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B&W Speaker selection and setup for new Music/TV system

Samblers

Novice Member
Hello all. Appreciate thoughts/ suggestions on the following… will try and keep it brief

I'm living in the dark ages currently. I run a Rotel RA-01 amp and NAD CD player/ Apple Airport for my musical needs. Mostly streaming radio or iTunes from Mac or iPhone. I had some nice Monitor Audio speakers but they got sold with my last house because they were mounted on wall brackets and the purchaser wanted them. WORST MISTAKE EVER. Been using junk speakers ever since : /

Elsewhere, I have a TV and set top box. An AppleTV.

Low volume, simple system… I have small kids, don’t watch a lot of TV but a few rental movies.

This is about to change. I’ve ordered a Yamaha RXV375 AV/Receiver and am looking at getting back into some decent speakers and a new TV. The Yamaha should suit my simple needs and was only AUD400. I like the reviews I’m reading (and the looks) of the new B&W 685 or 686 Series 2 speakers, but am wondering:

- Is the Yamaha going to do the B&W’s enough justice when listening to music? i.e. am I wasting money here? I’m considering MA Bronze BX2’s as a fall back? (AUD500 vs AUD999)

- Will the 686’s be large enough vs 685’s for me? My room is 10m x 5m but music is usually background. I don’t have wild parties.

- I have never run a TV through ‘proper’ speakers. Is a center speaker justified or will I get away with the two bookshelf speakers?

Regarding music, I cant help thinking about my poor old Rotel RA-01 Amp sat there doing nothing. Would it be possible/worthwhile to use the Rotel to power the speakers for music and the Yamaha just to deal with the AV stuff?

Sorry, lots of Q’s… all (constructive) comments and help appreciated!

Sam
 

lokyc

Prominent Member
The Rotel Ra-01s are actually quite underpowered. I get the impression the S2s are less power hungry. In that you don't need as powerful an amp for them to come alive. The 686 will probably be ok. But I think its time to move on.

However, if you're gonna stick with Yams, then I agree its better to keep the Rotels. The Yams soudn stuff to me and really kills music. But great with movies with the crash boom bangs.

But there is the added hassle of changing feeds when switching between movies and music. Hence my switch from a Rotel RA-01 (yes, used to own one!) to an Anthem AVR.

A centre speaker is very rewarding particularly playing multichannel content. So its definitely something worth considering.

You could get the 686s for now, then shift them to the back for surround duties.

Its a brilliant range. And seems like there are some posters using a 684/6 combo, which will work well together.
 

Samblers

Novice Member
Thanks for the reply, very helpful

The Rotel RA-01 has served my needs well (in terms of power) for a decade or so, its only the change to a combined audio/visual set-up which has caused me to buy a new amp/receiver. That and the fact that the Rotel doesnt have a remote (this is the killer for me in terms of using the rotel for the TV). I was quite happy switching manually between inputs - it only happens once or twice an evening.

My room set-up doesnt allow me to easily incorporate rear speakers, its very open-plan, and ive never been fussed about 5.1 surround sound so the bookshelves and a centre speaker is about as many speakers as i want to consider. If the 686's would be a good match and would be an ample size (power/) for my needs, then i'll go for them.

I guess i was also really wondering about the value split between amp and speakers.

Cheers
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
The Yamaha 375 is very much a budget AVR and hence will be OK with movies but not going to be even close to your Rotel when it comes to music. Since you are only looking at a stereo system then the Rotel would be better for the TV than the Yamaha as well.
As a general guide you need to spend around 4 to 5 times the price of a stereo amp to get similar performance from an AVR. Another guide suggests spending around 2 to 3 times the price of the receiver on a 5.1 set of speakers. This would translate to roughly spending the same price as the receiver on the front pair of speakers. Using this guide the B&W really do deserve a better receiver to get the best from them and justify spending the money on them.
You can buy source selection switches (Beresford do one) that means you can have 2 amps connected to the same speakers and then switch between them with a simple press of a button. This would mean you at least maintain your music quality.
You may also be better just buying a stereo amp that has a remote control as this will give you better overall sound quality for your money.
A centre speaker can help tie vocals to the screen. If you sit very central to the TV then there is less of a need for a centre speaker but if you have multiple seating locations around the room then a centre can be very useful.
I would also suggest that you get a sub as well as this will really enhance you movie experience. They can also help with music as well. This is because you can take some of the heavy work off your smaller front speakers which will clear up the mid range. Hence you get better sound quality overall. A well integrated sub should not be 'heard' as such but will just seamlessly extend to bottom range so should be no issue with kids (I use my sub all the time and have done so from when my kids were first born with no issues).
Also note that 90W rating on an AVR is not the same as 90W rating on a stereo amp. In reality the AVR will have a lot less power per channel than the stereo amp. For a better idea of power look at the specs for the power supply and divide this by the number of powered channels the reciever has. This is a more accurate real world per channel power value.
 

Samblers

Novice Member
Sub rather than a centre speaker?

Thanks for the advice... not necessarily what i wanted to hear but its hard for me to view stuff in shops and audition... the Yamaha is on its way.

Its sounding more like the 686's to keep the cost down a little and drive them from the Rotel for music. IF these we'll be OK with a centre or sub that is, otherwise i'll go 685's for balance. I'll look into this switching device... try music through the Yamaha first though and see if it is agreeable to me.

Anyone else have experience with a setup like this?
 

lokyc

Prominent Member
I'll keep the Rotel and consider audio switching.

Centre speaker rather than sub. With small children, you probably want to keep booms at low level. ubs add more than just booms, but given your budget, most are boom boxes. Much better off with centre. Its about splitting the work load. Dedicated speaker for vocals make them clearer rather than the small 686 that has to do everything else.

Trust me, the Yams are too stiff for music. Keep the Rotel.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Too bad you can't move up to the Yamaha RXV475, it has build-in Network Streaming of Audio and Internet Radio. It sound like that might be a feature you could use. (DLNA, Apple AirPlay, 4k upscaling)

Especially on the low end, you can't expect any AV Receiver to equal an equivalent priced Stereo amp. The money is just spread too thin over too many amps and too many features.

Most AV Receiver have the Rated Power, but where the fall down is on the Power Supply to back them up. Still for music, you are only using 2-channels, but this is generally their down fall.

As to B&W or Monitor Audio speakers, it depends on how far you want to take it. I really don't see a clear indication of your budget. Can you tell is the total you would like to spend on AV Receiver and 5.1 Speaker set combined?

If you don't intend to get a 5.1 speaker set, then there is no point in getting an AV amp. But, of course, if you do intend to have Surround Sound, then you have not choice, you need an AV Receiver.

I would suggest if you are not planning at full Surround Sound 5.1, then you seriously consider a Stereo system. Concentrate you money on quality instead of quantity. But again, if you want Surround Sound then you need an AV Receiver.

Do, consider the Yamaha RXV475, it is a better amp with substantially more features. If you have a lot of digital music, the streaming feature is very nice.

In the UK, the price on the Yamaha 375 is £179, that is pretty low end. The Yamaha 475 is £259, which is still pretty low end. I'm not sure how the prices compare in Australia.

Neither of these amps is in the quality class that the Rotel is. I think the current equivalent Rotel would be the RA-10 with 40w/ch and priced at about £350. The power is modest, but it is still a pretty good amp.

If your budget is limit and your desire for sound quality is high, once again, I suggest a Stereo system (though I always suggest a stereo). You would need a stereo amp, DAC, and a good pair of speakers.

But before we can go down that road (stereo) we need a sense of your total budget.

I get the impression, assuming you are determined to have a Surround system, you plan to build your system over time. Depending on budget, the suggestion of modest bookshelf in front, then at a later date moving them to the rear, and putting bigger better speaker in front, might be a workable solution.

Steve/bluewizard
 

Samblers

Novice Member
Hmmm...

- can i drive a centre speaker from a stereo amp, for use with the TV/movies?

- can i drive a subwoofer from a stereo amp, for same?

I guess if the answer is yes, then maybe youre right, and i should've got a stereo amp :thumbsdow

I was thinking AUD600-1000 (GBP300-500) for bookshelf speakers, and hadnt looked into cost of centre speaker or sub yet

I considered receivers with more networking features but already have an appleTV that can take care of my streaming needs (and i use this for movies anyway), so decided to go basic

Having second thoughts now ...
 

lokyc

Prominent Member
The answer to both your questions is probably yes. you can connect them in parallel. Though for the centre, its pointless cos you can't feed the dedicated centre channel content, nor can you balance the volume.

Subs are easier as many accomodate high level (speaker) inputs.

I would think for a pure 2.1 system, consider the 685s.

But I'd like you to give this alternative a thought.

The Anthem MRX 310 is farily affordable. Driving 3 channels will be ok.

Its a very muisical AVR, and has probably one of the best bass management/integration at the consumer level. Ie, it can distribute the 2c channel into 2.1 and integrate with sub seamlessly.

It as good an onboard DAC as you can get under £1000. Processes all multichannel content.

you can output your Apple TV through the coax/HDMI and instant improvement in audio quality.

The beauty of the MRX line is its preamp/pro stage. So further down the line, you can add a power amp and drive 5 hefty speakers no problem.

Is a bit pricey to begin with. but you don't need to buy a DAC or fancy bluray player afterwards either.

Another more radical idea is to get an Oppo whicih processes multichannel content and has an LFE out. Get a power amp to drive the main speakers.

But not sure if it will work out cost wise.

Otherwise, just get a Rotel RA-12 with onboard DAC, accepts coax input from the AppleTV and the 685s will love it.
 

Samblers

Novice Member
Anthem unit is AUD1800 o_O

What with the Rotel RA-12 do for me? Sorry, not understanding why i need DAC? (is this for HDMI sound input from TV?). As i said, i'm slightly in the dark ages here ...
 

lokyc

Prominent Member
DAC converts digital signal to analog. CD players or ApplTV with analog outs all have it. But outboard dedicated DACs are usually of better quality.

So with a good DAC, you can feed digital outputs from streamers such as Apple TV or reasonably priced blu ray players and still get good sound. Some DACs accept direct USB inputs from PCs.

The Rotel RA-12 is is the top range of the RA1 entry level amps. So the biggest brother of the latest generation the the RA-01.

IMHO, sounds better than the RA-11. Both have a Wolfson DAC which accepts digital music data via iether optical/coax inputs or reads off USB sticks.

Most Jap receivers do that and more, but musically sound stiff.

If you're thinking of upgrading your stereo setup, soething with an onboard hih quality DAC may not be a bad idea.

I know the Anthem is pricey. But you can use it as the hub of your entertainment needs. Might be overkill I appreciate. But the bass management is fantastic.

There is a faction within What Hifi that is quite supportive of 2.1 setups. Smaller speakers have their charm.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
- can i drive a centre speaker from a stereo amp, for use with the TV/movies?

No, but you don't necessarily need one if you have good front Left/Right speakers.

- can i drive a subwoofer from a stereo amp, for same?

Yes if you have the right Subwoofer. Many Subs come with both Line Level (pre-amp) inputs and Speaker Level input which can be driven off the speakers wires from the amp. Speaker level inputs don't add an real load to the amp so impedance matching is not a consideration.


I guess if the answer is yes, then maybe youre right, and i should've got a stereo amp :thumbsdow

I was thinking AUD600-1000 (GBP300-500) for bookshelf speakers, and hadn't looked into cost of centre speaker or sub yet

I considered receivers with more networking features but already have an appleTV that can take care of my streaming needs (and i use this for movies anyway), so decided to go basic

Having second thoughts now ...


If the amp has not been delivered, perhaps you can cancel the order. If it has been delivered and you haven't opened the box, then perhaps you can send it back for a refund.

There is one drawback to using a Stereo system, and that is connecting the Amp and TV together. The ideal solution is a external DAC (digital to analog converter) between the TV and the Stereo system. That is a bit difficult with your budget.

However, some TV come with Analog Audio Outs, and by analog I mean NOT digital. In a pinch you can use the Headphone output of your TV.

Can you tell us the price of the Yamaha 375 vs that of the Yamaha 475. The 475 probably has features you could use.

In stereo amp, look at the Yamaha AS300 (60w/ch) and the Yamaha AS500 (85w/ch). Those are very high value amp; a lot of amp for typically a very modest price. I'm not sure about the AS300, but the AS500 has a Pre-Amp level Sub Out.

A quick search of Google-AU finds the Yamaha A-S300 for AU$550 from ELJO.

The Yamaha R-S300 which is a AM/FM Receiver with 50w/ch is aobut AU$488.

The Yamaha A-S500 is about £679, also from ELJO, which is apparently a big electronics retailer in Australia.

The AM/FM Yamaha R-S500 with 75w/ch is about AU$699 from ELJO. Though I don't necessarily know that ELJO has the best prices.

Yamaha 2 Channel Stereo Receiver - Black (R-S500) | Eljo.com.au - Best Prices Guaranteed

The AV RXV375 is about AU$400. The RXV475 is about AU$550, but I found a few shops that had the RXV475 for less than AU$400.

The Yamaha R-N500 is a pretty sweet amp, 80w/ch, Computer Network Streaming, Optical/Coaxial/USB-Media DAC. It is rare but if you can find it and if you can afford it, it is a pretty sweet amp that solves virtually all your problems.

R-N500 - Stereo Receivers - Yamaha - Australia

The RN500 has two Optical In, two Coaxial In, and One USB-Media in on the Front. It has a PHONO in for a turntable and it has a Subwoofer Pre-Amp Out.

USB-Media input means you can connect an iPod/iPhone, or other Smart Devices that have a USB output, but you can not connect directly to a PC. Some amp and DAC have USB-PC which works with both USB-Media like Thumb Drives, Smart Device, and CAN connect directly to a computer for streaming. However, since the RN500 has Network Streaming built-in, you really don't need a direct connect to a PC/Mac.

Stereo Receivers - Yamaha - Australia

Stereo Amplifiers - Yamaha - Australia

Keep in mind the price listed at the links above are Suggested Retail, you can very like find them in stores for less.

Someone in this Forum has a Yamaha RN500 Stereo Receiver, and he seems very pleased with it. I'm not sure if Australia has converted to Digital Radio broadcasts, but if it has that make the AM/FM of the RN500 somewhat worthless, but with Network Streaming, you get access to Internet Radio, which is far better than broadcast radio anyway. Plus many broadcast Radio stations also broadcast over the Internet, and make certain show available as Podcasts for later listening.

Again, if you are going to go for a low cost AV Receiver, see if there is any way you can upgrade our order to the RXV475. It is worth it for the Network Streaming aspect alone. Just that one feature typically costs about £300.

You have to set your own priorities. If you want Surround Sound, then the decision is made, you have to have an AV Receiver, but if Surround Sound is not a big deal for you, you will get better quality equipment for a fixed amount of money if you buy a stereo system.

That said, remember a stereo system comes with problems of its own. Mainly connecting the TV to the Stereo for movie watching. That typically requires a DAC.

In my case, I only buy TVs that have Analog Audio Outs - problem solved.

There are more amps coming everyday that have DACs built-in, but they are still on the expensive side. There are a few stereo amps that have Computer Networking that mark what I feel is the beginning of a trend, but they to can be expensive.

Two Stereo Receivers that have it all are the -

Onkyo TX-8050

Yamaha R-N500

Either of these amps, though a bit over budget would give you everything Powerful Amps, DAC, Networking, etc...

For what it is worth.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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Samblers

Novice Member
Thanks so much for your replies guys... very much appreciated.

"- can i drive a centre speaker from a stereo amp, for use with the TV/movies?

No, but you don't necessarily need one if you have good front Left/Right speakers."

Q1: B&W's 685 S2 - are these "good" left/right speakers for this purpose? This was my original question i guess

Q2: So i would be better off with a stereo amp with a built-in DAC that can accept sound from the TV via a HDMI cable. Correct? Is there typically any lag in the DAC conversion process and therefore get mismatch between vision and sound that will bug me?

Q3: I am about to buy a new TV. 40"-50" 50Hz Samsung or similar, probably. What is the most likely form of audio out for TV's these days? This what i'll need to feed to my amp.

My Yamaha amp has been shipped but not received. I'll not open it and see if i can do a deal with the seller. They also deal in Rotel so maybe a RA-12 is not out of the question. Happy to spend more if the set-up is more suited to my purposes.

BlueWizeard you mention a lot of different amps there - is there a Yamaha stereo amp that has the built-in DAC? I'm still not fussed about built-in networking features.

Thanks guys, we're getting there ...
 

Samblers

Novice Member
Sorry, theres a Q4: With a 5.1 AV Receiver, is it only the Left/Right channels used when playing music, or does it use them all?
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Q1: B&W 685-S2 - very good speakers for the money with pretty good bass for a bookshelf.

Q2: You would connect the TV Optical Digital Audio Out to the Optical input of your DAC. HDMI only works with AV Receivers. If you have a DVD or BluRay you connect that by HDMI to the TV, then take the Digital Audio Out of the TV and feed the DAC/Stereo amp combination.

Q3: Samsung never have Analog Audio Out. If that is important, then you need to look up the specs on-line, and perhaps look at the owners manual to determine if the TV has Analog Audio Out. Most often this will be in the form of one Red and one White RCA phono-style connectors clearly marked Audio Out.

If the TV does not have analog out, then the only option is probably the Digital Optical Audio Out which virtually ever modern TV made has. That optical out would have to feed the Optical Input of a DAC, whether a stand alone DAC or a built-in DAC.

The Rotel RA-12 is a very sweet amp. It has, if I remember right, Optical and Coaxial DAC inputs, plus a USB-media input, and it comes with a USB dongle that allows the amp to receive Bluetooth transmission. That is, you can stream directly from any Smart Device (pad, tablet, phone, etc...). Very handy for casual listening.

I think in the UK, the Rotel RA-12 is about £599. That's pretty expensive, but a very sweet amp. I heard this amp driving some floorstanding 4 ohm Electrocompaniet speakers. It drove them effortlessly.

The Yamaha RN500 is not in the same quality class as Rotel, but it is still a very good amp and not only has the Optical, Coaxial, and USB-media inputs, but it has Computer Networking. In the UK, the price on the Yamaha RN500 runs between £450 and about £499.

Yamaha R-N500 Network Receiver/Amplifier - Early impressions. | AVForums

When I searched, Google-AU_Shopping nothing came up on the RN500, but that doesn't mean much. I think you have to pay Google to get your products listed, so not everyone lists them.

I was actually going to suggest the RA-12, but I decided that was a bit above your budget. Still very sweet amp.

There are definitely things that you can get from an AV Receiver, that you can get from a Stereo, and there are thing you can get from a Stereo, but they are more difficult than an AV Receiver. But in an AV Receiver, especially if you are not going 5.1, you are diluting down you money. If you buy a stereo amp, two amp channels, for the same price that you pay for 7 AV channels, you can't expect those to be equal amps. If we use £500 as an example, with stereo that is £250 per amp channel. The same money for a AV Receiver is £62 per amp channel. Which is likely to sound better £250 or £62?

I'm biased toward Stereo, I freely admit that. I would certainly have a Surround Sound system if I had a very large truck full of money, and some place to put the system. Until such time as I win the lottery, I prefer to concentrate my money on higher quality stereo equipment. For me, that is fine for watching movies and great for listening to music.

However, if you want Surround Sound, and many many do, then, there is no choice, you need an AV Receiver.

Every choice made in life compromises something in favor of something else. That's just how life works. Your task is to find those compromises that best suit you.

Steve/bluewizard
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
OOPs, forgot Q4:

Q4: You have several options when playing music through a AV Receiver. You can choose 2.0, where only the Front Left/Right speakers play. You can choose DIRECT mode, where all the digital processing is out of the circuit and you just get pure 2-channel Stereo. You can add the Subwoofer by selecting 2.1 channel music. There is also an option for All-Channel Stereo. The 2 stereo channels are spread among all 5 speakers and the Subwoofer. Some people like this, but it involves a lot more digital processing in the decision as to what sound goes to which speaker.

Again, you have to weigh the quality along with the advantages and disadvantages of each system, and decide which best suits your needs.

I'm not sure about the prices in AU, but the Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100 is pretty reasonably price. The Musical Fidelity V90-DAC also very reasonable priced. Not cheap, but reasonable.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 Digital to Analogue Converter (Silver) - Noisy Motel

Headphones, Headphone Amps And Hifi Equipment - Addicted To Audio

With the above DAC, you can use just about any amp you want. It has independent Optical and Coaxial inputs, plus it has USB-PC connection for direct connect to a computer.

The Rotel RA-12 seems to be between $699 and $899, though I could only find it listed on Ebay-AU. But again, Google-AU_Shopping doesn't list every dealer. Again ... sweet amp.

Options on the Yamaha R-N500, which did not turn up on a Google Shopping search, but did turn up an a Google image search limited to AU.

Our Specials Stereo Stereo Amps and Receivers

Yamaha R-N500 Network Receiver

R-N500 Network Stereo Receiver

Yamaha R-N500 Network Stereo Receiver (AU$799)

Onkyo TX-8050 Network Stereo Receiver - AV Australia Online (AU$749)

The final decision is yours.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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Samblers

Novice Member
Thank you Steve... very much appreciated. I think i'm finished with questions now and need to make a decision... have contacted the seller of the Yamaha amp to see if they'll consider a refund/credit towards a more suitable amp. Shame they are 2,500km away ;)

BTW, If i can do the swap and can go with the Rotel RA-12 (ot Yam R-N500), i'll go with the B&W 685's

Will report back

Thanks so much for help thus far

Sam
 

Samblers

Novice Member
The seller of my Yamaha amp has been very helpful and is trying to understand if the Rotel RA-12 will indeed meet my needs. Reading the specs, I’m not so sure…

My system:
- Two bookshelf speakers (not yet purchased)
- TV
- Amp/Receiver
- 1 x DVD player
- 1 x CD player
- Apple TV – for movies
- Spare Apple AirPorts lying around. Currently connected into my RA-01 for music streaming

What would I connect the AppleTV (HDMi/optical out) to? Assume HDMI to TV and optical to amp, then that means I’d need to have the TV on to stream music (i.e. just to navigate)? If I want to get around this I guess I could connect a spare airport express to the amp. I currently do this using the 3.5mm jack out – but can I utilize any of its USB or Ethernet ports? RA-2 has a USB port on the front but I’m not sure if this could be used with the USB out of an AirPort?

I notice Rotel supply a Bluetooth dongle. This is good for streaming content held on an iPhone but does anyone know if this will work with AirPlay? I suspect not (my other Bluetooth music devices don’t). Not quite sure how I’d get music streamed from internet to the Rotel?
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
Even with the yamaha receivers you would need the TV on to use the appletv so no different with the rotel.
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
If the amp has an optical input then you should be able to connect the appletv to it. So this will be the same for the Yamaha AVR or the Rotel (from what you say it has an optical input).
 

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