You will not do those B&W 803S justice by using an AV receiver. I would avoid using an AV receiver for those speakers.
I suggest you go for AV separates (av pre pro + power amp) for those speakers. But you will never find even used AV separate gears for under $2k. It will be tough especially of you're looking for the most current AV gear that can decode the latest formats and codecs and pass through 4k HDR etc.
Thanks for chiming in - and good points. I've been toying with the idea of separates... unfortunately price is a factor, as you mentioned -- and I'm also worried about the husband-acceptance-factor (gotta keep it easy to use...)
But I'll definitely start looking around to see if there's something that might fit the bill. Thanks. :)
is already at the top level of receiver power supply capability. You are not going to get anything better by upgrading to something newer, other than support for 4K.
It would be better to get a really high current multi-channel amplifier for those B&W speakers. If you are looking at new within $2k, the best I could recommend is the Emotiva XPA-DR3 amp. It's a fully balanced / differential 3 channel amp. Then use the receiver to power any surrounds that you have. There are others and if you look at used, then things get complicated as all the amps sound radically different. Emotiva is obviously not the best amp, but it is extremely good for the money and very neutral sounding (not too warm, not too bright) and has a lot of current and attack/detail.
I actually tried the SP3 in my system. Before I speak, you should probably know that I am extremely highly critical of equipment and sound - to the point where others say that I'm splitting hairs, lol. A sound extremest, if you will.
That being said, I tried working with the SP3 a lot. It definitely had very good sound quality, probably the best bass I ever heard from a processor, but the sound was just too laid back for me. I could hear that the Class A audio stages were very good, but I just did not get enough attack / slam / detail in the mids and upper mids for my tastes. Also, I don't think I was getting good resolution output. I believe the Digital/DAC board is compromised in the SP3 because they use an off-the-shelf digital board from Momentum Technologies. So, I think the sound will not be quite as clean as other processors. With all that, it could be that you would like the SP3 just fine. It has a big following over on Audio Circle and AudioAficianado forums and many people rave about the SP3.
Ultimately, my older Krell HTS 7.1 was highly superior in sound quality, but was very old. After trying multiple processors, I run with a Krell S1200U, which is just about the best sound quality processor in my opinion. However, it is just a little older and doesn't support 4K.
Because of your 4K requirement, it is going to be difficult to find a good processor in your budget. I think the only thing I would recommend is to go get a previous generation Marantz AV8802a. They are readily available "new-in-box" from ebay and sellers such as Crutchfield at the $2500 level. They are excellent sound quality, has very large main power supply and excellent local power supply capacitors on the DAC I/V board, and also has fully discrete analog output stages. The Marantz has excellent sound quality, but is voiced to be warm sounding. The upgrade the fuse to something like Hi-Fi Tuning Supreme or Silverstar to reduce the "warmth" and increase the clarity/detail. I think that's about the best you can do.
I tested the latest Marantz AV8805 in my system and was quite impressed. It had very good slam and impact, but my Krell S1200U just beat it on high frequency clarity and detail (something that can be easily fixed by fuse upgrade).
Like I said before, probably the first thing you can do is to buy a multi-channel amp and connect it to your Denon receiver using the Denon "pre-outs". That would give you a big jump in ability to let your B&W speakers shine! Then you can always replace the Denon with an HT Processor in the future (with additional amps for the remaining channels if you need them). Many amps will have a 12V remote turn on trigger, so the only thing you need to do is click the "power" button on the HT Processor remote and all your amps will turn on automatically (so it will almost be like using a receiver).
Or you can get HT Processor and amp(s) at the same time.
Oh one more option that caphill likes to recommend is the Classe Sigma SSP processor. It supports 4K, however only supports HDCP 2.2 through one input (HDMI input 4). It is also a very nice processor, but as good as it is, it does not have discrete analog stages like the Marantz. The Classe is quite a bit smaller, so if size is an issue, than Marantz may not be an option. The Marantz is definitely a beast. The Classe Sigma SSP is in the same $2500 price range. There's actually one for sale from TMR Audio for $2408.
In a comparison, Marantz AV8802a with fuse upgrade VS Classe Sigma SSP, I honestly do not know which one would win. Personally, I would actually go with the Marantz and work with fuse/power cord upgrades because of the fully discrete analog stages. In all my R&D and testing with circuits, as good as monolothic op amps can be, they never reached the sound quality of fully discrete analog stages. My own personal opinion, of course.
The current model Classe Sigma SSP Mk2 retails for $6k new and even used it will be in around $4k ish since it supports the latest formats and is current model as far as I know. I’m worried that the Sigma SSP that you saw for sale for $2408 was possibly the original first gen Sigma SSP that does not support 4K and all other current formats, that’s why it’s being offered for sale for $2408 because it’s been replaced by the Sigma SSP Mk2. The original retail price of the Sigma SSP (first gen) was $5k.
The Classe Sigma SSP is optimized for stereo. If the OP focus more on home theater I would go with the Marantz AV8802 as it’s also easier to calibrate for surrounds using its Audyssey auto room correction. The Classe lacks auto room correction but provides manual PEQ instead which requires proper tools and equipments and knowledge on how to implement it. The Marantz AV8802 is much easier to calibrate using its built-in Audyssey even though I’m not a fan of Audyssey at all.
For stereo music, we did compare the Classe Sigma SSP with the Marantz AV8802 and both processors were paired with Classe Delta CAM-300 monoblock amps (class AB) on B&W 802 D3 speakers before at my friend’s shop and the Sigma SSP sounded better for stereo music playbacks more musical and better sound overall. We used the Sigma SSP’s USB input to stream music and we did the same with the Marantz AV8802. The Classe Sigma SSP also has better DAC configuration/implementation at least for the front LR channels and has superb USB input implementation in its signal path, which is copied and pasted from Classe CP 800 stereo preamp/DAC.
But for surround sound movies (home theater) both of them performed great but I would recommend the Marantz AV8802 for the OP if his primary focus is home theater and it’s easier to properly calibrate using its Audyssey auto room correction. The manual PEQ on the Classe is much more difficult to properly calibrate and becomes a deal breaker for some people.
Welcome awilder! Set your budget and do your homework. Make a list of must have features, then narrow it down to price vs performance. If you can listen to a couple of brands through your speakers, then do so with familiar material. Power is always important to avoid clipping or damage.
IMO Yamaha makes really nice gear for the money and they sound excellent!
B&w often recommends Rotel and the new integrated is a killer. I’d call b&w u.s. and ask.
Had a question on streaming via airplay. I think you had mentioned once not to steam music via airplay.
So Although streaming music (Tidal) via AirPlay is lossless, connecting my apple device to my Classé Sigma via the USB connection will give me greater dynamics and better overall sound quality?
Thanks everyone - I appreciate the thoughtful replies as I find myself on the edge of a very large rabbit hole... :)
So if I'm understanding @caphill and @auxinput correctly, you're suggesting adding a preamp (possibly the Marantz) and then keep the Denon to use as a straight amp? (and then connect everything up with RCA cables? Since the Denon doesn't have balanced/XLR inputs?)
Will also take a look at Yamaha and Rotel...
uhm, no. I'm suggesting adding an amplifier to connect to your current Denon receiver.
Ok, then I'm now a bit confused. ?
Because of your 4K requirement, it is going to be difficult to find a good processor in your budget. I think the only thing I would recommend is to go get a previous generation Marantz AV8802a.
You were asking about the Bryston SP3, which is a HT Processor. This is not a "receiver". It is a mult-channel preamp/processor and still requires an amplifier. If you are looking for an HT Processor, it becomes difficult to get a good one for your budget because of your requirement to support 4K through HDMI.
The first thing we really talked about in this thread is the ability for a receiver to drive your B&W speakers properly. Since you already have the most powerful receiver, we are suggesting an amplifier first. You can use RCA cables to connect the amplifier to the receiver to power individual speakers.
Thanks for clarifying.
If I simply get another amp to power my front speakers (and keep using the Denon for signal processing), I still won’t be able to switch 4K through the Denon.
So I started thinking that maybe I could get a preamp and then continue to use the Denon as a 5-channel amp. The Bryston SP3 or Marantz AV8802A would both be pretty close to my budget for now (if I’m willing to push up to $3k, which may be a foregone conclusion. heh.)
Is it better to spend money on a newer/better preamp that can do 4K (and keep the Denon as a straight amp), or just buy another all-in-one? (If I do separate to preamp/amp, I could also plan on replacing the Denon with a "proper" 5-channel amp later.)
Yes, you could get a HT Processor like the Bryston SP3 or Marantz AV8802a and use the "Ext. In" inputs on the back of your Denon to use the Denon "as an amplifier". However, the signal would still be going through the preamp section of the Denon. It would almost defeat the purpose of getting a high quality HT Processor in the first place. Using the Denon "Pure Direct" mode may help a little bit here, but your still going through Denon preamp circuits. So, ultimately, you'll have to decide what is a higher priority for you -- either 4K support or sound quality.
If 4K support is first priority, then yes you can get an HT Processor now like the SP3 / AV8802a. And then get an amplifier later.
If sound quality is first priority, then I would say get the amplifier now and use the Denon receover as an HT Processor/preamp. Then get a real HT Processor later.
Thanks @auxinput - that's super-helpful.
I think at the moment I'd probably be inclined to improve the sound quality first... especially since we're not currently viewing that much 4K content and nearly all of what we watch is via streaming (I don't even have a 4K disc player...yet!).
So, if I am going to eventually end up with a preamp/amp combo rather than an all-in-one (and I do like this idea!), that leads me to the next question: What are some good amps to consider pairing with my speakers?
You mentioned the Emotiva XPA-DR3, but I'd be inclined to get a 5-channel amp, since I will be hitting space limitations if I split my current setup from the all-in-one Denon to a preamp plus two other amps. And, as much as I want this to sound great, I don't want to over-complicate matters (again, the husband-acceptance-factor is a significant concern).
Thanks yet again!
The XPA-DR3 is pretty much the best amp they have now because it uses fully balanced/differential amps (there are 2 amp boards per channel). So, it is definitely limited to 3 channels. Emotiva does has non-balanced amps with more channels. The 5-channel XPA-5 is $1599 and the 7-channel XPA-7 is $1999. Both are about the best I can recommend "new" for the money at this level. The Emotiva is 8" high. Also, on these amps, you really need to have at least a couple inches of space above the amps with no restriction on the front/back to allow for heat dissappation.
If you don't mind used, there is a Rotel RMB-1585 on audiogon for $2099. (new retail is $3000). This would be a very nice amp and is actually more refined sounding than the Emotiva. It is silver in color, if that is a concern. It is also 9.4" inches high.
Those two are the best I think are available now at your budget level.
Awesome, thanks. Appreciate the recommendations and advice! :)
Interesting. Sorry, I do not have any direct experience with the Monolith products. It's a full linear power supply where the Emotiva is switching power supply. I do have much experience with Emotiva amps, having had several over the years. Up to you, but I would probably spend more on the Emotiva because of XLR balanced inputs and that I know it has pretty good amp boards. Good luck on your testing.
The newer versions of the Monolith actually do have balanced inputs.
And hey, for what it's worth, someone left this review on the Monoprice site:
"I have a Monolith 5 and an Emotiva XPA-5 Gen 3 ... I prefer the sound of the Monolith ... It sounds more rich, detailed & powerful."
I'm willing to spend a little more if it sounds better - but at this point I'm kind of playing a guessing game, unless I can find a way to demo both (and Rotel...!).
Agree with auxinput on the Rotel RMB-1585 amp. You should definitely grab that used Rotel RMB-1585 five-channel power amp on Audiogon for $2099. New retail price is $3k. I highly recommend this amp. My buddy has this amp in his home theater room driving the B&W 804 D3 speaker system. Very refined very musical with smooth highs and rich tonal and natural mid-range bloom and bottom end grunt. The sound was fluif, liquid, effortless and very analog. Highly recommended! This amp is very well built and has lots of power reserve to drive just about any demanding speakers effortlessly. This amp is huge massive and very heavy weighing in around 81 lbs. Do not hesitate to buy this amp.
The Rotel will sound very goon on the B&W. They usually have good synergy together.
I heard Rotel at RMAF and I will have to say that it is a very nice and refined amplifier. Obviously, it's not going to be in the higher priced "Krell" or "Parasound" league, but it is extremely good and much better than Emotiva (I have actually owned three different models of Emotiva monoblocks). That review on Monoprice could have some element of truth to it because the current generation of Emotiva uses switching power supply, which doesn't always have a lot of bass authority. The linear power supply of the Monolith could be transferring the bass power a lot better. But the Rotel will sound much better than either. Over the years and testing with different equipment, I have found that, in the end, you really get what you pay for. Of course, there are many variations of sonic signature, but if you are looking for sound quality and refinement, there are no real cheap shortcuts. The Emotiva will have good sound for the money, and the Monoloth may have good for the money as well, but realize that you are making compromises here. If, ultimately, your budget cannot do the Rotel, then that's perfectly okay. Just keep a realistic picture of what you're getting.
You two are making a pretty compelling case for the Rotel!
However I just took a measuring tape to my cabinet, and I don't think I can actually get it to fit along with my Denon (or the Marantz). The Rotel is really huge... The Monolith is about 2" shorter. So that may win the argument.
Then again, it may be time to go rack shopping... Rabbit hole, indeed...
Agreed. Emotiva is great for the money but Rotel & NAD alikes are better but cost a little more than the Emotiva. Rotel still offers great value considering their modest asking prices but are not on the same level as real high end or higher priced Krell, Pass, Hegel, Classe, Audio Research, McIntosh, Naim, Linn, Vitus Audio, and the list goes on and on and on
Welp, you guys won me over. Just pulled the trigger on the Rotel. :)
(now to figure out where the heck I'm actually going to put this beast!)
Congrats on the purchase! I think you made the right choice. Since the RMB-1585 is huge and very heavy I suggest you put it on an amplifier stand on the floor. The Rotel RMB-1585 never runs hot no matter how hard you drive it. It stays cool the whole time.
You will be happy with its performance has plenty of muscle and unlimited power reserve to drive just about any speakers and it will sound good on your B&W 803S. The noise floor is surprisingly very quiet especially for the price.
This amp is much better than your Denon receiver’s internal power amplifiers or any receiver’s internal amplifiers.
Now you just need to purchase good quality analog interconnects to connect from your Denon receiver’s preamp outputs to the inputs on the Rotel RMB-1585 amp. Do not skimp on cables. I would suggest that you also upgrade the power cord. The stock power cord wouldn't do a good job.
Later down the road you can sell the Denon receiver and get a good quality AV preamp surround processor (pre pro). The recently discontinued Marantz AV8802 and the discontinued Classe Sigma SSP version 1 will be a great choice. But the Classe Sigma SSP version 1 (not Mk2) does not support 4k video, Dolby Atmos, DTS-X & other latest formats & codecs so it can be had for around $2500 to $3k range in used markets. The Classe Sigma SSP Mk2 supports 4k, hdcp 2.2, Dolby Atmos but you will probably end up paying more or even full price $6k since it support The latest formats. The Marantz AV8802 supports 4k hdcp 2.2, Dolby Atmos, DTS-X, Auro 3D and can be had for around $2k to $2500 in used markets since it's recently been discontinued.
IMO the Classe Sigma SSP will pair better with the Rotel RMB-1585 amp cause the Rotel RMB-1585 is warm with smooth highs and isn't the last word in resolution, inner details, nuances and transparency. The Classe Sigma SSP is very transparent, excels in detail retrieval, nuances and resolution. The Sigma SSP sounded very resolved, fast and clean. So it will compliment the Rotel RMB-1585 warmth liquid and fluid sound. The Marantz AV8802 however is somewhat warm and the details, transparency, nuances aren't as good as the Classe Sigma SSP. Therefore, the Classe Sigma SSP will pair better with the Rotel RMB-1585 amp.
Let us know of what you think of the Rotel RMB-1585 amp once you receive it.
I have the Rotel rc and rb 1590. 👍. Check out Darwin cables.
I wouldn't use Airplay eventhough it is lossless Apple Airplay.
@maritime51 - Thanks, though it looks like Darwin is quite a ways out of my price range...and I’ll need 5 of these cables. (yikes)@caphill
- Yep, thanks. I’m very excited to listen to the new system! Just have to wait for trucking from Canada... :)
At this point I’ll have to go with RCA interconnects because of the Denon, though I’ll probably want to upgrade to XLR once I replace the Denon. So it doesn’t make sense to spend a ton on these cables. I’m thinking of the Blue Jeans RCA’s - about $100 for a set of 5.https://www.bluejeanscable.com/store/6channel/index.htm
As for racking, I need to go with something low and wide because of my TV and projection screen setup and space in the room. I currently have an HTM2, but am hoping to replace it with the larger HTM3S, so I need a good, wide shelf for it (that doesn’t interfere with the TV or the screen that drops down in the about the same plane).
Right now I’m toying with the idea of the Salamander Synergy 245... But instead of having the full-width top, getting single-column tops (on the taller cabinets left/right), and leaving the middle shelf open. Then my center speaker will have plenty of room to breathe, and my TV can straddle the shelf (the feet are on the sides). It just... might...work...https://www.salamanderdesigns.com/av-cabinets/synergy-model-245/
Congratulations!!! I look forward to your results!!
You sure can do the Blue Jeans cables. They are likely going to be better than the crap RCA cables that typically come with TVs and stuff. But keep in mind these are also a compromise and will not allow your Denon/Rotel to "sing". I tried some of the Blue Jean "Beldon" 1694A cables for interconnects. They did have good resolution and authority, but the sound was just "meh" in emotional engagement. There are so many better cables, but of course they cost more. lol. Still, if you are doing this as a "temporary fix", it's still better than other alternatives. One note on these cables - the LC-1 cable is a single solid-core 25awg conductor. Great that it's solid-core (much better than stranded). However, in my testing, the smaller awg conductors had good high frequency response, but just did not let the music "breathe" and they also had weak bass impact. You really need to look for a minimum 21awg solid-core interconnect (which is what Audioquest are).
As far as the Salamander, I would say get whatever works. But keep in mind that even though caphill says the Rotel amp does not get hot, you still need adequate ventilation above the amp and open space on the front and back of the amplifier. When caphill says "the amp doesn't get hot", he really means that "it doesn't get roasting hot like a lot of high bias Class AB or full Class A amps". The Rotel will still warm up some and it's always best to allow for heat dissipation.
Hahaha....yup...the Rotel does not get roasting hot even when driven hard. It barely gets warm to the touch. That's all.
But you still need some room ventilation around the amp. I wouldn't put it in a confined closed cabinet or rack if I were you. Ideally, it will be best placing it on an amplifier stand on the floor partly due to its weight and mass and size.
Or, check out ac infinity fans.
Thanks for the heads-up on the heat. The Salamander racks have perforated doors in front, and vents in the back panel... so I was thinking of putting it on the bottom of one of the cabinets, probably by itself. (I could also leave the back panel off if need be...)
In other news: The seller of the Rotel has a B&W Nautilus HTM1 center speaker he's offered me. I'm looking to upgrade my Nautilus HTM2... but was planning on seeking out the HTM3S instead (since it's supposed to be the match for the 803S).
So my next question is - what's the difference between the HTM1 and HTM3S? Is it significant?
The HTM1 is the older version. The HTM3S "S" series are the latest version aluminum dome tweeter before B&W went to a diamond tweeter. With the "S" series, they were able to increase the resonance/breakup frequency of the aluminum dome tweeter to something like 28khz (if I remember right). This reduces the amount of breakup/distortion and brightness/harshness of the tweeter.
There are a few HTM3S speakers on ebay ranging from $1800 to $2500. The $2500 has the nicer wood finish and also a stand. There's one HTM1 for $1150, so it is going to be cheaper. It all depends on what you want to spend, but I would hold out for an HTM3S for the tweeter that is less harsh.
Oh, and on the Salamander, I would leave off the back panel on the amp section, since the amp is so big that it would block your view of anything behind it anyways! lol
For the Salamander - ha! But yep, I’m thinking I’ll either skip the front doors and sides (leaving the back panels in place), or will include the doors & sides, and then can leave the back panel off and in that case, you’re right, I won’t even see the difference. The nice thing is that they’re modular, so I can adjust as needed. This primarily comes down to an aesthetic question, so I’ll likely have to defer to the husband. ;)
I’ve got my eye on those various HTM3S’s on eBay, but the current ones are local pickup only, or they’re the wrong color (there’s one that I can’t really tell if it’s cherry or rosenut - and the seller has answered my question...I emailed him through Sweetwater and no response either. AND, I emailed B&W and they said they don’t have a record of an HTM3S with that serial number. So that’s two red flags. Moving on...).
Either way, I’m not in a huge hurry, BUT - my new best friend (the Rotel Seller) is offering me a good price on the HTM1 that he has (and it’s the right color...the veneer on that one is actually particularly beautiful!).
Since I haven’t listened to either of them it’s tough to determine how much of a sonic difference that’ll make (if I even hear the difference at all!). So I suppose the real question is -- is there a ~$1200 difference/improvement between the HTM1 and HTM3S? (I know for you, the answer is "yes"...) :)
Well, you already have the "older brighter" tweeter in your current HTM2 center. However, the Rotel amp you just bought is going to be a higher resolution and higher current amp than your Denon receiver (something that is important to make these B&W speakers "sing"!). I would almost say to wait until you had the Rotel playing in your system before making a decision. That extra resolution and current could actually increase the response and harshness of your center tweeter and that would tell you whether or not you could live with the cheaper HTM1.
That being said, when comparing to your current HTM2:
- HTM1 will have clearer midrange because of the B&W separate midrange driver. It will also have deeper bass authority, which will give better tonal definition to male voices in movies. I recommend setting the center to "FULL" or "LARGE" in your Denon so that it plays full range and does not send anything to the sub.
- HTM3S will have the same clearer midrange and deeper bass, but it will also have less harsh highs.
So yeah, ultimately, the HTM3S would be better and I would definitely buy that instead, but it is dependent on where your "point of diminishing returns" is and what your willing to spend.
TIP: Both the HTM1 and HTM3S are rear vented. This means that you should space it away from the front wall just a little bit (like 12"). And make sure you do not have any sound absorption material against that front wall that could "absorb the bass coming from the vents".
Thanks, that's helpful (yet again).
So the seller has offered me the HTM1 for $950 -- a great price, from what I can tell. And, he can ship it at the same time as the Rotel... so that would be the total price, no extra for shipping.
At that price, I'm thinking it might be worth it -- and then if someday the right HTM3S comes along, I can maybe upgrade then and re-sell the HTM1 (if I even feel like it's necessary).
So... $950 total now to get an HTM1, or ~$2000 at some point in the future to live with the HTM2 and upgrade to the HTM3S later.
OR, you're right, the Rotel will reveal the discrepancy in the tweeter (Regardless of whether it's an HTM1 or HTM2), and then I'll just be jonesing to upgrade soon anyway.
Gah! This is hard! (but still fun.) :)
Tell him that you are very interested but want to hear how the Rotel plays with your current HTM2 first. If he's offering this price to you now, I'm sure he'll still offer it in 1-2 weeks. It's not like he gets shipping discount. It still costs to ship the HTM1 because it will be packaged in a separate box. lol. The only risk is that he might sell it before you're ready to buy, lol.
One thing to be cautious about this Rotel RMB-1585 amp is that it does not have any front or rear handles so handling it makes it hard due to the weight and size of this amp. You can never lift it up by yourself. It’s a 2 men job. It weighs in around 80 lbs. This amp has 2 main toroidal transformer power supplies stacked up together. When you open up the upper case you can only see 1 toroidal transformer and the other one is below it. One feeds power to the main LR channels and the other one feeds power to a center and surround channels.
@caphill - duly noted, thanks. I'll lift with my legs!
@aux - The Rotel is so heavy that he's got to send it by truck..so apparently it does save some money to simply add the HTM1 and send them both together...
I'll be honest, too: The veneer on this particular HTM1 is unusually beautiful. Most I've seen have a pretty plain woodgrain...but this one almost looks marbled. If it looks better, it sounds better, right? ;)
My blue jean cables shipped today. Getting excited!
around 2-3k unbeatable value
Thanks @cakyol. Caphill and Auxinput actually convinced me to get a (used) Rotel RMB-1585 (see above)...and then I'll be investing in a separate pre/pro at some point in the future.
Well, then you definitely have your answer. Sounds like you really want this HTM1, so why not? lol
Don't forget to let us know how the Rotel RMB-1585 performs and sounds on your B&W 803S when you receive the amp and whether the center speaker that you are getting from the seller makes a big difference.
so, did you end up getting the HTM1?