I've been running my current system for almost 20 years and it consists of the following: It is a 5.0 system as I am not running a sub for either music/HT and I'm pretty happy with the Stratus Golds job on the bass as they go down to about 36HZ.
PSB Stratus Golds - Front Main PSB Status C6 - Center Niles Audio In-Walls - Rear Surround
Acurus ACT-3 Pre/Pro Panasonic BMP-BDT 300 Blu-ray player Aragon 8008x3 - L, R, C Aragon 8008x2 - Rear Surrounds
While I am very happy with this setup and it does sound great for both HT and 2 channel stereo I am looking to upgrade my PRE/PRO (Acurus). MY ACT-3 was bought in 1997 and has 24 bit Crystal DACS. It does Dolby Digital and DTS but does not have the newer decoding formats. I am also looking for a unit that will provide bass/treble adjustments as I like to boost both and is the reason I am running the Luxman in line for the Front Mains (Stratus Golds). I'd like to remove the Luxman if possible if I gain the tone controls and/or 10 band EQ in the PRE/PRO.
So my wants in a new PRE/PRO come down to this:
1) hopefully a bit better sonic quality than the Acurus ACT-3 2) new surround sound decoding that HOPEFULLY a new pre/pro can down convert to my 5.0 system? Will this sound better or just about the same as my old pre/pro processing and at that point not worthwhile to upgrade? 3) be able to adjust tone/EQ to boost the bass and treble like I prefer 4) not an absolute want but gaining wifi streaming to play music off my desktop PC and Spotify would be nice (without purchasing separate unit like SONOS connect etc. to do the streaming)
Someone mentioned to check out the new Marantz AV7703 or possibly bump up to the AV8802a but I didn't think that Marantz sound quality was on the same level with say Acurus/Aragon but I may be mistaken as I haven't listened to any of the Marantz pieces?
That said, can the "sound gurus" on this fine board provide some opinions/options on my pre/pro upgrade wishes?
Listen to the post above-I had an Acurus and hated it. The PSB's are beasts and do go low. Keep in mind that many discs are designed to have a .1 channel. A good sub will not only go lower but will also alleviate a lot of strain on your front amps. Low bass is really demanding. Buy a pre with HDMI and buy a sub.
What do you think of the new AV7703. I can get a great deal on that unit as opposed to getting the AV8802. Do you think I’d be giving up alot sonically going with the the 7703 vs 8802? The dealer is telling me that he thinks the sonic quality is about the same between the units but I’m not sure I believe him?
What’s your opinion? I can save quite a bit going for the 7703, I just don’t want to take a step backwards in the sonic department going from my Acurus ACT-3 to the Marantz..
Also regarding the suggestions to add a sub to my Stratus Golds. I just bought a REL-328 used to augment my 2 channel system running Magnepan 1.7is and LOVE the way that sub sounds. It is quick and tight and matches the bass of the Maggies. Does anyone think that a REL sub would blend well with the PSB Stratus Golds? And if so would they recommend running the Stratus "full range" with the Neutrik connector on the amp (have it running this way on the Magnepan 1.7i's and sounds awesome) and blend the crossover on the REL into the bottom range of the Stratus Mains (like up to 45hz or so)?
First comments, based on your setup. Are you using a 3-channel 8008 for L/C/R and a 2-channel 8008 for surrounds? If so, I would switch them around and use the 2-channel 8008 for Left/Right and the 3-channel for surround-center-surround. The 2-channel 8008 has better power supply to drive your main speakers. The surround channels hardly get any demanding signals, so it won’t be as bad of a draw from your center channel audio.
That being said, on the preamp/processor options, if you want stuff such as internet streaming radio / Spotify and the new Dolby Atmos and DTS:X standards, then you have to choose between Marantz and Integra. If you’re not concerned about streaming internet radio options, then Emotiva XMC-1 is an option. Emotiva is working on an upgrade to support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. All three of these companies have multi-band eq (like a 9 or 10 band equalizer). All three have automatic room correction processes (usually disables the use of manual EQ).
I know Bob said you’d be happy with either Marantz model, but I believe there will be a difference in sound quality. The only reason I would buy the new AV7703 is if I wanted some of the new features Marantz is producing (such as HEOS wireless streaming, etc.). The AV7703 does have the HDAM discrete audio modules, but the AV8802 puts more into this area. Google for internal pics of the AV8802 and you see better power supply and audio module support. You will see that the AV8802 has 13 distinct modules inside from left-to-right to support 13 individual channels. The AV7703 has these all on a single main board and has less of a power supply. There’s more empty space inside the AV7703 chassis. I would even go with the assumption that the AV8802 is going to be better than the Emotiva (Emotiva uses op amp based audio sections and a switching power supply).
There are other options such as Bryston/Krell/Classe, but they may not support everything you want. These are good options for sound quality, but some features may be lacking. Bryston does not have bass/treble/eq/room correction AT ALL (they don’t believe in it). The new Bryston sound (SP3) is also a more laid-back sound that lacks mid/high frequency detail and impact (not my taste). Krell Foundation has automatic room correct (ARES), but no manual eq. Classe does have multi-band EQ, but does not support 4K/HDCP2.2 (if that matters to you). None of these 3 support Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.
I don’t think you want to consider spending over $12,000 for something like McIntosh or Theta Digital. I have read that McIntosh is horribly buggy with their firmware and lack of support. Theta is just insanely expensive.
Sounds like you really want an EQ. If you don’t care about 4K, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, internet streaming, then the Classe SSP-800 might be a really good option if you’re looking for exotic level sound quality. Otherwise, I’d go with Marantz AV8802. It’s difficult to say which of these 2 might be better.
The ACT-3 is somewhat sparse inside. You can see that it’s also using opamp based audio stages. The Emotiva XMC-1 might be somewhat of a lateral move. However, all the other options I listed are going to be superior sound quality (Marantz AV8802, Classe SSP-800, Krell Foundation). Even the Integra might be superior as well.
2) new surround sound decoding that HOPEFULLY a new pre/pro can down convert to my 5.0 system? Will this sound better or just about the same as my old pre/pro processing and at that point not worthwhile to upgrade?
-- All home theater processors will be able to downconvert to whatever number of channels you have. You can even have a 4.0 system (with just left/right/surround) or a 2.0 channel system (where everything is mixed down to left/right only), or whatever variation you need. The newer products may decode the old 2-channel "Dolby Surround" a bit better, but this has always been a really bad format anyways (completely analog). Theoretically, the new digital formats (DTS, DTS-MA, Dolby Digital, etc.) should be all the same because it's just spec'd software. However, there might be some minute differences on how the equipment is actually dealing with this. I would not spend time on this subject - the more important part is the sound quality of the audio stages.
4) not an absolute want but gaining wifi streaming to play music off my desktop PC and Spotify would be nice (without purchasing separate unit like SONOS connect etc. to do the streaming)
-- If you’re really worried about streaming, try picking up a used Oppo BDP-103 bluray player. I can attest that it is an excellent transport for audio/video quality through HDMI (totally blew my Sony bluray away). It streams from Netflix, VUDU, CinemaNow, Film Fresh, YouTube, Pandora, Rhapsody, Picasa. If you really want Spotify streaming, the Sony blu ray players will do that.
Auxinput thanks so much for your advice and research as well as from everyone that responded to my post. Exactly what I was looking for.
Getting built in EQ is a major WANT for me and I'm looking hard at the both Marantz pieces: AV7703 and AV8802a. I did see that Classe' makes the Sigma SSP which retails for about 5K. Should be able to pick one up used close to my budget.
What do you think of what that unit offers compared to the 7703/8802a?
Based on what is inside the Sigma (above), it looks like a trimmed down version of the SSP-800. It only has balanced outputs for left/right. The power supply sections are trimmed down. It seems to be marketed more towards the iphone/ipod consumer group. It will do everything you need, but I would rather put my money on a used SSP-800. There are a few models of the SSP-800:
Single DSP HDMI 1.3 (oldest)
Dual DSP HDMI 1.3
Dual DSP HDMI 1.4
There’s an HDMI 1.4 model on audiogon now for $4200. There’s also a Sigma SSP and an HDMI 1.3 SSP-800 used, each for $3500. Retail on the SSP-800 is $9500.
The SSP-800 might have an edge in sound quality over the Marantz stuff because, based on my reading, the audio stages in the SSP-800 are fully differential/balanced (although they still used LM4562 op amps, the power supply sections are excellent). It’s impossible to know for sure if the audio stages in the AV8802a are fully differential (even though the unit has XLR outputs). There's definitely enough circuit on each AV8802a HDAM module to do fully differential:
Obviously, the Classe is going to be lacking in streaming and decoding/interface support of the new formats.
I think it’s going to be a big guessing game between Classe and Marantz as to which is better. Classe is a small boutique company that only sells so many units per year. Marantz is a giant company with a huge reseller market. The Marantz is going to give you more per dollar for return-on-investment. However, it’s difficult to say which is actually going to sound better.
You can get the Marantz 8802a NEW on ebay for about $3200 (if you don’t care about authorized reseller or warranty). There’s a used one on audiogon for $2600.
Another option I will put out here is one that I went with. I just recently chose the Krell S-1200U 3D after listening and testing multiple very expensive processors. Krell just recently discontinued this model. However, I feel it gives you the absolute best in sound quality. The problems for you:
No 4K support
No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X
Archaic firmware for handling HDMI audio is quirky and can be annoying
No streaming at all, obviously.
Superior sound quality from fully discrete Class A based analog stages (2nd only to the Krell 707, in my opinion). This will beat the Marantz and Classe processors in sound quality.
Has a 3-band parametric EQ per channel. I actually call this a super parametric EQ because it is more than a standard notch filter like a normal EQ. You can apply several different filter types for each EQ band: High Pass Filter, Low Pass Filter, Notch Filter, Low Shelf Filter, High Shelf Filter, Peaking Filter (an alternative to notch). You can read about these in the Krell documentation.
The quirky character of the HDMI audio handling is because the S-1200 does not automatically determine the HDMI audio format and automatically adjust to play that correctly. There are two hard-set audio formats in the Krell: "HDMI A" which is the i2s interface used by DTA-MS/TrueHD and "HDMI S" which is basically S/PDIF over HDMI. To truly have the Krell decode DTS-MA, you have to use HDMI A and have your bluray set to bitstream output. However, if the disc is trying to play 2-channel Dolby Digitial or some weird format, the Krell usually cannot lock onto the audio and you can get a lot of "pops" and "snips" in the audio output. I had to setup 3 different configuration for playing discs in my bluray. Having the Krell decode DTA-MA is truly an outstanding experience, but you have to deal with quirks such as the above or other things like missing secondary BD audio or BD menu sounds. You can always set your bluray to output PCM/LPCM through HDMI instead of bitstream (the setting used to support A/V processors that do not decode advanced formats), and this work well to support any disc, but it sacrifices a -small- bit of resolution in audio for the hires bluray formats.
There’s an S-1200U 3D on audiogon for $3500 (cheapest I’ve seen -- probably because this is normal s1200 that’s been upgraded to 3D). If you choose this route, you’ll want to get a "3D" model that has the latest HDMI 1.4 board.
Thanks Bob and Auxinput for all your additional advice feedback and commentary. Truly appreciated!!!
That said I've more or less turned my sights on Marantz. Now it's whether to get the AV7703 or the AV8802A?
Obviously the 8802a will sound better but by how much? It's going to cost me about an extra 1K to snag a new 8802a. The dealer says the 7703 has the latest audyssey, built-in HEOS, and onboard DTS:X support. He thinks that the 7703 will sound much better than my Acurus and that I will most likely be satisfied but it's a gamble buying sight unseen and not having auditioned any of the Marantz pieces.
So the question is to spend 1K more for a bit more sonic superiority, or save the 1K and gain the few added features (above).
The AV8802a supports Dolby Atmos out of the box will support DTS:X with a free firmware upgrade. Auro-3D is available for $199. Since you're only running a 5 channel system, I'm not sure how important these are for you. I'm only running 5.1 and will probably stay that way for a long time (I didn't jump on the 11 channel bandwagon -- preferring to focus on sound quality instead). I would rather have a 5.1 system that sounds ultra realistic than an 11 channel special effects system that sounds okay.
In the end, I suppose it comes down to budget. I would say buy the best you can afford or are willing to spend. Since you ran your last system for 20 years, you will probably have this new processor for at least 10 more years!
Keep us informed on what you finally decide and how it works out. Keep in mind that you should burn in the unit 100-200 hours before making final judgement (if you buy it new).
I'm on my 3rd Marantz SSP and have been happier w/each one in both sound quality & function. Sound quality AV7005 New- big improvement over my first SSP - used Rotel RSP1098 AV7701 Refurbished - marginal improvement over 7005 AV7702 Refurbished - slight improvement over 7701 Media compatability & function for music drove most of the upgrading since the 1st Marantz purchase. This ended up being a bigger factor than anticipated for me so be really careful to insure you get what suits your needs & future growth expectations. Having extra components to cover scenarios your SSP can't becomes burdensome and annoying if that's what you're expecting from it. My music collection is too large & complex to tolerate converting from what I've settled on. I want to spend my time listening not converting and correcting meta data. I was getting really tired of keeping a portion of my music in 2 formats so I could get the best quality on mobile and in-car.
The Marantz media playback only gained in track FWD & REV & gapless playback with the AV7702 I believe. Yes, welcome to 1986 technology. Video wasn't a priority for me until recently with an OLED 4K TV & subsequent acquiesce to a new 4k blu-ray player. Unfortunately I'm stuck without HDCP 2.2 compatibility, but I've found a work around that avoids another upgrade for now. Streaming 4k video is really compressing and loosing much of the advantage while paying more. Even regular HD streaming they strip the original high quality audio down to a regular res 5.1. That's fine in many situations, but a complete non-starter for me in a premium HT experience.
As for streaming content from the internet, I thought that would be a bigger deal to me, but I'm using it less and less really. It's good for trying new stuff, but the quality is so comprimised the value isn't there to me. The Marantz will play a crappy MP3 as well as or better than most. I recently tried Tidal w/MQA. I have hope for MQA's adoption and growth, but it's going to take awhile. Tidal itself was ok, not great. & keeping the MQA quality flowing consistently was tricky. You can direct stream MQA high res to the Marantz thankfully. Keeping the settings aligned between software, computer, and Marantz got annoying quickly.
I have yet to find a configuration where streaming over wifi delivers the full quality expected, even if it's a local stream. It's acceptable in some situations, but for me it's not when listening critically.
If high res audio is important be careful how you use processing features like tone adjustments & Audessy. I think Audessy does a terrible job of room correction. It's gotten marginally better in each unit I have, but I try to avoid it when possible. Most processing up converts or down converts digital signal depending on source. The Marantz has a custom EQ that you can set up, but I don't really use the future. A few well placed acoustic treatments might do wonders vs trying to compensate with the EQ. For me, I want the best digital conversion possible with excellent digital & analog filters and as little interference as possible to the preamp and ultimately the amp.
My view is SSPs have short shelf lives and loose their value quickly. Formats and codecs probably won't ever settle down. The alternative is separating functions out of the SSP but then you add layers, compromise quality sometimes, and often add complexity. & that's still no guarantee. All of my SSPs have been used/refurbed except for the first Marantz. They will loose their value no matter what. So factor real life cycle into your decision. From my research, most high end SSPs are far behind from a tech perspective, there simply aren't the resources/business case to keep pace. Emotiva seems like an interesting alternative, but they seem to be slow delivering upgrades & they still cost $$. I'm tempted to try them when I'm ready to upgrade again.
Thanks for the awesome feedback and opinions/suggestions guys!! This forum is awesome..
I didn't overlook the 7002MKII, mainly because I can get a screaming deal on a "new" 7703.
Ultimately for my budget and what I'm looking for right now I think the 7703 is the best choice. Like you said if it's great and I totally LOVE it, I can always upgrade to the 8802, 8804 etc. down the road ooooorrrrrrrr I can just hold onto the 7703 for a long time like I did my Acurus ACT-3.
Ordering the 7703 today. Will post back when I get it hooked up and adjusted.
Great point made up above by euphonymi, that is buying used or refurbished for something where the technology advances so quickly. My used pre/pro SS devices began with used Lexicon DC1, DC2, then MC8b, then the Marantz 8801 used, and now a refurb 7702 MkII.
To others following the thread, one consideration could have been (too late for OP) something like an OPPO 105 by itself serving as the SS processor. Might be enough for some people.
To the OP, in answer to your new question about a sub, best to put that into a new thread in the right forum if you really want quality answers and attention. (right?)
Concerning subwoofers, I may be splitting hairs here but I have heard the HSU 15" subs before. In comparison to my own subs (which are all hand made by myself), the HSU cabinets will resonate/vibrate/rattle with the strong bass signals. This may be an unfair comparison -- my subs are about 175lbs each, massive internal bracing, use 12" woofers and the vent is tuned to 24Hz. Cabinet walls are two layers of different thickness MDF with a Dynamat separation layer between them. They truly play flat down to 20Hz and are insane. I've done measurements with REW!
The HSU subwoofer cabinets are not constructed as well as the JL Audio and SVS subs. They are larger cabinets and don't have the internal bracing required for this much energy. What happens is that the walls of the cabinet will resonate/vibrate with the woofer and you will hear "rattling" as part of the subwoofer tones. I have heard this.
The JL Audio and SVS subs are much heavier with smaller drivers. I know the JL Audio cabinets are well braced and the cabinet itself is smaller so it is much more resistant to cabinet wall resonance. JL Audio and SVS are definitely much more expensive, so in the end I guess you get what you pay for.
That being said, I would probably agree that HSU is definitely a good value sub. The HSU 15" might play a little bit lower (into the 20hz area) than the JL/SVS because it's a larger driver and cabinet. However, I would say the most effective bass is going to be in the 40-80 Hz area anyways.
Maybe now is the time to try a 2.0 or 2.1 channel analog preamp using a separate HDMI switch box for video switching and using the 2.0 or 2.1 analog audio outputs from your AV sources to the preamp. That's what I do and I think it sounds much better than the 5.1 systems I've had in the past.