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Processors

Discussion in 'AV Pre-Amp/Processors & Power Amps' started by baileych, Sep 27, 2002.

  1. baileych

    baileych
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    I'm going to listen (just listen!) to Tag AV32R vs Arcam AV8 this weekend. Any suggestions as to what I should be listen for or with (apart from my ears) or any thoughts on any feature differences that I might not think of. I'm planning on just using a 5.1 setup for now - no 7.1 plans until new house! This makes the TAG cheaper.

    What are people's thoughts on the AV30R. Will the AV32R justify £750 more?

    Has anyone else compared these two?

    Naturally, I let you know what I think after I've heard.

    Thanks,

    Charles.
     
  2. gazzerr

    gazzerr
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    I've not heard either but plan to go the same route when the right deal appears. Would be interested in your impressions though. Have you considered what power amps, will you stick with one brand for the amp or stick with the same brand for the pro and power. You might want to know which processor is better or which package is better ( in your opinion -of course).

    I must admit that I am not clear on the upgrade path for the AV 30 which puts me off a bit. It will be software upgradeable but I'm not clear about hardware and with digital transmission of SACD/DVD looming, it could seriously impact how long you would keep it and a key objective of mine is to avoid selling and upgrading every few years.

    Happy Listening. Look forward to reading your conclusions.
     
  3. garmtz

    garmtz
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  4. baileych

    baileych
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    Yes, sorry, I've not had enough time to do a full, well thought out post yet, but here are my initial thoughts:

    I listened to both the TAG AV32R and Arcam AV8. In the end, due to a lack of time and difficulty in juggling three different processors I dropped the AV30R from my list. The superior upgradability (potentially to AV192!) and no-compromise design persuaded me that I would probably go for the AV32R anyway even if there was not much to choose between them in sound.

    I listened to both with the Arcam DV88, a Linn power amplifier as this was a 'neutral ground' for the battle and a B&W 600 S3 series 5.1 setup. As such my audition probably didn't allow the two processors to show off to their full potential but it was important to me to see whether it was worth going for something this high quality in my much lower price band system.

    I listened to three clips of movies: the pod race from SW:TPM, the opening battle of Gladiator (dts) and the scene from JP3 from just before the moment when the pteradactyl (spelling??:(??) swoops off with the boy.

    Wow - what a difference. Compared to my AVR100/A85 combination the sound from both was hugely superior. (To answer another thread processor or power amp first: processor ;) ). Basically there appeared to be more detail and clarity in the treble - especially the surrounds.

    The verdict: the Arcam won the pod race and the battle scene. I'm not sure why but there just seemed to be a little more detail in these really busy bits of action. The TAG won the Jurassic Park III scene. In this scene there are quite a lot of distinct echos and creaks from the metal bridge which they are crossing and the combination of sounds and echos seemed slightly better placed and the slow crescendo of the drum beat was a bit more involving.

    I have to say that the differences between the two were extremely marginal and I would be interested to hear them both in a more 'reference' setup. (I won't though even if given the opportunity as I've given my GF a no more upgrades (for a long time - apart from maybe just one) oath.)

    Just looking at the features, they both do most processing formats:
    TAG has a £450 price advantage unless you want 7.1 when it's a tie
    Arcam has the usual Arcam green display - TAG has cool, funky blue display :D
    Arcam has independent second stereo zone - TAG doesn't (might do in AV192R future form???)
    TAG is definitely upgradable - Arcam, well, probably is to at least a certain extent.
    TAG McLaren Surround 5 (or 7) - Arcam: just the usual PLII modes ??

    So what happened to me? I've been tagged! Basically, the £450 cheaper with proven upgradablility and funky blue display won it for me. The sound quality was so similar in the setup that I'm likely to stay with for some time that I couldn't pick an obvious winner. I'm loaning the shop AV32R until mine arrives (their's is actually 7.1 but I can't get speakers into decent positions so I won't try!).

    My A85 drives the front speakers - I'm just using it as a power amp now and the AVR100 drives the (bass limited) other three channels. I've thought quite a bit about power amps and I'll being getting a matching P85/3 (Arcam gets the consolation prize :p) and selling my AVR100. This is a relatively cheap way forward and I won't be able to afford anything much better for a *long* time!

    The dual switchable speaker outputs of the A85 give me enough of a 'second zone' functionality without requiring more power amps. I now let the TAG do the CD DAC job from the DV88, it certainly seems no worse than the analogue connectino from the DV88 to the A85 used to be.

    Hopefully this weekend I can do some head to heads. Movie sound: AVR100 processing vs AV32R processing. Unfair, of course, but then I can see what the TAG gains me. CD replay: (i) DV88 via analogue to A85 preamp vs (ii) DV88 via analog to TAG input vs (iii) DV88 via analogue to TAG part of 5.1 bypass input vs (iv) DV88 via digital to TAG. This should be interesting I think the last option will win but I'm quite interested in (i) vs (iii) as I have been quite attached to the A85 preamp stage sound.

    Eek, is that the time? Must go to work...

    Charles.
     
  5. martintyler

    martintyler
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    Interesting review.

    Was all the listening done with the Linn amp? how does it compare when using the avr100+a85 for amps?

    Has anyone done any tests of these processors against a pioneer ax10?
     
  6. baileych

    baileych
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    Yes, all listening done with the Linn amp. As for how it compares to A85/AVR100: different room, different speakers, different time - it wouldn't be fair for me to guess. (Oh, alright I'm guessing the Linn was better but a P85 + P85/3 - which is the equivalent to what I'm moving to - would be around £1250 vs ~£1800 for the Linn.)

    Charles.
     
  7. martintyler

    martintyler
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    Thanks. Let us know how your testing goes this weekend. I currently have an AVR100, P85/3 and DV88 and am looking to upgrade so will be interested in your results.
     
  8. John Dawson

    John Dawson
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    Charles,

    I of course respect your decision to buy an AV32R - it is a very fine processor. Enjoy it!

    For the record there are a few points about the AV8 of which you or other readers may have been unaware.

    1) From a stereo source the AV8 has a number of surround sound modes for 5 or 7 speakers in addition to Dolby Pro Logic II - these are accessible via the mode button on the front panel or remote control. They are Music, (extracted ambience and centre information), Party (all speakers on), Club (small room), Hall (medium reverberant room), Sport (very reverberant with extracted ambience and a dry centre channel to keep the commentary clear) and Church (a long reverberant room). These have all been carefully optimised by our design team to sound decent and be fit for purpose!

    2) The AV8 supports component and RGB video, with on screen graphics. There are even the necessary switching signals available to sort out SCART equipped TVs. QED, Chord and AudioQuest have custom SCART cables for this application. Unlike most other processors, the AV8 can blend the OSD information (e.g. a volume bar) seamlessly with the video, without any loss of video quality.

    3) There are individual speaker EQs for all channels in case you have some speakers in non-optimal positions in your room.

    4) The AV8 has a true analogue bypass, with a flat wideband frequency response, for up to 8 stereo sources. If the "direct" button is activated in stereo then the audio DSPs are turned off with a further useful improvement in sound quality. It also has an 8 channel input (rather than 6) for external multichannel analogue sources, to allow for possible future formats.

    5) A very high quality phono stage can be fitted as an option. In conjunction with the broadcast quality A/D converter in the AV8, it can also be used to archive LPs to a digital recorder.

    6) The AV8 has 5 Preset memories, which record and recall the state of the whole machine - these are typically assigned to movies, regular TV, music and so on, or to individual user's preferences.

    7) We are already supporting the AV8 fully in terms of software upgrades and we plan, where possible, to make hardware upgrades available in the future. Note that you do not need to buy an expensive cable to perform the SW upgrades.

    8) The second zone output includes composite video and an OSD on the second zone video display - this is really useful as you can see exactly what you are doing from the second zone. It also obviously has remote volume control and the opportunity to listen to a different stereo source from zone one - unfortunately you can't do this with second speaker switching.

    Sorry you didn't like the green display :)

    Sincerely,

    John Dawson (Arcam)
     
  9. martintyler

    martintyler
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    Good information John...

    The various music modes is something that interests me. I am not really happy using 'hall' or 'pro logic' on my AVR100 at the moment, but i quite like the '7 channel stereo' on my friends pioneer ax10. Is the AV8 'Party' mode similar to this would you think?

    What modes does the tag have?

    The green display... in the words of Alan Partridge.. 'its not a deal breaker'.
     
  10. baileych

    baileych
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    John,

    Thank you for your clarification, I have to say that I was hoping that you would put forward some more information. I didn't in any way want to show the AV8 in a bad (or green!) light. I feel a lot better now you have put out some more information on the AV8, as I felt I wasn't being totally fair on it. There is a lot more detailed information on the TAG website on their processors and I hadn't asked all the questions I might have of the dealer on Saturday about the AV8.

    It is indeed a fine product and as I said I even prefered the sound on two out of three of the demo tracks. The green display was great - but the blue was even better - IMHO.

    I don't think you've done badly out of me, though. My AVR100/A85/DV88 setup has done excellent work for me for some time and with a P85/3 in my near future plans anyone might think that I was an Arcam fanatic. Actually Arcam have just happen to have had the best product (usually for sound/picture quality) in the price bracket that I've been looking at in each particular category at the time I've been looking. Surely this can't be coincidence? Maybe Arcam only make good value, quality products?

    Anyway why didn't I buy the Arcam? Well, mainly price. I had kind of prepared myself for buying a processor at the price of a TAG since before I found out about forthcoming AV8 from Arcam. Also, many of the AV8's potentially worthwhile features just aren't necessary for me.

    7.1 surround: not suitable for my room;
    component video switching: I only have one component source (DV88) and one composite source (a VCR);
    DSP modes: not really interested - I tend to be movies in DD or dts or just a straight stereo music person;
    true analog bypass: I have three of these on my TAG, I have to choose between these and 5.1 inputs of course!
    proper second zone: as I can hear my second zone from my first through a thin wall I would only ever listen to the same thing as 1 or more usually listen in zone 2 instead of zone 1. Zone 2 has no TV/display. This makes power amp speaker switching totally adequate for me.

    As you can see, anyone who needed a couple (even one) of these things would love, perhaps need, the Arcam over the TAG and at its price (as with the TAG) it's very good value. For me, who has no use for them it just makes the Arcam look that bit more expensive relative to the TAG.

    I hope for both your sake, and the sake of competition that you have great success with the AV8. If my opinion is anything to go by, you certainly deserve it.

    Oh, and a big thank you for the design and support all the other Arcam products which I own. They're all great!

    Other forum readers, buy an AV8: it's great!

    Thanks,

    Charles.
     
  11. martintyler

    martintyler
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    Charles,

    Have you managed to play around with that further testing? I am interested in how the tag performs with the arcam amplification and the various different setups.

    Regards
    Martin
     
  12. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Just one comment: if you want to do justice to either a Tag AV32R or an Arcam AV8 then you'll need substantially better speakers. I was listening the other day to the Arcam processor (plus Arcam P7 power amp) with some B&W Nautilus 805 speakers (£1400 for the pair). It sounded okay - bit hard-edged. Then we went up to some Nautilus 803s (£3500 the pair) and the step up in quality was dramatic. Using 600 series 3 speakers (which are about two steps down from the Nautilus 805s, with CDM NTs being in between) you will, I'm sure, be able to hear differences between different processors, but deciding which actually sounds better will be trickier, because it will always be the speakers that are the limit on the quality of the sound.

    You may well argue that you aren't going to use speakers of this calibre in your own setup, but if this is the case you might consider going for a slightly cheaper processor/amp combination - Pioneer VSA-AX10 and Denon AVC-A1SR are both pretty good, and both include a power amp stage. If you don't mind going to an internet box shifter you can get either for around £2300. Don't know about upgradeability, of course. Denon did a fairly good job on the A1SE, I believe.
     
  13. martintyler

    martintyler
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    Interesting comment Nicholas..

    Have you llistened to the ax10 in a similar setup to a tag or arcam av8? Obviously the pioneer is a lot cheaper, especially when the power amps are added to the tag/arcam, however it has great reviews - and pioneer can produce these things cheaper. So does it compare? anyone done a test side by side?
     
  14. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I have listened to the AX10, but that was with cheaper speakers - Sonus Faber Home (about £3650 for all 6 speakers - the fronts are £1700 and the sub about £1000 if I recall). It sounded pretty good: my impression is that it would have sounded better with pricier speakers. I rather like the autosetup thing it has - the guy said that when he had been setting it up the previous week it had spotted that one of the speakers was out of phase. That particular store (KJ West One) prefers the Pioneer to the Denon, although I like the Denon's Dolby Headphone output.

    It's more than once been suggested to me that one should spend very approximately the same amount on the processor/power-amp combination as one does on the front three speakers in a surround setup. So if you consider a Pioneer AX10 hooked into B&W Nautilus 805/HTM2 fronts, that's £2700 of processor/amp and £2250 of speaker. Not a bad match, but if you were going to upgrade one of them you might want to make it the speakers. Similarly Arcam AV8/P7 is £5500, B&W Nautilus 803/HTM1 fronts are £6000. Probably a good match.

    By contrast B&W 603 S3 plus LCR60 comes to about £800, which is a bit wimpy for separate processor and amp.
     
  15. gringottsdirect

    gringottsdirect
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    I have settled on a Tag McLaren AVR32Rbp192 / Bryston 9B SST THX combination with no real plans for 6.1 or further.
    I was thinking of buying a Denon AVC-A1SR and am still tempted to do so.
    I have heard a Tag AVR32R / Tag 100x5R combination in comparison with a Denon AVC-A1SR and to be honest I couldn't say one was better, different yes.
    Either I simply don't know what to listen for or maybe I need to upgrade my ears.
    Having asked advice from owners everyone seems very happy with their Tag processors but not everyone has plumped for Tag amplification.
    I have heard a Bryston SP-1 / 9B THX combination and really liked it, but few seem to shout for the Bryston processor ( old or new model ).
    So a Tag / Bryston combination looks most appealing to me.
     
  16. baileych

    baileych
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    Sorry, guys, no testing this weekend and probably none next either - real life problems. You'll have to be patient...

    As for speakers - don't tempt me I'm poor! Was there any point getting a TAG with my (some say) poor quality speakers? Yes, definitely. Oh, and my speakers well the main ones (B&W S2 603s) are not (IMHO) poor quality especially for the price :) .

    Charles.
     
  17. Lowrider

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    TAG / Bryston is much better than all TAG, at least with good speakers...
     

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