Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why Audio Video Receivers suck at music reproduction ?

A bit of background
Do Audio Video Receivers (AVR) deliver quality music for audio sources ? No, never. I guessed yes for a while but I soon discovered AVRs lack real presence of music although I listened to audio in Pure Direct mode.  What Pure Direct mode does is, it disengages power and control to tone controls (IOW it bypasses tone controls). This helps AVRs to minimise signal contamination by the noise generated as a result of AVR's digital signal processing (DSP) mechanism. Pure Direct mode sends input signals straight to the amplification stage without deteriorating the signal quality.

What is missing in an AVR ?
The biggest problem with AVRs is lack of power among many other things, resulting inaccurate music. You could certainly hear some "sound" but that isn't what actually the corresponding music instruments' music sounds in real life. The depths of vocals, warmness of music, the tone, real spectrum of drums and heavy bass are just a few missing bits when you listen to music on an AVR.

AVR distributes its power to various other segments although you don't use them while listening to audio in pure direct mode. This is one of the key reasons why these AVRs don't sound good. The AVRs cut corners
by design. Their power isn't necessarily sufficient to drive speakers for good music reproduction. Even if it does, it lacks musicality.

With the storm of Audio Video Receivers (AVR), most people found AVRs a great way to listen to music via multiple speakers. The AVRs appeared to be a cheap, cost effective way of enjoying both worlds; audio and video. However, this trend crippled the HiFi stereo component market. The stereo aka two channel amplifier market plunged almost to its extinction as many manufacturers quit bowing to declined sales.

AVR vs Stereo Integrated Amps

Just like many, I've been using a receiver for audio and changed a number of receivers in the space of 5 years starting with Yamaha RX-V 663, Marantz 7002 and Yamaha RX-V 2073. It didn't take much time for me to realise how bad the AVRs are for music, since I have extensively used a two channel integrated amplifier before moved on to AVRs. I almost stopped listening to audio on my AVR since music sounded crap.

I checked a few audio forums on what others say about two channel audio on an AVR. Quite surprisingly, many commented that there wouldn't be much of a difference in sound quality given most modern AVRs are powerful enough to deliver quality sound, which turned out to be an utter rubbish theory. 

Yamaha RX -V 2073 known to be a very good AVR in its league and its specs are promising on the paper but wasn't delivering the goods on pure direct mode for two channel audio. I generally tend to do what mass majority thinks wrong. A good two channel integrated amplifier could outperform any AVR twice the cost of an amplifier on real music reproduction.

Why Yamaha A-S1000 ?
I short listed a few integrated amplifier brands, such as Rotel, Krell, Naim and Arcam but at the end I bought a Yamaha A-S 1000. I'm not a Yamaha fanboy but Yamaha outperformed many over hyped big names on the paper and on sound quality. The retail price for Yamaha A-S 1000 is ~$2500 but I got a nice discount from Todds.

 I've got a couple of turntables but I hooked my old Sony PS 3300 turntable to Yamaha A-S 1000; connected Klipsch F30 speakers with oxygen free four core cables using banana plugs. Powered the system and dropped the needle on one of my favourite records. The sounds were amazing, the sound quality difference between A-S 1000 and the AVR is like cheese and chalk. Some claim Yamaha amps are bit bright but I guess it all comes down to the speakers. The Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge known to be on the bright side too but the highs aren't bright as bleeding as some say. The clarity, tone, details, depths are amazing. The sounds are very neutral yet natural and of course, I didn't touch the tone controls and I doubt I would ever.

Look and feel and sound quality
The A-S 1000 has been built like a tank, weighing 22.5kg. It has the retro 1980s look with a few modern twists built into it. The damping factor is pretty decent at 160 amongst many other little things, that are collaboratively effective in generating quality vibes. The THD is pretty low and the giant capacitors are yet to warm up to reach their peak. The S/N ratio is excellent at 93dB on the paper for my main music source, phono. For a moving magnet (MM) cartridge, it's an excellent figure. Importantly it runs at ease at a very cool temperature to my surprise, thanks to the Thor power board. This is my second integrated amplifier since Kenwood KA 4040-R in 1993 and the best to own so far. Finally, hifi music has arrived at its best. Now I hear music as it is in detail :-)


  1. great to see someone who not only understands this but also practises it - love great sounding vinyl with properly configured system

  2. how do you make pure direct work with the CDS1000?

    1. Turning 'pure direct' on CDS1000 would be suffice as long as you don't touch the tone controls in AS1000. The AS1000 does not have a pure direct button as it runs in pure direct mode if you keep treble and bass controls at '0'. The amplifier disengages pure direct mode when you adjust the tone controls.