Q&A # 189 - July 19, 2000
Q Being located in a less populated Canadian city has limited my range of choice for purchasing audio/video components. I'm in the process of assessing what I'd like to purchase to enter into the quality audio / home theatre world. I'm working with about a $10,000 Cdn (approx. $6,750 US) budget to acquire quality equipment: Front/main speakers (music listening critical), Amp (5 channel), Pre/processor/tuner, Center channel (optional in this round), Cabling/connectors. Here's what I've been considering so far: Paradigm Reference 100, Athem MCA 5 Amp, Athem AVM 2 Processor (new model). Not sure on the rest yet, as I wasn't considering them at first. Can you make any suggestions/recommendations on the above? I'd like to stick with Canadian manufacturers, as I think the service issue will be easier to handle. Other names I've considered are PSB, B&W, Celeste, Bryston, and Parasound. Cabling/connectors are not determined yet.
A Your choices seem right on the mark. If your mains will be Paradigm, stick with them for the center. We will be reviewing the Anthem processor as soon as it is available. Try either a Paradigm or Mirage subwoofer. Parasound is a US firm, not Canadian. We have not reviewed much in the way of Canadian cables, but that will change now that we have Brian Florian as Editor, CANADA.
Q My primary concern is music. However, I want home theater capabilities. My current system is nothing special, JVC receiver and CD player with Advent bookshelf speakers. I have never consider myself an "Audiophile", so I am not up on all the equipment available. I have been told (even in specialty stores) "All good receivers will sound alike!" NOT TO MY EARS! I have listened, and have taken home to try most of the mid-priced (under $1,000) receivers, HK, Onkyo, Marantz, and have not been happy. I should say that I have played musical instruments for 20 years, so I have a very critical ear for live music. I am now looking at separates, which is a whole new experience, but I am learning quick. I have auditioned the Marantz AV-550 Preamp with their MA-500 mono blocks and with their MM-9000 5 channel amp. I would like to stay around $2k for starters for the preamp and hopefully 3 amps. The other 2 amps can be added later. Does this sound like a system I would be happy with, or is there other equipment or options I should be looking at?
A Musicians are especially hard to please when it comes to home audio, and I would say that you are an audiophile. What that means is that you like it to sound good. You don't have to know much about the products out there to know that you like good sound. If you like the sound of the AV-550, then you should get one. My guess is you would like a preamp/processor that uses tubes in the output stage. Golden Audio makes one, and Balanced Audio Technology is releasing one before Christmas. However, they are both beyond your budget, and you would still need power amplifiers. If it were me, I would just wait until I could afford something I really enjoyed. For $2,000 and being a musician, it will not be easy for you to do.
Q My DVD player has a digital coax output, but my receiver has no digital Inputs. It does have six individual inputs for all the channels (5.1 inputs). Is there a device I can buy that will let me put the digital in and get outputs for all the channels (i.e., center, left, right, sub, left-rear, right-rear)?
A If you can find an outboard DD decoder, that would work. It has the digital input and analog 5.1 outputs that would go to your receiver. The trick is finding a decoder. They are no longer in production at most factories, because all the new receivers have DD and DTS decoding built-in. You might look in the News Groups and post a message saying you are looking for a DD decoder (post your message with WTB in the header, which means Want to Buy). The other alternative, for now, is to use the stereo analog output jacks of your DVD player and let your receiver decode them into Pro Logic.
Q I have an older system consisting of an Adcom GTP-500 Tuner, Adcom GFA 545 Amplifier, and Klipsch KG4 speakers. What is the best way for me to turn this system into a home theater one? Which surround and center speakers would work best with the KG4s? Would I be best off to replace the Adcom gear with something like the Yamaha RX-V995?
A I would suggest getting the 995 or equivalent, and using the GFA-545 to drive some of the channels, by connecting it to the pre-outs on the Yamaha. This will take some of the load off the Yamaha amplifier. Look on the Klipsch website and get speakers that are as close a match to the KG4s as possible. Also include a Klipsch center channel speaker. Sell the tuner on the web.
Q I know its ancient technology, but until I can purchase discrete surround sound digital audio, it is all I have. When playing some tapes on my Teac 3440S 4 channel reel-to-reel tape recorder, the tapes squeal. If you feel the tape as it is playing, I notice it is vibrating. Is this a hardware fault or is the tape itself deteriorating?
A If the music playing is vibrating too, then it might be a capstan problem. If the music is OK, but just the tape is squealing, I suspect the rubber belt that pulls the take-up reel is wearing out. You can check this out yourself by opening the cover and watching the take-up reel spool while a tape is playing. Just be careful not to stick your fingers into any circuitry while it is plugged in.
Q I have a B&W CC6 center speaker with a Nakamichi AV-10 receiver. When I play my DTS DVD Sheryl Crow album, the vocal comes out from the CC6, but when I play Titanic DD, no sound comes out from the CC6 . Is my setup wrong or what (CC6 biwired)?
A There are many digital surround discs that have sections of music or movie tracks, where the sound is not coming from certain speakers at one time or another. That is one of the features of digital surround. Absolute discrete signals to each speaker. No bleed from other channels such as you get sometimes from matrix surround (decoded from two-channel stereo).
Q I've got an Adcom 5802, a Sound Valves VTP-101i, and next will be the CD player or the speakers (Cambridge Soundworks sub/sats). To my ears, the improvement over my old Sansui receiver is incredible. On a budget, what gets me more bang for the buck, new speakers or new CD player (currently a Sony 5CD changer)?
A I would say getting good speakers will be the best thing to do first.
Q I've heard that Powerline Conditioners (PLCs) protect audio/video equipment from surges and lightning, but many say they also make the music lifeless, congested, and lacking in high frequency ex tension. True or not? Should I just plug all of my A/V gear directly to the wall outlet? I want my audio gear to produce uncolored music, but at the same time, protected from lightning.
A Frankly, I have not found AC Line Conditioners to make any obvious difference in the sound consistently, other than reducing background noise. Protection from voltage surges and lightning is a property that they all have, but what is more important to me is the sequential turn on and turn off of the preamp and power amplifiers so that I don't get any sonic thumps. For overall value, I like the Rotel RLC-900 ($200). The newest breed of products, such as made by PS Audio and Perpetual Technologies go way beyond just "conditioning" the AC. In some cases, they actually recreate it and substantially improve the sound. They are expensive, but appear to really make a difference.
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