2 channel purists: integrated amp vs stereo separates?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ricky T, Mar 21, 2002.

  1. Ricky T

    Ricky T Supporting Actor

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    I was wondering if any of you 2 channel purists had opportunity to compare an integrated amp vs stereo separates. I would think if you don't need more than 100 watts, an integrated amp might even be sonically superior.
    This is cut and paste from a Secrets review of the Acurus DIA150:
    http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volum...er-7-2001.html
    There are many products that have taken a stab at providing an alternative to satisfy audiophile needs. Perhaps one of the most successful is the Two Channel Integrated Amplifier. It incorporates the source switching, volume control, and other functions, with the power amplifier all in one box. Let us take a quick look at the pros and cons:
    Pros:
    - Cheaper. You will save a substantial amount compared to the cost of the same separate pre and power units. Many manufacturers offer the same pre and power sections in integrated and separate units, and they do cost more.
    - Fewer connections. You do not need the set of interconnects between the pre and power sections. Besides the money saved, you have also just reduced the total degradation of that dainty analog signal.
    - Fewer boxes. My wife has not stopped thanking me. Though I would consider many models for my primary system, integrated products are the perfect solution for second systems in bedrooms, offices, studies, etc.
    Cons:
    - Limited power ratings. Most models are below 100 wpc into 8 ohms, and very few models are capable of driving low-efficiency power hungry speakers.
    - You cannot experiment with combinations of different pre and power units.
    - Home theater integration is only possible in some models that have a bypass feature for the preamplifier section. Arcam has models that provide surround decoding, but only two channels of amplification.
    The only real argument against the the two-channel integrated amplifier, I feel, is when you may be hooked on speakers that demand more power. Otherwise, hands down, I feel integrated is the way to go.
     
  2. John Morris

    John Morris Guest

    Ricky, Ricky, Ricky T: Check out the Krell 300iL. It is amazing for two channel. If I had the bucks, I'd build a stereo listening room cornerstoned with this integrated amp. I heard it in a system consisting of only a pair of B&W 601s, the 300iL and the Krell CD player....add a nice single malt scotch, and it's HEAVEN in a comfy chair.
     
  3. Ricky T

    Ricky T Supporting Actor

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    Merc,

    I am looking for reasons why an integrated amp can't sound better than stereo separates with the same wattage. For example, audiofiles (like you) have no problem using an integrated for a highend music system...and don't feel that the existence of internal amps would degrade the preamp section.
     
  4. John Morris

    John Morris Guest

     
  5. Joe Casey

    Joe Casey Stunt Coordinator

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    I disagree IF you're talking high quality reproduction, even with efficient speakers. In addition to power ratings for the amp section, what about isolation? Channel separation? Crosstalk? etc.

    It might be ok for a small bedroom system, but other than that I don't think I'd go integrated.
     
  6. Ricky T

    Ricky T Supporting Actor

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    Joe,

    Channel separation and crosstalk are generally amplifier specs. Why would this matter if the manufacturer (NAD, Acurus, Bryston, Krell, etc) put the 80x2 separately sold power amp into the integrated amp? In other words, why would an 80x2 int amp have any less crosstalk, dynamic power than the identical 80x2 power amp?

    Also, in the 2 channel world, you see alot more int amps and tuners as opposed to preamp/tuners. Is that because the tuner degrades the preamp section more than the power amp?
     
  7. Joe Casey

    Joe Casey Stunt Coordinator

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  8. Ricky T

    Ricky T Supporting Actor

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    Joe,

    If you take an NAD preamp and NAD power amp, then make the identical NAD integrated (which I believe NAD does), why would the NAD separates sound better?

    Aren't shorter analog signal paths more sonically desirable? ie, the analog outs from a CDP/DAC going straight to the volume control just before the amplification in an Acurus DIA (or comparably designed integrated).
     
  9. Joe Casey

    Joe Casey Stunt Coordinator

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    Ricky,
    I prefer separates. If I had to choose among, say a Bryston integrated and Bryston separates, or a Cary integrated and Cary serparates, I'd most certainly go with the separates. You are correct with regards to shorter signal path etc, but what about isolation, both electrical and mechanical, power supplies etc? I'm not saying I know if or why these issues should make a difference, but I know something does based on my experience.
    Also, if you want to get even more insane (read: anal [​IMG] ), take a look at SET amps where wattage is measured in the units, not even tens. I have yet to see an SET integrated (except for Cary, maybe).
    My point is, IMO, integrateds have thier value and place, but my preference is separates.
     
  10. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Interesting you should mention Bryston - the B60 is an integrated that I've seen many people swear by. This is a good question, and maybe the answer lies in the power numbers. Once you're talking about very high wattage amps, maybe those would cause dips in the power supply that could affect the preamp section. As long as you stay within 60 - 100 watts, maybe the power supplies can be built adequately so that the preamp section is not affected. The advantages cannot be denied, especially the removal of the interconnect between pre and power amps.
     
  11. chung

    chung Stunt Coordinator

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    Ricky T:

    This has been somewhat discussed in another thread. It all comes down to preferences. There is no technical reason why the stereo preamp and the power amp cannot be pacakged into a single integrated amp, and retain all the sonic performances. Some prefer separates because the flexibility of being able to switch either preamp or power amp in the future is important. For instance, they may go to a 200W amp later. Others like separates because, well, they just like separates and they can afford them, and they are not going to be convinced otherwise. Economically, an integrated amplifier makes sense because of the savings in packaging, in power supplies, and in interconnects. The power supply that powers the amps can easily take on the additional load of the preamp section in an integrated amp. Another slight advantage of the integrated amp is that the ground loop problem is much less likely to appear.

    The tuner is a separate component because a great tuner is difficult to make, and since some people do not listen to the radio at all, it makes sense to not include it in the integrated amplifier.

    In the new age of HT, integrated amps probably make less sense, because the formats evolve more quickly. For 2-channel analog stereo, I don't see any problem with the integrated amp.
     
  12. Bob Marker

    Bob Marker Stunt Coordinator

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    Ricky:

    I think you make some good points. In my experince, separates do not offer any sonic advantages over integrated units. Over the last few years I've owned expensive Classe separates (with Audio Quest Silver interconnects) ,a mid-price integrated amp (Luxman A373) and a very inexpensive 2 channel receiver (Pioneer SX-205). I have used all of these amps in my main music playback system and could not distinguish any audible differences among them.

    IMHO, separates are not cost effective, especially when one takes the cost of interconnects into account (I paid about $400 for the audio quest interconnects - about 4 times the cost of the SX-205!)

    Bob
     
  13. chris c

    chris c Stunt Coordinator

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    "IMO, equivilently engineered separates will sound better than thier integrated counterparts"

    You are entitled to your opinion, though it is incorrect. All things being equal, an integrated amp can and should perform at least as well as equivalent separates (compare the Rowland Concentra integrated with the separates it replaces, for example). The only thing separates give you is flexibility. That said, things aren't always equal.

    Bottom line - integrated can perform at least as well as equivalent separates IN THEORY but not always in practice.
     

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