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After major disappointment with audio of ARCAM Sr-250 AVR, & similar disappointments reading terrible measurements on AVRs, what do I turn to for TV s

Echolane

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i am horribly disappointed in the audio of my AVR, an Arcam SR-250. It’s muddy sounding and unmusical and I’m a music lover that spends about 75% of the time listening to music via Roon or QOBUZ or DVD rather than watching TV. The Arcam is almost six years old now and it went down just past its five year warranty. Im not inclined to have it repaired. I came here hoping to find a replacement AVR but was disappointed to see how bad they were measuring. I turned to SSPs or Pre-Pros which are reported to be better sounding and was about to buy the Marantz SR-7705 when I saw the perfectly dreadful measurements. Where to go from here?

I have five video sources, one more than my TV will accomodate. Plus I think TVs are clumsy at switching and access to HDMI sockets on wall mounted TVs like mine are nearly impossible to reach if something needs attention or I need to make a change. So I’ve always been lusting after an AVR. I finally bought the ARCAM SR-250. It’s a two channel AVR which I chose deliberately because I have zero interest in surround sound. I don’t watch the kind of movies where surround sound is featured, and besides that as I said before, I am a music lover, especially I like opera and classical music and I listen to music most of the time via Roon or DVD. All this is to say I like really good quality audio.

to get around the bad audio on the Arcam I unboxed my vintage Pioneer SX-1050 Stereo Receiver. It had been stored in my closet for about 30 years. I ran RCA composite cables between all my video sources to the Pioneer and voila! I got excellent audio! The Arcam is now just an expensive video switcher and now that the Arcam is down, I bought a cheap 5x1 HDMI switch to replace it and I am getting by this way, but I worry that this cheap little switch will fail. The reviews on Amazon are pretty bad. And I also am wondering if I am transferring noise and distortion to my music Via that cheap little switch,

So to my point: Are there any surround sound processors (Pre-Pros) that have decent audio? If not, am I missing something else I could be doing? My vintage Pioneer is actually working quite well but it has some limitations, it has no remote control, it is shy one audio input for my needs and it is too big to fit in a compartment on my video console, I’ll probably keep it anyway, but I’d sure like something to replace that little HDMI switch.

Video sources:
DISH Hopper DVR
Oppo USP-205 DVD
Roku Streamer (plus added gadget to strip off audio from HDMI and route it to Pioneer)
Pioneer Elite CLD-99 Laser Disc (Requires S-video or component cables)
Panasonic VHS Player (Requires component cables)

7135CF81-E54F-40D5-87F8-9E4A59F5866D.jpeg
 

tifune

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If you're using pre-outs, any current gen Denon is more than adequate. Next step up is Monolith HTP-1, mostly because of Dirac rather than features or fidelity. Shame the bass management is yet another $500 beyond that because the cost was already unreasonable to begin with.

Your BDP-205 is an excellent 2ch device, any reason you don't just stick with that if your primary focus is music? If memory serves it has a few inputs, including 1 for native Roku support.
 

ZolaIII

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Well there is always an Optical Toslink out from TV (or HDMI switch with audio extractor) as an option (to a DAC or Amp with DAC). It also has it's limitations (compressed DTS, 192 KHz 24 bit and cetera) and it's old but it still works good. But again you will be hard limited with what does the TV do with audio signal (DSP, resampling, down mixing and cetera).
Problem is that a big industrial players are lagging behind when it comes to DAC and DSP integration. The Chinese don't make Dolby integration (probably because West doesn't want to provide them with IP) and traditional PC audio card market is also down (which whose a lot more advanced than AVR's in the past).
 

jitl

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a cheap 5x1 HDMI switch to replace it and I am getting by this way, but I worry that this cheap little switch will fail. The reviews on Amazon are pretty bad. And I also am wondering if I am transferring noise and distortion to my music Via that cheap little switch,
You shouldn't have to worry about electrical noise or distortion from the cheap HDMI switch, like you might worry about hearing an analog component's power supply noise. But HDMI is a complex technology and I don't understand it enough to say for sure. I suggest giving this article by Amir a read-over:

My vintage Pioneer is actually working quite well but it has some limitations, it has no remote control, it is shy one audio input for my needs and it is too big to fit in a compartment on my video console
If you can get all of your inputs' audio and video connected into your TV (how are you doing that today?), then you should be able to run just a single output from the TV to your Pioneer or whatever analog amp system you have in the future, although Zolalll makes a good point here:
But again you will be hard limited with what does the TV do with audio signal (DSP, resampling, down mixing and cetera).

If you do want to use your TV itself as the muxer, you may have RCA, Toslink, SPDIF, or HDMI ARC output from your TV. Which to chose?
  • RCA or headphones out of your TV would be controlled by your TV's volume settings, but many newer TVs don't offer these outputs anymore, and the DAC quality can be limited.
  • Among the digital audio outputs common on TVs, SPDIF offers the best quality (per Armin's recommendations in the HDMI deep dive). But, neither SPDIF or Toslink are typically controlled by your TV's volume control.
  • If your TV offers HDMI ARC out, that signal will contain both digital audio and HDMI-CEC volume control commands, so a compatible HDMI ARC audio extractor might provide an avenue for volume controlled output that lets you use your TV or Roku remote to adjust an analog audio signal.
    • There's a cheap $28 Tendak ARC Audio Extractor that fits the bill on Amazon, but reviewers complain about hearing the power supply, and only supports PCM/LPCM audio.
    • There's also the $188 shArc eARC Audio Converter which claims to support more formats. I ordered one of these but it hasn't arrive yet. The seller is very responsive via email and was happy to customize firmware to fit my use-case.
But really given your requirements and varied input sources, it seems like you should just get a standard AVR and use it's pre-outs to drive your Pioneer, etc.
 
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Echolane

Echolane

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You shouldn't have to worry about electrical noise or distortion from the cheap HDMI switch, like you might worry about hearing an analog component's power supply noise. But HDMI is a complex technology and I don't understand it enough to say for sure. I suggest giving this article by Amir a read-over:


If you can get all of your inputs' audio and video connected into your TV (how are you doing that today?), then you should be able to run just a single output from the TV to your Pioneer or whatever analog amp system you have in the future, although Zolalll makes a good point here:

I have a 5-1 HDMI switch. I have my video sources routed to its inputs and the output is routed to the TV. IT IS SO TINY! it is hard to keep it in place because the cables pull it out of position. I also find it hard to believe it works, as it was only $30. I ought to be satisfied with it, but I don’t trust it’s reliability.
If you do want to use your TV itself as the muxer, you may have RCA, Toslink, SPDIF, or HDMI ARC output from your TV. Which to chose?
  • RCA or headphones out of your TV would be controlled by your TV's volume settings, but many newer TVs don't offer these outputs anymore, and the DAC quality can be limited.
  • Among the digital audio outputs common on TVs, SPDIF offers the best quality (per Armin's recommendations in the HDMI deep dive). But, neither SPDIF or Toslink are typically controlled by your TV's volume control.
  • If your TV offers HDMI ARC out, that signal will contain both digital audio and HDMI-CEC volume control commands, so a compatible HDMI ARC audio extractor might provide an avenue for volume controlled output that lets you use your TV or Roku remote to adjust an analog audio signal.
    • There's a cheap $28 Tendak ARC Audio Extractor that fits the bill on Amazon, but reviewers complain about hearing the power supply, and only supports PCM/LPCM audio.
    • There's also the $188 shArc eARC Audio Converter which claims to support more formats. I ordered one of these but it hasn't arrive yet. The seller is very responsive via email and was happy to customize firmware to fit my use-case.
But really given your requirements and varied input sources, it seems like you should just get a standard AVR and use it's pre-outs to drive your Pioneer, etc.
I don’t want to use the TV. I only have capability to use HDMI connections And using the TVs HDMI connections are inadequate anyway because I have five video sources.

I much agree with your concluding suggestion. I am currently looking for a less expensive AVR and will use the pre-outs to bypass its amplifiers and will continue to direct Audio to my vintage Pioneer.. I am currently looking at Denon because Amir keeps suggesting it as the only plausible brand. I have found a couple models with component inputs which means it will handle all my gear. Finally, I am closing in on a solution that will fit my non-standard requirements reasonably well.

I would actually prefer to buy a surround sound processor (i think of it as a video preamp) but they always are priced at the high end.
 
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Flak

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Echolane

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Hi, this comes unexpectedly (and undeservedly in my admittedly biased opinion)... can you open a ticket on our HelpDesk?
We will be pleased to have a look at your Dirac project if you created one,
thanks!
I’d love to, and thank you for the offer, but my only access to Dirac is via the Arcam and the Arcam will not power on. I have decided not to repair it
 

Head_Unit

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I am currently looking for a less expensive AVR and will use the pre-outs to bypass its amplifiers and will continue to direct Audio to my vintage Pioneer.. I am currently looking at Denon
We had a Denon AVR-X3600H and it sounded fabulous, especially once we tweaked the Audyssey using the app (turned off the midrange dip and lifted upper mids broadly 1 dB). In the spirit of wanting more we "upgraded" to $7k of Anthem AVM70 and ATI 525NV to drive Focal 936/CC900/SR900. Sounds great, but no better than the AVR. So try the preouts to the vintage Pioneer but please also try the inboard amps for comparison, we're curious your findings/feelings.
- Oh also have mercy on your AVR and get https://www.acinfinity.com/receiver-amp-cooling-fans/
 

sarumbear

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Video sources:
Pioneer Elite CLD-99 Laser Disc (Requires S-video or component cables)
Panasonic VHS Player (Requires component cables)
Now we know why AVR manufacturers put those analogue video inputs on AVRs sold in 2022...
 
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Echolane

Echolane

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We had a Denon AVR-X3600H and it sounded fabulous, especially once we tweaked the Audyssey using the app (turned off the midrange dip and lifted upper mids broadly 1 dB). In the spirit of wanting more we "upgraded" to $7k of Anthem AVM70 and ATI 525NV to drive Focal 936/CC900/SR900. Sounds great, but no better than the AVR. So try the preouts to the vintage Pioneer but please also try the inboard amps for comparison, we're curious your findings/feelings.
- Oh also have mercy on your AVR and get https://www.acinfinity.com/receiver-amp-cooling-fans/
Thanks for the encouraging report on your Denon. I’ve been eyeing Denon. I really like the AVR-x8500h. It’s pricey! But I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger. Perhaps I’m suffering from the once bitten, twice shy syndrome. The Arcam experience was discouraging to say the least. I used to have a fan for the Arcam. Nothing as sophisticated as the link you sent. I stopped using it because it was always moving out of place. I found an LP sleeve sitting on top the Arcam and I’m suspicious that caused overheating and “killed” the Arcam. I have a feeling that it just needs to be reset somehow, but since it won’t power on, I don’t see that as possible.
 

DonR

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You might be interested in finding an older flagship or near-flagship AVR from a decade ago. Plenty of s-video and composite inputs and they usually sound very good in 2 channel. My Denon 3808ci still sounds wonderful but only 4 HDMI inputs all limited to 1080p 60fps. It even has a Pure Direct mode that turns off most of the DSP and the display. They can be had for $100-$200 second hand. If it breaks it's no big deal. I think most AVR amplifiers went downhill in the past decade as they tried to stuff more channels into the same space and started using some very poor class-D implementations to do that and keep the costs down.
 
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Echolane

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Now we know why AVR manufacturers put those analogue video inputs on AVRs sold in 2022...
Yep! It has become harder than ever to find gear with component I/O. I've noticed it is only in the pricier gear. I never see S-video anymore Which is an option for my laser disc. I notice Amir always complains when he sees component I/O and I always want to reply and explain why some of us covet it. But I have to admit I only very rarely turn to my LD player and even less to the VHS, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world to obsolete those two units. The Arcam doesn’t have component I/O so I have a couple of component to HDMI gadgets for them.
 
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Echolane

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You might be interested in finding an older flagship or near-flagship AVR from a decade ago. Plenty of s-video and composite inputs and they usually sound very good in 2 channel. My Denon 3808ci still sounds wonderful but only 4 HDMI inputs all limited to 1080p 60fps. It even has a Pure Direct mode that turns off most of the DSP and even the display. They can be had for $100-$200 second hand. If it breaks it's no big deal.
I’ve thought of that, but discarded the idea because those older units are well behind the latest video capability which in some new units is now up to 8k. The older units don’t even do 4K. I have a 2021 Sony Bravia and it told me when I first installed it that I was not up to date on the video capability of my new TV.
 

DonR

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I’ve thought of that, but discarded the idea because those older units are well behind the latest video capability which in some new units is now up to 8k. The older units don’t even do 4K. I have a 2021 Sony Bravia and it told me when I first installed it that I was not up to date on the video capability of my new TV.
Yes that is true. What video sources do you have that are doing 4K? If it's only a couple you could hook them up to the TV directly and run optical back to the AVR. Very few if any 4K receivers will have component let alone s-video.
 

sarumbear

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Yep! It has become harder than ever to find gear with component I/O. I've noticed it is only in the pricier gear. I never see S-video anymore Which is an option for my laser disc. I notice Amir always complains when he sees component I/O and I always want to reply and explain why some of us covet it. But I have to admit I only very rarely turn to my LD player and even less to the VHS, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world to obsolete those two units. The Arcam doesn’t have component I/O so I have a couple of component to HDMI gadgets for them.
How often do you watch SD format material? You complain about the musicality of the Arcam but don’t seem to be bothered with the grainy low resolution NTSC VHS image, which has a maximum resolution of 640x480px. Almost 30 times less number of pixels than on a garden variety 4K TV.
 
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Echolane

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How often do you watch SD format material? You complain about the musicality of the Arcam but don’t seem to be bothered with the grainy low resolution NTSC VHS image, which has a maximum resolution of 640x480px. Almost 30 times less number of pixels than on a garden variety 4K TV.
Almost all my LDs are opera and for those the picture doesn’t matter as much as the music, though I’m NOT impressed at how it looks on my 65” TV, it does look VERY out of date, to say the least about it, but LDs have excellent audio so it’s not a big problem. But there is one LD movie (The Grey Fox) which I especially enjoy rewatching and which would be nice to see in 1080 or BluRay but it is unfortunately not yet available on DVD … oops, I don’t believe this, but at this point I decided to check to see if it was finally issued on DVD and discovered it is and that is good news indeed!! Really, I should probably say goodbye to the LD and VHS players but I still have a couple of treasures left on LD and VHS which are not available as DVD so it’s a tough call.
 

Head_Unit

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Thanks for the encouraging report on your Denon. I’ve been eyeing Denon. I really like the AVR-x8500h. It’s pricey! ...overheating “killed” the Arcam. I have a feeling that it just needs to be reset somehow, but since it won’t power on, I don’t see that as possible.
Is there a fuse somewhere? Service manual online? Is there a dealer by you? It does not power on neither by remote nor by physical switch? Yeah that would be maddening, reminds me of a 302 Maverick that was constantly leaking transmission fluid. My buddy bought it for $80, dropped the trans pan or whatever, turned the gasket right side around, drove it a couple years. Original owner furious!

The -8500, $4k, yeah it's a lot. And seems already gone. Do you need that much capability?
 

sarumbear

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Almost all my LDs are opera and for those the picture doesn’t matter as much as the music, though I’m NOT impressed at how it looks on my 65” TV, it does look VERY out of date, to say the least about it, but LDs have excellent audio so it’s not a big problem. But there is one LD movie (The Grey Fox) which I especially enjoy rewatching and which would be nice to see in 1080 or BluRay but it is unfortunately not yet available on DVD … oops, I don’t believe this, but at this point I decided to check to see if it was finally issued on DVD and discovered it is and that is good news indeed!! Really, I should probably say goodbye to the LD and VHS players but I still have a couple of treasures left on LD and VHS which are not available as DVD so it’s a tough call.
You do realise that DVD is also SD, not HD. It has 720x480px resolution, almost the same as VHS. You get less noise with DVD but resolution stays the same. If you are watching on a 65" TV, you really should consider Blu-ray disks, which are HD.
 
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Echolane

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You do realise that DVD is also SD, not HD. It has 720x480px resolution, almost the same as VHS. You get less noise with DVD but resolution stays the same. If you are watching on a 65" TV, you really should consider Blu-ray disks, which are HD.
No, I didn’t realize that. But I do usually buy BluRay when I invest in a DVD. I just bought a BluRay version of The Grey Fox.
 
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