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From Just a Receiver to Separate Amp, What Degree Of Improvement Did You Notice??

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#1 of 50 OFFLINE   Geoff S

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Posted June 12 2003 - 03:42 AM

For a long long time I've heard that there was a night and day difference between using just a receiver, and using the receiver as a pre/pro with separate amps.

I am considering going this route, maybe not soon (lack of funds) but yes, eventually. But before I consider spending up to another $1,000 on HT equipment (which is on average $1,000 a year minimal habit for the last 4 years, so I'm due to spend some more Posted Image )

Question 1: What degree of improvement have others seen in adding separate amplification to their speakers and useing their receiver as a pre/pro? How many times better was the sound (under any setup)?

Question 2: Here is my scenerio, I am using a Denon 4802 receiver, which has a good amp section already meeting THX Ultra specs. I am considering a Parasound HCA-1205a 5 channel amp to drive the Left, Right, Center, and 2 surrounds with the 4802 to drive my 6th EX speaker (this will keep each speaker being run from discrete power supplies with 140 watts x5 and 125 watts x1). Does this setup sound good? I like the Parasound cause of the price and features. Does this change seem like it'll make a night and day difference, or at least a significant increase in sound quality that an untrained ear can clearly hear?

Thanks everyone for your help and suggestions!

#2 of 50 OFFLINE   Chris Sherman

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Posted June 12 2003 - 04:49 AM

I just added an Outlaw 750 to my Onkyo TXDS676 receiver and I think to say that there is a night and day difference would be an exaggeration. Many home theater buffs are given to hyperbole, myself included, and the addition of a new piece always causes some initial excitement. That being said the amps in the outlaw are obviously better than those in my receiver. At low volumes they actually sound pretty similar, it's when I crank it that the difference becomes quite apparent. The oulaw is loafing and has endless headroom, it never sounds strained or compressed , it is also much quieter than my onkyo and center channel dialog is more intelligible. I have used other separate amps with my onkyo, marantz, carver, parasound, etc. The outlaw is the best and a keeper for me. Your 4800 is a very nice piece and I think you would probably mostly benefit from a separate amplifier only if you like listening at fairly loud levels. Improvement yes night and day YMMV. When you've got the bug it's hard to leave well enough alonePosted Image

#3 of 50 OFFLINE   Angelo.M



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Posted June 12 2003 - 06:16 AM

[quote] Does this change seem like it'll make a night and day difference, or at least a significant increase in sound quality that an untrained ear can clearly hear? [quote]

#4 of 50 OFFLINE   Spencer J

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Posted June 12 2003 - 08:21 AM

I added an Outlaw 7100 to my Sony V555ES and the results were impressive (to me, anyway). The 7100 is actually rated for lower output than the Sony (100w vs 125w), but we all know by now about certain manufacturers' *ahem* optimism. I needed to add an a/c offset killer from Ah! (filthy current in my apt.), but the bass and treble are much improved with the Outlaw (headroom, too). For $1000, I have better sound and the trail marked for a 7.1 upgrade to separates. When this Sony is gone, I'm off the receiver merry-go-round for good!

#5 of 50 OFFLINE   Chris Sherman

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Posted June 12 2003 - 11:16 AM

Spencer, I take it you were experiencing some transformer hum from your 7100. I get a little hum from my 750, and every other amp with a torroid transformer I've tried in my home. I actually have to put my ear to the case to hear it so it is not enough to be bothersome and nothing at all through the speakers. I have a lower end monster cable surge suppressor/ line conditioner. Torroids seem to be very sensitive to dirty or insufficient current.

#6 of 50 OFFLINE   Michael R Price

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Posted June 12 2003 - 01:18 PM

The improvement in bass quality and clean dynamic output is obvious. The other improvements are significant, but not so obvious.

#7 of 50 OFFLINE   Shiu


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Posted June 12 2003 - 02:49 PM

Spencer, does the offset killer help reduce transformer hum in you DA4ES as well? Mine 4ES hums a little bit, but it is not noticeable unless I get really close to it.

#8 of 50 OFFLINE   DanaA



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Posted June 12 2003 - 02:49 PM

My situation is a bit different from yours in that your Denon is a better receiver than the Onkyo 696 I was using (with its disappointing actual power), but I was floored when I added the 1205A. More dynamic. Much improved low end. Cleaner sounding. Just better and significantly so. On occasion, I like to crank things up and it does so without sounding compressed or strained in any way. I personally would rather have a root canal than go back.

#9 of 50 OFFLINE   Brett DiMichele

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Posted June 12 2003 - 08:41 PM

I went from my Onkyo 787 (100WPC x 6 @ 8Ohm and that's not a fudged number like the newer models) running the HF and LF sides of my Towers to an external sub amp (500Watt RMS) and Onkyo's M-282B 110Watt x 2 @ 8Ohm 2 channel power amp. The difference for me was tremendous simply because my Reciever could not handle extremely dynamic passages. Bass heavy movies or music and my speakers total impedance was dropping into the 1-2Ohm range and the Reciever would go into Thermal Protect every single time (unless I kept the volume super low of course..) So when I went to an external set of amps and did a real Bi Amp on my mains it was phenominal (as it should be, since I was obviously way underpowered). As always YMMV!
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#10 of 50 OFFLINE   Lee Scoggins

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Posted June 13 2003 - 01:26 AM

What I have heard are the following changes in the move to "separates": 1. Wider, Deeper Soundstage 2. Quieter Backgrounds (related to better and separate power supplies) 3. More Transparency. 4. Wider Dynamics. It is expensive to do but well worth it for the extra sonics. In your system, the degree of change may depend on what speakers you have and how good they are at resolving detail...
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#11 of 50 OFFLINE   Spencer J

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Posted June 13 2003 - 01:41 AM

The Ah! offset killer does let the 7100 run silently (it was buzzing quite loudly). I considered spending over $400 on a Power Plant supply from AV123, but the Ah! piece does the trick for a lot less. The transformer in my V555ES is not the toroidal type, so it never made audible protestations about my crummy power. That said, I'm sure that the overall quality of my audio signals was affected.

#12 of 50 OFFLINE   Geoff S

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Posted June 13 2003 - 01:45 AM

Thanks everyone for the insight.

All the suggestions are leaning me towards holding off on an amp until I'm running a dedicated home theater in my own home (lets hope that'll be in at least a decade, I'm just turned 21 today). For what I have in my room now a separate amp probably wont justify the cost of the unit.

Just for reference my speakers are: Boston Acoustics VR-950 mains 150 watt max, BA VR-12 center which is either 200 or 250 watts max, I forget which... anyhow, Def Tech BP1X surrounds, 125 watts max (so the Parasound would be too much for them right now anyhow) and a BA VR-10 used as an EX speaker, 150 watts max. And just for reference a BA PV-600 sub, 120 watt/4ohm/10" driver.

My best purchase right now would probably be either some VRS Pros, or VR-MX surrounds to replace the def techs. and go Boston all aorund, but the idea of the amp is still appealing. I just can't help it Posted Image

#13 of 50 OFFLINE   Shane Martin

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Posted June 13 2003 - 03:41 AM

Honestly I'd upgrade the subwoofer if you can. I would hazard a guess that you would notice a larger difference from it than you would matching surrounds. This is of course advice dependent on what video setup you currently own.

#14 of 50 OFFLINE   Geoff S

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Posted June 13 2003 - 04:25 AM

Although I'd like a BA PV800 12" 300 watt sub upgrade, or possibly a "lower end" SVS I am in an condominium bedroom that is 12'x14' w/ 9' cielings, so a bigger sub isn't much of an option. People live above and below me, but amazingly I haven't had any complaints in that time even when I'm cranking it at 11pm. I dunno how Ive gotten away with it for so long, but this sub can shake the walls regardless, so maybe they're just too lazy to complain, and there are enough rooms between mine and the main hallway to keep it from bothering others on my floor at least. Having carpet, 5/8" sheetrock, and thick concrete subfloors helps I guess. But interesting suggestion... if I did get an SVS which one.... hmmmmmm

#15 of 50 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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Posted June 13 2003 - 04:46 AM

Not too long ago I add 4 Adcom 2-channel amps to my Marantz SR5000. Three of the Adcoms are bi-amping my mains and center and the 4th is powering the surrounds. I noticed a fairly substantial increase in sound quality, especially at higher volumes. Most all of the previously mentioned improvements I have noticed, mostly the clarity and detail.

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#16 of 50 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted June 13 2003 - 05:16 AM

Tough to answer your particular question Geoff as it really depends on whether you're currently pushing your receiver beyond it's capabilities. Maybe if you live in an apartment there just 'might' be some complaints if you push matters. You can always see if there's a local place that'll let you audition a unit. Myself, I'm a proponent of large amounts of clean power however for me the appearance is very down there on the list. Maybe you need to rethink things a bit and figure out where you're going to be in a few years...new speakers? apartment>own home...maybe just start a separate bank account for HT...too bad it's not tax deductible.

#17 of 50 OFFLINE   Dan DRC


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Posted June 13 2003 - 08:46 AM

I think a person can improve a system by adding seperate amps, but I gotta belive given you room size 14' x 12' x 9, I would think the 4802 would great on its own. If it were me I would look at speaker upgrades. I think you would get more out of it. Don't get me wrong Boston is good stuff, it seems a seperates set up is not necessary considering the room it's going in and the fact that a 4802 is killer in it's own right.

#18 of 50 OFFLINE   Kevin. W

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Posted June 13 2003 - 01:24 PM

Geoff, its a tough call and only one that you yourself can make. Personally I noticed a huge difference when I added an amp to my setup. Originally I had a Denon 1801, that sounded great powering my Paradigm Mini Monitors. I did notice a significant difference when I added my Rotel to the setup especially more definition, wider deeper soundstage, and better bass. Its your $1000, but remember an new amp will be around during many of your future upgrades. Kevin

#19 of 50 OFFLINE   John Royster

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Posted June 13 2003 - 02:33 PM


Those are the qualities one generally expects when adding an amp. Posted Image

It really all depends on the kind of volume and impact you're looking for.

It is my opinion (only my opinion) that all but flagship recievers cannot offer the kind of power needed to drive most speakers to "sing". Take an opera singer and place him in your room or a piano. Ask them to play or sing. The volume and impact and effortlessness that ensues can only be reproduced with a heck of a lot of power. The power of a human diaphragm or 5 foot piano strings can only be accomplished with a separate amp. Think about it for a second. Think about the human instrument and how much power is required to sing. Or the power required to hit that string and make it resonate for 10-15 seconds.


So for me, most receivers don't deliever the power required to achieve "the real thing". Sometime its truly amazing to hear folks play their home theaters, straining every last bit of power from the receiver even at modest volume.

I guess it all comes down to "has one heard a system with adequate power". There becomes an effortles production of sound - the speakers no longer sound like they "are trying too hard".

One can never have too much power. Only the rarest of speakers cannot benefit from 100-400 watts of good amplifier.

This is of course in MHO, I've heard many a HT straining seriously below reference. All the while my buddy next to me is saying "man, isn't that clean?" All the while I'm hearing "dude, your speakers are begging for mercey and its hurting my ears. you need an amp bad if you want to listen at those levels"

The old story goes "we were listening at 100 dbs and didn't even know it because we talked to each other without yelling". Its true. Good, Loud, Real, Dynamic sound doesn't sound loud.

Hope this helps. Your next problem will be "can my speakers handle the power I'm sending to them and produce the spl/dynamics/tone I'm looking for" And then your next upgrade will come. Posted Image

#20 of 50 OFFLINE   Kevin. W

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Posted June 14 2003 - 02:47 AM

[quote] It is my opinion (only my opinion) that all but flagship recievers can offer the kind of power needed to drive most speakers to "sing". [quote]

Sure flagship receivers can make speakers sing, but they're not the only ones. The innards of a amp will outperform a flagship receiver anyday. AMps are designed to do one thing and one thing well(IMHO), thats provide power to those hungry speakers. Receivers have other functions to perform that could hinder their performance or introduce interference.


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