The Onkyo is very good and the Yamaha and Denon units will do a nice job as well.I also like the Pioneer Elite Ice units in their Direct modes.
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i've never heard much cost-effective difference between the chinese-made mass market avrs--they all sound approximately the same. i do think hk uses better, more robust amps, so it'd be my choice among the candidates you mentioned. however, if music is the priority, and you wanted to go with an avr instead of a 2ch amp, i'd opt for an arcam or b&k, which will sound much better.
HK-I have late model avr 7200 that I use in direct mode with a denon 2900 modwright tube setup with merlin tsm's and velodyne. 2 channel is awesome-harmon kardon has high current and a smooth-full sound.Family likes the surround for movies-use b&w cdm for rears and center.I have had no problems with the HK-it has hundreds of hours on it--does get VERY hot-I put a small fan on it,good luck.
Thanks guys - I will lean my research more toward the HK units. I also like the Onkyo look and value - was not sure about their rep in 2-channel sound. B&K/Arcam looks to be too expensive for me - unless I go the used route. Cambridge Audio also has some AVRs to offer, does anyone use their AVRs for HT and 2-channel?
remo, if you're planning on staying with 2.1, i'd look at the hk 3490, which is a 2ch receiver with a sub out and digital input; you can connect your video components directly to your tv. harman is selling the 3490 on ebay for a mere pittance; since it contains less junk than an avr, it'll likely sound better for you. good luck.
Thanks Loomis. The 3490 does look like a tremendous value, especially considering the digital audio inputs. I was hoping to control the lower frequencies in my B&W 685s, however. A mid-range AVR allows me to control the crossover point of each speaker channel - so I can cut off my B&Ws at +/- 120Hz, and send those low frequencies to my sub.
2-channel setups I have found that can do this include the Parasound 2100 and Emotiva USP-1 preamps. Otherwise I have to buy an external active crossover.
I would get whichever unit you like to use the most & also one that has the options you like. Then when the time comes buy a descent 2 channel amp, even a $400 Adcom GFA-5500, SQ will go way up!!
I used a old Denon reveived (1993-2009) that I just replaced with a Integra piece. I wanted another Denon but they do not make them w/o a internal amp so I looked elsewhere & purchased a pre/pro, very pleased.
My brother loves HK
My fiance is a yamaha fan
I would get whatever you like the feel/looks/etc of the most & do like I said, buy a small amp
I've owned various Denon AVR's and they have all performed nicely in stereo and surround sound. My latest piece is an Onkyo TS-XR806. I'm very happy with it as a stereo receiver for my LP's, CD's and tapes but its also a very competent H/T surround unit with all the latest CODECS. It's my first Onkyo and I have no serious issues other than I wish I could completely dim out its display (short of using pure direct mode which does) but in any other mode the display dims but not completely.
If I were looking to buy a new receiver I'd have to give a serious look and listen to the ICE powered (class-D) receivers from Pioneer even though they are not inexpensive.
Great advice and that is probably what I will wind up doing, buying an external amp to power the fronts for 2-channel use. The Onkyo units have assignable surround back amps, so I can bi-amp the front channels.
I like HT receivers because I get the internal DAC and am able to use an Airport Express for all my digital rips. 2-channel amps can be had pretty cheaply, there are several Parasound units here at Agon that would work great. Too bad you have to spend $800 minimum to get multi-channel preouts. Well Yamaha has a unit for $550 that has the preouts, but I think would rather have the Onkyo. Every other day I change my mind, looking at Parasound New Classic 2-channel preamp/amp OR the Onkyo TX-NR807+AE+cables. Leaning toward the Onkyo today!
the arcam units are gorgeous. and untouchable for guys like me who have two kids in day care! the B&K units are also a dream of mine - maybe someday. For now tho, the Denon I bought will have to suffice. I crossed over my B&Ws at 80Hz, the sub is getting everything under 90Hz, and I also set the rear channels to bi-amp the B&W fronts. This is the only way I can beat the 2.1 channel sound I get from my 15 year old Yamaha. The difference is huge - clear, detailed music from the Denon that has a ton of depth. I used several older CDs for the testing - ones produced in the 80s before they really knew how to produce CDs that sound good. I like this bi-amping thing. it works! Have not tested the Denon on movies with TrueHD or DTS HD yet, waiting on cables. It will be interesting because I don't have all the speakers yet!
UPDATE - the 2-channel sound got a lot thinner once I moved the Denon and the speakers into my living room. Sometimes it sounds like my 685s are floating in the sea of bass created by the VTF-1. I have run the Audessey room correction, which helped, but the sound for music is not quite there yet. I still have the 685s bi-amp'd, but the room is much bigger now, and I am sitting twice as far from the speakers as I was in the office.
One highlight is the internal HD tuner - my wife loves the sound! Just wait until I buy the external 2-channel amp - looking at an HK-870 or a Parasound HCA-1000. Any recommendations on a good used 2-channel amp for this purpose?
The onkyo's are very good on hometheater but no too good on music. I think when it comes done to real multi-channel HT/music, YAMAHAS & DENONS are the best AVR'S by far. However, this is just my opinion. I feel if one matches speakers, wires, and line conditioners correctly, the sound just might surprise ya! For example; if you had an AVR-3808CI DENON receiver and Paradigm speakers and cables from Nordust-Blue-Heaven series or wireworld and a line conditioner by Furman will produce a sound that would be lights-out/amazing! Another example; if your a YAMAHA fan like me, one would want to match gear correctly. First of all, if one had an AVR-YAMAHA RX-Z9 AV receiver, Klipsch spealers, and cables from straight wire and wireworld,MIT, plus a line conditioner from Furman, the sound produce would be astonishing better than anything you ever heard!
You must check out the higher end NAD's. I had a Sony ES, Pioneer Elite and now NAD T775 and the NAD blows everything else away. CLEAN, resolving, extended sound, wonderful soundstage and no video circuitry except passing through what you have. No waste of money in video processing (or audio processing, either). You must hear it to believe it. Best receiver I have heard.
Thanks to all contributing to this thread for a full 4 months! UPDATE - I found a guy on A'gon selling a Rotel RB-1080 who officed less than 3 blocks from my workplace. NoBrainer. The 1080 runs the B&W685 fronts, and the sound for music is MUCH improved. I have experimented a lot with the settings on the Denon AVR, and currently I use the Audessey room correction, adjusted for volume with dynamic EQ, and have the Restorer set to HD. Restorer is meant for mp3 playback, it enhances the low and high end, it give the music more depth and detail IMHO. This setup is better for music than using the Denon's "pure direct" mode. Definitely. Backing the 685s up with the HSU is also an absolute must for me. My old college roommate runs Triangle Alteas with a GAS amp and pre, and he agrees my solution sounds good, even tho I have to use an AVR. He's a bit of a purist, so that was very satisfying to hear.
My last foray into stereo equipment was in 1994, Best Buy Yami gear pushing Bose 2.2s, so you can imagine how happy I am with the new setup. My music has never sounded this good. I realize it can sound better.
My next purchase will either be NICE monitor speakers for the office, or a NICE pre-amp with HT pass-thru for the HT setup. Problem is - can't listen to the HT setup at reference volumes all the time. The office is in the basement...and really don't have room for the pre-amp upstairs...why not turn the office into an anechoic chamber?
Simpotica, I came *this* close to buying an Onkyo, went with the denon because I found a great deal thru 6th ave.
Cerrot I read nothing but horror stories about the NAD receivers' reliability, have you had any issues? I was leaning toward NAD, but there is actually a brick and mortar dealer near me who quit carrying NAD because of all the issues. They were buried in warranty repair.
Realremo, Glad your music is sounding sooo good. As for the NAD, I've had nothing but pleasure from my T775. All the forums I followed before purchasing the NAD said great things about it and my dealer (who I love and trust for over 10 years) highly recommended it - and he rarely recommends things. No problems at all. Enjoy your system.
I agree with the HK.
I have had an AVR 300 for 15 yrs.
I use it in a bedroom, and it makes for a decent sounding preamp also (which is how I use it).
I am not recommending this model, but HK's seem to go on for ever.
Better build quality?
Long term reliability is something not many people think about.
This little avr has seen many amps come and go (including Yamaha and Denon).
The amps have since gone, but the HK is still here.
I have read nothing but good things about the 3490.
Hey Cerrot - I recently was in a house some friends of mine designed for a hand surgeon. He hired a consultant outfit in Dallas to rig his house with home theater equipment, flat screen TVs, outdoor speakers, etc. etc. He's got it all running off of his iPhone, which is very cool, but to my point: he has two home theaters set up, the big one in the basement he didn't finish out, but the one upstairs in the living room next to the kitchen features a NAD T775. He's only been running it for a few weeks so he had no opinion on its performance. Interesting to note: he did not demo that system for me because he didn't like the speakers. The consultant had placed all of his speakers in the ceiling, so his fronts, center and surround were above him. 14 foot ceilings, mind you. He especially wasn't feeling the bass. His previous rig was all Monitor Audio, which he loved, but he didn't have those set up, only had the small ceiling speakers. An example of a good surround receiver with the wrong implementation?
I ran a Harmon Kardon AVR for years, they are definitely built well and sounded good. They do run hot, though, as someone else said, and as I did not have it adequately ventilated at the time, it eventually crapped out on me. I have saved it in case I ever decide to get it repaired and use it in a second system, but that certainly won't happen anytime soon.
No doubt, the Arcam AVR600 is far and away the best receiver for both stereo listening and multi-channel purposes. It is the only receiver that operates in Class A up to 20 watts, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons it sounds so great.
If you can't afford the Arcam AVR600, then the Arcam AVR 350 is probably the next best bet. Not quite the unbelievable audio experience of the AVR600, but certainly better than other AVR's I have heard.
If you want to get the best sound of these Arcam units it is best to directly connect your Blu Ray and/or DVD player to your HDTV. This way it keeps the noisy video connections out of the receiver and prevents noise pollution of the great audio section. Of course, you should run the audio section of your Blu Ray and/or DVD player through the receiver.
But even if you feel you must run your video through the receiver for switching ease and other reasons, it is still much better than all other receivers in sound quality.