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Home Theatre Upgrade - Totem and NAD?

 

New member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 4
Registered: Jun-07
Recently started listening to concert DVDs on my very basic home theatre setup (Technics receiver, Paradigm Titans and CC170 in the front; Atoms in the back and a PDR8 sub). While this system was fine for movies, I find it sorely lacking for music DVDs - does not compare to my 2 channel system (NAD C352/C542 and Monitor Audio Silver 6 speakers) for musical 'enjoyment'.

I think I can get some budget approved if I can convince my wife that the ugly black speakers currently in our room will be replaced by very nice 'furniture quality' speakers, which led me to Totem, specifically the Dreamcatcher 5.1 system.

Had a very brief listen to a pair of Dreamcatchers at a local shop and actually got to speak at length with the Totem rep. In the shop, the speakers were being driven by a NAD C272 amp.

For home theatre, the rep said minimum recommended would be something like the Arcam AVR300, but Anthem-type stuff would be even better.

I just read with interest a recent thread about Totem speakers (https://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/forum/home-audio/396887.html) and what it takes to drive them and it raises questions.

I could not spend more than $3,000 CDN (inc tax) on new 5.1 speakers and receiver, so if the Dreamcatcher system runs about $1500, that leaves about $1200 for receiver and the rest for tax. That seemingly puts me into a NAD T754 (I think retail is about $1400 here, but would likely get a discount off that). Would this be sufficient to drive the Totems?

Any other thoughts? thanks.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 1021
Registered: Jun-07
The T754's power is enough, but would it be a good match with the Totem's? I am not sure. Can you get your hands on the entry level 7X5 series NAD just released? It is obvious step up in sound quality from their previous A/V receivers, borrowing a lot of technology from their Masters Line it seems. Worth a listen. The Arcam would be ideal but you and I both know that its much more than 1200 CDN. lol.Cheers.
 

Silver Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 545
Registered: Feb-07
Yup, the NAD T754 would be enough. Will it sound good? It will sound "ok"... I heard Totems driven by NAD in my dealer's showroom and it sounded alright. Unfortunately I've also heard the same speakers driven by Bryston - after hearing that the NAD don't sound so good anymore.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 1023
Registered: Jun-07
LOL no doubt David. I have heard good things and bad things about the NAD/Totem combination. I havn't heard anything sound bad on Bryston yet.lol.
 

New member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 6
Registered: Jun-07
I could listen to the T765, but I suspect that is a $2K piece of equipment. Is there any better match for the Totem's in my price range, or is it just that they require something much more expensive to drive them?
 

Silver Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 546
Registered: Feb-07
From what I understand, most Totems are difficult to drive (low sensitivity, low impedance). There was a thread going awhile ago about which Totems were easier to drive than others.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 12064
Registered: May-04
.

The Dreamcatcher is a four Ohm load with an average sensitivity. It should require a stout but not extraordinary power supply in whatever amplifier you choose. Unless Totem has strayed from their earlier design philosophy the speaker uses a very simple capacitor-less crossover. Therefore, while the impedance is low the load is rather simple for most amplifiers being mostly inductive in nature. That would make it more like a Magnepan - and not a B&W - when considering what amplifier to pair with the speaker. Call the dealer or rep to confirm what I've just posted. I haven't kept up with Totem and can only go on what I recall.


I wouldn't put this speaker with a mass market HT receiver or anything that employs some form of current limiting. No Yamaha's or Pioneers. I would hesitiate to put the Totems together with NAD on a purely technical basis but someone else might disagree. I never really thought NAD Av receivers did that well into four Ohm loads but the Dreamcatcher should be fairly simple for a well designed/built amplifier. I would agree with the Totem rep however that there are far better components than NAD when you are considering a speaker with the Totem's basic personality. If this is the speaker you prefer, I would suggest you reconsider the choice in amplification. Think synergy not just getting by. My personal bias would be to put HK with the Totems if you have a budget. The newest Onkyo line up is receiving good reviews for sound quality but I haven't any idea how they do with low impedance loads.


You haven't mentioned what your source player is and I suspect what you paired with the Technics isn't going to cut it with the Totems and a better amplifier.


I'm inclined to suggest you stop thinking end of the line and begin wondering what isn't being fed to your present system. Garbage in = gargage out. I bet an improvement in your DVD player would garner more actual improvement in your current system than changing speakers which will only show you what's still lacking in front. However, improvements aren't typically as easy to sell (or buy) as wholesale changes though I would venture a guess the dealer wasn't showing the NAD/Totem combo with a cheap DVD player. What's your DVD player right now, TScott?


I would suggest you look at spending about half your projected budget on a very good player and stick the rest of the money in the bank until you can afford to do this thing right. No, it's not going to be as much fun as new speakers. But new speakers will very quickly prompt a new something or other anyway. Totems are going to require a new sub at that end anyway. This all goes together to make a system and is not just a collection of pieces that fit into the same cabinet/room. You have a budget system right now. Learn how to grow the system and not loose money. Go back and have the dealer demonstrate some source players. Don't be too quick to spend money that will only require you spend more money in an attempt to bring the system back into balance.



.



.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 12065
Registered: May-04
.

The Oppo universal players might be a good place to start. They've also received good reviews and seem to do most things right. You might not hear the difference between the $249(?) Oppo and a $1k Marantz if you are someone who thinks speakers first.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 1026
Registered: Jun-07
"Had a very brief listen to a pair of Dreamcatchers at a local shop and actually got to speak at length with the Totem rep. In the shop, the speakers were being driven by a NAD C272 amp."

So did you like it? Was was the pre amp they were using? Source? Im guessing the pre was also a NAD.

I agree with Jan's post. You should be considering Onkyo and H/K as well. Both can come at a budget price and are good performers. Of the three, to my ears anyway, I prefer the sound of the NAD A/V's then that of the H/K's and have not heard the new Onkyo line yet. Either way, your ears are probably going to hear it differently than both Jan and I, so you really need to listen to them. The Oppo player is a great place to start, again coming on a budget price, and is a great performer. The Oppo players also play every format under the sun as well.

Again, like Jan stated, if Totem are telling you Arcam as a Minimum, then Arcam should probably be the minimum.
 

New member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 7
Registered: Jun-07
Thanks for the thoughtful input, gents. Lots of questions posed as well. Here goes:

Current source is a Panasonic DVD RP56 - about 7 years old, progressive scan player. I have used both the analog and digital audio outs and neither gets me the sound I am hoping for. I suppose I was under the impression that the speakers were the most important upgrade assuming I also had the right amplification. Also, I was assuming I would simply use the digital output and let the receiver handle the digital to analog conversion. If I had a decent quality receiver, I thought the DVD player's 'quality' was less important, especially since my focus is on the audio quality - the video quality coming from this DVD player is currently fine by me.

I have looked at the Oppo site and certainly like the price range. With a player like that, would I be using analog or digital audio outputs to get the best sound quality?

When I listened to the Dreamcatchers, they preamp was a NAD as well - cannot recall the model. I was only listening in two channel.

Looking at budget: I can likely spend about $3K CDN ($2700 before taxes). Not sure that I would want to have more than that invested, even if I could save more for it over the long term (this does not include the TV of course - already have that). So, how should that budget be split? I was kind of hoping that the player was not as 'important' given that it was being used as a transport (for audio purposes anyway) and that would give me more $ for speakers and receiver.

I have just started the search, so am open to other options. As I look to upgrade I can do it in stages. Ultimately, I would like to move to a nicer sounding AND looking speaker in my upgrade path.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 1032
Registered: Jun-07
You would use a Digital connection for movies, and RCA for music with the Oppo players.
 

New member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 8
Registered: Jun-07
Would the Oppo player be a decent sounding player? Or is it more well-known for good video?

If I was watching a concert DVD which would give better sound - the digital audio feed allowing the receiver to convert to analog or the RCA?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 12076
Registered: May-04
.

The Oppo players have been widely regarded as excellent budget players for both audio and video. Feeding their signal into a first class outboard DAC will give better results than the Oppo can manage alone. Feeding their signal to the DAC's included in a receiver would probably defeat the purpose no matter how the connection was made. I would suggest you make both analog and digital connections since you would use the player for both audio and video purposes. If by chance you find one connection to be superior to the other, then use the connection you prefer.


"The Oppo players have been widely regarded as excellent budget players for both audio and video."


That doesn't mean there aren't better players. However, the improvements to be had with a superior source are not the same as the differences found by changing speakers. Most importantly differences are not improvements and vice versa. You seem determined to buy different speakers which will require a new amplifier which could necessitate a new pre amp/processor. And you have a budget.


Since you've not given any information as to what you regard as "better" or even what about your present system is not adequate other than it is "sorely disappointing" when playing music videos, it's quite difficult for us to suggest how you should allocate your budget. Source players do not, as a rule, have the sort of dramatic changes in frequency response you find in speaker comparisons. Source players add refinement and precision more than they add bass or treble. A better source makes the individual performers more distinct in their spatial and temporal qualities. A better source player makes music sound more like music and less like hifi. Quite honestly, if these aren't things you listen for, then a better source player should follow your choice in speakers. If you are a "big picture" type listener who responds mostly to the differences between speakers, then you probably won't hear the many improvements a better source player can provide. At no more than $250 the Oppo players will leave sufficient cash for the speakers and amplifier.


I would encourage you to take a few discs with you (CD's and videos) when you audition speakers. Drop by on a slow weekday afternoon (not a Saturday) and ask the shop to demonstrate the improvements in source players. If you don't get it when you hear a $200 player compared to a $1k player, spend most of your money on the speakers and an amplifier capable of driving them adequately and without fatigue.


If you'll read a few of the archived threads on this forum, I think you'll find there is more to a good system than just collecting components. I would hope you will take the time to do some reading before you spend any money. Some of us would prefer a $1k source player and $250 speakers with a very good amplifier. Some of use would spend the money in another fashion. There are lots of ways to put together a system and you get to decide how to spend your money.


.
 

New member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 9
Registered: Jun-07
Thanks Jan. I did not mean to suggest that I was hoping for a quick fix here. Before I purchased my two channel system a few years back I spent months researching and auditioning. It was the first 'decent' stereo purchase I had ever made, and I took it seriously. I bought source, amp and speakers all at once because I did not have anything to upgrade from and I really wanted a decent 2 channel system for CDs and possibly a starting point for a new hobby.

As for my home theatre system, I had some components already (Technics receiver running Titans in one room and Atoms in another as well as a Technics 5 disc changer). When it came time to build the home theatre, I did the least expensive thing I could - buy a center and a sub, both from Paradigm.

For movies, this suffices and in reality the only complaint I had was the center is somewhat outclassed by the Titans in front - it sounds recessed and somewhat thin.

However, when I started buying concert DVDs, I was not really 'pleased' with the sound. I did a little test with a Sarah McLachlan DVD that also came with a live CD. DVD played on home theatre, CD played on 2 channel. Here is what I noticed in the HT: the peaks and valleys in her voice are not as pronounced; the detail in the music is not there - breaths, fingers sliding on strings, etc.; bass is somewhat bloated and boomy compared to the tight sound from the MAs.

Overriding impression - it is a facsimile of what was intended to he heard. I am not an expert in any of this - I just know that the experience with the same music is better on the NAD/MA combination. Now that I can hear that difference, I recognize that to enjoy concert DVDs fully will require some form of upgrade. I assumed that upgrade would be derived more from speakers, which would require amplification changes as well.

I am not discounting the possibility of source improvement - in fact,I look forward to doing exactly what you suggest by way of a test in a shop.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Pablo

Post Number: 89
Registered: Mar-06
hi
just saw this post. DO NOT match totem and NAD. Do not make this mistake. You can search my previous posts about Arro. I listen to them at the store connected to Arcam and when I took them home and hooked up with NAD 743 they did not sound near as good. Last spring I have traded nad for Arcam AVR280 byamped arro's and they sound excellent now. I am looking actually for dreamcatcher 5.1 for the HT in basement and I would most likelly get another AVR280 to drive dreamcatchers. I have spend lots of time to research and spoke to totem and arcam reps. This is ideal match (of caouse I am talking about a minimum match)If you talk to totem - they are using arcam in their shop and demos. And I can confirm from my own experience this is a big upgrade fro NAD. Get AVR280 as minimum if you do not want to be dissapointed. They will sound OK with NAD but not excellent.
Pablo
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 2404
Registered: May-05
Excellent post Pablo. You're not the first to dislike the NAD/Totem combination.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 11
Registered: Jun-07
UGGHHHHHH...well, the Totem/NAD upgrade is a moot point anyway. I have lost my 2 channel room in the house. So, my new upgrade path is somewhat more complex. I will have to move my Monitor Audio Silver 6 speakers into the home theatre and they will be used as the fronts. I then have to choose a center channel, subwoofer and surrounds. The critical piece is the center - I emailed MA and they have no old Silver stock left - everything is the new RS series. The product manager at MA said:

"Sonically the new RSLCR is not far removed from the S6 and I do not think that there would be any timbre issues using this model. They are voiced by the same persons and share near identical sonic characteristics."

Anyone have thoughts on this? Is this my best course of action? I suppose I could try to get a dealer to loan me one for an in-home audition, but I would need to upgrade the receiver first...

Leads to next question - the receiver. I like the NAD/MA combo in my channel setup. I have noted some brightness/harshness in some recordings, but not enuff that I am panicked - I love the detail of the MAs. In addition to NAD's receivers, what else is a good match to the MAs in a home theatre config?

Thanks again!


told me that the RS series was "voiced" by the same engineer and should have the same
 

Bronze Member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 12
Registered: Jun-07
UGGHHHHHH...well, the Totem/NAD upgrade is a moot point anyway. I have lost my 2 channel room in the house. So, my new upgrade path is somewhat more complex. I will have to move my Monitor Audio Silver 6 speakers into the home theatre and they will be used as the fronts. I then have to choose a center channel, subwoofer and surrounds. The critical piece is the center - I emailed MA and they have no old Silver stock left - everything is the new RS series. The product manager at MA said:

"Sonically the new RSLCR is not far removed from the S6 and I do not think that there would be any timbre issues using this model. They are voiced by the same persons and share near identical sonic characteristics."

Anyone have thoughts on this? Is this my best course of action? I suppose I could try to get a dealer to loan me one for an in-home audition, but I would need to upgrade the receiver first...

Leads to next question - the receiver. I like the NAD/MA combo in my channel setup. I have noted some brightness/harshness in some recordings, but not enuff that I am panicked - I love the detail of the MAs. In addition to NAD's receivers, what else is a good match to the MAs in a home theatre config that will now be used as 2 channel stereo as well (coming from the NAD C352 int amp).

Thanks again!
 

Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 2681
Registered: Sep-04
TS,

I'm no fan of MA speakers, but I think the MA man is absolutely on the right track. It's certainly your first port of call. Anything else is going to be a suck-it-and-see scenario. theoretically the MA RSLCR should match your S6 more closely.

MA speakers are not difficult to drive so I'd expect an NAD receiver to have more than enough power to drive them well. That said, I've not heard the combination for many years so I can't tell if they match or not. You appear to think it's a good combination, so it should suit you. I am a little concerned that you have noted bright treble. one source of this could easily be the biwire jumpers. If you are using the standard biwire links between the terminals on your S6s (provided you're not biwiring of course), these could easily account for the problem. Far better to use a snip of that speaker cable you're using, or any half decent bit of copper! It's a cheap thing to try...
 

Bronze Member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 14
Registered: Jun-07
Thanks Frank.

I hope to be able to audition the RSCLR in the home first.

I had another thread going where I was getting some suggestions to tame the brightness a little. I will be bi-wiring shortly once I move them into my home theatre room. In the interim, I will swap out the stock jumper that came and replace with same speaker cable.

Question - why would 'any decent copper' be an improvement over what came with the speakers?

Bigger queston - I will still use the C542 CDP for stereo listening. Do you think I stand to lose anything in my two channel sound experience by swapping out the C352 integrated for, say, a current generation NAD receiver?
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 9742
Registered: Dec-04
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Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 2683
Registered: Sep-04
TS,

I have not heard the latest AV receivers so I cannot comment, sorry.

Regards,
Frank.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 16
Registered: Jun-07
Update...

Found a refurb'd Monitor Audio RS LCR and now have that in place between the S6 in the front.

Found a demo NAD T743 and have that in place with the existing Panasonic DVD player and NAD C542 CDP.

Got it all hooked up this weekend. Watched two movies, one concert DVD and listened to a couple CDs. Original impressions: I am pretty pleased. Definite improvement over the Technics/Paradigm setup for movies and concert DVDs. The RS LCR seems pretty strong and I did not notice any consistency issues between it and the prior generation S6s on the left and right.

2 channel - jury still out whether the NAD receiver is going to be as good (to my ears) as the C352 integrated. I had thought of possibly using the C352 to drive the S6 fronts and let the T743 handle the other channels. I will play around with this a little as well.

Thanks again to all for their comments.
 

Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 2786
Registered: Sep-04
Wow, the T743 is as low as it got in the range. For it to be even close tot he 352 is saying something. In that case, any of the later NADs should be an improvement...
 

Silver Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 733
Registered: Feb-07
Congrats on the MA RS LCR purchase. I have one as well, and it is as good (if not better) than my previous Paradigm CC-370, which was much bigger and heavier, BTW.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Tsh

Post Number: 17
Registered: Jun-07
One of the dealers I spoke with said that the new NAD receivers are definitely a step up in sound quality, but you are paying for it...the price got bumped signficantly. I found a good deal on the T743, it was a big step up from the Technics at a good price, couldnt say no.

As I said, jury still out on whether it will be a good substitute for the C352 in two channel. I am hopeful.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 1289
Registered: Jun-07
"One of the dealers I spoke with said that the new NAD receivers are definitely a step up in sound quality"

They are, big time. And would sound better than the C352. The new line of NAD receivers basically, to my ears, and to others as well, sound like a A/V receiver out of the Masters Series. I would have never said this about the last few lines from NAD...but their new line rivals Arcam and B&K in the sound department. Easily. Hopefully they can regain some of their lost respect with this new line.
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