Back to Arcam yet again?

markusp

Active Member
This is it - the last time.

I've messed around time and again but keep coming back for more. Each time I think "this is it", only to stray in a different direction.

Seems like I wrote a post similar to this just 1.5 years ago when I stepped back into the fold, only to leave again a short 9 months later.

Should I return to the Arcam HT fold? I don't want to stray anymore. I just want great sound - period! Problem is - is it right for me?

In the past, I've owned the Arcam AVR-300, the AVR-350 (twice), the AVR-280 and until 9 months ago, the Arcam AV-8. Funny thing is, I can't remember how any of them really sounded but I do know I was happy with the gear for the most part. Loved the AV-8 for movies but never warmed up to it for music while I felt that the AVR-280 was a great everyday piece. Not as good as the AV-8 for movies but certainly good sounding.

I no longer have any Arcam HT pieces as I sold everything when my second child was born but even though I have very limited time to enjoy movies and music (aside from kids films!) I can't help but feel my little Pioneer setup isn't cutting it. There isn't anything wrong with the sound per say, it is just the mental knowledge that something that costs $800 CDN can not possibly match something that, until recently, cost $2000 CDN. For music, there is no question, the Pioneer stinks but for movies????

Many things have changed in my life and where I once ran a multi-thousand dollar setup with beautiful speakers (Kef XQ40a in piano black) I now run ugly black speakers that sound good but won't kill my son when they topple on top of him (very close call - don't ask). I now, and for the foreseeable future, run a 2.1 setup consisting of Klipsch Heresy 2 speakers and a Rel sub. My sources are a Panasonic BD-50 blu-ray player, a Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD player, a Western Digital WDHD, a Systemdek IIX turntable and a Naim CD5i cd player all connected to the Pioneer Elite VSX-01 (VSX-LX51 equivalent). I DO like the convenience of HDMI audio through the Pioneer but always felt that legacy DD and DTS soundtracks sounded better through my Arcam gear than they do through the Pioneer, even though the Pioneer may have the edge when it comes to the newer Hi-Res codecs. Is this just my memory playing tricks on me or is this really the case?

This is my primary system. I have a lovely 2 channel Naim setup packed away along with my Kefs until my 11 month old stops trying to kill himself with my gear and so I am looking for something to serve for both my music and movie needs and must sound damn good doing so (the Naim gear sounds rubbish with the Klipsch Heresy speakers - not a good match even though each on its own sounds very good) so the obvious question is - do I step back into the Arcam fold and pick up one of the last remaining AVR-280s for $999 CDN or is it just nostalgia and faulty memory recollection that makes me crave an Arcam?

As any young parent, we are financially strapped at the moment so while I have seen countless praise for the new AVR600, it is simply out of the question as it costs $6000 CDN. So to is trying to find an ex-dem AV-9 as these still retail for $3750 CDN here in Canada.

All opinions welcome and appreciated.

Cheers.
 
Last edited:

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Panasonic BD-50 blu-ray player, a Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD player ... do I step back into the Arcam fold and pick up one of the last remaining AVR-280s for $999 CDN
I think you answered your own question:
I now, and for the foreseeable future, run a 2.1 setup ... financially strapped
Getting an obsolete "entry-level" 5.1 receiver that "doesn't do" BD (or HD DVD) when you don't and won't have surround speakers seems rather pointless.

I'd say stick to stereo - which you already own, albeit packed away - and solve the real problem:
until my 11 month old stops trying to kill himself with my gear
I had 3 children and no such issues. We did need to mount glass doors on the hifi rack to keep the children from "turning knobs" and "pressing buttons", but the Quad ESL-63s - large, heavy and not all that stable - were never a danger.
 

markusp

Active Member
Hi Mark. My boy tends to be quite adventurous and has a tendency to climb my speakers and pull on the thick speaker cords. 2 months ago, he pulled so hard that the KEF toppled over and nearly crushed his head. Luckily it glanced off the fireplace first and softened the blow, but not without first damaging the fireplace! My wife and I were frozen in fear when the incident happened and promptly packed the speakers away that day.

As mentioned, Naim and Klipsch do not make a good match and the stereo output from our cable provider is mediocre at best - frequently cutting out and of poor signal quality. As such, I prefer to stick with a digital signal and have the receiver do proper bass management as the Klipsch speakers only reach down to a useful 60 Hz.

The one thing that the Klipsch do beautifully is image. I originally had them paired with a Klipsch centre channel and both my wife and I preferred running the setup as 2.1, since the phantom centre effect was much better than the actual centre.

Eventually my Naim system will be setup in a different room so I am looking for something that sounds great for both movies and music in my tv viewing room. The Pioneer does OK with movies currently but stinks for music. Hence my question on whether the return to the AVR-280 is right for me.
 

eaglemmoomin

Well-known Member
Hi Mark. My boy tends to be quite adventurous and has a tendency to climb my speakers and pull on the thick speaker cords. 2 months ago, he pulled so hard that the KEF toppled over and nearly crushed his head. Luckily it glanced off the fireplace first and softened the blow, but not without first damaging the fireplace! My wife and I were frozen in fear when the incident happened and promptly packed the speakers away that day.

As mentioned, Naim and Klipsch do not make a good match and the stereo output from our cable provider is mediocre at best - frequently cutting out and of poor signal quality. As such, I prefer to stick with a digital signal and have the receiver do proper bass management as the Klipsch speakers only reach down to a useful 60 Hz.

The one thing that the Klipsch do beautifully is image. I originally had them paired with a Klipsch centre channel and both my wife and I preferred running the setup as 2.1, since the phantom centre effect was much better than the actual centre.

Eventually my Naim system will be setup in a different room so I am looking for something that sounds great for both movies and music in my tv viewing room. The Pioneer does OK with movies currently but stinks for music. Hence my question on whether the return to the AVR-280 is right for me.

No, if you are strapped for cash don't spend anything more than you have to when you already have kit. I have to say if its only going stereo/2.1 then could'nt you just try the Naim with a cheapish DAC connected to the cable box.
 

markusp

Active Member
A DAC won't work as it lacks a DD decoder and my cable box does not have the ability to output PCM when a DD signal is present (all HD channels output DD sound). The cable box will only output what the native data stream is :(

Besides, as mentioned, the Naim and Klipsch speakers simply do not sound good together. It is simply a synergy thing.
 

Strocky

Banned
Hi Mark. My boy tends to be quite adventurous and has a tendency to climb my speakers and pull on the thick speaker cords. 2 months ago, he pulled so hard that the KEF toppled over and nearly crushed his head. Luckily it glanced off the fireplace first and softened the blow, but not without first damaging the fireplace! My wife and I were frozen in fear when the incident happened and promptly packed the speakers away that day.

As mentioned, Naim and Klipsch do not make a good match and the stereo output from our cable provider is mediocre at best - frequently cutting out and of poor signal quality. As such, I prefer to stick with a digital signal and have the receiver do proper bass management as the Klipsch speakers only reach down to a useful 60 Hz.

The one thing that the Klipsch do beautifully is image. I originally had them paired with a Klipsch centre channel and both my wife and I preferred running the setup as 2.1, since the phantom centre effect was much better than the actual centre.

Eventually my Naim system will be setup in a different room so I am looking for something that sounds great for both movies and music in my tv viewing room. The Pioneer does OK with movies currently but stinks for music. Hence my question on whether the return to the AVR-280 is right for me.

Adoption is the only answer I'm afraid :eek::D
 

markusp

Active Member
Looked into that as well as ebay but my wife cancelled the listing :)
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Sounds like a normal boy; wait until you have 3 of them. I didn't claim we had "golden behaviour", merely that we had no problems with the speakers / LPs. We did of course jump and discipline (no violence!).

Are you saying that your cable box has neither stereo analogue nor SCART outputs, so that you either have to have an AVR to effect audio decoding, or you have to stick to silent films when using a stereo-only solution?
 

markusp

Active Member
I am located in Canada so no scart output. My HD cable box offers audio via HDMI, digital optical and RCA. Our cable provider only supports the digital optical connection and component video output. HDMI and RCA stereo output are neither supported or recommended, even though video and audio work fine through HDMI. Audio does not work properly through RCA output. It will simply stop outputting a signal after 5 or so minutes of use, and this has been true on both boxes I have owned. Something to do with the current firmware on the Motorola boxes, hence the lack of support from the cable company.

The problem with the digital optical output is that you can not tell the cable box to output PCM only. It is a straight through device which means that it will simply output whatever form of signal it receives. If the signal originates as PCM - terrific, but if the signal originates as DD, then a DAC simply won't work. Here in Canada, almost all HD channels broadcast with 5.1 DD audio.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
I wasn't suggesting a DAC (that was eaglemmoomin), I was suggesting using stereo analogue outputs into a stereo amplifier. Since your cable box doesn't support this, my suggestion obviously won't work and you do need AV processing and perhaps an AVR280 would be a solution. Any chance you can make an A/B comparison against the Pioneer?
 

markusp

Active Member
Well - I am officially back in the Arcam fold again, this time for the long haul!

I managed to pick up a new AVR-280 in silver for $700 CDN all in and hooked it up last night to test against the Pioneer. I level matched the two receivers and used my Niles amp selector switch to switch between the two and the Arcam easily took top honours for both movies and music - especilly for music! Movies had a nice improvement too, rendering up detail and impact that the Pioneer simply never offered. My wife was most impressed with the Blu-ray of Monsters Vs. Aliens - the integration of the sub and impact of the soundtract was miles ahead of the Pioneer, even though the Pioneer was natively decoding Dolby TrueHD while the Arcam was simply decoding high bitrate DTS.

The Arcam mates very nicely with the Klipsch Heresy II speakers and so I will now run the AVR-280 along with a Naim CD5i, a Nottingham Analog Horizon TT with a Pro-ject Tube Box II phono stage and the Samsung BDP-1500 blu-ray player, utilizing DTS re-encode. I was using the analog outputs of the Panasonic DMP-BD50 last night until the right channel simply died. This is the second unit I have had that happen to so will stick with the Samsung for the time being.

I won't say that the Arcam matches my Naim 2 channel setup since that would be an unrealistic expectation but I will say that this setup sounds very very good and enjoyable and certainly excellent for the money so I am a happy camper. It did not require a large capital outlay and seeing as I should be able to sell the Pioneer for approx. $300, makes the step up to Arcam a nice bargain!
 

nrighton

Active Member
If you want to replace the panasonic unit look for a used pioneer 51FD blu-ray player. They use 4 Wolfson WM8740 DACs for the 7.1 analog output. I use the DVD-A inputs on an AVR300 and it sounds awesome. They can be had on ebay for around 200 USD.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Congratulations on your new kit.
 

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