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Two-channel AVRs

Elephen

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Most of the higher-priced AVRs offer 11 or more channels of processing. In fact, the units that offer fewer channels of processing tend to have cheaper DACs and less power. I have a large library of motion pictures, and the audio tracks for the vast majority of them are in mono, stereo, or 5.1. Thus, I cannot see much need for 15 channels of processing just to get the best sound quality that the company offers. In fact, I’d be perfectly happy with a high quality 2-channel integrated amplifier, preferably one that offers independently controlled subwoofer outputs. The NAD M33 has an ARC/eARC input, so it seems to be a contender. McIntosh’s DAC2 module offers an ARC input. Any advice? Thanks.
 
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Elephen

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Thanks for the link. I‘m pretty certain that I’ve never seen a stereo amplifier that has multiple HDMI inputs.
 

GXAlan

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Thanks for the link. I‘m pretty certain that I’ve never seen a stereo amplifier that has multiple HDMI inputs.
With eARC, as long as your TV has enough inputs, it works fine. Two game consoles, one accessory streamer and one disc player?

The only time you genuinely cannot use eARC is SACD over HDMI for multichannel over DSD?

The bigger issue is the quality of the mix down on the TV from Dolby to PCM and potential for dynamic range compression
 

Beave

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Just beware that some of the mainstream AVR companies have started offering two-channel AVRs (Onkyo, Denon, et al) at a premium price. I say "beware" because all they are is their entry level multichannel AVRs with a ton of components DNI (Do Not Install). And then they charge *more* than the comparable AVR that has those parts installed.
 
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Elephen

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GXAlan,

Thanks for your reply. You raised some good issues
 
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Elephen

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Just beware that some of the mainstream AVR companies have started offering two-channel AVRs (Onkyo, Denon, et al) at a premium price. I say "beware" because all they are is their entry level multichannel AVRs with a ton of components DNI (Do Not Install). And then they charge *more* than the comparable AVR that has those parts installed.
Brave,

I appreciate your reply. I’ll keep my eyes open.
 

NewbieAudiophileExpert

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Why would you go out of your way to purchase a stereo amp with eARC, when you can just get a solid 5.1 or 7.1? It makes no sense to me, especially considering that you'd at least want to uses a good center speaker for movie watching.

Otherwise, just get a stereo integrated amplifier.

For the subs, use a MiniDSP/UMK-1 combo with Dirac live... the only AVRS that have the sort of control that you're describing cost way to much money are are like 11.2 channels or something.

This way you're only going to spend like 1.5 to 2k USD tops.
 

GXAlan

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Why would you go out of your way to purchase a stereo amp with eARC, when you can just get a solid 5.1 or 7.1? It makes no sense to me, especially considering that you'd at least want to uses a good center speaker for movie watching.

Otherwise, just get a stereo integrated amplifier.

You actually don't need a center channel in all cases and you may be able to get a phantom center with a better vertical position than you can with a real center.

With eARC, you get HDMI-CEC so the TV remote control can control the volume (which doesn't work with a regular integrated amplifier) and the ability to use HDMI-CEC to decide whether you want to listen through the TV or the external device. With a traditional analog amplifier or even a SPDIF output, you have to deal with powering on two units and dealing with less consistency for the remote control convenience.

The dynamic range compression is the biggest issue in my mind. I don't know off the top of my head how many TVs let you control that on the PCM downmix to the degree you get with an AVR. TVs might just have on/off or force one or the other. With most receivers, you can choose the degree of dynamic range compression.
 

NewbieAudiophileExpert

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You actually don't need a center channel in all cases and you may be able to get a phantom center with a better vertical position than you can with a real center.

With eARC, you get HDMI-CEC so the TV remote control can control the volume (which doesn't work with a regular integrated amplifier) and the ability to use HDMI-CEC to decide whether you want to listen through the TV or the external device. With a traditional analog amplifier or even a SPDIF output, you have to deal with powering on two units and dealing with less consistency for the remote control convenience.

The dynamic range compression is the biggest issue in my mind. I don't know off the top of my head how many TVs let you control that on the PCM downmix to the degree you get with an AVR. TVs might just have on/off or force one or the other. With most receivers, you can choose the degree of dynamic range compression.

Well you might not need a center channel, but in my experience, I do need it - I've tried it all, small center (2x 4inch woofer), big center (2x 6.5 inch woofer), no center, and then I'd finally settled the front(s) and rear(s) matching center which has 5 inch woofers, and settled with that.

The problem with a phantom center, is that in my experience it just does not sound as clear, distinct, or pronounced as a good (or matching in my case) dedicated center speaker.

People say that you don't need the center and rears all of the time, and I disagree so much with that sentiment - I think that it's half-arsed and the result of some imposed limitation.

Never will a 2.0 or 2.1 system be as good as a well implemented 5.1 - let alone a well implemented 5.2.4 or above.

Yeah I totally agree with the eARC, but stereo receivers or amps do not usually have those - although some active speakers do, namely Klipsch's 'The Fives', which I'd highly recommend as an affordable solution in this situation, since it has HDMI for CEC and a sub output.
 

GXAlan

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Well you might not need a center channel, but in my experience, I do need it - I've tried it all, small center (2x 4inch woofer), big center (2x 6.5 inch woofer), no center, and then I'd finally settled the front(s) and rear(s) matching center which has 5 inch woofers, and settled with that.

The problem with a phantom center, is that in my experience it just does not sound as clear, distinct, or pronounced as a good (or matching in my case) dedicated center speaker.

People say that you don't need the center and rears all of the time, and I disagree so much with that sentiment - I think that it's half-arsed and the result of some imposed limitation.

Never will a 2.0 or 2.1 system be as good as a well implemented 5.1 - let alone a well implemented 5.2.4 or above.

Yeah I totally agree with the eARC, but stereo receivers or amps do not usually have those - although some active speakers do, namely Klipsch's 'The Fives', which I'd highly recommend as an affordable solution in this situation, since it has HDMI for CEC and a sub output.
I didn't say that *I* don't need a center channel -- I'm just saying that you don't one doesn't need a center channel *in all cases.*

A bedroom setup where the TV is configured for a low-profile visual look (like the Sony 42" or 48" A90K) probably works better with a phantom center than a center below or above the TV. This is particularly true since viewing distances are shorter and the "soundbar height" is still pretty small. Since the headboard of a bed is flush against the wall, you get side firing rears which isn't as good as a theater where you can even get the rear speakers slightly further behind you.

You're preaching to the choir about having good speakers in a well implemented Atmos setup. My JBL 4319's are used as my front heights if that tells you anything about my opinions on multichannel audio. https://www.audioadvice.com/jbl-4319-studio-monitor-speaker

Off the top of my head, for 2 channel integrated amps with HDMI-CEC, you have Marantz 40n, the Linn Selekt/Majik DSM, Arcam SA30/JBL SA750 (but there hasn't been a good Arcam benchmarked), Lyngdorf TDAI line, NAD options, Cambridge Evo options, NAIM options, any of the McIntosh integrateds with the DA2. The Marantz 40n has gotten some great reviews/measurements.
 

NewbieAudiophileExpert

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I didn't say that *I* don't need a center channel -- I'm just saying that you don't one doesn't need a center channel *in all cases.*

A bedroom setup where the TV is configured for a low-profile visual look (like the Sony 42" or 48" A90K) probably works better with a phantom center than a center below or above the TV. This is particularly true since viewing distances are shorter and the "soundbar height" is still pretty small. Since the headboard of a bed is flush against the wall, you get side firing rears which isn't as good as a theater where you can even get the rear speakers slightly further behind you.

You're preaching to the choir about having good speakers in a well implemented Atmos setup. My JBL 4319's are used as my front heights if that tells you anything about my opinions on multichannel audio. https://www.audioadvice.com/jbl-4319-studio-monitor-speaker

Off the top of my head, for 2 channel integrated amps with HDMI-CEC, you have Marantz 40n, the Linn Selekt/Majik DSM, Arcam SA30/JBL SA750 (but there hasn't been a good Arcam benchmarked), Lyngdorf TDAI line, NAD options, Cambridge Evo options, NAIM options, any of the McIntosh integrateds with the DA2. The Marantz 40n has gotten some great reviews/measurements.
Hmmm yeah - personally, I ALWAYS found a nice center to complete the experience, even on my PC hooking up one of those 'wireless bluetooth speakers' to the center channel sounds better for movie watching, than stereo, and the stereo doesn't sound bad - so that tells me something about the importance of the center channel in my own experience.

That Marantz 40n does look like a really great integrated amp with network features AND hdmi - and it doesn't break the bank at 2.5k USD.. it's definitely something that i'd look into if I didn't want to buy an SR6015/7015 and focused primarily on the 2 channel listening experience.

Basically what my opinion is, is that music that's recorded in 2.0 sound subpar in 5.1 and above, and movies that are recorded in 5.1 and above sound subpar on stereo.

Sure listening to a 2.0 music track on 5.1 that's been upmixed sounds OK, but it does not sound the way that the sound engineer had intended it to - reminds me of the time a guy on another forum was telling me that he was going to spend a bunch of money on a 'special processor' for music, that upmixes 2.0 into 3.0 (L+C+R).. and i just thought that was misguided, given that the professionals had designed the music track to be played in stereo.
 
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GXAlan

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Hmmm yeah - personally, I ALWAYS found a nice center to complete the experience, even on my PC hooking up one of those 'wireless bluetooth speakers' to the center channel sounds better for movie watching, than stereo, and the stereo doesn't sound bad - so that tells me something about the importance of the center channel in my own experience.

As long as you have a spare amp, the next time the JBL Studio 530’s go on sale, you should try that in a 2.0 PC setup. JBL has free returns/return shipping so it’s really an in-home trial. The phantom center you’d get in a near field setup with the height of the 530’s should be really interesting.

For the Model 40n, the fact you have refurb and open box is a hint at what you can negotiate it for, from a local dealer. Sort of tricky because an X3700H is probably pretty competitive to the 40n at half the price and triple the features including multichannel.

Someone needs to get amir a Model 40n to test.
 

Axo1989

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I didn't say that *I* don't need a center channel -- I'm just saying that you don't one doesn't need a center channel *in all cases.*

A bedroom setup where the TV is configured for a low-profile visual look (like the Sony 42" or 48" A90K) probably works better with a phantom center than a center below or above the TV. This is particularly true since viewing distances are shorter and the "soundbar height" is still pretty small. Since the headboard of a bed is flush against the wall, you get side firing rears which isn't as good as a theater where you can even get the rear speakers slightly further behind you.

You're preaching to the choir about having good speakers in a well implemented Atmos setup. My JBL 4319's are used as my front heights if that tells you anything about my opinions on multichannel audio. https://www.audioadvice.com/jbl-4319-studio-monitor-speaker

Off the top of my head, for 2 channel integrated amps with HDMI-CEC, you have Marantz 40n, the Linn Selekt/Majik DSM, Arcam SA30/JBL SA750 (but there hasn't been a good Arcam benchmarked), Lyngdorf TDAI line, NAD options, Cambridge Evo options, NAIM options, any of the McIntosh integrateds with the DA2. The Marantz 40n has gotten some great reviews/measurements.

I will likely do surround one day, especially now that Atmos is supported via USB on Mac (my usual source). And I bought a multichannel DAC with that in mind. But in the meantime I have stereo. The TV sits on a lowboy so a centre speaker would be low or high compared to the LR main speakers.

Phantom centre is very solid though (or stereo image, apparent source is distributed according to the mix of course). I even tried putting the screen to the right of the RHS main for fun to check how much the visual cue located the image. Centre remained solid, which was cool.
 

NewbieAudiophileExpert

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As long as you have a spare amp, the next time the JBL Studio 530’s go on sale, you should try that in a 2.0 PC setup. JBL has free returns/return shipping so it’s really an in-home trial. The phantom center you’d get in a near field setup with the height of the 530’s should be really interesting.

For the Model 40n, the fact you have refurb and open box is a hint at what you can negotiate it for, from a local dealer. Sort of tricky because an X3700H is probably pretty competitive to the 40n at half the price and triple the features including multichannel.

Someone needs to get amir a Model 40n to test.
I don't doubt that it sounds good mate, it's just that I don't think a movie's 5.1 track is designed to create a 'phantom center' the way that a 2.0 track can.

Wanna know why I think so? I have both an AVR and stereo amp (AVR's front pre-outs feeding the stereo amp during movie watching), and during music listening on the stereo amp I thought that the center channel was playing, that's how good it was... so I thought I'd turn off the center channel during a movie to see what happens and boy was I disappointed.

It's just not the same and that probably has a lot to do with how professionals behind the production have intended it to be - just switched to some music listening now to confirm, and I can confirm that music sounds like it's coming from the center.

2.0 and 5.1/7.1/ATMOS/DTS:X are just two different beasts.
I will likely do surround one day, especially now that Atmos is supported via USB on Mac (my usual source). And I bought a multichannel DAC with that in mind. But in the meantime I have stereo. The TV sits on a lowboy so a centre speaker would be low or high compared to the LR main speakers.

Phantom centre is very solid though (or stereo image, apparent source is distributed according to the mix of course). I even tried putting the screen to the right of the RHS main for fun to check how much the visual cue located the image. Centre remained solid, which was cool.

I don't get it, why not just get a nice 7.1 channel AVR like the NR1711 (https://www.marantz.com/en-us/product/av-receivers/nr1711)?? You can use it for both movies and music listening.. and in the case that you want a dedicated stereo amplifier for music (like I did), just feed the AVRS front pre-outs to the stereo amp's inputs.

This way you don't need to waste money on 'multi-channel amps', which to me sounds like a very complicated way to do what an AVR is designed to do.

In my experience, stereo imaging for 2.0 music tracks is not the same as 5.1 tracks downmixed to 2.0.
 
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GXAlan

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It's just not the same and that probably has a lot to do with how professionals behind the production have intended it to be - just switched to some music listening now to confirm, and I can confirm that music sounds like it's coming from the center.



In my experience, stereo imaging for 2.0 music tracks is not the same as 5.1 tracks downmixed to 2.0.

It could be IMD. Try listening to a track like House of Flying Daggers - Echo Game, especially the second half or the La La Land Soundtrack - Another Day of Sun when the chorus is going after the first minute.

Not going to argue. Your speakers/room/environment all make a difference.
 

NewbieAudiophileExpert

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It could be IMD. Try listening to a track like House of Flying Daggers - Echo Game, especially the second half or the La La Land Soundtrack - Another Day of Sun when the chorus is going after the first minute.

Not going to argue. Your speakers/room/environment all make a difference.
It definitely sounds good and has great 'stereo imaging' as they call it - I'm not saying this is a bad thing.

All i am saying is that there's a difference between how a stereo track and a 5.1 images on 2.0 or 2.1. ;)
 
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