Yamaha RS-202BL and Cambridge Audio AXR85 receivers, proper use of speaker stands (Week 24, 2020)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 24, 2020

Q. Currently I use a home theater receiver for my system and need an affordable, good quality stereo receiver to replace it. My receiver is running very hot trying to power two pairs of 8-ohm speakers (one indoor pair and one outdoor pair) and it just doesn’t sound good overall. In addition to the speakers I have a Cambridge SoundWorks BassCube 8 powered subwoofer connected to the subwoofer output.

Do you have any recommendations for stereo receivers with Bluetooth that can power two sets of speakers? What do I do if the receiver does not have a subwoofer output? Most stereo receivers do not seem to have them. I would like to spend under $300.

-D.S., Hartland, WI

A. I usually advocate buying stereo receivers over audio/video receivers, unless you are actually using the receiver for home theater. With a stereo receiver you get more real-world power, as well as simple setup, easier operation and higher reliability. Home theater receivers also tend to become obsolete within a few years, while a good stereo receiver can be used and enjoyed for decades.

Your subwoofer has “speaker-level connections” which are inputs and outputs for speaker wires. Take the appropriate speaker wires from the receiver’s speaker outputs and connect them to the corresponding wire inputs on the subwoofer, then run wires from the matching outputs to the left and right speakers. Once everything is connected, adjust the subwoofer controls to match the subwoofer output to the speakers.

I have two receiver recommendations for you, one well under your budget and one that is a bit over.

At the lower end of the price range is the Yamaha RS-202BL. It is currently on sale $129, reduced from the retail price of $149. It will run two pairs of 8-ohm speakers at once, but if you wanted you could get one for each pair of speakers and still be well under your budget. It also has an output you can connect to a mini-amp like the $30 Dayton Audio T-Amp, which will take some of the stress off of the receiver if you want to play it really loud. See the receiver at usa.yamaha.com and the T-Amp at parts-express.com.

If you can up your budget to $399 you can get a premium product in the Cambridge Audio AXR85 Stereo Receiver. (Cambridge Audio is a British high-end audio manufacturer, not to be confused with budget manufacturer Cambridge SoundWorks, manufacturer of your subwoofer.) In addition to better sound, the AXR85 is built to a much higher standard and weighs 20% more than the Yamaha, a good indicator of the quality of the power supply and the parts inside. It’s very satisfying to own and use, and does an especially good job with FM radio. I have recommended the AXR85 to many people who have emailed me for recommendations, and everyone has been very pleased with their purchase. cambridgeaudio.com

Q. Do I need to buy speakers stands with the Emotiva T-Zero speakers?

-D.S., San Ramon, CA

A. The Emotiva Airmotiv T-Zero speakers are small towers that are meant to be placed directly on the floor. They will sound worse if you put them on the stands as they are designed to use reflections from the floor to help reproduce the bass. All tower speakers are designed this way.

Bookshelf speakers will always benefit from being placed on stands, and I highly recommend them. You get better sound and better placement flexibility, which also leads to better sound. Given this I think they should always be called “stand-mounted speakers” but the name bookshelf speaker has unfortunately become the default name for speakers of this size.