View Poll Results: Have you enjoyed any of these in your own system?

Voters
5. You may not vote on this poll
  • NAD T175

    1 20.00%
  • Outlaw 975

    2 40.00%
  • Marantz AV7701

    2 40.00%
  • Marantz SR5008

    0 0%
  • Emotiva UMC-200

    3 60.00%
  • Marantz AV9000

    0 0%
  • Pioneer 1523

    0 0%
  • NAD T748

    0 0%
  • B&K Reference 30

    0 0%
  • Denon 2805

    0 0%
Multiple Choice Poll.
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  1. #1


    Pre/Pro Comparison Notes (10 Units including NAD, Marantz, Outlaw, Emotiva)


    The following is a completely subjective A/B comparison focusing strictly on perceived audio quality of 2 channel music reproduction via digital inputs. Many of the units compared are not equals of technology or price, but only a result of what I had access to and my own curiosity.


    THE SITUATION


    My Rotel 1068 burned out and my backup Marantz AV9000 was on the decline. I wanted a new pre/pro and picked up a B&K Reference 30 off ebay for cheap… Disappointed by the lack of detail compared to the Marantz (nevermind the very detailed Rotel), I began an exhausting pre/pro shoot out. All comparisons were done in my own home with the same equipment setup. Only Preamp outputs were used on receiver models.


    THE UNITS AUDITIONED



    • Marantz AV9000
    • B&K Reference 30
    • Denon 2805
    • Outlaw 975
    • Emotiva UMC-200
    • NAD T748
    • NAD T175
    • Pioneer 1523
    • Marantz SR5008
    • Marantz AV7701



    THE REST OF THE SETUP


    Focal 826v powered by a Carver AV705x amplifier. All music playback served up by JRiver Media Center, WASAPI Output, via Optical or HDMI where available. All lossless and HDTracks were used.


    LISTENING NOTES


    • Marantz AV9000

    As my own starting point, the AV9000 has vocal reproduction that is hard to beat. It just sounds very natural. The treble was slightly harsher than the Outlaw, and the bass detail lacking in comparison. The width, instrument separation, and detail was also reduced compared to the Outlaw, 5008, 7701, Emotiva, and T175.*



    • B&K Reference 30

    Very dark, mushy sound. Things just blend together, resolving much less detail. Less natural vocals than the AV9000. Bass detail and control was surprisingly great.*


    • Denon 2805

    Dark, confused sound. Very little feeling of width or layers. Probably the worst of the bunch in every way. Bad mid range resonance (blending buzz of midrange sound).*


    • Outlaw 975

    Wonderfully detailed, smooth sound. Excellent imaging and width, with layers of detail and instrumental separation. Vocals a tad less natural than the AV9000, but much more fun and less fatiguing to listen to.*


    • Emotiva UMC-200

    Great detail and separation. Very bright, forward sound that was just too harsh for my setup. The Outlaw resolved just as much detail, but with more natural vocals and without the fatiguing sharpness.*


    • NAD T748

    Lacking separation and detail. Voices sound less natural, and highs like snare drums sound harsh and flat. Bass has authority, but lacks detail in comparison.*


    • NAD T175

    Very smooth and controlled, very detailed, great space and separation. More natural sounding than the Outlaw, and vocals on par or better than the AV9000. Slightly brighter than the Outlaw, but never harsh. Space and separation are amazing. Treble is “airy” and wonderfully natural. Bass is less prominent, but very detailed.*


    • Pioneer 1523

    Pioneer cannot resolve as much detail, slightly harsher treble, less warmth…. Less width than T175 and Outlaw. Not bad, not great.*


    • Marantz SR5008

    Very natural vocals. Not as much separation in instruments. Rougher treble. Best receiver I have heard (better imagining than Pioneer). Most hiss at high volume.
    slight mid range resonance.*


    • Marantz AV7701

    Great detail and width. Marantz is much brighter than the T175, but has less control of the treble and bass. Makes the T175 sound slightly dark, though I did not hear any more detail in the Marantz. High volumes were harsh compared to the Outlaw or T175, which were more fun to listen to.*

    CONCLUSIONS

    For me, in my setup, the Outlaw 975 was the keeper until I heard the NAD T175. It simply plays the best I have ever heard with my equipment and my ears.

    The biggest disappointment was the AV7701. I was shocked how much smoother and natural the T175 was in comparison. It was night and day. It is unfortunately because the feature set and operation is far superior to the T175. I do wish I was able to get my hands on the AV8801, assuming it sounds awesome, but I'm half glad I didn't (my wallet thanks me).

    I was very impressed by the SR5008, as it was the best receiver of the bunch and sounded nearly as good as the AV7701. I assumed the 7008 would sound similar if not identical functioning as a preamp. I regret not bypassing my amp and seeing how it performed under its own amplification. If I had originally purchased the 5008 instead of the B&K that fueled this madness, my search probably would’ve stopped there. But once you hear something better…

    I wish I could compare to the Rotel 1068 that I enjoyed after the AV9000, but also suspect that the T175 would ruin my fond memories with ease.

    *IMHO


  2. #2


    Great breakdown, thanks-
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  3. #3
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    Previously, I had a B & K Ref 30. I really liked it. After a few years I sold it and bought an Integra. It's a shame B & K went out of business. They had some great products.

  4. #4


    Sadly, I have owned none of those. I have owned:

    • Lexicon DC-2
    • Lexicon MC-1
    • Sunfire Theater Grand III
    • Integra DTC 9-8
    • Marantz AV 7005


    Great comparison. I always like reading an owner's review, in addition to the pro reviews. It gives a complete review of an AV piece. Thanks.

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by Tracy Rainwater View Post
    Great comparison. I always like reading an owner's review, in addition to the pro reviews. It gives a complete review of an AV piece. Thanks.
    I find owners are more forgiving a lot of the time, since nobody likes to blow $XXXX only to be underwhelmed. Reviewers are essentially playing with house money, and are more critical because that's their job.
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  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by Brandon Eberhart View Post
    I find owners are more forgiving a lot of the time, since nobody likes to blow $XXXX only to be underwhelmed. Reviewers are essentially playing with house money, and are more critical because that's their job.
    I have blown a lot of personal cash, a lot to me personally, and will tell you how it is. It is all truly subjective, as the OP mentioned. But yes, it is nice to have a manufacturer to send you equipment for review.

    The key is to have an owner and Managing Editor who will allow you to say that something sucks, when it does.

  7. #7


    Honestly I don't find the purely subjective reviews very helpful for things like pre-amps/surround sound processors and even things like dedicated DACs or higher end content devices (like BluRay ...). I don't think every review has to back up every last subjective conclusion with hard numeric measurements but I do find it quite helpful to see some data about things like how much a particular components selection / optimization of chips in the digital to analog circuitry preserve accurate time domain functions or how robust the analog stages are at rejecting digital noise or even how much a digital devices clock errors can impact the reproduction.

    Sadly folks a whole lot better at organizing these kind of things than I am have done shown it is virtually impossible for folks to consistently identify their own components of these types in a double blind test let alone truly weigh in with which consistently sounds better / worse. Funny thing too is even when I do come thisclose to accepting the "goodness" of a technical argument from somebody like the guy behind Shunyata I go back to this fact -- in this day era it takes a pretty darned miserable piece of cable / horrible situation to make a sound so crummy that people can consistently say it is not good.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that 'everything sounds the same / spend as little as you dare' because I absolutely have been in showroom / demo suites where pretty much everybody could hear differences between a really really nicely setup speaker installation that cost probably $30k and something that cost probably 20% of that -- but the differences were QUITE subtle AND decidedly not uniformly in favor of the more costly system. Even then no one really would mistake the sound of either installation for "live" performers NOR would anyone even agree that one system was clearly better suited for a particular style of music or even individual tracks from the same artists... It is very instructive to visit a high end show or dealer with music you are familiar with -- as much to help you find out what you can consistently discern as to help you find out what literally no one can tell apart...

    Not to poke too much fun at subjective reviews but how exactly would an designer / manufacturer of audio devices go about correcting a "dark , confused sound"? A guess the same way a wine maker might go about making sure a pinot noir is "nicely textured"
    Joseph Zgymunt


  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by renov8r View Post
    Not to poke too much fun at subjective reviews but how exactly would an designer / manufacturer of audio devices go about correcting a "dark , confused sound"? A guess the same way a wine maker might go about making sure a pinot noir is "nicely textured"
    Apparently you read the blog post that was circling around the Internet, about how wine reviewers are full of crap.

  9. #9


    Well, in the world of reviewing I'd say wine reviewer are in a class by themselves as far as subjectivity goes . . .

    If you want to be a sommelier I think you need to know about five words/phrases: "oaky", "crisp finish", "heavy on the tannins", "acidic", "fruity", and possibly the all-purpose "with a hint of ______"

    Anyway, you have to translate other people's reviews. A "dark, confused sound" probably made perfect sense to the reviewer, but is rather cryptic for anyone else. Probably meant "muddy bass, with clashing low end frequencies" or something.
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  10. #10


    Brandon:

    Part of me agrees -- the "wine reviewers" that go rattle on about things "crispness" are often disagreed with those that the same product lacks "complexity". That said I don't doubt there is near universal agreement for some terms like "tannins".

    Another part of me does not buy into the subjective type reviews for things like electronic A/V precisely because of the silliness of how unclear the terminology becomes. Maybe "dark confused sound" does mean that the reviewer had a perception of their low frequencies being somehow out of whack but it ought to be VERY EASY to show that there is something MEASURABLY WRONG with that device's reproduction of the signal. I really doubt that is the case. I mean if some reviewer is trying to utilize a device that does not support the most advanced codecs that is one thing Blu-ray soundtracks - Blu-ray: CNET's Quick Guide - CNET Reviews but I get the sense from the above subjective opinions that there was something almost "broken" with the tone controls on some of those pre-pros and I really really really doubt that is the intent of the reviewer and certainly not very likely given the range of products that the reviewer managed to say unclear things about...

    The better reviews even from Stereophile and other publications / sites make an effort to show SOME KIND of consistency in the analysis of not just subjective impressions but in relating those opinions back to some kind of measured result...
    Joseph Zgymunt


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