, it's just that it isn't obvious what it is? :(

    I wanted to do a head-to-head demo of a Bryston SP1.7 and MC8, but couldn't. I'd previously done SP1.7 vs Arcam AV8, so I set up an SP1.7 vs MC12 demo (which I was hoping might be helpful in itself, as the MC8 and MC12 are supposed to sound similar); then later (in another shop) I had an AV8 vs MC8 vs MC12 demo; and then I did my best to interpolate as required.
     
  27. garmtz

    garmtz
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    It's a shame you don't know Dutch, I have most of the reviews here on my computer in Word... :) Still, these are MY observations. There is no such thing as an objective reviewer.

    The Audionet and Bryston are not to be taken too lightly! Both are a fair cut above most other products in 2-channel music performance and can compete with the best (inc. Theta, Lexicon, Meridian).

    Arcam AV8 and Meridian 568.2 are comparable products with a diiferent philosophy. I must say that a combination of AV8/P7/DV27A would be my choice ANY TIME. It sounds bloody brilliant in its price class and is very evenly balanced in performace with all types of music/movies. Would be pretty happy with these products in my own HT.

    Yep, it's a bit of a Tag trade.

    Haven't heard the MC-8. When I can, I will do a review and let you all know the results. I don't know the difference between balanced/unbalanced, but it surely can't be big. If your amps are well away from the pre-amp, buy a balanced processor, else it is not worth it. Really.

    The Audionet has a very detailed audio-phile type sound, which is admittedly a bit 'German'. Play some classical and it might be too piercing for your taste. The Sunfire is overly warm sounding. A good choice if you like that. It also throws an extremely large sound stage, but is loses on transparency and insight.
     
  28. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    These processors are getting seriously good now days.

    Bargain basement we the Rotel,

    Next up we have the Arcam AV7 (?), I prefer this to the plain jane AV32R I own
    Then we have the excellent Bryston
    Proceed AVP2
    And finally the MC12

    In the middle we have the 568.2 which I haven’t had enough time to place and the new ringer is the AV32R DS (or the AV192) from Tag, certainly this is much better than the AV32R I own and better than the Arcam. It offer a different ‘view’ of AV from say a Bryston. All are seriously great processors now days, a far cry from 3 years ago. People are starting to do the basics right. I am not sure the 192 offers much over the 32DS for the audio side of things.

    And then we have the Thetas etc which deserve a place as well.

    You pays your money and ………it might all be down to you priorities, music, films…:)
     
  29. michaelab

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    Ahem...I think you might find quite a few Tag AV32R owners who'd strongly disagree with you there :p

    I've only heard one really decent multichannel setup (I'm more into stereo than multichannel) and that was Arcam DV27, Tag AV32R, Bryston power, Sonus Faber EAII fronts, SF Signum rears, Proac CC2 centre and 2x Rel Strata III subs. It belongs to an ex foum member (Lowrider) who was banned (IMO very unfairly) for "criticising the forum elswhere on the net" :mad:

    Anyway, it does both music and movies very convincingly, and he usually uses DPLII rather than Tags own brand surround mode (for 2ch sources). To be honest, I have never heard any other high quality multi-channel setup to compare it to but it was still pretty impressive.

    Having said that, for music, I still prefer to hear it in stereo or at least with the centre speaker disabled. He's getting the Dual SHARC upgrade with TMREQ shortly :cool:

    Michael.
     
  30. garmtz

    garmtz
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    Sure.

    That's the problem... Most people indeed haven't heard what Trifield and Logic-7 can do for your music.

    No offense, but the reason yo don't like music in surround with the center channel playing might well be the mismatch in speakers of your system. Just an observation...

    And TMREQ is indeed very cool (when used correctly).
     

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