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How to audibly improve my system?

Wartybliggens

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I am looking for informed advice: what changes to my current system will result in an audible improvement?

What I have now, dating from around 2011-13, in a medium-sized rectangular room:
  • Oppo BDP-95 universal disc player (the one with the dedicated analog audio board).
  • Emotiva UMC-200: processor only used for Roku or computer output; set to pass through the output of the Oppo as a preamp only.
  • Emotiva XPA-5 five-channel amp: this has some hum on certain channels but it's barely audible from a distance.
  • Monitor Audio Silver RX speakers x 5: RX8 towers, plus matching center and surrounds.
  • Rythmik F15 subwoofer (sealed).
  • Blue Jeans Cables: Belden "ten white" speaker cables and "LC-1 Low Capacitance" RCA interconnects.
  • Room Treatments: large floor-to-ceiling bass traps in the front corners of the room (I built these myself), cedar lattice on the ceiling, rugs hung on opposite side walls.
Lately I began to suspect that I will need to replace parts of this. What might happen:
  • The UMC-200 processor may die - it still works but it's acting fishy, sometimes giving a flash memory mismatch error, getting stuck in its startup routine, and making me restart it to get it to handshake with the Roku.
  • The Oppo might die. It's still going strong, but it can't last forever. There are modern universal disc players that also do 4k video, so I'm not too worried about the Oppo fizzling, but then I will care more about the DAC for discs, since a new player wouldn't have Oppo's dedicated audio board - so that got me thinking that I would want a better processor, especially since I expect to play more multichannel FLAC files from my computer in the future.
Lately I was going down the AVR rabbit hole, drooling over the RMC-1L in particular. I loved the sexy story of there being separate balanced outputs with their own separate DACs (and also Dirac, and XLR, and the possibility that I could add ceiling speakers etc.). I read with interest the saga on this forum about the many issues that the RMC-1 had, many of them solved in time, but from reading here in general it seems there is no AVR that actually delivers in the audio department to the level we would hope for when it comes to music listening (plus, I heard that Emotiva may no longer honor the supposedly non-expiring 40% discount card that I have been clutching since a previous processor disaster - injustice!).

I don't have a zillion dollars. And my system sounds good. So drool notwithstanding, I am wondering what would actually move the needle (especially in a way that I can afford). My focus for this thread is music: I have quite a lot of multichannel SACD music, mostly classical, and of course tons of two-channel music: I listen to music a lot and am music-obsessed most hours of the day. Let's say that the processor does die, or the Oppo, or both - what should be my next move, to make an improvement that I will actually hear?

My complaints about the sound of my current system are vague, and some days I have them less than others. Mostly it's a feeling that there should be more clarity with orchestral music, especially as it gets louder. I suspect that it's possible to sound more wide open. But I could be making that up, since I don't have anything to compare with right now - not only Covid, but also the fact that so many audio stores no longer exist around these parts. And some days it all sounds great, so maybe it's just me?

Assumptions / guesses, some more debatable than others:
  • The amp is probably good enough, hum or no. It's just power after all. ...right?
  • I can't do better than the cables & interconnects I already have, except if I were to have a balanced system with XLR cables (how much better that would sound I do not know, having no available real-life comparison).
  • I'm not going to improve on the speakers I already have without spending a zillion dollars, and even then the improvement would be modest.
  • If I were to get the RMC-1L (only if they honor the discount, otherwise no more Emotiva for me ever again), despite it not being perfect, it would probably still be an audible improvement over my old UMC-200 - though I wonder how much different and whether it justifies the cost. And what about two-channel music? From reading here, I wonder whether a dedicated DAC + preamp may be both better and cheaper, not to mention smaller.
  • Room correction EQ may pay bigger dividends than anything else.
There's so much woo-woo and so many nonsense words in audio, thankfully avoided here. I would greatly appreciate advice on sensible options going forward to make my music sound as good as it can.
 

Wombat

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Have you thought of just relaxing and enjoying what appears to be a satisfactory system without giving in to anxiety?

If a piece of equipment fails then get it repaired or replace it.
 

BDWoody

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Room correction EQ may pay bigger dividends than anything else.

My suggestion would be to start there. Your electronics are all likely doing a better job than you may think, and room correction will almost always result in massive improvements.

https://www.roomeqwizard.com/

That free software and a Umik-1 mic, and you've got a very powerful way to get your room better sorted.

Generally, speakers (and other transducers if you have them) and your room are where the majority of future improvements will be. That's going to almost always be true, no matter how good the electronics.
 

tuga

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I am looking for informed advice: what changes to my current system will result in an audible improvement?

My rule is to never replace anything without having identified audible shortcomings and traced possible causes for those issues.

So my question is: what are your complaints, what do you think need improving?
 

Bear123

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If you haven't measured and aren't using eq, your response below 300Hz is most likely a train wreck.
Edit: saw this is a multi channel setup.

You are concerned about an AVR not being high enough fidelity for music. A Denon X3700 is likely higher fidelity than your amp, so if you don't feel like the amp is degrading sound quality for music, then the Denon AVR surely has your covered. Speaker and sub eq is quite capable, especially with the cell phone app. This will make a very notable improvement in sound quality. I also recommend a second subwoofer and a Umik-1 mic to get the subs set up properly(probably not symmetrically placed near your speakers).
 
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JSmith

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Emotiva XPA-5 five-channel amp: this has some hum on certain channels but it's barely audible from a distance.
I'd be trying to isolate the cause of this hum or moving on the amp... but to be honest it just sounds like you have the upgrade bug, which isn't always a bad thing depending on finances. :)



JSmith
 

Hon

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Keep the Oppo and the sub, but get rid of everything else, including the room treatments. Get a pair of those Revel M16s, or the Performa F228Bes if you can afford them. Get a second sub and put one each in the forward corners. Get any decent 2-channel amplification: 100+ Wpc, like maybe the NAD M10 (or experiment a bit)--or Audio Research separates if you can afford them. Oh-and move the couch half a foot to the left or right, either way.
 

muslhead

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I agree w/ jsmith regarding upgraditis. I think we are all subject to it at one time or another.
I have the same concern wrt the oppo and mch dsd. You have very few choices out there and most of the remaining will cost you both arms and one leg.
BTW - the Emotiva 40% discount cards are dead. They expired in January and have no value other than wall art.
 

JSmith

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Usually what will go in the Oppo is the blue laser (so will fail on BD but be ok on DVD)... these can be replaced along with the whole loader mechanism by OEM eBay sellers from China for a reasonable price.



JSmith
 
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