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Report - Arcam and Yamaha amps combined

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by netwiz, Aug 25, 2003.

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  1. netwiz

    netwiz
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    Having lurked for some time and found such useful advice in these columns, I thought some might be interested in what I've ended up with.

    My stereo kicked the bucket a few months ago after years of good service. I rushed out and bought

    Arcam A85 stereo amp
    B&W CDM 1NT stereo speakers
    Pure SRX 701ES digital radio

    to go with existing
    Marantz KD40 cd player
    Yamaha KX393 cassette player
    Panasonic DVD S75 DVD player (which also plays DVD audio)

    The sound was great, although you need some volume to pull the bass through. Not sure if that's the amp or the speakers. Trying the DVD audio in stereo was good, although I didn't think there was a significant improvement in sound quality over a well recorded CD. As the Panasonc also plays CDs, I compared it with the Marantz, and while I can hear a difference, I can't say I prefer one over the other.

    I then had a hankering to upgrade to a surround sound system, but didn't want to lose the stereo investment or sound quality. I considred the Yamaha DSP E800, which works in tandem with a stereo to add a centre front and two rear channels. However, this doesn't have Dolby prologic II, which I decided was a must.

    So I ended up going to Richer sounds and getting

    Yamaha DSP-AX6300ES surround-sound amp (not a receiver)
    Mordaunt-Short MS 304 centre speaker
    Mordaunt-Short MS 302 L+R rear surrounds

    I output the pre-outs of the front L+R channels from the Yamaha to the Arcam, and the Yamaha controls the other speakers. I'm very pleased with the overall effect. It seems that on surround sound you don't normally get a lot coming out of the rear speakers, which does take people by surprise. I also find that I have to put the volume on the Arcam amp very high to match the levels of the Yamaha.

    There was just one thing missing - a subwoofer. I ended up getting a Celestion S10 off eBay for 180 quid, which again I'm very pleased with.

    The prologic II is great for listening to telly in something like surround sound, and the Yamaha has a special tv sports setting so you get crowd noise around you, and commentary out of the front centre.

    Prologic II can also enhance a stereo CD, although DVD audio is clearly superior. It's not obvious to me whether this is because the DVD is recorded in multi-channel format, or due to the superior capabilities of the format, or both.

    I also tried plugging in the cd player to the stereo amp directly, and through the Yamaha (outputting to the stereo via the preamp) and couldn't detect an obvious difference. Should I expect one?

    I'd be interested in any comments on this setup.
     
  2. Weiman

    Weiman
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    Doesn't the A85 have the "AV processor switch" which fixes the gain when it's used as a power amp? Or is that just the A75+?
     
  3. netwiz

    netwiz
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    Good lord! I had the inputs to the Arcam going into the aux socket. There is indeed an input socket to take from a pre-amp, and a switch to select it. When I use this - everything is in balance! Thanks Johannes for the idea.

    A question though - although on a quick listen me and the missus can't hear a difference from the CD player either using the Arcam alone, or using the Yamaha as a pre-amp, would people expect a difference in sound quality? My concern is that using the Yamaha as a pre-amp would degrade the sound quality compared to using the Arcam alone.
     
  4. Reiner

    Reiner
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    You can connect the analog output from the CD directly to the A85, no need to go via the Yamaha unless you want to apply some DSP modes.
     
  5. Chester

    Chester
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    Since everyone's ears, tastes, and listening rooms are different, you should only let others influence your decision, not make it for you.

    The way I've always been taught about any signal is if you add something to the signal path, be it a switch or a DSP, the accuracy of the original signal will not be consistant with that of the resultant signal. That is to say, you do get some degradation. How much depends on the quality of the components the signal passes through, length of circuits, nearby EM influences, or the processes performed on the signal.

    Ultimately, you are the one listening for differences. I would suggest, if you can, experiment with different material on your CD player through the Yamaha and directly through the Arcam. If you cannot tell that vocal clarity changes, or you lose punch or speed or tightness of bass, or the sweet end of the spectrum washes out or loses crispness, then it doesn't matter from the sound perspective which you choose to plug your CD player into.

    Where it will matter is what facilities you want when listening to music. Do you want to power up the Yamaha to listen to music in surround sound? Or do you want to keep things simple, and will always only require stereo playback? I believe you hold the answer to your question.
     
  6. ANDY_DUTTON

    ANDY_DUTTON
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    You can in fact have the best of both world here. The processor input on the A85 is the tape input. The reason for this is so you can set it up as an effects loop.

    You must already have the processor connected to the A85 tape input. If you also connect the tape output to the processor on any spare stereo input (say aux).

    Connect your stereo sources to the A85.

    to use the A85 as a preamp just select source as normal. Say you want to listen to CD, press cd button on A85 remote.

    If you now want to apply effects from processor you can activate the effects loop by selecting tape. You will notice that the CD light will still be illuminated to tell you this is the record source. i.e it is the one sent out on the tape output.

    select the AUX input on your processor and the CD input will be routed throught the A85 out the tape outputs to the processor where it goes in the aux input. It is then processed sent back to the A85 on the tape inputs it and is routed to the poweramplifer in the A85.

    Hope this is of some interest,
    Regards,
    Andrew
     
  7. netwiz

    netwiz
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    Hey wow. I've tried it and it works. I hadn't thought there were so many ways to wire things up.

    I've got the pre-outs from the AV amp into the A85 tape inputs, and the A85 tape inputs into the AV tuner inputs (there isn't an aux). As you say, I can either listen in stereo, or select 'tape' on the A85 and use the AV effects, also bringing the other speakers into play.

    I have the DVD plugged directly into the AV amp using optical cable, as I guess this is the only way to get genuine surround sound.

    The only drawback appears to be that, as with my original configuration, I have to separately adjust the volume of the two amps, and the A85 has to go very high, which makes the missus jump when I accidentally switch sources without turning it down first.

    With more listening I can definitely hear that direct connection through the A85 gives better stereo sound on some good headphones than routing the signal through the AV amp first. I haven't been able to do more tests with the speakers yet.

    Although the sockets on the back of the A85 are marked 'proc', there's no mention of this in the manual. The manual also says that BFA plugs should be used for the speakers, but my dealer supplied me with banana plugs and these work OK. Is there any reason not to use banana plugs?

    It's worth mentioning an unrelated effect. When I bought the subwoofer and plugged it in, I was getting a hum through the system, even when the subwoofer wasn't turned on. After some research on the web I solved it by plugging it in to the same socket as the amp and other components. I'd originally plugged it into a socket on the other side of the run, and this was causing some sort of earthing problem.
     
  8. ANDY_DUTTON

    ANDY_DUTTON
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    Sorry since you had it plugged in I thought you must already know about the processor feature. The A85 has a feature that allows you to fix the volume on the tape input so you don't have to keep changing it every time you select tape for the processor.

    I am at home at the moment and can't rember exactly how to set it up without a unit in front of me but Ill try. If you go into the the customise settings option using select on the front panel(as show in manual). Then select processor mode (Not show in muanual as it is a new software feature requested by customers) I think you use volume control to do this. I think you then press ok to access it (but check in the manual it works in the same way as the documented features) then use the volume control to change it from tape to the volume setting you want the processor to be at when you select it. Best to use processor noise generator and set it the same as center channel.

    This description is not good so if you can't work it out let me know and Ill do a better one tommorrow. .

    Regards,
    Andrew
     
  9. netwiz

    netwiz
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    Well that's just marvellous. Thanks for the advice - I have got it working. It also enables me to use the Arcam in stereo with the subwoofer powered by the AV amp.
     

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