What should I upgrade next - Speakers or AV Receiver?

dashfield

Active Member
I’ve been pondering this for a while and not sure what will make the most difference. Here’s my 7.1 home cinema set-up:
  • Sony DN1080 AV Receiver
  • 2x Monitor Audio Bronze 2 bookshelf speakers for fronts
  • Dali Optico Vokal centre
  • SVS SB3000 sub
  • 2x Monitor Audio bronze rears
  • 2x ceiling speakers for atmos (can’t remember what right now)
  • BenQ w2700 projector
  • 120” sapphire screen.

My home cinema is also my home office, so I listen to music on the system during the day and use it for films at night.

On the whole I’m happy with how it sounds but I do find there are moments in films when it’s a little lacking. It’s hard to describe but when there’s chaotic scenes in films with lots going on I feel like the system struggles a bit and I’m not getting the clarity or punch I want in those moments. All the sounds muddle together a little.

Now it could be that I need to tweak the set up more, but I’ve played with it quite a lot and still feel the same.

I realise my receiver and MA front speakers are probably the weak points in my system at the moment, but I’m not sure which to upgrade next to make the most difference? I can’t afford to upgrade both at the same time so I’m wondering what to start with.

Although I haven’t made a final decision yet I’m thinking about upgrading the amp to the Yamaha RX A4A. Not sure about the speakers, maybe some Dali’s to match the Vokal centre (which I really like).

Any thoughts would be appreciated.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Photo of your current set up would be handy to see if speaker positioning could be improved.

The muddled sound could be down to the timbre mismatch of Bronze and Dali as a centre. MA and Dali have different tuning, I've always found Dali to be quite forward in presentation. You may also benefit from a newer AV amp that has a better level of room correction but that is a considerable cost.
 

Jester1066

Well-known Member
The muddled sound could be down to the timbre mismatch of Bronze and Dali as a centre.
Yep agree. If it were me I'd look at changing the front Bronzes for some Dali Opticon 2 Mk2's (assuming your centre is a MK2 vokal). Having said that even a MK1 vokal will be better matched with the MK2 Opticon's, vs your current Bronzes.

The Sony's Room EQ is a weak point too imo. But as @gibbsy says new receivers are crazy money atm, even the used AVR market is high, but might offer better value.
 

Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
This is actually quite a tricky query as I would automatically say that it's speakers which have the greatest influence on what you hear in HC.

However, in this instance, changing your AV receiver to a model with Audyssey, for example, should have an impact regarding room correction, clarity, detail and effects steering.

Therefore, in my opinion, go with changing your receiver first. Or, alternatively, just carry on putting money away until you can afford to change both your receiver and speakers at the same time - you'll definitely hear an improvement then!

And I agree with Gibbsy - try and match your LCR. Seeing as you already have 4 x Monitor Audio Bronze, it probably makes more sense to swop out the Dali for this:


As for receivers, there's the usual suspects of Marantz (notably good with music), Denon, Yamaha and Pioneer.

If you have a hunt around online, you might be able to find a retailer who offers exchange, so you could trade in your Sony and Dali and reduce the cost of upgrading.

Good luck!:)
 

Jester1066

Well-known Member
This is actually quite a tricky query as I would automatically say that it's speakers which have the greatest influence on what you hear in HC.

However, in this instance, changing your AV receiver to a model with Audyssey, for example, should have an impact regarding room correction, clarity, detail and effects steering.

Therefore, in my opinion, go with changing your receiver first. Or, alternatively, just carry on putting money away until you can afford to change both your receiver and speakers at the same time - you'll definitely hear an improvement then!

And I agree with Gibbsy - try and match your LCR. Seeing as you already have 4 x Monitor Audio Bronze, it probably makes more sense to swop out the Dali for this:


As for receivers, there's the usual suspects of Marantz (notably good with music), Denon, Yamaha and Pioneer.

If you have a hunt around online, you might be able to find a retailer who offers exchange, so you could trade in your Sony and Dali and reduce the cost of upgrading.

Good luck!:)
Agree also that the biggest improvement will come from switching/changing the receiver.

I mentioned changing the front Bronzes to some Opticon 2's as OP mentioned this:

Not sure about the speakers, maybe some Dali’s to match the Vokal centre (which I really like).
True - it'll definitely be cheaper to change the vokal to a Bronze centre. But I'd be worried the OP might miss the better clarity the better vokal has.

To me (personally at least), I see this more as a sideways move longterm. Imo a Opticon front 3 will be better - sound wise - than a Bronze front 3. For context, I used to run s Bronze 5th Gen setup. Now use a MA Silver 6th Gen setup. I demo'd the MK1 Opticons when upgrading and although I chose the Silvers the 2 ranges are very closely matched in terms of step up in SQ over the Bronzes.

I do agree. It may be best to save up and do both the AVR and speakers at the same time though
 

Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
@Jester1066 - the OP also said he uses his system for music. Would you also rate the Dali better for this purpose than the Bronze?

Yes, I saw that they said they liked their Dali Centre but, potentially with trade in, they could afford a Bronze Centre AND a new AVR in the one purchase.

But I bow to your greater knowledge! You've experienced the Dali's and MA's directly, and if the OP says he/she likes the sound signature of their Centre, and you say it's superior in sound quality to the Bronze, then it does make sense to change the Front L&R to Dali as well.
 

Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
@dashfield - just realised you're contemplating a Yamaha AVR.

Sorry to possibly confuse things for you here, but I had a Yamaha receiver in the past and found its proprietary YPAO Room Correction system absolutely useless - it was fiddly, unreliable and never gave consistent results.

The device also had a ton of pointless sound enhancements that actually made films sound worse!

My Yamaha AVR was only a second generation device though, and I think they've been through many iterations since then, so may have possibly improved this weak spot. It certainly sounded pretty good, but I was more than happy to change to Marantz and that was a definite improvement with Audyssey XT32.
 

mikemag

Distinguished Member
In any of the changes I’ve made over the years I always think the most noticeable improvements were when I changed the fronts, and even more so when the front three speakers were all the same make.
 

Jester1066

Well-known Member
@Jester1066 - the OP also said he uses his system for music. Would you also rate the Dali better for this purpose than the Bronze?

Yes, I saw that they said they liked their Dali Centre but, potentially with trade in, they could afford a Bronze Centre AND a new AVR in the one purchase.

But I bow to your greater knowledge! You've experienced the Dali's and MA's directly, and if the OP says he/she likes the sound signature of their Centre, and you say it's superior in sound quality to the Bronze, then it does make sense to change the Front L&R to Dali as well.
@Derek S-H Obviously these are only my thoughts and opinions (having demo'd both as you say). The OP's findings may be different. To answer you though:

I ran a Bronze 5g based 5.1 setup for many years. The "upgraditus" set in and I demo'd both the Silver 6g and Opticon Bookshelves. My thoughts are in this thread for reference: (if you fancy a read 😉)


Overall, yes imo the Opticon MK1's (The Mk2's were released shortly after I demo'd them!), are significantly better for music than the Bronzes. I've since listened to the MK2's and this still stands.

It was a Very close call between the Dalis and Silvers though! I opted for the silvers as I felt the bass in the 100's was slightly better. But the ribbon tweeter in the Dali's is very special and I'd venture to say that is what I think the OP likes about the Vokal.

Slightly off topic. But, incidentally I've since repurposed the Silver 100's and now use Silver 300's in my HT setup!

@dashfield - is there an opportunity for you to home demo the Opticon 2's and then a Bronze Centre - You'd then have a side by side comparison to choose which front 3 you prefer
 

dashfield

Active Member
Thanks everyone for your comments and thoughts. I already have a MA bronze centre that I use in my other room and I feel the Dali Vokal is much better. I think it would be a step backwards changing the centre to a bronze, but I understand the suggestion was rightly made as the cheapest option.

I like the idea of changing the MA Bronze fronts to Dali. This is probably more realistic for me financially at the moment than spending £1000+ on a new receiver.

I have to have bookshelf speakers due to no room for floorstanders and they have to be next to the wall (see picture). One of my concerns is the Dali Opticons have ports on the back (versus the front on the MA) and I heard that can be a problem when the speakers are close up against the wall? Is that true?

I live near Bristol and the local RS are very good, so I could probably get some from there to demo.

Regarding the model of receiver thanks for the warning on the Yamaha, I’ll look into that. I’ve tried Denon in the past and found their sound too soft and dull and much prefer the punch of the Sony, so I’m looking for something similar to that.
 

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Jester1066

Well-known Member
have to have bookshelf speakers due to no room for floorstanders and they have to be next to the wall (see picture). One of my concerns is the Dali Opticons have ports on the back (versus the front on the MA) and I heard that can be a problem when the speakers are close up against the wall? Is that true?
Normally it would be the case that rear ported speakers aren't ideal against the wall. In the case of the Dali's though this imo is less of an issue. Indeed if you look at the placement recommendations, they can be placed as close as 10cm from the wall:

DALI OPTICON 2 SPECS​

Product seriesOPTICON
Frequency Range (+/-3 dB) [Hz]59 - 27,000
Sensitivity (2,83 V/1 m) [dB]87.0
Nominal Impedance [ohms]4
Maximum SPL [dB]107
Recommended Amplifier Power [W]30 - 150
Crossover Frequency [Hz]2,000
Crossover Principle2-way
Hybrid tweeter module, Super high freq. driver, Diaphragm type
Hybrid tweeter module, High frequency driver, Quantity1 x 28 mm
Hybrid tweeter module, High frequency driver Diaphragm typeSoft Textile Dome
Midrange driver, Quantity1 x 6 1/2"
Midrange driver, Diaphragm typeWood Fibre Cone
Enclosure typeBass Reflex
Bass Reflex Tuning Frequency [Hz]46.5
Connection InputSingle Wire
Magnetic ShieldingNo
Recommended PlacementShelf or stand
Recommended Distance From Wall [cm]10 - 80
Dimensions With Base (HxWxD) [mm]351 x 195 x 297
Accessories IncludedManual
Rubber Bumpers
Weight [kg]7.8
Regarding the model of receiver thanks for the warning on the Yamaha, I’ll look into that. I’ve tried Denon in the past and found their sound too soft and dull and much prefer the punch of the Sony, so I’m looking for something similar to that.
The Sony is certainly punchy in nature. The Denons do have a more "clinical" signature imo. Which is fantastic for movies, but not so great fir pure musical ability. The Marantz equivalent models are generally considered warmer and more musical than their Denon siblings.

I've not tried any Yamaha AVR's for many years, so can't comment on current models, but their stuff 10yrs ago was very good.
 

ShanePJ

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
It’s hard to describe but when there’s chaotic scenes in films with lots going on I feel like the system
This really can only be one of few things,
  • Either you are listening at high volume levels and you are hearing the cancellation effect of certain frequencies as the speakers are fight for space in the room which can sound like extra noise and loudness without clarity
  • The speakers are pulling to much from the AV Receiver at the volume levels you are listening at and its using up all of its capabilities thus creating a unwanted noise that's sound busy and unclear
  • You've heard better speakers and you are actually hearing the limitations of your speakers
  • The room isn't ideal and you may need to move the speakers around a little to balance the acoustics
  • The room eq isn't switched on or optimised for the room (cheapest option to resolve)
  • All of the above could be happening and if so, upgrading one component might be the right answer
As others have mentioned, Sony are no longer one of the greats for AV Receiver (as their ES range was one industry standard) especially with room eq which is a crying shame and maybe they will rekindle that area at some point in the future

The miss-match between the Monitor Audio and Dali's will be obvious although as you have added more clarity with the dali and the Monitor Audio (with cinema act as surrounds), so although it will have an affect, I don't think this will be the cause of scenes sounding chaotic. If you could hear tonal changed, then absolutely, but that's not what you are describing

I would say the simplest thing to test if its the AV Receiver and in place of relying on its eq, I would to get a SPL meter (with C and Slow settings) and run your own manual room eq setup. On the AV Receiver, you'd have to ensure all the speakers are set to small, the crossover is set to 80Hz for the woofer crossover. Get an old fashioned tape measure out and measure each speaker from the main listening position and manually input it. With the SPL meter, you can do a few bits. Firstly, look at the lowest level frequencies your speakers can product (there are plenty of sites with low bass frequencies for you to measure and it needs to be somewhere close to what they can offer) and measure it with the SPL Meter to obtain a dB reading. With this reading run the same test on the woofer and alter the crossover on the woofer itself until you get it somewhere close to the same dB reading. This should stop the woofer encroaching the higher frequencies of your speakers ensuring they sound as clean as they can. Back to the AV Receiver for the levels, ensure all are set to 0 within the AV Receiver an the woofer is set to about 50%. Then use the the SPL meter and increase/decrease each speaker until it somewhere close to 75dB reading on the meter. With the woofer, you may need to tweak it further increasing/decreasing it if you cannot achieve the 75dB's level without increasing it +/-6. Infact plus the first reading you obtained measuring it again your speakers will need to be run again to see if that need a further tweak. I would suspect that most of your speakers running this way will be around +/-3 as a maximum once run and if any are shouting out, then it could be unwanted reflections in the room causing you a different type of headache

I'd be surprised if you didn't notice a difference in the audio doing it old style!

If you find that nothing sounds different, then it'll be the AV Receiver or Room causing you the headache especially if it sound fine at lower column levels
 

Jester1066

Well-known Member
Further to what @ShanePJ says above. It might be useful to post a picture of your setup (taken from your listening position). This might reveal some answers regarding speaker placement etc, which could be impacting on the sound etc
 

dashfield

Active Member
Thanks @ShanePJ for your detailed answer. That’s really helpful and I’ll certainly give this a go when I’ve got a bit of time.

I’ll also post a few pictures of my set up in the coming days, although to be honest there’s not many options for moving things around. But we can cross that bridge when we get to it.
 

Hoku

Active Member
I do agree with some of the sentiments above: before parting with any cash, I’d experiment with speaker positioning and toe-in initially, although it does look like you’re quite limited from the photo.

It would be useful to either give a diagram of the room or further photos. There could be some glaring issues that some of the experienced eyes on the forum could help with.

One question. When you are listening to scenes that sound ‘muddy’ as you describe, just move yourself 2-3 ft closer to the centre speaker away from the back wall. Just see if the clarity improves. Bass does tend to aggregate on the back wall, so if your sofa is placed there, that could be contributing to the problems. In which case a little room treatment may help more than new components.

Having said that, the DALI tweeters have a much wider dispersion than MA, so could help with better integration with the centre.

I also have to say that IMO, with your front right speaker so jammed into the corner, I actually think the Opticon 1 could sound better than the Opticon 2. My Rubicon 2’s, which are a similar size to the Opticon 2’s, although bookshelf models in theory, need plenty of room to breathe. I honestly feel that if blind tested, people would think they sound more like floorstanders. In fact they sound more like floorstanders than my old floorstanders! I’d be concerned that adding large stand mount speakers into a corner like that could make matters worse, or maybe just not help.

And as you have quite a beefy sub, I’d be inclined to play about with the crossover too. I don’t know what you have it set as right now, but if you currently have it at 80hz, if you try 60hz and it sounds worse and muddier, it would indicate that it’s your main speakers bass that’s causing this muddled sound.

One other question: what’s the size of your room?
 

Joe Fernand

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
'what will make the most difference' - sorting out the layout/room.

If you have the option to play around with the Front LR speaker positions on a temp basis can you place them on a stand where they 'should' go and have a listen to the system again, folk talk about moving loudspeakers by just a few mm to make adjustments to how they sound in a room.

You can also experiment with playing movies etc in 2.1 mode and then add in the Centre and Surround channels and get some indication of the problem you hear when things get busy, it could be the AVR struggling or it could be the positioning and levels of the surrounds or simply the loudspeaker to room interaction.

Joe
 

dashfield

Active Member
Here’s a couple of pictures showing the view from the seating position and then the seating position to show the rears and ceiling speakers.

As I mentioned this room serves as my home office where I work most days, so I was restricted a little on speaker placement because the left one had to go above my desk, so I put the right one at the same height. The centre sits under the screen at the end of my desk and the sub is to the left next to my media cupboard.

The room is 3.24m x 4m.
 

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Joe Fernand

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
The Front LCR need to move before you spend any money as they are far from ideal.

The Centre is designed to be mounted horizontally - I’d disable it on the AVR rather than mounting it vertically as the dispersion is all wrong.

The Front LR are too high, it would be good to see the front of the room with the screen retracted.

Joe
 

Jester1066

Well-known Member
@Joe Fernand beat me to it... if possible I'd certainly try and drop the front L&R speakers down. This is likely to be attributing to the muddled sound you describe. Especially given there needs to be sufficient seperation between the base level speakers and your atmos channels. In addition can you try and orient the centre correctly or try running it without the centre channel.

Is the screen acoustically transparent?
 

dashfield

Active Member
Thanks for the feedback. One of the reasons I bought the Dali centre is because I thought it would work alright stood up. I’ve attached a picture so show how the speaker works. The screen isn’t acoustically transparent and I can’t put it horizontally so I’ll just have to live with that. Like I said earlier I’m happy with the centre channel.

I may be able to lower the L&R but it means the left would have to go in the corner of my desk. As you can see there’s not much space there when the computers screens are out but I’ll have a play.
 

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Joe Fernand

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
@Jester1066 - an AT screen is a definite option for this layout.

@dashfield - stick the Centre horizontally on a temp stand, the drivers beam ‘radiate’ an acoustic wave which is currently 90 degrees out of kilter.

A bit of a re jig and I’m sure you can come up with a less compromised Front sound stage which still allows you to use the space as a workspace.

There is no sense spending more money on alternative kit if you keep the Front LCR where they are currently placed.

Joe
 

Jester1066

Well-known Member
A bit of a re jig and I’m sure you can come up with a less compromised Front sound stage which still allows you to use the space as a workspace.
@dashfield - in terms of any potential rejig. Is it possible to turn the PC desk 90⁰ so it's along the wall the subs currently on. You'd then be able to orient the centre speaker correctly (along the screen wall).
 

Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
@dashfield - thanks for your photos, that makes things a lot clearer to advise.

In an ideal arrangement, the Front LCR would more or less be along the same plane and at a similar height - your Front L&R are way too high and your Centre is in the wrong orientation to work properly.

You're going to hate me for saying this, especially as you use a projector, but my first thought at seeing your pictures was to turn your Home Cinema 180 degrees i.e. have your Rear speakers where your Front L&R currently are and move everything else (apart from the Sub) to the opposite wall.

I appreciate that there's a doorway that may make entering or leaving the room problematic if your sofa is too close, and what I'm suggesting involves quite a lot of work (did you put up your screen and projector yourself?), but it's a solution that just struck me straightaway - that you've located your items incorrectly in the room to make the most of their performance.

Edit: @Jester1066 beat me to it in terms of moving things around!:facepalm:
 

Jester1066

Well-known Member
You're going to hate me for saying this, especially as you use a projector, but my first thought at seeing your pictures was to turn your Home Cinema 180 degrees i.e. have your Rear speakers where your Front L&R currently are and move everything else (apart from the Sub) to the opposite wall.
I initially had the same thought - indeed it's exactly what I did when I redid my living room. As you say though, that's a lot of work, hence my potentially "easier" suggestion of moving just the PC desk.
 

Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
I initially had the same thought - indeed it's exactly what I did when I redid my living room. As you say though, that's a lot of work, hence my potentially "easier" suggestion of moving just the PC desk.
Don't try to take the credit for my idea!:nono:
 

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