Musical Sound Quality of AV Surround receiver vs. pure Stereo

Running Linn LP12 turntable, Bluepoint No2 stylus, with Jasmine phono pre-amp, Marantz sr5008 with B&W 685s2 on LR fronts with 686 S2 LR surround,  Paradigm CINEMASUB Cinema Sub 300W Speaker.

3 questions; 1) While I canceled out the center channel (using Marantz Audyssey setup), I am playing 99% from my turntable and CD player (Yamaha w/ DAC built in). The depth and spacial separation of the music is uncanny, but difficult to phase given it is being played in a digital (Music setting) format from one of the settings on the Marantz receiver. When I switch to pure stereo, the volume has to be turned up and the depth of the soundstage just isn't there. Would upgrading to a more powerful and musical integrated amplifier help (i.e. Anthem  Anthem MRX  720?) help with its killer room correction or 2) Do I look for a 2.1 integrated amp or tube amp to compliment my B&W 685S2's and sell the 686's or 3) do I just bite the bullet, look at a traditional good integrated amp or tube amp for around $3K with $3K Audio note AN-K speakers. Traditional sound....

Thanks, I am new to this group and have read a number of discussion threads. Obviously, a lot of you are infinitely more knowledgeable than I am, so any and all replies would be greatly appreciated. PS No man cave, this system is in my living room, so the wife is a little particular about too much gear ! Thanks everyone.
if you're otherwise happy with your system i would simply add a two channel amp through the front preouts of your avr--this should give you better quality amplification for stereo listening. something like parasound would be a good match.
If 2-channel is important to you I think an integrated amp with a HT bypass is an optimal solution. Neither the preamp nor amp sections from your AVR are doing you any favors, so an integrated elegantly solves both issues in one box. I'd recommend a Hegel H160 as it has a HT bypass, is a big improvement for stereo over your Marantz and has the juice to power your B&Ws, and there are a few available now for around $1500, which is less than half of retail.

It sounds like there could be a settings issue possibly affecting your stereo performance. Regardless, the H160 will bring your 2-channel performance to an entirely different level while still allowing you to use the Marantz for sourround processing and amplifying the rear channels. BTW, with this setup the Marantz is completely out of the playback chain for stereo listening, and you can switch between stereo and surround with the push of one button -- in case you're not familiar with the HT bypass function. Anyway, hope this helps and best of luck.
@loomisjohnson - he is having a gain level problem when using his AVR for a normal 2-channel analog preamp.  An outboard external amplifier would not really help him.  And it would be better just to get an intregrated for 2-channel preamp/amp and use that as HT Bypass when he wants to watch movies.


The Hegel is definitely a high resolution conventional Class AB "neutral" sound design.  Or you could look at something like Krell Digital Vangaurd integrated for a more creamy/liquid "Class A" sound.   These are very nice as well, but it really depends what kind of sound you're looking for. 
aux, you may very well be correct--could be gain or could be the inboard amps not be being up to snuff--his speakers may be relatively hard to drive. an integrated with ht bypass is defintely a good fix, but not necessarily the cheapest.
Thank you all for taking the time to lend me your advise. My impression is, if connecting the Marantz to my TV is not a priority, I really am better off trading in the Marantz and the pair of B&W 686 S2's for a nice integrated amp to drive the B&W 685's.  However, would a Outlaw Audio RR 2160  which is 2.1 have enough power to drive both speakers and the sub woofer. I like the complimentary bass / fullness of the sub to help drive full spectrum of the sound of my vinyl.  If not an Outlaw, 1) what would you recommend? 2) Or again, trade in the B&W's for a more robust Audionote AN-K speakers. Thank you for any comments or suggestions
The sub looks to be self powered so no concern there.  The first question you need to answer is if you like the 685s enough to keep them.  If yes, then almost any decent integrated stereo amp should yield a significant improvement over your AVR.  The Outlaw should work fine and is a good amp for the money, but it's not up to the standards of the Hegel IMHO (or probably the Krell either, but I'm not familiar with that unit). 

If you're upgrading the speakers, wait until you figure out which ones before upgrading your amp so you make sure they work well together.  A lot of people like Audio Note speakers, but they're quite different from B&Ws and there are lots of other great options out there.  Hope this didn't just confuse things further. 
Is the Hegal an iij integrated amp which CNN accepts a powered sub woofer? Thanks,
Sorry hate auto typing. Will the Hegal accept a powered sub woofer? I thought it was pure 2 channel and I know from the Marantz that the sub woofer digs a little deeper than the b&w 685's by themselves. Thanks
I use the same speakers (L+R) for HT and 2 channel, just switching out speaker cables. The 2 channel amp is better. But, that said, I could live with the HT receiver in pure direct mode if I had to. The difference in amps, contrary to what some say, is quite minimal.
@phill55 -- The Hegel has line-level outputs, which is all you'd need to connect your subwoofer.

The difference in amps, contrary to what some say, is quite minimal.

I'm just going to flat out disagree with @secretguy here.  If you at all care about 2-channel sound reproduction, you'll hear a big and meaningful difference between a $3500 highly-regarded, dedicated stereo integrated amp like the Hegel and a $900 mass market audio/video receiver with your speakers.  And if you do decide to upgrade speakers in the future, the H160 is good enough that it will let you get more out of them as well.  Oh, and no switching cables required to change between multichannel and stereo -- just push one button.  Nice. 
I didn't say there was no difference. But people who claim there are worlds of difference in electronics are delusional. IMO, of course.
I am taking the plunge - solid amp Hegal H160 or KRell with Revel M106 Bookshelf Speakers . I think the combination is strong between amp and speaker. Any thoughts? Also, will be selling my AV amp and 4 speakers :-)
I left B&W and Solid State for Audio Note.  But it still depends on what you are after - the B&Ws are nowhere near the same musical goodness as Audio Note IMO.  The AN K /lx is the copper wired version and all AN copper wired speakers will play much nicer with solid state equipment and push pull amplifiers in general.  Plus they are significantly less expensive.  Around $2400US and you havee over 20 finish options + high gloss so 40.  It is a sealed acoustic suspension design with 90dB sensitivity and from a corner reaches 36hz.  Not bad.  I owned the speakers for 6 months before moving to the Audio Note J/Spe which I had for 13 years.  Now have the AN E/Spx Alnico Hemp.
OOps - didn't see you bought the Revels - But doesn't look like you have heard them yet - well congrats and I hope you enjoy the Revels.  If not then the above is there because I already typed it. 

I would like to make a correction on my description of the Krell integrated.  The Krell integrated that I heard was the new K-300i, which uses the new iBias sliding bias full Class A amplifier module.  This is a very creamy, liquid and lush sound.  It would be excellent for the Revel speakers because it would help control that aluminum dome tweeter.  However, the K-300i is not released yet and will probably be out of your price range.
The Krell Vanguard integrated amps use the previous generation Class AB amplifier and are very clean and crisp sounding.  The Krell Vanguard are selling "new-in-box" for about $2700 on ebay and other locations.  You can also get the "Krell Digital Vanguard", which include a very top-notch DAC for $3700 "new-in-box" from ebay sellers.   Or get a used Digital Vanguard for something like $2900. 

The Hegel H160 can be had used for $1600-1900 and is a lot cheaper.  Ultimately, I think the Krell is a much better device and will "sing" better because of it fully discrete Class A preamp stage, but it is all about budget.
@ richardausten I met Mr. Vu in his new facility in Vienna, VA. He is an incredibly knowledgeable and passionate Audiophile and I heard the AN - J speakers. He has them for $3K with a new Italian tube amp w/ built in DAC and if you have the ability to set up your speakers in the corners, the combination in sublime. But the tub amp is $3K with speakers = $6-7K (including stands). But at 90dB you really don't need a huge Krell or Helgal with 200+ watts. I heard the AN -J speakers driven by a 10 watt tube amp. 
@ auxinput I thank you for your input...I went back to a local dealer (new and used gear) listen to both the Krell and the Hegal with B&W D3 bookshelf speakers. To me the Hegal H160 sounded a little more colorful, not overly produce, but enough to appear to have more color than the Krell which seemed a little too clinical. 

But, given my budget and desire to continue to upgrade, I am now looking at a Hegal H160 for $1700 (with crossover for my sub)...use my B&W 685 s2 speakers for a year or two before upgrading to a new speaker. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to own the AN speakers, my wife will not allow me to put them in the living room (in the corners) and I don't want a man cave to listen to music...I want my friends to enjoy it with me during cocktail conversation or just pure listening. 

Besides, my next upgrade will probably be in adding a Dynavector 20X as the liveliness of the stylus may very well compliment some of the short comings of the B&W's in the mid-high range. They are however, good speakers when complimented with a sub to build out that low that they just cant accomplish. 

I have to tell everyone that it is a difficult decision when getting into this hobby, there are many...many...many choices you can make. And add to this challenge the lack of really good stereo stores (that I grew up with) and your decision become even more difficult. Do your research thoroughly and trust the experiences and anecdotal comments of this group. They are all obviously passionate about this hobby and for that I want to thank everyone for taking the time to help me make a better informed decision. When everything is set up, I will send out my comments for someone else who might be making these same decisiosn.