External amplification: I'm convinced

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mark C., Aug 11, 2001.

  1. Mark C.

    Mark C. Supporting Actor

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    I thought I'd do a test this weekend, adding an external 5-channel amplifier to my HT setup. I was curious whether I would truly hear a difference. BOY OH BOY! OH BOY! I heard a difference.
    My current setup:
    Nakamichi AV-10 DD DTS, 100W x5 and 120W x 2 (I've had it more than two years now and it's great.)
    B&W CDM 1SEs for mains, matching B&W CDM CSE center channel
    B&W 601S2s for rears; Sunfire True Sub Jr.
    Pioneer DV-525 DVD player
    I borrowed a Rotel 1075 (125W x 5) from the good folks at San Francisco Stereo (the Mountain View store, thank you Jonathan Brusco for boxing the floor model and carrying it to my car. What service! Century Stereo could learn a thing or two from you guys).
    The 1075 must weigh 50 pounds. I struggled to get it into my cabinet. I hooked it up to the Nak's preamps with five Tara Prism connectors supplied by SF Stereo.
    In running through various DVDs and CDs today, it's clear to me now why folks are so passionate about separates. It's hard to put into words what I heard today, but I would say that my HT speakers sounded new. The rears were much more active and noticeable. And I could boost the volume to the 12 o'clock position without wincing. It almost seemed that my CDM bookshelves equaled the sound of my Nautilus 804s and Classe integrated that I use for music only.
    Just running the beginning of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (you get both the DTS and the THX opening logos) was really fun.
    The "Shall We Dance'' scene from The King and I sounded incredible. Tusk from Fleetwood Mac's "The Dance'' took on new life. Roy Orbinson "Black and White Night'' was amazing. I can't believe what I've been missing. I guess the audio in general sounded fuller, more powerful and made watching or listening that much more fun.
    Too bad this beast of an amp doesn't fit my stand. Would a small amp, maybe only a two-channel, have almost the same benefit by assisting the Nak in the workload?
     
  2. Stephen Smith

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    I would have to agree with you Mark.
    I had a similar experience back in 1998. I had a certain Denon reciever, (can not remember the number) I decided to try a Parasound Hca1000 amplifier for the front left/right channels. OH BOY was right. I could not believe the difference. Going back to reciever power was like going from a ribeye steak to salami. Anyway I upgraded all channels to seperates, and I have never looked back. I own a Onkyo 787 reciever now, but have Marantz MA700 monoblocks for the power.
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  3. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Mark- San Francisco Stereo in Mt View.
    Cool, I hadn't been aware of them. I'm just a few miles north of you. Thanks for the reference!
    [​IMG]
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  4. Mike Kao

    Mike Kao Second Unit

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    Damn you... DAMN YOU ALL for making me spend soo much of my hard earned money on my home theater! I just upgraded, and already I'm getting second thoughts... After reading this post, I may just have to upgrade yet again; this time to separates! You guys think it would be worth it for a Harman Kardon AVR 510 receiver?
    [Edited last by Mike Kao on August 12, 2001 at 03:46 AM]
     
  5. Mark C.

    Mark C. Supporting Actor

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    Kevin:
    SF Stereo has been in Mountain View only for about a year. A very unassuming building on El Camino. You could drive right by it and not even know it's there. I highly recommend these guys. Unlike Century Stereo, which seems to have the Silicon Valley HT market cornered, SF Stereo actually loans items for a night or two and has a trade-up policy. Since they are a dealer of my favorite speakers, B&W, I had to check them out. Go give them a browse!
     
  6. GarryW

    GarryW Stunt Coordinator

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    I think a lot of folks with decent speakers don't realize their full potential adding out board amplification. [​IMG]
    In many cases, it improves sound quality by 50-75%!
     
  7. Rob Braden

    Rob Braden Auditioning

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    I'm currently experiencing the same thing. I hooked up my new Outlaw 750 to my 3 year old Yamaha RX-V2092 receiver (100 x 5) in place of the onboard amps the other day. Wow! It really does sound like I bought new speakers. The imaging improved, the soundstage really opened up and the sound is generally much clearer. I'm converted! I've hardly moved from the ouch all weekend. [​IMG]
    Rob
     
  8. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    Every time I read one of these reports, it hits me where I am vulnerable, having my entry-level system only 6 months. It makes me rethink the audio system process, where the goal is enhancing the soundfield.
    So many variables, so little money.
    And who wouldn't want their speakers to "sing" and to sound "new"?
    For mid to lower-line AVRs, the theory goes, adding 3- or 2-channel outboards (or several monos) takes the "load" off the main 5X AVR transformer -- by outpowering 2 mains, the 3 front speakers, or just the center -- thus "freeing up" the AVR.
    I understand that some people have speakers less efficient (
     
  9. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    I took it one step further and have separate amplifier channels for my midrange/tweeters and my woofers (biamplification). Each section of each speaker is getting 800 watts to play with.
    And yes it sounds better. [​IMG]
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  10. Steve_D

    Steve_D Second Unit

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    Passive bi-amping is very questionable, and may actually lead to a decrease in quality of sound. Active bi-amping can be better IF you use a high quality external crossover AND each amp has identical gain.
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    http://www.sdiver.org
     
  11. Ricky T

    Ricky T Supporting Actor

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    Steve,
    How can passive biamping lead to "decreased" sound quality? Especially if you using four identical amp channels.
     
  12. Ryan Peddle

    Ryan Peddle Second Unit

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    Bill, I too am using Yammy's new RXV800 to power my Paradigm setup.
    Over the last few weeks I have been looking at 2 channel amps to run my mains. Now having settled on the new NAD c270 (120 x 2, THD 0.03% 20hz - 20khz) I look forward to reeping the rewards of outboard amplification.
    After that I am going to save up and buy either a 3 channel amp (Anthem possibly) or 3 Marantz MA700's and move the NAD to the rears and power the L C & R with the new amps.
    The power you get from AVRs is fine but isnt the best. Straight amps just power speakers cleaner and with less distortion.
    I can't wait to get my new amp. Just gotta get the money.
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    Oops, I dropped my eardrums.
    Could you pick them up for me?
     
  13. Martice

    Martice Screenwriter

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    In the case of external amplification, what most of us hear when we make the switch from internal to external amplification is the increase in headroom and in some cases bottom control if matched properly. Having a healthy reserve in power allows the your system to present a clearer picture of information. It's sort of like going 60 miles an hour in a Toyota Corolla and 60 miles an hour in a Lexus. Yes they are going the same speed but the Corolla is working a lot harder to get to and maintain that speed as opposed to the Lexus getting there with a lot less effort and with a lot less engine noise(distortion) than the struggling Toyota.
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    What if it gets no better than this!?!
     
  14. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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  15. RobertW

    RobertW Supporting Actor

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    i think martice just gave the best explanation for it. i noticed exactly the same when i added the parasound hca1500a to my denon 3300. while tonally they sound similar, the parasound was much cleaner and open sounding, greater separation between the instruments and voices.. generally, just effortless in the sound it was creating. running two channel only for now, but there's a 2205 in my future for sure.
     
  16. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    Well I've beening using external amps for a number of years now with my receivers, first using the HK 5800 5 channel amp and now using a fantastic musical fidelity amp on the fronts and I couldn't imagine having to listen to the Denon's amps again (esp on the fronts)
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    http://www.attcanada.ca/~itisi
     
  17. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    The good news is: if you decide to go for separates, you can do it stepwise. That way you don't have to spend all that money immediately.
    First add a stereo amplifier (or two monoblocks) to take over the front L and R channels. That's a big step forward already, including for pure audio purposes.
    Than add the rear channels and the centre in any order (I think I would do the rears first, unless the sonic difference between the fronts and the centre appears to have become too large).
    There is one condition: the output power you set your channels to has to stay roughly the same. This could mean you cannot use the new amplifiers at full power first (but if you didn't change the speakers yet, you'll have to anyway - and you will already be using the extra headroom of the new amplifiers) until all channels have been replaced.
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    [​IMG]
     
  18. Bruce Abar

    Bruce Abar Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree, even adding two mono MA700 marantz amts to bypass the main channels in my Denon 4800 improved my system a great deal. The 4800 is very high rated a/v, so this does surprize me. I could almost by 5 MA700 blocks for what I paid for the 4800!
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    Bruce
    www.dvdtracker.com/~bruceabar.asp
     
  19. Dennis Kindig

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    Martice hit the nail on the head.
    (Warning: slightly educated opinion follows...)
    I think good music reproduction is much more than absolute power output. It is all about dynamic range and amplifier speed. A good amplifier will be able to cover a large dynamic range, from the softest whisper to a massive explosion, effortlessly. It also has to swing from one end of its dynamic range to the other almost instantaneously. These features allow an amplifier to hit musical peaks without clipping and to faithfully follow musical transitions.
    if you look at the specs for a low to mid-fi AVR, you will see two sets of numbers. Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) for two channels from 20Hz to 20000Hz (usually something like 0.008%), and THD for all five channels, generally at 1000Hz (usually something like 0.8%).
    The reason for two sets of specs is that the power supply is really only designed to support 2, maybe three channels, anfd when all five get going, there isn't enough power to successfully drive all of them full range without distortion.
    I am currently building 6 Leach SuperAmp monoblocks with a 1000VA toroid transformer in each monoblock and 34000 uFd of capacitance at 200V. You can see a chassis layout at Chassis Layout . These ought to have plenty of power in reserve.
    Dennis
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  20. Ryan Peddle

    Ryan Peddle Second Unit

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    Dennis, that's amazing. I've been looking at building a super high power & effeciency amp since I start my Elecronic Engineering course at my college. I'm going into my second year now and I can't wait to learn more.
    Where did you pick up the part necessary to build suck a beast. I think there is a elecronic surplus store in Toronto for me, I just haven't had the time to check it out.
    Wow, that's all i can say.
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    Oops, I dropped my eardrums.
    Could you pick them up for me?
     

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