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Milesey74

Going from Separates to the ARCAM AVR600

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Geoff you should also read below:

Hi Himey..... I would have thought you were spot on; well at least until an hour ago. Okay this is what I did tonight after the obligatory duties of running a vacuum over the house. I pulled out the NAD M25 and paired it with the Arcam AVR600. I really want to keep the NAD M25, it is a beast and sounded superb with the Denon and of course beautiful to look at. So I biamped the mains and the centre using the NAD M25 and then I used the Arcam to drive the four surrounds. I was expecting to be blown away but instead I was disappointed. The dynamic range was lacking and the punch was gone as well. My next experiment is to re-insert the Denon back into the mix. I should point out that I was incredibly happy with the Denon as a pre. But the Arcam, musically is in a different league to anything I have heard. I have listened to a variety of high end amps both solid state and valve and of course Arcam. But I am now having one big reservation now about the Arcam AVR600 and it is in terms of NOT having a HDMI video pass through feature. I run a Sim2 D80E and I have not been able to get the Arcam to disable it's own video processing. I would much prefer to use the video processing of the Oppo BDP-83 and the Sim2. I think the picture is 'softened' through the Arcam. I am also disappointed that the Arcam does not have Audyssey. I am a big believer in the benefits of Audyssey. Tomorrow night after Rugby coaching will be experiment number two, Denon back into the mix with a close as possible A to B of the Denon paired with the NADm25 verse the Arcam. I already know the result but BUT I really want to A/B the video performance as well.

NAD M25 has incredible clean high power but in my experiment tonight it is not well paired with the Arcam, the dynamic range seemed crushed in comparison to the Arcam on it's own. Maybe I'll run a few more test discs before moving onto the 2nd experiment. Tonight I ran SACD Brothers in Arms and I ran a CD of Fleetwood Mac and some select scenes from Avatar on Bluray.

I am not arguing over the clean power of the NAD. I have read those exact measurements before.

Edited by Milesey74

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Thanks for the report Milesey,

It looks like the Arcam/NAD compatibility issue I had was isolated to the C31 pre. That's a plus (and a relief.....).

The video softening is interesting. I wonder if there might be a work-around.

It may take a few A/B comparisons before you sort things out.

Looking forward to the next instalment................

Cheers,

Geoff

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Thanks for the report Milesey,

It looks like the Arcam/NAD compatibility issue I had was isolated to the C31 pre. That's a plus (and a relief.....).

The video softening is interesting. I wonder if there might be a work-around.

It may take a few A/B comparisons before you sort things out.

Looking forward to the next instalment................

Cheers,

Geoff

Hi Geoff, I am sure there is a work around. I have written to Oppo and Arcam about the issue. I am sure there is a setting adjustment that I can do on either the Oppo or the Arcam that will rectify this. Some people swear by the video processing on the Arcam. I am sure they have not cut any corners. I was reading today in a UK review that they even went to the extremes of placing rubber around the capacitors within the AVR 600 to ensure complete isolation between components. Now this could be the reason that this amp is being compared to high end separates. However, one thing that the NAD M25 experiment confirmed is that the monoblock power amps in the Arcam are very special. I honestly thought that the NAD would leave the Arcam power amps wanting but it so was not the case. The experiment continues but not tonight.

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Gents, a quick update. I changed some settings on the Oppo (video settings to 'source direct'). This seems to have rectified the problem that I was having with the missing frame. However, I will monitor this over the coming week. The NAD is back out of the system now and the Arcam is sitting on it's own. I will again re-introduce the NAD in a different configuration but at a later date. Right now I want to do some more critical listening with the Arcam on it's own. Second of all, for those members that own the wonderful SVS ASEQ1, I finally was able to get the ASEQ1 to completely manage the bass without the Arcam applying it's own correction filters (thanks to some correspondence with SVS).

Arcam AVR600 - if startling detail and real atmosphere is your thing, then the Arcam delivers! I am watching movies that I have seen many times, such as Ironman. And the detail in the sound of the Ironman suit or a car driving over gravel or a fire crackling off to the side i exceptional. It is so real and wide that it puts you in the scene of the movie.

I have learnt to use the pixelworks video processing on the Arcam and using my HD Video Essentials calibration disc I was able to tune the Sim2 D80e with the Oppo perfectly. That is contrast and brightness. I should say colour was already perfect though and the projector is calibrated. But I needed to fine tune it after adjusting the settings of the Oppo. I am no longer getting a soft picture. I am very happy with the picture I am getting now.

The experiment continues. The next one will be to re-introduce the NADM25 to power the rear channels only. Meaning I will biamp the mains on the Arcam and still run the centre from the Arcam so that I have the same power amplifiers being applied across the front sound stage. Although it seems a waste to have a NAD M25 only powering surrounds. So maybe I need to put more thought into this. Truth be told, I would not be surprised if I conclude there is no moving forward from the Arcam on it's own.

Regards,

Miles

Edited by Milesey74
Grammar rectification

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The experiment ended tonight. After speaking to some other HiFi specialists it was recommended that I try using the Arcam AVR600 to run the mid range speakers and the tweeters and then use the Arcam pre-outs to the NAD to run the Woofers. Tonight my mate Alex and I spent some considerable time testing. The test involved using 2 sources. First source - A SACD of Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms, track number 5. Second source - The Bluray of Transformers, the opening chapter. The first lot of critical listening occurred with the Arcam as the sole amplifier. Result - sound still amazes like the first day I heard it.

The second lot of critical listening involved using the NAD to drive the woofers of my fronts and centre VAF i93 mk2 speakers (which are tri ampable) and the Arcam running the mids and tweeters. Also the Arcam remained driving the rears on their own. This experiment I thought I would 100% know the outcome. I definitely thought that this would be the experiment that would be the excuse for me keeping the NAD M25. I was cognisant that there might be a tonal difference between the amplification stages of the Arcam and the NAD. But what I did not expect was the outcome.....

With track number 5 of the SACD, the sound was similar, the detail was retained and I was impressed, but I did not notice a difference (I should point out that I know this track very well as I do the Transformers bluray test scene. I know the intricacies in the musical detail). The next test was with Transformers, it quite simply did not sound as good. The dynamic range and the thunderous bass seemed to be restricted in comparison, don't get me wrong, it was still very good but the dynamic range and bass authority performed at a higher level with the Arcam doing the driving on its own. The detail was retained, this was due to the Arcam driving the mids and tweeters.

Well, fellow SNA members, I packed the NAD M25 up for the final time. And whilst I can not explain why the Arcam is such a musical amplifier with unique amplification. I can say this....I have learnt two things: 1. Power is not everything, 2. Separates is not everything. This receiver does it all. In some regards I am happy because I can sell my power Amp and new Audioquest interconnects. But mostly I wanted to keep the NAD and the beautiful Audioquest leads and I wanted to believe that high end separates and high power would always trump an 'all in one'. But I have been proven wrong and am happy to now sit back in my leather HT seats and enjoy the beautiful sound that the Arcam produces.

SNA members if you are interested in this receiver I highly recommend speaking to Phil Vafiadis from VAF Research who sells the Arcam AVR600. VAF Research also sell other brands of Hifi. But what do they use to sell their top of the range speakers? An Arcam AVR600.

Lastly, thankyou all for your feedback and private messages. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing and experimenting with the various items of HIFI at home with the help of my Wife and also with the help of my SNA friend Alex. I am happy to answer any further questions or queries.

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I've enjoyed reading your journey, Milesey. Great to see that you made the choice on what sounded best to you rather than what should have sounded best.

Cheers

wolster

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Yep what Wolster said . Thanks for a great write up

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NICE , so I made a good choice !!

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NICE , so I made ANOTHER good choice !!

edited. Benje

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Milesey,

As others had said, thanks for the great report. A very interesting read.

Cheers

Geoff

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It has been awhile since I have written on this thread so I thought I would revisit it tonight to shed some recent light on the Arcam journey. About 2 weeks ago the latest firmware 2.5 was released. I completed the reset at the end of the download as recommended by Arcam. I then re-ran the Auto setup and to my surprise, the AVR600 suddenly has much improved bass management. So much improved that I decided to do and A/B comparison of using the AVR600 to manage the bass vs letting my Audyssey ASEQ1 manage the bass. I hate to say it but the Arcam is managing it much smoother. I WANT to emphasise here though, that I love the ASEQ1 but believe that it is truly designed to work and integrate with pre's or receivers that are already Audyssey equipped. I am keeping the Audyssey ASEQ1. It might come in handy in the future.

Recommended SETTINGS (run auto eq first with your sub's dial on half way)

Home Theatre use: EQ ON, Dolby Volume On, Dolby Leveller Off, Dolby Calibrated Volume at +5, Cinema Mode selected, Sub and Sat selected for speaker settings within the input config.

2 Channel: Main speakers set to Large (if you have very big speakers, capable of less than 30Hz reproduction), EQ on, Dolby Volume On, Dolby Leveller Off, Dolby Calibrated Volume at +5dB, Cinema mode selected, LEFT/RIGHT + SUB selected.

If you are a current owner of the ARCAM AVR 600 I highly recommend you try the above settings. I have spent many, many hours 'playing' with this unit, to try and reach the optimal settings. Obviously it is room dependent but I would still try the exact settings as above, as when you do the auto eq it will take care of your room dynamics.

Alot of people ask me what I think of the Arcam auto eq in comparison to Audyssey. Well, it is hard to tell. Reason being is that my Arcam sounds very different to the Denon 4308. I like the fact that the auto eq literally takes 2 minutes to do all its measuring. I am a big fan of Audyssey but the problem with Audyssey is it is limited to certain brands of AVRs and they do not make a standalone box that can be implemented with AVRS but they do make one for separates. I also had spurious problems when I was running Audyssey with increased brightness on the high frequencies and over exaggerated bass (on the Denon) that was causing my very formidable SVS Ultra 13 to literally shake the house to bits (this was rectified with the ASEQ1). The Arcam is giving me even bass and goes low when required.

Recently, I pulled out the Dark Knight on bluray and ran the test scene of Batman launching from the top of Hong Kong's famous skyscraper. The musical score is sublime, the bass is gut and clothes shaking deep, especially when the caribou aircraft flies overhead.

I have a very difficult room that is less than ideal for music and Home Theatre, so I was worried that the Arcam without Audyssey would be a problem for me. Not the case at all. I stand by my original comments and would like share the enthusiasm I have for this amazing product.

Is it perfect?? No. Occassionally I get a small pop from the speakers when changing sources through the speakers. It does not have true video pass through, which is a shame, as I use a Sim2 D80e to project and the video processing in this unit is superb. I should say that the Pixelworks video processor in the Arcam is no slouch, but it does not allow pass through. I did run my Video Essentials Bluray through it though and it confirmed that it is not negatively effecting the picture. It still passed all tests and I was still able to achieve the reference D65 calibration.

Do I think it is good value for money?? ABSOLUTELY! Listen to it and you will understand.

What have I learnt from this? Separates no longer reigns supreme, there are now viable alternatives and in this case a preferred alternative to many separates. Also, even though I only own one piece of audio equipment that is Arcam, I am definitely going to own more Arcam components as time goes on. This is all about the sound and the customer service.

Happy to answer any questions.

Regards,

Miles

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Thanks for interesting post. I've just moved up from an AVR500 that was having all sorts of overheating probs. . I make take another look at the Audyssey setup as i've always manually set sound levels. Agree about the sound quality .. i was without the Arcam for a while and was using my quite good Chinese tube amp. Couldn't wait for the Arcam back...

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Guest Drizzt

Thanks for the feedback, it made for great reading. Cheers.

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Fellow SNA members; there has been a change. A fairly surprising and significant change. I am back to separates. A series of posts to follow explaining my most recent journey and how I came back to separates and why.

Miles

Edited by Milesey74

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A few weeks ago I calibrated a mate's Arcam AVR600 for him. I was surprised to discover that he had been given a completely different calibration microphone to the one that I had. I calibrated his Arcam and noticed that there was a marked improvement in accuracy in distance settings and the equalisation applied was superb for his room. I then contacted John from Absolute Audio Vision. He told me that all the Arcam AVR600s now come with a different microphone and that he to had noticed the improved difference as well. I asked him if I could use my friend's 'updated' microphone with my Arcam and he said yes, not a problem, it is designed to work with it. So I re-calibrated my Arcam and to my VERY exciting surprise, I discovered a much more balanced sound in comparison to what I was previously achieving.

Before the arrival of the proper calibrated microphone; I noticed that during demanding passages of movie watching when the sub was turned off and the speakers set to fullrange, that the Arcam would occassionally struggle to supply the massive VAFs enough power. Why I chose to run this setting was to do with the equalisation problems I was getting with the previous microphone and also because I love hearing the full range sound that the beautiful VAF i93mk2s give. I therefore purchased another NAD M25 (second one I have owned)!!!!

I then discovered that the NAD M25 and the Arcam AVR600 have completely different amplification gain levels. The NAD M25 is 29dB and the Arcam is 31.5dB. Therefore, as you all know, it's not ideal to mix and match powering of speakers between the Arcam and NAD because of a lack of power balance between drivers and/or channels.

Can you believe with all the detailed experiments that I did, not once did I ever test the Arcam as a dedicated pre with the NAD M25 as a dedicated pro!! (trawling through this thread confirms this) ie. 7 channels out of the Arcam into the 7 individual monoblock amps of the NAD M25. (My previous experiments always involved bi-amping, mix and matching but never 7 out into 7 amps).

Well, this time I did the experiment of a dedicated pre and pro and the results are that after years and years of passion for this wonderful hobby; I have achieved the sound that I have always dreamt of achieving. Now I should mention that when the NAD M25 arrived it had the 'Soft Clipping' turned off. I have always had this on. I wrote to the previous owner and he said it is advised to leave it off as it effects the dynamic range and the depth and width of the soundstage. I was a little skeptical but he was right!

With the dedicated pre/pro setup, I maintained the wonderful Arcam sound but got the power that the VAFs thrive on. The veil sometimes associated with male voices completely lifted and the music detail is honestly second to none (to my ears).

Achieving the final steps in Audio Nirvana with my VAF i93mk2s really came down to a few very small things; using an updated calibrated microphone, using the Arcam AVR 600 as a dedicated pre and the NAD M25 as a dedicated pro and using the NAD M25 with the 'Soft Clipping' function turned off.

In summary;

Part 1: Problem with calibration microphone resolved.

Part 2: Wanting power when set to full range resolved.

Part 3: Power balanced across all 7 channels achieved.

Part 4: Soft Clipping turned off and dynamic range and expansive deep soundstage achieved and the hardest hitting most accurate Bass I have ever heard.

You might remember that I struggled achieving the vinyl reproduction with the Arcam on its own. This of course was a result of the original inaccurate microphone. And the power of the NAD, well it is a VERY welcomed return. I know a there are other members running a Arcam and NAD M25 (I am talking to you Geoff)...I can't stress enough, please try using the Arcam and the NAD as a dedicated pre and pro combination.

Now that is out of the way...some audio reviews are coming shortly. I will focus on Depeche Mode's 'Violator' SACD to start off with.

Apologies for the long post but I hope you all enjoyed the update.

Regards,

Miles

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G'day,

cheers for that. Were you ever tempted to get the Arcam power amp instead of the NAD?

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G'day,

cheers for that. Were you ever tempted to get the Arcam power amp instead of the NAD?

I was tempted, but it was alot of extra money and I was not sure it was quite the best value for a power amp. And the reviews of the NAD M25 in comparison to the lack of reviews for the P777 were hard to ignore. Although, that said I am sure the P777 is a beast and sounds wonderful. It is really hard for me to doubt any Arcam products after my experience with them and their superb customer service.

Miles

Edited by Milesey74

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Any chance of a picture of the different calibration microphone.Ive had my Arcam AVR600 nearly a year so I must have the old one..thanks Eamonn

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Any chance of a picture of the different calibration microphone.Ive had my Arcam AVR600 nearly a year so I must have the old one..thanks Eamonn

See below (accidental double post).

Edited by Milesey74

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Any chance of a picture of the different calibration microphone.Ive had my Arcam AVR600 nearly a year so I must have the old one..thanks Eamonn
Eamonn, the differences are significant between the two. The old one is the heavy duty metal microphone with a flat large bottom and NO ability to mount to a tripod. The replacement (upgraded and accurately calibrated) microphone is small and consists of a circular plastic housing. It has the ability to be tripod mounted.

I must admit when I first saw my mate's upgraded microphone I thought he had been given a raw deal as it is small and plastic compared to the old one. However, do not let appearances deceive, this is not a cost cutting exercise, this is a properly calibrated microphone.

Edited by Milesey74
Grammar

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Thanks Milesey

This MIC must be very new.I checked the Arcam owners forum on a UK site and no mention although a couple of people had there systems professionally calibrated with rave results.Mentioned it to VAF and they will order one from the UK and happy to loan it out.Regards Depeche Mode I never heard of them before a demo on Darthvaders system.Although I did remember the song "Just cant get enough" Have since bought 10 of there SACD and they sound sweet in 5.1

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yes - thanks for the update.

So can you give a quick recap, AVR600 vs AVR600+M25?

The i93's are pretty power hungry speakers, I wonder if you had less power requirements would the AVR600 suffice on its own?

I have PMC's OB1i's, and am waiting for the Denon 4311. CAV lent me a Denon 1910 to keep my tide-over until the 4311 arrives.

I know the 1910 is very much out of its league with the OB1i's but I can't help but think the 4311 wont be a huge step up... And thats what I am looking for.. a BIG step up :D

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yes - thanks for the update.

So can you give a quick recap, AVR600 vs AVR600+M25?

The i93's are pretty power hungry speakers, I wonder if you had less power requirements would the AVR600 suffice on its own?

I have PMC's OB1i's, and am waiting for the Denon 4311. CAV lent me a Denon 1910 to keep my tide-over until the 4311 arrives.

I know the 1910 is very much out of its league with the OB1i's but I can't help but think the 4311 wont be a huge step up... And thats what I am looking for.. a BIG step up ;)

Well you could always buy my Bryston 9B SST to power them- that will be a big step up- and a good match (like peas and corn, Classe and B&W).

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yes - thanks for the update.

So can you give a quick recap, AVR600 vs AVR600+M25?

The i93's are pretty power hungry speakers, I wonder if you had less power requirements would the AVR600 suffice on its own?

I have PMC's OB1i's, and am waiting for the Denon 4311. CAV lent me a Denon 1910 to keep my tide-over until the 4311 arrives.

I know the 1910 is very much out of its league with the OB1i's but I can't help but think the 4311 wont be a huge step up... And thats what I am looking for.. a BIG step up :)

Tephra, I think the AVR600 is more than a capable unit on its own. The i93s mk2s do excel with power and can be driven much more safely and with ease with a dedicated power amp rather than relying on an AVR to do it all. I think the Audyssey processing in the AVR4311 will be outstanding and the 4311 should drive your efficient speakers easily. I have had correspondence with Chris Kyriakakis over the last few months from Audyssey about the new technology and from all accounts, it essentially incorporates the processing from the ASEQ1 for the bass management.

For me the big step up was buying the Arcam and then accompanying it with the NAD M25. It is truly a wonderful, musical AVR and certainly has my highest endorsement now that the bugs have been ironed out.

I would imagine that the 4311 would be a big step up from the 1910. In fact it will be a big step up, no doubt about it.

Regards,

Miles

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Hey Miles

Given you run a turntable with the Arcam AVR600 have you played with the mode selection ?On certain electronic type LPs and especially Live albums they sound great in Dolby PL11x music mode.Sounds just like a 5.1 CD.

Eamonn

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