Save up for high end proc or go for second hand flagship amp now?


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Jun 5, 2002
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I'm in the process of completing my home cinema sound system, and am just waiting for the subwoofer now (should arrive next week). Once I get that I suspect I'll want to upgrade the surround processing as it's currently undertaken by a bottom-end Yamaha DSP-E800 and I suspect it's hardly doing justice to my gorgeous active ATC setup (front three: Active 10's at £630 each, subwoofer: Concept 2 at £1140).

Now I've never had the chance to compare a high-end AV processor/amp against my Yammy so I'm not really sure what to expect. Ideally I'd like to go for something universally acclaimed for its high end AV processing (e.g. TAG AV30R, ex-dem Meridian 565, 2nd-hand Lexicon), probably in the £1500-2000+ range. Thing is, for me to afford this I'd probably have to save up for a year or more, which is a long time to put up with inferior sound! ;)

So I was thinking I could maybe buy one of those tasty-looking flagship amps of yesteryear (e.g. Yamaha A1) that pop up from time to time on the classifieds and on Ebay. My question is, how much of an improvement would this be, sound quality-wise, on my wee Yammy? I have no interest in DPL2, and haven't the room for any more than 5-speaker surround, so these features are not of any use to me.

In terms of processing sound quality alone, would it be worth going for one of these oldie-but-goldie flagship amps to tide me over until I can afford a "proper" processor (if I can find it for under £450 or so, I can probably get it December/Jan or maybe sooner, which is infinitely preferable to 1+ years!) ? I'm really only looking for a definite improvement overy my Yammy - something that'll better live up to my lovely ATC's.

One important consideration is that I won't have any need for the front three power amplifiers in an AV amp, as my ATCs are active. I would use the power amps on the surround channels (just using Mission 77DS's) - if I were to get a proper processor I would just get a nice 2 channel power amp to power the surrounds. What this means is the quality of the power amp stage is unimportant - all that matters is the quality of the processing.

I've also considered a sort of "middle-of-the-road" approach. I've noticed a number of processors from highly regarded companies in the £800-1200 range that I might be able to afford come January if I can scrounge up the dough. Examples are the Cyrus AV5/AV8, new Rotel (1066?), and others (any others you can recommend?) How do these compare to the higher-end TAGs, Meridians, Lexicons, etc? Would they be a significant jump in performance over the 2nd-hand flagship amps I'm considering?

I'm just looking for a general idea of how to plan my upgrade path. Basically I don't want to wait a year to upgrade my lowly DSP 800, but I *do* want a significant improvement, so I don't want to get something that will disappoint. I realise I'm going to have to demo some gear at some point, but at my current state of confusion I'd end up having to demo about two dozen different components! :p

Any advice, hints, tips, recommendations, etc welcome!


Save for a decent processor - the Tag AV32R can be had secondhand for £1,600ish if you are prepared to wait until the right seller comes along (and this will give you a clear upgrade path to their recently announced AV192R). I went from an Arcam AV100 to a Tag AV32R/100x5 combo, and I still haven't stopped smiling.


Based purely on the ability to decode DD/DTS in 5.1, I think you may be a tad disappointed if you swapped out your E800 for an A1. The E800 was based on the same decoder chip as the A2, which if I recall was launched after the A1 with later generation decoders (could be wrong on that though).
May be a touch more capable driving the surround speakers - hard to say, but personally I doubt it'd be a huge difference.

See if you can get a Tag or Meridian on home demo, so you can see head to head whether you think it's worthwhile for you.

Some of the later models of mid range receivers could be another option as well. The 3802 for instance is based on AD SHARC technology just like the Tag (although the implementation may not quite be up to the same standard :) ), and the forthcoming AVR3803 looks to be based on the latest generation AD devices, which are much more powerful again!
With these receivers, you also get things like DPL2 and Neo6, which may be worthwhile in themselves, unless all your viewing is strictly DD/DTS multichannel.

Whatever you decide, the usual advice applies - get a demo, and preferably an in-home one. I doubt a dealer demo will be that much use for you.
Join the others here looking for a second hand Denon AVC 10SE which will provide all that you need for around £500.

Top notch processing and amplification from five channels of amplification.

Finding one isn't easy (I'm not selling mine) and it won't lose much value in a year's time if you want to upgrade then.
"ditto" ian j

if im not mistaken you can have ex and es from the avc 10se with the addition of a power amp and since you dont need amplification for your front three channels you can just add the rear speakers if you decide you want the extra channels!

my m8 has one with a power amp running 7.1 and he smiles all day!:D :D :D :D :D
Correct. the processing is all there but only five equal channels of amplification. The amps are assignable so the "front amps" can be assigned to drive the rear speakers.
Hmm, tasty! I'll have to have a look out for AVC-10SE's going cheap... Can anyone recommend any similarly adept amps/procs that I might find second hand for a good price? (£500 would be about my limit if I wanted to get it within the next few months I reckon.) Thanks a lot for the responses.


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