Moving into Arcam multichannel from A85

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by darrellk, Jan 17, 2008.

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  1. darrellk

    darrellk
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    I use an A85 amp for CD/2 Channel SACD/vinyl, together with Dynaudio Contour speakers. I'm very, very happy with the sound. However, I'm less than happy with my 5.1 setup, which also uses the A85 as power amp for the front left and right channels, fed from the pre-outs of a Pioneer VSX-AX5i surround receiver.

    Now, when comparing the Pioneer and Arcam as preamps, with the same CD player and the Arcam power amp section driving the speakers in both cases, the difference is night and day. The difference is much greater than that between analogue and digital CD input, or even using the DVD recorder as a CD player (digital input to the Pioneer).

    I have quite a few SACDs and my main interest in DVD is live concert discs, and I want the same quality in 5.1 as I have in 2 channel at present, and the pre-amp section of the Pioneer receiver is holding me back. The Centre speaker is also Dynaudio (T2.1), so no problem there. The rear speakers will be upgraded after I get the amplification sorted out.

    I'll stick to Arcam as I'm very happy with the A85. As far as I can see, my options are either an Arcam surround receiver, or have the A85 fitted with the 5.1 input board, and get hold of a 3-channel A80/85/90 power amp.

    Some questions:

    1. What is the cost of the 5.1 input board?

    2. I understand that the board has two 5.1 inputs - can one of them be configured as a fixed level input, so that it can be used for Sky TV/DVD movies/DVD recorder sound via the old Pioneer AV amp (as there would be no Pro-logic or anything on the Arcam)?

    3. How would an A280 (for example) receiver compare with an A85-based 5.1 setup in sound quality? If that's no comparison, at what level of AV amp will the quality be comparable with the A85 etc for "analogue direct" 2 channel and 5.1 channel inputs?

    Obviously, the receiver option has the benefit of simplicity, and I could sell on my A85, Pioneer receiver and Denon tuner.

    What do people think?

    Thanks, Darrell
     
  2. elliotjames

    elliotjames
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    Hi

    I had a similar setup to you and have now got the equipment in my sig.
    I am not sure that the 5.1 card is still available new and may be only be had second hand.
    My avr300 amp is not as good as my A85 was for stereo but over time it has grown on me so I am not too disappointed.Indeed Bi amping using the spare 6 & 7 channels gave a good improvement on sound.

    You can pick up new avr300 amps from some of the Sevenoak branches (try Brighton) at around £600ish I think. Your other option would be the avr350 which can be had for around £1100 with some good haggling!

    HTH
     
  3. kre

    kre
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    Hi Darrell,

    I went from A85 to A90 7.1 last year. The price for mch-card (its 7.1 channel, BTW) was 500 euros installed. My dealer had a A90 7.1 and he offered it for me as a trade-up for 550 eur. So it was a easy call, I bought a demo P85-3 same time. Don´t know if the mch-board is available anymore, though. Maybe Arcam would like to comment on this, as this issue is discussed here frequently? I would like to know if it´s available with coming A38?

    kre
     
  4. NonPayingMember

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    MCH input boards haven't been available for some time, nor the 3-ch P35 power amp. I think with having HD audio decoded in players there should be some persuasion for having these back. We should start a poll or something!!! As you have seen, no AVR being used as a pre-amp can compare to a Hi-Fi pre-amp at all. It's amazing how easily noticeable the difference is even for the least "Hi-Fi" of us. It actually sounds like a cable is broken or something
     
  5. kre

    kre
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    I´m actually thinking of ripping of the mch-board from my A90 and installing it to C31/A32/whatever when upgrading in future. Or maybe I should get that nice Copland 6-ch tube-preamp...

    kre
     
  6. darrellk

    darrellk
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    Thanks for all the replies.

    Double bad news then - no MCH input boards, and "no AVR being used as a pre-amp can compare to a Hi-Fi pre-amp at all"!

    So it's not even worth auditioning an AVR300, for example? What does the 5.1 music enthusiast do? I know I can keep separate systems for 2ch and 5.1, but I was really hoping to cut down on the box count and the operational complexity. I suppose the answer is a big money separate processor/preamp.

    I was quite excited about the half-price AVR300s that seem to be around at the moment. After selling my A85, Pioneer Receiver and TU260L, it wouldn't have cost much at all.

    So what exactly does it take to obtain 5.1 amplification of a comparable quality to the A85?

    Darrell
     
  7. OneDesi

    OneDesi
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    Darrell

    I'd hold back on the "no AVR............." as My AVR350 is as good as an a80/85 for 2-channel and AV. Yes it costs £1500RRP but you can probably get a good deal if you shop around.

    I moved from 2 systems (Stereo and AV) to the one and I have to admit the AVR350 is just damned good - so much so that a recent thread I started considering going back to separate boxes has led me to the conlcusion that the AVR350 is still the neatest and best option for me.

    If I were you I'd go and demo the AVR350 (cant comment on the AVR280 and I was quite underwhelemd by the AVR300 for stereo). Only thing to bear in mind is that none of the current arcams do the HDMI upscaling and decoding of the new HD sound formats.
     
  8. proux

    proux
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    I also found the AVR350 great on stereo- no worse than the A90. It was only a brief demo though.

    You can conifgure the AVR to biamp front speakers, and compare that to using the A85 as a power amp before you sell it.
     
  9. proux

    proux
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    :oops: Can you biamp Dynaudio? Pity if you cant
     
  10. Cocksure

    Cocksure
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    No they don't believe in it, but with the quality of sound they can produce maybe their right?
     
  11. LittleNinja

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    I was also told that the AVR350 is at least as good in stereo as the A85 is...

    I think a carefull audition would help you out here. There are other benefits from the AVR series you should consider...

    Good luck!!
     
  12. darrellk

    darrellk
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    Thanks for everyone's help. I demoed the AVR300 yesterday, and liked it enough to buy one. £650 (less whatever I can get for the Pioneer) seemed quite a bargain, worth the money for the improvement in 5.1, even if I ended up keeping my A85 for stereo.

    After an evening's listening at home, I'm very impressed. I haven't compared directly with my A85 yet, but I could definitely live with the AVR300 as my stereo amp. The transparency and musicality is in a different league to the Pioneer. The improvement with A/V sources (Sky TV and DVD-V) is also obvious.

    As a Dynaudio user, I don't have the biamp option, but I can experiment with the A85 as a power amp for the front channels, although in my quite small room, the AVR300 is operating well within its limits.

    Although I know I should probably just sit back now and enjoy the music (something I couldn't do with the Pioneer) , I'm sure I will be comparing the AVR300 with my A85 sooner rather than later. I'll post the results for anyone interested.

    Darrell
     
  13. OneDesi

    OneDesi
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    Darrell

    I probably shouldn't say it but c'mon - do the comparison, I'm sure many would like to hear what you think;)

    If you like the AVR300 you should've demo'd the AVR350.
     
  14. darrellk

    darrellk
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    I will, I'm sure! You might be right about the AVR350, but the price difference is huge. I do like a bargain, and I think I got one. :)

    Watch this space.
     

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