Q&A # 27 - September 2, 1997
Q Why don't speaker manufacturers build all their speakers with high sensitivity?
A With everything comes a price. High sensitivity speakers are great for low power amplifiers, but usually the frequency response (anechoic chamber) is not as smooth (flat) as it is with lower sensitivity speakers.
Q Are there any HDTV-compatible TVs on the market right now, and if not, when will there be?
A Yes, well sort of. Data and Graphics Grade projectors are HDTV-ready. Zenith has the Pro-900 that retails for $12,000, Runco's 980-Ultra is $24,000, and Vidikron's line is between $30,000 and $50,000. Most computer monitors will be able to display HDTV. So, HDTV projectors are here, but not affordable for the mass market. In 1998, when consumer level HDTVs arrive, they will be about $5,000 - $10,000.
Q I am currently running a Yamaha RX-V850 Pro-Logic Receiver, an Acurus
3x200 amp for LCR channels, and the internal receiver amp to drive the
rear speakers. My front speakers are the Paradigm Studio Reference 100s
with matching center channel, and Boston Accoustics VR20s for the rear
channel. I use this system for movies and music, mostly classical. I am very
happy with the performance, especially with music, but will be upgrading to
an AC-3 receiver in the near future.
My questions regard powering the rear channels with a separate amp. The amps
that I am considering are the Acurus A250 (250 wpc) and the Aragon 8008BB
(200 wpc). I selected the Acurus in order to match my present amp. Is this
important for AC-3? Would the Aragon also match in tonal quality? I have
reasoned that it might since both amps are made by Mondial. Would I notice
an improvement with the Aragon over the Acurus, especially with music?
The configuration that I would probably use would be the Acurus A250
(more power) or Aragon (a better amp) to drive the LF and RF speakers,
and use the Acurus 3x200 to drive the C and LR and RR speakers. Would
everything still be matched with this setup? Should I worry about the
center channel and the front channels matching?
Is there another reasonably priced amp in the 200 wpc range that I
Finally, about the Bostons in the rear. I know that AC-3 is best when
all speakers are matched. Will these be adequate? I don't want another
set of Studio 100s because of the size and price.
A Although the Acurus and Aragon ar both marketed by Mondial, they are very different amplifiers. The tonality would not likely be different, but perhaps the Aragon would be somewhat cleaner and more detailed. However, the additional detail provided by the Aragon would be lost throught the modest quality preamplifier in the receiver. There would definitely be more punch with the Aragon because of its better power supply. Since you are using different brands and sizes of speakers for the front and rear, these would more likely be a source of tonality differences than mixing Acurus and Aragon power amplifiers. I would suggest sticking with Acurus for all channels. Since your preferences are limited by size and price, the Boston Acoustics should be fine.
Q I was at Wal-Mart today and saw a cool setup for a Sony Dolby Pro Logic receiver and 5 speakers for $399.99. Does this sound like a good deal? All I currently have is a Panasonic A100 DVD player and a Sanyo 25" Stereo TV.
A Actually some of these "good deals" at places like Wal Mart, Price Club, etc., are not all that bad, as long as you understand they are very basic entry level systems. If you really like home theater, you will very quickly want something better, say, about 6 months from now. Your DVD player will have to be connected to the receiver with the stereo (two channel) analog outputs from the DVD player rather than digital coax, since your receiver does not have AC-3 capability. If your TV has an S-Video input, use that for the video connection, so, at least, you will have a great picture for now.
Q In a previous answer you mentioned the use of outboard DACs improving the sound of CD/LDs. Doesn't this hold true for stereo L/R only? I don't think it is possible to use a DAC on AC-3/DTS. Could you comment?
A Yes, the DACs I referred to are for two channel stereo only, such as for regular CDs and the stereo sound track on LDs. Decoding of AC-3 and DTS does involve DACs, but they are specific for those particular digital formats. Several new stereo DACs have just been released, capable of handling digital bitstreams with 96 kHz sampling and 24 bit word lengths. It would appear that the next generation of stereo CDs is underway.
Q I am a fan of B&W. In fact to be quite honest, my next purchase is going to be the B&W 800 (I mean the actual 800s).
I love to stay on the cutting edge, but sometimes a company will make a true
classic that techonology cannot easily replace. That is why I am going with
the 800s. They cost $15,000.00 but it is the only speaker I know of that has successfully integrated multiple drivers and has actually improved the soundstage and almost every other characteristic
as well. I am going by word of mouth, I have never listened to them, but I
crave dynamics. I previously owned CLS-II from Martin-Logan. The
cleanliness and purity of the Full range electrostat wore off after a
while. Have you ever listened to the Grand Slamm (Wilson) at
$75,000.00? They are ridicuoulsly over priced. The funny thing is that the B&W 800s probably sound better and have almost the same dynamic capability.
The 800s came out in 1990! Yet I don't know of any speaker that can
rival it at any cost (at least for the purpose I am looking for-- mega
dynamics and SPL with almost the grace of an electrostat).
I want to get into home theatre next year. I don't know which speakers to
use though for center and rears. In one way I envy the strength of a system
that uses 5 identical speakers. The image that will be produced will be
incredible! I am wondering if I am making a mistake. I was thinking of
doing B&W 803s for middle and rears. However, I will have the 800s in the
front. How could I integrate a center channel successfully? Not to mention
that I will be 'front heavy'. The soundstage from the rears will not be on
par with the rear. I love music equally. I can't afford to do 2 systems. HELP!
A If you have not personally heard the 800s you are referring to, you absolutely must do so before purchasing them. Someone else's "word of mouth" is based on their own perception. Indeed these speakers, as well as Wilson, have great dynamics, but you need a fast amplifier to make use of that. Class A amplifiers will deliver the power quickly enough. You mentioned you are a medical student. Unless you have family money, forget about the Grand Slamms for now. Internships and Residencies don't pay that kind of bucks. For balancing the center with the front left/right you could add a subwoofer to the center channel and cross it over at about 60 Hz. That would fill in the low frequencies that are generally missing in center channel speakers. Even though AC-3 and DTS provide full range to the rear, movie digital surround soundtracks don't use the rear nearly as much as the front. But for DTS CDs (and AC-3 CDs when they arrive), the music seems to come equally all around, so you will likely encounter some tonal imbalance with music, using the 800s in the front and the 803s for the center and rear. Again, additional subwoofers could help.
Q I recently discovered your web site and found it very interesting and better than many paper printed magazines. I live in Italy, and I have planned a travel to the U.S. in the next months; on the occasion I would like to buy a Sunfire
subwoofer, of which I read your review, that here costs almost double (about $2200). The problem is that here the AC voltage is 220 volts instead of the 120 in the U.S. Since I know that some amplifiers and some active subs can operate at either 120 or 220 volts (maybe with different fuses?), I
would like to know if this is the case with the Sunfire, or if I need a
transformer (that would probably make not convenient the purchase). In any
case, would the sound quality be affected? Thanks in advance for the reply,
and keep it on: you're the best !!
A Yes, the Sunfire subwoofer can be ordered for 220 Volt operation. If you plan on purchasing any other US products that have 110 Volt configuration, you might consider getting a power conditioner with 220 to 110 Volt stepdown sockets, such as are available from Tice Audio and others. This will allow you to get the equipment without having to modify them for 220 Volts.
Q I am really in debt to you for all the information on your web site. I am newbie on home theatre, and thanks to your page (and some advice
from you through e-mail), I am on the road. For now, I am looking for an AC-3
outboard decoder and a loudspeakers set. My current system is HK AVR-80 Receiver and Toshiba SD-3006 DVD player.
I know that one of the most important choices to make is with the loudspeakers. Could you help me? I need some advice to get the best choice on that. I heard: Definitive BP10 bipolar L&R, C1B center channel and BP1X bipolar L&R surround, and B&W DM-603 L&R, CC6 center channel, and DS6 bipolar L&R
surround. Which one do you recommend? Or could you recommend another better brand? I would like to use the loudspeaker set (the best choice on brands) with an Adcom 7000 amplifier and a powered subwoofer like the Velodyne F-1500 or Sunfire.
After searching for an AC-3 decoder, I decided I would like to buy the Yamaha DDP-2, but
I do not know how to put on line (Bypass, THX, Matrix, Prologic, etc.) the
DDP-2 through the AVR-80.
A Since you are going for AC-3, I would suggest getting the B&W DM-602s for the front left/right and rear left/right. You could use the 603s all the way around too, but personally, I prefer the 602s. The CC6 is a great center channel speaker. Both the Velodyne F-1500 and the Sunfire deliver great bass, so you could flip a coin for that choice. To use an outboard AC-3 decoder with any receiver, the receiver must have a set of 5.1 input jacks. You simply connect the digital coax output of the Toshiba DVD player to the DDP-2 coax digital input, and the analog outputs of the DDP-2 to the 5.1 inputs on the receiver. The subwoofer output of the DDP-2 will have to go directly to the line-level input on the subwoofer. For receivers that don't have the set of 5.1 inputs, or
AC-3 decoding built-in, you have to go to another company, such as MSB Technology, to install the 5.1 inputs. These can be used for any outboard decoder, including AC-3 and DTS.
© Copyright 1997
Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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