Thinking of moving from AVR to pre/pro and amp

Disclaimer: I don't know what I don't know. I do not have any major complaints with my current system which I will detail later, but I do know it doesn't sound as close to "live" performances as I'd like. Having read many threads, I believe that moving to separates will help in this area, but I may not have the best reading comprehension. I need your expertise.

My system is used 90/10 TV or DVD/Music, so that's another issue. However, when we play music we tend to really play music. We had the Wadia ipod transport running 12 hours/day over the time between Christmas and New Years, so there are long stretches of listening opportunties. I ran a great number of CDs through my Oppo 95 during this stretch too. Last year I only ran CDs as I didn't have the Wadia (I use Apple Lossless files in the ipod).

There is no option to have a separate music only room or second system no matter how much I'd like to. I have spousal asthetic and ease of use issues to contend with so therefore, whatever I buy must be black and work with my Harmony 1000 touch screen remote.

My upgrade budget is miniscule, <$2k. Used equipment is fine. No HDMI switching is fine as I already am dealing with that now.

My current system is a Rotel RSX 1056 receiver, Oppo 95 running analog 5.1 to the Rotel for audio and video via HDMI to the Sony Bravia XBR IV LCD TV. DirecTV DVR runs digital audio to the Rotel and video via HDMI to the Sony. Oppo 95 plays the CDs through the 5.1 analog cables, though in stereo mode. I use a Wadia transport to run analog into the CD input of the Rotel.

Speakers are B&W LCR6 S2's up front and B&W in ceiling surrounds out back. Two Velodyne SPL10 subs handle the lower frequencies (iirc, I cross over at 100 hz).

I currently can locally get a consignment sale 1-owner Arcam AVP700/P1000 setup for what seems to be a reasonable price ($1350 firm), or I could get a new Emotiva setup with their pre/pro and the 200wpc 5-channel amp for my <$2k budget (albeit not the newest pre/pro with balanced outputs as it isn't out yet and it would stretch the budget too far anyway).

The Arcam P1000 has an advantage in that I can use the extra 2 channels for my patio speakers and sell my ancient SAE 50wpc amp as there seems to be a demand for these on ebay (or there used to be). Not a deal maker, but a plus. Emotiva stuff comes with a warranty and a 30 day trial period, which could be a huge plus. Buying black end plates for the Emotiva is a minus, but not a deal breaker.

I like the warm sound of the B&W/Rotel combo, but it lacks *something* that I can not put words to. I'm hoping moving to more power and a better processor will open this up a bit. For instance, on my current system solo piano music sounds nice, but I just do not *feel* it like I do when someone plays a nice piano live. Same with vocals, they are just not there for me through this system. Norah Jones 'come away with me' is a bit thinner sounding than I'd like is an example that comes to mind.

Damn the new performing arts center and its excellent acoustics! I used to be more ok with the sound that I have. However, after a season seeing a bunch of live shows including performers like Botti and also The Tenors, I find it wanting (sub-note/humble brag: if you saw the Tenors lead with your heart PBS special over the holidays, you saw my wife and I in the crowd shots more than once). I also listen to Rush, Steely Dan, and even (please don't laugh) Jim Brickman. Eclectic tastes.

My room probably does not help at all with 12' ceilings, big open spaces, tile floors with one 12x12 area rug and leather furniture. Additional room treatments outside of possibly an area rug under the dining room table at the far end of the room are unlikely. See wife comment above.

Is it worth dropping money on either the Arcam or Emotiva setup?

Speaker changes are unlikely unless they would match the width of the LCR 6's for the front L&R. Center channel space is limited by the HDTV stand.

The Emotiva would allow me to run HDMI and clean up my cable runs a bit, though I do like the processing the OPPO does (over my last Blu Ray player).

Maybe I should just pay for better seats at the performing arts center?

Thanks for reading all this and I appreciate your help.
If you like the Rotel AVR, step it up to the 1098 model.
Otherwise, Classe' separates would work well w/ your gear.
Happy Listening.
I appreciate your goal and predicaments (W.A.F. and dimensions) I owned a set of the S2 B&W's for a long time and had a marantz sr7002 receiver. I took my wife speaker shopping with me. We went to Carolina Audio/ Ronnie's house and she was hooked. She bought me new speakers (yes she is a keeper)Carolina Audio SM3's. We are both very happy now and listen to music and/or watch tv through the SM's almost constantly when we are home. Electronics are important but speakers will almost always have the largest impact on the sound you hear. I encourage you to get your wife involved in your shopping. Ladies often have better hearing than men. Good luck with your quest or welcome to the crazy train.
I would avoid the Arcam 700. (I'm an Arcam dealer) the 700 was "glitchy" to say the least. People use them, and enjoy them, but its not your best bet. The P1000 is a nice amp. I'm not a fan of Emotiva. I would try to make a deal for the 1000, and look at something else for the pre/pro. Arcam AV8, or 9 would be better. The sunfire pre/pros can be had cheap, and sound great. ( I used to sell them, and still have one at home) A good AVR is another option. Arcam makes some that are in your price range, and would do well, as do others.
For that budget - and your constraint of only having room for one system - go with a good Integrated Amp that has HT Bypass to put together a hybrid system for movies that use your Rotel and a good int amp for music.
Thank you everyone for your respones.

One thing I am still trying to get my head around is outside of the amplifier improvements, what will I gain by doing this given that I am sending analog signals to the pre pro? Am I just fooling myself on a new pre pro and maybe should just get a better amp?

Zydo, thanks so much for the info on the Arcam. I had read some things about buzzing while switching inputs on the Arcam, and even sometimes when just changing channels on the Cable/Satellite box. I'll look at the AV8/9 prices and see if they fit in my budget.

Sunfire is an option as they seem to definitely fall in the price range. I'll look into them. Bob Carver is a legend and his stuff would meet the aesthetic WAF (so would McIntosh, but that's out of the budget by miles!).

I am trying to step away from the AVR route and go to separates.

Erikt: I'm not sure what the integrated amp buys me. Is it a better processing of my analog CD input? The Wadia input is analog too.

Thanks again all!
Yes an integrated amp with HT Bypass can be included in a single system with your AVR for both movies and music.

All of your analog source components would connect directly to the integrated amp - not the AVR.

A good integrated amp will have a better pre section than most AVRs.

I'm just tossing out ideas that would be cost effective given your budget.

If you are giving up on movies and want to get rid of your AVR and just want a music system - then more options are open to you - including separates.

But even here - a good integrated amp can get you more bang for the buck. However, you do give up flexibility in future upgrades if you want to change out the pre or amp.
I'm going to throw out some questions to you so that I can understand your situation better:

1) What are you doing with speaker placement? I mean with both the B&W and Velodyne subs. The lack of punch--especially if you are crossing over at 100--sounds to be like a speaker placement issue. Your Rotel model doesn't have room correction, so you may have some room issues.

2) 100 is a high crossover. I'm not super-familiar with your LRC setup, but if the speakers don't go down below 100, then my strong hunch is that the source of your 2-channel dissatisfaction is with your speakers and not your AVR.

3) If your room is as large as I think it is (can you confirm size and distance that you sit from the mains?), then I think your speakers simply cannot move enough air in your current space.

In my particular case, I was running Revel M22 for years paired with a Revel B15 sub (I'd use crossover settings between 80-50). They are absolutely fantastic speakers and a killer 2.1 channel setup for stereo. However, I too felt like I was missing something in stereo listening but had no complaints in 7.1 multichannel. When I spoke to a local dealer and a few others, they clued me into the fact that the speakers were likely too small for my setup--I'm in a large room and sit 14 feet from the speakers. Piano especially did not have the weight and depth that I know a "real" piano does.

I played with placement and that helped but I noticed that moving closer made a difference; however when I upgraded my speakers to full-range Revels, all that went away. Wow and I mean WOW what a difference. Now, I had speakers that were able to move enough air and really fill the room. 2-channel has never sounded better and I have absolutely no upgrade itch for the first time in years and years.

So, in your particular case, I have a funny feeling that the issues you are experiencing are a combination of placement and speaker model within your particular room environment and that by exploring those issues more, you may get closer to what you feel you are missing.
I'd also be concerned about the 100Hz setting on the sub (I think your B&Ws effectively go lower than that no?), and I agree playing with that and speaker/sub placement could help quite a bit. That alone could bring significant improvements if you haven't done so, and it's free. But I don't think it will address the image and tonal density issues you mention.

I doubt upgrading the pre/pro and amp will get you what you're looking for either. It may help improve some things, but for what you're looking for I'd start with the speakers. Either the B&W's character isn't giving you what you're looking for or they just simply can't move enough air to bring the weight of instruments/vocals into the room (I suspect a combination of both). A while back I had the opportunity to directly compare several B&W models (up to the 803s) to some competitors, and it was exactly in the areas of tonal expressiveness and weight in the lower mids that didn't let me feel the expressiveness and dynamic/tonal weight of the music as much -- I think similar to what you're experiencing. I'd highly recommend demoing some other speakers in your home and see if they provide more of what you're looking for, then at least you can be a little more confident in what you do next. Trying other brands, maybe smaller floorstanders if possible, or maybe something larger/further up the B&W line would provide some valuable perspective. Best of luck.
Thanks for the new replies. I understand the integrated amp approach better now.

Oddly enough, the office audiophile snapped to the subwoofer xover point, speaker placement, and speaker size issues just as two of you have. I will get some dimensions of the room and seating position for those who are still interested.

The frequency response specs on the B&W LCR6 S2 are 58-20k hz, if Mr. Google is to be believed. I'd have to check the manual when I get home to be sure. Let's assume it is correct and move on.

On the Rotel, I have the speakers set to small already. I guess the first thing that I should do is change the xover to 80hz (or should I set it at 60hz?). My audiofile co-worker suggested to also try turning off one of the subs to see if the subs are fighting each other or working together (phase issues).

If I see no improvement after doing the above, he recommended that I move the Rotel and 2 of the LCRs, one sub, and the Oppo into a smaller room in the house and see if the issue resolves itself. This goes straight to the speakers being too small for the room. While that would be a major PITA, I was about to embark on a cable tidy-up job on teh system in anticipation of a new HDTV joining the system during the super bowl sales. Besides, if I'm going to spend money, I ought to be sure I'm spending it on the right components. Besides, my wife is on travel this week so it is perfect timing! WAF issues avoided.

If I need to go to a larger speaker, he recommended looking closely at KEFs line. Whatever I do, it'll be a pre-loved speaker set that I buy as new isn't within the budget is my guess.

I have some speaker width limitations due to the media nook size and my new HDTV's width. I also have a potential problem with the fact that the nook is elevated ~18 inches so full sized speakers will have interesting placement issues...WAF does not allow placement of the speakers on the floor in front of the nook unfortunately. More challenges for me to provide to the group, I guess!

Thanks again for everyone's help!
Audio in a room can be complicated if you are trying to identify a certain something and debugging it takes time and a methodological approach. There are really no short cuts. Here is what i would do in your situation:

1) I'd use only a single subwoofer for now. If you haven't calibrated each sub and dealt with phase, etc. then disconnect one sub to make your debugging easier.

2) Absolutely deal with placement and focus on that. Start with the cutover of the sub(s) to be 80hz. That's a standard. You may not end up there, but start there for debugging purposes.

3) How close are your speakers to the back wall? How close to the side walls? Are you speakers PERFECTLY symmetrical with the listening position? Did you use a laser meter or a string to make sure you have both angle and distance correct?

4) Ideally, you want a few feet from the back wall and then again a few feet from the side wall. You can start with the rule of 1/3. Measure the width of the room and then place the first speaker 1/3 of the way so that you can minimize room modes and resonances. Then place the second speaker another 1/3 or 2/3 etc. \

5) You should play with your sub placement using the standard method--crawl method is simplest. Just know that with two subs, a simple rule of thumb is both along front wall between L&R speakers or to have them in the middle of opposing walls.

If I can please give you some advice to keep you sane: don't look to replace any equipment or upgrade any speakers. I have a very strong feeling you have setup and placement issues. Until you address those you have no real idea of strengths and weaknesses of the system. Upgrading equipment right now will NOT solve your problems--it will only frustrate you and cost you $$$. Remember, bad speaker placement will always make you feel like something is wanting or missing.

You really do have good speakers and good gear so you should be getting satisfying music out of the deal.
Ok, measured the room and the overall dimensions are 34'x34'x12'high. There is a full wall 15' back from the RF speaker that is 8' long (kitchen divide -- holds double ovens, cabinets, etc., etc.) but otherwise unbroken. Big volume to fill. However, the system sits to the very left of the room with only about 6' from the left wall when you fact the system. It's a big open area but the 'great room' is the left 2/3rds of the space. I can send pics to whoever wants to post an email address...

The media niche is a hole in the wall that is elevated 16" off the floor. It is 84" wide, 28" deep, and 66" high. Not ideal which will be reflected when I answer Internetmin's questions below... Excuse the noob responses.

1) As it turns out, I just realized that I'm not running any sub at all in 2-channel mode. Doh! One variable eliminated... I'll have to look at the Oppo's settings tomorrow and see what I've done here.

2) Will do. 80 hz it is as a starting point.

3) The speakers are 17" away from the back wall. That's as far out as I can get them. They are 6" away from the side wall, but the front of the speakers is in front of that side wall (by about 2" or so). The killer is the LF has a fireplace wall coming at a 135 angle towards the listening area so it has about 9" before it hits a nice hard tile surface.

You'll all love this as I've been told; "What you have done is wrong.": My LCR's sit directly on top of the Velodynes. Seemed like a great idea at the time and made a nice symmetrical looking set of speakers. There's a slim chance I could mount the subs elsewhere in the room, probably both to the RF and either stack them or have them side by side at floor level. Alternately I could cut some holes in the 16" raised area and put them facing out, though I'd have to cover said holes with some fabric that matches the wall paint...that could be tricky.

I have the speakers toed in, but it is by eye. I sit 15' back from the speakers. The tweeter in the LCRs (L&R) is 40" off the ground, very close to the height of my ears as I sit in my listening position.

4) My media niche dictates speaker placement quite a bit as you've read. The L&R speakers are 56" apart from the inside of each box as measured at the toed in front. I can move them wider apart, but the wall comes into play then. I really can't move them too much closer as the HDTV gets in the way, and I have a larger one in my future when the super bowl sales hit shortly...

5) I'll have to google those sub placement methods. Hopefully one corresponds to moving them both to an acceptable location given WAF issues. If I move them both to the right I can kinda/sorta have them hidden by a fabric covered chair and out of the way. That's a good thing, WAF-wise.

Thanks for the help. You've given me a lot to think about and try.

FWIW, I was just listening to Brickman's live "My Romance" CD. Track 13, "By Heart" sung by Anne Cochran is a favorite of my wife's, so I use it as a reference when I test things out. I'm going to put in Norah Jone's CD for another test. The OPPO really makes things come alive but I'm still wanting more. Hopefully some simple placement tricks will help.

However, I did stumble across some Aerial Acoustic 7B's that are in my price point and match the decor. I may even be able to audition them if things don't work out with placement tricks. Not sure they'll be matched to my center channel, but they sure get good reviews...
BTW: Thanks for your patience with me. I do appreciate that you could be listening to music instead of replying to my thread. Rest assured, I am listening to what you are trying to tell me and I will give things a try. Thanks again!
Lots to digest in what you wrote. But also lots of information. I'll try and give you some additional thoughts later, but not having the subs turned on is likely 50% or more of your issue in 2-channel--especially if you were crossing over at 100hz!!

Your room is also huge. I mean huge. Much larger than my space and I now have full range speakers.

If you can fool around with the speaker placement--getting those speakers to ear level and off from the subwoofers--I think the sonic difference you will soon experience will be nothing short of remarkable.

It's becoming clearer why you were dissatisfied (and rightfully so) but the good news is you likely may not need to invest in any new equipment to get extreme satisfaction with what you have.
I fixed the crossover issue, now setting it at 60 db (on the receiver, dvd player, and on the back of the subs themselves). Is 60hz too low? I can easily set it to 80hz.

I also worked a bit on speaker placement. This has helped a bit. I need to do more listening.

Getting the speakers off the subs will take some time as I need to find stands that will work. Maybe I'll just build them out of some sign board I have (leftover from a garage cabinet build this past summer), fill them with sand, and cover them with some dense fabric or acoustic foam and fabric. Goodness knows I could use some softer materials in the listening area.

I thought the room size would cause a few jaw drops. It's an odd layout, but we like the openess of the house. I give credit to Rotel and B&W (and velodyne) as my system doesn't suck in this sizeable space. However, like many of us, I'm looking for more.

When you say "get the speakers to ear level", I'm a bit confused. The LCRs have a driver on each side of the center mounted tweeter (one above the tweeter, one below it for the L&R F channels, one on either side for the C channel as that speaker has to lay on the long side on the shelf directly under the HDTV). The tweeters are currently almost exactly at my ear level when I'm listening. Where should they be? Maybe the description in my previous post was confusing.
The height of the speaker's tweeter should be (generally speaking) at the level of your ear when you are seated. So it sounds like you nailed it. There some exceptions to this rule with tower speakers, however, where some have the tweeter higher than the listening position, but they have tuned the system to take this into consideration (Wilson jumps to mind as an example).

Try putting a string at your listening position and then measure that distance to your center channel (or one of the other speakers) and then take that string and measure each speaker. Basically, the string should touch in the exact same place on each speaker (front, center of baffle). If it doesn't then your speaker distances are off and that too will cause imaging issues.

A simple practice to get that accurate is to put a piece of tape on the carpet in right in front of your center channel (assuming center channel is directly in front of listening position). Then you measure from that piece of tape both left and right an equal distance to make sure that your L and R speakers are at the appropriate angle from your chair.

Then, take a laser level or laser meter and put it on top of the speaker and then toe in the speaker until it hits a specific spot on your listening chair. often you will find one speaker is not in alignment with another, another speaker is pointing UP more than the other, or any other oddity that only a laser can show. It will take you 15-30 minutes to do all that, but it will nail imaging and soundstage, etc. If your speakers are not in perfect alignment, the illusion of the stereo image will degrade.

Some will argue (and it's personal preference) that toe in should not be so harsh. If that's your preference then put a white board on a stand about 5-8 feet behind your listening position and then put a cross-hair target on it that you will try and use to level and aim both speakers. Remember, speaker leveling you should use a bubble level meter first. Otherwise, you cannot ensure which speaker is level and which one is not.

You might want to purchase GET BETTER SOUND by Jim Smith. it has lots of tips and tricks in there on how to properly setup and align your speakers.

There are also lots of free sites and articles online on or, etc. Wilson audio also has their method for setting up their Wilson speakers which also works well for any other model
Internetmin: Thanks for the tips. It appears I have a weekend project to complete!

I have the Smith book in my "wish list" on Amazon (there's a DVD option too...I might buy that instead as I'm a visual learner).

I did some more listening last night and I believe that some of my "complaints" are due to the specific discs I'm listening to.

For instance, on the basis of some feedback on 'best blu-ray concert dvds, I bought Botti, Adele, and Rush (snakes and arrows) concert blu-rays. It helps I'm a fan of all three, but I'm a huge Rush fan. Turns out, I like the Rush DVD the least of all three. The sound is harsh and disjointed on my system. Depressed, I put in Botti. Awesome sound. Hmmm, that's interesting...Ok, Adele hit the player last night. Again, awesome sound. All 3 have DTS 5.1 decoding. Playing Rush on Dolby stereo helped quite a bit, but it wasn't nearly as good as the Botti or Adele discs. I then remembered that I had Henley's the end of the innocence DTS5.1 audio disc that I rarely play. I put it in and hated it (explains why I rarely play it). Put in Henley's CD and all was well with the world again.

Can the sound engineers really mess things up that much? All decoding was done on the Oppo 95 and fed analog into the multi input (DVDs) or CD analog inputs.
Nice to meet a fellow-Rush fan! I strongly suggest you try and pickup the Rush BluRay. I think that will give you a good reference disk to test out your system with. As with anything, source makes all the difference.

If you really want to test your system then you need both a good two-channel disk and a good multi-channel. If you can get a hold of Star Wars Episode III play the introductory scene. Lots of aggressive use and panning of surrounds and detailed ambiance. At the end of all the Star Wars Blurays is a DTS demo. Each disk has a different demo but it's nice to hear your system kick it up a notch. You cannot access that DTS demo directly on any disc. You must watch the end of the credits and then it kicks in.
Which Rush Blu-Ray? I have Snakes and Arrows and it sounded quite iffy on my system. Adele and Botti's were 100x better.
Update: I ordered some VTI speaker stands here on Audiogon. Once they arrive, I'll move the subs and see how things change. Should be interesting to hear the results.
So I have had some time to digest the differences with the speakers up on the VTI (unfilled) stands and the subwoofers in two different configurations. I now have the crossover for the sub and front speakers at 80hz.

So far I like what I'm hearing and there is a bit more presence to the music. I believe that the soundstage placement is better, though still not as deep or open as I'd like. I'll have to see what else I can do without some $$ investment in an integrated amp or larger front speakers. Would bi-amping the fronts do any good (i.e., buy a 6 or 7 channel amp to bi-amp the front three speakers? My receiver has pre-outs so this is technically possible. Maybe just a good integrated amp to handle the front 2 is a better idea (as has been suggested).

Moving the subs was a good idea too as the low frequencies are less directional now. In configuration one, I moved the subs to the right off the media nook riser. I stacked them in order to get more of a point source. Bass was larger and stronger, but I didn't like the look or the preciseness of the bass. Configuration two left the bottom sub where it was and moved the top sub to the far left (off the media nook riser) and at a 90 degree angle to the right hand sub. The bass level descreased, but the preciseness improved. Maybe the level was more 'boominess' than anything else? Is having the subs at a 90 degree firing angle from each other a bad idea? I can turn the left one to face forward instead of across the room (haven't tried that yet -- ran out of time this weekend).

Thanks again for the help!
switch the internal x-over to direct on the back of your subs (You already set the crossover in your player & avr).
Good to hear you've noticed some improvements in trying different speaker positions and subwoofer settings. Sounds like you've also started to identify the difference between more bass and better bass in the process. If possible, try pulling the front L/R speakers out another two feet or so and place the subs just inside each speaker stand (you obviously don't need to leave them there, but it could prove very instructive). If u can do this u might get a good boost in depth and perceived transparency as room boundaries are more removed from muddying up the sound. If this really helps you know where a lot of your problem lies. If not, I think ur wasting ur time with bi-amping, etc. and it's time to start auditioning some new (or used) speakers to get you what you are looking for. This does not necessarily mean larger or even more expensive speakers, but rather some that provide better imaging and some more oomph in the lower mids and upper bass to provide some of the image density you seem to be lacking now.

Sounds like floorstanders could be problematic if the tweeters would be higher than ear level. Probably better to stick with monitors. Hope this helps.
Soix has given you some good advice here. Biamping with your speakers and your setup will give you no audible benefit. In fact, you'd be better off spending that money to have a pro come and setup and tune your system. The allure of new equipment can be incredibly tempting; however, in your situation, don't listen to thing like cable upgrades or exotic tweaks. From what you've consistently described, I think you have a speaker setup issue. Until you get that really nailed down, you'll be wasting a lot of money and never happy.

To your point about imaging, did you use the laser or the string method I previously mentioned? It still sounds to me like your speakers are not in proper alignment with each other and with your listening position.
Imhififan: I have set the crossover switch on the subs to direct. However, at the very start of all this it was not set to direct so your point is well taken.

Soix: I will try the speaker and sub placement issues you described.

Internetmin: I did use laser alignment, trying two different "sweet spot" locations. One at my position on the couch and then a different setup with the sweet spot about 6-8 feet behind the center of the couch.

I liked the less direct sweet spot (i.e., the second one) a bit better, but I don't remember why (I did it a couple of weeks ago -- things are starting to blur -- I need to write this stuff down!).

I'll keep trying these tweaks and see which helps.

Thanks again everyone!
I moved the subs back to right in front of the L&R speakers.

I haven't done too much listening yet, but for a movie it was better than having them spaced wide.

This week I'll have more time to do some listening. We'll see what happens.
Look into room correction. Outside of speakers and placement this can have the biggest impact on sound from my experience. There are several good systems available which are integrated into many popular avrs/prepros.
Robr45: Room correction is something I've wondered about. My room is an odd duck, no doubt.

However, thanks to a lot of the advice here, I have had some good experiments this past week.

Subs are now in the front again, right in front of my speaker stands (though the WAF is low on this).

I did spend some $ on one 'tweak', if you will. I put the speakers, subs, receiver, dvd/cd player, and dvr on sorbothane hemispheres. These seemed to help. I didn't do a/b comparisons on each component, but rather did them pretty much all at once.

With the speaker stands and speaker aiming, sub placement, and sorbothane isolators, the soundstage has opened up and the midrange has emerged a bit more. Instrument placement is better (listening to Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis" right now). Vocals are better placed. It's still not as good as I would like, but it is definitely better.
Well, I think we have found part of the problem... I went to my Ear/Nose/Throat Dr. as I've had some tinnitus issues that have been getting a bit worse. He ran me through the hearing tests and the results showed a big loss at 4k hz and it goes on until about 12k hz if I read the chart right. Classic hearing loss probably caused by some of my activities in my 20-40 year old range.

Oh well...I still have made improvements in the sound of the room, so that's good.
Update time!

Ignoring the group's collective judgement (naturally...), I went out and purchased some new pieces for my HT.

I recently picked up a used Arcam P1000 (135w x 7) amp from an awesome Audiogoner! Right now I'm using the pre-outs on my Rotel receiver going into the P1000 w/some run of the mill RCA interconnects. It opened the soundstage up a bit and has a more 'airy' sound to it, so that makes me excited about the next part that should arrive on Friday...

Friday I should receive a new Marantz AV8801 pre/pro from Audiogoner Steve at Sound Video in Minnesota. I chose this pre/pro over others (Integra/Onkyo, Denon, etc., etc.) due to a number of reasons (including the dreaded wife acceptance factor), but mostly for the XT32 and the bass management features (remember, I have dual subs in my awkwardly large, asymetrical, 'lively' room). The Stereophile review didn't hurt either. I decided to get something it the XT32 after playing around with an earlier version of the Audessey software in a car stereo application. The processed vs. unprocessed comparisons (and graphs) are eye-popping and ear awakening in their differences. Really amazing change.

I'll use some balanced interconnects for the pre/pro to amp connection, and run HDMI cables from the Oppo 95 and the DirecTV DVR to the 8801, then from the 8801 to my Sony Bravia IV HDTV (hopefully to be replaced by the new Samsung Plasma, but likely not until the Black Friday sales).

Depending on how much XT32 affects the sound, I may run 2 ch analog out from the Oppo 95 and play though the direct mode on the Marantz. Afterall, the Sabre DACs should be better than the Marantz's or I wasted a lot of money getting the 95 over the 93! I'll defnitely try it with my best RCA cables just to see...

I also bought some XLR to RCA subwoofer cables that are long enough so that I can move my subs to less visually prominent location (WAF strikes again). We shall see how that works too. the Audessey bass management will really help here is my guess.

Next up I believe the weakest (easily changeable) link to be my speakers, but that's going to take some time to get my audio fund restored to a level that will support the kind of speakers I would like to get.

I will keep you posted on the results once things settle in a bit. Thanks again for the setup tips and all the suggestions. I will still implement the speaker aiming tricks as I go forward.