I don't think you can get real high end from a 5.1 receiver. I use a Denon for the 5.1 and have a high end system in another room entirely.
135 responses Add your response
I'll let others with far more knowledge respond but I'm curious if you've bought the speakers yet. Since you're starting from scratch, maybe it would make more sense to think holistically about your system rather than start with a pair of speakers and work your way "backward" to the components? Does your store specialize in AV/home theater? They should be able to put together a sweet system. I would imagine that if you look at your total budget, that will help give you a sense of how to prioritize.
First of all, that sounds like a very reflective and "live" listening environment, so any bright speaker will tend to be really bright in there, unless you do extensive room treatments.
I will say, I recently compared the B&W 804D3 to the B&W 702S2 at Best Buy. They had them set up side by side and were able to immediately switch between them. I actually preferred the 702s, as the 804s are just so bright, really bright. I feel like I could listen to the 702s for a longer period of time than the 804s.
With the money you'd save by going with the 702s, you could get into an Anthem or Arcam AVR, which are claimed to produce better sound than the more mainstream AVRs. I'm not sure that is the case, but it might be worth exploring.
Thank you everyone who has responded. We have as yet not purchased anything. We listened to the 702's at Best Buy and really liked them but then we heard the 804's and found that we could really hear a difference. I appreciate the comment about the brightness because this could be an issue and we may need to revisit our choice.
Budget and space for gear are everything. Do you have room for separates? If not, you will need an integrated. There are plenty of options there. Often, in the situation you are in, some compromises have to be made. Have you considered simply running a 2.1/2.2 system instead of a full surround? I recently did that and couldn't be happier. The music ultimately is more what I wanted to focus on and I found watching movies with the setup is just fine. The down side of doing this really makes your possibilities expand. There are so many options. Gotta nail down a budget for any significant suggestions. B&W 804s are no slouch. Good choice.
Op here is how you do it.
If the system is for both music and theater you purchase a really good integrated amplifier to run you main loudspeakers and use a good surround sound receiver to power the center and rear channels.
This system design will give you a huge improvement for music as the high end intergrated amplifier will far outperform any surround sound receiver, the reason is simple, in a $2-6k high end intergrated amplifier you only have two channels of amplification, two channels of preamplication, and two channels of dac if the amp has one, vs five to eleven channels of amplification, eleven channels of preap, eleven channels of dac, video switching, dolby decoding etc, all of those parts and circuit boards cost money which means less expensive parts are being used in the surround sound product.
To use this setup you just take the line outputs of the receiver and connect those to a line input or HT bybass option on the integrated amplifier you have one additional setup when watching you have to go to the integrated amplifier and switch its input to the HT input and perhaps match the volume depending on the int if it has a volume bybass.
As per the loudspeakers you should always buy the best you an afford, the 804D is a much more refinded speaker than the seven series. we would also recommend the Kef Reference line right now they are on 30% off from the factory as they are clearing out Rosewood and Walnut, the Kef Ref 3 are outstanding for both music and theater.
The Kef line we prefer over B&W especially for Theaters as the Kef is a true point source and the flared cone provides for exceptional dispersion which is critical for Home Theater.
If you stick with B&W look for a warm sounding high powered integrated amplifier to soften the Diamond tweeter a bit.
Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Do not buy a receiver. If you do, then at least don't waste money on good speakers. Anything connected to a receiver is just a waste. Only thing worse is multi-channel AV receivers. Its criminal they even sell those.
What you want for music is two speakers, an integrated amp, and a turntable or (if you're one of those) CD player. Connected with the best wire you can afford.
Whatever you do, don't go throwing money away on multi-channel. Look, think about it. Please. You already noticed you could hear a real difference going to better speakers. Well the same goes for the amp, the source, and the wires. Better costs more, and better sounds better. So you get 2 speakers, they are gonna sound better than any 5 you could buy for the same money. Ditto amp. Ditto wire.
Not to mention you don't have the room anyway. Stereo. Integrated. Only way to go.
Actually Miller you could not be futher from the truth.
We have a state of the art Home Theater in my shop: KEF Reference Full Surround sound system, Audio Control Processor, Hegel C55 amplifier, all high end cables, Isotek power conditioning, treated room.
Here is the theater we built for Rev Run
The point is that a really well executed Home Theater setup can sound fantastic for music as well. Unfortunatly really good Home Theater electronics are expensive, therefore the recommendation to get a great two channel amplifer such as a Hegel, Unison Research, Krell, Naim etc that can drive a great set of music speakers with the surround sound receiver powering the center and rears.
Also the OP may really love Movies and Video so you can have your cake and eat it too it just depends on how you design the system.
Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ:
You say listening to music is the priority so I would start with a good integrated that leans to the warm side to go with the B&W 804's and a sub. If you are doing this in stages I would stop there and see if this 2.1 works for you with movies if not then look at adding the seperate surround processor to power you additional speakers needed. Unless you have a bunch of records or want to buy them forget the turntable suggestion that would start running to a lot of money..
To tie onto what audiotroy said, you could use a good 5.1 and just a 2 channel amp to drive the 804's with the 5.1 in bypass/preamp mode as AT mentioned. That's the simple solution and there are plenty of options to make that happen. Downside is an amp requires air space and may not be a practical solution for you. Again, budget and space limitations are your primary considerations, then buying to create the best sound you possibly can.
millercarbon"What a surprise, the guy with a Home Theater receiver to sell thinks they're just swell. Didn't see that one coming. Dealer willing to say anything just to make a sale. Never in a million years. Good thing everyone knows to trust the guy out to make a buck."
That someone makes a profit within this industry does not inherently negate, disqualify, or render useless their advise, information, and counsell so provided an in demonstrated fact there are those who appear to not be connected to the industry for profit who's advise is at least as dubious, suspect, and biased they seem to have a need to be established, designated, and recognized as authorities and experts but I will not name names hear!
Excuse us Millercarbon, please list your experience in setting up a Home Theater, all you do is denegrate those people who enjoy the benefits of both.
As noted we gave the OP a few solid recommendations how you can use an integrated amp along with a receiver to create a high performing two channel system that also doubles to do home theater by utilizing a surround sound receiver.
We have also listed the reasons why a two channel integrated amp will outperfrom a surround sound recevier.
Our experience in this area has been demonstrated by the fact that we ae a professional company that actually builds theaters and we are very into two channel music oriented systems as seen by the brands we sell, we sell mostly two channlel systems and parts.
As per selling the OP anytning that will all depend on if the OP wants to contact us and we can put something together that will work for the OP.
We have consulted with many people over the years because we have the experience and we have the products as well.
Our experience has been learned by studying with Keith Yates, Toni Grimani, Russ Herschelman, and by putting together 100’s of theater systems over 30 years as well as attending CEDIA and playing with and seting up many different brand of surround sound products.
The fact that you don’t understand just how engrossing an experience that great theater offers should sideline you from this conversation.
Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
I'm doing what audiotroy advised, i.e, I'm using a Denon AVR for the center and surround speakers, and a pre-amp/DAC fed into a Krell power amp for the front L/R speakers. The pre-amp is a PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC, which has the home theater bypass feature. Sounds pretty good on both movies and music. As suggested above, you can get a nice integrated amp with home theater bypass. I would have gone with an integrated amp if didn't already have the big Krell.
OP we live part of the year in a condo with a large great room and a wall of windows, very good sound is possible with attention to detail, component selection and proper setup - furnishings help and maybe even some pleasing acoustic treatments.
what is the real no kidding budget ?
i happen to agree in a reverberant space the B&W you picked should be avoided.
where are you located ? There will be trusted dealers posters here can recommend.
the Totem subs you picked, how did you find / choose those ? I have a Totem system in a sunroom, sounds great with NAD power, a 40’ glass wall....but speaker position is everything in that room
have fun, enjoy the journey
As a card-carrying audiophile with a fairly expensive dedicated 2-channel rig at home who also worked for Magnolia at Best Buy, I can speak with some considerable experience on their gear.
First, I’ve never been a fan of B&W speakers mainly because the yellow Kevlar drivers really turned me off. Having spent significant time with their new Diamond series with the silver Continuum mids I can say whatever they did has fixed the problem I had with the older drivers. I spent more time with the 804D3s than any other speaker in the store and I have to say the new 804s sound very good. I compared them directly to the 704s and I found the 804s to perform at a significantly higher level (as they damn well should for the considerable price difference) when fed with good recordings and appropriate electronics.
Ok, there’s my preamble. Now, I have to say I completely agree with @audiotroy that if 2-channel is your priority, and frankly to do full justice to the 804s, you should strongly consider either an integrated stereo amp or stereo pre/amp separates. It’s insanely easy to incorporate these seamlessly into your HT setup and be able to change between HT and pure 2-channel at the push of a button — literally two systems in one and best of both worlds.
I also agree with @erik_squires and his Anthem recommendation for an AVR, and if HT is also very important to you and it’s in your budget you can’t go wrong with Anthem. However, if HT isn’t quite as important and/or you’d rather spend less there and put the available dollars elsewhere I’d very highly recommend the Yamaha Aventage RX-A3080 that you can get from Accessoriesforless.com for $1300. I got to use all the AVRs at Magnolia with the 804s, and for whatever reason there was a special synergy between them and the Yamaha such that it was on the level with my much pricier home system. Quite frankly I was amazed at how good this combo sounded with well-recorded stereo material. Obviously the 804s will sound even better with good dedicated stereo electronics or probably an Anthem AVR driving them, but no apologies needed to be made for the music the Yammy/804s produced. I could easily make the argument, if you can’t stretch for the Anthem, to start with this combo and let things break in and give yourselves time to assess and get to know the system in your room. At that point you’ll be in a better position to judge what you might like to improve upon and/or what separate stereo components you might like to audition to improve things further.
I’ve blabbed on too long here, but you seem to be looking for some guidance and given my experience with the speakers you’re considering I thought this might be helpful. Best of luck in putting your system together.
Despite blabbing at length I realize I forgot a couple points. Even though you have a tough room, the better AVRs have decent room correction built in that will help you deal with that. I’d say Anthem has a leg up on others with their proprietary ARC room correction, but that needs to be reconciled with your budget.
For your center channel, I’m not a fan of in-wall if you can accommodate an in-room center, but if ya gotta ya gotta. I can’t speak to B&W in-wall speakers, and despite not being a huge B&W fan myself I do very much like their center speakers and would find it hard not to pair the 804s with the HTM2 D3 (I’d suggest going with cheaper surround speakers to get the best center you can as the center is absolutely critical to fully enjoying the HT experience IMHO). The HTM71 S2 might be a workable alternative if the D3 isn’t in the budget, but I’d consider it a distant second. Anyway, FWIW.
You obviously have concerns about the "room" (perhaps better termed "environment") all this gear is going to work in. And rightly so, based on your description. So please don't spend all your budget on the gear just to put the best gear in a room which wont allow you to appreciate it. Spend some of your budget on room treatments (whether its specific audio products like reflection/absorption panels, bass traps, HFTs, whatever; or generic things like curtains, rugs, etc) and you will get a better result in a bad room from mid-level gear than from high-level gear. (The dealers will hate you for this of course). Remember that its very unlikely that what you hear in the dealer's show room will be what you hear when you get everything set up in your own listening space, unless you take steps to make that listening space as conducive as possible to reproducing music well.
Oh, wait, I just read the room thing.
Have you heard those speakers in your home?
Can you add any room treatment on the ceilings?? For instance, if the ceiling is white, get white panels.
I would strongly caution you not to buy speakers without listening to them in the same acoustic environment. If your dealer's room is well treated, and you are going to be suffering a lot of reflections you may be disappointed. Room correction does help this though.
Otherwise, rather than wide radiating speakers you may be best served by something horn loaded, or an open baffle design which has highly controlled dispersion.
here is my advice. Get a preamp with home theatre bypass. Plug all youR music sources into this preamp. Get a badass two channel amp for the front speakers. Get as good of a multi channel amp for the other speakers. I use a vintage Mcintosh mc7106 6x100w amp for mine. Then go but a cheap or refurbished Dolby Atmos receiver that has preamp outs for all channels. Don’t spend mega bucks on the atmos receiver because that technology changes every two years so it will be obsolete in no time. Hook the preamp outs form the receiver to your music preamp on the home theatre bypass inputs and hook the rest to the multichannel amp. If you follow this set up whenever the technology changes all you have to do is upgrade the receiver just make sure which ever one you buy as preamp outs and your system is future proof.
Here’s an example of a receiver with preouts that won’t break the bank. https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F133312059142
If you go this route you can buy amps that will last for years and years and just replace the receiver when tech changes
I have a flat as well and love my B&W 702 S2’s and Naim Uniti Star for audio that I recently got. The hi-res streaming is far better than I thought. It is incredible!! I rarely go passed 40-55% on the volume. I was afraid of the “low” wattage of the Star but Naim wattage is far different than other companies. I was considering the Bel Canto all-in-one but I found a good deal on a barely used Star and am so glad I went with it. I plan on adding the b@w soundbar and subwoofer for my LG OLED tv.
one way or another for HT you need some kind of surround sound processor . for further expansion (if you need ) make sure that your surround sound unit (receiver ) has surround preamp line outputs to connect better amps . something like this . https://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-RX-A880-Audio-Component-Receiver/dp/B07D39HGJW/ref=sr_1_13?crid=8S44VM4ZNZA8&keywords=yamaha+receiver&qid=1580094112&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&sprefix=yamaha%2Caps%2C201&sr=8-13
Hey based on your room constraints 3.1??
My AV pre amp has a dedicated balanced in for two channel and I can set it for direct. My 5 channel amp has two internal power supplies one for two channel and the other one drives the remaining three channels. Is the music quality super top notch, no but pretty darn close
There is another option if your budget is tight and same with your room size.
You want 2 channels and 5.1.4 3D for video and bass to 30Hz. An option is the new Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar. Read the reviews. It’s a great bit of kit and covers all you are looking for without all the separate components and wires.
No point in me telling you all the specifications but it has everything to start off with.
I built a similar system a couple of years ago and love it. I had the general system design down and worked with the local Hifi store to get pricing and changed a few things...working with a local dealer, I found that the discounts were so good I was able to move up to Revel tower speakers for the price of the ML Bookshelves I was planning on. I have since moved and changed the speakers/configuration slightly...but the system is still the same and works flawlessly for my mix of movies and music
Here is my setup for music/movies.
I did not have the budget for Revel; however, the dealer was able to get very aggressive on price and I couldn’t be happier. The subs are the only thing I would do different, but he was able to do $800@ on those so, they are great for that price. Would do SVS PB3000 for the little bit more if I had to do it over again. But the B10 is no slouch...just can’t hold its own against other $1500 subs.
LR- Revel F36
C - Revel C25
SB/SR - Revel M10
Height - Revel C540
Sub - Revel B10
The SR6012 is the processor and I use the built in Amplifier for my 4 overhead Atmos Speakers. The MM7055 powers the Center and Rear Channels off the preamp output of the SR6012. Then my fronts are driven by the PM8006 in HT Bypass. Subs are only connected to the SR6012 and not used for stereo music (unless is crazy bass heavy and I play it through the SR6012). My TT, CD, Streamer are all of only connected to the PM8006.
The same setup can be made with many other manufacturers. If I were to go up a level, the Parasound HINT 6 and Revel F208 or F226Be would be an amazing setup. You can add the surround processor of your choice as long as it has preamp outputs. I would definitely audition the Revel if you have a local dealer. Not going to say that their are for everyone, but a VERY hard speaker to find flaws with. And I am running their lower end line of speakers. Parasound allows bypass of the subwoofer as well which is very nice since you can use the sub with both music and movies.
For this setup, the main thing to look for in an integrated amp for your 2 channel listening is the HT Bypass. This makes your stereo integrated act just like a power amplifier when using the surround receiver. It “bypasses” the preamp section...including volume control...on the integrated and allows your room correction/bass management apply ONLY when using the surround.
With Atmos out now, I am a big fan of using a surround receiver with preouts. This lets me use the built in amplifier for my height channels only. Really with my speakers and small room, the MM7055 is overkill...but I already have it...😂
I am really surprised how rare this setup seems to be. I had a hard time explaining my ideas to a lot of people. It seems like people are either “stereo purists” in one camp or “everyone else” in the other. It just seems logical that most people would want one large setup to enjoy both surround and stereo.
Good luck and hope you enjoy what you decide on!
I’ve done this, it’s hard to get right, and imaging requirements are different for Video and Music.
first, forget which brand/models of equipment and clarify a lot, then go shopping:
A. WHAT and WHERE
a1. what equipment, future changes, future additions. AV and Music is a longer list for sure.
a2. access, operational heights, remote control beams, access to power and cables now and in the future, relocation’s. After a few months, you may realize ’we should have put this there’ ...
a3. most people want minimalist, not clarifying 1 and 2, resulting in a few or many less than ideal compromises.
B. CENTER CHANNEL,
b1. Center Channel is VERY important, did I say VERY important.
b2. Center Channel LOCATION. Best is directly below the image, to keep the source of dialog and most of the sound originating from the image. Many people compromise the center, don’t do it.
b3. Center Channel ’SOUND’. You can adjust the volume of any center, but, you want the ’sound’ of the center to properly blend with your mains, so pick your mains and center together, solving both location and look.
b4. Center Channel LOOK. The opposite of Children, they are to be ’HEARD BUT NOT SEEN’. I always recommend the TV have a black frame, so that any black bars in any aspect ratio are not ’framed’ by another color; framing black bars is what makes them so apparent and undesireable and leads to the horrible stretching of images. So, black center channel? Match color directly below the tv? You need to think this thru when seeing what is offered by various brands.
C. WIDE CENTER IMAGE.
c1. VIDEO, Center Speaker ON. you want a wide center image, lets say for 3 people wide on a sofa. With the . Perfect in the middle, darn good off center, this effects dispersion choice of the Mains.
c2. MUSIC: Center Speaker OFF. Normally not as wide, but, you will also be listening to music in that location, perhaps together, Perfect in the middle, darn good off center, this definitely effects dispersion choice of the Mains.
My solution, many years ago, was DBX Soundfield 100, designed specifically for wide center image. I don’t know who makes what these days.
d1. TOE IN. IF you cannot find current mains that produces a wide center by design, you can get the same wide center image from any stereo pair: toe them in directly facing the center spot. Move left, you are closer to the left, but the right is facing you more directly, the same principle as the DBX. It works.
d2. RELOCATION. You can remain flexible, IF you can easily adjust the position of your mains. Adjust just toe in, or, one location for Video, another location for Music. My mains are very heavy, on 3 concealed wheels, easy to adjust toe in only; and/or distance from walls as needed. 3 wheels find level without wobble, and divide the weight by 3 not 4, more lbs/sq. inch.
E. STEREO DIRECTIONAL BASS, from MAINS NOT SUBS.
e1. Best is to get enough bass out of your mains and skip subs. Not only for full range listening, both Video and Music, also to eliminate complicated controls of subs, especially if using separate amps for Video surround sound and a 2 channel amp for music.
F. REAR CHANNEL SPEAKERS.
f1. IMO, are the least critical, the exception being how to get wires to them. Most people run them too loud. Except designated effects, heliocopters coming in .... Generally you should not be aware of them, until you turn them off, then the image ’crashes’ to the front.
f2. Cable makes false surround, often 2 channel sounds better. I cannot count the times the sound improved when I changed the AV receiver to 2 Channel. It happily ’crashes’ to the front, as originally recorded/balanced/imaged.
Lurking here as I am in very similar position as OP. Key differences are space and (guessing here, given his/her main speaker choice) budget.
My space is a big great room, a roughly triangular shaped walk out basement with one wall sub-grade, all walls finished with drywall, a little glass near the system (on an adjacent wine cellar), two ~ 6' windows and a sliding glass door on wall opposite system (40' away), 8' ceilings near system going to 9' about 14 feet from system (drywalled), totaling 1500sf of space that will have basic furnishings, a pool table and pong pong table (both tables at farthest distance from system). Current plan for flooring is a high quality vinyl, though carpeting (or generous use of rugs) for about 1/3 of space nearest the system isn't out of the question.
I have one piece of electronics to use: a Meridian 559 two channel amp (300WPC), which I bought as I am considering a pair of huge, old school, power hungry fronts with lots of drivers (linear array) as I feel like these will have the penetrating power to make good sound at reasonable volume at the pool table area, 30' away. I am leaning heavily towards the Anthem 5.1 integrated amp for it's all the latest video connectivity and "tuning" ability as noted above, and to preamp out through the Meridian to the fronts, and power the remaining HT speakers with the Anthem. Will have a freestanding (table top) center and in-the-ceiling rear surrounds, and subwoofer (if necessary - which I think it is). My budget for the integrated amp, all speakers and wire/connects is about $9,500, and that includes only ~ $1,300 for the pair of fronts I expect to buy used.
Some type of used Sony receiver off craigslist should suffice. For $6000 speakers, I would budget at least $60-$100 for a nice used Sony Surround sound reciever. Something with at least dolby digital. Finish off your system with some monster cable and maybe a carousel cd player, from sony or whoever, and you’ll be in audio nirvana.
Or, you could buy a soundbar and send me a check for $5000 for my invaluable information.
But seriously, $6000 speakers and receiver? Thats like buying a Porsche GT3RS, then asking which gas to use, 85 or 87 octane...
You’re right bro, you’re confused
I agree that you have a challenging room. Bookcases full of books, CD's, records, and 'things' will soften that a lot. Persian carpets are cheap these days, and some are very beautiful. That too can soften the sound, and they can look elegant on a wall. WAF is good.
Speaking of WAF, my system has been improved by her as much as by me. My lady has better ears, as women tend to. Listen to yours.
I agree that you should try as much of the system at home before you buy - at least the speakers. You may find that speakers which sound wonderful - clear, brilliant, exciting - in the dealer's specially treated room, sound unlistenably shrill in your highly reflective environment. That would be a lot of disappointment.
Better to err on the side of mellow sounding components that you can listen to for hours, without fatigue. It's going to be hard to nail this first time out, so it would be better to have something which is pleasant, if not perfect.
Just my $.02. Good luck!
And don’t spend big bucks on cables first time out. Get the cheapest you can find, then swap them out for better ones, one at a time, until you find something that is worth the cost. I use quality microphone cable (Canare StarQuad) with quality connectors (ETI, KLEI, Switchcraft), nothing too exotic, for interconnect, and continue to find better uses of money than cables - better electronics, better crossover components, better records. Maybe when I hit seven figures ...
I'm not an engineer who can provide reasons why one type of amplifier is better than another etc., but I can provide my experience with wanting a system that can both play music and be really good at home theater. I realize that brands like Marantz, Denon, and Yamaha are scorned by the music listening only crowd, but to me, there's no better or cheaper way to set up home theater than with one of their AV Receivers and then deal with the music listening part of the system with a separate amp. Just be sure the AV Receiver has enough power to drive the center and surround speakers. As far as the AV Receiver manufacturers go, be aware that after a merger with Denon, both Marantz and Denon were subsequently purchased by Sound United. I'm always concerned after mergers and acquisitions like these that cheaper components will be used by the new parent company to increase profits. If I were going to buy an AV Receiver, I'd look no further than Yamaha. They have not gone through mergers, they use high quality components, and have the best reliability ratings of any AV Receiver manufacturer. I'd go for at least a 7 channel amp like this one with a lot of bells and whistles, which would cost a great deal more to get in separates: https://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio_visual/av_receivers_amps/rx-a1080_u/index.html
For just music listening, I own a pair of Magnepan 20.1s and I drive them with a separate 300 watt at 4 ohms Emotiva two channel amp. I also use the Maggies as the front speakers in the home theater setup. To my ears, the system works great for both music listening and home theater.