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Which Processor?

Discussion in 'AV Pre-Amp/Processors & Power Amps' started by dts_boy, Feb 5, 2003.

  1. dts_boy

    dts_boy
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    i know this has probably been done to death, but as i have just sold my denon 1se can someone reassure me that the arcam av8 is the way to go? i have narrowed power amps down to rotel 1095, parasound 2205 and arcam p7 - it will only be a 5.1 system. music is not a real importance to me and the Arcam seems real nice, how good is it against the linn av5103 which i could get for the same price? its a big step and want to make sure i get it right!
     
  2. Steve.EX

    Steve.EX
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    The Arcam is a lovely peice of kit (from a Tag owner/lover/fan) which i am sure will serve you well for some time to come.
    I believe, in my experience (although not overly extensive with the Arcam) is that the difference between the Tag and Arcam will for 99% of purchasers be down to personal preference alone rather than any out-standing difficiencies in either model. The Linn too is a great sounding machine although not quite so well specified and pitched perhaps at a more esoteric bent.

    Steve.
     
  3. ReTrO

    ReTrO
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    Go for the Arcam AV8/P7 combo. I guess you'll be biamping your front speakers with it if you are only going 5.1?

    The Linn 5103 is a good processor in stereo but way behind now in surround sound terms, it is being replaced this year by a new THX Ultra 2 processor.
     
  4. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Yeah, don't waste your time with the Linn 5103 if films are important to you.

    The Arcam AV8 is a very nice piece of kit. If you're having trouble stretching to the price, then here are some (possibly) slightly cheaper options:

    - Naim AV2 (although there can be issues pairing it with non-Naim power amps).

    - 2nd hand Tag McLaren AV32R, perhaps with less than the full bp192 EX spec (but the potential to be upgraded later).

    - 2nd hand Meridian 568 mk I (could be upgraded to a 568.2 later).

    - 2nd hand Lexicon MC1, but that would leave no upgrade path at all and performance in stereo is unimpressive.

    On the amplifier side the Arcam P7 is unmatched at that price, IMO. If you only want 5 channels then you might consider a 2nd hand Bryston 9B THX (or 9B-ST, basically the same).
     
  5. dts_boy

    dts_boy
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    thanks for the replies. will only be running it in 5.1 as i have no room for the extra speakers, or at least my better half doesn't want the room for more speakers! was looking at the Naim but am put off by the fact you can only use their power amps, will be having a home demo on Friday though. i think i have settled on the Arcam, but my original budget was £4500 max, oh well, what the ife doesn't know won't hurt her:rolleyes:
     
  6. ReTrO

    ReTrO
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    You can use anyones power amps with the Naim AV2, you just have to use Din to phono cables.

    The AV2 and P7 would set you back £4,700 at full price.
     
  7. dts_boy

    dts_boy
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    that would be the Naim salesman telling porkies to me then:mad:
     
  8. warrj

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    dts_boy

    Since you say that music doesn't concern you I'd strongly recommend that you audition the Tag AV30R. Its AV performance is (IMHO) broadly similar to the Arcam but it costs only 1800 quid. I had one for a couple of weeks and would have been happy to keep it but for it's less than great performance as an analogue stereo pre-amp.

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  9. ReTrO

    ReTrO
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    Having setup the demo one at my old work a good few times it sounds like bacon to me.:D
     
  10. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Isn't there some issue with impedance matching, though? Or did I imagine that?


    So either the Tag AV30R is just as good as a Tag AV32Rb192 for AV use, or the AV32Rbp192 is significantly superior to the Arcam AV8? Neither of those possibilities is terribly persuasive.
     
  11. warrj

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    So either the Tag AV30R is just as good as a Tag AV32Rb192 for AV use, or the AV32Rbp192 is significantly superior to the Arcam AV8? Neither of those possibilities is terribly persuasive.

    I'm not qualified to comment on the AV32Rbp192 vs. Arcam comparison since I haven't heard the Tag. However, I would reiterate that in IMHO for AV use I would find it difficult to say that the Arcam was 'better' than the Tag AV30. It certainly sounds different. However, which is best for AV is, in my view, a matter of personal taste.

    As an aside, the dealer at which I demo'd both claimed that AV32R sales were being decimated by the AV30R.

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  12. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Fair enough. What sort of amp and speakers did you have set up when you were making the comparison?
     
  13. warrj

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    Fair enough. What sort of amp and speakers did you have set up when you were making the comparison?

    Roksan Caspian 5-Channel Power Amp, B&W 805s (Front), B&W HTM2 (Centre), B&W 610 (Rears), Sonus Faber Gravis (sub).

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  14. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    At the risk of sounding a) elitist and b) like a stuck gramophone record, I have to say that I don't think this selection of amp and speakers is really good enough to do justice to something like the AV8. As I've said (probably far too many times) before I'm very fond of the combination of Arcam AV8, Arcam P7, B&W Nautilus 803s fronts, HTM1 centre and (perhaps) 805 rears. With that calibre of equipment hooked up to the processor you're more likely to be able to hear the difference (if there is any) between the AV8 and the AV30R.

    I was in a shop for a demo the other day (I won't embarass the shop by saying which one it was) expecting to get a head-to-head comparison of an Arcam AV8 and a Tag AV32Rbp192. I thought I'd made it quite clear over the phone what I wanted to listen to, but what they actually had set up for me was the Tag processor hooked into a Tag 5x100R amp on the one side and an Arcam AVR200 on the other. (Apparently they didn't think there was anything odd about wanting to compare £800 worth of equipment on the Arcam side with close to £6000 worth on the Tag side :rolleyes: ). The speakers they had set up (more fool me for not checking on that over the phone) were some really-not-very-good-at-all PMC stand-mount things, and the DVD player was (I think) a Primare.

    Amazingly enough, on that setup, although the Tag combination was definitely better than the Arcam, it actually wasn't that much better; not paying too much attention to the contents of the equipment cabinet it actually took me several minutes to be certain there was something wrong. This doesn't mean that the AVR200 is even faintly comparable to £6K worth of Tag equipment, it's simply that what was having by far the strongest influence on the eventual quality of the sound was the speakers. IMO there really isn't any point in spending thousands on any one component unless the rest of the system is of comparable quality.
     
  15. JSW

    JSW
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    PMC make some very good Pro Studio Monitors, and expect that is what they where.
     
  16. warrj

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    NicolasB

    At the risk of sounding a) elitist and b) like a stuck gramophone record, I have to say that I don't think this selection of amp and speakers is really good enough to do justice to something like the AV8.

    Hmm. I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I regard the correlation between equipment cost and performance to be fairly marginal. Certainly when one reaches what I regard as the 'low' high-end then any given 'high-end' component should be considered a viable candidate for any given 'high-end' system (with some obvious caveats wrt power, speaker efficiency etc).

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  17. ReTrO

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    I'm with Jules here. If you got something less capable as the Arcam, then when you changed your speakers to something much better the processor wouldn't be good enough. The arguement that the AV8 is too good doesn't work. There's no point 'upgrading' sideways.
     
  18. alexs2

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    Absolutely agree with you,ReTro.....I bought my Krells as they were the best possible amps I could afford at the time,with future upgrading in mind,even when they were rather better than the Linn Kelidh's I had at the time....having been through Linn Keltiks and on to an AV system now,I can only say that I'm glad I didnt buy in the same price/quality range as the cheaper speakers at the time.

    Buy a good,upgradeable processor now, and you'll still be able to enjoy it when you upgrade other parts of the system.
     
  19. Steve.EX

    Steve.EX
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    This is sensible advice - nothing to add.

    Steve.
     
  20. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I don't know what it is that you think I'm saying and that this statement is supposed to disagree with, but whatever it is, that's not what I'm saying.

    It had been suggested that the Arcam AV8 is no better at AV than the Tag AV30R. What I was suggesting as a possiblity is that one may not be able to hear much difference between the two using 805/HMT2/610 speakers and a Roksan Caspian amp, but that the difference would be much clearer with better speakers and a better amp. In other words I'm pretty much agreeing with you and with alexs2. I'm disagreeing with Jules (warrj) who is saying that, regardless of the quality of the amp and speakers, you won't hear much difference switching from the AV30R to the AV8.
     
  21. ReTrO

    ReTrO
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    Yeah cool i'm with you there.
     
  22. petrolhead

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    How about the Rotel RSP 1098
     
  23. warrj

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    What I was suggesting as a possiblity is that one may not be able to hear much difference between the two using 805/HMT2/610 speakers and a Roksan Caspian amp, but that the difference would be much clearer with better speakers and a better amp.

    Once again, I disagree. Exactly how much money would one have to spend to get a more revealing and transparent amp and speakers? OK, the Roksan could have more power - it's only around 5x120W but are you seriously suggesting that it together with the B&Ws won't reveal differences between pre-amps? Given its physical constraints (i.e. size) I believe that the 805 is among the best speakers on the planet. How many speakers of comparable size are superior at any price? A handful at best.

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  24. dts_boy

    dts_boy
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    can't seem to find a dealer who has the rotel processor, shame really. its turning into an interesting thread, i wasn't considering Tag as i have borrowed my friends av32r and 100x5r (i think thats waht its called) and with my M&Ks its justn't wasn't what i was expecting - not exciting enough and a little bit clinical to my ears. haven't heard any Tag since though, i shall find a dealer that will allow a home dem.
     
  25. Jeff

    Jeff
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    The new Parasound Halo C2 looks very nice.
     
  26. bob007

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    Agree with you there, just recently had a demo with the same gear, bitterly disappointed, I was hoping for much more. I also thought the sound was a little on the thin side, may be this was down to the power amp, have heard some owners are a bit disappointed with it. This is why for the moment I am more than happy to use my Denon 3801 for the processing, there just wasn't the difference there to justify spending that sort of money on an upgrade.

    I will be looking at the Rotel RSP 1066/1098 hoping one of these models will give me the sound I am looking for.
     
  27. Lowrider

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    I also think that the "problem" was the TAG power, not the AV32R...
     
  28. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I'm in stuck record mode again :) but have to agree with Lowrider - the Tag 5x100R amplifier is a very dissapointing piece of kit for the price, IMO.

    Of course the previous discussion about speakers may also be relevant - cheap speakers will sound unimpressive no matter what is driving them.


    I'll come back to speakers in a sec.

    I'm not too familiar with the Roksan Caspian amp, but assuming it's in the same sort of price bracket as their processor, I'd say you'd probably have to go up to something like an Arcam P7 (£2500) to get a big improvement, but one of the better Rotels might be detectably better. Worth a listen, I would think. The next useful step up from the Arcam P7 takes you into the £4K range - Meridian 558.2, Bryston 9B-SST, and so on upwards into Krell and Theta territory.

    Quoted power ouput is, in many ways, the least important thing to consider with power amps, not least because different manufacturers measure it differently. What matters is distortion - how accurately the eventual speaker output tracks the input signal. You would have thought that the quoted Total Harmonic Distortion figure would be helpful, but again it hardly ever is because of the way it's measured. Figures such as slew time and settling time would be helpful, but most manufacturers don't quote these. An amp whose maximum output into 4 ohms is exactly double the maximum output into 8 ohms may be a good bet, but only very expensive amps can do that, as a rule.

    Different processors will certainly sound different - you'll be able to hear that one processor is bass-heavy or treble-heavy compared to another - but you won't necessarily get an appreciation of the absolute level of quality that a processor is capable of.

    Of comparable size? Hmm. High-end M&K speakers are certainly an improvement, especially the active versions, although not as much of an improvement as you might have hoped, considering the price. B&W's own Signature 805 is supposed to be a significant step up from the Nautilus 805. I'm sure there are plenty of amazingly good studio monitor speakers above that sort of price bracket, but you're looking at quite a lot of money there.

    But suppose we put aside the size issue for moment. Find a dealer who stocks Arcam FMJ and B&W Nautilus kit. Get him to set up an FMJ CD23 (or a DV27 would do at a pinch). Feed the analogue outputs into an AV8 in Stereo Direct (analogue bypass) mode. Hook the AV8 into a P7. Start with a pair of Nautilus 805 speakers. Listen to a good quality recording using acoustic instruments (classical string pieces work well). Once you have a feel for the quality, ask the dealer to swap the 805s for a pair of 803 floorstanders. To my ears the difference really is night and day.

    If you use the digital input of the processor and add a decent quality subwoofer with the L&R speakers crossing over to the sub at 80 Hz then the difference between 805s and 803s will be less significant, not least because the processor's DACs aren't as good as the CD player's and because bass management is rarely perfectly transparent; but even then I suspect you will hear a big difference in quality between the 805s and the 803s. There's a similar, albeit not quite so dramatic, difference between an HTM2 centre and an HTM1.
     
  29. bob007

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    IMO not relevent here, M&K's all round.
     
  30. warrj

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    Hi NicolasB,

    Another interesting post, it's always good to get one's assumptions challenge.

    Actually, I was refering to measured rather than quoted output. In reality the 805s would actually be even better with a better power amp (an Arcam P7 or, ideally, something from Krell or Theta).

    I'm not for a moment suggesting that the 803s are not superior to the 805s in absolute terms. However IMHO they are transparent enough to be able to reveal differences between AV pre-amps. Remember, Dolby Digital (in particular) is not a hi-fi format. We're not talking about hi-res audio or even Redbook CD here. For the non-hi fi audio that you get on DVD-V my system is quite good to make detailed comparisons between AV pre-amps (and stereo pre-amps for that matter). On that basis I'm quite happy to assert that the Tag AV30R pretty much holds it own against the AV8 in AV terms. However, as an analogue stereo pre-amp the AV30R sucks - badly.

    Regards,

    Jules.
     

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