AVR250, AVR300, or something else?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by sploo, Apr 1, 2005.

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  1. sploo

    sploo
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    Hi all,

    I recently built a set of speakers and I'm now looking for a suitable amp/receiver. I want decent movie reproduction, but music (mainly 2 channel) is my main target.

    Because of my music preference, I've been recommended to look at Arcam gear.

    My speakers are as follows (all designs from Wilmslow Audio):

    Front: Nemesis. Treble: Scan-speak D2905/950000, Bass: Scan-speak 21w/8554 (8")
    Centre: Gemini. Treble: Morel MDT32s, Bass: 2 x Morel MW144
    Surround: Midas Monitor. Treble: Vifa XT25TG-30-04, Bass: Seas Excel W11CY001

    My room is a fairly modest 3x7m (10x23ft) and the listening area is 3x4m (10x13ft).

    I would bi-amp the front speakers with either receiver, but would I be likely to need the extra power of the AVR300? The scan-speak drivers in the front speakers certainly seem to need quite a bit of power to drive them adequately, but my room is small (and I have neighbours!)

    I was also considering Denon's 3805. How would this compare to the Arcam receivers (given also that it's a lot less expensive at retailers).

    One final note, at the top of the Arcam forum, there are links to reviews, including one for the AVR300 by Home Cinema Choice. I've also found an interesting article here: http://www.audiophilesystems.com/arcam/index.htm#AVR300 (look for "Surprising Facts about AVR300 Power Ratings"). The two articles appear to directly contradict one another about power levels. Anyone got any comments?

    Cheers,

    Sploo.
     
  2. ihan

    ihan
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    Hi,

    I would go for the AVR300 because it has pre-out sockets (which the AVR250 doesn't have). Having pre-amp outputs means you can upgrade later by adding a power amp (in my case the P35).

    I used to own a Denon AVC-A10SE which is or was a better amp than the 3805. I prefer the sound of my A300 to the A10SE.

    Regards,
    Ian

    Incidentally, I'm using Wilmslow Audio speakers (the Isis model) with a modified crossover designed by myself using Laud (now praxis) of www.libinst.com
     
  3. sploo

    sploo
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    High praise indeed.

    I'm just not sure I'd ever use the preouts, but I was wondering if I'd need the extra power over the AVR250.

    Hope to get a look (listen) at a few amps this weekend, though I'm not going to have time to lug my speakers to a shop (but I don't plan to purchase just yet, so it's more of a fact finding mission).

    Cheers,

    Sploo.
     
  4. rushwj

    rushwj
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    This is a great topic as i am in the same situation. I'm currently trying to decide between the arcam avr300 and the denon 3805. clearly there's a price difference and i'm trying to decide if the arcam is worth the extra cost or not. Unfortunately, there's nowhere here in the states near me where i can do a side by side comparison. Sploo, let me know what you decide on and why. any additional info would be greatly appreciated!
    -william rush
    [email protected]
     
  5. sploo

    sploo
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    Will do.

    I'm going for a look tomorrow, but probably won't purchase for a couple of weeks.
     
  6. barnythebear

    barnythebear
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    Like 'ihan' of the two Arcams I would go for the AVR300. The pre-outs only require a phono to phono link from the amp to say a P25/3 or 35/3 power amp that will allow you to biamp all three front speakers. This made a significant difference for me over just biamping with the AVR300 itself.
    As they say have a listen for yourself but be aware that the upgrading route is limited with the AVR250.
     
  7. Barend

    Barend
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    It also sounds great through my beast of a Rotel RMB-1095 5 ch final.
    In fact I connected the Shanling CDP direct and direct-thru-the-Arcam to the Rotel for stereo cds and found no sound difference.
    So I can enjoy the excellent and pure sound of DTS or Dolby EX without worries of stereo degradation.
    DVDA and SACD sound even better of course, being uncompressed formats (Marantz DV9500).
    So I say go for the AVR300, sure it has its quirks (buggy software, strange max levels, not-too-good radio module, no ilink, but the sound quality is fantastic- and believe me I owned a lot of receivers.
    Thing is a bit overpriced, curious what the expected Marantz SR-9600 monster will cost, can get these from China for a decent price probably in June which won't be very different from the AVR300 price as Arcam is very dealer restricted.
     
  8. sploo

    sploo
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    I had a quick look at a couple of local dealers yesterday, and plan to take my speakers for a proper audition (probably near the end of next week).

    I managed to get a listen to some movie material on an AVR250 they had set up, and it seems to have plenty of power - certainly enough for my needs.

    They did try to steer me towards the AVR300, though I'll have to think about the extra 300 quid...

    Certainly they all backed up the information I've heard that the Arcam is much better for music than the Japanese brands.

    Well, that's all for now. Will mail again when I've had a listen (and hopefully made a purchase).

    Sploo.
     
  9. Rick1486

    Rick1486
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    Well just to jump in here lads, the wife and I had a demo today side by side of an avr300 and a 3805 connected to a Denon 2910 + Mission 782se's to mimic our home system which the current amp is a Denon 2105. Reason for the comparison was that although I've only had the system for 6 weeks, I want a) all inputs to projector via RGB/YUV and b) I want more "oomph" - sorry that's not very technical but it's my way of describing a more immersive "in your face" sound experience.

    What I personally found was that although the 3805 was louder and more "in your face" than the 2105, it was in fact the same Denon sound but basically just louder (not necessarily a bad thing), whereas the arcam to me sounder perhaps not as loud but had more clarity (we were watching a scene from Matrix Revolutions) to it and seemed to bring out the surround effects better than the Denon.
    However, and it's a big however, was it worth an extra £400 or so for the 3805, and an extra £900 or so for the Arcam - in my opinion and at this moment in time for me - NO NO NO!
    For that sort of additional money I would expect a lot lot more than I heard today - I know that the figures above might not be a lot to some people but to most of us it's a big investment and personally I'd want to get it absolutely right rather than suffer the cost implications of intermediate upgrades.
    There was a definite difference in the sound of the Denon and the Arcam in that they each had a unique sort of sound.
    Maybe I should audition something else like a Pioneer, Harmon Kardon, Marantz or Yamaha - anyone got any ideas/opinions/recommendations - I'd be very grateful of your input.
    Maybe I'm not approaching this correctly, and other people may have different opinions of the systems, but to my ears (and that's what it boils down to in the end isn't it) I simply didn't hear enough difference to justify getting the credit card out today.

    Cheers
    Rick
     
  10. Barend

    Barend
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    Shop demo's are rather useless to judge sound quality.
    For musicality, Arcam and Marantz are in the same league.
    For "in your face sound" (which I find rather tiring) Denon and Yamaha are OK.
     
  11. sploo

    sploo
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    Hi all,

    I said that once I’d spent some time reviewing receivers, and hopefully made a purchase, I’d report the details. This is a *very* long mail :eek: , but hopefully of use to some people. Details of the kit, and what I auditioned, follow:


    My speakers (all designs from Wilmslow Audio):

    Front: Nemesis – Scan Speak bass and treble. Excellent treble and crisp, if slightly thin, bass.
    Centre: Gemini – Morel bass and treble. Warm, pleasing sound, if a little ‘muddy’. Probably not that well matched to the fronts, but a very pleasant listen.
    Surround: Midas – Seas Excel bass and Vifa treble. Good clean crisp sound, treble not quite as good as the Nemesis, and bass obviously weaker due to smaller bass drivers.


    Kit tested (and RRPs):

    Denon DVD-3910 – 900GBP
    Denon AVR-3805 – 1000GBP
    Arcam AVR-300 – 1300GBP
    Cyrus 8vs – 800GBP
    Cyrus CD6 – 600GBP

    The street prices of the Denon gear is usually a bit less, I just included the prices to indicate the kind of level of bits I was testing.


    Testing:

    The dealer set up my speakers on the Denon AVR-3805, and we ran through a few movie tests (DVDs played by the Denon DVD-3910). My overall impression was positive – clear, crisp, good effect of sound moving around you, and it was very engaging.

    It produces quite an ‘in your face’ sound, which I felt could get a bit fatiguing, but it certainly impresses.

    We then tried CD playback, again using the Denon DVD-3910, with its DAC, rather than that of the receiver.

    To be blunt – it was very poor. I’ve previously heard the front speakers on an old stereo amp, and a Pioneer AX10Ai (RRP 3000GBP). Obviously, you couldn’t expect the AVR-3805 to be comparable, but the sound was completely lifeless – poor vocals, harsh treble, and was just generally dull and unengaging.

    We then switched over to the Arcam AVR-300, with the Denon DVD-3910 again supplying sound via its DAC.

    The improvements were huge, not on a par with the Pioneer, but more than acceptable, if a little restrained.

    After some discussion, the dealer suggested I compared a good stereo amp and CD player, and hooked the Cyrus units to my front speakers (using the DAC on the Cyrus CD player).

    The difference was staggering, much fuller bass, clearer vocals, and tighter treble. It was unquestionably better in every area (admittedly, no surprise there).

    We then replaced the Cyrus stereo amp with the Arcam receiver, and used the Cyrus CD6 instead of the Denon DVD-3910, again using the DAC on the player.

    When playing music such as acoustic guitar + female vocals (Carina Round, KT Tunstall, some Rilo Kiley tracks), I felt that the difference between the Arcam and the Cyrus was detectable, but small. For more challenging material – e.g. loud Pearl Jam tracks – the difference was far more noticeable.


    Conclusions:

    If you are after a surround receiver for movie use only, don’t care about stereo music, and don’t mind (or like) ‘in your face’ sound, the choice is a no-brainer – the Denon AVR-3805, with a price at least 500GBP less than the Arcam, wins hands down.

    If you are after a surround receiver that will handle movies, but also live with your music collection it really has to be the Arcam. The price difference is large, but the sound from the Arcam is very acceptable, but, IMHO, the sound from the Denon is not.

    The dealer went through several other potential upgrades to improve the sound. He suggested that I could later add a stereo amp, and connect the pre-outs for the front speakers on the receiver to the amp. This would use the receiver to drive the centre and surround speakers, but only act as a processor for the fronts. Thus you’d get better results in stereo, and still get a surround setup. I'm aware that you could probably do this with the Denon receiver too.

    He also noted that the DAC in the Arcam is much better than the DAC in the Denon DVD-3910 (and also in the Denon receiver). Thus, a coaxial digital connection from a cheap DVD or CD player would probably get reasonable sound, though would obviously be beaten by the DAC on a decent CD player such as the Cyrus.

    I should also mention that all my speakers have split crossovers and can be bi-wired/bi-amped. Whilst we didn’t test either, the general consensus seems to be that bi-amping does yield an improvement, and the Arcam AVR-300 is capable of bi-amping the front speakers, even with a full 5.1 setup.

    To sum up, if you can afford it, I think the Arcam AVR-300 is a pretty good starting point, and will allow movie reproduction, will not overly hamper a good CD player, and can be connected to a power amp (via pre-outs) in order to improve sound quality.

    There was only one slight problem – the dealer didn’t have any units in stock! (I have placed an order though).
     
  12. Barend

    Barend
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    Interesting post, thank you!
    But don't forget Marantz, just bought a DV-9500 player and it betters the 3910 I previously owned in most respects.
    Vision (I use dvi) is astounding, the whites are really "shining" which is not a contrast setting virtue, the picture is really better than on the 3910, which was already very good.
    The stereo sound is way better than the 3910, very smooth, musical and cultivated, if just a bit overly warm. Even compared with an Arcam CD82t it sounded better! There was real depth. Compared it to my Shanling CD-T100C (you know the sexy one) tubed player which sounded somewhat clearer (bit more treble emphasized) not worse but "different".
    After switching off the Shanling's upsampling option I couldn't really hear much difference.
    Upsampling tends to give edginess to sound as we all know, you can detect it especially on female voices.
    My AVR300 does a good job with the DV9500 sound, but I would really like to hear the Marantz 8500 receiver one day, or even the new-to-come 9600 monster...
     
  13. sploo

    sploo
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    Right!

    Finally got everything together, pics here:

    http://spikyfish.com/1.jpg
    http://spikyfish.com/2.jpg
    http://spikyfish.com/3.jpg

    All the bits in the pictures are homemade - bar the projector screen, and, of course, the receiver. Credit where it's due - the AV rack is based on the Flexy Table + by Tony Gee (originally the TNT FleXy Table by Mimmo Cacciapaglia).

    I initially tried some stereo music, using an old portable CD player (my bank account's too injured to sustain another purchase this month ;))

    The results were pretty good, but nothing vastly impressive. I then re-setup the front speakers to a bi-amped configuration (from bi-wired) and the difference was huge; Not much treble improvement, the CD player's not much good anyway, but the bass was way better - much more full, and cleaner.

    DVD's are currently handled by a PC, outputting to a butchered LCD screen on top of an overhead projector (sound is coming from a coaxial digital cable to the amp).

    Movies are great - really clear, with plenty of 'thump' and 'grunt' (no subwoofer required!). Surround-sound music (AIC unplugged, Bjork's Vespertine on DVD-A) is stunning.

    Still running on cr*p cables, so I'll probably sort that out at some point.

    Hope some of that's of interest to someone...
     

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