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  1. #1
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    Old Equipment-New Technology

    Is audio equipment like computer equipment? Example-the computer I am using currently I paid $700 for it and it obviously outperforms the $2000 computer I had purchased a few years before. I currently have a Chiro C-800 with an Onkyo AC-3 Decoder-obviously new this set me back a pretty penny. Is the same true for audio-where I can get a new $500 A/V receiver that will perform as well as the Chiro?

    Any thoughts/opinions?

  2. #2
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    Nothing happend the last 20 years in HIFI (speaker wise)

    A strong statment that many will disagree with because they need the new and improved marketing. To quote a B&W add "There are decade old designs which cant be bettered but found out again time over time" In other words, we are building the same crap for decades just in a different shape and box.
    Last edited by Florian; 01-26-2006 at 10:02 AM.
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

  3. #3
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjjr
    Is audio equipment like computer equipment? Example-the computer I am using currently I paid $700 for it and it obviously outperforms the $2000 computer I had purchased a few years before. I currently have a Chiro C-800 with an Onkyo AC-3 Decoder-obviously new this set me back a pretty penny. Is the same true for audio-where I can get a new $500 A/V receiver that will perform as well as the Chiro?

    Any thoughts/opinions?
    Recievers today have the benefit of being able to pass Dolby Digital highest bitrate on DVD of 640kbps, your C-800/Onkyo combination cannot. This is only significant if you are going to adopt the newer HD formats as no current DVD contains a soundtrack encoded at that bitrate.

    I know that the newer Dolby chips sound better than the older Zoran chips in your Onkyo, but because there are so many variables downstream, I don't know if you are going to hear an improvement. It depends on if you are going to use the new reciever as a pre-pro or for both processing and amplification.
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  4. #4
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Like Terrence said, the technology of the digital circuitry has indeed changed a lot since your processor came out, but the bottomline of sound quality improvements will also depend on the analog circuitry of your preamp. And if your preamp was a high end multichannel model in its day, it will likely use higher quality analog circuitry than you typically find in a current model multichannel receiver.

    In general, I think that you're fine on the home theater front so long as you have full discrete 5.1 output capability and a Dolby Digital decoder. The newer enhancements such as DTS, EX and ES 6.1 processing, Dolby Pro Logic II, etc. can add to your listening enjoyment, but they are not needed to get the intended multichannel listening from DVDs and HD broadcasts. The newest receivers have added HDMI 1.1 switching, which means that they can also decode DVD-A.

    One thing to keep in mind with receivers is that a lot of them do redundant A-D/D-A conversions because all of the signal processing (including the volume) is done in the digital domain. If you use any analog sources, you probably want to keep the signal path in the analog domain, which seems to be how your Chiro handles the signals.

    An alternative for your purposes (rather than using a receiver as a preamp) would be to buy a DVD player with the DD and DTS decoding built-in, and use the multichannel outputs from there rather than your outboard AC-3 decoder. All of the DVD players that currently have multichannel audio outputs will also include support for the high res DVD-Audio and/or SACD multichannel music formats. So, with just the cost of a new DVD player, you can actually get the newer digital formats, without needing to go with a new receiver.
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  5. #5
    Forum Regular gonefishin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjjr
    Is audio equipment like computer equipment?

    Nope. (with the exception of the HT DD stuff)


    There's plenty of well designed good performing pieces both yesterday and today. Especially when it comes to speaker drivers and amplifiers...if it performs well, it performs well.

    I'm not sure if you're looking for a 2 channel system or a 5.1 type set-up. But if your looking for a 2channel system, you may do well by steering clear of alot of the HT stuff, which would be spending money on bells and whistles you're not going to use.

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  6. #6
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    I use it 100% HT. Sherbourn Amp, Monitor Audio Speakers with an Eosone Sub....it sounds great-well you know how it is......always thinking it could be better.........

  7. #7
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    Well if its for HT mostly i can recommend an older but kick ass receiver. Look for a Onkyo Integra TX-DS939. It only decodes Dolby Digital and then runs the THX filters over it, but its got a great amp section, very good build quality and can protect the max output of the subwoofers to protect them from damage and also calibrates itself. A true wonderfull piece of equipment that has served me very well in my beginning days. It was a loooong time reference too. If you can pick up the Onkyo THX Ultra set too on ebay, youll have a kick ass HT system which is very affordable too :-)
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

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    If you were really asking if it would be worth it to upgrade do to improvements in technology I'd say these guys have given you a good response.

    In general though there has been some decent improvements over the years, especially in speakers. Hardly any speaker manufacturer uses paper cones any more. Now they use several new and better space age materials. I wouldn't say any major changes in amplifier design but now there is the toroidal transformer and several parts that are now made of better material. Digital is always improving. On the other hand there is some highly sought after vintage gear, like the Marantz 9 that sells for several times it's original retail price on the used market. So it seems there is no black & white answer, maybe it's a matter of perspective, and where you are at the time verses where you are wanting to go.

  9. #9
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    Well if its for HT mostly i can recommend an older but kick ass receiver. Look for a Onkyo Integra TX-DS939. It only decodes Dolby Digital and then runs the THX filters over it, but its got a great amp section, very good build quality and can protect the max output of the subwoofers to protect them from damage and also calibrates itself. A true wonderfull piece of equipment that has served me very well in my beginning days. It was a loooong time reference too. If you can pick up the Onkyo THX Ultra set too on ebay, youll have a kick ass HT system which is very affordable too :-)
    That would be more of a lateral move than an upgrade in this case, because that particular receiver does not add any new format decoding capability. The original poster already uses a decent all-analog multichannel preamp, an outboard DD decoder, and a Sherbourn amp, so the amplification on that Onkyo would not be used at all, and the digital decoding would not include format support for DTS, 6.1 ES, DD EX, DPLII, and DVD-A/SACD playback.
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  10. #10
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjjr
    Is audio equipment like computer equipment? Example-the computer I am using currently I paid $700 for it and it obviously outperforms the $2000 computer I had purchased a few years before. I currently have a Chiro C-800 with an Onkyo AC-3 Decoder-obviously new this set me back a pretty penny. Is the same true for audio-where I can get a new $500 A/V receiver that will perform as well as the Chiro?

    Any thoughts/opinions?
    What has improved is features -- new units are more powerful in this regard in that thye will do a lot more - they have more connections more and better processing for home theater.

    Quality of sound and Quality of build are other matters - though a $900 receiver from 1995 is likely to be bested by most any $500.00 Receiver today in all regards. The receiver then had no pretentions of sounding good in the first palce and so beating it isn't saying much. I had a flagship well reviewed 2k receiver back then and really it was dreadful for music --- I have a newish Marantz 4300 and it is to be quite honest about the same musically -- it has more features and is about $600.00. This to me is a far better unit than the top of the line Elite that I had. Although the Elite's remote was much better and it was a much more ergonomical piece of equipment -- the Marantz is frustrating to operate.

    Parts quality is important and they have improved dramatically over the years - the designs of most Audio Equipment were done in the 1920-1940s. rehashing the same stuff under different labels.

    For speakers in a response to me from a fellow named Layman on AA

    "Consider that 99.99999% of speakers are based on designs perfected in the 1920's. Consider that the last 65 years have witnessed no actual engineering innovations with loudspeakers. Consider that even supposedly "new" technolgies such as NXT (modal speakers) had antecedents 25 years ago with Professor Bertagni's BES applications, which had antecedents in some of Alexander Graham Bell's earliest speaker experiments. It's obvious there is nothing really new or innovative when it comes to loudspeakers.

    Loudspeaker sales are driven far more by packaging than technological advancement. Thus the technology (for transducing sound) has frozen while marketers have stayed in business coming up with new ways of presenting yesterday's designs.

    Speaker fashion has largely replaced technological innovation. Just like New York, Paris and Milan come out with new looks for the latest season, most speaker companies concentrate their efforts on updating the look and marketing appeal of seasonal lines of products designed to be sold more or less as fashion. Yesterday's model is out to make way for the new model coming in. Nevermind, that they are probably identical from a technological point of view. They continue to sell because of the continous cosmetic updates.

    Some ideas simply never go out of fashion however and some of the older designs have aquired "classic" status because they are based on sound design principles (the laws of physics) that never change."

    Of course the parts quality has improved so older speaker designs can be made with better parts which means better sound - except the onesdesigned to look good -- those are compromised from the start and the engineer is merely trying to get the best result he can out of the compromise the marketing department placed upon him. There is a LOT of research and development as to what people LIKE visually - yellow drivers versus white drivers versus black - cabinets with shiny surfaces or spikes - smooth curves versus square boxes, interesting Me-Too speakers or amplifiers whcih are vconveration pieces or a plain black box - novelty items versus not, features like 400 disc players versus single discers...and on and on -- these things are Heavily researched and developed and so if a company says they put a lot of cash into R&D -- that may be true but it may not be for the engineering department - then again there may very well be companies that do both -- after all why not try and have good sound and good looks. B&W attempts both and succeeds much of the time - while B&O arguably has all the looks but not the sound.

  11. #11
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    RGA most of what you said is dead on for mass merchant products but hardly any is true for quality electronics. Companies like Krell, Dynaudio, Audio Note, Conrad Johnson etc. may have the same model in their line for years before changing it and when they do it usually is better than the prior model. And then there are some, like ARC or Classe', who brings out new models that are supposed to be better but leaves me asking, what where they thinking.

    Did Alexander G Bell have electrostatic speakers on his gramophone? Or ribbon tweeters? I wonder where he found polypropylene, aluminum, titanium, neodynium or kevlar? I'm not a historian but I'd bet it was at least the sixties before they even started using crossovers and separate drivers. I wonder where they had all this digital amp and power supply switching technology stashed in the 40's? Why is a Krell real 200 wpc integrated less than 3 inches tall and maybe 30 lbs where a vintage 30 to 50 watt receiver is the size of a steam trunk and probably over 60 lbs? How can a Linn 5 x 125 $3k amp only weigh 11 lbs?

    Yes, the mass merchants are full of hype, buzz words, smoke & mirrors but to say there has been no technological advances in hi fi over the last few decades is just incorrect.

  12. #12
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    For speakers in a response to me from a fellow named Layman on AA

    "Consider that 99.99999% of speakers are based on designs perfected in the 1920's. Consider that the last 65 years have witnessed no actual engineering innovations with loudspeakers. Consider that even supposedly "new" technolgies such as NXT (modal speakers) had antecedents 25 years ago with Professor Bertagni's BES applications, which had antecedents in some of Alexander Graham Bell's earliest speaker experiments. It's obvious there is nothing really new or innovative when it comes to loudspeakers. .
    This is too oversimplified to be allowed to stand. Yes a modern fighter jet is based on the same principles as the Wright flier, but they aren't the same. Yes we still move a diaphram with either a magnetic or electrostatic field but the details have undergone major transformations.

    Examples include; Carbon fiber cones, ceramic cones and diamond cones, none of these technologies existed in the 1920's and none of the speakers from those days can approximate the impulse response of these very stiff and amazingly light materials. I have heard some speakers that were considered very good value in their day and inflation corrected dollar for dollar simply can not compete with todays designs.

    Studies showing the bad impact diffraction has on speaker performance were completed after the 20's and the good modern speaker designs are more rounded for this reason than they are for stylistic reasons.

    The Thiele-Small parameters are invaluable in loudspeaker design, they weren't worked out until the 1970's. They are used to predict acoustic performance of a given driver in a given enclosure, there were no earlier equivalents.

    Telling someone to go ahead and buy vintage speakers in particular is terrible advice in my opinion.

  13. #13
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    That would be more of a lateral move than an upgrade in this case, because that particular receiver does not add any new format decoding capability. The original poster already uses a decent all-analog multichannel preamp, an outboard DD decoder, and a Sherbourn amp, so the amplification on that Onkyo would not be used at all, and the digital decoding would not include format support for DTS, 6.1 ES, DD EX, DPLII, and DVD-A/SACD playback.
    That is true, i did not look up his equipment and i didnt know what formats it supported. Personally i had 5.1, 6.1 and lastly a 7.1 system and then left HT completely and do not think all the formats are really worh supporting. Thats just me, but i agree with you. If you do have a cool 5.1 speaker setup and have 500 or so bucks to spend, then id rather buy a older Flagship model then a new plastic one ;-)
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

  14. #14
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody

    Did Alexander G Bell have electrostatic speakers on his gramophone? Or ribbon tweeters? I wonder where he found polypropylene, aluminum, titanium, neodynium or kevlar? I'm not a historian but I'd bet it was at least the sixties before they even started using crossovers and separate drivers. I wonder where they had all this digital amp and power supply switching technology stashed in the 40's? Why is a Krell real 200 wpc integrated less than 3 inches tall and maybe 30 lbs where a vintage 30 to 50 watt receiver is the size of a steam trunk and probably over 60 lbs? How can a Linn 5 x 125 $3k amp only weigh 11 lbs?

    Yes, the mass merchants are full of hype, buzz words, smoke & mirrors but to say there has been no technological advances in hi fi over the last few decades is just incorrect.
    Layman's argument was technological advancements that actually serve the music - Making something sleek, or digital, and miniturization products have nothing to do with music and merely supports what he said.

  15. #15
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    This is too oversimplified to be allowed to stand. Yes a modern fighter jet is based on the same principles as the Wright flier, but they aren't the same. Yes we still move a diaphram with either a magnetic or electrostatic field but the details have undergone major transformations.

    Examples include; Carbon fiber cones, ceramic cones and diamond cones, none of these technologies existed in the 1920's and none of the speakers from those days can approximate the impulse response of these very stiff and amazingly light materials. I have heard some speakers that were considered very good value in their day and inflation corrected dollar for dollar simply can not compete with todays designs.

    Studies showing the bad impact diffraction has on speaker performance were completed after the 20's and the good modern speaker designs are more rounded for this reason than they are for stylistic reasons.

    The Thiele-Small parameters are invaluable in loudspeaker design, they weren't worked out until the 1970's. They are used to predict acoustic performance of a given driver in a given enclosure, there were no earlier equivalents.

    Telling someone to go ahead and buy vintage speakers in particular is terrible advice in my opinion.
    That is not what he was saying at all. First audio is not equivelant comparison to fighter jets. Audio design theory and physuics were physics then as now -- What he and I are saying is that most design of any audible importance was already done by 1950 and yes certainly material design has improved and has had a siginificant impact on the sound of finished products. Obviously you're not going to take a fuinished product from 1940 and say it's better than a comparable one today. However it is also not clear that taking the 1940 product and using better cabinet materials, gluing practicies wiring drivers capacitors etc that it can't be better. Speakers such as the Khorn are still being sold and for very good reason.

  16. #16
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    I'm holding at 5.1. Now that I've heard good HT I don't think I could give it up. I don't have the room for the 6 & 7.1 and I have my doubts as to how much better it would be. HT is a whole new dimension to watching movies.

    2 channel is my primary interest still and I log more hours in stereo than watching anything, HT or not.

  17. #17
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    To save space please see post #15 by RGA....

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    That is not what he was saying at all.
    Actually it is exactly what he said:
    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    "Consider that 99.99999% of speakers are based on designs perfected in the 1920's. Consider that the last 65 years have witnessed no actual engineering innovations with loudspeakers.
    Simply untrue, as I said the Thiele-Small parameters (an engineering innovation) were developed in the ‘70’s and are used to design all modern loudspeakers. Fluid cooling and dampening (an engineering innovation) did not exist in the 1920’s. New materials (damn pesky engineering innovations) were developed by engineers long after this time period. The popular Linkwitz-Riley crossover concept was developed in the early 1970’s (another of those pesky engineering innovations). Companies DO NOT start with an old loudspeaker design and just modernize the materials, this is perfect crap.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    First audio is not equivelant comparison to fighter jets. Audio design theory and physuics were physics then as now –
    Audio physics and airplane physics are both based on fundamental properties of the universe, you are right that in that those properties have not changed. What has changed is our understanding of them, in my opinion the analogy was not inaccurate.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    What he and I are saying is that most design of any audible importance was already done by 1950 (He said 1920’s, there is a difference) and yes certainly material design has improved and has had a siginificant impact on the sound of finished products. Obviously you're not going to take a fuinished product from 1940 and say it's better than a comparable one today. However it is also not clear that taking the 1940 product and using better cabinet materials, gluing practicies wiring drivers capacitors etc that it can't be better. Speakers such as the Khorn are still being sold and for very good reason.
    Very old cars are still being sold, they are marvelous, they are beautiful but, they are not very good cars. A modern mass market Honda Accord will outrun, out handle and outlast most of them while delivering the occupants to their destination in safety and comfort. While no new physics principles were discovered to make that car, it is precisely the modern details that make the difference. This is equally true for loudspeaker design, newer designs use more modern information, better equations and better materials. These things are not just “stuck on” an old design. You could probably improve an old speaker design by just substituting newer materials but this might be dangerous as there is no way to know that the original designer did not take advatnge of component interactions or as its usually called today, synergy .

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    "Loudspeaker sales are driven far more by packaging than technological advancement. Thus the technology (for transducing sound) has frozen while marketers have stayed in business coming up with new ways of presenting yesterday's designs.”
    While this maybe true for many mass market products that is not what this web site is about, for serious loudspeaker design form still follows function, round shapes just plain sound better, new cone materials have different color that the old paper black cones (even then it was not just a color, they were dyed for stiffness). People trying to make a good speaker do not start with an ancient model, they start with a blank page and use computer analysis with modern design theory and equations to make a better speaker. You are correct that the basic physics have not changed but most everything else you assert is oversimplified and in my opinion bad information.

    In summary; I'm saying that at any given price point a new speaker designed by a reputable company will outperform an old speaker. You are saying that you don't beleive this to be true, I think that gives people very bad advice.

  18. #18
    RGA
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    yes I'm not saying there has been no technological advancements and neither was Layman. On the other hand I would not be too readily to do what you're doing and assuming that because it's new it's better. One can't even argue the merit of that logic within the same company as many B&W fans and owners will still argue the merit of the B&W Matrix line over the newer Nautilus line -- and B&W is not the only one. But the old B&W's looked rather bulky and ugly -- compressing siound into a new pretty package may sell twice as many but sound is another matter. You have panel afficianados who claim the original Quads are better than the new ones or now long gone panel makers still beat ANY of the new Magnepans and Martin Logans.

    There were not a lot of terrific speakers amps that have held up from decades past but those that have (The Klipshorn and the Sugden A21a off the top of my head) hold up against most any new speaker (including the cost of inflation) of similarly priced products. The A21a topology is the same as it was in 1968 -- the parts have improved but the "designs" have not. If the design was good it will be good. If the design isn't good then no ampount of well designed parts or crossovers are going to fix things - just using a Linkwitz Riley does not ensure a comeptant speaker.

    Though certainly if you listen to a finished product from 1950 versus a finished product from today the one today will be better. But it is not necessarily better from a "design" perspective but rather from a parts perspective. Though I agree 100% that designs in crossover and drivers and computer aided porting are HUGE which all make todays loudspeakers superior to counterparts of yesteryear. The Sugden and new K-Horn for example are better finished products than their first versions because of superior crossovers, better capacitors etc that can handle heat better.

    I am certainly not suggesting that you buy 30 year old recording studio JBL's over today's recording studio PMC loudspeakers.

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