My thoughts are that speakers are the dominant factor in determining the sound of an audio system, so I don't get overly concerned about solid state electronics. But, I do think that AV receivers have to pack a lot of functionality into one box. I'd probably go with a good pre/pro and a "lesser" multichannel amp.
For music, a high end integrated (any), will best an AV reciever (any), all day long.
Movies sound great in stereo.
High end integrated will be superior in music reproduction. If you are craving for some surround sound action, the arcam is a good compromise for music and movies.
You'll be throwing your money away on an HT receiver and be right back here buying an integrated...and selling the HT component...trust me, I've been there, done that, and don't have the t-shirt.
The Arcam Diva series integrated's offer a wonderful option for stereo, and what's your budget for a tube integrated? The Eastern Electric M520 is a marvelous piece that won't be moving from my main room anytime soon, tube rolling is necessary with this one, but well worth it.
And if you like FM, I'd be happy to offer some sparrow feed choices that won't break the bank.
Like L'wood, I've been there (actually several times). If your goal is great 2-channel sound, an HT receiver is not going to get you there. Buy a quality integrated amp. Maybe even look for one that has an HT bypass/processor loop. This would allow you to easily integrate a moderately priced HT receiver into your system at a future date if you decide you really need multi-channel and an HT processor.
I started snooping around here about 5 years ago and was considering the home theater surround sound thing. I figured that I would start slowly and as everybody above says...get an integrated amp first. Well...I have 2 integrateds now...thinking about my 3rd...even entertaining the idea of new speakers and source.
I haven't entertained the idea of surround sound for quite some time now and I'm still ok with 2.1 for movies.
I think Bob Reynolds has the good answer, and that speakers are the main determiners of the sound you get (it's the tansduction process) followed by cartridge if you're into analog (or tape speed, tape width and thickness, and storage). But Pluto, who I suspect is not serious in his post given his stated preference for 2-channel stereo, complains about boxes and cables. Are there any high quality 5-channel integrateds that are better than a receiver from, say, Lexicon?
There is a trend here. I too have tried the HT recv route with unsatisfactory result. If you are serious about music the HT won't deliver. I've owned countless (seriously I can't remember them all) integrateds and my top picks depending on power requirements are Audio Refinement Complete, Portal Panache and Classe CAP-151.
There's centainly things to be considered here, and factors that need to be taken into account. If you are playing rock, R&B, techno, rap, new world music, or are a "head-banger", and like high dynamics and loud levels, then you probably will get better results crossing most speaker aplications over to "small", using a pre/pro, and adding a sub! Still, if you mostly do 2 channel lighter music dubties, with lesser dynamic needs then, yes, you would get better sonics (as long as you have a good source with good fidelity and processing, is key) with 2 channel integrateds, for certain. Good luck
I too agree with Bob_reynolds but moreso on the pre pro then the speaker theory. I do believe that speakers are an important part of an audio system but I think pre amps are equally responsable for sound quality. I tried a HT receiver with little success but moved on to a prepro and amp set with good results with 2 CH. I have an Aragon Stage one with a Aragon 2005 5 channel amp. I think you would need a very high end integrated to best it and would have to spend ALOT more money.
If you're running 2-way speakers, getting the low bass out with an active 4th order acoustic cross-over to a decent (a lot of the crap sold to the home theater market doesn't qualify) sub woofer will do wonders for both your bass and midrange, especially if you prefer your acoustic music at realistic levels.
An AV receiver will do this, and electronically time align the main speakers with a sub-woofer so you can place the main speakers to perform best in the upper octaves and the sub-woofer where it works best.
A high end integrated stereo amplifier will not.
Well...you need both! I agree that an integrated AMP or separates of quality is necessary for true Hi fidelity audio success in the 2 channel world. AN HT receiver doesnt quite get there.
The catch is on the HT side then...many movie soundtracks are mixed in 5.1 for example and made to be heard that way as well. So HT moves more to signal/channel processing and, frankly, software and less about quality power and signal path quality components.
Its great that folks love 2.1 for movies, but the soundtracks are mixed for 5.1 and should be heard that way. This can in fact be done with separates etc via analog outs-- assuming the audio decoding can be done at the DVD player level, but HT receivers can excel in surround processing and often do.
I arrived at this the other way 'round from others - I'd already had high end 2 channel audio for many years and wanted a second system for music & HT without spending megabucks and getting complicated. I disliked virtually every HT receiver I'd heard - in fact I hadn't had a receiver of any kind since my vintage gear 25 years ago. I was strictly a 2 channel, finicky kinda audiogal.
I've been very happy with my Arcam AVR300 (powering Nola Minis) and the AVR350 is even better - I'll be trading up some day.
I would not recommend this approach with most typical HT receivers (I've had a couple Denons and others that are very easy to live without) but Arcam makes truly fine sounding, musical receivers. Treat the Arcam like a serious piece of kit with an after market power cord and decent wire and you will have a very satisfying musical experience and great HT sound. The Arcams are versatile too, offering bi-amping options and much else for audiophile tastes. And honestly, I love the simplicity of it all.
The Plinius and Cary are excellent integrateds, ones I've recommended to friends for 2 channel only listening. But I'm very comfortable with the Arcam gear for my all-in-one system.
If I were doing HT separates I would consider going with the Cary pre/pro and multichannel amps, surely one of the best kept secrets in HT/audio. But for a double duty system the Arcam is an outstanding choice.
Does my Arcam/Nola music/HT system outperform my high end separates? No, but it sounds pretty darned nice - my main system was an $16K+ system, with full rnage speakers carefully matched and highly synergetic with my electronics, cabling etc.
BTW, my musical tastes run primarily to lareg scale orchestral and choral works. I don't like hardness in the treble, congestion, lack of transparency etc. The Arcams don't suffer from these issues.
Go give the AVR350 a listen, compare with some integrateds, think about the logistics, make your choice and be happy.
I have upgraded every speaker crossover network because almost all speaker crossover networks are made with the cheapest components. This impacts both the speakers performance/sound and the overall system performance/sound.
NO QUESTION, what it costs for me to upgrade speaker crossover networks is cheaper than 99% of upgrading IC's or PC's and the results ar FAR better too. If you're looking to improve soundstage, imaging, details, 3-dimensionality, blacker/quieter background, and musicality, upgrading speaker crossover networks is a MUST. Also, the beauty of this procedure is that you don't have to ship your speakers anywhere, just the small crossover networks.
Just my .02 cents from personal experience.
Good responses! My only other comment is that a new solution for Home Theater pre/pro and receivers should include coniseration for HDMI 1.3 connectivity and hi def vid and audio. I am unclear that many non-HT receivers have those capabilities at this time.
Vman71? I'd like to know your speakers that you've "upgraded crossovers" on. Any input would be appreciated. Any higher end speaker applications? I've got to figure any competent speaker designer would "specialize" in crossover networks (passive, that is). So, what exactly are you replacing, and on what models? Thx
I ended up with integtated amp with HT pass through and a good receiver for a combined system, this is definetely the way to go. I really enjoy both applications of my "system", although it is in essence two systems.
My speakers are all Klipsch. I just finished a pair of Monitor Audio S6 crossover networks a few weeks ago. If you'd like, I can send you pictures of what their stock crossover looks like and you will see that there is not a single quality cap, resistor or internal wiring. Caps, resistors, and internal wiring is what I nornamlly change out. I don't bother with changing the air & iron core inductors, as the improvements with those parts are very minimal.
I do not change the circuit design in any way. Just by changing out the caps, resistors, and internal wiring, the improvements are nothing short of incredible.
The difference is this:
I had to really focus and listen for any improvements from adding IC's and PC's. I've used brands such as Nirvana, Ridge Street Audio, Acoustic Zen, and Electraglide.
It was just flat out obvious that there were noticeable improvements to the highs, mids, and lows when I upgraded the crossover networks.
One has been to my ears, very obvious and without doubt. The other has been minor and possibly a desired perception because I spend hard earned dollars on.
Last thing, because of the very noticeable improvements from upgrading my speakers crossover networks, I upgraded over 30 parts (caps, diodes, and internal silver wiring) in my CDP. Again, very noticeable results. It's very clear to me that upgrading the internals offer huge potential for improving one's entire system.
I have tried several home theater proccesors and receivers.
Settled for the Theta casablanca III. It is the best sounding that I could buy. The proccesors that I tried were the top line from KRELL, ARCAM, ANTHEM.
When I had my ASR Emitter Exclusive II Blue Version updated I was using the Theta in analog direct for my two channel. My amps are the Mark Levinson 33 monoblocks. It was good but no match for my ASR.
I am lucky to have both in my system. My advice to you is buy the Arcam AVR 350, we additioned this unit for my friend and it is outstanding for both. Once you have the option then get a two channel only rig, but remember the Arcam is really good and you will need to spend quite a bit to do better.
Hope this helps.
My thanks to everyone who offered advice via this thread. I bought the Arcam AVR350 based on your input. I'm very pleased with it. (80% 2-channel; 20% HT)
My thanks to all for your comments!!