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#1 of 29 OFFLINE   RodN

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Posted July 18 2004 - 12:21 PM

Hi,

I was wondering what peoples thoughts were on the difference in quality between professional audio gear (like Crown amps, Alesis etc vs 'regular' consumer audio stuff (like Marantz, Rotel etc).

There seems to be a lot of high wattage amps on Ebay and elsewhere from the Pro Audio side that are quite cheap and I was wondering if they were worth it. I was considering buying an Alesis Matica 900 amp to power my speakers, but just don't know if these sorts of amps are appropriate for use in the home.

Cheers
Rod

#2 of 29 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted July 18 2004 - 02:08 PM

While it’s probably safe to say that with consumer amps more expensive ones sound better than cheaper ones, you nevertheless get remarkably high fidelity with even budget home gear (that being flat response, extremely low distortion ratings, and high S/N ratios).

With professional amps it’s not so cut and dried, as that market has other priorities that take precedence to high fidelity. The pro market runs the gamut from cheap stuff for budget-conscious bar bands to rugged, cost-no-object equipment for professional contractors who provide sound for huge concert venues and national acts.

You have the same demographics for another segment, the recording market: Everything from weekend musicians with making home demos high-end recording studios, and everything in between.

With that as a background, cheap pro gear is pretty much crap from a high fidelity standpoint.

Two cases in point, the Samson amplifiers and Behringer Feedback Destroyer digital parametric equalizer, both of which are popular with HT users for their subwoofers. While they work just fine for subs (where pristine sonics are not an issue), most people who try to use them for their main channels complain that they sound “gritty.”

Likewise, I briefly used a mid-line professional electronic crossover in my system several year ago, and it noticeably colored the sound: The highs had a “raspy” quality and it added some prominence to the upper bass.

However, lots of HT folks using better-quality pro amps for their mains give good reports for the sonics of some QSC, Crown, Ashly and Carver models.

My advice for anyone contemplating using profession gear for their home theater: Give it a careful and thorough in-home evaluation, and make sure you have a liberal return policyin case you aren’t happy with it.

By the way, Alesis is a low-end brand and as such I’d avoid it for the mains.

Regards,
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#3 of 29 OFFLINE   RodN

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Posted July 18 2004 - 03:53 PM

Wayne,

This makes a lot of sense. You've answered questions I didn't even know I had, thank you very much for the detailed response.

As I was considering Kit amplification which produces oustanding results I don't think I'll pursue the pro-amp route, thanks again!

Rod

#4 of 29 OFFLINE   Eric D Wong

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Posted July 18 2004 - 05:09 PM

Do also have to say this too- sometimes the pro audio gear doesnt like the unbalanced RCA's converted to 1/4", I had trouble with ground loops.

Also, the amp itself may make a consierable amount of noise too. In a pro audio setting this may be fine. My crown macro-tech 5000vz amp (5000 watts cont, bridge mono 4 ohms), it can produce enough power to probably blow the house down, but the amp itself is noisy with its large transformers and fan. The fan is off usually when the amp is idle or low signal but once the music starts going, it'll turn on and it is loud.

#5 of 29 OFFLINE   chris_everett

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Posted July 19 2004 - 06:17 AM

It's a totally different world. First, the pro market consists of 4 main segments:

The "M.I." market. This is stuff sold in Musical instrument stores (Guitar Center, Musicland). Common brands are Peavey, Berhenger, Samson. This stuff is considered crap in the pro world. All about low prices.

The studio market. This is the most similar to the HT market, in terms of product requirements. Emphasis on super-accurate sound reproduction, lots of accoustic treatment products. Powered monitors are a big trend here. Amps for studios are big bucks, though very nice (Crown Studio-reference) Manley labs is a company that makes both hi-fi and studio gear. Of course, most recording tools will never be used in an HT.

The concert sound market. Big stuff, absurd power. Crown macro-tech, I-tech. QSC powerlight, Big huge line arrays (not the suff over in the DIY forum) A typical speaker stack may have two dozen 15" drivers, and twice that for mids and highs, plus a separate stack of 18" subs. Everything has active crossovers, 3 or 4 way. Maybe 50,000 watts a side going into $100,000 worth of speakers. Emphasis on extreme reliability and power output. Also things like "fly time" (how long it takes to hang the speakers in a venue) and "truck pack" (how many speakers you can fit into a semi) Most amps at this level are fan-cooled and way too noisy for HT. No "peak" output ratings in this game, everything is in RMS. Most concert stuff won't _fit_ in an HT.

The install market. This is a "cheaper concert sound" as far as amps go. Speakers for this market are all about directivity (getting sound to the audience, and not on other places, walls, ceilings, etc....) and amps are spec'ed after speakers are chosen. reliability is a big one here as well. The Crown K series is mostly aimed at this market, and is a great HT amp, especially for subs (no fan).
--Chris Everett

#6 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin Alexander

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Posted July 19 2004 - 07:03 AM

I am using 2 Crown XLS-402 amps in my HT and I am really surprised at how good it sounds. I did a short review of it at the AVS Forum - my username there is spacecowboy. I also have an Adcom 5-channel amp and have had other amps too from Parasound, HK, Acurus, and Carver. Like it was said earlier, not just any pro amp will give you great results, but stick w/ the likes of Crown, QSC, and Crest.

The only downsides to using a good pro amp is fan noise (although, the fans can be disconnected) and possible issues fitting it into your rack. For my room setup, the Crown produces a slightly "forward" sound that I, myself prefer. My Adcom has been described as sounding the same, but when comparing the 2, the Adcom, to me, is smoother w/ the Crown not far behind at all. You would think that a pro amp would be terrible for music in a home setting, but the Crown has a grace all its own that really shines w/ classical, jazz, and vocals. Anyone who is skeptical about pro amps like I was really needs to give 'em a try - you'll be surprised big time.
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#7 of 29 OFFLINE   alan halvorson

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Posted July 19 2004 - 12:35 PM

For what it's worth, my 10 year old Crown Macro Reference 760/watt channel amp has fans but they rarely turn on unless I drive my speakers very hard (which I rarely do anymore), and can't be heard over the sound from my seating position about four feet away.
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#8 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin Alexander

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Posted July 19 2004 - 12:40 PM

The fans in the Crown 402 run constantly, warm or cool. They never cutoff and are fairly loud, but they can be disabled w/ minimal effort.
"What does God want with a Starship?" - Captain Kirk from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

"For the first few minutes of the film, I had accidently listened to the Dolby Digital track." - Ron Epstein (HTF)

#9 of 29 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted July 19 2004 - 04:02 PM

Nice folks over at Crown too.

#10 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin C Brown

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Posted July 19 2004 - 06:37 PM

Cool. I learned more in this thread about pro stuff than in that humongously long thread over at AVS. (Wayne! Posted Image ) I've seen the Crown 402s mentioned a lot.

There are some digital pro amps too that seem to get good reviews?

Also, for consumer gear I can find stuff measured at Stereophile, S&V, HT mag, www.audiovideoreviews.com, Secrets, etc.

If I want to "play it safe" with pro stuff, any place, web site, publication do a similar type of measurements?

In a previous life, I was a guitarist through high school, college, and some after. I know that the "pro" gear available in music stores is meant more for loudness than actual sound quality. At least the stuff I could afford back then. Posted Image (Chris, I like how you divided things up.)
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#11 of 29 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

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Posted July 20 2004 - 03:00 AM

Crown and QSC are good people. Hafler, though most of that stuff I've seen is fairly old. I know some people like the Mackie amps; I don't have any experience with 'em in any setting.

Alesis is not a bad word all-together. They've some nice recording equipment, and I kind of like their unpowered monitor speakers - they're pretty good, even if they are ported designs. Haven't tried an Alesis amp, though.

I know QSC and Crown both have lines of amps that are THX approved for theater sound systems... had a Crown MicroTech 600 at one installation that was pretty nice.

I did see one interesting setup over at Maryweather Post Pavilion in Columbia... they were setting up for a Jazz Festival one early summer. Sound contractor brought in a massive stack of speakers; each speaker was bi-amped: midrange and tweeter. Subs all over the place; both 'mid' subs (60-120Hz type stuff) and 'low' subs (20-60hz.)

If I remember right, they had 90 2x2kw amplifiers on stage (that is, 180 channels of 2kw RMS amplifiers!)

My understanding was that with this gross overkill, it meant that whatever the jazz people put out, their system would be running with massive amounts of headroom, not stressing anything anywhere for plenty of volume, clean sound, and (virtually) no distortion.

Leo Kerr

#12 of 29 OFFLINE   chris_everett

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Posted July 20 2004 - 04:41 AM

(The below excludes MI market stuff)

The measurments that are available for pro gear from reputable manufactures are usually pretty accurate. There's a lot less B.S. in this industry, because everybody has test equipement to check the gear with, and it's a small world; if you put out a sucky product EVERYBODY is going to know about it.

Pro Sound Web is the website for gobs of pro-sound info

Warning: Do not post to the forums until you have lurked for a few weeks at a minimum. These folks do not like newbies. Exception, the "Lab Lounge" is more newbie friendly.

I agree that crown and qsc dominate this market, and both manufactures are now selling lower price point gear that still has a good reputation. I don't think you will regret buying amps from either of these two companies. But, you can buy a 7x100 watt amp from outlaw for $799 ? 8 channels of Crown XLS amplification is $1076 (4 of the smallest 202's), and you have to deal with a bunch of fans and more rack space.
For subs though, Pro amps can't be beat, and if your looking at more than 100 watts per channel, pro amps become more attractive.

The jury is still out on "digital" amps in the pro world as well.
--Chris Everett

#13 of 29 OFFLINE   Rich McGirr

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Posted July 20 2004 - 05:31 AM

Chris, Leo, Kevin anyone?

Hi,

I am recently the proud owner of a h/k 7200 and, as I listen to music/movies at ungodly amounts of dB, purchased a Crown XLS 402 (Nice eh Kevin?). The Crown I would like to drive the Axiom M60Ti's, with the H/k driving the center (VP150), l/r surrounds (QS8). The sub is an SVS 20-39 PCi. This is a 5.1 system, don't want or need 7.1 as I am using the H/K "surround sides" for zone 2.

My question is, how do you setup the crown with the H/K for appropriate SPL (85 dB per Avia and RS SPL meter)? I just can't get this part right in my head.

I know that I need 1) a pair of RCA to XLR interconnects (got those already) to hook from the H/K's pre-outs into the crown and then from the Crown into the R/L Mains (12 guage wire). What do you set the amp to in order to SPL everything so that it sounds as one? Do I have to set the gains on the amp to match the SPL from the H/K?

My brain hurts...tried a search...got nothing...neither here nor at AVS (boy that "amps...amps...amps" thread is something).

Thanks for all your help.
- Rich

#14 of 29 OFFLINE   ChadLB

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Posted July 20 2004 - 06:05 AM

Rich,
From all my readings on these Crown amps(try the volume knobs on the Crown at 50% and 100% and see what you like). I have heard people doing either...just depends on your preference.
Run the Avia setup and see if one works better than the other.

#15 of 29 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted July 20 2004 - 07:03 AM

Quote:
If I want to "play it safe" with pro stuff, any place, web site, publication do a similar type of measurements?
None that I know of from a strictly high-fidelity standpoint. Pro
fessional users place a higher priority on durability.
Quote:
There are some digital pro amps too that seem to get good reviews?
I’ve seen rave reviews for the ZR Series Amps from Carver Professional at some of the high-end Forums. Believe it or not, some of them are ditching stuff like Krells, Threshold etc. for them.
Quote:
Warning: Do not post to the forums until you have lurked for a few weeks at a minimum. These folks do not like newbies.
They especially don’t like people posting questions about home gear!
Quote:
I know that I need 1) a pair of RCA to XLR interconnects (got those already) to hook from the H/K's pre-outs into the crown and then from the Crown into the R/L Mains (12 guage wire). What do you set the amp to in order to SPL everything so that it sounds as one?
Nothing to it, set the amplifier gains for max, and adjust with the receiver, as normal. If for some reason that doesn’t quite get it, you can fine-tune with the amp gains.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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#16 of 29 OFFLINE   chris_everett

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Posted July 20 2004 - 08:55 AM

Although a lot of people turn the gains up all the way, I would recommend that you start at about 3/4 the way up. They aren't attenuater knobs like on a regular volume control, they are sensitivity knobs. You also might try leaving the reciever trims at zero, and adjusting the amp instead.

Regardless, 6 on one hand, half dozen on the other.....
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#17 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin C Brown

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Posted July 20 2004 - 12:22 PM

Awesome stuff. Thanks!!
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#18 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin Alexander

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Posted July 20 2004 - 01:54 PM

Quote:
My question is, how do you setup the crown with the H/K for appropriate SPL (85 dB per Avia and RS SPL meter)? I just can't get this part right in my head.
I set my tones at 75db, although 85 will work as well.
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"For the first few minutes of the film, I had accidently listened to the Dolby Digital track." - Ron Epstein (HTF)

#19 of 29 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted July 21 2004 - 09:02 AM

The following is a fairly detailed, technical review of the Crown Macrotech-5000VZ.
http://www.pcavtech....000VZ/index.htm

#20 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin C Brown

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Posted July 21 2004 - 12:46 PM

OK, I found a good "bad" example.

The new Lexicon amps are built by Crown, instead of Bryston as previously.

Take a look-see here. Look in the Lab Report box.

http://www.homecinem....?reviewid=3418

Measured power output, 300W into 8 ohms, 275W into 4 ohms for 2 ch.

Huh? The power *decreases* going into 4 ohms vs 8? I've seen that for 2 vs 4, but this is the first time I've ever seen it for 4 vs 8. 5 ch is similarly bad.

This is why I get so paranoid about "pro" gear. But maybe this is just a singularly bad example.

Chu- Your review looks like a good example, except that I couldn't find the "traditional" power output vs distortion curves for 8, 4, 2 ohm loads?
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