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Higher quality Stereo vs AVR

stefan2305

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I'm not sure if the title of this post makes sense, but I'm hoping someone can help me out with some guidance here.

So I'm not new to the audio hobby (mostly have spent my time in the Headphones/IEMs world), but I'm still fairly new to the Home Theater/Speakers space.

At the moment I've got a pair of Dynaudio Evoke 20 Speakers powered by an Audiophonics MPA-S250NC stereo amplifier (uses the NCore252). And all of that is being fed through an SMSL SU-8 DAC which gets input via SPDIF from my TV (LG B9). Movie/TV content comes through an NVidia Shield TV Pro (2019) and content sources are either my Plex server or various streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, TIDAL, Youtube, etc.

But I also own a Sony DH790 AVR.

The question I have is the following:
What's better in terms of sound quality?

- No native decoding of formats like DTS/TrueHD/DD/etc. with the SMSL SU-8, and thus this has to be transcoded by the TV (Plex can handle its sources, but the TV would need to deal with everything else). This option has a known high quality DAC and a known high quality amplifier with more than sufficient power for my speakers.

- Native decoding of formats like DTS/TrueHD/DD/etc. via the Sony DH790, but likely inferior DAC/Amp sections.

Alternatively I could also probably have the NVidia Shield TV Pro do the audio transcoding, but not sure which would be better, that or the TV.

Finally, I wish there was a preprocessor that didn't cost an arm and a leg that I could use to replace the SMSL SU-8 so it could do proper native decoding of those formats and still be of high quality as a DAC.

Any thoughts here would be greatly appreciated. I'm at a loss.
 

kemmler3D

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By far the most likely cause of a noticeable difference in sound quality will be due to the amp running out of power for bass or peak SPL.

The Sony falls short of the Ncore252 by quite a bit in that department, by a clearly audible margin of at least 3dB (2x). The speakers are only rated at 86dB/1w so I think you're much better off with the Ncore than the Sony for stereo listening.

Audio formats and decoding can cause audible differences if something goes seriously wrong, but the amp running out of juice is much easier to notice most of the time. The DAC in the Sony would have to be really bad to cause an audible impact in normal listening.
 
OP
stefan2305

stefan2305

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By far the most likely cause of a noticeable difference in sound quality will be due to the amp running out of power for bass or peak SPL.

The Sony falls short of the Ncore252 by quite a bit in that department, by a clearly audible margin of at least 3dB (2x). The speakers are only rated at 86dB/1w so I think you're much better off with the Ncore than the Sony for stereo listening.

Audio formats and decoding can cause audible differences if something goes seriously wrong, but the amp running out of juice is much easier to notice most of the time. The DAC in the Sony would have to be really bad to cause an audible impact in normal listening.
Wow that was fast! Cool, thank you so much! I suspected the amplification would be the biggest issue here, but didn't really know to what degree. That helps a lot! Thanks!
 

kemmler3D

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Wow that was fast! Cool, thank you so much! I suspected the amplification would be the biggest issue here, but didn't really know to what degree. That helps a lot! Thanks!
It was an easy one to answer because I dealt with almost the same situation on my end. :D Topping DAC and the candybar Shield instead of the Pro, and the C2 instead of the B9, and a Yamaha AVR instead of Sony... and vintage B&W instead of Dynaudio... but pretty much apples-to-apples. The only change that made any audible difference in my setup was going from the Yamaha to the NC500 for amplification.

(Oh, and adding a sub and doing some EQ with REW...) !

Happy listening!
 

MaxwellsEq

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TV audio-out components can be quite poor (it's not a key differentiator for most purchasers, so manufacturers don't feel the need to prioritise it). The AVR may do a better job of decoding the audio signals then the TV.
 

delta76

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best of both world would be a player like shield, with an audio extractor to toslink (several bit perfect options), then feed the video to your tv and audio to your setup. your sony can rest - it has inferior dac and amp than your setup.
 

peng

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I'm not sure if the title of this post makes sense, but I'm hoping someone can help me out with some guidance here.

So I'm not new to the audio hobby (mostly have spent my time in the Headphones/IEMs world), but I'm still fairly new to the Home Theater/Speakers space.

At the moment I've got a pair of Dynaudio Evoke 20 Speakers powered by an Audiophonics MPA-S250NC stereo amplifier (uses the NCore252). And all of that is being fed through an SMSL SU-8 DAC which gets input via SPDIF from my TV (LG B9). Movie/TV content comes through an NVidia Shield TV Pro (2019) and content sources are either my Plex server or various streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, TIDAL, Youtube, etc.

But I also own a Sony DH790 AVR.

The question I have is the following:
What's better in terms of sound quality?
That's not an apples to apples comparison. The Sony is an entry level AVR that can do multi channel, but has very limited output and if I am not mistaken it does not have pre outs to work with your MPA-S250NC. The SU-8, even if you use it's volume control to drive the Audiophonics amp, sound quality should be better, but obviously limited to 2 channel stereo.

The DAC chips and opamp chips in the SU-8 are quite good, better than most, if not all AVRS, and better than many so called separate AV preprocessors as well.
 

tc2007

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It's like comparing a bus to a sports car. Both will take you from point A to point B but in a different manner. Most stereo integrateds don't have Room Correction, HDMI, Bass Management, full sized remote, surround streaming features (Atmos music on Apple TV anyone?) and overall ease of use etc. Unless you want to spend $2000+ on something like NAD M10 V2 etc.

My personal experience is that when I had a AVR in my living room I ended up using it more than my current more expensive stereo setup as I had to fiddle with stuff less. I was able to snag a good deal on a $2000 all-in-one stereo with features nearing the AVR but with just 2.1 channels.

Also, I think the weak link in an AVR is the DAC section on most models I have listened to. If you feed it a good analog signal it still sounds great and gives you many of the features missing from a stereo system.

My personal favorite is the Pioneer LX305 can be had for around $800 or less with Dirac room correction and decent sound.
 

dlaloum

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Also on an AVR, you have to watch out for "global" settings that may work well with movies, but don't work so well with Music.

A prime example is "Loudness" - which is tailored to movies which are recorded to a standardised reference level - therefore the loudness mechanism makes sense - but music which is not standardised in terms of levels, the loudness setting often just sound wrong.... they really don't match up with Fletcher-Munson curves.

But when you set the AVR up with the right settings for Music - and Room/SpeakerEQ overlayed on that, the results are superb.

I am running an Integra DRX 3.4 - and it does a great job with both - the power amp section is limited, and I therefore use external power amps, but it does an excellent job acting as a stereo pre-amp!
 

Chrispy

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Personally only would use a tv as a display, never for a switching center or for particular codec handling.
 

MaxwellsEq

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Personally only would use a tv as a display, never for a switching center or for particular codec handling.
I agree. There are very few TVs that make a serious effort with audio, both in the analogue and digital domains.
 

Stiffmeister

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So to get the best of both world is to get a streamer with bit perfect digital output (wiim pro) and connect it like this:
Wiim pro>topping or smsl dac (one that measures well)> surround receiver analog input>external hypex power amp>speakers. And to bypass the AD>DA conversion you need a receiver with some bypass option like Direct or Pure direct on a denon receiver. Is this correct?
 

peng

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So to get the best of both world is to get a streamer with bit perfect digital output (wiim pro) and connect it like this:
Wiim pro>topping or smsl dac (one that measures well)> surround receiver analog input>external hypex power amp>speakers. And to bypass the AD>DA conversion you need a receiver with some bypass option like Direct or Pure direct on a denon receiver. Is this correct?

Yes, Denon and Marantz have the bypass feature in Direct and Pure direct.
 

tc2007

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Are you planning to have a dedicated 2.1 setup? If so you can buy a really cheap older but higher wattage AVR 125W+ and supply the analogue out from a nice DAC. The AVR provides nice sub management features and crossover to the mains and a good remote. They may or may not have HDMI and modern features but will provide ample power for cheap. These are big and heavy though.
 
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