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Let's have fun & beat a dead horse (AVR-Processor upgrade comparo)

tparm

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I will finally be moving into a new home early July. I build the home and will have a dedicated space (specs on attachment). I have autonomy on speaker and sub placement, but am limited to number of channels (so will probably always remain 5.2.4 but pulling cable for 7.2.6). 60/40 music to movies (2.2 with music 90% of the time) at loud but not ear splitting levels. Musical taste all over the place. Favorite current movie is Blade Runner 2049.

Please let me know your opinions, mix and match as you see fit. Let me say, my current rig is probably good enough and I know that. Also, let me say I know the AVM will be updated and fixed with firmware but how long? Emotiva is glitchy and service is iffy, but is the XMC-3 working well now? I am pretty good with XT32 Editor w/ REW but it takes a lot of work initially, I feel Dirac w/ DLBC is best option, Dirac w/ REW on XMC also a little clunky and who knows how well ARC Genesis will be.

I do like that the Denon stuff usually just works with no questions asked.

Please indulge me with your critiques, opinions, and suggestions.
 

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Hi tparm,
If someone asks, “What is the most important factor in how we hear speakers?” The answer is the room.
Room acoustics, even when equalized electronically, play a huge role in our listening experience. This is why the biggest expense in my home theater was the room construction. From double walls using doubled fireproof drywall -- green glued -- hanging on hat channels to acoustic putty, to over a quarter ton of Roxull Safe-N-Sound, to blue tack, acoustically dampened vents, and on and on, it can get extreme. At the minimum, seek to insulate the room with Roxull Safe-N-Sound. Putty/tack what you can to eliminate vibrations from vents, outlets, sconces/lights, etc. Next, get the lighting, color, and theme to what works for you. Once your sound system is installed, consider additional acoustic absorption to reduce slap echo and tame room nodes. But take your time and do it right.
From just an audio perspective, if you have a decent receiver/preamp + amp, I think speakers first, electronics second. The Polk LSI's are very good speakers. Upgrading them to better speakers would be extremely costly. Next, the Bas-X amps to better ones. But, if the Bas-X are rear channel, it may not be worth it as our ears hardly tune in to rear sounds to make a difference. So, a little homework on small acoustic absorption and diffusers, home-made for a huge savings, and reap the benefit of better sound at a minimal cost. Cheers!
 
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tparm

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Hi tparm,
If someone asks, “What is the most important factor in how we hear speakers?” The answer is the room.
Room acoustics, even when equalized electronically, play a huge role in our listening experience. This is why the biggest expense in my home theater was the room construction. From double walls using doubled fireproof drywall -- green glued -- hanging on hat channels to acoustic putty, to over a quarter ton of Roxull Safe-N-Sound, to blue tack, acoustically dampened vents, and on and on, it can get extreme. At the minimum, seek to insulate the room with Roxull Safe-N-Sound. Putty/tack what you can to eliminate vibrations from vents, outlets, sconces/lights, etc. Next, get the lighting, color, and theme to what works for you. Once your sound system is installed, consider additional acoustic absorption to reduce slap echo and tame room nodes. But take your time and do it right.
From just an audio perspective, if you have a decent receiver/preamp + amp, I think speakers first, electronics second. The Polk LSI's are very good speakers. Upgrading them to better speakers would be extremely costly. Next, the Bas-X amps to better ones. But, if the Bas-X are rear channel, it may not be worth it as our ears hardly tune in to rear sounds to make a difference. So, a little homework on small acoustic absorption and diffusers, home-made for a huge savings, and reap the benefit of better sound at a minimal cost. Cheers!
Thanks for the response HPD. I haven’t gone as far as determining what vent is used in the room, but all the other areas have been addressed do to literally not having any plumbing running through the ceiling of the AV area. Room is totally sealed to the rest of the house and will have proper treatments after its measured (although the front wall, traps and panels and entire ceiling wil be covered in hytex quiet wall, not because its super sound absorbing but for the look and it is way easier to maintain than paint.

The two A-150s power Atmos channels only and the Parasound is likely plenty for power and it is beautifully built. I just don‘t know incrementally how much I can improve overall sound quality by replacing my processor In addition to the areas you covered.

Trevor
 

Spocko

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I think another source of improvement is smooth bass response which is a lot easier to achieve with independent bass management to integrate your 2 subwoofers, and from your list that's only available on the processors with Dirac Bass management or ARC, unless you're also adding a miniDSP external unit to the Denon (which is the most cost effective option!)
 
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tparm

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I think another source of improvement is smooth bass response which is a lot easier to achieve with independent bass management to integrate your 2 subwoofers, and from your list that's only available on the processors with Dirac Bass management or ARC, unless you're also adding a miniDSP external unit to the Denon (which is the most cost effective option!)
So far that is all REW, Audyssey and 3 PEQ on my subs which works surprisingly well. At least the X4700 had discrete outputs and Audyssey sums the volume prior to measuring, but it’s a) way more work than MiniDSP appears to be and b) probably not as accurate. So I agree. I wish the XMC-2 was more reliable and/or the HTP-1 was less money.
 
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Thanks for the response HPD. I haven’t gone as far as determining what vent is used in the room, but all the other areas have been addressed do to literally not having any plumbing running through the ceiling of the AV area. Room is totally sealed to the rest of the house and will have proper treatments after its measured (although the front wall, traps and panels and entire ceiling wil be covered in hytex quiet wall, not because its super sound absorbing but for the look and it is way easier to maintain than paint.

The two A-150s power Atmos channels only and the Parasound is likely plenty for power and it is beautifully built. I just don‘t know incrementally how much I can improve overall sound quality by replacing my processor In addition to the areas you covered.

Trevor
As for the vents, just apply acoustic putty that's hidden from view, nothing special. My experience with Hytex involved a misapplication. Two general descriptions for a room's sound are "Live" and "Dead." This theater room in a well-known high-end audio store had too much sound absorption causing it to sound dead. Every speaker placed in that room had the sound sucked out in such a way as to sound lifeless. It was really an ear-opening and eye-popping experience and taught me a lot. I've heard great speakers go into that room to die. People come out thinking the speaker sucked when they were the exact opposite - dynamic, live-sounding, precise, and slamming. Once people experience that with a speaker, they don't forget it, and word-of-mouth kills sales despite being untrue. That is the effect of poor room acoustics. I love the Tekton Pendragons. Despite not being highly articulate, the dual 10's cut the air and rock with devastating power, particularly in a room that's 15' x 18' x 7.5' and built smartly. Room size and speaker size do matter. I am no fan of little speakers in big rooms unless you're sitting close. While I have Revel F228Be's, I would gladly push them aside to rock with the Pendragons as big Tektons will slam in a way you'll never hear from Focals, Revels, or even Wilsons. When I bought them, along with the seller's entire home theater as a package deal, they sounded terrible. I knew why but I didn't mention it to the seller. The first thing I noticed was his listening room, on the left side, was open 1/3 of the way off the front wall connecting it to an adjacent room with a pool table. There was a huge reflection gap that kills imaging, timing -- everything. Secondly, he had a drop ceiling. The gap in the drop ceiling changed the room's acoustics significantly. Next were the square air ducts in the ceiling, the room panels, and the wall hangings that rattled, producing noise that the occupants probably tuned out, but a visitor would notice immediately. It was ever so noticeable but would set a perfectionist's hair on fire, especially on heavy bass notes and loud volumes. The speakers sounded washed out. I knew this room had severe acoustic shortcomings. Once I brought them home and put them in the home theater, KA-BLAM! Badass sound! Another concept from recording studios is to have the front of the room live and the back of the room dead. This is what you want. Most everyone here probably has the book, "Sound Reproduction," by Dr. Floyd Toole. Mine has yellow stickers galore.
In a well-designed room, you want a balance of absorption, reflection, and diffusion. And, if you change speakers often like I used to do, you want things you can remove if speakers change, or add if needed. In essence, some non-permanent acoustic devices. I spent 3 months researching room acoustics and what's needed. I used software to design the room and taught the builders about putty, hat channels, concepts of STC (sound transmission class) products, first reflection points, etc. They, in turn, taught me how best to use these things smartly. Some things you don't want to do literally, but modify. For example, a double-walled ceiling. Don't skimp on screws. There's a backstory to that involving lawsuits. Here are a few "Golden Tips" for going all-in on a home theater build outside of the primary acoustic challenges:

1. Cable distances. Use the appropriate gauge or higher for the distance and always use conduits if you can afford them. Also, seriously consider XLR cables for long runs to subs. Use XLR to RCA if needed the rest of the way. High-quality active HDMI cables and, if needed, a repeater/amplifier if projecting, particularly for 4K. My little room has over 3 football fields of speaker cable alone. Tip: after many years of use, check copper speaker cables for oxidation/corrosion - a reddish-brown color or simply discoloration (cable interaction) can mean oxidation or corrosion. Replacing corroded speaker wire can audibly improve the sound.

2. Wall connections. Get banana plug speaker connectors for 2 speakers per connector. This is just one of the plethora of things my buddy Paul did for optimal future-proofing. The point is, install for the future if financially feasible. At the least, double your connections and ground them properly -- particularly the ones that also connect your subs or potential subs. You want ample connections to accommodate surround sound formats such as Atmos and for redundancy. Also, 4 of the plates have subwoofer connections. One connector, on my left, closest to the audio equipment cubby outside the room (no vibrations!) can accommodate a PC, HDMI for Xbox, and HDMI for direct projector use. Although my main speakers are permanent fixtures, I often move them aside to audition speakers that friends or I plop down for fun. Therefore, I have 6 electrical outlets in the room.

3. Electrical. My home theater required another full circuit board installed to provide sufficient amperage, particularly for the heavy hitters -- amps and subs. I keep my equipment inside an illuminated cubby outside my home theater door. Inside the cubby, 2 blu-ray players and 6 other gear sit on a 42U server rack by Royal Racks that rides on casters. The cable harness from the wall to my gear is almost 10 inches thick, extends up to 6' in length, and is supported and suspended by inexpensive bungee cords. I have wood flooring I place down to roll the rack out over the carpet whenever I need to work on or switch out gear. I have done this hundreds of times over the past couple of years so it is critical my cable harness and suspension set-up maintains and doesn't pull on my connections when I need to pull the rack out. Active cooling? Not necessary in mine but can be a serious consideration. For me, wearing my propeller cap, pocket protector and white tape securing the center of my glasses, I use a few laptop coolers with USB extension cables and one on/off switch for cooling. One of these days I'll have my one tooth looked at by the dentist but right now I need to find better speakers ... or amps or anything audio that rocks. Good luck in your pursuit of music and movie joy.

Cheers.
 
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tparm

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Thanks again for the detailed response. A couple of things, my gear is rack mounted too, flush in a cased opening and mounted to the wood frame supporting it. There is a craft room behind it with a closet door so super handy to accessing the rear of all the gear. And I do have two Aircom fans whether needed or not (cheap insurance). None of my cables will be terminated, I make all my own and they will exit the walls using simple F-type plate covers and go directly to the subs and speakers. I pulled 240ft of speaker cable for 7.2.6 even though I don’t think I’ll use more than 5.2.4 just because the space and about. I am using both a certified HDMI cable and also have boosters with cat8 in case. It’s only 25ft. Longest run is a sub cable (belden coax with RCAP connectors) at roughly 33 ft depending on where it sends up being placed. Basically there is no low frequency roll off with most standard coax cable until you get over 2 miles..... It’s high frequency that may matter but even then, not really. Guys at BJC and Markertek have been great help with selecting the proper cabling (oh, all speaker speaker no matter how short the run are 12 awg belden 5000 OFC), connectors and tools (especially crimping dies, pain the ass as I need four different ones for all different cables used).

I have one 20A home run for equipment and one for both subs. The floor is finished concrete which is non-negotiable as I have always wanted a basement bar, thick pads under area rugs will be used as needed. It is interesting with the advent of Atmos which musty have some natural reflection you really shouldn’t over treat rooms. Maybe I have too my hytex, doubtful of you read it’s absorption properties, but once again it looks good, is easy to maintain and also does help with unwanted reflection and also further sound intrusion into the room. I only have one HVAC supply in the room and it’s behind MLP, no return there are two outside the room).

I tried to think of everything but I am sure I haven’t, your responses have been helpful!
 

peng

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So far that is all REW, Audyssey and 3 PEQ on my subs which works surprisingly well. At least the X4700 had discrete outputs and Audyssey sums the volume prior to measuring, but it’s a) way more work than MiniDSP appears to be and b) probably not as accurate. So I agree. I wish the XMC-2 was more reliable and/or the HTP-1 was less money.

Talking about beating a dead horse, in my experience, if only two subs are used I can't see how minidsp can do a more "accurate" job based on my experience in using one by itself, working in conjunction with Audyssey and Audyssey alone. You might have seen my posts before that I actually found Audyssey alone was able to do a better job integrated my two subs and the front rows based on just ears but tons of REW graphs. I am just too lazy to try and sell my mini 2XHD so I just put it back in the box after spending hours experimenting with it. Dirac should be just as good in the range before Schroeder and better in the range above. Just don't need the need for adding a mini, unless there are more than two subs, even then I am not sure as I haven't tried..
 
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Thanks again for the detailed response. A couple of things, my gear is rack mounted too, flush in a cased opening and mounted to the wood frame supporting it. There is a craft room behind it with a closet door so super handy to accessing the rear of all the gear. And I do have two Aircom fans whether needed or not (cheap insurance). None of my cables will be terminated, I make all my own and they will exit the walls using simple F-type plate covers and go directly to the subs and speakers. I pulled 240ft of speaker cable for 7.2.6 even though I don’t think I’ll use more than 5.2.4 just because the space and about. I am using both a certified HDMI cable and also have boosters with cat8 in case. It’s only 25ft. Longest run is a sub cable (belden coax with RCAP connectors) at roughly 33 ft depending on where it sends up being placed. Basically there is no low frequency roll off with most standard coax cable until you get over 2 miles..... It’s high frequency that may matter but even then, not really. Guys at BJC and Markertek have been great help with selecting the proper cabling (oh, all speaker speaker no matter how short the run are 12 awg belden 5000 OFC), connectors and tools (especially crimping dies, pain the ass as I need four different ones for all different cables used).

I have one 20A home run for equipment and one for both subs. The floor is finished concrete which is non-negotiable as I have always wanted a basement bar, thick pads under area rugs will be used as needed. It is interesting with the advent of Atmos which musty have some natural reflection you really shouldn’t over treat rooms. Maybe I have too my hytex, doubtful of you read it’s absorption properties, but once again it looks good, is easy to maintain and also does help with unwanted reflection and also further sound intrusion into the room. I only have one HVAC supply in the room and it’s behind MLP, no return there are two outside the room).

I tried to think of everything but I am sure I haven’t, your responses have been helpful!

Good stuff. My friend Paul put in a 30 amp fuse for my equipment and two Goldenear Super XXL subs. I'm running 2200 watts total system power into 8 ohms, almost double for 4 ohms, all Hypex NCore (ATI and Nord amps). Your cabling is solid. A Home Depot presenter to electricians and others in attendance for a class on home wiring recommended Belden and decried Chinese speaker cabling and ethernet cabling as subpar and related his real-world experience on the matter. I couldn't find absorption specs on the Hytex but being so thin it might work out pretty good. In the audio store, their Hytex or something like it was perhaps just shy of an inch thick but it covered the ceilings and walls. My HVAC is just outside the home theater room so the vent is short which is good. Long vent runs can carry sound up into the house. I also have two steel doors instead of wood which help. Good work Trevor! You're on your way!
 
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