2 Channel newbie advice [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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10-18-2004, 05:32 PM
I recently got a new part time job while at University and thought i'd blow my paycheck on a new 2 speaker Audio system. :D I'd like to get a high quality setup that i will be able to build upon later down the track, my budget is about $1500 Australian Dollars (75c = $1US). A little leeway higher or lower.

Currently im using a very sad Panasonic MIDI system to which is connected my Technics SL1200 MK2 turntable and PreAmp. I have a fairly extensive collection of Vinyl (Pink Flloyd, Led Zep, Simon and Garfunkel, the Eagles and a lot of newer stuff) along with a big ol' pile of CD's. I am very much into music and have my system running about 20 hours a day. This system would be used primarily for music but would also be connected to my PC's Audigy 2 soundcard via digital S/PDIF for listening to MP3's etc.

Never having ventured into serious home audio I'm a bit lost as to what i should look for. One of the biggest concerns i have is whether or not to buy a Stereo or 5.1 receiver. I only want to output to 2 speakers but i've been told that i'm better of getting a 5.1 rather than a 2 channel receiver as this restricts my upgrade path should i want to build a home theatre setup later on and the price difference is negligable.

To start of with im looking at a system comprised of an Onkyo DV-SP502 DVD player, Onkyo TX-8211 Stereo Receiver and 2 Jamo 100w speakers (not sure of model). The shop assistant said i could swap the 2 channel receiver for a 5.1 Yamaha or similar and still maintain the $1400 price tag for the lot.

any advice/recommendations.

Mr Peabody
10-18-2004, 06:15 PM
The only reason you would need 5.1 is if you think you would want home theater or 5 channel audio via SACD or DVD-A. I personally like Onkyo much better than Yamaha.

If you decide to stick with 2 channel, I'd suggest checking to see how much a British integrated would cost you from Creek, Arcam or Roksan. You will gain far superior stereo sound from one of those over a receiver. What ever you buy, be sure it has a phono stage for your turntable. If you have to buy an outboard phono stage the Creek OBH-8 is unbeatable at it's price in my book. In fact, I had to spend quite a bit more to improve on sound when I upgraded from mine.

10-18-2004, 06:54 PM
great thanks for the advice. The onkyo receiver i mentioned doesnt have onboard phono inputs, but i was jsut planning to run my phono pre-amp into spare inputs on the receiver. Amps/receivers with phono inputs are a fair ways more expensive.

A british integrated amp would run me up about $1000 which is way over my budget unfortunately.

The main reason i am even considering a 5.1 receiver would be so that i can eventually create a home theater setup. But maybe i'd be better of just sticking to a 2 channel system for now and replacing the receiver when the time comes.

Also how are Jamo as a speaker manafacturer? I tried them out at the store by playing Eric Claptons "Clasical Gas" and they sounded incredible. But i dont claim to be any great shakes at distinguishing the minutaie of speaker effects.

10-18-2004, 09:33 PM
You're talking about two entirely different product paths here. Two-channel receivers use all analog circuitry and designed with no built in digital decoding or DSP or video signal switching. They are designed to maximize the sound quality with analog inputs, including CD players that have higher quality output circuits. If maximizing the sound quality with two-channel playback is the overriding priority, then you should find a good two-channel amp. Cambridge Audio amps go for as low as $350USD.

Multichannel receivers are designed to handle variety of functions and can do a lot more digital format decoding. They typically use digital signal paths and do lot more digital conversions with analog signals. If you plan to hook up a DVD player or if you do a lot of soundfile editing on your computer, you might want to go with a multichannel receiver because it can handle DD, DTS, and PCM signals with different bitrates. Two-channel amps will sound subtlely better with two-channel analog sources, but they are much more limited in their functionality, especially if you own a DVD player and want to take full advantage of multichannel DD and DTS soundtracks. In addition, multichannel receivers benefit from economies of scale, so as far as dollar value goes, you get more with the multichannel receivers.

It really comes down to how much you value the versatility and expandability of a multichannel receiver versus the more dediccated straight-forward function of a two-channel amp.

10-18-2004, 09:42 PM
There are plenty of good integrateds under $500 such as this Cambridge Audio 540a (http://cambridgeaudio.com/540a_amp.html) or this NAD C320bee (http://www.nadelectronics.com/hifi_amplifiers/C320BEE_framset.htm), either of which would make a really nice centerpiece to a good two channel system. You can even pair the CA 540a with a 540c cd player and if you negotiate well, purchase both for around $500. Personally, when it comes to music reproduction, I don't think there's a receiver built under $1K (maybe more) that can stand toe to toe with a good integrated amp. There are others such as Creek or if you like the magical sound of tubes, check out Jolida or ASL.

If, OTOH, you want to move into HT relatively quickly, you're better off with a 5 or 7 channel receiver. You'll get all the latest surround decoding, a tuner, and hopefully pre-outs so you can add amps as your income increases. This last part is important because the main drawback to a receiver is the amp section. How important this is to you is something only you can determine. For most people, a receiver's onboard amps are more than adequate. FWIW, don't get sucked into paying for 15 or 30 more watts as you move up the food chain. It's not worth it. Remember, it takes twice as many watts to effect a 3dB increase in volume, which is barely audible.

For speakers, you're going to have to get out there and listen, listen, listen. No one here can tell you what is best because we don't have your taste, budget, or room acoustics. Check out the usual suspects such as B&W, Paradigm, Energy, Monitor, Def Tech, JM Lab, Polk, and Magnaplaner. Then check out the not so usual suspects like Von Schweikert, AN, Green Mountain, and JMR.

The most critical step in building a system is to realize a speaker makes the most dramatic difference in any system so find them FIRST. Once you've settled on a pair, buy suitable amp that can properly drive them and makes for a synergistic match (they play off each other's strengths). Remember, you're building a system, therefore how everything interacts is paramount. It's not just a collection of components.

This can take a while and many people will spend years building their rig from two channel to multi-channel. That's why it's a hobby. Take your time and enjoy the ride.

Hope this helps.

10-19-2004, 02:13 AM
awesome. now i know what to look for. I was a bit confused about the differences between Amps and Receivers but that all makes sense now. i think im going to stick with the onkyo dvd player and the jamo speakers coz they just sound amazing. I'll hunt around a bit more for the integrated amp.

i think i'll just stick with getting the best stereo setup i can and look at HT later on down the track.