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Old 08-05-2008   #37
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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Originally Posted by jimmydaves View Post
fitzcarldo:

I really appreciate your last two posts and I have a couple of questions.

I feel the Integra 9.8 is the processor for me, especially with my audio use is about 90% home theater and I don't do too much just critical listening. I just read the review of the 9.8 in the newest Home Theater magazine, however, Integra is already on the way to releasing the 9.9 model for $200 more. I haven't yet found out the differences or additions or what, but if you felt the 9.9 is better than the 9.8, would you make the change and upgrade?

Secondly, even though I don't listen to alot of music, I do like to listen to my CDs at times and was wondering if the Oppo 980H is also a good CD player? I know it's good for upconverting DVD's, etc and there is the 981 and 983 Oppo models. I don't know the difference between them. I use my Playstation 3 as my Blu Ray player and my XBox 360 as my HD DVD player. What I need/want is an upconverting DVD player that is also a very good CD player, so would you feel that the Oppo 980H would fit that bill or is there another Oppo model that would do just as well for my needs?

I think the Integra would be the best bet for me as a processor and now that leaves the amplifier. I had read so many good things about Class D amplifiers and Bel Canto being rated very highly in many publications. They are relatively expensive but I like the fact they are monoblocks, but most dealers are leading me to the M1000 model which is 500 watts into 8 ohms which I think is overkill for the Paradigm Signature speakers I've ordered. They say it's not just about the power, but the sound quality.

One of the best amps I've ever owned was a parasound amp, I believe it was 200 x 5 but this was about 8 years ago and I remember it had individual volume pots in the back but I was using it with B&W CDM speakers at the time and it was a wonderful sound. The Parasound had detail, soundstage, bass, midrange, extended but not bright treble. Very, very nice. I know nothing about any of the new Parasound amps.

I'm not sure I need a 200 x 5 amp and this is why. My front 3 speakers definitely could benefit from 200 watts per channel, but my side surrounds don't get used that often in movies and basically just for effects and they're fairly small speakers. I just cant picture wasting 200 watts for each of those speakers. Just seems like an incredible waste.
Looking at the initial DTC 9.9 specs, it seems that the major improvement is an upgrade to the Digital Signal Processing inside giving it more power or at least just more memory. So, it has Audyssey Dynamic EQ and some additional THX modes that the 9.8 lacks. If this is all, then I do not see myself upgrading my 9.8, which I have had since last fall. There may be a few other upgrades I am not seeing. We'll have to wait until it comes out and gets reviewed, but it looks like a very incremental upgrade. The outsides are identical.

See my other posting in this forum regarding Parasound Halo amps. A steal. I am 99% satisfied with them. You can get them at Audio Advisor with a free 30-day trial. I did a comparison of the sound in stereo of my > $12k Martin Logan Prodigy's driven by Krell monoblocks vs. Martin Logan Clarity's costing me $1,200 with Parasound Halo A23's. The striking thing was how similar these two combinations sounded to one another. Except mainly for the deep bass, which is handled by the subwoofer anyway, there was only a very slight sonic difference between the two!
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Old 08-05-2008   #38
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Cool Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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Originally Posted by fitzcaraldo215 View Post
Wes, I understand your caution, but I just do not understand your fixation on the Classe SSP-800. Classe makes great analog input/output stages. I am sure it is going to sound better with analog sources than the Integra, or the Denon, for that matter. But, do you actually listen to vinyl? I hardly do any more, though my record collection is huge and my phono gear pretty darn good. Why? Hi-rez multichannel - currently SACD's - simply blows analog away. And, you know my source is only a $169 Oppo and the rest of my system quite revealing.

Even so, if it's a problem, you could always get a nice 2-channel preamp with home theater pass through, and run your analog straight into that. That's assuming you do not already have one. That would probably sound at least as good if not better than the Classe in analog. There is no DSP running inside the chassis to interfere with the analog in a stand alone preamp.

What the Classe conspicuously lacks is video processing. It switches, but it does not process the video. It just passes it through. That's pretty ridiculous given the price.

I know you hate Audyssey, but the fact is Classe is so far behind Audyssey on the room eq learning curve, it's not even funny. And, you have to get an installer to do the eq for you on the Classe, whenever that eq capability actually becomes available - maybe next year? The free Audyssey you get with the Integra is fabulous, but Audyssey will now sell you Audyssy Pro and let you do it yourself. And, it's even better than plain MultEQ XT.

Is the Classe going to sound significantly better on digital sources, particularly 7.1 lossless? I doubt it. Who knows, they might even use the same chipsets as Integra for this. The Classe looks sexy, but I am highly skeptical that it will sound significantly better where it matters. Then, there is the price difference of what, over 6 grand? Only you can decide if it is worth that.
Well thank you I don't hate Audyssey I just have heard that it still is not that great I have not experienced myself and should definitively do that. I just believe that one should use minimum equalization to get the sound that is recorded on SACD. I am a big fan of SACD and don't have any more Vinyl!! Is there a big difference between Audyssey MultEQ XT and Pro?

I don't need video processing, I watch primarily Blu Ray and my Oppo player does a great job at upscaling older DVDs which I avoid like the plague as they look grainy on a 10 feet wide 2:35 screen

Yes I love the look of the Classť but I am not sure that it is worth $5500 more!!!
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Old 08-05-2008   #39
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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Originally Posted by wes View Post
Well thank you I don't hate Audyssey I just have heard that it still is not that great I have not experienced myself and should definitively do that. I just believe that one should use minimum equalization to get the sound that is recorded on SACD. I am a big fan of SACD and don't have any more Vinyl!! Is there a big difference between Audyssey MultEQ XT and Pro?

I don't need video processing, I watch primarily Blu Ray and my Oppo player does a great job at upscaling older DVDs which I avoid like the plague as they look grainy on a 10 feet wide 2:35 screen

Yes I love the look of the Classť but I am not sure that it is worth $5500 more!!!
If you have been through the huge Official Audyssey Forum - it's on AVS, I think - you will note quite a few loud Audyssey blasters, who got it and then were deeply dissatisfied. As you continue through the thread, you find that they all did something stupid during or after the calibration. They did not use enough mike positions. They did not eliminate noise in the room from refrigerators, projector fans, etc. They held the Audyssey mike in their hand and did not use a tripod. They expected Audyssey to correctly set the speaker to large or small automatically. They did not set their subwoofer correctly before the calibration. They set the mike too close to a wall. They set the mike below the top of their listening chair. Etc., etc. Over and over the same stupid things. Or, they expected their single point hand-held Radio Shack meter readings to be perfectly flat after the calibration. And, so it goes. Although, in several cases, the Audyssey calibration revealed a busted speaker driver the owner was unaware of, but the complainer had blamed the sonic problems on Audyssey, anyway.

I have seen no case where one of these whiners was not turned into an Audyssey lover by Chris Kyriakakis himself, the Audyssey CTO and a principal designer. This is rather unprecedented for an audio product to have someone like this to personally respond to problems and complaints. He has patiently fielded the same questions over and over as well as many deeper technical questions. When the complainers eventually did a correct calibration - it's not hard, but you have to be careful - they completely changed their tune from haters to lovers. Bottom line: it's easy to do, but it's just as easy to screw it up, too. Once they do it right, they love it.

I think the technology is incredibly sophisticated. I do not know if you really know the difference between the digital , mathematical filtering done in Digital Signal Processing engines and traditional EQ - graphic or parametric. The DSP filtering done by Audyssey covers hundreds of points across the frequency spectrum, a number to which traditional EQ cannot get remotely close. And, DSP filtering as practiced by Audyssey does not have the phase shift side effects that traditional EQ does. Plus, Audyssey has a remarkably sophisticated multi-point "averaging" scheme to dramatically increase the sweet spot where EQ has made the sound much better than before. So, Audyssey EQ is a very advanced new animal with little in common with traditional EQ that dovetails extremely well with todayís DSP-based AVR's and pre-pros. The DSP is already there in these units for other reasons, so why not just have Audyssey do its process on the signal while it's there. There is no comparison between Audyssey and traditional EQ. Itís like night and day.

Yes, Audyssey cannot handle chronic room reflection based response issues. It handles modes and nulls (within limits) fairly well, but not serious decay-time issues like ringing or slap echo. But, I do not think these are issues for an amateur like you or me to tackle. The perfect room requires both careful measurement and treatment by a knowledgeable expert plus EQ. But, room treatments, no matter how expensively done, are not going to provide the flattest response. Treatments are typically a blunt instrument operating over a wide frequency range that is not really precise. They affect frequencies where there is a problem the same as they do frequencies where there is no problem. I believe proper EQ, like Audyssey, can always make the room response smoother within the listening area, because it is very precise about level, frequency and Q in its filtering in achieving the target curve.

There is another aspect of Audyssey that is not talked about, but which is extremely important. Audyssey EQ corrects speaker response in the room adjusting each channel to the same target curve. Even identical speakers placed in different locations in the room (including a well treated room) can sound very different. Assuming good speakers, Audyssey virtually eliminates this, so that each channel has nearly identical voicing above the subwoofer crossover point. This is extremely helpful to those who have committed the no-no of mixing and matching different manufacturersí speakers in their systems. But, it helps even those with identical speakers on each channel. The result is a sonic integration that simply cannot be achieved in any other way. You have to hear this to believe it.

At this point, I respect the credentials of only two approaches to home theater EQ. First is Audyssey, backed by the extensive research of Drs. Tomlinson Holman and Chris Kyriakakis at THX and USC. Second, is the Anthem D-2 approach backed by years of research done by Dr. Floyd Toole at the Canadian Research Council. The two have similarities, but many big and important differences. No one else Ė not Yamaha, not Krell, not Bob Stuart at Meridian, and not Classe Ė has the extent of research and experience backing up their EQ capability. They are choosing a different, proprietary route to EQ not because they have something better; they donít. They are trying to achieve something very important in marketing called product differentiation. Krell or Classe or Meridian does not want to be just a more expensive Denon pre/pro. They need to be different to try to justify their higher prices. On the other hand, I have no idea what Yamaha, Pioneer or Sony are thinking. You will note, though, that Wisdom Audio had the wisdom to use Audyssey MultEQ XT, the same as on the stock DTC 9.8/9.9, on their $35,000 and up new speaker/electronics system.

As a sidelight, I keep seeing references to this new Neptune EQ here in this forum. My take from their terrible website is itís an automated fixed- frequency- interval, graphic EQ, with an order of magnitude fewer frequency bands than Audyssey can handle. With mike calibration in 4 minutes, it must be single point, not 8 like MultEQ XT or 32 like Audyssey Pro. Itís a new expensive wrapper for old-style EQ. My prediction is that this overpriced product, and, if there is any justice, the company will fail fairly quickly. I would not get near it with a 10-foot pole.

You wanted to know about Audyssey Pro. It works with the Integra DTC 9.8/9.9 and itís Onkyo siblings, plus the Denon pre/pro and some of the better Denon AVRís. You get a nice kit with all you need in a nice carry-bag. The mike is individually calibrated, not batch calibrated like the one that comes with Integra, Onkyo, Denon or Marantz. You get a decent tripod with mike boom, cables, mike preamp, usb/serial converter, etc. plus the all-important Pro software for your PC. You can get a good review of it in Kal Rubinsonís Music-in-the-Round column in Stereophile. Itís on line. But, bear in mind, that Kal understates everything and is very savy technically, but is somewhat non-committal about sonic, listening virtues. But, heís great. I like him anyway.

Pro is more precise, not only because of the better mike, but also because the calculations of the filters are done on the PC, not in the pre/proís DSP. I did 15 calibration points in Pro for my 3-seat wide listening area. MultEQ XT is limited to 8. You get to audition a few modifications to the standard target curve and sub crossover points. You save the one configuration you like to the pre/pro and you are done. Everybody wishes there were, but, no, there is no saved copy of the calibration on the PC.

I gave you my take on it before in this forum. Itís a winner. I hear more natural detail, more space, more depth. For some it might be a little subtle, but there is no sonic downside whatsoever. MultEQ XT was fabulous; this is even more so. To me, itís easily worth the $600 including license Audyssey currently charges audiophiles for it. You can always repeat the calibration if you change the room or components. For some, it might be too technical to do, but I had no serious problems with it.
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Old 08-06-2008   #40
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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Originally Posted by fitzcaraldo215 View Post
I gave you my take on it before in this forum. Itís a winner. I hear more natural detail, more space, more depth. For some it might be a little subtle, but there is no sonic downside whatsoever. MultEQ XT was fabulous; this is even more so. To me, itís easily worth the $600 including license Audyssey currently charges audiophiles for it. You can always repeat the calibration if you change the room or components. For some, it might be too technical to do, but I had no serious problems with it.
Do you work for Audyssey? Or are you a dealer?
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Old 08-06-2008   #41
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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Do you work for Audyssey? Or are you a dealer?
Absolutely not. I have no connection with the audio industry except as a hobbyist, which, though dating myself, I have been for 50 years. I am just trying to share with my fellow hobbyists what I think is the most exciting breakthrough in audio since stereo arrived on the scene at the beginning of my hobby. That breakthrough is multichannel + hi-res audio (currently SACD's) + HDMI 1.3A + Audyssey EQ. All, taken together, lift music reproduction to a much higher plane that 2-channel ever could achieve now or in the future, in my humble opinion.
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Old 08-06-2008   #42
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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All, taken together, lift music reproduction to a much higher plane that 2-channel ever could achieve now or in the future, in my humble opinion.
Kinda depends on the source material and the quality of your system. All the SACD, HDMI 1.3A and Audyssey EQ available won't make a poor recording (hi-res or otherwise) played through a mediocre sytem sound like the real thing. Give me a good recording played back on a high quality stereo system over that any day.
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