Question What's a good stereo upgrade for an old Denon receiver?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by Amar, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. Amar

    Amar
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    I recently got me a shiny new OLED TV (which is awesome btw) for my living room. Having a dedicated cinema room, I feel a good 2.1 system is fine (for now). I have a pair of B&W XT2’s and an old Denon 3805 AV receiver donated to me by my brother which sounds good but I feel something isn’t right.

    In an attempt to cut down on cabling, I decided to get an Inateck Bluetooth 4.1 receiver, with APTX HD, and plug in to the amp end. The TV has a Bluetooth 4.1 transmitter and all paired up well and worked. However, the sound was lacking. Assuming it was a poor DAC in the Bluetooth receiver, I bought another Inateck receiver, but this time with an optical output to use the DAC in the receiver. Sound is much better now.

    TV sounds great but music still lacks some sparkle and I think it is the Denon receiver. Are there any good starting points where I can look at some stereo amps? But then I’m stuck with using the original Bluetooth receiver without an optical output. Will I need to get a decent DAC for the stereo amp?

    Although it is a 2 channel system today, I have wiring in situ for rear speakers should I want surround sound in the future. In which case, should I go for a more musical receiver with all the bells and whistles built in such as HDMI, Bluetooth, Wifi etc…?

    Any thoughts and opinions would be much appreciated.
     
  2. gibbsy

    gibbsy
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    A receiver is in no way good enough for stereo music. Even a basic stereo amp will out perform many mid range receivers. If you want to build a system from 2.0 upwards then base it on a good integrated stereo amp that has HT bypass abilities. This will allow a future connection to an AVR from it's pre-outs by analogue to the stereo amp. A full 5.1.4 is easily possible using both AVR and stereo amp without compromising on the musical ability of the system.
     
  3. Paul7777x

    Paul7777x
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    Generally speaking, mr gibbsy speaks truly about a stereo amp for the music thing.

    I’d agree wholeheartedly.

    But as you’re likely to go 5.1 soon enough you might consider one of the better Arcam receivers. Very competent indeed with films and music.

    But if music is more important then a serious stereo amp is your best bet.
     
  4. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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    There is a half way house, a surround processor that you can add a stereo power amp then add more for surround. The Arcam AVP, rotel RSP or anthem av32r, add a Berlinger a500 and off you go for a couple of hundred quid. I run a rotel rsp1066 plus two rb850 in bridged mode (2x150w) and it sounds good to my ears, even the onboard dac is reasonable, set to pure direct. Look at the specs to see what works best, old ones without hdmi are really cheap if you don’t need that connection.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  5. Amar

    Amar
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    Ok so a good stereo amp with HT bypass is what I’m looking for. Since the AV receiver will only need to power some rears(maybe a pair of B&W M1’s), I could just get one of those slimline Marantz or Yamaha ones but with all the bells and whistles like 4k/HDR HDMI passthrough.

    My living room is long but not very wide and all of my critical listening and movie watching is done in the main cinema room so I don’t want to spend too much. Do you guys think something like this Yamaha or Marantz would sound better than the Denon 3805 that I’m currently using? It seems to tick quite a few boxes with a built in DAC, Wifi, Bluetooth, hi res audio support. Doesn’t look like it has HT bypass though. Or should I go slightly higher up the chain to really notice an improvement? I have an LG V30 phone which is fantastic for audio also.

    Yamaha Network Stereo Receiver

    Yamaha DAB/Bluetooth Stereo Receiver

    Marantz Stereo Amplifier

    I've also attached a couple of pictures of the newly renovated room. I know the TV is a little high, it's coming lower :laugh: The speakers are going on to wall brackets to clear up some floor space and the amp will go in to a media cabinet to the right of the fireplace.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  6. gibbsy

    gibbsy
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  7. Joe Fernand

    Joe Fernand
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    The speakers are going on to wall brackets’ - have you tried pulling them out from the wall/clear of the chimney breast, tucked in behind the chimney breast is not going to be great.

    Joe
     
  8. Amar

    Amar
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    Yes thanks for the tip. I've moved them 50cm away from the chimney and they sound much better.
     
  9. Amar

    Amar
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    I'm now thinking to add a Chromecast Audio to my receiver as I'm not liking the sound of the Bluetooth receiver.

    As the Chromecast is wireless, is there any loss in audio quality over wireless compared to having a wired LAN connection?
     
  10. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    No.
     
  11. muljao

    muljao
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    CCA has built in DAC that is poor, good, very good, excellent depending on who is listening, but it does have a 3.5 analogue/digital connection, so it can pass the ones and zeroes to a different DAC if needed.

    I have mine plugged into a marantz pm6005. I prefer the marantz as the processor but think that this is simply because I like the marantz kind of warm sound, I don't think it is because the CCA DAC is lacking
     
  12. Amar

    Amar
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    ok so the latest on my quest. Got a CCA with optical connection, sounds much better using the internal DAC of the Denon receiver. Still feel something is missing though. Sounds nice but not 'musical' enough. Seperation of instruments isn't quite there. Just seems like something is missing and I can't work out if it's the receiver or the speakers.

    I like the idea of a stereo amp with HT bypass but they're all rather expensive so keeping a lookout in the classifieds and eBay.

    I'm also looking at the Yamaha RN602 and Marantz PM6006 and lose the AV abilities. Shame you can't home audition these things. I'm wondering if the Marantz PM6006 will sound similar to a SR6010. In which case, I would try and find one of these on the second hand market.

    I also like the idea of getting an older processor from the likes of Rotel and add a Behringer power amp to it. They are ridiculously cheap but I feel HDMI switching is useful in this day and age.
     
  13. gibbsy

    gibbsy
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    The solution to having to buy an expensive amp with HT bypass could lie with the Beresford Electronics TC 7210 speaker switch. With this piece of kit you could use both the receiver and a standalone stereo amp connected to one set of front speakers. It could allow you to use the Marantz PM6006 solely for music.

    www.homehifi.co.uk/S/selector.htm
     
  14. BlueWizard

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    You forgot the 0.1 aspect, do you have and what are you using for a Subwoofer.

    Also, did you reset the Denon Receiver, and/or did you re-run the Setup program? You pretty much need to do both.

    For those interested, here is some information on the B&W XT2 speakers (5", [email protected]) -

    B&W XT2

    B&W XT2 stereo speakers ExDem

    Model - B&W XT2
    Drive Units -
    - Free-mounted Nautilus™ tube-loaded aluminium dome tweeter
    - 1x ø25mm (1 in) aluminium dome high-frequency
    - 1x ø130mm (5 in) woven Kevlar® cone bass/midrange

    Sensitivity - 85dB spl (2.83V, 1m)
    Frequency Range - -6dB at 46Hz and 50kHz
    Impedance -
    Recomended Amp Power - 30W - 100W
    Dimensions HxWxD - 315x154x200mm
    Weight - 5kg

    The speaker are not the most efficient, but they can reach average Reference Levels with only 1 watt of power, so low but not terrible.

    Bluetooth can be good ...if your expectations are realistic. I don't think Bluetooth even at its best ever equals CD quality. Though neither does Spotify and similar streaming services. Despite not equaling CD quality, they can still sound good. But again, your expectations have to be realistic.

    There are great starting points in Stereo amps, depending on how you define 'starting points'. One of the factors is - How much money do you have to spend?

    The Denon AVR-X3808 is no slouch of an amp. Based on a quick search it retailed for about US$1600 when new and has some pretty solid specs (130w/ch to 8 ohms, 0.05% THD).

    Denon AVR-3808CI A/V Receiver

    Denon AVR-3808CI Specs

    At above UK£1000 or US$1300 (at current rates), you are getting into the class of AVRs that come very close to Stereo Amps.

    First and foremost, you need to at minimum re-run the Setup Program (Audyssey or whatever). If you have not, then the AVRs is tuned to the previous room and speakers, and not to your room. I would personally recommend that you down load the owner's manual and find out how to reset the amp back to factory default to make sure all traced of the previous owner's settings are erased. Then run the Setup Program.

    I'm more inclined to look at your physical space and speaker placement. How about a few more details? -

    - What are the dimensions of the room?
    - Where is the system placed in the room and how far away from the system do you sit?
    - What is your Subwoofer, if you have one?
    - Specifically on WHAT and WHERE are the Speakers placed?


    Unless you plan to spend near £2000 for an AV Receiver in the future. I'm not sure you can do better than a FREE Denon AVR-3808.

    You can't actually know where you stand until you reset the existing Amp and re-run the Setup Program. Then we take the room and the speaker placement into consideration. We can't effectively comment until we know that you have a clean AVR, and a conventional room with conventional speaker placement.

    Now if you currently had a roughly £300 to £500 AVR I would say there is some hope for improvement based on getting a better Stereo Amp. But with an AVR that ran about US$1600 (£1300 CNET review) you are already in the better class of AV Receivers.

    Given that you have a £1300 Receiver and roughly £700/pr Speakers. I'm inclined to think the problem lies somewhere else.

    Feed HDMI from your video sources to the AVR, then - like it or not - feed the AVR HDMI out to the TV. If the amp does not have ARC (audio return channel), then feed the Optical Audio Out of the TV back to the AVR using an optical cable. This would be for TV only, not Movies. The money you spent on Bluetooth, is far offset by simply having bought some cable management to keep the cables tidy and out of sight.

    Until you Reset the Amp, and Re-Run the Setup program, and place your speakers in a reasonable, common, and standard position, you don't know what you have, where you stand, or how it sounds.

    Again, a £1300 AVR and £700/pr speakers should sound better than you are claiming they do.

    And this coming from someone who near universally recommends Stereo Amps.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
  15. Amar

    Amar
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    Thanks this looks great.
     
  16. Amar

    Amar
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    Thanks. A lot of homework to do. I did adjust the speakers distances, levels etc..although only manually, but didn't reset the receiver. I will do this tonight and run audyssey properly.

    Note: receiver is the older AVR-3805 not the AVR-3808 and does not have HDMI. It was still around £1000 in its day though. I used to own an AVR-3801 which powered a B&W 5.1 set up with a pair of 603 S3 at the front and that used to sound great.

    The only source plugged in is the TV which I'll connect via optical now. Thankfully the bluetooth route only cost me £30.

    There is a subwoofer. It's just part of a Definitive Technology Cinema Pro 600 5.1 pack I bought a couple of years ago. I use the satellites from the pack as height channels for Dolby Atmos duties in my main cinema room. The whole 5.1 kit only cost me £150 from Peter Tyson and the sub has been sitting around in its box ever since. I thought I'd give it a try and it adds decent weight to the B&W's.

    I'm going to try your suggestions tonight.
     
  17. Rambles

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    A Marantz AVR will sound better for music than a Denon AVR. I would avoid the slimline ones, as for your size room, you still want decent power available for the surround speakers and centre.

    Better still a Nad T758v3 which is an AVR that is also good for music, with Dirac room EQ for around £1000. Moving up, Sevenoaks have some open box Arcam 390's for £1500, and 550's for around £2000.

    Or, if you want to stick to the stereo amp with HT bypass option, look at Musical Fidelity m3i / m3si for under £1000, sometimes as low as £500, even less used.
     
  18. dannnielll

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    Still flogging my dead horse, but there is really good value in second hand AVR machines. They are available at peanut prices, were built like tanks, have huge power supplies and power reserves.. 100watt RMS at 0.05% distortion is serious power. . You can take Rambles estimated prices and take off the last digit..
    Are they good enough???. Well 50 to 100 quid is not a massive punt. And if they are really unsuitable, not a lot to lose. .. And they were the state of the art less than a decade ago. So they are not expensive and not at all shoddy.
    .
     
  19. Amar

    Amar
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    Think I have to agree with this statement. I’ve seen some older Rotel AV receivers on eBay for around £150.

    Perhaps I am too accustom to hearing the Marantz/XTZ combo in my cinema room so rather than the sound being bad, it’s just different. Ribbon tweeters on the XTZ’s vs Aluminium tweeter on the B&W’s will of course sound different. An ex flagship modern day Marantz receiver with Audyssey XT32 vs a £1000 2004 Denon receiver will, again, sound different.

    I got myself a new optical cable today as my one didn’t reach the receiver from the TV. Got a fun weekend of testing to do now. My lounge is 5.5m x 3.0m and the listening distance is around 2.5m.

    As mentioned earlier, before I got the XTZ speakers and Marantz receiver, I used to power a pair of floorstanding B&W 603 S3’s with an even older Denon AVR-3801 and it used to sound great in my cinema room. There’s no reason this system should sound any worse, I do think the Bluetooth receiver is the weakness.
     
  20. Amar

    Amar
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    To update, I reset the receiver, ran Audyssey and used an optical connection. Sounds miles better. The Chromecast Audio also sounds fantastic and blows the Bluetooth receiver out of the water. Hi-res audio files finally sound hi-res now. I’m never falling for the ‘Bluetooth APTX-HD sounding as good as cd’ thing again, it doesn’t.

    The system isn’t on par with my Marantz and XTZ combo but for a secondary system, I’m now happy with the sound (for now). I will always prefer the XTZ’s for longer listening sessions but the B&W’s are great for casual, background and TV shows. And the Chromecast Audio really does breathe a whole new lease of life into the old Denon receiver. Watching Jack Ryan last night was a pleasure, even just with 2.1 audio.
     
  21. tomstephens89

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    Can recommend the Denon AVRX line. Ive got an AVR-X3300W, used to have a 1200W and they are superb surround receivers, whilst also doing a pretty good job at stereo sound so long as you turn all the processing and Audyssey EQ off.
     

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