Reciever upgrade question

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  • 06-19-2005, 09:44 PM
    jucas
    Reciever upgrade question
    Sorry, this may well be a stupid question, but after reading reviews, I'm no closer to a descision than I previously was. Too many either wildly positive or wildly negative reviews.

    So basically, right now I''ve got an old Harman Kardon HK3300 reciever, a pair of klipsch RB 15's and a klipsch RW-8. The reciever is old and was about 150 bucks in a pawn shop as it was pretty much the only thing I could find with a phono input in my area.

    I'm not looking for a more powerfull setup, this produces at least enough volume for me. Clarity is more important, but being a student I have a (very) limited budget. The system is basically for music (from classical to punk to rock, and a very very little rap). If I had around $500 canadian (+/- $100) to spend on a new reciever there be much of a difference in quality? I'm in an area with out a lot of selection, so it's tough to go try things to get a feel as most stores have the same products, and the salespeople tend to try and sell you one product with bad lines and little technical knowledge.

    So if anyone has some experience with th HK 3300 and can compare it to some current models in the price range I'm looking at, or just general advice, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Sorry about a probably stupid question and long post. I figured that a certain amount of info was needed to avoid being another "what reciever should I buy" style post.
  • 06-20-2005, 03:23 AM
    markw
    I'll offer some general advice.
    To replace your receiver for one with noticably more power, or one more able to handle the peak transients in your source, you'll need to at least double it's current real world power rating.

    Twice the available power (100 watts to 200 watts) results in only a 3 decible change in apparant loudness, which ain't a whole heckuva lot, particularly considering you're using Klipsch speakers which are generally very efficient to begin with.

    For an apparant doubling of the current loudness, you'll need ten times the power, or starting with a 100 watt amp, you'll need to up the ante to 1000 watts.

    If you want/need more features (and are willing to probably sacrifice a phono input) then you might want to look around but if power for loudness/clarity's sake is your goal, I'd think reeeeeeeeeeeeal carefully here.

    And, FWIW, you gave more than relvevant enough info and asked a specific enough question to avoid qualifying for a "What's the best...." type post by a long shot. Good job.
  • 06-20-2005, 05:32 AM
    Resident Loser
    I'd tend to agree...
    ...with the general...my major contribution would be to look at new speakers or perhaps doing some minor room treatment to get the most from what you have...

    jimHJJ(...just my two-tenths of a dime...)
  • 06-20-2005, 12:29 PM
    jucas
    Thanks for the help, I'm sure these entry level questions come up a lot and are pretty dull,

    So I have a basic knowledge about how to up volume with wattage through some physics and bass playing, and i think the reciever's manual says its 25 watts per channel, so anything that I know exists in the price range is 2-4 times this. (I'd looked at some onkyo's but wanted a sub output as I like the speaker configuration I have now, and I had idly looked at some HK 3380's but didn't have time to listen to them)

    So I suppose part of my question is wheteher the quality has declined by Harman over time, or are you still getting what you pay for? If so, is an HK 3380 going to sacrifice quality for volume being 80 watts per channel compared to the older model's 25, or is the older model just a really cheap version that is no longer available?

    Pretty much I am looking for a very basic reciever with 25 or more watts per channel. I guess an increase would be nice, but not the main point as the volume is sufficent for me. Anything more than 100 W per channel is going to be very overkill for the dorm rooms and qhatnot it will be used in for the next few years. Pretty much I need a phono, cd, and 2 audio inputs, bass, treble, balance, volume, and a sub out. SO if there are any brands that I'm not thinking of in this price range that might be worth trying to find, that would be appreciated. (I've looked at the enrty level JBL/etc and its just not what I'm looking for sonically or feature wise)

    Thanks so much for putting up with the long posts, I REALLY appreciate any help.
  • 06-20-2005, 01:57 PM
    matt39
    I agree with markw, your post is just fine and entry level questions are quiet sensible--a helluva a lot better than going out to audition with no info and making a bad choice. First the HK3300 is a solid receiver and so are the newer models. I currently run an HK3375 and I consider it a good quality receiver. I don't think you'll go wrong moving to the HK3380 (or perhaps better, the HK3480 with more power and connections). I think another model worth a look with the features you seek would be the Denon DRA-395. This is a very solid receiver with quite a few more features than the Harmon models. It has a very solid amp, a decent tuner and, at $349 US, it should be in your price range. I'd recommend the next model up (DRA-685) except it doesn't have a sub out (go figure). It has a very good amp though. There aren't a lot of choices in stereo receivers nowadays, especially with a sub out feature. Rotel (used) and NAD have some good products but no sub out and a used Yamaha might be worth a look. I don't know if the Yamaha's had a sub out or not. I bet they would sound great with your Klipsch though.

    To sum up, I think Harmon Kardon or Denon would be good choices but try to arrange an audition with your speakers (even if you have to take them with you) or a model like them to make sure the sound quality is what you're looking for. You never know, you may find that your 3300 is better than you think! Best of luck.

    Gary
  • 06-20-2005, 09:10 PM
    rikmeister
    are you looking for a new one or a used one. There are some good receivers here
    in the classifieds. You could look at ebay or ubid too. But if you go to ebay be careful and make sure there are plenty of references. ALso harmon sells refurbished on the bay.
  • 06-21-2005, 08:12 AM
    Quagmire
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jucas
    Sorry, this may well be a stupid question, but after reading reviews, I'm no closer to a descision than I previously was. Too many either wildly positive or wildly negative reviews.

    So basically, right now I''ve got an old Harman Kardon HK3300 reciever, a pair of klipsch RB 15's and a klipsch RW-8. The reciever is old and was about 150 bucks in a pawn shop as it was pretty much the only thing I could find with a phono input in my area.

    I'm not looking for a more powerfull setup, this produces at least enough volume for me. Clarity is more important, but being a student I have a (very) limited budget. The system is basically for music (from classical to punk to rock, and a very very little rap). If I had around $500 canadian (+/- $100) to spend on a new reciever there be much of a difference in quality? I'm in an area with out a lot of selection, so it's tough to go try things to get a feel as most stores have the same products, and the salespeople tend to try and sell you one product with bad lines and little technical knowledge.

    So if anyone has some experience with th HK 3300 and can compare it to some current models in the price range I'm looking at, or just general advice, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Sorry about a probably stupid question and long post. I figured that a certain amount of info was needed to avoid being another "what reciever should I buy" style post.

    As others have already said, your newbie type questions are fine -- not stupid -- no appologies needed. If you think extra power is what you need for better sound clarity, one option you might explore is the addition of an external power amp. Does your receiver have "Pre-out" connections? If so, you can connect an external power amp to the receiver via these Pre-out connections and basically use the receiver as a preamp. You would still be able to use the sub out on your receiver as you were before and would have more power to drive the Klipsch bookshelf speakers. If the receiver isn't giving you any problems, this might be a very sensible upgrade path for you since you can devote your total budget to the thing you want to improve (the amp) rather than buying a receiver to replace a receiver. If you're not opposed to buying used, you can find some very good deals on used power amps for the price you would pay for a new reciever. Just a thought.

    Q
  • 06-21-2005, 09:40 PM
    jucas
    Thanks for all the responses, I really like the power amp upgrade idea, and I never would ahve thought of it without coming here. Unfortunatly I see no pre out on the reciever, so it'll probly get upgraded to something a bit more flexible so next time i feel like an upgrade theres a few more possibilities.
  • 06-22-2005, 09:17 AM
    Quagmire
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jucas
    Thanks for all the responses, I really like the power amp upgrade idea, and I never would ahve thought of it without coming here. Unfortunatly I see no pre out on the reciever, so it'll probly get upgraded to something a bit more flexible so next time i feel like an upgrade theres a few more possibilities.

    Actually, looking at the owner's manual it says:

    "Connect these jacks, if desired, to a powered subwoofer, or a power amplifier driving a subwoofer. This output may also be used for surround-sound equipment or any external component requiring a line level input."

    This means that you can use the Sub-out jack as a Pre-out jack to supply a line level feed to a power amp.

    Q
  • 06-22-2005, 10:26 AM
    Resident Loser
    Point of order...
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Quagmire
    ...line level feed...

    A line level feed is fixed and spec'd to work with a specific impedance. It is usually for use with a recording device, etc. whose input spec would work with the preset output level it provides...If the "sub-out" jacks are indeed full frequency range(and not limited to low freqs) as suggested by the manual, there should be no problem to run a power amp with them...their output will be affected by the volume knob; this would not be the case with LL...

    jimHJJ(...just some clarification...)
  • 06-22-2005, 11:00 AM
    Quagmire
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Resident Loser
    A line level feed is fixed and spec'd to work with a specific impedance. It is usually for use with a recording device, etc. whose input spec would work with the preset output level it provides...If the "sub-out" jacks are indeed full frequency range(and not limited to low freqs) as suggested by the manual, there should be no problem to run a power amp with them...their output will be affected by the volume knob; this would not be the case with LL...

    jimHJJ(...just some clarification...)

    I questioned that too, RL. If you read how the statement is worded, it may mean that you can even use it will components that require LL inputs, BUT it may not be limited to only those types of components. At any rate... a sub out connection like this would almost certainly be a pre out type of connection otherwise the sub would only play at one output level. What is in question is whether the output full range or is limited to low frequency output, and judging by the wording, it is full range. Other HK receivers I have experience with have full range signals from the sub out jacks, so I think there is a good chance these could be too. He should be able to use this output as a preout to an external amp.

    Q
  • 06-22-2005, 12:31 PM
    jucas
    Thanks for the tip Quagmire, thats great to look into. Is it as simple as plugging a full range speaker into the sub out to see for sure if it is a full range signal? I agree that it the manual's wording sounds this way, but I wanted to check for sure. I suppose the speaker for testing would need to be amplified and full range to work or could I just use the LFE input on the sub as I believe that that bypasses the built in crossover? ( I know the highs would probly be terrible, but would I even be able to tell if they are there doing this?)

    If this will work, will I still be able to run my sub off of the reciever? I would think that using a powered sub off an amplifier would tend to be a really bad plan, but won't doing this use the sub out plugs?

    So, thanks again. If this works I'll probly be back trying to learn about amps as I've never really looked into them.
  • 06-22-2005, 01:47 PM
    Quagmire
    "Thanks for the tip Quagmire, thats great to look into. Is it as simple as plugging a full range speaker into the sub out to see for sure if it is a full range signal?"

    You would need to run the signal from the sub out into an amplifier and then connect full range speakers to the amp. If this output gives you the full frequency and not just the low frequencies, then yes, it is a full range signal and you can use it to drive an external power amp. In fact, the statement in the owner's manual which says that you can connect it to a seperate amplifier for driving a subwoofer basically confirms that it can be used this way to drive a passive sub -- you'd have no need for a seperate amp when connecting to a powered sub. The only difference between connecting the external amplifier to a passive sub and a pair of full range speakers is the frequency band that each is meant to operate at, and this is transparent to the amp. I know for certain that some of the HK receivers provide a left/right full range signal (same as the mains) through the sub out jack, allowing the sub to handle the high pass/low pass/crossover work.

    As far as running your sub off of the receiver, you could either split the signal from the sub out or wire the sub to the reciever at speaker level. Also, if your subwoofer has input AND output jacks (RCA jacks) you can run the cable to the sub and then out from the sub to the amp. This would be a really nice way to go.

    Q
  • 06-22-2005, 02:30 PM
    jucas
    Hmmm, I think I should be able to handle checking for the full range on the output. However, my sub has no outputs, but rather 2 line level RCA inputs, the LFE input, and 2 high level speaker binding posts. I'd assume that I have to split the signal coming from the sub out, will I still get as much signal out of it, or will splitting it like this reduce the signals strength significantly or have any other negative effects? It's looking like unless I replace the sub its going to have to be connected this way.

    Is it tough to find a sub thats got a pair of RCA outs in order to run things this way, or possibly just on more higher end subs than I have and looked at... I've yet to see one, but I probly wouldn't have thought to look for it.

    Also, on a sidenote, why would I want the high level speaker binding post input on the sub? is it just to allow it to be hooked up to something with no sub out?
  • 06-23-2005, 01:26 AM
    Quagmire
    "I'd assume that I have to split the signal coming from the sub out, will I still get as much signal out of it, or will splitting it like this reduce the signals strength significantly or have any other negative effects?"

    Splitting the signal could reduce the signal strength. I''m not sure how significant this would be in terms of its negative effects. Really, the better way for you to go is probably just to connect the sub via the speaker binding post input on the sub.

    "...why would I want the high level speaker binding post input on the sub? is it just to allow it to be hooked up to something with no sub out?"

    Yes, it does accomplish this task and if the sub also has speaker level out binding post, it allows a high passed (powered) signal to continue on to a pair of speakers in what is known as a sub/sat (short for subwoofer/satalite speaker) configuration. The speaker level input to the sub is actually converted or buffered (for lack of a better word) to a usable signal by the subwoofer's electronics so that the low frequency portion of the signal is then amplified by the sub's internal amplifier. The high passed portion of the signal would then continue on at speaker level and the connected speakers would present a load to the receiver's amp section -- but as in your case, where there wouldn't be any speakers connected to the sub (they would be connected to the external amp instead) there wouldn't be any loading on the receiver's amp section. I think if you played around with this arrangement you could obtain very satisfactory results.

    "Is it tough to find a sub thats got a pair of RCA outs in order to run things this way, or possibly just on more higher end subs than I have and looked at... I've yet to see one, but I probly wouldn't have thought to look for it"

    It isn't rare per se, to find subs with RCA outs. I know Klipsch has offered this feature on a number of their subs, and yes, some higher end subs offer this useful feature. If you were considering a sub ugrade too, it might be worth your time to seek out a sub with this input/output arrangement, but I'd hate for you to be driven toward this upgrade soley to accomodate this connection scheme for the an external amp. If you have to jump through too many hoops to make it happen, then you probably are better off just buying a newer, higher powered receiver. Like I said, if you were already planning on buying a new sub because you were looking to upgrade it too, that's one thing. But if it wasn't in the plan already I wouldn't do it just for the sake of the amp.

    There is one other possibility too. Although fairly rare, there are some power amps that have input/output RCA jacks. This would allow you to send the sub out signal from the receiver to the amp (to power your speakers) and then on to the sub or some other amp device. I know the NAD 906 and 916 amps have these jacks and it seems like Rotel makes a couple of amps like this too. I'm sure if you went looking you could find some others as well. The NAD amps are multichannel (6 channels x 30 wpc) but each pair of channels can be bridged for a total of 3 channels at 90 wpc. The amp can also be arranged in a number of other configurations like 2 channels by 90 wpc and 2 channels by 30 wpc. This would allow you to power a second pair of stereo speakers in another room or provide for expansion if Home Theater were ever a consideration: If nothing else it provides spare channels should one ever go bad on the amp. I've owned a NAD 906 for quite some time and have found it to be extremely versitile and capable; the 916 is just a newer version of this amp, and before anyone asks, NO! I'm not trying to sell mine. I just think it's a good amp that I can recommend from personal experience. Hope this helps. Keep us informed of what you do.

    Q
  • 06-23-2005, 08:58 AM
    Quagmire
    One other important point that occured to me later is how you have your sub and speakers connected to the receiver. Unless the receiver offers some kind of bass management onboard, such as the ability to set the speakers to "small" thus diverting the low frequencies away from the bookshelf speakers, you really might want to use the speaker level output to the sub and then from the sub to the speakers. This would allow the sub to handle bass management and provide better clarity from your mains as they won't be trying to produce the full range of sound and this will also lessen the load on your receivers amp section, which could also contribute to better clarity of sound. If you haven't tried this already, you really should as it could be a "costless upgrade".

    If you decide that you like this arrangement but you still want to upgrade the amp, you can certainly do that, but you won't need to be concerned about how to connect the sub to the receiver or amp. You'd just run an RCA cable from the receiver's sub out to the RCA inputs of any external power amp, then speaker level out to the sub and from the sub to the speakers. This is the Sub/Sat configuration I spoke of in my previous post.

    Sorry for my late post... sometimes my specialty is overlooking the obvious.

    Q
  • 06-23-2005, 09:35 AM
    jucas
    Wow, thats a lot of info, thanks.

    Yeah, I wasn't really going to upgrade a sub to be able to buy an amp, that was mostly curiosity. And unfotunately my sub has no speaker outs, so I can't use that as part of my setup.

    However, I have one more basic question if you don't mind. I've been giving it a lot of thought, and I like this amp idea quite a lot, my last question about connecting everything is won't connecting my reciever's speaker outs to my sub be providing an amplified signal to a powered sub? I've always thought thats a bad idea, or are the speaker level inputs designed to drop it down or bypas the sub's amp? If so won't this still be driving my recievers power amp section? (not a big deal, but it seems silly to be doing if i have a separate power amp for speakers and sub) This setup occured to me while checking for a full range pre out on my reciever, and I couldn't find the page of educational links on this sight to read up on it. If there are any flaws with this setup, please let me know

    So, thanks so much for all your help. Its been great.
  • 06-23-2005, 11:04 AM
    Quagmire
    "...my last question about connecting everything is won't connecting my reciever's speaker outs to my sub be providing an amplified signal to a powered sub? I've always thought thats a bad idea, or are the speaker level inputs designed to drop it down or bypas the sub's amp? If so won't this still be driving my recievers power amp section?"

    No, the receiver won't be providing the sub with an amplified signal. Like I said in one of my earlier posts, the subwoofers electronics are designed to pull the low frequency portion of the signal off and convert it to a usable signal which the sub then amplifies. The only portion of the signal that the receiver would be amplifying would be the high passed signal out to the speakers connected to the sub -- but if you don't have any speakers connected to the sub then there is no load on the receivers amp -- it is being used soley as a preamp at that point.

    "If there are any flaws with this setup, please let me know"

    The only flaw I see with this setup is the one I mentioned in my previous post; that is the bass management aspect of the setup. You're going to have an overlap between the sub and the speakers for the low frequency information. But this is occuring with your current setup anyway, and if you're otherwise happy with the sound, it is up to you to decide if this is a big deal or not. As I said, I would encourage you to at least try the Sub/Sat configuration to see if you like the results. You can use this same configuration even if you add an external amp so there really is no down side to trying it out. If you deside to try it, you will need to play around with the subs variable crossover to find the best blend between the sub and the speakers -- something you are not able to adjust with your current setup. If you need help with this, don't hesitate to ask. Glad to be of service so far.

    Q
  • 06-23-2005, 11:21 AM
    jucas
    Hey,

    Sorry, this might be getting repetative, but I need speaker outputs on the sub in order to try the sub/sat configuration? the sub unfortunately has no outs, so unless their is another way to swing this I don't think I can. In some of my readings I came across this setup, but given the lack of outputs on my sub had rejected it. I'd love to give it a shot if there is another way though, I just don't understand how without outputs on the sub.

    Or does it work to have the reciever on speakers 1 and 2 and have the sub in the 2nd set of reciever speaker level outs and the bookshelves in the first? This doesn't seem quite right and I don't think I can do much to blend the two aside from the sub's crossover as my reciever has no small./large or crossover features.

    Thanks again,
    Chris
  • 06-23-2005, 01:53 PM
    Quagmire
    "Sorry, this might be getting repetative, but I need speaker outputs on the sub in order to try the sub/sat configuration? the sub unfortunately has no outs, so unless their is another way to swing this I don't think I can."

    Yes, you do need speaker level outputs to try this, so if your sub doesn't have them, don't worry about it. In this case, the speaker level inputs are there just to allow you to connect it to a receiver or amp via the speaker outputs. But if it is a powered sub, it will make the conversion that I spoke of earlier so that it won't be placing a load on your receivers amp section. I would go ahead and connect it at speaker level and then connect an external amp to the sub out of your receiver to drive the mains.

    "Or does it work to have the reciever on speakers 1 and 2 and have the sub in the 2nd set of reciever speaker level outs and the bookshelves in the first? This doesn't seem quite right and I don't think I can do much to blend the two aside from the sub's crossover as my reciever has no small./large or crossover features."

    No, there is no advantage or purpose in having the speakers on "speaker 1" and the sub on "speaker 2" (if I'm understanding you correctly). The sub won't place a load on the receiver BUT it is possible that it this would cause the receiver to see the load as being 4 ohms nominal rather than 8, and that is not something you want to do. I think given the particulars of your equipment, running the sub from the receiver at speaker level and using the sub out for connecting an external amp is the best configuration. The nice thing about that is the amp will be useful to you for years to come. Even if the receiver finally dies some day you can replace it with a nice preamp or a receiver which does have preouts for the mains as well as a sub out. Good amplification never goes out of style.

    Q
  • 06-23-2005, 02:19 PM
    jucas
    Well, Thanks for all of your help. I really couldn't tell you how much I appreciate all of it. You gave me a few things to think about and I'm gettin closer to knowing what I want to do. Now I just gotta find some stores with a little selection and start listening.

    Thanks,
    -Chris