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Thread: N00b needs help with Receiver/Speakers

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    Default N00b needs help with Receiver/Speakers

    Disclaimer: As title suggests, I'm essentially an equipment n00b.

    What I want is a really good receiver to listen to music, but also to use for movies, games. etc. Primary focus is the music.

    Do I want to look at an audio receiver or should I look at home theater ones?

    Suggestion on brands/models would also be great.

    Speakers:
    If I go with audio receiver, do I need rear and center speakers as well?

    Also, would love recommendations on brands/models

    Looking to spend around $3k for the entire thing, but can go a little higher if needed.


    Thanks in advance!

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    Because IMO art is what is most important - I suggest that a consumer first shop for recordings, and determine which formats for consumer deliverables are relevant to the music that you like:

    • LP?
    • Downloaded hi-res PCM (e.g., 24bit/192kHz or 24bit/96kHz FLAC from HDTracks.com, or prestomusic.com/classical/formats/download, etc.)?
    • Downloaded hi-res DSD (e.g., nativedsd.com, or acousticsounds.com/superhirez, etc.)?
    • CD?
    • DVD (e.g., concert videos)?
    • DVD-Audio (i.e., older better-than-CD-quality audio recordings)?
    • SACD (newer hi-res recordings, which are prevalent for classical music)?
    • Pure Audio Blu-ray (i.e., newer hi-res audio-only disc – i.e., no video)?
    • Blu-ray (e.g., concert videos, which are common for classical, opera, and ballet)?
    • Ultra HD Blu-ray (e.g., state-of-the-art concert videos)?
    • Will you play music directly from the disc (e.g., CD, SACD, Pure Audio Blu-ray), or will you copy all music to network-attached-storage ("NAS"), and play music files from NAS? (Copying the SACD layer of a hybrid SACD reportedly requires arcane “hacking” procedures. Copying Blu-ray reportedly can be done with the right hardware and software.)
    • Spotify Premium, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz, etc.? Support for MQA?
    • Other?


    Bottom line: There are many digital formats newer than Redbook CD (which was introduced to the market 38 years ago). Whether these newer formats are relevant to you depends on the recordings you listen to. (If you only listen to decades-old recordings, you are limited to decades-old technology.)

    Modern high-resolution (“hi-res”) formats can deliver 3 benefits for the music I love (classical music):

    • Potentially superior audio quality by virtue of 24bit/192kHz or 24bit/96kHz PCM, or DSD, vs. CD’s 16bit/44.1kHz. (Provenance of a recording is critical – i.e., the best audio quality requires modern recordings that were recorded and mastered in hi-res – NOT ripped CDs.)
    • Surround-sound (e.g., 5.1, or 7.1).
    • High-definition video, which is essential for visual art forms such as opera and ballet, and IMO very enjoyable for classical orchestral music. Moreover, hi-def video can be very useful by displaying an opera’s libretto (in one of several languages) on the HDTV screen.


    I suggest that you read this thread: Blu-ray Videos of Classical Concerts

    For classical music, modern recordings (i.e., performances in the last 15 years or so) are commonly available in “hi-res” formats including SACD, Pure Audio Blu-ray, 24bit/192kHz download, DSD download, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray. Most of these modern formats include a multi-channel (i.e., surround-sound) audio track in addition to a stereo audio track.

    Once the consumer knows which recording formats are important to them, then they will know the requirements for a player.

    Two suggestions:

    • Don’t discount surround-sound. IME/IMO surround-sound is beneficial in large rooms, and when the main L&R speakers must be far apart due to room layout. Surround-sound can also increase overall dynamics. For classical music the rear channels aren’t important – they contain mostly hall sounds such as audience applause.
    • Don’t discount a subwoofer. (Do you want to recreate multiple double bass, plus timpani, bass drum, pipe organ, etc.?)


    There are numerous web sites that catalog hi-res recordings. Here’s a few:


    I suggest that you imagine these performances in dazzling Blu-ray quality (vs. mediocre YouTube quality):



    IMO, this points to the need for a universal disc player.


    An important question is this: Are you willing to listen to music via an AVR, or do you want a traditional hi-fi amplifier?

    If I were in the market for a universal player today, and I wanted to use a traditional hi-fi amp vs. an AVR, I'd look for a used Oppo UDP-205, BDP-105, or BDP-95. Or, if I only needed stereo (i.e., not surround sound), and I wanted to use a traditional hi-fi amp (i.e., no HDMI interface), I'd consider the Sony UBP-X1100ES ($600 new), or the earlier model UBP-X1000ES ($280 for a unit "refurbished by the manufacturer"). However - I have no experience with the Sony players. (I'm an Oppo user.)

    OTOH, if you’re OK with an AVR, then consider a Sony universal player with only an HDMI interface (e.g., Sony UBP-X800M2) connected via HDMI to a modern AVR (something like a Marantz NR1510), or an HDMI DAC. (I use vintage tube amps, but I recognize that they’re not for John Q. Public.)

    I’m a fan of Klipsch speakers. The bigger the better. (I like my RF-7 II for large-scale classical music.)

    SVS makes good subwoofers. The bigger the better. (And SVS provides great customer service.)

    I’ll be glad to offer additional opinions in response to your questions.
    Last edited by RobertKC; Jan-16-2020 at 02:33.

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    P.S. This thread might be useful: Hi-Fi Discovery Questions, Shopping Tips

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    Thanks for the really in depth response. I'm going to add some qualifiers to help narrow things down a bit from what your response was wondering.

    1. I listen mostly to CD's. I grew up in the 80's and 90's and it's still my preferred medium. I currently have a Marantz CD player (the model # escapes me at the moment). I use several streaming sites, but I do prefer just popping in the CD and listening from that. I also have an older Sony Blu-Ray player. It's nothing fancy, but it works fine. But, I wanted a solid CD player for my discs, and the Marantz is great for that.

    2. My space is odd. It's very rectangular. About 35-40 feet long and only about 20 foot wide. And with the way the space is designed, the TV/stereo is at one end of the 20 foot span, and my listening area is at the other end of the same span. There is no real way to change the setup.

    3. If I were to do surround, I would prefer (if it's even possible) to have the back speakers be wireless. I have zero desire to run cable through my floor into my basement and back up!!

    4. Most of the CD's I do listen to were recorded for that medium. I, of course, have several CD's of old LPs (who doesn't have Kleiber's Beethoven 5 and 7 or Reiner's Bartok disc??), but mainly I have the former.

    5. As far as the video end of the spectrum: I do like to have good quality sound for my movies, but it is of far less importance to me, than the sound of the audio. I have only a handful of SACD's (hybrids), and I believe my Blu-Ray player can play those with the SACD effect, but again, the SACD is not as important to me.

    I'm going to check out the speakers and sub-woofer you recommended. I really appreciate your advice, and with some of the things I hopefully clarified, if you have further recommendations I would greatly appreciate it!

    Thank you!

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    I use a stereo receiver and good-sized Cerwin Vega speakers. Were I purchasing today, I would probably get some Harman Kardon or Cambridge products. I had an HK disc player that was great.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BRHiler View Post
    Thanks for the really in depth response. I'm going to add some qualifiers to help narrow things down a bit from what your response was wondering.

    1. I listen mostly to CD's. I grew up in the 80's and 90's and it's still my preferred medium. I currently have a Marantz CD player (the model # escapes me at the moment). I use several streaming sites, but I do prefer just popping in the CD and listening from that. I also have an older Sony Blu-Ray player. It's nothing fancy, but it works fine. But, I wanted a solid CD player for my discs, and the Marantz is great for that.

    2. My space is odd. It's very rectangular. About 35-40 feet long and only about 20 foot wide. And with the way the space is designed, the TV/stereo is at one end of the 20 foot span, and my listening area is at the other end of the same span. There is no real way to change the setup.

    3. If I were to do surround, I would prefer (if it's even possible) to have the back speakers be wireless. I have zero desire to run cable through my floor into my basement and back up!!

    4. Most of the CD's I do listen to were recorded for that medium. I, of course, have several CD's of old LPs (who doesn't have Kleiber's Beethoven 5 and 7 or Reiner's Bartok disc??), but mainly I have the former.

    5. As far as the video end of the spectrum: I do like to have good quality sound for my movies, but it is of far less importance to me, than the sound of the audio. I have only a handful of SACD's (hybrids), and I believe my Blu-Ray player can play those with the SACD effect, but again, the SACD is not as important to me.

    I'm going to check out the speakers and sub-woofer you recommended. I really appreciate your advice, and with some of the things I hopefully clarified, if you have further recommendations I would greatly appreciate it!

    Thank you!
    At the risk of beating a dead horse, if you want state-of-the-art audio quality, you need state-of-the-art recordings. Garbage-in/garbage-out. (I’m talking audio quality – not quality of the performance.)

    The audio quality of recordings has advanced significantly in the past several decades.

    State-of-the-art audio quality means recordings captured in the last 15 years or so, and that were captured, mastered, and delivered in a hi-res format (e.g., Blu-ray, SACD, or hi-res download).

    If you install a high-quality hi-fi system, it will deliver the incredible experience of state-of-the-art recordings (particularly those featuring surround-sound, and high-definition video) – and it will reveal the shortcomings of poor-quality recordings.

    If you buy a “universal player”, you can still play your CDs of historic performances AND you’ll be able to play modern recordings (e.g., Blu-ray, Pure Audio Blu-ray, Ultra-HD Blu-ray, SACD, 24bit/192kHz downloads, DSD downloads) that have superior audio quality (and in some cases multi-channel surround-sound, and in the case of Blu-ray and Ultra-HD Blu-ray, high-definition video).

    I encourage you to buy one of the Blu-ray recordings that I list in the following link, and evaluate for yourself what Blu-ray can offer for classical music: Blu-ray Videos of Classical Concerts IMO, this Blu-ray box set is excellent, and is a great value: https://www.amazon.com/Ludwig-van-Be...9279224&sr=8-1

    Additionally, there are many classical SACDs of modern performances that feature excellent hi-res surround-sound audio (but no video).

    I don’t own a Sony UBP-X800M2 universal player. (I use Oppo players that provide analog audio connections to my vintage tube amps. However, Oppo no longer manufactures equipment.) Nonetheless, I suggest that you consider the Sony UBP-X800M2 (currently selling for about $250), so that you can play audio and audio/video discs in any digital format (i.e., you have the flexibility to buy a digital recording in any format). This player – like 99% of modern players, does NOT have analog audio outputs – only HDMI. Therefore, in order to use this universal player, you must buy an HDMI-capable amplifier. You can buy a multi-channel AVR, or a 2.1 AVR (e.g., Marantz NR1200 and several others). If you decide later that you need more power, some AVRs have front L/R preamp outputs for connecting to an external stereo power amp (i.e., the AVR would functional as a pre-processor/pre-amp for the L/R channels, while serving as an amplifier for the center and (any) rear channels).

    I have no experience with AVRs – I’m a vintage tube guy. However, I recognize that 99.99% of consumers will buy a modern AVR, and not vintage tube amps.

    If you don’t want an AVR (i.e., audio and video via HDMI), see my suggestions in post #2 above for a universal player that provides analog audio connections. Then, you can choose from countless hi-fi amps that don’t support HDMI.

    You have a large room to fill with sound. How loud do you like to listen?

    You can’t defy physics – small speakers can’t fill a large room with the full dynamic-range and frequency-range of a large orchestra. You’ll need “big boy” speakers to fill that room with large scale orchestral music at live concert hall sound levels. I suggest that you consider Klipsch RF-7III. (Or, if you can find the previous generation RF-7II at a bargain price, that might be a consideration.) There are deals to be had on RF-7III … check eBay. (Claiming that a product is “open box” is a way for an authorized distributor to sell below retail.) And, occasionally good quality speakers become available locally for a bargain on craigslist because they’re impracticable to ship. (I have no experience with Klipsch La Scala or Klipschorn –you’d have to find used examples to get anywhere near your budget.) A benefit of Klipsch speakers - in addition to being able to recreate realistic concert hall sound - is that they have a relatively high sensitivity rating. Loudspeaker sensitivity is specified on a logarithmic scale – i.e., speakers with a numerically higher sensitivity rating need MUCH less power to produce the same sound pressure level. This means that with Klipsch speakers you don’t need an extremely powerful (and therefore generally more expensive) amplifier.

    If you buy a multi-channel AVR, you’ll have the flexibility to start with stereo, and later upgrade to 3.0 by adding a Klipsch RC-64 III Center Channel Speaker. (In a room as large as yours, I suggest that you don’t go cheap if you buy a center channel speaker.) And later you can upgrade to 3.1 or 3.2 by adding subwoofer(s). (For example, one or two SVS SB16-Ultra. In a room as large as yours, don’t go cheap on a subwoofer.) And, eventually – if you want – you can migrate to 5.1, 7.1, etc.

    With a limited budget, I’d consider initially skipping the rear speakers. There’s little content in the rear channels of classical recordings – and therefore I’d spend my money elsewhere. There are options for wireless rear speakers if you decide to go that route later. (For example - I have no experience with this - but I think you can use an AVR’s HEOS wireless technology for the rear speakers.) OTOH, a professional home theater installer can often hide wires in creative ways.

    I suggest that you consider the services of a professional home theater designer (i.e., a certified consultant) and installer. Turn-key engineer/furnish/install might be useful if you feel that home theater design and installation isn’t in your wheelhouse. (For example, determining amplifier requirements based on the sensitivity of the speakers, your room size, and your listening preferences.) Some retailers offer design services at no additional charge if you buy the products from them. Make sure that a retailer offers the full range of products that you’re interested in – if not they’ll steer you to the products that they carry. As I mentioned in my post #3, my shopping tips are here: Hi-Fi Discovery Questions, Shopping Tips

    Bottom line, my advice is “go big, or stay home”. FWIW, I’d rather start with a good quality 2 channel system, vs. a mediocre surround-sound system. Invest in equipment that will serve your needs for the rest of your life, and affords you the flexibility to buy recordings in any modern format. Consider investing in equipment that provides a migration path to later adding surround-sound channels, if that interests you.
    Last edited by RobertKC; Jan-17-2020 at 19:28.

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    'FWIW, I’d rather start with a good quality 2 channel system, vs. a mediocre surround-sound system. Invest in equipment that will serve your needs for the rest of your life, and affords you the flexibility to buy recordings in any modern format.'

    Totally agreed. I have a dedicated music room and a separate home cinema room plus audio and video systems in other rooms for casual listening and viewing ie. the lounge, dining room and 3 of the bedrooms. My rooms are not huge and I don't live in a mansion but simply a 6 bedroom detached house in suburbia with 2 bedrooms being kitted out for listening and viewing. If old enough to not need money for other stuff then get the best of everything you can afford BUT if not then buy the best frontend as you can upgrade the subsidiary bits when affordable as Garbage in Garbage out applies meaning the frontend is king. However, if investing in a once and for all solution and not interested in upgrading then buy the best balanced system you can afford but still mindful of the frontend as of most import. I am a firm believer that audio should be separated from video equipment except when acting as an aid to the visual experience ie. I'd never listen to a CD on one of my bluray players as they are for BD use only and my AV amps are attached to TVs for concert or movie viewing. I also listen to LPs on a variety of turntables and a little to the radio and my newly acquired streamer with it's 10Tb music store though only ever have one set of kit in my music room at any one time but do swap bits in and out if needed ie. I have some aged tiny expensive monitors which work really well with chamber music and these come in from my study which is basically a kit den across the hall from my music room with my home cinema room the other side of that meaning it's easy to move stuff around. I use a large plasma TV and a large OLED one though intend projecting using a dedicated proper motorised screen when I get round to it. I know quite a bit about audio and video but seeing and hearing is the main thing along with demonstrations in a proper room resembling your setup and quite a few dealers offer such a facility which will pay dividends and save you a bundle or misery. Everyone and their dog could list a load of kit for the budget but it is best to look at reviews based on your choice of once and for all or upgrade path budget then hear and see whatever is on your shortlist as only you can make the decision.

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