lower volume system

Highway 8

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Nov 6, 2010
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Hi,

I need advice for buying a new system, and one for lower volume levels. Unfortunately I had a serious hearing injury a few years ago and can't listen to anything too loud. But I enjoy music and want to get good sound if possible.

Are there any special considerations, such as the amount of watts per channel in an amp, or speaker design or type, that will be better optimized for a lower volume system? Or doesn't it matter?

Originally was planning to get a bookshelf all-in-one system, but thought separates would sound better. My budget is about a thousand pounds, and I live in the states, so some of the review recommendations here are not available where I live.

The Yamaha a-s500 got good reviews here. Will that be too much power to listen to at lower volumes and still have good sound? Yamaha also has the r-s500, and r-s700 that have a tuner inside - will there be better sound quality getting the separate amp (a-s500) and tuner, or doesn't it matter at this price level?

Any adice would be appreciated. Thanks!
 

Andrew Everard

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May 30, 2007
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I think the Yamaha amp would be an excellent choice in your circumstances, not least because its variable loudness control will enable you to compensate for the losses at the frequency extremes all amplifiers demonstrate when playing at low levels.

We haven't tested the receivers: don't think they're sold in the UK.
 

DavieCee

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Aug 19, 2010
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I have my HiFi in shared building accomodation so most of my listening is at low levels. When looking, I was told that high power amps will drive speakers better at low levels although that may have been sales schpeel so anyone wanting to contradict, go ahead.

My Roksan K2 set up at 150 watts backs it up though and delivers a full sound all the way down the volume range. Outside your budget but lets you know not to worry about too much power.
 

Sizzers

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Jun 20, 2008
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Andrew Everard:
I think the Yamaha amp would be an excellent choice in your circumstances, not least because its variable loudness control will enable you to compensate for the losses at the frequency extremes all amplifiers demonstrate when playing at low levels.

Could I ask what a variable loudness control is please? Only ever known it as a button to press!
 
A

Anonymous

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DavieCee:
I have my HiFi in shared building accomodation so most of my listening is at low levels. When looking, I was told that high power amps will drive speakers better at low levels although that may have been sales schpeel so anyone wanting to contradict, go ahead.

My Roksan K2 set up at 150 watts backs it up though and delivers a full sound all the way down the volume range. Outside your budget but lets you know not to worry about too much power.

I was told years ago that a lower powered, good quality amp was better for lower listening levels, ie class a amplification, think the reason was because when the amp is turned on then it is giving 100% at any level rather than opening up the music the louder it gets. I may be wrong, but thats what i was told.
 

Andrew Everard

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Sizzers:Could I ask what a variable loudness control is please? Only ever known it as a button to press!

The Yamaha has a system whereby you set the volume level to the maximum you're likely to want, then use the variable loudness control to turn the level down to the required listening level. As you turn down it applies increasing amounts of bass boost/treble lift to compensate for the lower level of playback.
 

drummerman

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The first one or two watts is what most people use to listen to music. Thats unfortunately also where transistor amplifiers measure not so well.
 

proffski

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Dec 11, 2008
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You are talking "Fletcher-Munson" curves which refer to the ears non linear auditory response to different frequencies and amplitude levels.

Loudness contouring attempted to correct the anomaly with varying levels of success. I remember many so called Hi-Fi enthusiasts having these on all the time at all levels including parties, with in many cases predictable consequences!
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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drummerman:The first one or two watts is what most people use to listen to music. Thats unfortunately also where transistor amplifiers measure not so well.
In which case, maybe the Yamaha A-S500 and a pair of Spendor S3/5Rs (or similar) could work. The inefficency of the speakers (84db) making the amp work harder even at lower volumes.

Given the nature of this request, maybe the smoother, 'laid back' character of the Yamaha A-S700 (or R-S700) would be more appropriate.

Sorry I can't think of any small, good quality, inefficient, loudspeakers cheaper than the S3/5Rs that are available in the USA.
 

Sizzers

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Jun 20, 2008
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Andrew Everard:
Sizzers:Could I ask what a variable loudness control is please? Only ever known it as a button to press!

The Yamaha has a system whereby you set the volume level to the maximum you're likely to want, then use the variable loudness control to turn the level down to the required listening level. As you turn down it applies increasing amounts of bass boost/treble lift to compensate for the lower level of playback.

Thanks for that. I have to use such measures for late night listening; sounds a great idea, but how does it work in practice?
 

Andrew Everard

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You set the control to 'flat', crank up the main volume level to the kind of setting where the amp is doing its best work - around the 10 o'clock/12 o'clock mark, I've found - then wind the level back down with the variable loudness control.

I thought it worked rather well: there was more life to music doing it this way than simply running the amp at low volume settings.
 

drummerman

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Highway 8:

... Originally was planning to get a bookshelf all-in-one system, but thought separates would sound better. My budget is about a thousand pounds, and I live in the states, so some of the review recommendations here are not available where I live. ...

Many a moon ago I had one of the first Denon micro systems of the current DM series in the bedroom and it sounded very good for the money so I wouldn't dismiss the likes out of hand. There is, I believe, a new one coming out which adds streaming etc to it's already good facilities. Perhaps worth a look if you want simplicity.

Then there are valve amplifiers like the ones from icon audio http://www.audioaffair.co.uk/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=1400 just to give an example, which, if they sound anything like as good as the one I had, should be very satisfying at lower levels, with all the 'micro dynamics' (sorry, stupid hifi talk) or little clues within the music intact. More involved but perhaps more rewarding and then there's pride of ownership. These glowing bottles look nice in a dimmed room ...
 

Sizzers

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Thanks again, certainly sounds a pretty good system. Shame I'm not looking for one, though.
 

chebby

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There is also the Arcam Solo-Mini (it has tone controls available via the remote) which - if partnered with a decent pair of £250 bookshelf speakers - would fit the budget.

The usual arguments about it's 25 watts per channel don't apply here so it could be ideal.

I used to use it (very satisfactorily) at moderate - low volumes.
 

Sizzers

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chebby:
There is also the Arcam Solo-Mini (it has tone controls available via the remote) which - if partnered with a decent pair of £250 bookshelf speakers - would fit the budget.

The usual arguments about it's 25 watts per channel don't apply here so it could be ideal.

I used to use it (very satisfactorily) at moderate - low volumes.

Almost wish I'd gone down that route. Saves all the chopping and changing and faffing about! lol
 
A

Anonymous

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Sizzers:Andrew Everard:

Sizzers:Could I ask what a variable loudness control is please? Only ever known it as a button to press!

The Yamaha has a system whereby you set the volume level to the maximum you're likely to want, then use the variable loudness control to turn the level down to the required listening level. As you turn down it applies increasing amounts of bass boost/treble lift to compensate for the lower level of playback.

Thanks for that. I have to use such measures for late night listening; sounds a great idea, but how does it work in practice?

I haven't heard the A-S500, but I have owned a Yamaha AX-492: a fairly high powered (2x90 watts or thereabouts) amp with variable loudness. Did a lot of late night, low volume listening with it and I'd say it performed very well. I can't comment on Chebby's call for inefficient speakers. I used them with my Elacs (88 dB).

The Yamaha was one of the few amps I had that had absolutely no problems with channel imbalance at low volume levels. This is something for you to be aware of: even my otherwise excellent Rega Brio suffered from this. A cd-player wit variable output is a way to work around it.

Hope this helps,

Jack
 

Highway 8

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I appreciate all the good information. Andrew, it sound like the a-s500 is the way to go, given the loudness control. Still unsure whether more or less watts in an amp makes a difference as far as sound quality at lower levels, but maybe the loudness control solves that. Some of the other suggestions were good, like a tube amp, but first I'll see how the Yamaha works and can always upgrade.

With the all-in-one, I didn't mention that reliability is high on the list as I do noise therapy for hours a day to increase my sound tolerance, and separates will be easier to deal with if there is a malfunction (a broken cd player won't put the whole system out of business).

With the speakers, how will the inefficiency have a bearing? Are there speaker specs or types that would be favorable to good sound at lower volumes?

Jack, I'm concerned about the channel imbalance that you mentioned. I had Denon's flagship receiver in the early 90's and one channel wasn't audible, or even, until it was turned up a little. Hopefully that won't happen with the a-s500.

For the CD player I'm considering the Marantz cd5004. Would that be a good match with the a-s500? Both of the lower priced NAD's available in the US have good reviews for sound, but mixed reliability reports. The Yamaha cd-s700 had mixed reviews here. The 80's retro looks speak to me though. :)

Anyway, thanks for all the help.
 

chebby

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Highway 8:For the CD player I'm considering the Marantz cd5004. Would that be a good match with the a-s500? Both of the lower priced NAD's available in the US have good reviews for sound, but mixed reliability reports. The Yamaha cd-s700 had mixed reviews here. The 80's retro looks speak to me though. :)

Why not get the matching Yamaha CD-S300 that is either just in the shops now (or will be very soon)?

Some places in the UK already have it in stock, and it costs a lot less than the CD-S700
 

Highway 8

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Chebby, the CD-S300 is not available in the states, but the CD-S300-RK (rack version) is. Does anyone know if the clips with the holes on the right and left side (looking at front) on the rackamount version are removable? Can they be unscrewed? Are they removable from other Yamaha rack-units? I called Yamaha and nobody seemed to know on the phone. See photo: http://www.yamahaproaudio.com/products/cd_players/cd_s300rk/img/index_ph_ci_01.jpg

Would the RK version sound the same as the CD-S300? I would think so.

One other question. Given that I will be listening at lower volumes, am I better off getting lower speaker sensitivity, so that the amp can be turned up more for a given volume, or will it make no difference whatsoever in sound quality. The speakers I am planning to get have a 90db sensitivity. Should I get lower sensitivity or won't it matter much?

Lastly, I'm going to get the a-s500 amp. Just out of curiosity, since I will be listening at lower volumes, does the quality of the amp make that much difference in the sound when drawing so little power or watts?

Thanks!

Ralph
 

Blackdawn

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May 7, 2010
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I wouldn't worry about which speaker you go for. In the end the Yam has enough power to pretty much all HiFi speakers. Buy what speakers appeal in terms of size, quality of sound and looks. Are your ears susceptible to low or high frequencies noise or is it just total volume? Depending on your answer this will make a large difference as to what speakers you eventually go for.
 

Blackdawn

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Also it varies between amps whether the music sounds good at low volumes but has a lot to do with the speakers. I would go for efficient speakers which reach their optimum output quicker for a given wattage.
 
A

Anonymous

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Highway 8:

Lastly, I'm going to get the a-s500 amp. Just out of curiosity, since I will be listening at lower volumes, does the quality of the amp make that much difference in the sound when drawing so little power or watts?

In my experience most amps manage to sound at least decent with the volume turned up; at low levels I feel fewer amps get it right. That's why I always insist on listening at very low levels when auditioning. So imho: yes, it does make a difference.
 

Highway 8

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Nov 6, 2010
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blackdawn, my goal is to get stereo sound which covers the frequency spectrum pretty evenly from low to high. Although my hearing is sensitve to higher frequency, which is typical for an acoustic trauma, my overall sound tolerance is quite low. So speakers with higher sensitivity (say 90db) will be better for lower volumes I take it?

Also does anyone know whether the brackets are removable from the Yamaha CD-S300 RK (rack version). Are these brackets generally removable? My last post has more detail about this question.

appreciate all the help.
 

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