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AVR Decisions - Anthem, Arcam, Denon, Yamaha...?

Old Hi-Fi Guy

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#1
Hi, folks.

As a few of you might remember, I've recently bought a 4k UHD television followed by a Panasonic DP-UB820 player. I'm in the process of designing a new equipment cabinet in an attempt to overcome my wife's objections to the tendency of AV black boxes to procreate when she's not looking plus the associated escalation in the web of black cables.

Before I commit to my final design, I want to be sure that it will suffice for the foreseeable future. The addition of a couple of new boxes calls into question the remaining life of the old stuff, so I think it's worth spending a little time on this. You'll be pleased to know that the main question concerns my AVR; I've spent a lot of time digging through ASR's HT Forum threads, so I know that this can be a tricky subject.

My HT system is a "living room" system, which means that I don't really have need for anything beyond a 5.1 system, although I might be persuaded that a couple of speakers in the ceiling could be fun (except for running the cables to them). Similarly, I'm not convinced that many of the modern bells & whistles are much more than marketing spiel, so it could be a case of "simple is better". Also, I no longer need those ancient video inputs. On the other hand, I would like to be able to replace the remote control with a smartphone app and to stream FLAC from my networked PC.

My present AVR is an Arcam AVR350 which I have owned since 2006. It has been absolutely reliable and I like the sound. I want to be able to play SACDs, which I presently do from an Arcam DV139 via its multi-channel outputs since my AVR's HDMI inputs don't handle audio of any kind. I ripped all my CDs to my PC and stream them via a Squeezebox. I take the S/PDIF output from the Squeezebox to a Bryston BDA-1 and then to the AVR's phono inputs.

It's now obvious that I use this system for stereo and multi-channel audio as well as HT. I have an audio-only system in another room for "serious" listening, but I do like the sound from the Squeezebox/Bryston/Arcam system.

It occurs to me that if I had an AVR that could decode SACD over HDMI, I could dispense with the five multi-channel phono cables at a stroke, and if the AVR had decent DACs, I could sell the Bryston and reduce the size of my new cabinet, and if I could stream FLAC from my PC directly to the AVR (simply - without having to instal and learn esoteric software on my PC), then I could dispense with the Squeezebox (and its power supply) as well as the Bryston.

So here's the skill-testing question: what AVRs can you recommend that will meet these needs with no loss in sound quality and without breaking the bank? The Anthem MRX720 is around my price limit, but are its DACs good enough? The contemporary Arcams are expensive and the previous models seems to have had reliability problems. The Yamaha RX-A1080/2080/3080 models look promising, but the 1080 did badly in Amir's tests. The Denon AVR-X3600 did well, but will its sound quality be good enough? Do any or all modern AVRs decode SACD over HDMI, or do I have to find one with multi-channel analogue inputs?

Thanks for your interest and suggestions!
 

MarcT

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#2
Hi, folks.

As a few of you might remember, I've recently bought a 4k UHD television followed by a Panasonic DP-UB820 player. I'm in the process of designing a new equipment cabinet in an attempt to overcome my wife's objections to the tendency of AV black boxes to procreate when she's not looking plus the associated escalation in the web of black cables.

Before I commit to my final design, I want to be sure that it will suffice for the foreseeable future. The addition of a couple of new boxes calls into question the remaining life of the old stuff, so I think it's worth spending a little time on this. You'll be pleased to know that the main question concerns my AVR; I've spent a lot of time digging through ASR's HT Forum threads, so I know that this can be a tricky subject.

My HT system is a "living room" system, which means that I don't really have need for anything beyond a 5.1 system, although I might be persuaded that a couple of speakers in the ceiling could be fun (except for running the cables to them). Similarly, I'm not convinced that many of the modern bells & whistles are much more than marketing spiel, so it could be a case of "simple is better". Also, I no longer need those ancient video inputs. On the other hand, I would like to be able to replace the remote control with a smartphone app and to stream FLAC from my networked PC.

My present AVR is an Arcam AVR350 which I have owned since 2006. It has been absolutely reliable and I like the sound. I want to be able to play SACDs, which I presently do from an Arcam DV139 via its multi-channel outputs since my AVR's HDMI inputs don't handle audio of any kind. I ripped all my CDs to my PC and stream them via a Squeezebox. I take the S/PDIF output from the Squeezebox to a Bryston BDA-1 and then to the AVR's phono inputs.

It's now obvious that I use this system for stereo and multi-channel audio as well as HT. I have an audio-only system in another room for "serious" listening, but I do like the sound from the Squeezebox/Bryston/Arcam system.

It occurs to me that if I had an AVR that could decode SACD over HDMI, I could dispense with the five multi-channel phono cables at a stroke, and if the AVR had decent DACs, I could sell the Bryston and reduce the size of my new cabinet, and if I could stream FLAC from my PC directly to the AVR (simply - without having to instal and learn esoteric software on my PC), then I could dispense with the Squeezebox (and its power supply) as well as the Bryston.

So here's the skill-testing question: what AVRs can you recommend that will meet these needs with no loss in sound quality and without breaking the bank? The Anthem MRX720 is around my price limit, but are its DACs good enough? The contemporary Arcams are expensive and the previous models seems to have had reliability problems. The Yamaha RX-A1080/2080/3080 models look promising, but the 1080 did badly in Amir's tests. The Denon AVR-X3600 did well, but will its sound quality be good enough? Do any or all modern AVRs decode SACD over HDMI, or do I have to find one with multi-channel analogue inputs?

Thanks for your interest and suggestions!
With the caveat that others here are much more "with it" than I am, tech-wise, I'll give you my 2 cents worth. That's the manner in which I use my Denon AVR-X5200, i.e., I play my SACD and DVD-Audio discs from my Oppo 203 to the 5200 via HDMI, which works great for both stereo and multi-channel discs. I assume that the Denon X3600 can do the same. My 5200 will play the DSD stream from my Oppo, but even if the 3600 will not do that, you can set your SACD player to send PCM to the 3600.

And I can play the flac files on my laptop pc over wi-fi by use of the Denon's Media Player input. In order to do that, you will need a program on your computer like Media Monkey, which can act as a server. Media Monkey is free, and not that hard to use, as it will "find" the flac files that are on your pc. Both my laptop and the 5200 are connected to my router wirelessly. Once you select the Media Player input on the Denon and you have Media Monkey running as a server on your pc, the Denon will "see" those Media Monkey flac files and you can navigate to them by use of the Denon's on-screen display. It will probably be a bit more "clunky" than using your squeeze box, but it works and it's wireless.

With regard to which AVR to buy, if I were buying now, I would go straight for the X3600. As to whether the sound would be "good enough", I think the more fair question, from what we now know about the X3600, is if there is any AVR that will sound any better than the 3600. It has ample power, unless your speakers present a particularly hard load for an amplifier. And also the second best SINAD score of any AVR tested here.
 
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#3
I recently purchased the Anthem MRX 520. The room correction alone is worth the purchase. If you buy the 720 will not be disappointed. You can always add amp for the mains If they are extremely inefficient. The tech support is superb. You will speak to Canadians in English. You can order directly from Anthem. AVR is shipped from dealer. Dealers are scarce. They had sale recently. Tight distribution controls price and warranty.
 

Sal1950

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#4
I really would worry less over any audible DAC issues, that really is debatable and any possible shortcomings would be VERY subtle. Look more at the DRC system included, they really will make audible differences that you can hear.. For my money that boils down to Denon/Marantz with Audyssey XT32 plus the $20 Editor app, any with the new Dirac 2 DRC, I've also heard the Anthem products doing an excellent job with their proprietary ARC software.
MHO is that they are all very close in the end result, if the time is taken to learn the software and use it to it's best results.

My Marantz AV7703 Pre/Pro will accept and decode a DSD stream over HDMI
 
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#5
Anthem ARC possesses short learning curve with excellent tech support. Dirac is still evolving. Amir is a pro. He jumped through hoops with XT32 that average guy would struggle with or give up. I admit sour on Audessey. Maybe they have finally corrected many problems. How many years did it take?
 

Sal1950

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#6
I admit sour on Audessey. Maybe they have finally corrected many problems. How many years did it take?
If you are sour on something you haven't tried in years why bother to throw stones?
I can tell you Audyssey + Editor is an excellent DRC that is as easy to learn as any, more so than most.
I understand your support of ARC, but Dirac 2 is probably superior, and any software that isn't still evolving is a dead issue no longer to be taken seriously.
 
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#7
If you are sour on something you haven't tried in years why bother to throw stones?
I can tell you Audyssey + Editor is an excellent DRC that is as easy to learn as any, more so than most.
I understand your support of ARC, but Dirac 2 is probably superior, and any software that isn't still evolving is a dead issue no longer to be taken seriously.
Who said haven't tried in years? Audessey evolution started with the dinosaurs.
 
OP
O

Old Hi-Fi Guy

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Thread Starter #8
Thank you for your suggestions; interesting that you have picked the two that had already risen to the top in my mind. Marc, thanks for the detailed reply speaking to my specific issues. The Denon is attractive because the company's website provides lots of detail on each model, plus it's less than half the price of the Anthem. In fact, if I were to sell my Arcam AVR and Bryston DAC, the proceeds would pay for the X3600 with probably enough left over to buy a decent bottle of single malt. The Anthem is attractive because its ARC software attracts particularly positive comments. In my opinion, you fix your speakers first and treat your room second, so I'm not sure how much value to attach to this. I've never read many comlimentary comments about Audessey. On the other hand, Anthem's website doesn't make it very easy to find the details (too much marketing babble)...and it's still twice the price of the Denon.
 

GXAlan

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#9
I've never read many comlimentary comments about Audessey.
Lots of negative comments about “mass market“ Denon gear and positive comments about NAD on the internet. We see here that actual science shows that Denon is actually pretty respectable and NAD doesn’t do very well.

Audyssey XT32 did multiple subwoofers before Dirac. It gets a bad reputation because the default curve has a 3 kHz dip and most people don’t like a flat audio target either. Additionally, before the app came out and before aftermarket software was made available, it was hard to tune. However, bias against Denon and Onkyo (when they used audyssey) probably hurts the reputation.

Trinnov is better. I had that on the Sherwood R972. But the HDMI board on that unit will fail. Trinnov in the 4K era is cost prohibitive.

The big unknown is if something like the Denon X8500H will outperform the X3600H or if the added amps and channels results in an overall decrease in performance. Denon HDMI CEC tends to be very reliable.

NAD T778 is unknown. The advertised spec is Improved from the poor testing NAD receivers here.

Anthem STR generation AVRs are also due to be released.
 

rccarguy

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#10
If I was buying probably anthem, however over here they're very expensive, also arc may be great but it doesn't set phase. Major short coming with that.
 
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#11
If I was buying probably anthem, however over here they're very expensive, also arc may be great but it doesn't set phase. Major short coming with that.
I have never corrected a speaker out of phase. Also, room correction have many out of phase warnings that are incorrect. Instructions say to ignore after confirm speakers wired correctly.
 

rccarguy

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#14
Quite a few feet, sub esp board has delay as antimode.

Big drawback of anthem for that sort.of moolah expect correct time. Even cheapo av do that.
 
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#15
I just read again David Rich's extensive review of Anthem Room Correction. It appears Anthem's decision to exclude phase measurements is intentional and not to save cost. Regardless, review is interesting for many other reasons. Article describes inherent limitations of on board processing.
 

North_Sky

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#16
If I was on the market to buy a newer AVR, I would ask the audio scientist pros...Amir, Mitch, Marcus, Don, Wayne, and all the other usual suspects.

It's not easy to pick the best AVR for a specific budget with the features we all like.
Plus the ergonomics...simplicity of auto setup versus extended manual parameters that take time to master. We're all different, all AVRs are different too...with their own sound character. And it's hard to pick the right one for ourselves and even harder to recommend one for someone else.
You need to be a master audio guru who can read the stars to do that.
I don't know anyone even resembling similar to that.
The best AVR is the one different for each person.
We all have different combinations in our audio life.
That's what makes it fun...the journey, the experimentation, the exploration, our own discoveries, and nobody else.
 
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#18
I'm in the same problem. Wanting to replace my 11 old AVR, but can't decide which one to pick...

My "problem" is, that I have actually a Harman AVR 760 (7550HD in US) and love the sound signature.
Compared it with a Denon and Yamaha which were booth newer, but no chance. My Harman + Logic7 just sounds still better for me.

So I'm trying to find an AVR with a sound signature similar to my Harman just with actual technology like HDMI 2.0 etc...

My preference lends at the moment to a Lexicon RV-6/RV-9, but it would be great if someone has any experience with replacing a Harman AVR;)
 

rccarguy

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#19
The new anthems str series measure timing, so sounds just like old hardware not compatible.

Getting sub timing is paramount that's why leave anthem until they get it right
 

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