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Purchase advice needed: AVR and stereo power amp

jd17

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Jan 5, 2023
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Hello everyone!

I just registered to this great forum, but I have been reading for quite some time.
I very much appreciate all the amazing work done by Amir and the whole community.

Although I would never claim to understand all the technical details discussed here, I am eager to learn and improve my listening setup.

As the title suggests, I want to buy a new AVR and a 2ch power amp for my front speakers.
I would like to keep the cost low (big surprise, right? :p) but still get the best "reasonable" setup.
This is why I am asking you guys, to avoid making mistakes. :)

Background - skip if you want: ;)
I currently own a more than 10 year old Onkyo TX-NR818 AVR, driving my Sonus faber Liuto speakers.
Still love the speakers and for all that time, the Onkyo has done a very good job - which mainly comes down to the early adoption of Audyssey MultEQ XT32 for me.

Now that I finally moved into my own home, I think it is time for an upgrade.
Not only that - Audyssey is being cruel to my speakers in this living room and since the old Onkyo is not supported by the MultEQ Editor app, there is not much I can do about it:


1672918065387.png


As you can see, there is a natural rolloff below the 33Hz room mode when measured in Pure.
XT32 does a great job of improving the room response (blue), as usual - but it raises significantly at 25Hz.
This is just dangerous to the speakers.

Using the MultEQ Editor app (on a newer AVR), I would hope to create a kind of subsonic filter below 33Hz to avoid harming the speakers.



From reading or watching various reviews of AVRs and power amps that Amir created (and maybe understanding 30%), I drew the following conclusions:
  • Denon builds pretty good AVRs (good for me, I still intend to use Audyssey)
  • Purify and Hypex modules are great
Please correct me, if I misunderstood!

Accordingly, I am leaning towards the following two components:
  • Denon AVR-X3600H or AVC-X3700H
  • Audiophonics LPA-S500NC (Hypex Ncore NC502MP)
I am completely open to alternative suggestions!
After all - this is why I am here! :)

I would have loved the Denon AVC-X3800H, because it not only will support Dirac, it keeps XT32 and the one feature Dirac is missing: Dynamic EQ.
However, Amir does not recommend it and I would be even more worried about my next question...

The Hypex Ncore NC502MP has it's peak power at 2,35V using RCA connectors.
Do I have to worry to fully utilize this amp with either of these Denon AVRs?
That is something I still do not quite understand.
Can they output 2,35V at the pre-outs?

As far as I understood the review, the AVRs have their best performance if the internal front power amps are disabled (11ch mode).

Hopefully these are the right measurements from the reviews to judge this.
If not, please feel free to tell me I am misunderstanding!

3600:
index.php


3700:
index.php


3800:
index.php


The graphs from 3700 and 3800 stop just beyond 2V, but would I be right to conclude the following estimates?:
  • 3600: 102dB @2,35V
  • 3700: 95dB @2,35V
  • 3800: 84dB @2,35V
Most importantly, are these differences in SINAD audible?

I appreciate your help with this!
Sorry for the long text, I just wanted to make sure to ask the right questions.
 
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Given that I'm by no means an expert, my experience is that getting better speakers and eq is easily audible; better sinad is slightly audible.

In a shootout between a marantz 8805 AVR and a -110 db sinad measuring device I could hear a small jump in clarity. It's worth it imo to get the highest sinad possible, but having better speaker, eq and a full range sound far outweighs it.

Better sinad is like the last 5% and has been compared here on ASR as serving your nicely prepared meal on clean plates.

Summirising in order of importance: speakers, sub, eq, avr. I wouldn't invest in an extra power amp but instead focus on speakers and sub.
 
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I saw no mention of a subwoofer. If you don't have a sub, adding one would be the best way to reduce the sub-bass load on the mains.
 
Thanks for your answers! :)

Given that I'm by no means an expert, my experience is that getting better speakers and eq is easily audible; better sinad is slightly audible.

In a shootout between a marantz 8805 AVR and a -110 db sinad measuring device I could hear a small jump in clarity. It's worth it imo to get the highest sinad possible, but having better speaker, eq and a full range sound far outweighs it.

Better sinad is like the last 5% and has been compared here on ASR as serving your nicely prepared meal on clean plates.
Thank you for putting it into context!
While I continued reading, I found this very helpful thread, giving me neat thresholds to look out for!

According to these thresholds, the X3800H's SINAD should still be (barely) fine. :)

The much bigger worry is apparently the THD+N Ratio:
index.php


Summirising in order of importance: speakers, sub, eq, avr. I wouldn't invest in an extra power amp but instead focus on speakers and sub.
This is in line with my experiences and I have been practicing this logic for a long time.
That kind of thinking drove me away from other forums and finally... here. :)

My speakers are still great - I see no need for a change there.

With regards to the sub...
I saw no mention of a subwoofer. If you don't have a sub, adding one would be the best way to reduce the sub-bass load on the mains.
...I probably should have told the full story.
Generally, I completely agree with your recommendation!

I do have an SVS SB12-NSD Sub and two dedicated positions where it is "accepted" in the living room.
Both of them are behind the couch.

However, this is where Audyssey is completely going mad and giving me results I cannot explain.
I have repeated the calibration process several times (on both positions), but always got the same bad results.

Need to switch to the REW PC to share a screenshot - will post later to explain.
 
I would say try to catch AVR-X3600H but don't believe you will find one, you can probably find AVR-X3700H and it will be in low stock. They don't have Audyssey dynamic EQ aka equal loudness normalization Fletcher Munson but do have night mode.
Read this:
If you find equal loudness normalization as a big thing take a look at mid range Yamaha A-S and R-N stereo offering (some of which won't be either easy to find like R-N803) with it. I don't really understand why are you shopping for both stereo amp and AVR at the same time if not for two listening rooms but ignore me.
There is possibility of integrating equal loudness normalization (ISO 226 2003) with four instance JRiver but only wired PCM and out of the regular DSP tool chain (called "loudness" tied to internal loudness controls) it's not bad but not great either.
Best regards and happy reading and of course welcome to ASR.
 
This is what Audyssey does with the Sub in the setup:

Likely triggered by the dip I have between 75Hz and 130Hz, it sets the crossover to anything between 100Hz and 150Hz.
The subwoofer then is waay too loud and it sounds like muddy crap.

1672935579369.png


This is what I did trying to correct the calibration.
  • Blue: crossover reduced to 80Hz (upper limit for me)
  • Pink: subwoofer level reduced by 5dB (36Hz still too loud and overbooms everything else)
  • Green: control measurement speakers in Pure only
  • Light blue: the most severe issue - whenever I have the sub enabled during the Audyssey runs, it reduces the speaker bass massively, making them useless for any bass tasks
This whole issue is something I would of course hope to solve with a new AVR and the MultEQ app as well.
My first step would be to buy the AVR and do new Audyssey runs with the sub included in the system.

An external power amp for the main speakers would be step 2, since I believe they can do more. :)
However, I want to know that any AVR I buy can actually utilize the power amp before I buy it - hence I asked you guys...


Compared to any of these results with sub, the speakers actually sound amazing with Audyssey Flat and a few tweaks (Treble -2 and Bass+4).
Accordingly, I can also imagine running them without sub, since there is not really any benefit with sub below 33Hz (once I am sure the speakers are no longer in danger).
 
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I would say try to catch AVR-X3600H but don't believe you will find one, you can probably find AVR-X3700H and it will be in low stock. They don't have Audyssey dynamic EQ aka equal loudness normalization Fletcher Munson but do have night mode.
I would try to buy the X3600H pre-owned, time is not an issue after 10 years with the Onkyo. :)
I do not understand the second part though...
All Denon Audyssey AVRs have Dynamic EQ, since it is an integral part of Audyssey.

Dirac has no feature like Dynamic EQ, which is why the X3800H would have been so amazing on paper.
Use Dirac for calibration and activate the Dynamic EQ on top...

If you find equal loudness normalization as a big thing take a look at mid range Yamaha A-S and R-N stereo offering (some of which won't be either easy to find like R-N803) with it. I don't really understand why are you shopping for both stereo amp and AVR at the same time if not for two listening rooms but ignore me.
Not really an option.
I have only one room and 5.(1) speakers, plus I want the EQ.

There is possibility of integrating equal loudness normalization (ISO 226 2003) with four instance JRiver but only wired PCM and out of the regular DSP tool chain (called "loudness" tied to internal loudness controls) it's not bad but not great either.
That sounds very complicated... I have to admit I still love the appeal of a one-for-all device, which is why I am still looking for an AVR.

Best regards and happy reading and of course welcome to ASR.
That is very kind - thank you! :)
 
I would say try to catch AVR-X3600H but don't believe you will find one, you can probably find AVR-X3700H and it will be in low stock. They don't have Audyssey dynamic EQ aka equal loudness normalization Fletcher Munson but do have night mode.
They have Dynamic EQ just fine. Even my age old Marantz has it.
 
My speakers are still great - I see no need for a change there.

With regards to the sub...

...I probably should have told the full story.
Generally, I completely agree with your recommendation!

I do have an SVS SB12-NSD Sub and two dedicated positions where it is "accepted" in the living room.
Both of them are behind the couch.

However, this is where Audyssey is completely going mad and giving me results I cannot explain.
I have repeated the calibration process several times (on both positions), but always got the same bad results.

Need to switch to the REW PC to share a screenshot - will post later to explain.

Others will surely know more than I do on subs, but it seems to me the placement of your subs behind the couch is the issue. A physical limitation that cannot be corrected by eq. Can you share your speaker layout and seating position?
 
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JRiver is a software (A/V) player and it's not really complicated to enable it's "loudness" future.
This is what Audyssey Dynamic EQ really is (old equal loudness normalization):
audyssey curves.jpg

Night mode is somewhat similar (compensation in quiet listening environment) but by all means not the same thing. Hope that makes it more clear to you and read that discussion (seriously).
 
Btw you have some very fine looking and measuring speakers. Good choice!
000167-0.jpg


It looks to me you only need to fill the lowest octaves from 50 hz downwards to have a full range sound. (Might still be benefitial to crossover higher, but it makes it much easier imo.)

Ahh reading your first post, I think I'm beginning to understand what your issue is. If I understand you correctly when using your current onkyo avr the eq equalises the frequency curve correctly, but assumes a capable sub to produce the lowest octaves. You do have subs, but they're kind of in the way and thus if you eq without subs it puts strain on your speakers to produce the lowest sounds from 20hz to 50hz. If you do use your subs the sound is subobtimal (possibly due to placement behind the couch). The Audyssey eq version of your sub doesn't have the possibility to correct the applied eq curve manually.

Am I understanding it correctly or am I missing something?
 
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Others will surely know more than I do on subs, but it seems to me the placement of your subs behind the couch is the issue. A physical limitation that cannot be corrected by eq. Can you share your speaker layout and seating position?
The two possible sub positions are not the issue at all.
I have had great experiences with subs being behind the listening position.
After all, isn't one of the main advantages of subwoofers that you can place them independently from the mains?
In theory, each position can be adjusted to by phase, level and delay - at least that was my understanding (and previous experience).

Manually adjusted, I actually get some decent results and reasonable benefits from the sub - placed at both positions!

Position 1 (1,2m behind and then 2m left of me / about halfway of the total room length):

1672954471704.png


Best result (with sub in pink) at 80Hz crossover and 0° phase.
Compared to mains only, the 55Hz mode is better controlled, I actually gain some level in the 75-85Hz range and the worsened mode at 34Hz should be easy for any EQ...
In theory. ;)

Position 2 (3,2m behind and then 2,2m right of me / about 3/4 of the total room length):

1672954752045.png


Best result (with sub in green) at 80Hz crossover and 180° phase.
Compared to mains only, 35-50Hz is much better covered and again a bit of gain between 80 and 95Hz.
Only problem with this position is the fact that it sounds quite boomy/annoying in the rest of the ground floor (open).
It is essentially right in the middle of the house.

Either way, none of these manual sub configurations would suggest the sub needed 5-8dB gain and a 150Hz crossover. :rolleyes:


In fact, while doing more measurements this evening, I had a "brilliant" idea...
Why not fool the AVR and use the sub's own high pass filter to make the Onkyo think it cannot even do 100-150Hz properly!
The next bit is just sad and makes me wonder if something is seriously broken in the Audyssey algorithm:

1672955252849.png


Pink: mains Pure
Green: sub with HPF bypassed and 200Hz crossover at AVR
Blue: sub with HPF at approx. 80-90Hz (still 200Hz at AVR)

Now you tell me what crossover Audyssey chose with the manipulated sub (blue)...?
150Hz. And it boosted it by 9dB.
Smart! :facepalm:

This cannot be design intent, right?

JRiver is a software (A/V) player and it's not really complicated to enable it's "loudness" future.
Yeah I do understand that, but the beauty of an AVR is that all it's features apply to all inputs.
I want Dynamic EQ for CD, MD, Spotify, Blu-rays, Netflix - and so on.

This is what Audyssey Dynamic EQ really is (old equal loudness normalization):
I know exactly what it is and what it does and I love it for that.
Our ears are inadequate and Dynamic EQ corrects that.

Didn't almost every 80s integrated amp have a loudness button?
Then came the "audiophiles" and everything needed to be Pure Direct... :rolleyes:;)

Hope that makes it more clear to you and read that discussion (seriously).
I have read so many Audyssey vs. Dirac discussions, I am honestly a bit sick of it.
I believe both systems do an amazing job. (This excludes my current sub experienes, of course. ;))
I am also quite certain that once you use the exact same target curve and microphone positions, the results will be fairly similar.
This is why I am not too heartbroken the X3800H might not be a good choice.

Btw you have some very fine looking and measuring speakers. Good choice!
Thank you very much! I have had them for more than 10 years now and I never regretted a day. :)

It looks to me you only need to fill the lowest octaves from 50 hz downwards to have a full range sound.
Look at my first post measurment of the corrected speakers... Room gain does all I need to have a full range down to 33Hz.
Enough for me. I just want to cap below that. ;)

If I understand you correctly when using your current onkyo avr the eq equalises the frequency curve correctly, but assumes a capable sub to produce the lowest octaves.
Audyssey knows quite well there is no sub.
After all, it asks for it first and then skips any sub measurements if I say no.
The issue is that Audyssey thinks it can boost my speakers below the rolloff - which is just harmful.

You do have subs, but they're kind of in the way and thus if you eq without subs it puts strain on your speakers to produce the lowest sounds from 20hz to 50hz.
If Audyssey would behave normally with my sub, I could be happy now. :D
The speakers are just strained below ~33Hz, because most stuff above is room gain really. No trouble for them.

The Audyssey eq version of your sub doesn't have the possibility to correct the applied eq curve manually.
Audyssey used to be a black box before the app came along (ignoring the old pro kits for now).
You had a choice of 2 curves (Reference and Flat), only difference being the "BBC dip" at 2,5kHz and a slightly different treble rolloff.
You could also tinker a bit with Dynamic EQ (off / on / reference level offsets 0/5/10/15).
...but that is it.
I have no way to tell the AVR "please only EQ 35-200Hz" for instance.
Accordingly, I am stuck with the harmful EQ below 30Hz if I do not use my sub.
 
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I appreciate all your help and interest guys and I am happy to answer your questions...

...but this is drifting away quite a bit from my original questions. :)
So, trying to bring this back on track I would love your help with the following:

  • Denon AVR-X3600H or AVC-X3700H
  • Audiophonics LPA-S500NC (Hypex Ncore NC502MP)
Good choices? If not, what else?

The Hypex Ncore NC502MP has it's peak power at 2,35V using RCA connectors.
Do I have to worry to fully utilize this amp with either of these Denon AVRs?
That is something I still do not quite understand.
Can they output 2,35V at the pre-outs?
Can anyone help with that?

The graphs from 3700 and 3800 stop just beyond 2V, but would I be right to conclude the following estimates?:
  • 3600: 102dB @2,35V
  • 3700: 95dB @2,35V
  • 3800: 84dB @2,35V
Correct conclusions?
 
Good choices? If not, what else?
Yes, those seem like fine options.
Can anyone help with that?
I don’t think there is too much to worry about here. They can output the voltage, and you’ll properly destroy either your ears or your speakers long before that ;)
Correct conclusions?
Basically, just note that a new 3700 will have the same performance as a 3800. You may be lucky with an early 2nr hand model though.

You’ve done quite some decent homework! Well done!
 
Yes, those seem like fine options.
Thank you, that really helps a lot! :)

I don’t think there is too much to worry about here. They can output the voltage, and you’ll properly destroy either your ears or your speakers long before that ;)
That is great to hear, thank you.

I was worried that the performance of these great power amps somehow would not translate.
Certainly, I would never drive 2,35V - but I was rather concerned the AVRs would limit where it counts if their "range" is capped...?
I do not know if that makes sense but I read about the pre-out sensitivity in an older thread here, which I did not really understand.
Ahh, I found it:

By any chance, do you understand what the discussion is about?

Basically, just note that a new 3700 will have the same performance as a 3800. You may be lucky with an early 2nr hand model though.
I do not understand..?
Did the internals of the 3700 change over time in production? :oops:

You’ve done quite some decent homework! Well done!
Thank you! That is very kind of you to say. :)
 

By any chance, do you understand what the discussion is about?
The AVR in that thread was specified for a max preamp output of 0.2V, but the amp needs 2.35V input to reach full power. The Denon's you are looking at can output at least 1.4V on the pre-outs, and over 2V in certain configurations, but I'm not sure exactly which models in which configurations will get you the full 2.35V output, or if that is necessary in your case.
 
I do not understand..?
Did the internals of the 3700 change over time in production? :oops:
Yes, they did. Due to fire at the AKM factory, DAC chips used previously were no longer available and Denon decided to switch to lower quality Ti DAC’s. The same are found in the X3800h.
 
There may be other things to consider regarding HDMI support. If you need the latest and greatest HDMI support, the X3800H is a must. But even the X3600H can do 4K/60, So as long as you don't want to game, you should be fine.
 
Yes, they did. Due to fire at the AKM factory, DAC chips used previously were no longer available and Denon decided to switch to lower quality Ti DAC’s. The same are found in the X3800h.
That is actually very good advice, thank you!
This gives me a very short pre-owned window of units sold between June 2020 and mid October 2020.
Probably not too many 3700 out there, since the 3600 was still sold at that time...
There may be other things to consider regarding HDMI support. If you need the latest and greatest HDMI support, the X3800H is a must. But even the X3600H can do 4K/60, So as long as you don't want to game, you should be fine.
Actually, that would have been my next question! :)
I am aware of the HDMI limitations and there is one thing I was not able to find an answer to yet...

4K/60 is absolutely fine for me, as long as all HDR modes are supported.
I found in the original documentation, that the X3600H does not support HDR10+ passthrough, but it does support Dolby Vision.
Technically, that seems strange to me, since both do the same thing over HDR10 non-plus... Dynamic metadata.

I was wondering if the X3600H got a firmware upgrade to support HDR10+ passthrough or if it maybe just does it?
Do you know or is there a dedicated X3600H thread I can ask in?
Is Amir's review thread maybe a good place to ask this?
 
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