How "musical" are "musical" AVRs?

jsl20

Active Member
Due to some lockdown-induced upgradeitis I'm starting to think potential amplification upgrades in the near future. Last year I went down from a dedicated two channel and a 5.1 system to a single 5.1.2 Atmos system. For movies it's great, but the Denon 2600 is pretty poor when tasked with music, either streamed through HEOS or into the RCAs via an external DAC (though the latter is slightly better).

To keep things simple I'd like to keep a one box approach and so have been looking at AVRs that claim to be good with music: offerings from NAD and Marantz mainly. How do these AVRs compare with more standard 2 channel amps when it comes to music? Can a £1,500 AVR be bettered by a £400 to £600 stereo amp judged on music alone?
 

Christian1975

Active Member
This should interest you:
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
You'll get a lot of different responses to this!

My experience - went from a Denon 4400 + Musical Fidelity HT bypass amp to an Arcam AVR550.

Initially I was a bit disappointed with the 2 channel musical performance, but I now have it sounding really nice, and as good as the MF amp, by using an external DAC, and having the Arcam AVR in stereo direct mode. I also use a small sub, the BK200 connected via high level to support my Kef R300's, when listening to music, I do like to feel a nice bass groove.
 

Christian1975

Active Member
Referring to the Denon range, in my opinion, there is a massive step up in stereo musical ability between the 2000 series to the 3000 series (or the 23xx to 33xx in the older models).
I had an AVRX2300 for a while. Then, lockdown went silly so I had a period of losing my mind and finding bargains on ebay.
The "next level up" even the older models were so much better for stereo music. So, I had an AVRX3100 then a Marantz SR6005. It seems it's not just more power that they have but something else haha (probably reflected in their original price tags!).
I then had a Denon AVR4310. That was the best for music I have ever had (using it's own amplification). That is my favourite AV amp, now in the loft just for music, as it doesn't do 4k, Atmos, DTS:X etc...
I'm very happy with my AVRX3600 using the front preouts in 11.1 setup (which was tested recently online if you google it) to a separate Rotel power amplifier.
The AVRX2300 is now a bedroom AV setup and never really does music but a fine job for TV and movies ;o)
But this is such a subjective question! I mean the sound from the Marantz for example was "bright" I loved it, it reminded my of my first hifi amp (Nad 3030). But then it got grating and too much, almost gave you a headache in both music and cinema!
 

jsl20

Active Member
I was thinking along the lines of going up a series or two then using pre-outs and an amp with HT bypass or getting a 2 channel amp and a 2 amp/1 pair of speaker switch and keeping the 2600 for a few more years. Both of them involves more boxes and cables and so a single box would be nicer but they do seem to be in the £1k+ mark, even more for a NAD AVR. I used to have a NAD C326 and really liked the sound of it.
 

Christian1975

Active Member
Sounds like a great plan. The 2600 must be pretty new and it has most of the up to date features so no point in making a loss on it. If you search on the forums here, there are lots of recommendations for a decent speaker/amp switcher.
Also, if you switch between your 2600 and a hifi two channel amp, you could get a hifi amp that has the HT bypass now. That way, if you upgrade your AV amp in a few years you can bin the switcher and use the front preouts.
If you are buying new, there are some well reviewed Onkyo hifi amps out there with bypass at the moment...
 

jsl20

Active Member
I’ve been keeping a eye out for amps with HT bypass (there’s a list on another website I found). There are some good deals on ex demo Arcam SA10s from dealers or I’ll see if I can get an older Arcam or Audiolab on the forums or eBay. It looks like the switches come in at about £90 so they’re quite cost effective.
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
I feel the key point on this is if your not happy with the audio sounds of your av receiver, you have a few avenues to look down which is nice. Improving the source so you do not have to hear the processing of the av receiver, upgrade the av receiver or add an additional amp to enable you to bypass the av processing altogether

I don't think any of these are wrong and its up to you as to which one is the easiest for your to run down. If your av receiver has the ability to work with a dedicated stereo amp and your stereo amp can work as a power amp via a bypass option, then I feel you'd be a fool not to use that option. I on the other had have a half decent av receiver where I don't rely on its processing for stereo (it runs in direct stereo mode which switches the processing off) by improving the source. I've also been lucky enough to try this option plus its let me see how my dac and av receiver stack up against the Lyngdorf 3600 and I was super happy that the sound difference (with RP set to bypass) was almost identical

So adding a stereo amp with a bypass feature to work in conjunction with your av receiver (so long as it has the outputs) will be a great starting point, but its also relevant to ensure that the source is also as good. The reason behind this is it doesn't matter how good your amps are, if the information being sent to them is poor, then you will enjoy poor quality sounds until you sort it out. So its usually more than just upgrading one section in my opinion. Now the beauty of any system only needs to cost what you feel is a "good sound" as each and everyone of us has a benchmark we aspire to that end is all that's each one of us are striving to achieve

I've never heard the latest Nad av receivers, but historically they used to be very good. I've always preferred Arcam as a one stop av receiver as my ears enjoy the sound (Some people can find them to be a little slow, but I find that with my DAC and Media Server, plus the av receiver running in direct stereo is quick enough for my ears).

All, I will also add that if you're looking at cd playback, then see if you like the av receivers processing over the cd players. Try using both the analogue and digital outputs from the cd player. If you are using the analogue option from the cd player, remember to place the av receiver into its purest direct/pure mode which should switches many of those unwanted features off when listening to music

If you are streaming, ensure the information you are streaming is of a high quality, if not, then like I mentioned earlier, "you will enjoy poor quality sounds". So, make sure you find the right one for you. Try different options available to you as Airplay or Google own variation do sound different to many other gadgets like TV's and cheap connected devices (That's what many people have mentioned on these forums)

As you've mentioned an Arcam, I think you know my thoughts on that as I already own an old Arcam :)
 

jsl20

Active Member
my musical source is Tidal lossless into a DAC then into the line-level inputs of the AVR so I'm fairly happy with the source. I used to have a Rega CD player but the CDs went into the loft the CD player got sold as I moved to streaming.

I like the idea of the NAD AVR, but to get one with eARC (which I need for my Xbox if the AVR doesn't have 4k120Hz) it'll come with a £2,500 price tag which is pretty hefty! I'm wondering whether using something like an ex demo SA10 or older Arcam for music and a 3x00 or 4x00 Denon for movies would be overall cheaper and still good for both music and movies. It might take a while to upgrade over a period of time! The amp+switch would be an intermediate step if I don't upgrade the AVR in the next couple of years as currently the 2600 does everything I need it to for movies.
 

Christian1975

Active Member
my musical source is Tidal lossless into a DAC then into the line-level inputs of the AVR so I'm fairly happy with the source. I used to have a Rega CD player but the CDs went into the loft the CD player got sold as I moved to streaming.

I like the idea of the NAD AVR, but to get one with eARC (which I need for my Xbox if the AVR doesn't have 4k120Hz) it'll come with a £2,500 price tag which is pretty hefty! I'm wondering whether using something like an ex demo SA10 or older Arcam for music and a 3x00 or 4x00 Denon for movies would be overall cheaper and still good for both music and movies. It might take a while to upgrade over a period of time! The amp+switch would be an intermediate step if I don't upgrade the AVR in the next couple of years as currently the 2600 does everything I need it to for movies.

Does your TV have eARC and not just ARC?
I find it so stupid that the Series X and the PS5 didn't go for twin HDMI outs, like many Bluray players now do.
 

jsl20

Active Member
Yes, it’s an LG C9 so I’m running the Xbox into the TV with the ultra high speed HDMI then the sound into the AVR via eARC.

I’ve seen that you can get splitters that give you the ability to get lossless Atmos into a non eARC receiver
 

rccarguy2

Well-known Member
Referring to the Denon range, in my opinion, there is a massive step up in stereo musical ability between the 2000 series to the 3000 series (or the 23xx to 33xx in the older models).
I had an AVRX2300 for a while. Then, lockdown went silly so I had a period of losing my mind and finding bargains on ebay.
The "next level up" even the older models were so much better for stereo music. So, I had an AVRX3100 then a Marantz SR6005. It seems it's not just more power that they have but something else haha (probably reflected in their original price tags!).
I then had a Denon AVR4310. That was the best for music I have ever had (using it's own amplification). That is my favourite AV amp, now in the loft just for music, as it doesn't do 4k, Atmos, DTS:X etc...
I'm very happy with my AVRX3600 using the front preouts in 11.1 setup (which was tested recently online if you google it) to a separate Rotel power amplifier.
The AVRX2300 is now a bedroom AV setup and never really does music but a fine job for TV and movies ;o)
But this is such a subjective question! I mean the sound from the Marantz for example was "bright" I loved it, it reminded my of my first hifi amp (Nad 3030). But then it got grating and too much, almost gave you a headache in both music and cinema!

That's weird as marantz has high frequency roll off and Denon doesn't.
 

Christian1975

Active Member
Yes, it’s an LG C9 so I’m running the Xbox into the TV with the ultra high speed HDMI then the sound into the AVR via eARC.

I’ve seen that you can get splitters that give you the ability to get lossless Atmos into a non eARC receiver

@AndreNewman Hiya, what are your thoughts on such splitters please? Can they support proper 4k at the same time as the sound? Can it damage or overheat the output device? Etc. Sorry, thought you may be able to help. And I would be interested too, as my HDMI leads have an issue with 12 bit DV content unless I bypass the amp!
 

Christian1975

Active Member
That's weird as marantz has high frequency roll off and Denon doesn't.

Comparisons were in Direct modes. Don't get me wrong, I loved the SR6005 sound, the actual reason I gave up on that amp was because my wife disapproved of the little circle screen. Also, some picture formats it would passthrough but have no OSD and I couldn't read the little circle from "my seat"!
 

rccarguy2

Well-known Member
Comparisons were in Direct modes. Don't get me wrong, I loved the SR6005 sound, the actual reason I gave up on that amp was because my wife disapproved of the little circle screen. Also, some picture formats it would passthrough but have no OSD and I couldn't read the little circle from "my seat"!

Pretty sure marantz roll off is still present in in direct mode.
 

Christian1975

Active Member
I got the model name wrong, it was an SR5006 as in my signature... Haha you can buy it if you want and have a listen ;o)
 

alebonau

Well-known Member
i have both 2ch and ht systems in the same room with integrated and shared components. I moved across to a 2ch pre pwr with ht bypass years ago that updated a few years ago. but its the way to go. That can be hub of the 2ch gear source driving amp and speakers. the ht bypass means the power stage and L&R speakers are used for Ht and you get the best of both worlds.

ive had flagship denon AVP processor, and also a marantz flag ship processor. these are quite good in own right for 2ch music but the musical fidelity pre powers i have run for about 16-17 years now have been quite a bit better ...they also took my HT setup to benefit as well so a win win...

id highly recommend to the OP @jsl20 to consider the 2ch integrated with ht bypass approach. keep what you have and augment to benefit of music ...

its all very seamless too. you dont need any separate switches or anything. can configure it all to happen automatically with a universal remote.
 

jsl20

Active Member
Thanks for the advice!

I’ve been looking at 2 channel amps with the HT bypass and there seems a decent range from quite a few brands. I quite fancy trying one of the older Audiolab amps.

It seems like there are obvious benefits to the HT bypass route for music. Does it give any noticeable difference in sound quality when using it for movies?
 

rccarguy2

Well-known Member
I have a stereo pre amp added into the home cinema it lacks HT bypass bit it has superior sound to the av pre amp.
 

AndreNewman

Active Member
@AndreNewman Hiya, what are your thoughts on such splitters please? Can they support proper 4k at the same time as the sound? Can it damage or overheat the output device? Etc. Sorry, thought you may be able to help. And I would be interested too, as my HDMI leads have an issue with 12 bit DV content unless I bypass the amp!
No idea, sorry.

Usually bits is bits but with all the negotiation hdmi does things get changed around as soon as something else is plugged in, makes it all very confusing.
 

shug4476

Active Member
I have tried many, many processors and AV receivers for 2 and multichannel nirvana.

I have never found AV kit that can do stereo well. I am yet to try a Proceed AVP2 or a Theta Casablanca, both of which are really my last hope in this field, except maybe an old Mark Levinson.

I run an Arcam AV9 and P7 combo, famed for their capabilities with stereo and retailing at £6k on release (more like £9k in today's money). Both were easily bettered for music by a S/H £200 Rega Brio-R.

This doesn't mean that some AV kit isn't better than others. I have found Arcam AV kit well ahead of Denon for music (but Denon better in some respects for surround).

Your Denon AVR-2600 would be significantly bettered by just about any half-decent stereo amp you could find. You will notice improvements with a more expensive AV amp but they will be much smaller gains.

I would strongly recommend the second hand market for a stereo amp with HT Bypass. Arcam, Musical Fidelity, Naim, all offer very high performing kit at sensible S/H prices. An Arcam A32 or a Naim Nait 5i would blow your mind for less than £400 if you shop around. They would also significantly boost your HT performance as the power stage totally dwarfs what your Denon is capable of (or just about any other integrated AV amp for that matter).
 

jsl20

Active Member
I've been keeping an eye on the second hand market for HT bypass amps. I'd love a Nait 5i but they're currently sat around the £600 mark and so I've been looking at ex demo stuff too from Musical Fidelity and Audiolab in the £400 to £600 range which would have the advantage of a warranty and maybe some haggling. I may get something like this and a 2amp/1speaker switch then upgrade the AVR to something with pre-outs at a later date and link them together.
 

shug4476

Active Member
Audiolab is both the predecessor and successor company to Tag McLaren and some of their kit is highly praised.

Musical Fidelity is well worth exploring. An Arcam A32 or A85 would definitely be well within budget and a very noticeable upgrade.

I didn't realise Denon had ditched pre-outs on many of their AV amps. Very frustrating! This was standard not very long back even on the modestly priced kit.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
Denon haven't ditched pre-outs, they are on the mid range and higher models, that is 3x00 and better.

The Arcam AVR390 is still available, brand new with 5 year warranty, for £1300. That is a very musical AVR, is that out of budget?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

jsl20

Active Member
I looked at the Arcam 390 as a nice one box solution. The lack of eARC is a killer as I’m using an Xbox series X at 4K120Hz and so need to go straight into the TV and back out again to the AVR for lossless sound. I actually don’t know whether gaming atmos is lossless or lossy, if it’s the latter I might get away with regular old fashioned ARC but I also use the Xbox as a 4K blu ray player and so need the enhanced functionality.
 

The latest video from AVForums

Bowers PI7 wireless in-ear headphones review coming soon to AVForums
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Latest News

Apple's new iPad Pro features mini-LED display
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Apple launches new M1 powered iMac for 2021
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Apple introduces new Apple TV 4K with High Frame Rate HDR support
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Trinnov Audio announces Crestron Home driver
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Rotel announces upgrades to 14 and 15 Series amplifiers
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom