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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I realize I may be stretching it a bit, but I'd like my AVR upgrade to represent a significant step up in flexibility, power and SQ so I'm thinking separates as opposed to just an AVR. I find that I'm listening to more music lately and, even though I do not have a really good environment for a listening room at the moment, I'd still like to see just how good I can get it to sound given a modest budget of, say, $2000.

The reason I am saying "just an AVR" is that the more I look, the more I see there is a fair amount of difference (at least in the reviews) in the SQ between that of a good AVR, and that of a good preamp and amp. I can't afford to make THAT big of a step up, but I think a couple grand should get me something better than what I have presently.

I like my Denon X2000, but it is lacking in a few areas where I see myself going in my living room HT - namely pre-outs as I'd really like to add an external amp. Sounds ok for movies - sure it could be better - but it does the trick good enough. What I'd really like is to see if I could improve the quality of music. I stream Rhapsody and play CDs for now - no vinyl (yet...) and the Chane A5rx-c's are coming - I'm sure that'll be a big step up in SQ in and of itself.

My question is this; if I went with the Denon X4000 for its pre-outs and a decent amp, would the SQ be as good or even close to that of a decent pre/pro in or near the same price range (or up to $1000)? My thinking here is that a pre/pro is more purpose-built for external amps and as such should have more thought put into the quality of the sound going through it (better DACs and such) when compared to an AVR. For that half of the budget; would my $1000 be better spent on an AVR or a pre-pro (could I even get a decent pre/pro for a grand)?
 

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I've been using seperates for years so I really don't know what a good AVR sounds like these days. I can tell you that I recently had to buy a new pre/pro and went with a Marantz AV7701 and have been very happy with the sound quality and features. When I bought mine a few months back they were going for $1699, but I see where you can pick one up now for $500 less.That puts it pretty close to your budget.
Depending on the number of channels your driving, there are some very good amps available for around $800. I don't know if I can plug Outlaw here, but they've got some nice packages with both the amp and pre/pro.
 

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I went seperates. Started with a Krell Showcase 7 amp I picked up for 1850 and got an X4000 for 600. You have to factor in the RCAs also though which 5 interconnects from Morrowaudio.com cost 109 bucks. Total was $2550.

Keep in mind I have seen several Krell 5 channel amps on ebay sell in the 1300-1500 range. KAV-500 and Showcase 5 also. I think for a patient buyer you could get into a Krell and be blown away :)

But most here will recommend Emotiva amp for cost.

I'm gonna give it a year or two for Atmos to kick off and add two ceiling speakers and my Krell will have the channels for this.
 

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Using the same source and the same media you won't be able to tell the AVR from the separates that are properly level matched in a blind listening test.
Plenty of people think they can, but there has never been a documented case of success in doing so.
http://tom-morrow-land.com/tests/ampchall/
If you are going to want night club or rock concert volume levels you might need an external amp but very few people need that or even want that and if you do your audiophile/home speakers that you love and cherish won't cut the mustard at that kind of volume.
You will need pro speakers which won't sound as good, so at that point you might as well just pick up a cheap pro preamp/mixer and a cheap pro amp to save the $$$.

I know the A5rx speakers were reviewed here and received high praise, but IMO spending $2k+ on electronics to get the most out of them is not the best use of money.
Spend the money on better speakers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Let's assume I'll go with separates using either an AVR or a pre/pro for processing, and a "decent" amplifier, all within that $2k budget. I'll judge each component as being equal in importance for now, so $1k would be the budget for each piece. Of course there will ultimately be some flexibility here.

If one were to remove from the equation any variations in SQ associated with just the amplifier, is there a significant enough difference in SQ between the likes of a Marantz, Denon, Pioneer Elite, Yamaha, Integra, Anthem, etc. (at the $1k price point) to push one to the top of this list?

When I started looking at pre/pros, I went straight to some of the top-of-the-line units to see what kind of toys (features) the big kids get to play with. Knowing full well I cannot afford $10k for a "NICE" pre/pro, I'll have to look for some of these toys in a less expensive package. One of the things that stood out to me, and I blame ignorance for not knowing the true importance of this part, is the DAC. Some pre/pros hit this marketing point hard, but one rarely sees mention of this component in a marketing paper for an AVR. Why? Isn't the DAC one of the more critical components in an audio chain from source to speaker? I see names like Cirrus Logic, Sabre, etc. And then there is the supporting circuitry... Am I reaching too high here? Am I looking for qualities that are out of my league (out of the $1k range)?

I'm bound by the basic need for a minimum feature set. Balanced vs. unbalanced is not a big deal for me regarding interconnects. I like Audyssey but the Denon X2000 (and the Marantz 7701) stop at XT, and I see no bass management for 2 separate subs (Denon X4000, for example, has XT32 and Sub EQ and can manage two subs independently - I like this feature). I like to see my volume displayed in dB (picky, sure, but I like it). Video processing is not a big deal to me - my Oppo does that job nicely. Just need to be able to switch 4 or 5 sources, and pass 3D/4K content. Well, my TV upscales very nicely to 4K (Sony Bravia 4K TV) so I guess that's not a show-stopper.

I reckon it comes down to features/$. Within a $1k budget, am I likely to find a unit that has my basic feature set AND an outstanding audio section (good DAC and supporting circuitry)?
 

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There are no processors that I am aware of that fit your specifications for $1k.
Really not sure any 5+ channel amps are available either.
These AVRs are very popular, and would be excellent anchors for a HT system.
Accessories 4 Less has an excellent reputation as a trustworthy online retailer.

http://www.accessories4less.com/mak...work-aventage-receiver-w/wi-fi-airplay/1.html

http://www.accessories4less.com/mak...-home-theater-receiver-wi-fi/bluetooth/1.html

http://www.accessories4less.com/mak...gship-home-theater-receiver-150wpc-new/1.html

http://www.accessories4less.com/mak...receiver-w/wi-fi/bluetooth/airplay-new/1.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
There are no processors that I am aware of that fit your specifications for $1k.
Really not sure any 5+ channel amps are available either.
These AVRs are very popular, and would be excellent anchors for a HT system.
Accessories 4 Less has an excellent reputation as a trustworthy online retailer.

http://www.accessories4less.com/mak...work-aventage-receiver-w/wi-fi-airplay/1.html

http://www.accessories4less.com/mak...-home-theater-receiver-wi-fi/bluetooth/1.html

http://www.accessories4less.com/mak...gship-home-theater-receiver-150wpc-new/1.html

http://www.accessories4less.com/mak...receiver-w/wi-fi/bluetooth/airplay-new/1.html
Thanks for the links - I particularly like that 4520. I'm used to Denon already, and this would fit neatly into my budget. With this kind of power, I'd likely not even need an external amp, no?
 

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I can hear a diff from x4000 to the Krell on my small nht speakers listening at 85db listening levels. Wider Soundstage warmer voices just overall better.
 

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I had a Onkyo 5508 pre-pro and then bought a 3008 receiver for the living room system. With those 2 I can't really say I heard a difference but they were both used as pre-pro's when used upstairs.

I wound up replacing both of them with Sherwood Newcastle 972 receivers because of the Trinnov room EQ which is amazing. Even without the room eq I could tell a difference in SQ between the Sherwood and Onkyo. I preferred the Onkyo for music, the sherwood sounded thin in comparison. For movies it was a no brainer, the Sherwood puts out one of the best soundtages I have ever heard.

I have owned probably 20 to 30 different receivers and pre-pro's over the years and anyone who says they all sound the same is kidding themselves. Sure MOST sound very similar and would not be identifiable in a blind comparison. Some definitely stand out though but this is usually in the higher end. I recently picked up a Proceed AVP2 pre-pro for music as I found one locally for the price of a cheap receiver. Even though it doesn't have room EQ the sound quality is outstanding and definitely a step up from the Sherwood.

You might want to try to find a used Proceed AVP2 (not the original AVP) or even a used Krell HTS 7.1 which has a great 2 channel preamp section which got the best bass out of my mains that I ever heard. Even an older ADA Cinema Rhapsody MKIII is a steal and all of these can be found for under $1,000 at times if you really look. If you don't like them you can sell them and get your money back.

Just my 2 cents and I won't go into a debate on if they all sound alike or not, I know how things can escalate quickly.
 

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I don't see how any of the AVRs I linked to would ever "need" an external amplifier if used in a residential home theater.

There is a huge difference between wanting amplifiers/separates and needing them.
Very few people need separates, lots of people want them and there's nothing wrong with that at all.

I wouldnt mind having separates myself, and if I were to go that route I would want it to say McIntosh on it.
Nothing else (even if it was better) would do it for me because nothing else looks like McIntosh.
In the mean time (until I win the lotto) I will continue to be satisfied with my now five year old Pioneer VSX-23.

In the end you just have to get what makes you happy, happiness sometimes comes from improving the sound quality and sometimes it comes from just getting what you want.
If you use it everyday and it makes you happy then it's worth it.
 

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I have had both separates and AVR I think the AVR is much eaiser to use. The Preamp seems to always have limitation. The separate power amp is nice if you need more volume. If you want reference levels it will help it just costs lots more money. I think a higher end 2.1 with good towers and nice sub is hard to beat regardless of receiver.
 

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From what I've read, over the last few years decent AVRs have really closed the gap between them and separates. Maybe not entirely, but let's say "significantly reduced".

What may be more important to you is the subtle differences between brands. I don't know if this is true anymore, and it's even harder to tell what's going on when people describe units with subjective terms like "Marantz is more musical" or "Onkyo is more analytical", but it might be worth your time to try to audition some gear in your home with your system and just see if you like the sound.

Oh, and it seems that receivers will get more features first, since they're the larger part of a manufacturer's sales volume. You may have nicer "higher quality" components (DACs, SSPs, etc) in an older processor, but more bells & whistles in a newer receiver. If you don't need the newest technology, really look at some gently used equipment where you can get a great deal on very solid gear, as has been mentioned above (Krell, Rotel, etc.).
 

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My take on this (I recently upgraded everything)....

Typically a receiver will use more current technology, think room correction, video processing, HDMI standards, etc. Most of the large manufacturers only make receivers because there aren't a lot of sales in separates, hard to justify a high cost product and amortize manufacturing costs over fewer units sold. As a result receivers generally benefit from being more state of the art however suffer from lower build quality particularly in the amplifier section and power supply. As an example, look at power output (100 WPC x 7 channels, 2 channels driven). This is mainly done t hit price targets for sales in the big box stores, a typical best buy shopper considers a $500 receiver as really nice and a $1000 receiver as outrageous.

The flip side is separates..... most manufacturers making dedicated pre/pros simply don't have the size and resources to stay on top of all the changes happening in the HT world. As a result, you get a well built product with some features but typically are dated. Many times a single model will be produced for many years often times with incremental upgrades made along the way but ultimately a dated design with hardware limitations.

I ultimately decided I wanted state of the art so I went with a moderately priced AVR with the intention of adding an external amp later on. The receiver is nice but lacks the power to drive my speakers at a convincing volume. The outboard amp solved this problem and now I'm free to change receivers or simply add a processor later on as advances in technology warrant an upgrade (Dolby ATMOS more than likely).
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thread well spent - I got what I was after, even though it may not have been clear at the start exactly what I was after.

My focus was initially on separates, but now has shifted to a more budget-friendly AVR - Denon 4520. This will give me plenty of power to drive my new and hopefully soon to arrive Chane A5's, will also give me an upgrade in room correction (goodbye XT, hello XT32 and Sub EQ!), and I get to stick with that oh so familiar Denon look and feel.
 

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I'm glad you got what you wanted. I also learned a little and I guess that's why we use forums to learn things that we are interested in from those who impart their knowledge to us.

Thanks, Paul
 

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I know my ears are not good enough to detect the difference between pre/pro and an AVR. Most people would probably not be able to tell either, unless there was a deficiency in the AVR. The one caveat to that is if your AVR did not have enough power to begin with. When I got an external amp I did notice better bass control. My speakers are a bit inefficient and the 12" woofer...

I have yet to find a pre/pro with the features I want at a price I'm willing to pay. So a decent AVR with pre-outs and a decent amp (well two in my case) works for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
...The one caveat to that is if your AVR did not have enough power to begin with./QUOTE]

Not sure if that was what I was hearing, but at 95 wpc (2 ch driven) from my X2000 spread out over 5 channels (figures out to about 38 wpc into all 5 ch, I think...) listening the other day to my new 2L Nordic Sound BD (had it set to play in DTS Master Audio - amazing, BTW), I think I was pushing the ol' Denon's amps a bit as some of the more dynamic parts in some songs seemed a bit strained.

I was listening at -10 dB (system's cal'd at 85 dB) - might be hitting the limits of that particular Denon. I reckon I'll have a bit more room with the 4520 - not a huge leap but should be enough to keep it clean at high(er) volumes, me thinks.
 

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From what I've seen, that 4520 will stomp the x2000 into the ground. AVR-wise, I think it's one of the most powerful ever. I'd like to take one for a spin!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Just placed the order last night on A4L - my new Denon 4520CI is on its way! (thanks again, Charlie, for the links) Let the stomping begin! :boxer:

I'm pretty sure the new AVR will arrive before my Chane A5's so I'll get to experience that upgrade first. Wasn't sure how I wanted to go about it - wait for the A5's to get here and hook up all the new gear at the same time, or... But now that I think about it, not sure I'd be able to leave the 4520 in its box like I did with the Chane center (yep, it's still in the box waiting for its big brothers to arrive).

Figured it might be a good idea to put the new AVR through its paces, get the inputs and outputs configured, run Audyssey, play with Sub EQ a little, re-scan with REW, and just get it where I want it before the new speakers arrive. This way it'll be basically plug-n-play with the new speakers (after re-running Audyssey and REW again, of course).

I'm hoping to see a fair amount of change with this AVR upgrade, and surely will see a much bigger change come the A5's. Should be interesting to see how much of a difference each upgrade makes on the SQ.
 
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