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Good stereo quality AVR for ~$1,500

rpatel18

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Hello! New to this forum here but figured this may be a good place to get some advice on my new setup!

I just upgraded by two front towers to the B&W 603 Anniversary editions this past weekend. I have a 5.1 setup (AVR is Denon X3200W) where I'm slowly going to start upgrading components and the towers were my first priority as I listen to a lot of stereo music on them as I'm working from home (my desk is right behind the couch, kinda nice setup wise).

I went to Best Buy this weekend to demo a bunch of speakers and also decided to demo some amps and was surprised how different the sound was from a Denon to an Arcam. They had a Arcam 550 (open box) where they were able to sell it at $1,400 which seemed like a great deal? The downside is that they only had the Arcam AVR30 hooked up to it so I listened to the B&W's on them but the the Magnolia rep was saying that I should expect the same sound quality from the AVR550.

At that price point (plus or minus a few hundred), is the best I can do, or can I do better?

The only feature I really care about in a receiver is that it can do 4k HDR pass through, I don't really care about something greater then 5.1 as I don't plan on doing that until I get a significantly larger place. I care for sound quality more than features in an AVR but do still want it to support at least 5.1 and 4k hdr pass through.

I also just recently saw an Anthem MRX540 for a similar price range that I preordered on Crutchfield, thinking to try this one out as well? Also saw the Arcam AVR10 for $1,700 but that one has a pretty bad review on this site.

Thoughts on if I should stick with the Arcam AVR550 at this price point or get something different? I've thought about doing a seperate stereo amp with a home theater bypass but don't really have space for another "box" (as my fiance would say) on the stand as we live in an apt.
 

M00ndancer

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Chromatischism

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My vote if you're in the U.S. is the Denon X4500H on sale right now for $1200 new, or an X3700H if you can find one. Really hard to beat either of them.
 

RickSanchez

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I agree with @Chromatischism : both the X4500H and X3700H are great options. As the OP states "I care for sound quality more than features in an AVR". Both the X4500H and X3700H include Audyssey MultiEQ XT32 for room EQ. No one will argue that Audyssey is perfect but if you combine MultiEQ XT32 with the Audyssey app (separate purchase) you can go a long way towards getting the AVR configured properly for your room.
 
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rpatel18

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its interesting to see the different opinions across the forums...I think this is the only forum that has recommenced going to another Denon from my current one. Heck, even all the AV stores I spoke with have all said going to Anthem or Arcam would be a big step up from a Denon or Marantz. Not saying they are true but just stating the various thoughts I've heard from others.

I did look through all the reviews mentioned in the post above and was also surprised to see the actual data driven test by Amir (i think?) showing Anthem and Arcam not doing so well...
 
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rpatel18

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ok...so after some doing some convincing to my fiance....adding a 2nd "box" to our tv stand is ok now....if I went with a stereo amp...any recommendations on a good one w/ home theater bypass thats <$2k?...

I started going through this site as it has a pretty long list http://www.audiophile.no/en/articles-tests-reviews/item/426-amplifiers-with-processor-input .... the Cambridge 851A seems to be good? Has some good reviews online too...

I've been looking through these but seems like most are "not recommended" https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?pages/Audio_Equipment_Reviews/

also...lets say I went to $3k in budget...should I complete redo my current amp setup (AVR) and go with some kind of pre-amp and amp setup? apologizes for the multiple questions and uncertainty on my part, but if I'm going to do an upgrade, I feel like I should do it the right way as much as possible...

also...happy new year everyone!
 
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Bear123

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It's difficult separating subjective claims from the truth, especially when they are at odds with each other, and the subjective beliefs are long standing and widely accepted i.e. Arcam and Anthem being "better" or higher sound quality. As seems to often to be the case in audio, expensive has little correlation with better. So many amusing contradictions. Even on this sight, I see folks obsessing over DAC SINAD while using vinyl but not using subs, eq, bass management etc.
 

Chromatischism

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ok...so after some doing some convincing to my fiance....adding a 2nd "box" to our tv stand is ok now....if I went with a stereo amp...any recommendations on a good one w/ home theater bypass thats <$2k?...
Not having used one myself, is the home theater bypass simply for convenience? My read of it says it lets you use the volume control of an attached integrated amp. That seems completely unnecessary IMO if the preamp in the AVR is competent enough and it's easy enough to change the volume (in fact on a calibrated system, the volume is very similar for both movies and music, to my ears).

My system is simply using the L/R preouts from the AVR into a stereo amp that does not have a preamp. It runs at full power, and I control the volume with the AVR. It turns on and off with the AVR via a 12 volt trigger. I never even have to think about it or acknowledge that it is there. It just hums along, improving the performance of my system and allowing my AVR to use its entire power supply for the other speakers and run cooler when I'm not using all of them. Pretty simple :)

This also allows one to use a much cheaper amp, like a pure Hypex NCore or other amp without fancy bells or whistles.
 
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rpatel18

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oh I see..that didn’t know that to be honest. I feel like I’m going from budget range to dabbling in the mid-low range of audio equipment so seeing what all I can do...if I used the preouts on my denon...I’m using the DAC on the denon too then, right? It so, is the DAC on the Denon I have a good one?
 

Bear123

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oh I see..that didn’t know that to be honest. I feel like I’m going from budget range to dabbling in the mid-low range of audio equipment so seeing what all I can do...if I used the preouts on my denon...I’m using the DAC on the denon too then, right? It so, is the DAC on the Denon I have a good one?
Works well if you use an external amp that doesn't require more than 1.4 volts or so, such as the Monoprice Monolith line. Your older X3200 should be providing a signal of about -95 dB/.0017% SINAD from the preouts to the Monolith amp(assuming the X3200 performs about the same as the X3500 tested here). And yes, this is using the internal DAC of the Denon.

Above 1.4 volts, the SINAD drops a fair bit...down into the 70's i.e. .02% distortion. It's debatable as to whether this matters at all in real life(since your speakers will have 10-50x more distortion). But if you want to chase better numbers on paper, the X3600 and newer versions allow the L/R amp channels to be disconnect, allowing for much higher pre-out voltage with no loss in SINAD i.e. will be even more inaudible at -98 dB/.001% SINAD.

Also, depends on how loud you listen. If you don't need more power than your Denon can provide, external amp(s) will make no difference as long as they are also audibly transparent.

Even the internal amp/DAC of your Denon will send a signal with .007% distortion to your 0.5-5%+ distortion speakers(which people seem to not be able to notice).
 
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Chromatischism

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oh I see..that didn’t know that to be honest. I feel like I’m going from budget range to dabbling in the mid-low range of audio equipment so seeing what all I can do...if I used the preouts on my denon...I’m using the DAC on the denon too then, right?
You would in both cases. The only way to bypass the DAC in the Denon would be to use the analog inputs, like the white and red RCA's (those labeled "CD", etc). So that comes before the AVR, whereas what you were describing with the H/T bypass comes after the AVR.

But I don't think an H/T bypass is needed with an AVR when set up well.

I am not sure of the DAC measurements of the X3200 but I am generally skeptical of audible changes between the model years, or even audible changes using other gear. It's a good time to be in the hobby, though, because you can get a "perfect DAC" for $100 (or even less) to see if you can tell a difference.
 
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Chromatischism

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I should add: Denon AVRs allow different settings for 2.0 stereo vs surround sound setups. You can also save different Audyssey configurations and load them through the smartphone app. So if the problem one is trying to solve with an H/T bypass is that they want different settings for music, that is already handled a couple of different ways. If one wants external amplification to handle certain speakers, use the preouts instead.

I use the same settings for all content but I do use an external amp for the reasons I stated earlier.
 
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rpatel18

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so should I get a 5 channel amp and just use the preouts on the denon then?
 

Chromatischism

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If your speakers would benefit from it, yes you can. What speakers do you have?
 
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rpatel18

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I started to upgrade them so for the fronts I had the Klipsch F30 and will now (hopefully) have the B&W 603 anniversary fronts delivered this week...the center is a klipsch F series center and the rears are Mirage Omni 350s....I plan on upgrading the whole set to B&W within a couple years though
 
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Chromatischism

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They look like they spend a lot of time around 5 ohms so your AVR would appreciate the help. I don't know that your other speakers would, though. Maybe if you had a matching center, get a 3-channel amp.
 

M00ndancer

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so should I get a 5 channel amp and just use the preouts on the denon then?
Also, depends on how loud you listen. If you don't need more power than your Denon can provide, external amp(s) will make no difference as long as they are also audibly transparent.

This is important.
 

ZolaIII

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Well getting better amp shouldnt be a problem. For instance take a look at:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/buckeye-6-channel-amplifier-review.18579/
Beter DAC which dose Dolby decoding and has 6 chanel out is a problem today (all are old Burr Brown's, AKM's or at best ESS from beginning of Sabre 32 era). Tho there's a great stereo one for a little money but i don't know one with surround analog output. Any way any DAC which clears the 16 bit SINAD is perfectly good enough. Better amplifier will provide you better SINAD even when you listen at lower levels rest is up to speaker's.
Didn't really followed closely regarding other stuff.
 
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