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Can somebody please, please help me find a new amp!! (long post)


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#1 of 43 OFFLINE   james e m

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Posted April 21 2003 - 07:28 AM

Okay, I don’t want to be boring and post another one of those “tell me what I should buy” threads, but I could really use some people’s advice! Although I have been into home theater for awhile this is the first time I will be buying a separate amp to power my speakers. I will try to give you as much possible information about my equipment and set up so that someone may be able to steer me in the right direction. Let it be known that I do plan on auditioning as many amps as I can (except for the Outlaw) before I buy. So essentially I will let my ears decide, but your opinions will allow me to narrow down the choices.Posted Image

My listening habits:
75% Two channel stereo music

5% 5.1 channel music (SACD player to come at a later date)

20% Movies

Preferred sound:
Warm

Equipment:
Receiver: Sony DA 5ES (this will be transformed into a pre/pro)
Speakers: Paradigm Reference Studio 100s x two, Studio 20s x four, and a Studio CC. I will be upgrading to dual SVS 20-39PC+s in another year.

Speaker cable: Monster XP throughout

Surge protector/line filter: Brickwall PW2R

CD Player: Sony CDP-C265 (to be upgraded to a Sony 555ES or equivalent)

DVD Player: Sony DVP-S530D

Turntable: Sharp :b (To be upgraded to a Rega p3 or equivalent)

Room:
I will be moving into a new home in about 6 months, so I can’t get too specific about layout and placement. My room will be about 20’9” x 15’8” with a vaulted ceiling and two openings to the room. The room will be about 4000 cu-ft.

The following is a list of amps I would like to audition. As I see it, I have two choices for my 7.1 system:

1. Buy a 200w x 7 amp.

2. Buy a 200w x 2 (for the Studio 100s) and buy a less powerful 5 channel amp for the center and the surrounds.

Which option would your recommend? Why?

Here are the amp choices:

Outlaw 770 (200 x 7)

Sherbourn 2/2100 Used (200 x 7)

Anthem MCA20 (225 x 2) and the MCA50 (225 x 5) bought in Canada with the exchange rate and discount.

B&K 200.2 Used (200 x 7)

Parasound HCA-1500A (205 x 2) and the HCA-1205 (140 x 5)

Parasound Halo Used A21 (250 x 2) and the A52 (125 x 5)

Adcom GFA-550 (200 x 2) and the GFA 7605 (125 x 5)

Aragon 2007 Used (200 x 7)

Sunfire Cinema 7 Used (200 x 7)

ATI AT2007 (200 x 7)

So if anybody can give me some information that would narrow my choices I would appreciate it! Right now I’m leaning towards the Anthem and the Parasound “Classic” line.

Thanks,
James
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#2 of 43 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted April 21 2003 - 09:27 AM

I think given the room, and i'm hoping you're thinking along the lines of working the room's acoustics, you're underpowered. I'd look to double the front power and then maybe a 5 channel/200 watter for the rest.

#3 of 43 OFFLINE   Ricky T

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Posted April 21 2003 - 09:36 AM

James,

Since you listen to so much 2 channel, the ideal classic parasound option is the 2200II dual-mono 250x2 (800 used) for the mains and the 2003A 220x3 (700 used) for the center and rears. Let the Sony drive your two rear centers, which are dual-mono in 6.1 modes and won't even be activated for 5.1 SACD (worry about a 2 channel amp when/if you get a prepro).

Another classic Parasound option is the 2205A 220x5 (~ 1300 used) for your front 5 speakers.

#4 of 43 OFFLINE   Khoa Tran

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Posted April 21 2003 - 01:47 PM

I urge you to give NAD a look, their sound is very warm...

#5 of 43 OFFLINE   Lee-M

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Posted April 22 2003 - 12:26 AM

Your Paradigms are already warm, so I would not go for a particularly "warm-sounding" amp. Neutral to even slightly bright would synergize better with your speakers...

Of the amps you listed, I would tend toward the Sherbourn, Parasound, or Aragon. They all have their high points, but if your speaker cable is stiff, or terminated with large spades, you might avoid the Parasound... I had to eliminate it because the spacing between the speaker terminals was too tight.

Good luck, and if you can possibly audition any of these with your system, their will be fewer surprises down the road.

#6 of 43 OFFLINE   Ricky T

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Posted April 22 2003 - 12:38 AM

Lee,

Was your problem with a particular parasound amp model? I use spades fine with the 2200II.

The Aragon 200X series are pretty much rebadged Acurus amps.

#7 of 43 OFFLINE   Scott Oliver

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Posted April 22 2003 - 02:08 AM

James, if you are listening 75% of the time to music, have you thought about possibly adding a 2 channels preamp/amp or to keep costs down a 2 channel integrated.

I think Chu is right that you should look for quite a bit of power for that size room. 200 should be plenty could probably get by with a bit less though.

Here are some integrated amps that are selling used in the $1000-2000 range on Audiogon right now that put out a good amount of power: (Notice there are aren't many however as most integrateds are 100W or less)

Krell KAV i or KAV il(newest version)

Plinius 8200

McIntosh MA-6500

Musical Fidelity A300

These all can put out 150Wx2 or 200Wx2 in some cases into an 8 ohm load. Some also have a phono stage option which you would probably be interested in if you are getting a Rega table. Further more some have a home theater bypass to make conncetion to the receiver as simple as possible.

But personally, I think going this route could give you better sound all around for music then just adding a multichannel amp. Of course you would still be using the receivers amps to drive your surrounds and center, but you would also be elimating the strain of having to drive the fronts on its power supply.

BTW, of those four the Plinius would be my top choice as it has all the options, great sound, and can drive 175 watts. Krell would be next choice.

#8 of 43 OFFLINE   Kevin_R_H

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Posted April 22 2003 - 03:11 AM

Hello James.

I agree with Scott. My advice is to spend your cash on a 2-channel amp. Let your SONY receiver power all auxillary speakers when watching movies, but the plan should be to not let it anywhere near your 2-channel enjoyment.

Therefore, you will need a stereo power amp and a stereo preamp (or a high quality integrated amp). If you want separates, and can only afford one at this time, go ahead and buy the power amp now, and add the stereo preamp as you get the funds. The SONY receiver will (unfortunately) have to suffice as a preamp until then. Eventually, you will hook your turntable and CD player directly into the stereo preamp (bypassing the evil SONY). I don't know why so many folks overlook the importance of the preamp when listening to music.

So, in essence, I'm suggesting an

#9 of 43 OFFLINE   Lee-M

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Posted April 22 2003 - 03:28 AM

Ricky,

It was the Parasound 1205 that had the terminals spaced too closely together; my spades are Kimber Postmasters, attached to Kimber 4TC cable. I contacted Parasound with this information, and they recommended not using these spades with their amp, because of the close spacing... they said there was too much of a possibility of them shorting out.

I wasn't about to have my cables re-terminated, so I went with a different amp.

#10 of 43 OFFLINE   james e m

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Posted April 22 2003 - 10:23 AM

Thanks for all the information guys I really appreciate it! I'm really learning a lot. I think I'm going to try and do a little more research into the more audio oriented amps you guys listed. Although, I do want my front to well matched my surrounds and my center channel. Eventually, I would like to have a dedicated 2 channel set up with maybe some tubes, but that will come at a later date.

Ok so I went to a couple dealers (more to follow tomorrowPosted Image) and based on what I saw there I have two options if I went with a dealer. I can get a:

1. A Rotel RMB 1080 (2 x 200) and a Rotel RMB 1075 (5 x 120) for just under $2,000 new.

So with the Rotel I will be getting brand new product with a warmer sound, but I will only have 120 watts powering my center and 4 surrounds. Do you think this will be adequate Chu?


2. A Demo Anthem MCA 2 (2 x 200) and A Demo Anthem MCA 5 (2 x 200) with a full warranty for under $1400. These are the older Anthem amps, not the MCA 20 and MCA 50.

With the Anthem I will be getting an older demo product with neutral sound with full warranty.

Which of these two options seems to be the better option? I may be leaning towards the Rotel, but I don't know. Opinions please!

Tomorrow I will be going to a couple other dealers and I will be getting the pricing on the new Anthem MCA20 and the MCA50.

Thanks,
James
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#11 of 43 OFFLINE   James Elvick

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Posted April 22 2003 - 10:58 AM

Any one around here know I've has a few different ampsPosted Image :b Right Ricky!

Anyway, just got the Sherbourn 7/2100 and it is killer!! I sold my Parasound and this is everything the Parasound was with less upper end grain when cranking it up. Smooth and refined! We have a winner!!!!!!!

Ok, anyway I'm very happy.

James Elvick

#12 of 43 OFFLINE   Jeremy Hegna

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Posted April 22 2003 - 12:23 PM

James,

I have a brand new Rotel RB1090 at home that I powered my mains with for a while. I only used if for a month before I bought a Krell KAV250/3 so I could power all 3 front speakers with the same amp.

The Rotel is one hell of an amplifier, I've also had the 1080 in my rack and it, too, is an excellent choice. I would definitely go with a 2 channel for your mains. Multi channel amps are not optimal for 2 ch. listening.

If budget allows, look at the 1090. Not that I'm looking to sell you onePosted Image But if you'd like, send me an email. I will give you a smokin' deal....


Jeremy

#13 of 43 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted April 22 2003 - 01:34 PM

james em: what concerns me is that new room you'll be putting your speakers in what with the openings and the cathedral ceiling. you're looking to audition amps and make a value judgement based upon the present and not where they'll be 6 months or so down the line.
I truly detest spending people's money james and hence you'll very rarely see me make a recommendation for a specific product. I will state that one can buy a relatively inexpensive amp as well as one that's 10 times or more.
I don't see it as a big thing getting amps from different manufacturers so were you to buy Parasound and then were to come across another brand that was attractive, then so long as there aren't any issues with your preamp or pre/pro being unable to provide sufficient voltage to drive the amp to its rated power, then go for it.
I'll give you my take on power and understand that they're my preferences and they most certainly don't have to be yours. I like power that's clean...has inaudible levels of distortion and great S/N. I like my power to be spec'd to at least 4 ohms and were I considering speakers who were 4 ohm, I'd be looking for power spec'd into 2 ohms. I have no interest whatsoever in a manufacturer telling me his amp is stable into a particular impedance. Show me the numbers.
Further I'm aware that music has dyanmics and it's those dynamics, the crash of cymballs, the thunder of drums, etc. that create a demand for power to reproduce them cleanly. Now all amps of a nominal power rating have some reserve power. Call it headroom. Call it dynamic power. Call it peak power. Whatever. This reserve power is some percentage of the amp's rated power and the amount of reserve varies with frequency. Importantly, at least to me, it also comes with a certain amount of audible distortion. Clipping if you will. Amps clip differently but usually with the production of odd-order harmonic distortion. Even order sounds relatively pleasant. Odd order is nasty. I prefer having a powerful, perhaps overly powerful amp for the simple reason that I'd rather have my short term dynamic needs be met while the amp is still in it's comfort zone. For example, let's say I've got 2 amps. One is a 400 watt/channel and the other 200 watts. A musical peak comes and demands 300 watts. Both amps can deliver it. The former will deliver it cleanly and it won't have to tap into it's reserves as it's fully capable of deliving 400. There'll be no distortion. The latter will have to tap into its reserves and likely the distorion will be 10-20% (I'm just guessing here). Also because of this, the latter will have a small, but finite amount of time before it fully recovers. In multichannel situations, this recovery time 'may' affect the other channels. Part of the problem here is that the FCC has NOT (the bastids) yet specified reporting standards for multichannel amp or receivers. Manufacturers being what they are shave where they can, and this includes the high end.
Further, and this is just for me, while there are reasons to argue for a 5 or 7 channel amp, there are also reasons to argue against it. If a channel goes, you just might be out a repair or you might be looking at replacing the entire amp. Either way, you're looking at possibly a long time before you get the situation resolved. However, this is a very personal thing. Space considerations, price, weigh in favor of a multichannel amp. We all have to pick our poisons. It really depends on how 'separate' you want to go. Monoblocks anyone?
Less power is required for the rear speakers although a surprisingly large amount can be demanded from center channels.
If this desire is driving you and you're hearing voices calling you...well I'd consider a 200 wpc for now...maybe 3 channel...then after you move in, put it through it's paces for 2 channel. If it fails, no problem, move it to rear duties and get something with a set of balls on it for the front. For the hell of it, do a search on QSC amps on HTF as well as on avsforum.com. Just a thought.
Warm...neutral...cool...i wouldn't worry about this so much. Your new room with the ceilings...decorating it...that's all going to have a far more profound affect on your sound than agonizing over 'matching'.
Just my 0.02.

#14 of 43 OFFLINE   Mike_J_D

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Posted April 23 2003 - 02:38 AM

I like my Rotel 1075. But I am looking to sell it and buy a Arcam AVR200. I'm going back to recievers. Plus this is a beauty. Email me if your interested. MIke
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#15 of 43 OFFLINE   james e m

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Posted April 23 2003 - 11:15 AM

Well I went for my second day of demoing amps, I stopped by an Adcom dealer but the sales people wouldn't even recognize my presence. Oh well, their loss. I made it into a Aragon dealer and was impressed with what I heard with the 2007, but it is $1000 over my budget. The place also sold Rotel and I actually got to hear the 1080 and I liked it and the price is right. I think I may be leaning toward the Rotel.

Chu,
Great post by the way, thanks for all the information. I have to say I completely agree with your thinking on amps. I would much rather have too much head room than not enough. So much so that I have 2 Studio 100s sitting in a spare bedroom since November that have never been hooked up! I'm too worried about under powering them. So I do know where you're coming from.

The problem is that my budget won't allow for a higher powered option. I was given a great price on an Anthem MCA20 and a MCA50 and I can't afford it. It's a long story but I really don't have the option of saving any more money to buy a better amp. So until I go to check out the Parasound dealer it's either:

1. A Rotel RMB 1080 (2 x 200) and a Rotel RMB 1075 (5 x 120) for just under $2,000 new.


2. A Demo Anthem MCA 2 (2 x 200) and A Demo Anthem MCA 5 (2 x 200) with a full warranty for under $1400. These are the older Anthem amps, not the MCA 20 and MCA 50.

Right now I'm doing a lot of reading and I'm leaning towards the Rotel. Am I doing the right thing?

Any advice is always appreciated!
James

ps Mike,
Does the Rotel have the Silver face plate?
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#16 of 43 OFFLINE   Michael R Price

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Posted April 23 2003 - 02:23 PM

I have to suggest buying a big 2-channel or monoblocks amplifier as well. Inefficient 4 ohm speakers (right?), and a large room... ouch. My 87db/4ohm speakers were not quite up to their potential with 100 watts, in a small room. I guess to ensure an amp's "strength" you could check to see whether the power doubles when load is reduced to 4 ohms.

Since you're looking for pleasant music sound quality, I would suggest considering a separate 2-channel source or preamplifier (even if you have to reduce your budget for amplifiers, actually). Especially if you were going to be using the receiver to handle your DAC and preamplifying duties in driving your new amplifier...

#17 of 43 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted April 23 2003 - 08:36 PM

seems your budget is in the vicinity of 2K. are you under some sort of time constraints with the purchase?

#18 of 43 OFFLINE   Thomas_Berg

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Posted April 23 2003 - 10:27 PM

i fully agree with Kevin_R_H. i just moved from a full 5.1 setup to a much nicer 2-channel setup.

for amps i would strongly recommend you look at the Classe CA-200 or '201 (going for around $1500 on audiogon now, and Classe amps 'double down' into 4 ohms). also check out Bryston amps, which are extremely neutral and very powerful. the 4B-ST would match your Paradigms well and can be had for ~$1400 right now.

to my ears, the Classe sound was the best of everything i demo'd (Rotel, Bryston, Parasound, NAD). i personally think that the Classe and Bryston are both a step above the other amps listed, but YOU decide what sounds best to your ears. happy listening!

#19 of 43 OFFLINE   Ricky T

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Posted April 24 2003 - 12:13 AM

james em,

I believe that Paradigm Studio 100s are ~8 ohms and 91 dB sensitivity....I don't think you even need more than 150 watts. I would recommend buying on the best deal on a brand that you like (even for just pure cosmetics).....200 watts on the 100s and 150+ watts on the rest.

Those two demo Anthems for $1400 (or $200 per channel) with warranty sounds like a great deal!

Another option is a used Lexicon NT512...SAME as Bryston 9B-ST 120x5 (tested 160 wpc) for ~ $1700 (retail 4k). See audiogon and ebay. Let the Sony drive two speakers until you decide to pickup an NT312 (aka Bryston 3B-ST).

The Sherbourn 5/1500 200x5 goes for ~ 1k used.

James Elvick,

That's good to hear you like the Sherbourn 7 channel amp! Yeah, you've owned alot of amps. But the real amp slut is John Tompkins...he's up to like....30 different amps, including a Sherbourn 5/1500 200x5 (he uses Lexicon NTs now).

#20 of 43 OFFLINE   Mike_J_D

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Posted April 24 2003 - 01:13 AM

James YGM. MIke
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