One step up from entry-level?

Most audiophiles seem to consider Denon, Harmon-Kardon, Onkyo, Yamaha, Sony ES, Pioneer Elite to be among the
entry-level, mainstream, "commodity" electronics brands.

What manufacturers fit into the next category up? Reasonably inexpensive, widely available, easy-to-use electronics? Adcom? Rotel?
Well Onkyo if the "Integra" line are a step up. The regular Onkyo's are the commodity/mainstream variety. Onkyo Integra has HT receivers that run up to $3300. like the TX-DS 989. Some Denon's run over $3K. You won't find these at Circuit City. Other "next-ups" in HT are Adcom, Rotel, NAD, Arcam, & B&K. The top of the line Yamaha and Sony ES are also a step-up from Best Buy / Circuit City territory.
It is such a shame that supposed "audiophiles" are willing to judge a system based on "where it is sold" rather than how it sounds. I don't think ANYONE who has actually auditioned the $3800 (msrp) Denon AVR-5800 or the $3200 B&K AV307 would have ANY problem explaining how much better it is than a ROTEL surround processor and RMB-1095 amp, just to name one! These posts are starting to sound more like "My Porshe is better than your Acura NSX" just because it's a Porshe. Even though most of the Porshe line is made up of nothing but Volkswagens with an attitude.

What happend to "Honest, informed opinions" and the willingness to help others learn, rather than "propogating the myth?" Gerry
That was not my intention Mr. Conway. You obviously do not know me very well. If you actually took the a second to read his question (and my responce); you might recognize he asked a very basic general question about brands, not for a specific recommendation. He made assumptions that Onkyo, Denon, etc were only about entry level, so I wanted to clue him in to look deeper. Not everyone coming to this site is an expert looking for that last tweek to nirvana. Your post really does help educate at all; it's the a dirty personal attack of the kind Audiogon wants to get rid of.
Mr. G Conway, I think you may have taken the spirit of Mr. Sugarbre's excellent and informative post to mean something different. Fact is he answered the question. I guess it just depends where you put the focus.The next level is what it is,/ and not found at CC or BB. No snobishness was intended that I saw.
I was backing you Sugarbre. Your second response wasn't there as I was typing mine/ you just beat me / you probably type faster / well that is true of almost everone/ there may be 6 more posts before I finish this.

I am also behind you...... After all, we cannot let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch, can we??


If you are looking for an A/V Receiver that is a "step-up" from what you will find at either Best Buy or Circuit City, then the ones you should look at are the top-of-the-line Yamahas ($2K to about $3K+), Onkyo/Integra ($3K..... but be careful about which speakers you'll be using with the this receiver..... I have read reviews in "The Perfect Vision" and "Widescreen Review", and both of them mention this VERY ISSUE in their reviews), NAD ($700.00 to about $900.00), Rotel (about $1,000.00), and Outlaw (which sells their products over the internet only...... their A/V Receivers are priced at $600.00). Marantz, B&K and Denon are also other brands you should consider. You are not going to find neither of these brands at Best Buy or Circuit City either. Sony and Pioneer (their mass market stuff) would be brands that I would steer clear of. Only their "upmarket" stuff (Pioneer Elite and Sony ES) is worthy of any consideration.

If your preference is separates, then the only brands to look at would be Rotel, B&K, Adcom, Marantz and again, Outlaw.

Good Luck.


Who cares what others think is "the next step up"? I have NAD gear that I auditioned one on one with various other "better" gear, as well as against typical consumer stuff. I bought the NAD because I could hear a significant improvement over the consumer gear, but not a significant difference between it and the other "better" names I could afford. What you might want to do is figure out what you want to spend, then go listen to whatever is in that price bracket. Go a little higher, go a little lower. Some lower price gear will really surprise you. I absolutely love my Creek OBH-12se passive pre ($225 used); and KNOW that it's as good (actually, better) than several units 3+ times it's price. It's never the name, it's always the sound you want. Of all the houseguests I've had, none ever asked about my gear, only about the music playing. I take that to mean the gear is doing the job quite nicely!

Another anecdotal observation: I've seen several threads lately about audio savvy folks using consumer grade cd players (even those 200 cd changers) as transports, feeding it into modestly priced DACs (ie. MSB Link III with upsampling), and getting great sound. Some of these people have highly respectable amplification and speaker gear, yet swear by this digital front end. That tells me it's not who you buy but how it sounds.

Current issue (Jan/Feb 2001) of "The Perfect Vision" has an AV Receiver Buyers Guide in it. Good place to start.

Good Luck
Mr. Conway, What's wrong with my Volkswagens with an attitude?
Would all of the people who have replied to this post please accept my apology. I DID NOT intend for my remarks to be directed at ANYONE in particular. After reading this again, I can easily see how it looks aimed. My verbal (written?) diatribe was a result of spending MANY hours on forum sites such as this one, SMR, AudioAsylum, et al. and reading over and over people bashing ALL receivers as the lousy poor mans toy. Comments like ANY seperate is better than the best receiver. When you ask the specifically which models the are comparing, they respond that they have not auditioned any of the current top of the line receivers.
I guess my level of frustration was reached and I vented.
Again, I apologize for my rude venting. And to the poster with the porche, sorry if I offended you, I thought I was making the point that ALL porches are Not created equal.

Wish you all the best. Gerry Conway
Thanks for those who actually replied to the question. I
accept that one should judge by how it sounds, not by what
it says on the front, but one also needs to know where to
start -- got to narrow the field somehow!

By the way, my own knowledge is a step up, not a step down,
from here. I'm a Bryston kind of guy, myself. I mostly
want to know what I should be recommending to friends who
want a "good" system without spending much money, who have
never heard of anything not sold at Circuit City.
Mark: If I were advising someone with a tight budget, I'd tell them to go ahead and buy their electronics from Circuit City (sticking to the established brands--Sony, Pioneer, etc.). But splurge a bit on speakers: B&W, PSB, Paradigm and other brands make a number of models that even a Technics receiver can drive quite well. Not the ultimate, but we're not talking about the ultimate here. And people who haven't shopped the low end in a while would be surprised by just how capable cheap Japanese boxes can be. (Note, I said "CAN be.") We're not talking Bryston here, but the gap--while real--is smaller than you might imagine.
Jostler3, how could you give such poor advice. Ciruit City? The knowledge from a true audio store is worth the extra money if indeed you do end up spending more. There are a great number of products at entry level pricing that are well made using the technology of there higher end lines. I'm not aware of what Pioneers higher line is, or what research they provide to the advancement of audio. I strongly recommend finding a knowledgeable audio shop and listen to some different product. When I started I went to every store and listened to what I could afford. After a short time I knew what brands I liked and used that information to ask others opinions. For me it, like Jostler3 was the speakers and I had an amp I liked. Both were well beyond my price, but it gave people an idea of my tastes. I ended up e-mailing all the dealers in the country that caried those two componants and asked there opinions on what they would recommend with-in my budget. It wasn't long before I found some common recommendations and a dealer I trusted. That same dealer has helped me with the two later upgrades too. Good-luck Mark, J.D.
Jadem6: Oops, let me rephrase that. I did not mean to endorse Circuit City as a retail establishment, and I thoroughly agree about the potential (not always realized) for specialty shops to provide better advice and service. The thread was about brands, not stores, and what I meant to say was that for budding audiophiles on a very tight budget, the more established electronics brands carried by big boxes, combined with a better-quality speaker that doesn not impose too severe a load, would be a reasonable way to go.
I understand, I re-voted to give you a net positive, thanks. (I must say you have truely impressed me, I will watch for more of your posts and place a whole new value on your opinion) J.D.