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tanoshi
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System Advice Phase Linear Separates with B&W Speakers

Hello All,

This is my very first post and I am new to Hi Fi but happy to finally be getting into it.

I love music, classic rock, modern rock, EDM/House/Techno, and classical music as well. I'd say I like these genres in roughly that order of priority. I have the following gear right that as of now is not connected or in use:

Bowers & Wilkins CM5 Speakers pair (new anniversary gift)
Phase Linear 400 Series II Amplifier (gift from Dad)
Phase Linear 3000 Series II Pre-Amplifier (gift from Dad)

1. Does the amp/pre-amp do the speakers justice and vice/versa? In other words is this a "matching" system that I often read about people are striving to achieve?

(The cost of me making this system work is just the cost of service and repair of the Phase Gear which I have estimated to be about $300 - $500 USD.)

2. Due to budget constraints the only alternative to the above set-up would be to get the most "musical" AV receiver I can find for $1,000 to $1,200 USD - would you go this route given the cost/mismatch of the existing gear listed above?

(If you think there are 5.1 channel separates to be had for that kind of money that are a decent match to the B&W CM5s please share!)

I know many people will be tempted to simply say - "listen to both options and pick what you like." I am very reluctant to hook up nearly 30 year old gear to new speakers without first getting them serviced. Also, even if I risked it I don't think it would all that useful when the only comparison is that of a Demo room at Best Buy's Magnolia.

Lastly I would like to know what the trained ears of other members have to say, hopefully conscious of the fact that you become a better listener with practice.

I sincerely appreciate your comments and suggestions!

Catch22
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First things first

The CM5s are incredible speakers. You have serious monitors in the B&Ws and they are very easy to drive. The Phase Linears are notorious for having bad capacitors so it's good that you are considering having them checked out...and probably repaired.

Can't be much help on an AV receiver as I don't care for them and totally ignore that aspect of the hobby. You might take a look at Outlaw Audio's site and see what they are offering by way of AV receivers. They offer good value in most all of their gear.

wkhanna
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+ 1 to Catch22

This shop- “Vintage HiFi of Pittsburgh” -specializes in Phase Linear repair & restoration. If you decide to call Tom, do so after 4:00 pm est & tell him Bill, with the C-19, sent you. I have no affiliation with this shop other than having received outstanding service & quality work for over seven years. Easily one of the best shops on the East coast.

Once given a clean bill of health by a competent technician, both of the Phase Linear components would mate well with the B&W speakers.

I am more of a 2ch type, so not much help on the AVR, but, other wise, many people are finding good value in the Emotiva brand, though not my personal cup of tea.

JMHO YMMV

Bill

bierfeldt
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I would keep the Phase Linear gear if it can be repaired

Otherwise, is there a particular reason why you would want a 5.1 AVR vs a decent integrated amp? It doesn't sound like you have a center channel or rear speakers.

tanoshi
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Thanks everyone for your

Thanks everyone for your input, it has helped me get closer to making a decision. Also thanks wkhanna for the restoration referral.

To answer bierfeldt's question. It never occurred to me that a new two channel integrated amp could be a good alternative to the Phase Linear gear at that price point. So I figured I may as well get the 5.1 feature in an AVR and re-direct my system to cater to movies primarily and music secondarily and wait a for circumstances to be more conducive to having a dedicated stereo music setup with the vintage gear, like a separate listening room etc.

If it is possible to get an integrated stereo amp that is a good alternative to the Phase Linear gear what are the reasons for doing so instead of servicing the Phase Linear gear?

Thanks again for your input!

bierfeldt
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Integrated vs Phase Linear

There is no clear reason to pick a new integrated over the Phase Linear gear barring a couple things. I have never heard the Phase Linear equipment and I do not know how it sounds. That being said, I am a big fan of Bob Carver and have faith that it is excellent equipment. My first real system was using Carver equipment in mid-90's.

I personally had a similar choice of having my Carver TFM-15CB Power Amp and can't remember what model of pre-amp refurbed for $600 plus shipping to and from Portland & buy a new phono stage. Alternatively, I could spend a bit more to get a new integrated with a good phono stage.

Several things factored into my decision:
- how long would the refurb last and would this be something I would be doing every 5 or 6 years as that was about how long things lasted till I started having issues with the Carver.
- I bought a new home theatre and experienced balanced vs unbalanced interconnects on my pre-pro and power amp for the first time. The massive improvement balanced interconnects made shocked me and for that reason I became a touch sour on my old Carver gear.

Personally, I stored the Carver figuring I could get it refurbed at a later date or I could trade it in (a few places will take trades) at a later date. I opted for a new integrated and am extremely happy.

Side note, if you were to go to a 5.1 system, you would probably want to get the B&W CM Center and surrounds. The Center will cost you $650 and surrounds will cost you between $500 and $100 depending on what you select. Then the cost of a receiver and a subwoofer. You would struggle to get that for under $2000 and that is allocating like $500 for a receiver.

tanoshi
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The 5.1 system is tempting

Thanks for sharing your past decision. It is much like mine. I hear great things about Carver's stuff and I have decided that I am going to refurb the Phase gear.

What I gather from your experience is that you found an integrated receiver that you felt, modern balanced interconnects and all, was better than your Carver gear. I really appreciate that insight because no one I have spoken with could give me a good Carver vintage vs modern comparison.

I agree with your analysis of the 5.1 system, there is not enough room in the budget for the receiver and the rest of the system. Since I have your experience with the Carver gear as a point of reference of sorts, what multi-channel receiver would you think rivals your Carver gear? I might just go listen to it and decide if it is good enough is why I ask.

Thanks again for sharing your experience no one I know or have met in making this decision has had anything near as close to my situation.

bierfeldt
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My comparison was with Marantz

I have a Marantz pre/pro and Marantz power amp and I have a 5 channel carver pre-amp. I got the Marantz power amp first and listened to the Carver pre-amp and through it and thought it sounded great. I then got my Marantz pre/pro and connected it with unbalanced cables and saw an improvement but was vaguely disappointed. Majority of the improvement was with Audyssey and newer DSPs, not in sound. Then my balanced cables arrived and my opinion changed completely. The slight airiness that I had with the unbalanced cables went away completely. Clarity improved dramatically and I never looked back.

When it cam time to build a 2.1 system in my living room, I thought about getting my Carver stuff refurbed and buying a phone pre-amp or getting new. The least expensive balanced preamp and amp I could find is from Parasound and is almost $2K. Though a fair amount of advice and coaching from the folks out here, they strongly encouraged an integrated which puts both units in the same box thus eliminating the balanced/unbalanced cable concern. I personally opted for a minimalist design in the Rega Brio R which is basically a power amp, an input switch, a volume control and a phono stage with no other features.

Regarding the receiver, one of the biggest factors is room correction. If you are looking for a system that is 5.1 or 7.1 focused, 2 brands are worth giving serious consideration to - Marantz & Denon. They are using latest and greatest room correction and 5.1 and 7.1 audio will sound superior on there equipment.

Both are pretty neutral and sound good. Most folks seem to feel that Marantz is just a touch warner than Denon which would be closer to the Carver equipment. The Marantz SR7008 is the probably the best unit, uses Audyssey MultiEq XT32 (state of the art) but is $1999. The SR5008 and SR6008 are both nice units, use MultiEq XT and are more affordable. I believe $899 and $1299 respectively.

Alternatively, the Denon AVR X3000 (MultiEQ XT) is $899 and the X4000 (MultiEq XT32) is $1299 and are neutral sounding units that deliver.

If you want a system that is primarily focused on 2.1 channel audio and occasionally you will watch a movie in 5.1 or 7.1 then I would go in a different direction.

Both NAD and Cambridge Audio are probably better built units and are going to deliver better 2.1 channel audio. Both companies incorporate room correction technology, but in the $1000 to sub $1000 range, you will be getting dated technology.

The NAD T 758 uses an unspecified version Audyssey which is likely the base level and is $999. The T 748 uses generic room correction t 748 and is $599. Both units are darn nice sounding, especially for 2.1 audio and will deliver good sound in 5.1 or 7.1.

Cambridge is great equipment, but again, even the higher end units are using very dated versions of Audyssey. The Azur 351 or 551 are good choices.

tanoshi
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And now the Source

Update and some more questions.

I did refurb my Phase Linears locally - it set me back just under $650.00. I cannot begin to describe the level of excite the technician had to be working on these units. Just for fun I listed the bench test specs below. If anyone is interested in helping me understand what they mean I would welcome the lecture:

Phase Linear 400 Series II Amp:
- Left 289 watts, 0.1% distortion, Signal to Noise of 93
- Right 279 watts, 0.1% distortion, Signal to Noise of 95

Phase Linear 3,000 Series II Pre-Amp:
Pre Out:
Left 0.02% distortion, signal to noise of 78
Right 0.02% distortion, signal to noise of 79

And Now the Source . . .

The only thing left is the source. I don't know whether to get a standalone DAC and use the PS3 for CD playback or to get a disk player of some sort with a USB DAC built in. I want to USB DAC in order to play digital files since I have as many of those as CDs. I really don't want to spend more than another $400 - $600 USD.

I was told the Phase Linear 3000 Series II pre-amp cannot accommodate a subwoofer (kind of a bummer)but I went ahead and refurbished it anyway thinking the whole point was to hear the Phase Linear sound. As you can see I have not playback source that outputs analog for the Phase Pre-Amp so a DAC will enter the chain at some point from what I understand. But now I am finding that there are stand alone DACs that are also a sort of pre-amp and I am wondering if they will work with the Phase power Amp so I can connect a powered sub later on down the road.

Please let me know what you guys would do with $400 - $600, if possible, given that I have the gear below.

Phase Linear 400 Series II Amp
Phase Linear 3,000 Series II Pre-Amp
Bowers & Wilkins CM5 - pair
Sony Playstation 3
Apple TV
Mac Mini - 2007 - has disk player

Thanks for your advice!

bierfeldt
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Several thoughts

The Peachtree Dac iTx is a nice unit for $399 and has a USB, Optical and Coax inputs as does the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus. I believe the PS3 has an optical output that you could run to the DAC and still have the USB free.

Regarding adding a subwoofer you have 4 options,
1 - does your power amp have a line level output on it? If it does, you can run the RCA cables out of the Power Amp into the subwoofer and it will work fine.
2. You can attach a subwoofer using speaker wire instead of an RCA cable and have no issue at all. If you have a B channel output on the power amp, simply run speaker wire to the subwoofer. Many exceptional subwoofers offer this type of input. If draws a nominal amount of power from the Amp, and sounds fantastic.
3 - If you don't have a B channel in the power amp, you still aren't doomed. Certain subs have speaker level inputs and outputs. The NHT B-10d is a perfect example of this.
4. If your amp is "internally common grounded", you can add any Sunfire (another Bob Carver company) sub by running two sets of speaker wires out of the amp.

Option 4 is the exact method I am using for my Sunfire True sub paired with a Rega Brio R which has no subwoofer output and only one set of speaker outputs. Needless to say I validated that it was acceptable with Rega before I did this. The person who did your refurb should be able to say if it is internally common grounded.

Your choice in which subwoofer to buy is more restricted as you move down the list, however NHT and Sunfire produce some pretty exceptional subwoofers and should be on your list of considered subs regardless of connection method.

Regarding a CD source, other folks can offer you their opinions by I find the PS3 to be pretty darn nice. The single biggest issue is the fan and noise from it. You will likely want to upgrade in the future, but that is very serviceable in the short term. Others may disagree with me.

commsysman
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tanoshi wrote:
tanoshi wrote:

Update and some more questions.

I did refurb my Phase Linears locally - it set me back just under $650.00. I cannot begin to describe the level of excite the technician had to be working on these units. Just for fun I listed the bench test specs below. If anyone is interested in helping me understand what they mean I would welcome the lecture:

Phase Linear 400 Series II Amp:
- Left 289 watts, 0.1% distortion, Signal to Noise of 93
- Right 279 watts, 0.1% distortion, Signal to Noise of 95

Phase Linear 3,000 Series II Pre-Amp:
Pre Out:
Left 0.02% distortion, signal to noise of 78
Right 0.02% distortion, signal to noise of 79

And Now the Source . . .

The only thing left is the source. I don't know whether to get a standalone DAC and use the PS3 for CD playback or to get a disk player of some sort with a USB DAC built in. I want to USB DAC in order to play digital files since I have as many of those as CDs. I really don't want to spend more than another $400 - $600 USD.

I was told the Phase Linear 3000 Series II pre-amp cannot accommodate a subwoofer (kind of a bummer)but I went ahead and refurbished it anyway thinking the whole point was to hear the Phase Linear sound. As you can see I have not playback source that outputs analog for the Phase Pre-Amp so a DAC will enter the chain at some point from what I understand. But now I am finding that there are stand alone DACs that are also a sort of pre-amp and I am wondering if they will work with the Phase power Amp so I can connect a powered sub later on down the road.

Please let me know what you guys would do with $400 - $600, if possible, given that I have the gear below.

Phase Linear 400 Series II Amp
Phase Linear 3,000 Series II Pre-Amp
Bowers & Wilkins CM5 - pair
Sony Playstation 3
Apple TV
Mac Mini - 2007 - has disk player

Thanks for your advice!

The OPPO BDP-103 is outstanding, and a real bargain at $499. Its CD sound is outstanding, plus it plays SACD and DVD and Bluray and you can also use stored music on a USB memory stick and plug it into one of its USB inputs.

It has features galore, including an excellent DAC with USB inputs. Check the OPPO website for a comprehensive list of its features.

Do yourself a favor and order one from OPPO.

Just get a subwoofer with speaker-level inputs and connect the sub inputs to the terminals of your speakers using #16 or #18 speaker wire. That is the best method for connecting a subwoofer anyway. Most subwoofers have speaker-level inputs, but not all.

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