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Hi Fi vs HT, Bass Management, and Compromises...

luft262

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Mar 25, 2021
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So I"m getting into Hi Fi. I started with headphone upgrades, going from basic headphones and a phone to Sundaras and a JDS Atom setup. The difference was noteworthy. Now I'm taking a look at my HT system and trying to decide where to go next. I have a beginner (Andrew Jones) stuff 5.2 system. It works great for movies and video games, but is a little lacking for music. I'm trying to decide where to go from here, but it looks like I'll have to make compromises one way or the other.

It looks like the core of a good Hi Fi system are it's speakers. So to hit that Hi Fi level I think I'm roughly looking at $2K+ in speakers. I could power them with my current, budget 7.2 channel receiver, but as we've seen here on ASR AVR's don't tend to have the best AMP and DAC performance for musical fidelity. What I would like to do is have the best sound possible for music, movies, and games, but with the emphasis on music.

One option would be to simply buy Hi Fi speakers and plug them into my AVR setup. I wouldn't get the most out of them, but they would still be an improvement. In that scenario the weak link would be the distortion coming from the AVR's DAC and AMP and maybe a lack of power also. Another option would be to use the AVR's preouts to hook up a better amp. That would give my fronts the power they need, but I'd still be using the DAC in the AVR. A third option would be to get a stereo DAC, like that used for headphones (ex. SMLS SU-9), which are inexpensive and offer great fidelity and just ditching surround sound. I wouldn't mind that. I could use the optical out on the TV to hook up the DAC and just do stereo. The thing that I worry about, though, is that I would have to use an RCA splitter to hook up my subs. I could use the passive crossover in the subs to stop them from playing frequencies above 80Hz, but my speakers would still be getting everything from the DAC, so they may be playing lower frequencies than they optimally can, since none of the low cost, but audibly transparent DACs I know of have bass management like an AVR does. I also wouldn't have room correction anymore either.

It's too bad there isn't a low cost, but good DAC a la SMLS SU-9 that includes bass management/crossovers, sub outs, and maybe room correction. I can see why lots of people just have a stereo setup, without a TV. It looks to be hard or very expensive to maximize Hi Fi with HT. Buying "separates," like a good preamp and a power amp costs thousands and I can't imagine spending more on the electronics than the speakers. It seems counterintuitive. It's just so much easier to reach high fidelity with headphones I can see why they're so popular.

Any suggestions?

How much performance can I expect to lose if I use a cheap AVR (mfg rates them at 100watts x 2 channels @ 8 ohms) with high quality tower speakers (something like 8 ohms and 90 to 92 sensitivity?)
 
D

Deleted member 28849

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IMO if you stay with 8 ohm speakers you won't have a problem with an AVR amp. The problem comes when you have a speaker that dips down to 4 ohms. An AVR then has to have high current capability which some of them do but even then it will not drive these type of speakers properly like a high current power amp.

Now an AVR IMO is going to be mid-fi, but mid-fi can sound pretty darn good (which could cost thousands of dollars to better). I inserted a external dac before the AVR, analog outs to AVR analog ins with significant improvement in sound quality output. I'm also not a proponent of good speakers first, evening budget speaker can sound pretty good when upstream equipment is good. Only after you have reached the limits of what you can do to improve upstream equipment would I upgrade to better speakers. For me getting the best out of upstream equipment is to have a good source and there are a few really good affordable digital players or computer media players, just have to find one.

Another thing you can try if you don't mind giving up your AVR's 5.1 surrounds. Using the AVR speaker outs (preferably balanced outs) to a Yamaha MG-10 mixer, then you can adjust the Line level, Gain, treble, mids, bass. Then route mixer outs to an external amp and amps to speakers. Now the Yamaha mixer is capable of being a pre-amp on its own. In my setup however its output is much better if you have a pre-amp such as an AVR before it. Beware though you have to be extremely careful using mixer as even small adjustments can make a big impact on sound and damage speakers. So play around with it first to learn how it works, I spent 2 weeks learning how it works before I was set to record.
 

alex-z

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Feb 19, 2021
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The speaker quality is an easily audible bottleneck, same with the room acoustics.

A mediocre receiver is easily hidden behind these factors. You can spend thousands of dollars on speakers, subwoofers, and room treatment before you would ever notice a bad receiver.

However, there are several options for good receivers, such as the Denon X3700H at $1200. 11 channel processing, drives 4 Ohm loads with zero issue, and has a good amp+DAC section.
 
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