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jfree

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Jun 20, 2023
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So I am looking to upgrade to an integrated amp from a Denon AVR-687 (75 watts/channel) that is currently connected to some older Henry Kloss Model Sixes (8ohms) in one room and Bose Acoustic 5 Series speaker system (4.8 ohms). I may a bit down the road upgrade the Bose to something else, but right now my questions are mostly about amps. For additional reference, the Model Sixes are in a narrow, but somewhat long room with our TV and computer station (2018 Mac mini). Even though I have the AVR-687, I never really hooked things up as a home theater and just use the receiver for music--either by CD, or from an old Onkyo CP1046F direct drive turntable, or streaming music by bluetooth from my computer to a cheap Taotronics bluetooth receiver plugged into the Denon (streaming from an Apple Music account or from Internet radio stations such as Radio Paradise, is the predominant way that we now listen to music).

I initially thought I might get the Denon PMA900HNE, as it has a network connection, A/B speaker switching (import as speakers are in 2 different rooms), bluetooth and decent power, and about the max I want to spend. After reading reviews and such, started drifting towards the Cambridge CXA81 or 61 (which was just discontinued). The CXA81 seems to get great reviews and Cambridge Audio has some refurbished ones for about $400 off the new price putting it at about the same price as the 900HNE.

So here are some of my questions:

  1. Is it ok to buy refurbished (Cambridge offers 1yr on refurbished items) or am I better off getting the new 900HNE?
  2. Cambridge offers bluetooth and USB input but no network connection--I have had problems in my house with the Bluetooth connection to the Taotronics and figured since I mostly stream from my Apple Music account that I would get better sound through ethernet than either bluetooth or USB. Is that true or not noticeable enough with the speakers I currently have.
  3. The CXA81 bluetooth is 4.3 where the current standard is 5.0 which I think the Denon has. Does this matter, or would the difference if I use bluetooth be imperceptible?
  4. If I wanted to spend even less and get the CXA61 for about $300 less, besides getting a slightly inferior DAC and less power (60watts), would I still be able to power the speakers I have and would this amp still sound better than the Denon I currently have?
  5. If I wanted to add wifi or ethernet or Apple Play2 connections to either one of these Cambridge units, could I just add something like the WIIM Pro or mini and if so, can I use the amp DAC rather than the WIIM Mac to play through my speakers--so that the WIIM doesn't color the sound.
So I am open to other amp suggestions as long as they have the ability to connect 2 sets of speakers and have the a/b switching ability, but I also want to avoid price creep and would like to stay under $1,000 and preferably under $800. I also know there are better streamers than the WIIM, but not sure I'm ready for a Bluesound node, but want the ability play music from my Apple computer and my Apple Music account to whichever integrated amp I end up with.

Thanks for any comments and suggestions.

Jeff
 
OK, this might win stupid question of the day, but why do you insist on driving two pairs of speakers in different rooms with a single ampifier?

So you can listen in two rooms?

I use two zones on my preamp.

One drives the Krell/MartinLogan setup, the other drives a pair of JBL LSR 308.

In one room.

The JBL are the Daily Drivers, for TV and casual listening, the Krell/MartinLogans for intent listening.

Why? 10 Watts vs hundreds, mainly.
 
OK, this might win stupid question of the day, but why do you insist on driving two pairs of speakers in different rooms with a single ampifier?
Because one room (den) has TV and stereo equipment and computer and since I work from home I want music in the room where I'm working and maybe my wife is reading in the the other room and she doesn't want to hear what I'm listening to. The other room is our living room and often we want music there but someone is watching TV in the den, so want the ability to turn off the speakers in that room. The two rooms are separated by a brick wall and a pocket door.

Plus we have a small house and the living room layout does not have a good spot for a second amp/receiver. Doesn't seem that unusual to me.
 
It's hard to predict whether either replacement amp will "sound better than the Denon (you) currently have" since sound quality is a subjective experience. If there is nothing broken about your Denon, I'd suggest you first improve your Apple Music experience since that is your main music source.

Invest in an Apple TV streamer and connect it via HDMI to your AVR. You can then directly stream Apple Music and avoid the pitfalls of casting (BT, AirPlay). If you don't need 4k video support, you can save by purchasing an older model:

P.S. WiiM is not a solution as it does not yet support Apple Music.
 
Interesting idea as I already have an Apple TV but the AVR has no hdmi input. Can connect by optical or audio out rca type cables but then TV has to be on, Or I can only stream to my HomePod.

So the reason I brought up the WiiM was not that I thought it had Apple Music capabilities, but that the pro has an Ethernet connection and I’m pretty sure that I can output sound through Ethernet which would then go the the WiiM into the amp and then to speakers—just as Bluetooth or wifi would. Thus I’m just using Apple Music or some other source on my computer and changing the audio out to go to whatever device I have connected. That’s essentially what I have been doing with a cheap Bluetooth receiver that is currently plugged into the avr. Was looking to upgrade my receiver to something better and newer for better sound and more convenience. Thus my original thought of getting the Denon PMA900 HNE was that it has Bluetooth, wifi and Ethernet. Started thinking of the CXA81 when I saw I could get it for about the same price as it sounds from reviews that it is a better amp—even though I lose the Ethernet and wifi—but get a USB In connection. And thus thinking for about $150 could add the Ethernet and wifi back in through the WiiM.

Or based on my room setup and not so great speakers would I be fine with the PMa900 which seems to have all the connections I need. I know some of this is subjective but was curious what people on here think.

Also note the I just turned 70 and my hearing isn’t what it once was.
 
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Interesting idea as I already have an Apple TV but the AVR has no hdmi input.
I saw "AVR" and just assumed HDMI, but I'm not much younger than you and certainly remember AVRs before HDMI.

How about this? Order the WiiM Mini from Amazon. It's short money and returnable if you decide you don't want it. Connect the WiiM to your AVR via optical digital; the cable is included with the Mini. Connect the Mini to your network via ethernet or wifi. Send music from your computer to the WiiM using AirPlay. AirPlay is "CD quality" and no more bluetooth!

I'm going to assume your computer is a Mac and you have an iPhone. If so, you can install the Apple "iTunes Remote" app on your iPhone and use it to control playback on your Mac. Nice if you want to switch programs from your easy chair.
 
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