Stereo speakers to go with room correction / av receiver

qwert-e

Active Member
I've recently upgraded from my £200 system - NobSound ns15g pro Class D + Wharefedale 9.1 speakers + bluetooth AptX HD to phone (which i was very happy with, once i'd finally got the speakers setup properly on stands) to some monitor audio silver 100. A surprising step up in sound in lots of ways. So i'm now disappearing down the rabbit hole of researching more upgrades. Next on the list:

Cambridge Audio AXR100 amp, to see if thats a big step up again or if the NS is a bargain because its sold direct from the manufacturer and doesn't have the extras such as remote, nice casing, multiple inputs, western brand with advertising etc. I've tried cheaper class D amps before, the ns15g pro is the best i've heard.

I'm more looking forward to getting a Yamaha AV receiver with YPAO RSC multipoint (not any of the lower implementations of YPAO) to correct for room acoustics for the first time, from what i've read doing this properly makes a huge difference to rooms like mine which are large and full of hard surfaces. This page is great - Yamaha YPAO and YPAO R.S.C. It also means i can connect via HDMI to TV and chromecast via HDMI for streaming, have a parametric equaliser and change the equaliser based on volume automatically.

The sound quality in AV receivers is apparently a step down from stereo amps (yet to check if thats the case with my ears and with a receiver that costs almost double the stereo), so i'm thinking of using the pre-out of the Yamaha and using the cambridge audio as the amplifier if that makes a good improvement.


So far thats £275 for the speakers, £400 for the amp and £300 for the receiver, all 2nd hand and around £2200 rrp if bought new.

Would i be better off selling the monitor audio speakers and cambridge audio amp and instead buy some active studio monitors, since the receiver can handle the inputs and has lots of options to tweak the sound if I find its too sterile? Say for example the Yamaha HS8 or Adam Audio T8V, would that be comparable? They're only £300 a pair 2nd hand so there's room to go up in price...

The speakers will go around 20cm to the back and 50cm to the side wall or less, so would a front ported speaker do better? I'd like to have decent bass but no subwoofer since i'm in a flat.
 
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Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I’m a bit puzzled why you might use the Yamahas preouts into the CA. The Yamahas power amps are more than adequate for stereo.

Unless you think that as it’s a stereo amp it might sound better?

But as it’s the preamp that makes the most difference (assuming a robust enough power supply in whatever power amp you do use) then the AXR will make little difference for the extra £400 layout.

It may be possible to send the Cambridge a YPAO’d digital signal from the Yamaha thereby using the ‘whole’ stereo amp as it were (including its dac).

But that’s still an expensive way to do it imo. You can get a used Arcam SR250 for £700. A much better way to go as it’s a first rate stereo amplifier and has Dirac Live.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Personally though I’d go for the room correcting amp of some sort and a pair of active speakers every time. And it will allow you more budget for the speakers which is where nearly all the difference is.


These are serious speakers indeed, and at a bargain price.


 

qwert-e

Active Member
I'm mostly trying out the AXR to see for myself what the difference in quality between 'normal' choice and the two unusual options. Most likely i'll find the AV receiver with room correction sounds better than the stereo receiver without, and the marginal gain of adding the AXR to the chain isn't worth it and i'll return it as you say but i'll need to try it as a benchmark. I didn't realise its the preamp in the AV receiver thats the weak link rather than the power amp.

But if its the preamp in the yamaha thats weak then wouldn't that still be the case when connected to active monitor speakers? Why not just connect the yamaha to passive speakers then, ie for the £600 price of the mackies won't there be a better sound £600 passive speaker?
 
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Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
It’s not necessarily the weak link. I happen to think that the difference between good AV amps and good stereo amps in reproducing music properly is overstated.

Clearly the AV side of an amp costs more to produce than a simple stereo amp so on average, pound for pound a stereo only amp should be ‘better’, but there’s nothing inherent in AV amps that makes them less able to make good music.

For instance Arcam, Anthem, Rotel and Marantz AV units make excellent music too. Any even cursory glance at enough reviews will be convincing.

Therefore their dac/preamps must very good.

However all of that is dwarfed by the difference speakers make. And, crucially in my experience, the room itself.

The best speakers a person can afford and good room correction make a much bigger difference to sound quality than do dacs, a source or amplifiers (always assuming they are all up to a minimum level of competence, and it’s hard to find modern stuff that is not with the frequent exception of the power amp part of a stereo amp).

The only thing that can really be an issue with inexpensive amps is the power available and the robustness of the power supply.

And that’s the reason why active speakers are such a god send.

No possible concerns arise about whether or not the power amps are up to the job; there are dedicated power amps in each speaker, one to each driver.

The control available this way is considerably more than inexpensive (and plenty of not inexpensive), passive amps can ever muster.

And there is no passive crossover to introduce phase and power sapping problems. All issues are dealt with electronically before the music signal gets to the individual power amps, therefore active speakers are a fit and forget affair as far as amplifiers and necessary power are concerned.

Adding all that to modern, and well executed room correction means it’s possible to get quite ridiculously impressive music reproduction for much less than you’d think, and tons less than even a decade ago.
 
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Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Ps, in the case of the Mackies and other active speakers compared to passive, the price difference is bigger than you’d think in the actives favour as the market is bigger and the mark up appreciably less than in ‘hifi’ sales.
 

qwert-e

Active Member
Thanks for your thoughts, I was thinking passive studio monitors would be better value than active but it doesn't seem to really be a product category! between active studio monitors and hifi passive i can see your point.

my hunch is the yamaha + monitor audio will be just fine for me and i will happily return the stereo amp, and eventually (maybe after a day or a year) i'll get the urge to try upgrading the monitor audios to mackies.

Its interesting what you say about the 'pound for pound' performance of stereo amp vs av receiver. The first may have the better pre/power amp, DAC, but the latter for the same price (2nd hand at least) has room correction, parametric equaliser, DSP, option to use extra speakers to turn stereo into surround, wouldn't these make a bigger difference to sound quality?
 

qwert-e

Active Member
It seems I have no patience as i've already bought some mackies :thumbsup:

I'm guessing you recommended them because of their bass response + more enjoyable signature than something like the yamahas? The 824s are a bit too ugly to be that big in a living room and frankly a pair which do 35Hz @ -1.5Db is subwoofer territory, so i'd worry about the neighbouring flats. I went for the 624mk2 for £310, all the reviews I found comparing the two favoured the sound of the smaller ones.

Only downside i can see is the power usage - they use more power hungry Class A/B amps and an embarrassing 24W in standby according to the specs, compared to the dynaudio LYD8's Class D and 1W standby.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member

qwert-e

Active Member
Haha, nice! I'm planning to wrap mine in cloth, seems to be what the cool kids like the kef lsx are wearing nowadays.
 

qwert-e

Active Member
The Cambridge Audio AXR100 amp has now arrived so i've done some A/B testing with that, the Nobsound NS15g pro , Wharfedale Diamond 9.1, and Monitor Audio Silver 100 6g. Speakers on stands and toed in, me at a point of the triangle, amps on neutral settings.

Between the two speakers, i'd say i'm 'enjoying' the MA speakers about 20-30% more depending on the track, a lot more going on at the bass end most obviously and more quality all round. The MA are also louder for the same amp setting, which matches the specs. The Wharfdales are a bargain at their current price of £100 which is why i bought them but it makes upgrading harder.
Conclusion: definitely worth spending more on better speakers.

Between the two amps, honestly i had little preference for one over the other. The NS maybe had clearer treble, the CA definitely had slightly punchier bass. That could be down to the NS being more neutral by design, lower quality parts, or the 80W external power supply, which i could upgrade if needed. But my power meter shows only 4W was being used at the mains so i suspect its not that. Maybe if i had speakers which were harder to drive or i was listening at higher volumes the CA would start to pull ahead, perhaps not?
Conclusion: the CA wins in some areas (build quality, warranty, connections) but on sound quality there's no significant difference to justify paying almost 10x the price. I've tried cheaper Class D amps which weren't as good, but if you spend £60+ you're onto a winner.

The biggest difference i've made is also the cheapest - getting speaker stands setting them up fairly well and sitting in the sweet spot. A 50-100% improvement in enjoyment compared to 20-30% for the speakers and almost nothing for big price jump in the amp.

I'm hoping the next upgrades will have almost as big an impact as the stands - more expensive studio monitors and an AV receiver with room correction. Can't wait till they arrive next week :)
 

qwert-e

Active Member
The gear I ordered has now arrived and i'm very happy with the results. The lesson i've learnt is if you want the best hifi sound then don't buy hifi equipment. here's a run down of what i'm now using:

Yamaha A830 AV receiver - the cheapest amp i could find with good room correction, YPAO RSC multipoint. I couldn't hear any big difference between this with no DSP, the Cambridge Audio, or Nobsound at normal listening volumes. I suspect the NS wouldn't sound as good at very high volume with its weaker power supply but that doesn't affect me. Audyssey XT32 is also good apparently at room correction but doesn't allow as much manual fine tuning so i opted for yamaha.

Using YPAO, this amp pulls way ahead of the others. See REW graph below showing no-DSP frequency response in green and YPAO in orange. The line was fairly flat with the speaker in the middle of the room and mic directly infront but you can see both lines below in normal listening position are far from flat. Green line shows two horrible peaks at 75hz and 150hz which are around 8db louder. YPAO tamed these to 4db. I got an even flatter response by doing manual EQ but then its really optimising for one listening position where as YPAO default improves the whole room.

even without YPAO which alters both phase and frequencies to get a flatter response, the parametric equaliser lets you alter the sound a lot better than the 'bass and treble' dials you get with a stereo amp.

ypao.png


Mackie HR624 mk2 speakers - the bass doesn't go as low as the monitor audio (when near the back wall), the treble is more subdued. A flat sound rather than V shaped but so much better - i've never heard vocals so clear. Everything sounds much more like you'd image they were in the recording studio, a balanced volume rather than the vocals fighting with the cymbals and bass drum. So much more enjoyable when listening over the long term. I can EQ these speakers to sound like the the MA (except for below 50Hz which is completely missing here) but i can't EQ the MA to sound this good.

REW with UMIK-1 microphone - not strictly necessary but this software is a lot easier to use than i imagined, and lets you see the effect of speaker / listening position, moving furniture, EQ so much easier than by ear alone. I was able to use this to dial in EQ settings to the yamaha a bit better than the automated YPAO. Its also very cheap - REW is donationware and the microphone can be sold on when you finish for minimal loss.

REW even showed me that the MA speakers + nobsound amp actually make a pretty good subwoofer when the speakers are placed near a corner and fill in the gap below 50hz left by the mackie and sound great upto volumes loud enough to make the kitchen plates rattle. The MA Silver 100 specs are pretty similar to their radius 380 subwoofer (similar weight, size, driver), and may even be better since you're getting a pair to spread through the room. I won't be using it though as the mackies go low enough for me.

Overall I've spent £550 (excluding UMIK-1) for a system which would cost around £1800 new, and a lot more than that if i went down the traditional hifi route since imagine it would cost a lot to get rid of those 75hz and 150hz peaks with sound panels and look ugly in the process.
 
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