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Which is the weakest link in my setup?

Langkawi

Active Member
Hi All,

Apologies if this isnt the right sub-forum but I'd appreciate some feedback/advice on where to focus.

I have:
Cambridge Audio BD650 - blu ray
Onkyo SR608 - Av receiver
Cambridge Audio S30 & S20's as front and rear speakers
Cambridge Audio S50 centre speaker

I'm not fussed about 3D as not convinced it's taken off enough to commit. (no offence to the enthusiasts as it's pretty amazing in the pub - just not for me at home quite yet).

We watch a lot of blu rays and normal DVD's, as well as listening to a lot of CD's. My priorities are therefore:

Great surround sound on movies
Great sound on music
Great picture (if have a 60inch LG plasma if that's a factor).

I really don't want to replace the Cambridge BD650. But would be interested to know if you consider that the weakest link.

So with a budget of say £1,000, which part of my setup is the weakest link and should I consider replacing to get me closer to 'sound/vision' utopia!

Many Thanks,
Alan
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
Hi Alan,
The weakest link as I see it is your subwoofer, which doesn't appear to be present at all.
Did you accidentally leave it off the kit list? Or do you really not have one? And if not, then is there a reason you don't want one?
Adding a sub will definitely add something to the experience for watching films.

I wouldn't blow your whole £1000 on a sub though - a £1000 sub would throw the balance of your system. I'd probably spend up to half of it on a sub.
The next weakest for you I would say is your speakers. The remaining £500 probably wouldn't be enough to get a worthwhile upgrade though.
 

Langkawi

Active Member
Oops!

Cambridge Audio S90 sub.

So does that still leave speakers as weakest link?

Or would £1000 on receiver deliver more than same spent on speakers?

Cheers,
Alan
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
I would say the weak links are the amp and speakers, though, not all that weak. So, bigger amps and bigger speakers.

My only direct knowledge of the Cambridge "S" series speakers comes from someone who did a test of several of the common modestly priced bookshelf speakers, and they were surprised at how good they sounded.

The Cambridge S90 Sub is pretty basic, and many floorstanding speakers will go lower than this sub (35hz to 180Hz) with a modest 70w. Good Subs go down well below 30hz, have much bigger bass drivers, and typically have 150w to 300w of power

Consider this line of Subwoofers from BK Electronics, they are considered good value -

BK Electronic - Subwoofers

Any of these Subs ABOVE the Gemini-II will go down below 30hz. The XLS200 (down firing or front firing) is rated down to 17hz at -6db. Which is pretty impressive. 10" bass drive with 275w of amp power, price at a pleasant £315.

Personally for music, I'm a firm believer in Front Floorstanding speakers. But that's just me. For a pure movie, or primarily a movie system, bookshelf front can be great.

So, I would say -

1.) Upgrade the Sub.

2.) if you feel it necessary and circumstance will allow, upgrade to floorstanding front speakers. If you want to stay with Cambridge speakers, consider the Cambridge S70 for £199/pr. Other wise you will have to replace both Front and Center.

3.) replace the AV amp. The amp you have is fine for a basic AV system. But most feel that you need to climb up close to and above £1000 to get the best from a AV amp. But if the amp is working fine and you are satisfied, that can be left to a later upgrade.

As far as the front speakers. If we assume a BK XLS200 or XLS300 that is going to take from £315 to £425 of you budget. Leaving, worst case, £575 for a Front/Center Speaker upgrade. You could certainly do that in Wharfedale Diamond 10 series (£330/pr for Diamond 10.4 plus another £130 for Diamond 10.CS Center speaker). That is just one example of the possibilities, and it somewhat hinges on how satisfied you are with the Cambridge speakers. As pointed out the Cambridge S70 floorstanding is a modest £200/pr.

But I think certainly a new Sub with a bigger woofer and deeper response.

Then front/center speakers. Depending on how much you have left, there are several options. Cambridge. Wharfedale, Acoustic Energy Neo, Tannoy Mercury, and several others.

As to the amp, when the time comes, one or two models above the current in Onkyo, Yamaha, Marantz, and others. Note the current Onkyo TX-NR717 (£800) and TX-NR818 (£1000) have Network Streaming capability built-in so you can steam audio/video from your computer and access Internet Radio over you home computer network. That many be an appealing feature. (note, the Onkyo TX-NR616 with network capability is about £600.)

Overall, and in the simplest terms, I would say your Sub is the weakest link at the moment.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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dante01

Distinguished Member
As to the amp, when the time comes, one or two models above the current in Onkyo, Yamaha, Marantz, and others. Note the current Onkyo TX-NR717 (£800) and TX-NR818 (£1000) have Network Streaming capability built-in so you can steam audio/video from your computer and access Internet Radio over you home computer network. That many be an appealing feature. (note, the Onkyo TX-NR616 with network capability is about £600.)

AV amps do not have video capabilities in relation to their networking. I think only Sony facilitate this on their flagship models, but no other manufacturer has facilitated access to video content via their networking port. Also note that DLNA certification, net radio and audio streaming isn't something new and has been around for several years now.


Forget trying to upgrade both the AV amp and speakers at the same time. Your budget cannot facilitate this. I'd suggest you look at some of last years AV amps currently being discounted in order to make way for this year's new models.

Denon AVR3312 £570
Yamaha RXA810 £500
Yamaha RXA1010 £650
Marantz SR7005 £800

These offer much better value for money than any of the new models. The Denon is particularly good value for money.

Use whatever money you've left to start an upgrade fund for your speakers. Your total speaker budget should equate to somewhere in the region of £1500 to £2500 (inclusive of sub) in order to do any of the above amps justice.

If you were to use your £1000 to try buy both new speakers and amp then you'd be left with no option other than to downgrade from what you have now.


If wanting to simply pep up your existing setup then yes, the subwoofer is the weakest link. Look at the BK XLS200 or the XXLS400. Even a Gemini II would be better than what you have now.

http://www.bkelec.com/HiFi/Sub_Woofers.htm


You could get the Denon AVR3312 plus a BK XXLS400 within your £1K budget. This would leave you to upgrade your remaining speakers in stages and as additional funds allow.
 
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BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Dante01 is probably right about the video streaming over the computer network. Likely it is AUDIO ONLY. But it is still a nice feature.

Dante01 is presenting a slightly different approach, in suggesting a new amp and Subwoofer. I can't fault him for that.

That said, I still lean toward a Front/Center/Sub upgrade and leave the amp upgrade until later. Both methods are within your reach, it is just a matter of setting your priorities, and deciding for yourself where the weak links are based on your impression of the system.

I think new Front/Center/Sub could leave you with a bit of money left over to add to your Amp fund. But an Amp/Sub upgrade could leave you with a bit of money left to add to your new speaker fund.

I do agree, you will get far better value for your money, if you buy one model year back. These will be available at Substantial discounts, and will have pretty much the same features as the new models.

Again, which way you go depends on your personal priorities. If you really like the Cambridge speakers, upgrade the front to Cambridge S70, add a Subwoofer, and you're still have close to enough money to buy a one model year back amp upgrade.

However, if you feel you really need a speaker upgrade in front, then you have to decide between a new amp or new speakers, likely you can not have both. That is, if we assume either path includes a new Subwoofer.

Next, think about features. If you can find the Denon 3312 for less than £600, that is an excellent deal. But if streaming is important, then one model higher and one model year back from the current Onkyo models will still have Networking capability. Though do keep in mind, you can probably add better external Networking for about £200 (Logitech SqueezeBox Touch).

PeterTyson.co.uk has the Denon 3312 for that price; others are selling it for as high as £1000. The newer Denon 3313 sells for about £1100. I'm not sure about the other amps, but you can look them up on Google-UK shopping and get both lowest prices, and the standard selling price.

The Marantz are consider very musically capable amps, the new model SR7007 is about £1300, so the previous SR7005 for £800 is a pretty good deal.

Again, it is up to you to think about where your money best serves you, and how satisfied you are with your current equipment.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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dante01

Distinguished Member
Next, think about features. If you can find the Denon 3312 for less than £600, that is an excellent deal. But if streaming is important, then one model higher and one model year back from the current Onkyo models will still have Networking capability. Though do keep in mind, you can probably add better external Networking for about £200 (Logitech SqueezeBox Touch).

All the amps I mentioned have networking abilities and as I mentioned, it isn't a new feature only apparent on this years amps. Neither is it anything exclusive to Onkyo. The remaining stocks of lasts years Onkyo amps are not what you'd consider to be bargains when compared to what else is on offer. Some of the older Onkyoamps appear to have gone up in price since being initially discounted for clearance?
 
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BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Excellent; thanks for that update. Being a stereo guy, I don't keep up on AV amps all that much. In all honesty, personally, Onlyo AV amps would not be at the top of my list. Nothing against them, but I feel there are better amps out there.

I didn't search the other amps, but the Denon 3312 seems right on. Very hard to find a £1000 amp for under £600. I would probably favor the Marantz for its reputation as a very musically capable amp, but it is also the most expensive and cuts the Subwoofer Budget a bit short.

Steve/bluewizard
 

dante01

Distinguished Member
Excellent; thanks for that update. Being a stereo guy, I don't keep up on AV amps all that much. In all honesty, personally, Onlyo AV amps would not be at the top of my list. Nothing against them, but I feel there are better amps out there.

I didn't search the other amps, but the Denon 3312 seems right on. Very hard to find a £1000 amp for under £600. I would probably favor the Marantz for its reputation as a very musically capable amp, but it is also the most expensive and cuts the Subwoofer Budget a bit short.

Steve/bluewizard

The Marantz is practically the same amp as the Denon AVR3312's predecessor. The Denon is definitely the bargain amp to go for ;) Its only downside is its poor build quality, something Denon have readdressed with their new models this year.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Is the Denon actually poor build quality, or does it just have the look and feel of poor quality?

I think any of the amps you suggested are worth investigating. As I suggested, a quick search of Google-UK Shopping should turn up not only the best current price, but also the standard selling price. For example, PeterTyson had the Denon 3312 for less than £600, but other places were still selling the amp for £1000. That represents a pretty substantial discount.

Also as pointed out, the newest Marantz was selling for £1300, so the older model at £800 is something of a bargain, but still pushing the suggested budget to the limit.

Just a few thoughts.

Steve/bluewizard
 

dante01

Distinguished Member
Is the Denon actually poor build quality, or does it just have the look and feel of poor quality?

I think any of the amps you suggested are worth investigating. As I suggested, a quick search of Google-UK Shopping should turn up not only the best current price, but also the standard selling price. For example, PeterTyson had the Denon 3312 for less than £600, but other places were still selling the amp for £1000. That represents a pretty substantial discount.

Also as pointed out, the newest Marantz was selling for £1300, so the older model at £800 is something of a bargain, but still pushing the suggested budget to the limit.

Just a few thoughts.

Steve/bluewizard

It is poor i terms of what you'd expect from a £1000 AV amp. All of last years Denon models suffered from this and I guess it had a lot to do with the economic situation as well as fallout from the recent earthquakes in Japan? I think Denon have gone to great lengths to address this with their new amps released this year. Having said this, would the Denon AVR3312 still be as cheap as it is now had the build been better?

Both Marantz and Denon belong to the same holdings company and share many components. Slight differences are apparent in relation to their final analogue output and tuning, but many Marantz models are in fact the same as the cheaper Denon models. The SR7005 is slightly better, but not enough to warrant the price difference between it and the AVR3312. Because of the earthquakes in Japan, Marantz and Denon both now share the same manufacturing facilities.

The AVR3312 has already been replaced, hence the discounts. Those still trying to procure £1000 for one are optimists and are hoping those paying that amount are unaware that a replacement model exist with a price the same as what they are asking. All the mainstream retailers have reduced the price of older stock accordingly.

The newest comparable Marantz would be the new Marantz SR7007 and this sells for £1300. It is comparable to the new Denon AVR3313 which retails for £1100. THe SR7005 is a couple of years old, not this year's model or last year's.
 
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Langkawi

Active Member
Thanks guys.

So the consensus seems to be all I need to do is replace my receiver, speakers and sub - but the Blu Ray is ok!

Just joking.

Given I'm not particularly dissatisfied with any of it and it was more of a wishlist kind of question then I reckon I'll do a two or three phased approach.

Look to replace the receiver later this year with something around the £1,000 mark. [But am more than happy with last years model as don't need wireless streaming and all that - just want top drawer picture and sound quality].

Then look to replace the speakers early next year as it sounds like I'll need to splash in the £1,000-£1,500 region to really get something that will make the most of a better reciever.

In the meantime I guess I'm left with a chicken and the egg dilemna.

Better speakers first and an receiver that's not worthy of them. Or better receiver first and speakers that don't do it justice.

Either way I guess thats all part of the fun.

Appreciate all the time and effort you put into the advice.

Many Thanks,
Alan
 

dante01

Distinguished Member
In the meantime I guess I'm left with a chicken and the egg dilemna.

Better speakers first and an receiver that's not worthy of them. Or better receiver first and speakers that don't do it justice.

Either way I guess thats all part of the fun.

Appreciate all the time and effort you put into the advice.

Many Thanks,
Alan



I'd consider the purchase of an amp now because there are some £1K amps selling for half that right now due to stock clearances. There's very little if anything happening in terms of substantial discounts on £1500 speaker packages.
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
As you're not too dissatisfied with any component right now, how about this for some logic on which order to buy them in...

Speakers are a very well established technology. Nothing really changes when new models come out, and prices don't come down too far when a model goes end-of-line. Models usually stay 'current' for quite a while too.
AVRs are always getting new features and spec - it's a fast-moving market. Manufacturers seem to be releasing a new range of AVRs every year or so, and the old range gets marked down significantly.

So if you buy AVR now and speakers later, you benefit from last year's AVR models at low prices, or this year's models at high prices.
But if you get speakers now and AVR later (after next year's AVRs have come out), you should get this year's AVRs at low prices. Just a few extra features for you.
You'd end up with the same speakers either way.
This, combined with what I think would give the best improvement as a half-way point to upgrading everything, leads me to recommend doing the speakers first.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
It gets down to priorities, but I think one aspect has been consistent in everybody's responses.

The Sub you have (Cambridge S90) in just adequate, so that is one area that needs to be improved. The low end response is a mere 35hz, many floorstanding speaker will equal or exceed that. It has a 8" woofer, and 70w amp, neither of which is great.

I think even the modestly priced BK Electronics Gemini-II will beat that.

Also, keep in mind you can upgrade one item at a time. That will give you a much better sense of the impact of each upgrade.

Second to the Sub, would be amp and speakers. Which you place a higher priority on is up to you. If you are satisfied with your current speakers, then a simply upgrade to Cambridge S70 should sort that for a very modest price. However, if you want a a serious speaker upgrade, then the price climbs considerably higher.

A basic £300 Sub upgrade, plus a £200 Front speaker upgrade, cuts your short on the amp, but does leave you about £500. Even if that is not enough for last year's model, it is pretty close.

But, perhaps, as suggested you want more serious upgrades.

The sub can stay about the same. You can buy what ever you feel is appropriate for your budget and your circumstances.

For a true front three speaker upgrade is likely going to cost you a minimum £500 (front/center). Again, how far you want to take it is up to you.

The AV Amp upgrade is going to be £600 to +£1000. There are always new models coming out, and always, more or less, older models on close out. But you may have to wait to find the amp you want at the price you want to pay. It depends on when a given brand releases its new models.

As to Onkyo, there is no denying the make great high-featured amps, but many think that for a similar price, there are more musical amps out there. I would never discourage anyone from buying an Onkyo, but depending on priorities, there might be better choices. For a pure Home Cinema system, Onkyo's do a good job.

Hopefully, I have done a reasonable job of summarizing the options at hand.

Steve/bluewizard
 

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