How to improve the Stereo performance of your AV Receiver

So, you've bought your shiny new surround sound system with large speakers scattered around the room. Yet you find yourself wanting that beloved stereo sound stage you once had with your simple 2 channel stereo system. So, what to do next? What really is the best practice for improving your stereo sounds when using an AV Receiver at its heart?

Is it the HTBYPASS option, an External DAC, or an upgrade on that new AV Receiver? In this Mini “how to” guide, we will try to answer which is right for you!

Firstly, this frequently asked question has no right or wrong answer. But you'll be happy to hear that there are ways of finding an alternative route to address the problem and bring that musical essence back into your life.

The right starting path for you depends upon two factors. Do you want a one or two box solution, and do you want a better musical sound stage?

If you're looking for a one box solution, then you've already answered your own question. You're looking at the top-tier level from Denon, Marantz, Yamaha, or any level from the Arcam AVR range (which is why their tag line is “Bringing Music and Movies to life”). These products are historically at the top of their game for musical reproductions, which can also excel with movies.

Denon AVR-X2700H (2).jpg


However, if you don't wish to follow this path and already own an AV Receiver (which, for cinema, is perfectly acceptable to your ears), then the direction you take can thankfully be narrowed down further by the outputs your AV Receiver includes.

Without pre-outs and/or upgrading the AV Receiver, then an External DAC is the way to go to improve the musical sound stage of your AV Receiver.

What will an external DAC deliver, and do you need to do anything to the AV Receiver?

Firstly, you'll need to pick a DAC (digital to analogue converter) that fits your pocket.

A good starting point is to look at the specifications of your own AV Receiver. What DAC does your AV Receiver use? You don't want to use anything that's going to downgrade the musical sound stage further.

Secondly, once you have found the right level DAC for your requirements, you'll need to pick an input. As it's for music, we'd suggest the CD analogue input.

Thirdly, connecting your musical source to the DAC should be via a digital cable.

This can be either an optical, coaxial, or even HDMI (if your DAC has that feature). Once you have your cable, place your AV Receiver into Pure-Direct mode - this should switch all the digital processing features off, enabling you to hear your new DAC in action.

Choosing the HTBYPASS path means your AV Receiver has the required front pre-out connections to work with a dedicated integrated stereo amplifier, which has a fixed input on a dedicated RCA connection.

yamaha-rx-v6a-6000.jpg


Why is this so important, you may ask? Well, the reason behind this is, when using this input, the integrated stereo amplifier becomes a power amp to the AV Receiver. So, with the volume being fixed, the AV Receiver can control the volume levels and integrate it seamlessly into the cinema configuration.

From here, things can become confusing, and it usually makes everyone shy away. But this isn't necessarily anything to worry about, so long as you follow these simple rules.

Firstly, you'll need to remove the Hi-Fi Speakers (front left and right) connected to the AV Receiver, and reconnect them to the integrated stereo amplifier.

Secondly, switch the input source players (CD, Blu-ray or streamer) connected to the AV Receiver and connect them via stereo phono rca cables to the integrated stereo amplifier. If this is a Blu-ray player, then keep the digital cable connected to the AV Receiver and add an additional stereo phono rca cable.

Thirdly, re-run the Room EQ on your AV Receiver so it reconfigures the AV Receiver setup, and ensure the integrated stereo amplifier is switched on and set to the (HTBYPASS) input before re-running the Room EQ on the AV Receiver.

Fourthly, if both your integrated stereo amplifier and AV Receiver include the 12-volt trigger connection, this should enable the AV Receiver to switch the integrated stereo amplifier into standby when not in use. So, when it's time to sit down and watch a blockbuster movie, this should simplify the process and help everyone at home to use these electronics with ease.

When using the system for music, simply use the integrated stereo amplifier alone leaving the AV Receiver powered off.

All of these musical upgrades require you to own a pair of Hi-Fi Speakers and a CD or Blu-ray player. If you choose the simple path of a single AV Receiver to upgrade, then any of these items can be connected via stereo phono rca, optical, coaxial, or HDMI cables.

For the DAC, this will require a digital output of the source player, so it becomes a transport. For the HTBYPASS option, you will need pure analogue or, depending upon what inputs available on the integrated stereo amplifiers, you could use one of those inputs, if you prefer the experience.

Not using these connections will remove everything you have achieved whilst trying to improve the overall musical sound stage of your system. If your speakers don't live up to the upgrade, then there is little point in starting the project as each of these solutions require you to address this area first - but we'll leave that for another thread!

3 (1).jpg


But don't forget, if you prefer another way of listening, then that's the right way for you as it's really all about how you, the individual, enjoys musical reproductions.

If you have any questions about upgrading your system to one of these fantastic solutions or you already own a combination which you'd like to suggest, please feel free to comment below
 
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Owisun

Novice Member
Hello, so if a buy the second box with by-pass for stereo connected to my avr Denon x3500 can I play music form my Avr to the 2ch stereo integrated amplif? Or can I stream from Avr and play the sound thru the second box or none of that is posibile and I shood buy another separate box (streamer) in this case even if my avr has thouse features too? Thanks you for the help!
 

ShanePJ

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
Hello, so if a buy the second box with by-pass for stereo connected to my avr Denon x3500 can I play music form my Avr to the 2ch stereo integrated amplif? Or can I stream from Avr and play the sound thru the second box or none of that is posibile and I shood buy another separate box (streamer) in this case even if my avr has thouse features too? Thanks you for the help!
It sounds like you you are still using the AV Receiver for streaming! Is that correct? If you are doing this, then you will be using the processing from the AV Receiver and it would be better to use an external streaming option similar to the BlueSound Node or iFi Audio Zen Blue V2 This will mean you can separate your AV Receiver completely and the Integrated Stereo Amplifier correctly. Although you may find this a little long winded, this is the prefered route (although there are other streaming boxes available). One will require you to use your phone while the other (regarded as one of the best in the industry streams multiple ways giving you many options
 
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Timmy C

Distinguished Member
It might be worth adding the speaker switch option to the original post for those that don't have pre-outs.

Also the less desirable route that I have recently taken of manually fixing the two channel amp volume due to lack of HT bypass. Not ideal but for a rarely used system it seems to be working fine for me.
 

ShanePJ

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
It might be worth adding the speaker switch option to the original post for those that don't have pre-outs.

Also the less desirable route that I have recently taken of manually fixing the two channel amp volume due to lack of HT bypass. Not ideal but for a rarely used system it seems to be working fine for me.
I did think about adding those areas when writing the article, but felt the simplest way was the best as it can get confusing enough to start with when trying to explain these types of options as it seems many people want to use it, but there is little information :smashin:
 

Hoku

Active Member
If you’re looking for a one box solution, then you’ve already answered your own question. You’re looking at the top-tier level from Denon, Marantz, Yamaha, or any level from the Arcam AVR range
I would add NAD and Anthem to that list.

I wanted a one-box solution and am very happy indeed with music and movie performance of my Anthem.

The simplicity of set-up, especially with Anthem’s customisable inputs, means that I can quickly flip from 2.0 to 2.1 to 5.1 for just one input if the source changes. (The display always tells me what the broadcast is).

BBC content for example is typically broadcast in stereo. So I want video support AND the best production of stereo music at the same time. And if it gets very bassy, or for movies on BBC, I can just flip to 2.1 reproduction of the 2.0 channel signal and let my sub take the strain.

Music too can easily be flipped from straight 2 channel to 2.1 on the fly, depending on my preference and the type of music being played.

And the Anthem of course delivers wonderfully when playing 5.1 blu rays of music like…

Hans Zimmer Live in Prague link…

John Williams Live in Vienna link

Agents are Forever Danish Symphony Orchestra link

i think this is one advantage of a one-box solution, when provided by Anthem, Arcam or NAD. You don’t have to think: you’re just always getting the best out of each source you play regardless of whether it’s just music, music with video or movies.

I watch to a lot of YouTube music videos these days from channels like Tiny Desk Concerts or Nord Live. 2.0 channel streams with video required.

Add to that, crucially, Anthem provides an excellent room correction, which does its work for all my sources.

If you have speakers and a stereo integrated without room correction, then choosing speakers that suit your room is even more crucial, because if you have problematic bass nodes, you can‘t do much about it unless you look at physical room treatment.

Each of the options mentioned above have merit, with each having pros and cons depending largely on your use, your room, and your budget.
 

ShanePJ

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
I would add NAD and Anthem to that list.

I wanted a one-box solution and am very happy indeed with music and movie performance of my Anthem.

The simplicity of set-up, especially with Anthem’s customisable inputs, means that I can quickly flip from 2.0 to 2.1 to 5.1 for just one input if the source changes. (The display always tells me what the broadcast is).

BBC content for example is typically broadcast in stereo. So I want video support AND the best production of stereo music at the same time. And if it gets very bassy, or for movies on BBC, I can just flip to 2.1 reproduction of the 2.0 channel signal and let my sub take the strain.

Music too can easily be flipped from straight 2 channel to 2.1 on the fly, depending on my preference and the type of music being played.

And the Anthem of course delivers wonderfully when playing 5.1 blu rays of music like…

Hans Zimmer Live in Prague link…

John Williams Live in Vienna link

Agents are Forever Danish Symphony Orchestra link

i think this is one advantage of a one-box solution, when provided by Anthem, Arcam or NAD. You don’t have to think: you’re just always getting the best out of each source you play regardless of whether it’s just music, music with video or movies.

I watch to a lot of YouTube music videos these days from channels like Tiny Desk Concerts or Nord Live. 2.0 channel streams with video required.

Add to that, crucially, Anthem provides an excellent room correction, which does its work for all my sources.

If you have speakers and a stereo integrated without room correction, then choosing speakers that suit your room is even more crucial, because if you have problematic bass nodes, you can‘t do much about it unless you look at physical room treatment.

Each of the options mentioned above have merit, with each having pros and cons depending largely on your use, your room, and your budget.
It's been a very long time since I heard a NAD product (even though I've owned in the past) and the last one I heard was so disappointing, The guy who came thought he could set the sound up before measuring the room as the thought he knew best and in all honesty, it was woefully poor. I was itching to get the mic out as I knew it was all wrong, but the guy from NAD knew best apparently. Since then, I haven't look at the brand and maybe I should

I agree regarding the settings on Anthem and even though the Anthem was one of the best I'd heard for setting up 2.1, I still feel I can get a better sound when using my ear and CD's to bring both speakers and woofer together. But it was a really close matched in where i added Anthem or Arcam and was really a flip of a coin
 
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