Question AVR and Stereo AMP - what would you recommend?

DenvanG

Active member
Dec 30, 2019
3
1
25
Hi all - I've entered the maze that is called 'creating a new set-up'. For me this involves an AVR and a quest for better stereo sound. The puzzle includes budget decisions, choises regarding system matching and input management etc. however, they forgot to give me a map, so I hope you could guide me a bit and give your opinion... Let me fill you in:

Current system:
- Denon 1909 AVR (has HDMI, does not have pre-outs)
- Denon PMA700 (50W) integrated stereo AMP amplifying the phono source, RCA connected to the AVR.
- Dali 104 front-speakers (connected to AVR)
- B&W 560 back-speakers (connected to AVR)
- The AVR connects HDMI sources (TV/PS4/chromecast), streaming audio (chromecast music optical) and line-in.
- I currently have the Dali speakers coupled directly to the PMA700 which means that I miss the surround sound.

Desire:
- Keep the/an AVR (which provides surround, but is also a nice piece to connect HDMI sources etc.).
- Upgrade stereo amplifier and (front) speakers to provide more depth, warmth and volume for high quality sources and record player (LP).
- I am looking for Dali Oberon 5/7 type/price range for speakers.
- I want to invest in the stereo system - I can combine this with an older 2nd/hand AVR (with sufficient quality for surround).
- Upgradability.
- An to be honest: improve looks.

Challenges/Questions:
- budget 3000 euros (with some margin)
- I am wondering how to skip the DAC of the AVR for high-end audio sources - since the pre-out will not do this.
- Is an integration solution such as the NEC368 sufficient? Or would you recommend a separate DAQ?
- I want to be able to use the front speakers as part of the surround. I figure this would be possible by selecting a pre-out of the AVR as input source when using the front speakers for AVR.

Options:
- NEC368 optically connected to streamer(s) and phono source
- Oberon 7 Dali speakers (connected to NEC or course)
- Keep on using the B&W560 as rear (AVR connected)
- Upgrade Denon (something like AVR4xxx) with pre-out for front speakers.
This would seem to give me a high(er)-end stereo system with a lot of flexibility in terms of expandability (NEC can be bridged and expanded), while the AVR can be replaced and the side/rear/'speakers at other crazy locations' can be added.

Alternatives:
- With a separated DAC (even more flexibility) - but is this possible/worth it?
- Other amplifier?

Thank you in advance for any feedback, recommendations and the time to read through the story above. Best regards, Dennis
 

Tonestar1

Moderator
Nov 4, 2008
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I think you are going to have to bite the bullet and replace the AVR, that central to everything. AV amps have came a long way in the last 10 years and the quality for stereo may surprise you, the 4500 should compete if not beat your current PMA700 which was a budget offering back in it's day. Even look at a higher end AVR such as Arcam which are known for there musical ability. You may find you don't need an extra box for stereo at all.
I wouldn't bother going down the separate DAC route till you improve your amplification first and see if you find anything lacking.
 
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chris661

Well-known member
Oct 30, 2019
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Yeah, a higher-end AVR seems like the way to do this - there are work-arounds (including feeding an integrated HiFi amp from the receiver's pre outputs), but they're exactly that: work-arounds. That example would mean you're cascading two volume controls, which is messy and involves two remotes etc etc.

In my experience, it's always best to keep a system as easy-to-use as possible. Otherwise, it never gets used.

A high-end AVR will do what you're after, and be easy to use. Seems like a winner to me.

Chris
 
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DenvanG

Active member
Dec 30, 2019
3
1
25
Thanks for the feedback! (I also look forward to your addition insider9 ;)

I will be sure to keep the Dali 104's in any case - perhaps they can serve as rearguard.

I was under the impression that any amp would give an av receiver a run for it's money (music wise) ? Even if a 4xxx or 5xxx series beats the PMA700.

So that is why is was mainly looking into a replacement for the PMA700 (which is only 50W) and have high quality music input directly (or via dac) coupled to that (which seems simple enough). The AVR will then mainly serve the tv/PlayStation. I understand the cascading of systems is not the most practical (tnx Chris!) - but this could be a compromise to ensure high quality stereo and a well sounding surround solution?

As tonestar mentions; dac may come later after improving amplification. Still, this seems a baseline choise as I would not consider the NEC with external dac.
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
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Ok, here's my take. Since I'm not drunk yet 😂 2 hours to go 🤣

I'd keep Dali 104 speakers. Love Dali sound and these are superb. Had a pair and they thrive on good amplification. Heard them upgraded at a low cost on the end of £15k worth of electronics and was floored by the sound.

My advice would be in line with the above. Good high quality AVR. Arcam with built in Dirac live and you'll be stunned how much more you'll get out of both your speakers and your room. I've listened to Epicons on the end of said Arcam and was really impressed.

Oh and happy new year!!!
 
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Esra

Well-known member
Feb 20, 2011
59
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As a first step try more with the setup of your AVR and speaker positions as there are a lot of possibilities to tune in maybe the right sound for you and your AVR should be plenty enough for your speakers without the PMA 700.

More invasive options.Since speakers and Preamp-section /Dac make the most for sound if the amp is not total crap upgrading to a better stereo-integrated preferable with an integrated dac you like and with pass through for your AVR (the less equipment the better) and connecting all sources to the stereo would help most on the hardware side for stereo or/(and) change your front speakers from which you would benefit most if you desire an other sound .Better hardware like a "better" stereo or AVR would help to get most of your speakers but not change sound signature dramatically like other speakers and speaker positioning/room optimisation.
 
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chris661

Well-known member
Oct 30, 2019
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So that is why is was mainly looking into a replacement for the PMA700 (which is only 50W) and have high quality music input directly (or via dac) coupled to that (which seems simple enough). The AVR will then mainly serve the tv/PlayStation. I understand the cascading of systems is not the most practical (tnx Chris!) - but this could be a compromise to ensure high quality stereo and a well sounding surround solution?
Are you finding 50w to be insufficient? Remember, doubling the amplifier power only gets you a +3dB change in volume level - hardly worth dropping a load of cash for. If you want a useful change in SPL, 4x the power gets you +6dB (sounds like half as loud again) and 10x the power gets you +10dB (sounds like twice as loud).


My previous HiFi system involved an active crossover and full tri-amping with a stack of amplifiers. It sounded great, and it was borderline impossible to use - there was a particular power-up sequence to follow, etc etc. Even once it was operational, it was clunky to use. Average Joe would've had no chance.
The result, I noticed, was that when I was sitting on my laptop, I was playing music through the laptop's built-in speakers most of the time - the HiFi that I'd put so much time and effort into was standing silent. What's the point in having that?

So, I dismantled it and started again. I made the sources and amplifier as simple as possible, and then I designed and built some speakers that would sound great when driven with a normal amplifier (ie, not requiring 6x amplifier channels and digital processing). The result is that the new HiFi gets used for several hours per day, even when it's just my partner in the house.

You're at the junction in those two paths, and I really hope you pick the sensible option.

Chris
 
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DenvanG

Active member
Dec 30, 2019
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Thanks for the replays and the time! Btw; have a great sounding 2020.

Couple of key takeaways for me so far: keep it simple, DO NOT toss the Dali 104s out, an improved AVR seems the most sensible solution (with sepperate dac as least sensible at the moment).

Since I am amazingly stobborn, and since I cannot get the 'integrated amp' solution out of my head I am gonna run into the local hifi dealer and listen to a more advanced avr (Denon 4500H, see if they have an Arcam) and compare it with the NAD-C368 and Denon 1600NE.

The front speakers / Stereo speakers I will replace (no I will not toss out the 104's). However I can do it in steps - 1st the amplification upgraden.
 
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Samd

Well-known member
Mar 6, 2013
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I am biased (sorry very biased) but if you can add an Anthem AVR to your trial list, I'm sure you will be impressed. Anthem Room Correction (free) is also highly rated.
 
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scene

Moderator
Sep 25, 2008
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I agree with the above. A good AVR amp will have pretty good stereo. A really good AVR amp (like an Arcam with Dirac, as suggested) will have really good stereo. OK you could probably get better stereo from a standalone hifi integrated amp, but it all gets to be a terrible faff (or as Chris661 put it - borderline impossible to use :) )
I compromised and went for the SR7009 as my AV amp as it had pretty good stereo.
I kept my A85 for specific stereo duties, but as a separate system.
 

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