What makes AVRs unmusical?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by Astaroth, Dec 10, 2016.

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  1. Astaroth

    Astaroth
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    So I have been tying myself in knots recently, most my "learning" originates from reading rather than hands on experience and so there are big gaps in my knowledge.

    Common thinking has, for as long as I know, said that the majority of AVRs are not as "musical" as stereo amps. At the same time it was always said you want the front three speakers to be matching to make a well integrated stage.

    This has made me wonder, what exactly makes AVRs unmusical? Clearly it'd always be unfair to compare a £2,000 AVR to a £2,000 stereo system as clearly the AVR has many more functions/components which the price is spread over but you used to get reviews saying amps quarter the price would out perform an AVR.

    I'm in the mixed blessing situation of having a bit of cash to spare for upgrades but no space to have two separate systems for AVR and music. So my initial view was to get a stereo amp (or pre/power) that could drive the L&R in AV mode and provide improved sound in stereo. My concern however is maintaining a cohesive front if 2 out of 3 are driven by a different amp. So this got me wondering about getting a 3 channel power amp and stereo pre amp - connect the L&R via the preamp and have the C preoutput of the AVR directly connected to the power amp.

    Then I get confused again.... if AV kit isnt as good for stereo then is a 3 channel power amp going to have the same limited musicality as an AVR or does the lack of musicality stem from the pre-amp elements of an AVR? Or am I over thinking it and should stick with my Onkyo AVR and use the money on a holiday instead?
     
  2. dante01

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    The additional signal paths, processing and compromised circuit layouts needed to facilitate multichannel amplification within such a confined space all contribute to degrading the signal more than you'd degrade it if using a less processor intensive and simpler signal path arrangement as associated with stereo integrated amplifiers.
     
  3. JayCee

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    "Musical/Unmusical" were just some half-baked terms some reviewer dreamt up years ago which bear no relation whatsoever to AV gear.
     
  4. gibbsy

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    I've got an old Onkyo amp hidden somewhere upstairs. In fairness it was never hooked up to really good speakers just a pair of Mission 37i. Now I've got a Denon AVR hooked up to some tidy speakers. I know what sounds best. I've got an old Onkyo amp hidden somewhere upstairs.
     
  5. dante01

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    Apart from the fact that very few AV receivers are regarded as being musical when listened to by people who've experience of listening to and or owning audio equipment that is regarded as being accomplished when dealing with musical content?

    Maybe "musical" is the wrong terminologt and "cleaner" or "less distorted" would be another way of putting it? But then again, warmer sounding setups tend to be regarded as being easier to listen to over long periods so certain traits audio picks up from the hardware they are reproduced via can add "musicality" as opposed to clarity to audio? Some of the most expensive speakers in the world are also the most detailed, yet they are so revealing that many would reject them in a blind test.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
  6. dante01

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    Don't let the Onkyo receiver touch your Denon receiver. It may cross contaminate it!
     
  7. larkone

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    :smashin::smashin:
     
  8. Blues Rock

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    Just get a Stereo Amp with built in dac and digital inputs, thats what I did, got Cambridge cxa60 down mix movies to 2ch sounds great, can also add a subwoofer.
    After all how many times can you watch the same movie compared to listening to same songs, music is more important to me
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
  9. Abacus

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    Everything has to be built to a price, so a £500 amp should sound better than a £500 AVR (Assuming the AVR is set to Pure Direct), however once you get over about £1000 for your AVR the differences are small, and in many cases much better than an equivalently priced amp, (Assuming you have used the AVR auto setup program) as the AVR setup program will have helped to reduce problems with your room/speaker combination, (The speaker room interaction causes the most variation) hence the reason room treatment can make a big difference.

    As a rule of thumb, if it sounds good to you, then job done, so just enjoy the music.

    Hope this helps

    Bill
     
  10. Astaroth

    Astaroth
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    If its in Pure Direct then isn't the AVR's room correction is bypassed?

    Pure Direct and Direct sounds very different to any other listening mode (as you'd expect possibly) with a much fuller sound. However having moved home 15 months ago and gone from a near ideal room/setup to a very far from prime one I am surprised how little difference there is in Pure Direct assuming you're sitting on the sofa.

    Am I/ was I happy with the music? Yes until I plugged in my old ClearAudio Emotion turntable and the sound is so much better than my FLAC/ALAC files used for streaming. Its therefore made me wonder how much better it could be.

    As to Just Rock's suggestion, I'm afraid the system is used more for AV than music and so not interested in dropping down to 2.0/2.1; In an ideal world I would be having two separate systems but having the space to be able to do so is a very long way off.
     
  11. Buckster

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    agreed - as is the fabled "warm"

    some do sound better than others - but musical/unmusical is not valid terminology in my opinion, nor is "warm", "clinical" ......
     
  12. dante01

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    Great, scrap the existing terminology, but with what are you proposing it be replaced with?

    What terminology is better used to describe how audio sounds? Most people can grasp the concept of warmth or clinical detail, but what is it you'd replace those references with in order to make the description even more evocative of how audio components sound? Would you bombarded people with statistics? Which one word descriptors would you replace warm or clinical with? Not to mention the fact that not everyone has the same bias when it comes to audio appreciation and some do both recognise what sounds warm and or clinical to them. Are you suggesting their reasons for choosing certain audio components based upon their own likes or dislikes wrong and that they should just read a long list of specifications in order to choose audio equipment? I can give you 2 pieces of equipment with the exact same specifications, but this will not mean that they both sound the same.

    I could even use the phonetic disfferences between western and eastern languages to muddy the waters further. What may sound musical to those in Europe probably will not sound as desirable to many in Asia.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
  13. Buckster

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    ok describe "warm" to me then

    considering all AVRs, amps and CD players of current generations have ruler flat outputs (unless faulty)

    :)
     
  14. dante01

    dante01
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    Were you never cuddled as a child :(



    :)
     
  15. Buckster

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    See can't be done :)

    Personally considering how technical the TV test are for avforum reviews amazed they've not gone down same route for audio products

    Actual amplifier power, distortion, crosstalk are all measurable and probably as important audio wise as colour accuracy, peak brightness, black levels are for video
     
  16. Buckster

    Buckster
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    I should test all my USB cables I use to my DAC and mark the one that sounds most musical :)
     
  17. dante01

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    How does stating THD or S/N ratios describe how audio components sound?


    Like it or lump it, warm and clinical are better than nothing :lesson:


    It goes back to what I said earlier in the thread. You can pay a fortune for very detailed (clinical) speakers, but even though they pick up on every detail within the audio they are more fatiguing to listen to and many will find them therefore less musical. LOw distortion, signal to noise rations and THD do not necessarily result in something that is regarded as being more musical by the majority of those listening.


    PS. Your cat is on fire and feeling rather warm!
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
  18. samborghini

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    I wouldn't use the term 'warm' when it comes to having improvements by using a dedicated Stereo amp over an AV amp, I would say with a good stereo amp you can hear more of the acoustics of the venue, there's better control of the bass (better bass definition), treble is less congested and less harsh, instruments sound more real, voices sound more intimate and real with the appropriate music which all helps to convey the emotion of the song for example.

    AV amps are designed to be dynamic, impressive and explosive for films that demand it.

    However saying that I too am looking for a musical AV amp if that's possible (sorry wrong word never mind) - using only a 2.1 setup - and my thoughts are the Marantz NR1506 (for example) because of the front pre-out facility on that AV receiver. Or, because I'm only running 2.1, perhaps a stereo amp with built in DAC and sub out.
     
  19. Violator

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    Running Coldplay through them.
     
  20. dante01

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    "Warm" is a term used to describe both stereo and AV amps and not a term exclusively used to describe stereo amps. Warm is not something that denotes "better" sounding equipment, but is a term used as the opposite to clinical or bright sounding.

    AV receivers are designed in the exact same way as stereo amplifiers are as far as the way they sound goes. People don't appraise good sounding equipment differentluy depending upon what that equipment is used for. An AV receiver doesn't over emphasise explosions, it simply represents audio as it was recorded and mixed. It is up to the person mixing the soundtrack to capture this and not the hardware manufacturers to create it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016
  21. JayCee

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    I (and a few others) know these terms, "warm", "clinical", "bright" are used by the Hi-Fi press and aficionados to describe how various equipment sound.
    What we're saying is it's cobblers and we don't agree with the use of them.
     
  22. dante01

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    AS I said, that is fine, but what is it you propose using in their place? I understand them and can relate to them. You appear to be wanting to do away with something without very much reason to and without actually proposing a meaningful alternative. Come up with a realistic alternative and maybe then critise what is already being used.

    And the fact that audio equipment sounds different isn't cobblers. Manufacturers purposefully tune their equipment to sound different and are not all attempting to make their goods sound the same. The tuning needn't involve changing the hardware components either so it has little if anything to do with the purity or quality of the signal.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016
  23. JayCee

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    All prospective buyers need are the specs and the price and they can then make up their own mind if they like what they've bought.
     
  24. dante01

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    The specs do not indicate how a device will sound. I've already extolled this fact earlier. So you can tell how a receiver will sound by me telling you its wattage, S/N ratios and THD? I think more people are confused by these terms than are confused by the use of terms such as warm or bright? Are you suggesting reviewers shouldn't be expressing any opinion on how a device sounds to them and that they should simply be photocopying the spec sheet supplied to them by the manufacturer and posting this as a review?


    Yes, it is up to the purchaser to go audition a receiver, but please be aware that the people you are critising for using the terms warm and or bright are the same people the manufacturers turn to when asking how their products should sound. Again, the tuning isn't always something or anything to do with the purity of the signal or the quality of the components used.


    Some will find certain amps not to their taste while others will love those same amps. We do not all like sprouts and or marmite! One man's meat is another man's murder.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016
  25. Jezza99

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    Being in a similar position of not being able to afford two separate systems, I use my AV system for music. I find that a 2.1 output using "Direct" which on the Pioneer retains the EQ set up, sounds pretty good.
     
  26. JayCee

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    Yes, you're good at extolling. [emoji1]
    We can agree to disagree [emoji106]
     
  27. gibbsy

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    What about the different effect that speakers can have on the way amps sound. Can they make a warm amp bright or vice versa. If everything was made to the exactly the same standard then we could dispense with the terminology. That will never happen so people will, rightly in my opinion, relate to the discriptions provided by the manufacturers and pundits as to how they sound.
     
  28. JayCee

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    The difference you're hearing is from the speaker, not the amp.
    Loudspeakers influence the sound and acoustics more than the amp all other things being equal.
    Look, all I'm saying is I know there has to be descriptive words for reviews etc but what's wrong with just saying the "Top end" for treble/high frequency or "Bass heavy", "Mid Range" etc which are quantifiable and relate more to sounds than warm, bright, clinical etc?
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016
  29. DougAP

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    The whole 'AVRs not being as good at music' reputation is largely a euphemism for 'AVRs aren't as good at producing sound neutrally'. This is so for a number of reasons, including, as mentioned, the multiple sources of noise they contain. They typically don't have as substantial a power supply and amplification as good hi-fi separates, and hence less ability to control full-range speakers without clipping.

    They may also process their sound to achieve a result other than neutral representation of the source. For example, I'm sure I once read that Denon's receivers at one stage (if not currently) deliberately rolled off the top end more than comparable receivers. Apparently this was because they believed film soundtracks had exaggerated high frequencies due to being mixed to counteract the slight muffling effect of speakers being placed behind cinema screens.

    I do think, though, that some of the current AVRs are beginning to do away with the reputation for being poor with music. The new Arcams, for example, with Dirac, are reputed to be excellent with music. Certainly, Dirac/good EQ has as much place in hi-fi as it does in home cinema, unless one's room has perfect acoustics.
     

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