Dear Alan:

Bought the m 60's with a centre channel and two surrounds-wow! Totally blows away my jbl home theatre speaker package. Couldn't be happier. I'm now looking to upgrade my receiver. The more research I put into it, the more confusing it becomes. Help!

I currently own a six year old HK 110 with dolby 5.1, Dts and 40 watts a channel. More wattage would be nice, better calibrations, including auto would be nice, more dolby choices for listening to cd's (I hate pro logic) would be nice, ease of switching from dvd player to pvr would be nice, and of course better sounding audio - the whole reason I wish to upgrade- would be very nice. Everything else, all other features especially 1.3 hdmi, thx ultra or select, dolby 7.1, multiple dts modes (why the hell do I want to listen to music in coffee shop in Moscow mode), upconversion, upscaling, multiple zones (I'd rather use my old receiver and old speakers) ... I could probably do without.

I don't think I'm concerned about future proofing. I currently run a Rogers hd pvr and a Samsung dvd upconvertor on a Samsung 42" plasma t.v.(720 p) with 2 hdmi inputs. My wife can't figure out how to make the t.v. work but the picture quality is excellent.

I love to listen to music and music concerts most of all. A bit of everything but mostly 60's and especially 70's classic rock, folk rock and just plain acoustic guitar: Neil Young, Townse Van Zant, Warren Zevon, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Supertramp, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac etc. In the old turntable days I would set my speakers inches away from each ear and get lost in the music for hours listening to the details and the separation of all the different sounds. Now I move the couch to the middle of the room and put my receiver on 5 speaker stereo and get lost in the music. But I find myself continually fidgeting with speaker location, large/small settings, volume for each channel etc. Everytime I change a setting I have to get up because I find my HK clicker to confusing to operate. (however I did just recently discover that I may be able to hook up the settings to the t.v. which would be easier to navigate) .

If I understand the jargon I'm looking for something crisp (detailed-easy to locate all the instruments and sounds), warm (mid range- I don't like a low of bass nor do I like alot of treble) and enveloping. I don't think I can handle one more salesman nor a biased comment on the internet by someone who spent way more than he should on the latest bla, bla, bla processing chip and probably can't really tell the difference.

Currently in contention:

Yamaha 1700 - great local price $799.00, but the store won't let me demo it Onkyo 805 -51 lbs, gotta mean something right? However to get a good price $899.00 I have to buy it in the states and I worry about the warranty in Canada. Denon 1808 - It was on sale at the future shop for $899.00 (box store equivalent model) and it sounded great. I wish I had taken it home to demo it.

I don't mind spending a thousand dollars to upgrade my system. But I'm not looking for alot of features and will an upgrade make much of a difference? Does thx mean something? What system would you recommend to go with the m60's and will it make much of a difference over my present hk system.

Thank you

Mike S


Dear Mike,

Thanks for your e-mail.

I'm delighted you're pleased with your Axiom M60s, QS4s and VP100 system.

I'm going to work through your questions in somewhat random fashion, so here goes: A couple of things first: THX is not important--it's just a royalty generator for George Lucas/LucasFilm.

More power will certainly make your M60s really sing; I'd suggest you look at 100 watts per channel, and you'll get that from most of the Denon AV receivers or Sherwood Newcastle receivers (Axiom sells the latter on-line.)

ALL AV recceivers are now 7.1 and have multiple Dolby and dts modes, but you'll really like listening to your 2-channel music in Dolby Pro LogicII(x) or dts Neo:6, both of which interpolate a 5.1 or 7.1 mix, extracting ambient and all kinds of sonic info that is present in a 2-channel recording but lost in stereo playback. Those new modes are a huge improvement over the old Dolby Pro Logic mode, which was lousy for music. See my recent article here:

There is no need to audition your AV receivers at home. Modern well-designed electronics from the better brands (Denon, Sherwood Newcastle, Rotel, NAD etc) do not "sound" different if the tone controls are set identically or bypassed. Everything is dependent on the speakers and the original CD you are using, which, as you know vary widely in quality and recording technique.

Virtually all the new AV receiver models will have HDMI switching whether you like it or not because it's being heavily marketed as the newest feature. You don't have to use HDMI. Component video delivers full HD 720p quality. HDMI1.3 in theory can use one cable--if it works properly, but I'd ignore it and use component video and the usual digital coaxial or optical connections from your DVD/CD player and your Rogers HDTV box.

The upgrade will make a difference in terms of much more power than your current H/K, and much better processing chips and modes (DPLII(x) and dts Neo:6 (both have Music and Cinema settings).

At Axiom, we sell and have tested Sherwood Newcastle AV receivers; even the least expensive will drive our 4-ohm M80s with no trouble, whereas other brands like Onkyo and Yamaha sometimes overheat and shut down.

You could look at the Sherwood Newcastle R-771 AV receiver ($650 Canadian delivered); it's very versatile and has all the decoding modes, includng adjustable DPLIIx, plus robust internal amplifiers with lots of power for your M60s or even M80s should you ever upgrade. It doesn't have HDMI switching, but it comes with a microphone with good auto-setup modes. Its remote is just OK, but I find most remotes (including my H/K remote) annoying.

Alternatively, I'd suggest Denon models in the same price range or a bit more, which may have HDMI switching. Stay away from Onkyo, Sony, Kenwood AV receivers. Pioneer would be fine for your M60s. I'm not up on current Denon models except for the latest HDMI1.3 units, the 3808 and 2808.

Finally, if you are not using a subwoofer, set your M60s to "Large" and all the other speakers to "Small" with an 80-Hz crossover for the center and surrounds.

And you might look into a custom remote from Logitech/Harmony that's "user-based", which means your wife would just choose an activity (Watch a DVD, watch TV in surround sound, etc) and the remote does everything.

Post questions about it on our Axiom forums and also about which Denon AV receiver would be good for you, given you're not gung-ho on HDMI1.3, which is prudent. If a Denon was sold by Future Shop, its warranty would be honored by Denon Canada. I'm travelling at the moment but next week I should be back at my toll-free direct number.

Feel free to contact me on my direct line, 1-888-243-3236, 9-5 Eastern Time, Monday to Friday, or call the Axiom toll-free number any time at 1-866-244-8796 - any of our Audio Experts would be pleased to help.

Kind regards,

Alan Lofft