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Tag Mclaren AV32R & Rotel RB985 mkII

Discussion in 'AV Pre-Amp/Processors & Power Amps' started by PFM, Jan 4, 2001.

  1. PFM

    PFM
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    In a previous thread I was attemting to discover the upgrade potential of the Denon AVC A1SE.. having demoed it alongside the A10SE. But audiophile quality questions and reservations over sound format upgrading abounded and the thought of potentially having to ditch my much loved Arcam Alpha 10 has put me off temporarily parting with my cash

    Another member of this forum suggested through another thread that the TAG McLaren AV32R offers both hard and software upgrades
    and falls well within the price range of the Denon. (after 24hrs research sounds quite promising)... Has anyone any thoughts.. positive/negative points on this processor?

    Also at present finances do not allow for the purchase of the matching Tag 5 Channel Pwr Amp, so I am considering the Rotel RB985 mk2 in its place. I dont know very much about this amp and would welcome any thoughts on its performance and its potential to match the Tag.

    Thanks folks.

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  2. GaryG

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    I believe Gordon from Stereo, Stereo has the Tag processor and will leave comments on that to him.

    You have not mentioned your intended use of the system. If it is purely for surround sound then the Rotel would be an excellent choice, however, as you mentioned an Audiophile amplifier I suspect you want to use the system for more. In which case, yes, the 5 channel Tag amp would be nice, but I suspect you would be able to equal if not better the sound quality with a couple of Audiolab 8000P/PX's and an 8000M/MX's provided you can live with the extra boxes, these can be obtained at quite reasonable prices in the classified ads of the Hi-Fi mags. From personal experience I would say it's debatable whether it's worthwhile using anthing of a higher spec than your Arcam on the rear channels (dependent on your speakers of course, if your using something like Kef Reference 4's then you'll need something with more authority). Using this approach the purchases would be an evolutionary upgrade without scrapping what you've got.

    Regards
    Gary
     
  3. PFM

    PFM
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    Gary,

    At present I would like to keep my Arcam for hifi listening, and so I was thinking that I could possibly use the "Processor switch" on the Arcam (a control bypass, effectively turning it into a fixed gain power amp; of Alpha 10P quality), then add the Tag to do the processing and use the Rotel to power the rears (effectively giving 7 channels of amplification) for AV use. Effectively the Arcam would power Main L&R, and the Rotel the rest.

    Would this also allow for ES & EX reproduction wit the addition of suitable speakers.

    I would then have the option of the arcam for stereo listening (switching the Tag in or out of the loop as I feel)and the Rotel for Av use.

    Am I correct in my assupmtions that this will allow me the best of both worlds whilst I save for the Tag power amp?

    A complicated affair I know, so any advice would be greatfully received

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  4. GaryG

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    PFM

    Spot on! That will do the trick.

    I've ranted in the past about my thoughts on multi-channel amplification, however, to save you searching for the thread, my personal opinion is that you should not split the budget for amps equally amongst your channels.

    I use a Lex DC1 with their proprietory 7.1 surround system. If I did not use the system for music (not the DC1 it's somewhat sonically challenged in that area!) I would spend the most money on the centre channel amp as it's the most important, then on Front L/R, then Rear L/R and finally the Side L/R as that is synthesised from the other channels. So to me, I would not buy a 5 channel amp where all the channels are the same quality, I came damn close once, some lunatic was selling a Krell 5 channel home cinema amp but I managed to resist the temptation and stuck to my game plan. However, as I listen to music as well, the basic plan has been modified somewhat in that my Front L/R amps and speakers are the best, followed by the same amps for the centre and rear (obviously different speakers) and finally a stereo amp for the sides.

    It could be argued that because the centre doesn't match the quality of the L/R that there would be an imbalance, however, I can't say that it's been an issue, somebody hearing my system for the first time may possibly notice but I'm no longer objective to comment. In my defence, the centre speaker has the same type of driver as the HF/Mid range unit in the L/R pair with the sub handling the bass, pans across the soundstage are ok. At the end-of-the-day after a lot of experimenting I've got something that I like so I'm happy.

    I think whichever way you decide to proceed you will also be very happy with your choice, it's just a case that I think you'll be happier one way than the other.

    Regards
    Gary
     
  5. Stuart M. Robinson

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    Gary,

    I believe it's important to match at least the front three channels of amplification (L/C/R), otherwise you run the risk of timbre inconsistencies in the all-important front half of the room.

    Also, if one ploughs the majority of one's budget into a centre channel amplifier, as soon as one settles down to music listening, the quality of the system takes a hit.

    If someone is on a tight budget then yes, i's possible to get away with inferior amplification for the surround channels, especially if bass management is in place, but I wouldn't recommend it.


    Stuart M. Robinson
    SMR Group – http://www.smr-group.co.uk/
     
  6. Matt F

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    A few thoughts on this issue - about a year ago I was using an Arcam Zeta 2 + an Arcam 8P for HC and (particularly) HiFi - not quite in the same league as your 10P but a similar sound I would imagine.

    Anyway, I then bought a Rotel RB985MKII and just used the Zeta purely as a processor. I was most impressed with the result (both in stereo and multi channel) - although perhaps not quite as warm sounding as the Arcam, the Rotel opened up the soundstage dramatically, increased the headroom and seemed to have so much more control when the music demanded it.
    It's worth noting that power-wise (according to HiFi Choice) the RB985MKII delivers 160W per channel when used in stereo, dropping to 130W when all five channels are in action.

    Then, in the search for DTS, I changed the Zeta 2 to Rotel's RSP966 processor - very impressive (no better than the Zeta 2 in stereo mind you) until I bought the DTS version of Men in Black and Terminator 2 and found that the processor started "dropping out" in DTS. Three times the processor went back to Rotel (one time they replaced it with a brand new unit) but, guess what - it still dropped out on DTS so I ended up with a credit note from Audio Excellence for the £650 I paid for it.

    Next problem was that no-one else makes a HC processor around that price - it was either a Yamaha DSP-E800 (which has 3 channels of power on board which I didn't want) or Rotel's THX RSP985 (I won't go near ANY Rotel processor again after the pantomime with the 966) or the TAG which at £2300 was a bit too steep. Then, as luck would have it, an ex dem Tag became available at Audio Ex at a more reasonable £1850 and I took delivery of it yesterday - so I now have exactly the kit you are talking about.

    I haven't had a chance to really set it up properly because, believe it or not, my speakers had to be moved into a compromised position to accommodate (wait for it) the Christmas tree! That will be gone tomorrow.
    However, even with the set up as it is at the moment I can say that the TAG is stunning in 2 channel stereo - so clean and detailed but not bright or brittle at all. The build quality is also fantastic.

    It seems to match up very well with the Rotel power amp. Of course I acknowledge that the TAG 5 channel power amp would be better but whether it is two grand better is another matter. In fact if I was spending £2.5K on a power amp I would definitely want to check out what Bryston have to offer as their reviews have been pretty impressive.

    Sorry for such a long message but I hope it is helpful.

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  7. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Hi,

    Well, as stockists of the AV32r, Arcam10 and Denon A1SE here is my recommendation!

    Obviously you must listen to these and make up your own mind though.

    I believe the TAGav32r is a superior two channel pre-amp for stereo use than any of the others, even although it digitises every input. Of the processing it does for home cinema, it does to a higher standard than the others as well. I have yet to hear the EX update so can't comment on that compared to a DenonA1SE.

    I think that the 100x5r is a fantastic amplifier that compliments the 32r well. It can be bought in 2/3/4 or 5 channel guises. We demonstrate it as a two channel stereo amp and it easily beats everything else we have for the money.

    For those who can't afford a 5 x 100r we also offer the Rotel 5 channel amp. It's nowhere near TAG territory in audio performance, but it does give you five identical channels of amplification in one box.

    As was previously mentioned though you could use the 10 as a power amp only for use with the rear channels, then use some good s/h mono amps up front or perhaps get a 3 x 100r TAG and add the additional channels later. I would also advocate trying to keep all three front channel amps the same if possible.

    Hope you get to hear these combinations soon and that you let us all know how you get on.

    Cheers,

    Gordon

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  8. russraff

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    I have the 966/985mk II combo. I thought I'd mention that I had problems with the processor, too. This was fixed. however, when Rotel supplied a new processor with updated internal software. I would suggest that if anyone is considering buying the Rotel 966, they insist that the latest software is installed (mine has "rev 4" on the back). Not only might it fix certain problems, it also makes the processor easier to use.
    Oh, and the combo sounds great, too.

    Russell

     
  9. Matt F

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    Russell, I'm amazed that Rotel managed to sort you out but could not fix the problem on mine despite having three goes at it.

    Have you got either of the DVDs I mentioned? - Terminator 2 (theatrical version), my 966 dropped out in DTS at the very start of the film where the THX logo comes up - I'd love to know if your unit plays this perfectly.
     
  10. StuartBooth

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    Hi Matt,

    Pleased to hear you got the Tag, which you'd mentioned in another thread. I for one would be delighted to read any tales of experimentation and fiddling with your newest toys that you feel like drafting for us here!

    All this discussion of pre/processor/power-amp stages that we've all been having here lately has really whetted my appetite.

    As an aside, I noted this morning that my old Arcam Delta-290 amp (replaced by my Denon A10SE) actually has pre-amp outputs and power-amp inputs at the back, which I'd never registered before. This was a truly delightful find as I'm now going to compare my A10 as a stereo pre-amp against the Delta290 as the stereo power-amp. Just for experimentation's sake...


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    Somewhere in Buckinghamshire, England, UK
     
  11. russraff

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    Hi Mat
    Yeah, got them both (Terminator is great), and they play fine. It takes half a second for the processor to figure out what kind of signal it is receiving, but other than that, not a problem. One thing I have noticed is that the amp seems quite sensitive to the incomming signal. If the disk is only slightly dirty, then the amp will drop into Pro Logic mode. In all cases (and it has never happened since), a quick clean of the disc solved this problem.
    As a side note, I think the larger Rotel poweramp (the 1095 @ £1400) compare quite well with the Tag.

    Russell

    [This message has been edited by russraff (edited 07-01-2001).]
     
  12. sw25481

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    How nice to find so many people considering almost exactly the same issues as me.

    I have a question for the list though. I was seriously considering the Alpha 10 with the DD add on board and 3 channel 10p. Mainly because I had read such a bad review of the TAG on a US home cinema site. To be fair the bad points were not about its sound quality, just it's flexibility. This would seem like the obvious way to go for somebody who already has an Alpha 10 and is happy with it. The fact that I don't see in mentioned as an option I guess means I must have missed something obvious.

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    Scott White
    London, England
     
  13. Reiner

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    Was just about to suggest the same. Why not add DAVE and 10P3, ie you keep your Alpha10 for stereo but it can also do AV!?
    No 5.1 input or upgrade possibility to Ex/Es, but if that's not an issue (for the time being) ...
     

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