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1stThunder

Going beyond AV receiver? How to improve my HT sound?

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I run a  stereo system for music and a separate 5.1 system for HT. My HT system consists of a Blu Ray player Marantz UD7007 (modified) / Panasonic UB420 connecting via HDMI to a Cambridge Audio 650R receiver driving 5 Paradigm speakers - 2 main bookshelf Studio 20 v5, 1 centre Studio CC-490 v5, and 2 rear surround speakers with bi-directional Monitor series, and an excellent Martin Logan 15" sealed sub. The room is very well treated.

 

The HT system sounds OK, but not great. I have a top quality stereo system with which I watch Blu Ray classical concerts and ballets and it sounds great. If I switch to the HT the sound is substantially downgraded to an extend that it is no longer enjoyable by comparison. Doing movies is OK, but if I want to watch musicals like the Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, La La Land, Pitch Perfect 1, 2, 3, then I find the stereo system gives me much more enjoyment than the HT system.

 

How can I improve my HT sound?

 

1. If I take out the Paradigm main speakers, and take the line outputs from the Cambridge receiver to hook up to my stereo system, will I get much better sound? What is the line out / preamp output sound quality from the Cambridge receiver?

 

2. Supposed I could improve the main speaker sound from the above, how can I improve the center channel sound which is also crucial? Which center channel speaker outperforms the Paradigm CC490 by far? or if I take out the center channel line output from the Cambridge receiver and use a higher quality amplifier to drive the Paradigm Studio CC490, will it make a big difference?

 

I live in an older house so 5.1 is all I can do and I cannot go beyond that to 7.1 or Dolby Atmos because it is impossible to wire the cables through the ceiling / roof. The sound quality coming from the main and center channels is more important than having more speakers to get a more immersive, enveloping sound. I think 5.1 is very good already.

 

Any suggestions?

 

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Have you considered room treatment and DRM - digital room correction?  I ventured lowly into this via the Dirac and minidsp and found that this gave me the best outcome instead of just rolling continuously on upgrade cycles.  Maybe a NAD dirac receiver might be worth a consideration?

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I am glad to hear that digital room correction works for you. My room has had extensive treatment. I think if the stereo system can sound great then the HT should do as well. It is an over-damped room vs under-damped room, which suits HT well. The HT sound is not muddy at all, it is just lack of the accuracy, precision, dynamics of the best stereo system.

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the cambridge auto setup for HT is basically so basic that i doubt it does anything (from readings) from the power specs, your speakers and sub you should be getting great sound.

 

maybe your room is too damped down.. ht is meant to be in your face or just watch a tv. i doubt you need to do anything but get a better auto set up system and rip off some dampening.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, 1stThunder said:

1. If I take out the Paradigm main speakers, and take the line outputs from the Cambridge receiver to hook up to my stereo system, will I get much better sound? What is the line out / preamp output sound quality from the Cambridge receiver?

Most AVRs suffer from a lack of power and adding a stereo amplifier improves the sound because of the additional power.  However, the 650R has ample power (100W all channels driven which will beat most AVRs), so likely adding power itself may not improve things.  However, if your stereo speakers are better, it may improve the sound.

 

Why not try it?

2 hours ago, 1stThunder said:

12. Supposed I could improve the main speaker sound from the above, how can I improve the center channel sound which is also crucial? Which center channel speaker outperforms the Paradigm CC490 by far? or if I take out the center channel line output from the Cambridge receiver and use a higher quality amplifier to drive the Paradigm Studio CC490, will it make a big difference?

The centre speaker carries the dialogue and if it is poor (is it?), then adding a better centre can help.  Ideally, the front 3 speakers should be the same brand and series, but people have successfully added a different centre speaker as long as it is timbre matched (i.e. they sound the same).

2 hours ago, 1stThunder said:

I am glad to hear that digital room correction works for you. My room has had extensive treatment. 

Having room treatment does NOT mean digital room correction is not for you (pls excuse the double negative!).

2 hours ago, 1stThunder said:

The HT sound is not muddy at all, it is just lack of the accuracy, precision, dynamics of the best stereo system.

Software such as Dirac Live improves accuracy, precision and dynamics using impulse and phase correction.  You can either go the miniDSP way or get a new AVR such as a NAD T758V3 (less power than 650R) or Arcam AVR850 (as much power as 650R) or Arcam AVR860, Emotiva XMC-1  which are pre pros and will need external amps. The other package that I would recommend looking at  is Anthem Room Correction with the Anthem MRX-720 or AVM60 pre-pro.

Edited by Snoopy8
Typo

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Sell the HT gear and stick with stereo is one idea. I have.

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Posted (edited)

What are your stereo speakers?

 

I assume they're in the same room as your HT speakers, right?

 

Consider ditching your HT Left, Centre and Right Speakers and replacing them with your stereo speakers.

That's right, I mean ditch the Centre too and don't replace it.

You would then need to work what to do with regards to amplification and setup.

 

Edited by Satanica

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4 hours ago, 1stThunder said:

I am glad to hear that digital room correction works for you. My room has had extensive treatment. I think if the stereo system can sound great then the HT should do as well. It is an over-damped room vs under-damped room, which suits HT well. The HT sound is not muddy at all, it is just lack of the accuracy, precision, dynamics of the best stereo system.

That “should” word can get you into trouble.

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I second that it would help to know the stereo speakers (and where and how they are amplified) so to also review logically.

If the stereo speakers are a much higher sensitivity then clearly that's an easier load on the amps.

Also we'd need to know what, if any, DSP or room correction is in place when you just listen in stereo mode.

Most room correction can improve on-axis response but can worsen off-axis and induce more problems in the room with EQ correcting. Your speaker dynamics can often suffer because natural dynamics can often be reduced.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you very much for your responses!

 

It looks like most recommend room correction of some sort. My Martin Logan subwoofer comes with a measurement microphone and does room correction within the subwoofer's range, which is from 20Hz to 80Hz.

 

I think that if a receiver has build-in digital filters that allow room correction within the digital domain before digital to analogue conversion, then I would be happy to buy such a product and use it. I don't know if the NAP Dirac Live is such a product. I read it briefly but the site's Dirac Live page doesn't give much technical information. If room correction relies on a process offered by minidsp with additional A to D and D to A conversions then I am less convinced.

 

I really love the idea of ditching the center channel and configure from my receiver to replace it with the Left and Right speakers, which will use my stereo system. This should work well. I will definitely try this. The idea is this - my stereo system's speakers are way better than the HT's main speakers. The receiver has a function to direct the center channel sound to the main speakers so that the center channel sound is produced by much better quality speakers. I watch moves by myself most of the time so I don't need a physically located center channel because the phantom image should be perfectly fine for the person sits in the middle.

 

Is there any HT processor only without power amplification that provides high quality 5.1 channel line output (without breaking the bank)? Of course, the HT processor needs to provide all functions of a normal receiver (and even better include room correction) except amplification.

Edited by 1stThunder

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I do understand that high-end Blu Ray player such as the Panasonic UB9000 has 5.1/7.1 line output, but I don't understand the use of it. The Blu Ray player would not have bass management function, speaker distance / phase correction, etc.

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I run a  stereo system for music and a separate 5.1 system for HT. My HT system consists of a Blu Ray player Marantz UD7007 (modified) / Panasonic UB420 connecting via HDMI to a Cambridge Audio 650R receiver driving 5 Paradigm speakers - 2 main bookshelf Studio 20 v5, 1 centre Studio CC-490 v5, and 2 rear surround speakers with bi-directional Monitor series, and an excellent Martin Logan 15" sealed sub. The room is very well treated.
 
The HT system sounds OK, but not great. I have a top quality stereo system with which I watch Blu Ray classical concerts and ballets and it sounds great. If I switch to the HT the sound is substantially downgraded to an extend that it is no longer enjoyable by comparison. Doing movies is OK, but if I want to watch musicals like the Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, La La Land, Pitch Perfect 1, 2, 3, then I find the stereo system gives me much more enjoyment than the HT system.
 
How can I improve my HT sound?
 
1. If I take out the Paradigm main speakers, and take the line outputs from the Cambridge receiver to hook up to my stereo system, will I get much better sound? What is the line out / preamp output sound quality from the Cambridge receiver?
 
2. Supposed I could improve the main speaker sound from the above, how can I improve the center channel sound which is also crucial? Which center channel speaker outperforms the Paradigm CC490 by far? or if I take out the center channel line output from the Cambridge receiver and use a higher quality amplifier to drive the Paradigm Studio CC490, will it make a big difference?
 
I live in an older house so 5.1 is all I can do and I cannot go beyond that to 7.1 or Dolby Atmos because it is impossible to wire the cables through the ceiling / roof. The sound quality coming from the main and center channels is more important than having more speakers to get a more immersive, enveloping sound. I think 5.1 is very good already.
 
Any suggestions?
 
You can't compare HT with stereo money for money. HT has to do a lot more tricks.

Speakers have the biggest impact on sound, so you should run HT via your stereo speakers for a start, as a fair comparison. A mingle of the two can be done.

I would not ditch the center speaker, as the center speakers is the most used speaker in a HT setup. Not only for dialogue, but also for paning and off center stereo effects.

Don't expect to find HT that performs at a quality stereo setup without spending some serious money. It can be done without breaking the bank but it requires an unconventional plan of attack.

You haven't told us what your stereo setup is like, which would be helpful as that is your point of reference.

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I do understand that high-end Blu Ray player such as the Panasonic UB9000 has 5.1/7.1 line output, but I don't understand the use of it. The Blu Ray player would not have bass management function, speaker distance / phase correction, etc.
The analogue output can be used instead of HDMI. Some players do have some basic DSP implementation for setting speaker distance, size, and perhaps level, and bass management.

Some can even be used as an digital pre amp. You mentioned that your player has been modified. Usually these modifications are done on the analogue parts. If you use HDMI you probably not making use of these modifications.

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2 hours ago, Neilsy said:

Most room correction can improve on-axis response but can worsen off-axis and induce more problems in the room with EQ correcting. Your speaker dynamics can often suffer because natural dynamics can often be reduced.

I agree that could happen with poorly done DIY EQ, but ARC, particularly Genesis (ARC3) and Dirac Live do not suffer from those problems.

1 hour ago, 1stThunder said:

I think that if a receiver has build-in digital filters that allow room correction within the digital domain before digital to analogue conversion, then I would be happy to buy such a product and use it. I don't know if the NAP Dirac Live is such a product. I read it briefly but the site's Dirac Live page doesn't give much technical information. If room correction relies on a process offered by minidsp with additional A to D and D to A conversions then I am less convinced.

Most AVRs will do this at the digital level.  Yes, miniDSP has to do A2D and D2A, but I would argue that the gains from DSP outweigh any losses.

1 hour ago, 1stThunder said:

I really love the idea of ditching the center channel and configure from my receiver to replace it with the Left and Right speakers, which will use my stereo system. This should work well. I will definitely try this. The idea is this - my stereo system's speakers are way better than the HT's main speakers. The receiver has a function to direct the center channel sound to the main speakers so that the center channel sound is produced by much better quality speakers. I watch moves by myself most of the time so I don't need a physically located center channel because the phantom image should be perfectly fine for the person sits in the middle.

There are some people here who prefer running without the centre but I am not one of them.  The centre carries the dialogue, which happens a lot in a movie and can be boosted independently if required.  Not having a centre requires the AVR to do additional processing and then for your ears to re-create the centre sound.  Yes, 2 channel works that way, but why compromise the HT experience  by thinking that way?  Movies are produced to have specific sound in each channel (and even more so with Atmos). If you must compromise the HT sound, compromise the other channels but not the front 3.

1 hour ago, 1stThunder said:

Is there any HT processor only without power amplification that provides high quality 5.1 channel line output (without breaking the bank)? Of course, the HT processor needs to provide all functions of a normal receiver (and even better include room correction) except amplification.

They are called prepros and tend to be high end and expensive!  Mid range AVRs usually have full preouts and are a poor man's prepro.

1 hour ago, 1stThunder said:

I do understand that high-end Blu Ray player such as the Panasonic UB9000 has 5.1/7.1 line output, but I don't understand the use of it. The Blu Ray player would not have bass management function, speaker distance / phase correction, etc.

It has a set up to compensate for distance and loudness.  Useful when older AVRs cannot manage latest formats and when cheap AVRs use cheap DACs.

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Proper placement of a Sub and EQ-ing, can improve the lower bass and mid bass.

One sub is never ideal, as you will have nulls that can't be cured.

As mentioned, EQ has still a function even with room treatment. The impact won't be as big as room treatment and since you have some on your sub, it would not be an high priority at the moment.

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12 hours ago, 1stThunder said:

I run a  stereo system for music and a separate 5.1 system for HT. My HT system consists of a Blu Ray player Marantz UD7007 (modified) / Panasonic UB420 connecting via HDMI to a Cambridge Audio 650R receiver driving 5 Paradigm speakers - 2 main bookshelf Studio 20 v5, 1 centre Studio CC-490 v5, and 2 rear surround speakers with bi-directional Monitor series, and an excellent Martin Logan 15" sealed sub. The room is very well treated.

 

The HT system sounds OK, but not great. I have a top quality stereo system with which I watch Blu Ray classical concerts and ballets and it sounds great. If I switch to the HT the sound is substantially downgraded to an extend that it is no longer enjoyable by comparison. Doing movies is OK, but if I want to watch musicals like the Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, La La Land, Pitch Perfect 1, 2, 3, then I find the stereo system gives me much more enjoyment than the HT system.

 

How can I improve my HT sound?

 

1. If I take out the Paradigm main speakers, and take the line outputs from the Cambridge receiver to hook up to my stereo system, will I get much better sound? What is the line out / preamp output sound quality from the Cambridge receiver?

 

2. Supposed I could improve the main speaker sound from the above, how can I improve the center channel sound which is also crucial? Which center channel speaker outperforms the Paradigm CC490 by far? or if I take out the center channel line output from the Cambridge receiver and use a higher quality amplifier to drive the Paradigm Studio CC490, will it make a big difference?

 

I live in an older house so 5.1 is all I can do and I cannot go beyond that to 7.1 or Dolby Atmos because it is impossible to wire the cables through the ceiling / roof. The sound quality coming from the main and center channels is more important than having more speakers to get a more immersive, enveloping sound. I think 5.1 is very good already.

 

Any suggestions?

 

a few things here ... what are your mains ... cant they be integrated into your AV system. check my link... i run both hifi and AV discrete systems and my av system uses my 2ch L&R mains.

 

there is no need to ditch the centre channel. a centre channel IS very important for discrete sound field which is what surround sound is. a cc490 is a good centre ... however paradigm make many better centre speakers as you move up even their range...

 

depends on you 2ch mains ... but there are likely good centres that can be used with those.

 

the cambridge is getting on a bit. yes there are many av pre pros you could use without breaking the bank...firstly look at circa 2015-6 av processors all will be quite capable and take everything can throw at it ...

 

re 5.1 is good enough ? it is actually worth moving to 7.1 and atmos. there is no such thing as impossible to wire speakers. any sparkle worth salt do this day in day out as a days work its not much more than wiring in a light point. 

 

i see in another thread have spent quite a bit on a projector ... in my opinion audio is just as important as the visual and spending on the audio side will very much pay dividends ... :) 

 

 

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