Look up Acurus by Mondial Designs. Good power and dynamics for the money. Also, what do you plan to use for a processor?
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Steve- You're on the right track. However, it is difficult to get truly involving audio out of a combined A/V system. Not impossible, but difficult. You'll probably find that you'll need to upgrade a few pieces before you're happy (amp, pre/proc, speakers, cables, etc...). I'd recommend that you consider the amp/speaker combination in your decision. An inefficient speaker with a lower powered solidstate amp will not meet your needs for an a/v system. Everyone will have recommendations, and regrettably, from what you detailed, you won't have the chance to audition. My preferences are tubes for audio, particularly if you listen at lower levels but still want dynamics. However, good quality solid state equipment will likely be such an improvement for you that it may be all you need to be happy. Also, when it comes to amps, not all "watts" are created equal. Quality power is always preferrable to high power! Good luck and enjoy the journey.
Will be using the denon as a pre for the immediate future with plan to go to all seperates eventually. Have considered the acurus line and read reviews but very little info on the sound of these amps compared to the ones I mention. Presently the system seems to blur a bit, limited soundstage (just between the speakers and no front to back), and looses all dynamics at lower volume. Would like to be able to play at lower volume and still have feel and dynamics like being in a club with a live band that isnt trying to blow you out.
thanks for the suggestion and any more info will be appreciated.
I had the same problem with my Denon AVR 3300. Great for HT
and fell short on music. I tried using the denon as a preamp
and pushed it through 2 Mcintosh amps and the Denon for center speaker. It was a little better but not right. I ended up putting the Denon back in use for HT and setting up a seperate system for music. I went with tubes for this system. I found a good deal on a new Anthem Amp 1 by Sonic Frontiers, a used audible illusions mobulus preamp, and a new pair of MMG Maggies. It suits me for now and I love it, but down the road when ther's more money------. Good luck.
I suggest replacing your speakers first. Your choice of speaker will (arguably) make the biggest difference in sound. You can then later upgrade to a suitable amp to drive them, since your choice of amp will be dictated in part by what your speakers need. If you can only upgrade one at a time, I think one can get better sound out of great speakers with mediocre electronics than great electronics behind mediocre speakers.
Plan is to eventually upgrade both to a primary music system that also does ht. It is however a step at a time process for me. I also felt that speakers would be the best first step and tried a set of B&W 805 Nautilus biwired in my system. The differences between them and my polk's was slight to say the least and to be honest the times my wife and I said "wow, now theres the difference we're looking for" it was our current polk bookshelfs that we were listening to. Know that the b&w is a well respected speaker and felt that there had to be a reason for this. A discussion with my dealer had him suggestion that the denon just wasn't enough amp to get the best out of the b&w. He felt that an amp added to the system might be the biggest addition at this time. Maybe the b&w just aren't able to give what I want but if an amp upgrade will help with the b&w then it should do the same for my polk's. Then when I get the next speakers I will hopefully have what I need to get the most from them. Am I headed in the wrong direction here? Would really llike to get this right the first time.All suggestions and thoughts are much appreciated.
Scoly, I have to disagree with a previous post that recommended you upgrade your speakers first. You've already tried that and got your answer, I think. If you have anything to spend, spend it on a better amp and preamp. Buy used if you have to, to get better sound. I have Acurus 125 x 5 and Act 3 for home theater (upgraded from a Pioneer Elite receiver) and am dazzled by the improvement on CDs just playing in two-channel. The differences you are looking for--liveliness, detail, air--are there on music even though my speakers remain small Boston Acoustic monitors (VRM-60's). The Acurus is cheaper than a lot of stuff, but not dirt cheap, even used. Sell your Denon for as much as you can, and use the proceeds, plus anything else you can scrape together, for a good amp and preamp combo. You can change your speakers later, they really should be the LAST to go, in my experience and opinion.
Scoly, there are lots of people who love the B&W's, but I had the same experience that you did. They just didn't do it for me. Maggies on the other hand, well I just can't be objective about them because I love them so much. The nicest thing about the MMGs is the in-home trial period.
However, I think that given your current amplification, you won't get the maximum out of the Maggies either. The above advice to ugrade via used separates is good advice, just remember that there is no such thing as too much power when it comes to driving Maggies. You'll be floored at how good they sound matched up with quality electronics and adequate power.
Sorry to follow on, but the dealer's advice that an amp would make a bigger difference than choice of speaker ... well I hope that you were wearing hip waders. That has never been my personal experience, nor have I heard anyone make that claim, at least with a straight face. Maybe someone here will make a liar out of me.
As an owner of a McCormack DNA 0.5 Rev. A I can say that it can provide all the air, soundstage depth/width, dynamics, transparency, detail, etc. you could want. Put simply, it gets out of the way of the music and presents the performance in a clear, neutral, and natural way. The most amazing thing is how it lets individual instruments/vocals pop out in an almost 3D panorama from a silent, black background. I don't have direct experience with the other amps you mentioned, but I wouldn't disagree with many others who have called McCormack's Rev. A amps among the best available at any price. I'd be surprised if you can find one for less than $1500, so that may be a consideration.
Since you don't seem to have the ability to try before you buy, I'll submit that I've been running Soliloquy 5.3 floorstanders($2k/pr.) with my 0.5 and am experiencing all the attributes you seem to be after. The speakers become disconnected from the sound and the performance just appears in my listening room--in short, you forget you're listening to any equipment at all. If you need stand mounted speakers you might consider the Soliloquy 5.0s. As a comparison they convey much more of the air, life, and soul of the music relative to the B&W 805s while also going deeper into the lower octaves(I was able to do an extensive A/B comparison between the two). The 5.0s also run $1k/pr., about half that of the 805s. The 805s are obviously great speakers, but for my taste they sound a bit dry and analytical.
The Maggies you're considering are great speakers, but as mentioned above you need to let them dictate the amp as they are very power/current hungry. You also need a lot of space for them to open up as they are sensitive to placement near walls. That said, the Soliloquys also need some room to breathe to let them sound their best.
Lastly, I'd strongly recommend considering a high-quality 2-channel preamp with a home theater pass-through feature for stereo listening. If your 2800 has preamp outs this will allow you to continue to use it for movies/surround music but use the stereo preamp for critical 2-channel listening. A couple recommendations would be the highly-acclaimed Adcom GFA-750 or McCormack RLD-1. Combining either of these preamps with the DNA 0.5 Rev. A would be a huge step toward a truly high-end system that would obliterate the haze you're experiencing through your A/V receiver. If you prefer tubes you could look at Sonic Frontiers, Rogue, or PSE preamps, which also have pre/pro pass-through features. Just a thought--best of luck.