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Old 10-17-2009   #43
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Default Re: High end processors VS low end processors/receivers, hardware differences?

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Originally Posted by wes View Post
EQ is not a miracle solution, room dimensions, treatment, speaker quality and placement are the first things one should look at.
@wes:
While analog equalization has always involved other trade off, digital is not supposed to do so.
However, I think that some, if not most, people will use it as a band-aid solution without even trying to make thing better with the simple aspect that you listed.
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Old 10-17-2009   #44
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Default Re: High end processors VS low end processors/receivers, hardware differences?

This DBT nonsense that Ive read here remind me of my worst buying decision.

Many years ago I had an expensive Nakamishi tape deck. One of my friend bought a cheap (100$) no name tape deck and said that it was better than mine. He believed what the salesman told him.

To prove him that he was wrong. We decided, after he asked to the salesman, to bring my Nak to his shop.
We perform, the Stereo Review test, the DBT. I was unable to hear any difference.

I eventually sold my nak and bought that cheap no name ( I think it was Candle or Juliette) player.

I didn't take long extensive listening to figure that something was not the same. Everything was worst, not the same, not better , worst.

This experience with DBT gave me an invaluable lesson.
It can not prove anything about sound quality. Only extensive listening session can do that.( You can even do blind extensive listening session if you wish to.)

p.s. if one's happy with cheap stuff, let those who are happy whit expensive stuff be happy. It's not your money, it's not your happiness.
p.p.s. Nice picture, but they don't prove anything either. It's only like Rolex replica.
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Old 10-17-2009   #45
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Talking Re: High end processors VS low end processors/receivers, hardware differences?

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Originally Posted by Chris Gossard View Post
Interesting thread...I don't know how I'd do in a DBT, but I do know there is a difference between the Onkyo Pro 886P processor that I currently own and the Integra Research RDC-7 that it replaced when listening to music.

I had an Audyssey SE connected to the RDC-7 and it was professionally calibrated by the same guy that calibrated the Audyssey on my 886P. Since getting the Onkyo a few months back, I find myself listening to music less (most music is played through my Sonos system w/ a ZP80 digital out connected directly to the processor -- was connected the same way with the RDC-7).

True, I didn't switch one pre/pro out and then connect the other and go back and forth, but, to these ears, the Onkyo is a bit more fatiguing (same speakers all around with Paradigm Active 20s as the mains supported by a couple of Paradigm UltraCube 10s).

I notice a considerable difference (improvement) when I play a CD through my Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD via analog outs and the Onkyo set to mutichannel direct. The soundstage is better, as is the imaging and the music is much more involving...my wife notices it too. I have read some discussion groups that jitter from the ZP80 is a contributing factor to the fatigue, but I just had it modded by Cullen so that can't be an issue. Unfortunately, the 09FD doesn't have digital in so I can't run the Sonos through its DACs.

I think the Onkyo has a great picture and sounds great on TV or DVD -- high def or otherwise -- but I'm seriously considering getting an analog preamp for music -- Parsasound P-7 or Wyred4sound STP -- and get an outboard DAC to do the D/A conversion instead of the Onkyo. Problem then, though, is that I don't have my Audyssey SE any more, so if I get one of those, I'm looking at about $4K investment and then another $1K minimum for the DAC...might just make more sense to get a used Anthem D2V....

ChrisG
Seattle, WA
Have you auditioned the Sunfire Theater Grand V? I had an Onkyo for a short time; I thought the Sunfire was definitely smoother and more musical.
DaveL,
Snohomish, WA
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Old 10-18-2009   #46
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Default Re: High end processors VS low end processors/receivers, hardware differences?

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Originally Posted by DaveLadely View Post
Have you auditioned the Sunfire Theater Grand V? I had an Onkyo for a short time; I thought the Sunfire was definitely smoother and more musical.
DaveL,
Snohomish, WA
No, I haven't and thanks for the suggestion...depending on where my odyssey takes me, I will keep it in mind for a future audition.

I have just added a PS Audio PerfectWave DAC to my system on Friday and, FLAC files played on Sonos through the PWD with the Onkyo set on "Pure Audio" setting (no processing and all video circuits and display turn off) sound great and I think I've solved the issue to a large degree. Out of the box this DAC is wonderful -- great soundstage, imaging that is spot on and a sense of depth in the sound that I've never heard before in my room...a big improvement over the Cullen modded PS Audio DL-III that I tried previously (it is a great sounding DAC too). I'm not sure if I bought the "break-in" theory for electronics previously, but owners of this DAC say that after 100 hours or so of use it really blossoms, so I'm running it continuously and playing some of the same tunes when I "audition" it again during the break-in and, I have to say, that it is sounding better each time and my system is really sounding musical again.

Back to EQ as someone pointed out, EQ isn't where you should start...room treatment is the first step and my room has had professional sound treatments installed. I also have a couple of subs in my system...don't know if that is enough to prevent the nodes that were brought up, but two is all my room can handle.

As for EQ and the processor, the Onkyo adds Audyssey processing when set on stereo (which also adds in the subs). The soundstage gets even broader (compared to Pure Audio) when on this setting, but the imaging gets less focused too...kind of like on boomboxes that have the "expanded stereo" setting. I definitely prefer running the processor on "pure audio" when listening to music. I can turn off Audyssey when it is set on "stereo" and it does improve the imaging and the overall sound, but it doesn't sound as good as when listening on "pure audio".

Frankly, I didn't have this issue with the stand alone Audyssey Sound Equalizer and my Integra Research RDC-7. I assume that is a combination of the DACs and components in both units...additionally the Audyssey SE has much greater processing power than the Audyssey that is built in to any processor or receiver. Listening to my FLAC files via Sonos with the RDC-7 doing the D/A conversion and with the SE in the loop, there was no fatigue, imaging & soundstage was great, etc. Like I said in an earlier post, Audyssey was calibrated by the same guy in both cases, so I have to assume that it is the lower processing power of the Audyssey chip in the Onkyo and the lower cost of the Onkyo compared to the combo that it replaced that is the issue. (the RDC-7/SE combo was about $7K versus $2K for the Onkyo...silly me thinking I'd get the same performance...that's what I get for "listening" to the posts on some other forums that shall remain nameless).

The current 2-channel sound with the PWD exceeds the RDC-7/SE combo to a large extent,(the Onkyo wins on video processing/switching and on surround sound) but when listening to "pure audio" my subs aren't in the loop and my Paradigm Active 20's aren't full range. While most music doesn't go down to 20Hz, I do miss the low end reinforcement that they provide. Also, at the price point of this processor, the analog inputs probably aren't the best and I'm not hearing all of what the PWD can do. My RDC-7 was a great 2-channel preamp both on digital and analog, so the Onkyo is a step down from where I was for 2-channel.

My solution will be to get a Wyred4Sound STP SE preamp that I will use for two channel listening (it has a HT bypass) and I can then run the mains and subs when listening to music. 6moons just had a great review on this preamp and I'm very excited about putting in the system in the near future. We'll see where I go after I plug that in...new speakers, more room treatments, another Audyssey SE...who knows. The funny thing is the total cost of the Onkyo/W4S/PWD is going to be in the $7K range too...just like my RDC7/SE combo...

So, back to the original subject of this thread, in my experience with processors (and with DACs), to these ears there is definitely a difference and it can't be explained just by not having matched levels. I do believe that you get what you pay for in most cases.

As with all things, there prolly gets to be a point of diminishing returns (where that point happens is probably different for all of us) and if you can hear a difference and can afford it, go with the best equipment your money will buy. Conversely, if a person can't hear a difference, then that's cool, go with the more economical stuff...either way it is your money.

Happy listening,

ChrisG
Seattle, WA
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Old 10-18-2009   #47
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Talking Re: High end processors VS low end processors/receivers, hardware differences?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Gossard View Post
No, I haven't and thanks for the suggestion...depending on where my odyssey takes me, I will keep it in mind for a future audition.

I have just added a PS Audio PerfectWave DAC to my system on Friday and, FLAC files played on Sonos through the PWD with the Onkyo set on "Pure Audio" setting (no processing and all video circuits and display turn off) sound great and I think I've solved the issue to a large degree. Out of the box this DAC is wonderful -- great soundstage, imaging that is spot on and a sense of depth in the sound that I've never heard before in my room...a big improvement over the Cullen modded PS Audio DL-III that I tried previously (it is a great sounding DAC too). I'm not sure if I bought the "break-in" theory for electronics previously, but owners of this DAC say that after 100 hours or so of use it really blossoms, so I'm running it continuously and playing some of the same tunes when I "audition" it again during the break-in and, I have to say, that it is sounding better each time and my system is really sounding musical again.

Back to EQ as someone pointed out, EQ isn't where you should start...room treatment is the first step and my room has had professional sound treatments installed. I also have a couple of subs in my system...don't know if that is enough to prevent the nodes that were brought up, but two is all my room can handle.

As for EQ and the processor, the Onkyo adds Audyssey processing when set on stereo (which also adds in the subs). The soundstage gets even broader (compared to Pure Audio) when on this setting, but the imaging gets less focused too...kind of like on boomboxes that have the "expanded stereo" setting. I definitely prefer running the processor on "pure audio" when listening to music. I can turn off Audyssey when it is set on "stereo" and it does improve the imaging and the overall sound, but it doesn't sound as good as when listening on "pure audio".

Frankly, I didn't have this issue with the stand alone Audyssey Sound Equalizer and my Integra Research RDC-7. I assume that is a combination of the DACs and components in both units...additionally the Audyssey SE has much greater processing power than the Audyssey that is built in to any processor or receiver. Listening to my FLAC files via Sonos with the RDC-7 doing the D/A conversion and with the SE in the loop, there was no fatigue, imaging & soundstage was great, etc. Like I said in an earlier post, Audyssey was calibrated by the same guy in both cases, so I have to assume that it is the lower processing power of the Audyssey chip in the Onkyo and the lower cost of the Onkyo compared to the combo that it replaced that is the issue. (the RDC-7/SE combo was about $7K versus $2K for the Onkyo...silly me thinking I'd get the same performance...that's what I get for "listening" to the posts on some other forums that shall remain nameless).

The current 2-channel sound with the PWD exceeds the RDC-7/SE combo to a large extent,(the Onkyo wins on video processing/switching and on surround sound) but when listening to "pure audio" my subs aren't in the loop and my Paradigm Active 20's aren't full range. While most music doesn't go down to 20Hz, I do miss the low end reinforcement that they provide. Also, at the price point of this processor, the analog inputs probably aren't the best and I'm not hearing all of what the PWD can do. My RDC-7 was a great 2-channel preamp both on digital and analog, so the Onkyo is a step down from where I was for 2-channel.

My solution will be to get a Wyred4Sound STP SE preamp that I will use for two channel listening (it has a HT bypass) and I can then run the mains and subs when listening to music. 6moons just had a great review on this preamp and I'm very excited about putting in the system in the near future. We'll see where I go after I plug that in...new speakers, more room treatments, another Audyssey SE...who knows. The funny thing is the total cost of the Onkyo/W4S/PWD is going to be in the $7K range too...just like my RDC7/SE combo...

So, back to the original subject of this thread, in my experience with processors (and with DACs), to these ears there is definitely a difference and it can't be explained just by not having matched levels. I do believe that you get what you pay for in most cases.

As with all things, there prolly gets to be a point of diminishing returns (where that point happens is probably different for all of us) and if you can hear a difference and can afford it, go with the best equipment your money will buy. Conversely, if a person can't hear a difference, then that's cool, go with the more economical stuff...either way it is your money.

Happy listening,

ChrisG
Seattle, WA
I am now retired, but when Bob Carver and I were experimenting, we always bought two pieces of equipment so that we could "double blind" each other listening to one, then the, while trying to fool each other in an effort to eliminate subjective bias as best we could. Fortunately my hearing was excellent, as tested by an audiologist, so I had some confidence in my decisions.

I understand that can get expensive, but its the only trustworthy way that I have found to make credible judgments of equipment. Its truly amazing the power of subjective thinking has over choices, so one has to really take precautions to at least minimize it. We did double blind tests on every component we added or replaced, and the results sometimes surprised us.

I issued a challenge for double blind tests of cables/interconnects. Seems most would prefer to rely on subjective thinking, which Bob and I learned is another term for "fooling yourself", which some have said is easier than fooling others.

With regard to processing, there is no doubt that stand alone processors have a clear advantage over those incorporated into receivers and preamps, similar to the advantages of separate components over receivers. Processing changes sound, whether for better, hopefully, or worse, depending on the quality of the design. Personally, I consider processors of very good quality to be OK for home theater listening, to movies and perhaps concerts, but for serious listening i must say I prefer sound that is as little processed as possible. Personally, I never even used tone controls or equalizers, preferring to have it "straight". In fact, Bob Carver had his doubts about my preference, and did double blind testing on using tone controls. I was able to call it each time, and did prefer "straight through" connection, though I must admit I was not really sure that subjective thinking might be involved, until Bob tested me thoroughly. He was surprised and I felt vindicated and more confident of my preference.

Dave in Snohomish, WA

Last edited by DaveLadely; 10-18-2009 at 12:16 PM.. Reason: add comment
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Old 10-22-2009   #48
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Default Re: High end processors VS low end processors/receivers, hardware differences?

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With regard to processing, there is no doubt that stand alone processors have a clear advantage over those incorporated into receivers and preamps, similar to the advantages of separate components over receivers. Processing changes sound, whether for better, hopefully, or worse, depending on the quality of the design. Personally, I consider processors of very good quality to be OK for home theater listening, to movies and perhaps concerts, but for serious listening i must say I prefer sound that is as little processed as possible. Personally, I never even used tone controls or equalizers, preferring to have it "straight". In fact, Bob Carver had his doubts about my preference, and did double blind testing on using tone controls. I was able to call it each time, and did prefer "straight through" connection, though I must admit I was not really sure that subjective thinking might be involved, until Bob tested me thoroughly. He was surprised and I felt vindicated and more confident of my preference.
Hey Dave,

here's a thought:

"Processor" is the new "preamp". With 2-channel sources that are delivered in 2.0 analog, no "processing" needs to take place in the preamp. However, unless the source is LP or open-reel, it's probably started life in your system as a digital signal, in which case it needed to get converted to analog... a form of "processing" done in a d/a converter.

I know that you and most everyone reading this thread know this, but the reason I'm stating this is because these days, with digital sources, virtually every signal at some point gets "processed" by necessity. Yes, even simple d/a conversion with linear PCM involves things like oversampling and digital filtering... some d/a converters apply analog filters, some digital, some interpolate beyond 16 bits, some "correct" 16-bit quantization (presumed) errors based on laws of natural wave-forms prior to d/a etc. etc. There's no such thing as the one and only right and perfect way to design d/a conversion... both on the software and hardware side. And so even the most basic of tasks by any CD player can be rightly termed "processing".

I say this because with digital signals, if the d/a conversion stage is incorporated into the pre-amp, then the pre-amp becomes "a processor".

That's really what is meant when high-end music lovers and film lovers talk about audio processors: most are not talking about black boxes that will intentionally alter the source sound and deviate from the original intent by adding reverb or fancy tricks that correspond to gimmicky labels on the front face plate. Rather, we're talking about things like the quality of the d/a conversion, analog output stage, volume attenuator, jitter filtering, resolution enhancement, upsampling etc. Even tasks which are bit-for-bit accurate like decoding Dolby TrueHD, MLP, or DTS-HD MA into multi-channel PCM are generally termed "processing". What does fall into the old-fashioned idea of "processing" in today's processors are things like THX re-equalization and EQ management... and naturally the algorithms used can have a damaging effect on sound quality... but well designed algorithms may in fact improve things given that your room-speaker interaction *also* changes the sound (room-speaker interaction can IMO be reasonably termed as "passive" processing because it's taking place though not by intent). Is it philosophically wrong to use an active means to counteract a known passive effect like an EQ imbalance due to speaker/room limitations? Not necessarily. I liken it to the justification of applying EQ balancing to restore the raw signal from an turntable cartridge so that it has the proper tonal balance (applying an active change to compensate for a known passive effect).

Having said all that... I've found that I prefer the sound of my friend's high-end Lexicon processor when it operates in bypass mode applying no additional DSP to the source beyond the necessary d/a conversion.

Bottom line: a "Processor" is a multi-channel pre-amp with the built-in ability to handle digital signals as well as analog: It's *today's* pre-amp, for all intents and purposes.

Last edited by DaViD Boulet; 10-22-2009 at 04:08 PM..
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