What's new

At what point(s) should we consider moving beyond just an AVR? (1 Viewer)

kalm_traveler

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jul 24, 2014
Messages
220
Location
Utah
Real Name
Jake
Just curious what everyone's takes are on this.

Specifically I'm asking as we get into more advanced/audiophile territory with our home theater goals at what point or points does it make sense to move beyond powering everything with only the AVR?

When would you add a separate amp for at least the front stage? main 5 channels?

When does it start to make sense to just have a pre/pro + separate amplification entirely rather than an AVR at all?

I feel like I'm just at the entrance of a deep rabbit hole now with my current HT setup despite it being by far the best I've ever had.

---------------------------------
At present the big weakness as I see it is just that my room is acoustically terrible. It is an add-on off the rear of the home that used to be a deck, so it's up on big stilts and not particularly well insulated against sound coming from outside. It is also not wide enough for what I want but we work with what we have, right? :biggrin:

Audio-wise, I'm running a Yamaha RX-A3080 AVR but powering the main 5 channels (FL C FR SL SR) with an Outlaw 5000x amp. Main 5 are Yamaha NS-777 towers, rear surround L and R are Yamaha NS-333 bookshelf speakers, and I have 4 Atmos ceiling speakers which are Yamaha NS-IC800. Bass is handled by two HSU VTF15h-mk2 subwoofers.

The room is basically 12' wide by 24' long with a flat 8' ceiling and carpeted floor. Speakers are mostly configured around my seating position ~ 8-9 feet from the TV on one of the short walls though the rear surrounds are mounted on the opposite short wall high up.
 

ManW_TheUncool

His Own Fool
Premium
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2001
Messages
8,474
Location
The BK
Real Name
ManW
Given what you have, if you're going to upgrade, I'd think you should upgrade your speakers long before considering the amps (if ever the latter at all).

You already have the Outlaw doing the heavy lifting. And that Yamaha AVR should likely be plenty capable for the rest of the channels. Maybe if you upgraded the speakers, perhaps adding another 2 surround channels that need additional amplification anyway and maybe need more juice for the new front LCRs, particularly if you choose less efficient higher end speakers for those (perhaps for better stereo music), then it might make sense to upgrade the amp dedicated to those. I'd say your pair of flagship Hsu subs (and actually, also your AVR+amp) probably deserve to be mated w/ better speakers in the rest of the system.

The other things probably worth upgrading/improving before amplification is probably your room acoustics and such given what you said...

_Man_
 

JohnRice

Bounded In a Nutshell
Supporter
Ambassador
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2000
Messages
15,563
Location
A Mile High
Real Name
John
I tend to agree with Man regarding the speakers.

But, on the main question, I'd say, in general, that anyone driving seven or more speakers in their system (7.x or 5.x.2) and likes to crank it up, should at least consider a three channel amp for the front, if they already have a mid-line receiver that has preamp outputs for them. With Emotiva introducing the A3 you can get a 3 channel, 150/250 watt amp for $500. Options go on from there, but particularly include the Outaw x5000 5 channel amp for$769.

We're expecting more and more from receivers, sometimes as many as 11 or even 13 channels of power. It's just too much for one component to do as well as some would prefer.

Second option, if you're looking at spending $2K or more on a receiver, you might just consider splitting that between a less expensive receiver and an external amp to drive the front three channels.

I generally stay away from outright suggesting anyone go with separates, even though I've used them for years in my HT. That's an entirely different road than just augmenting the power of a receiver. It's almost always a much bigger and more expensive decision at the outset, but can be a savings in the long run.
 

Dave Upton

Audiophile
Owner
Moderator
Joined
May 16, 2012
Messages
4,319
Location
Houston, TX
Real Name
Dave Upton
Just curious what everyone's takes are on this.

Specifically I'm asking as we get into more advanced/audiophile territory with our home theater goals at what point or points does it make sense to move beyond powering everything with only the AVR?

When would you add a separate amp for at least the front stage? main 5 channels?

When does it start to make sense to just have a pre/pro + separate amplification entirely rather than an AVR at all?

I feel like I'm just at the entrance of a deep rabbit hole now with my current HT setup despite it being by far the best I've ever had.

---------------------------------
At present the big weakness as I see it is just that my room is acoustically terrible. It is an add-on off the rear of the home that used to be a deck, so it's up on big stilts and not particularly well insulated against sound coming from outside. It is also not wide enough for what I want but we work with what we have, right? :biggrin:

Audio-wise, I'm running a Yamaha RX-A3080 AVR but powering the main 5 channels (FL C FR SL SR) with an Outlaw 5000x amp. Main 5 are Yamaha NS-777 towers, rear surround L and R are Yamaha NS-333 bookshelf speakers, and I have 4 Atmos ceiling speakers which are Yamaha NS-IC800. Bass is handled by two HSU VTF15h-mk2 subwoofers.

The room is basically 12' wide by 24' long with a flat 8' ceiling and carpeted floor. Speakers are mostly configured around my seating position ~ 8-9 feet from the TV on one of the short walls though the rear surrounds are mounted on the opposite short wall high up.
I tend to give this advice to anyone who asks me about what to upgrade next. In order of importance for audio (where your $$ should go first):

0) MiniDSP/Calibration and DSP optimization of what you already have
1) Better speakers
2) Room Treatments
3) Additional or Better subwoofers
4) Separates

Not to say your speakers are awful - but they are a clear weak point in your system. If I were you, I'd look into some better used speakers and room treatments before spending anything else on electronics.
 

John Dirk

Premium
Ambassador
Senior HTF Member
Joined
May 7, 2000
Messages
5,391
Location
ATL
Real Name
JOHN
My thoughts are basically the same as my esteemed colleagues. Your amplification seems to be one of your stronger points right now so I'd put any available funds into the speakers as suggested by @ManW_TheUncool but @Dave Upton also makes a good point in that you really don't know what your room is telling you without measurements.

My fist step would be to download REW and see what's really going on in your room in the all-important 20 - 500Hz range. If you don't already have a calibration mike, the MiniDSP UMIK-1 should be your first purchase.
 

kalm_traveler

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jul 24, 2014
Messages
220
Location
Utah
Real Name
Jake
I tend to give this advice to anyone who asks me about what to upgrade next. In order of importance for audio (where your $$ should go first):

0) MiniDSP/Calibration and DSP optimization of what you already have
1) Better speakers
2) Room Treatments
3) Additional or Better subwoofers
4) Separates

Not to say your speakers are awful - but they are a clear weak point in your system. If I were you, I'd look into some better used speakers and room treatments before spending anything else on electronics.
Dave is there a benefit to used speakers vs new (other than monetary of course)?

Forgot to mention I do have quite a lot of room treatment but again the acoustics of the room being an addon up on stilts and just not very well insulated end up with a lot of outside noise coming in which I can't really prevent. Also forgot to mention that I live near a hospital and the life-flight helicopters fly right over my house at all random times of day or night which both shakes the room and is very audible - only further convincing me that the room itself doesn't warrant any further spending.

Given the poor nature of the room I don't think I'll be upgrading anything else before I move to a new house (hoping next year if prices return from astronomical) but was more just looking for where folks decide it's time to upgrade from just an AVR.

Speaker-wise, after very much enjoying this little 5.1 SVS Ultra setup on the computer my intention is with a new house and thus new home theater room to go with maybe a 9.2.4 config with all SVS Ultra towers, a pair of PB16 Ultra subs, pre/pro with a couple beefy amps and a projector instead of TV.

I can definitely already vouch for a huge perceptible increase in clarity and tightness with these main 5 being driven by the Outlaw amp vs everything being driven by the AVR but was just curious where folks draw the line as far as "it's time for XYZ" (partial separate amplification, pre/pro + separate amp, pre/pro + full separate amps) etc.
 
Last edited:

kalm_traveler

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jul 24, 2014
Messages
220
Location
Utah
Real Name
Jake
My thoughts are basically the same as my esteemed colleagues. Your amplification seems to be one of your stronger points right now so I'd put any available funds into the speakers as suggested by @ManW_TheUncool but @Dave Upton also makes a good point in that you really don't know what your room is telling you without measurements.

My fist step would be to download REW and see what's really going on in your room in the all-important 20 - 500Hz range. If you don't already have a calibration mike, the MiniDSP UMIK-1 should be your first purchase.
Much appreciated John!

I won't be upgrading any more equipment in this room (hoping to move to a new house next year - ideally with a better space for home-theatering!) but definitely need to take your advice on REW.

I do have a UMIK-1 but haven't had time to sit down and figure out how to use it with REW to calibrate things more accurately yet.
 

Dave Upton

Audiophile
Owner
Moderator
Joined
May 16, 2012
Messages
4,319
Location
Houston, TX
Real Name
Dave Upton
Dave is there a benefit to used speakers vs new (other than monetary of course)?

Forgot to mention I do have quite a lot of room treatment but again the acoustics of the room being an addon up on stilts and just not very well insulated end up with a lot of outside noise coming in which I can't really prevent. Also forgot to mention that I live near a hospital and the life-flight helicopters fly right over my house at all random times of day or night which both shakes the room and is very audible - only further convincing me that the room itself doesn't warrant any further spending.

Given the poor nature of the room I don't think I'll be upgrading anything else before I move to a new house (hoping next year if prices return from astronomical) but was more just looking for where folks decide it's time to upgrade from just an AVR.

Speaker-wise, after very much enjoying this little 5.1 SVS Ultra setup on the computer my intention is with a new house and thus new home theater room to go with maybe a 9.2.4 config with all SVS Ultra towers, a pair of PB16 Ultra subs, pre/pro with a couple beefy amps and a projector instead of TV.

I can definitely already vouch for a huge perceptible increase in clarity and tightness with these main 5 being driven by the Outlaw amp vs everything being driven by the AVR but was just curious where folks draw the line as far as "it's time for XYZ" (partial separate amplification, pre/pro + separate amp, pre/pro + full separate amps) etc.
Used speakers are purely a bang for the buck play - there's no other reason. That said, a very expensive audiophile speaker that's 15 or so years old can be had for a fraction of its original cost, and will often sound worlds better than modern cheap speakers. Although marketing departments would love you to believe otherwise, the science of loudspeaker design hasn't moved that fast - and what was state of the art 15 years ago is still very good tech.
 

JohnRice

Bounded In a Nutshell
Supporter
Ambassador
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2000
Messages
15,563
Location
A Mile High
Real Name
John
Used speakers are purely a bang for the buck play - there's no other reason. That said, a very expensive audiophile speaker that's 15 or so years old can be had for a fraction of its original cost, and will often sound worlds better than modern cheap speakers. Although marketing departments would love you to believe otherwise, the science of loudspeaker design hasn't moved that fast - and what was state of the art 15 years ago is still very good tech.
I can certainly attest to that. There are definitely speakers from years back where the effort was made to progress speaker tech that are actually more advanced than many models available today.
 

kalm_traveler

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jul 24, 2014
Messages
220
Location
Utah
Real Name
Jake
I tend to give this advice to anyone who asks me about what to upgrade next. In order of importance for audio (where your $$ should go first):

0) MiniDSP/Calibration and DSP optimization of what you already have
1) Better speakers
2) Room Treatments
3) Additional or Better subwoofers
4) Separates

Not to say your speakers are awful - but they are a clear weak point in your system. If I were you, I'd look into some better used speakers and room treatments before spending anything else on electronics.
So in a general sense (not addressing my current room since I'm just biding my time until houses are not ludicrously priced and I can hopefully find something closer to my goal of roughly 24 x 20 x 9 basement to start from scratch) would the general consensus for 'when' to start considering a separate helper amp, pre/pro + separate amp(s), or pre/pro + separate amps per speaker be basically something like this?:

post calibration, best speakers affordable, all room treatment done, best and most subwoofer positions covered

THEN and only then start to look at (I presume in order):
helper amp (external amp to drive main 2, 3 or 5 channels - AVR drives the rest)
pre/pro + 1 or 2 multichannel external amps
pre/pro + separate amp for each speaker

does that sound about right?
 

JohnRice

Bounded In a Nutshell
Supporter
Ambassador
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2000
Messages
15,563
Location
A Mile High
Real Name
John
So in a general sense (not addressing my current room since I'm just biding my time until houses are not ludicrously priced and I can hopefully find something closer to my goal of roughly 24 x 20 x 9 basement to start from scratch) would the general consensus for 'when' to start considering a separate helper amp, pre/pro + separate amp(s), or pre/pro + separate amps per speaker be basically something like this?:

post calibration, best speakers affordable, all room treatment done, best and most subwoofer positions covered

THEN and only then start to look at (I presume in order):
helper amp (external amp to drive main 2, 3 or 5 channels - AVR drives the rest)
pre/pro + 1 or 2 multichannel external amps
pre/pro + separate amp for each speaker

does that sound about right?
I know that question is for Dave, but one factor to consider is, if you decide or plan on new speakers and the ones you prefer are difficult to drive due to moderate/low impedance and/or efficiency, you probably want to start planning for external power.
 

Dave Upton

Audiophile
Owner
Moderator
Joined
May 16, 2012
Messages
4,319
Location
Houston, TX
Real Name
Dave Upton
So in a general sense (not addressing my current room since I'm just biding my time until houses are not ludicrously priced and I can hopefully find something closer to my goal of roughly 24 x 20 x 9 basement to start from scratch) would the general consensus for 'when' to start considering a separate helper amp, pre/pro + separate amp(s), or pre/pro + separate amps per speaker be basically something like this?:

post calibration, best speakers affordable, all room treatment done, best and most subwoofer positions covered

THEN and only then start to look at (I presume in order):
helper amp (external amp to drive main 2, 3 or 5 channels - AVR drives the rest)
pre/pro + 1 or 2 multichannel external amps
pre/pro + separate amp for each speaker

does that sound about right?
Yes, this sounds right - with the exception @JohnRice noted above, if you choose particularly hard to drive speakers you may need to get an amp for them sooner. That's growing less common these days - but there are some older designs like John's Thiel's and old Apogees that are absolute power hogs.
 

JohnRice

Bounded In a Nutshell
Supporter
Ambassador
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2000
Messages
15,563
Location
A Mile High
Real Name
John
Yes, this sounds right - with the exception @JohnRice noted above, if you choose particularly hard to drive speakers you may need to get an amp for them sooner. That's growing less common these days - but there are some older designs like John's Thiel's and old Apogees that are absolute power hogs.
It’s true. They eat amps for lunch.
 

kalm_traveler

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jul 24, 2014
Messages
220
Location
Utah
Real Name
Jake
I know that question is for Dave, but one factor to consider is, if you decide or plan on new speakers and the ones you prefer are difficult to drive due to moderate/low impedance and/or efficiency, you probably want to start planning for external power.
Ah yeah thank you John - that makes sense.

My only experience so far is with these Yamaha NS-777 which are I believe 89db sensitivity but sounds worlds better being driven by that Outlaw 5000x amp instead of the RX-A3080 AVR's internal amps.

Tentatively I was wanting to go with full SVS Ultra towers in the new house (once I find one of course) which appear to be 88db sensitivity so that means they'll want even more power if I'm understanding this correctly.
 

JohnRice

Bounded In a Nutshell
Supporter
Ambassador
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2000
Messages
15,563
Location
A Mile High
Real Name
John
Ah yeah thank you John - that makes sense.

My only experience so far is with these Yamaha NS-777 which are I believe 89db sensitivity but sounds worlds better being driven by that Outlaw 5000x amp instead of the RX-A3080 AVR's internal amps.

Tentatively I was wanting to go with full SVS Ultra towers in the new house (once I find one of course) which appear to be 88db sensitivity so that means they'll want even more power if I'm understanding this correctly.
The interaction between an amp and speaker is very complex. A lot more than just power. Dave certainly understands it a lot better than I do. Sensitivity and impedance are definitely factors. Mine are rated at 85dB and 4 Ohm, but may realistically be closer to 3 Ohm. But it goes beyond that. Designing a speaker involves a lot of tradeoffs. Every benefit has disadvantages to it. I've had my main speakers for so long. No matter how much I enjoy them, I wouldn't mind a change. The fear is that something new, which would be extremely expensive, would end up not being worth it.
 

ManW_TheUncool

His Own Fool
Premium
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2001
Messages
8,474
Location
The BK
Real Name
ManW
Indeed! The moral of the story is don't fall in love w/ old Thiels and Apogees... or they might cost you your marriage, LOL... :P;):laugh:

Well, there are certainly some other audiophile speakers that are hard to drive, but maybe not too many quite as hard as their old flagships (some of which actually dip near 1 ohm in substantial parts of the frequency range -- and yes, impedance actually vary some much like FR among other details across the range despite the often misleading rating provided by makers)... Of course, many aren't just hard to drive, but also require a lot of breathing space (and/or room treatment) to reach their potential for audiophiliac nirvana (and there's probably no point to them w/out that)... :D

_Man_
 

Josh Steinberg

Premium
Reviewer
Joined
Jun 10, 2003
Messages
22,312
Real Name
Josh Steinberg
As a point of curiosity, I always wonder how loud you guys are listening to your content when you talk about all these super awesome speakers and AVRs and amps. For that matter, I don’t have a decibel meter so I have no clue how loud I’m running either. But I get the feeling (and maybe I’m wrong) that you guys regularly get to enjoy volumes that I can’t even dream of approaching.

I am personally (and in perpetuity it would seem) limited to the kind of volume levels where someone in the next room can’t hear a thing, in spaces where soundproofing the room with the speakers isn’t a possibility. And because it’s outside of what I’m able to do, I find that I don’t have as much of a frame of reference for these discussions as I wish I did.

Apologies if this seems like a thread crap, not my intention. I’m genuinely fascinated by these discussions even if it remains mostly theoretical for me :)
 

kalm_traveler

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jul 24, 2014
Messages
220
Location
Utah
Real Name
Jake
As a point of curiosity, I always wonder how loud you guys are listening to your content when you talk about all these super awesome speakers and AVRs and amps. For that matter, I don’t have a decibel meter so I have no clue how loud I’m running either. But I get the feeling (and maybe I’m wrong) that you guys regularly get to enjoy volumes that I can’t even dream of approaching.

I am personally (and in perpetuity it would seem) limited to the kind of volume levels where someone in the next room can’t hear a thing, in spaces where soundproofing the room with the speakers isn’t a possibility. And because it’s outside of what I’m able to do, I find that I don’t have as much of a frame of reference for these discussions as I wish I did.

Apologies if this seems like a thread crap, not my intention. I’m genuinely fascinated by these discussions even if it remains mostly theoretical for me :)
No apologies needed - I think we all enjoy a fun meandering conversation Josh :biggrin:

In my case I'm not strictly-speaking limited on volume but I also want to keep my good hearing so I don't usually listen to anything ultra loud. Creeping my way towards 40 but I can still hear just about to 20 kHz at reasonable volume and I'd like to keep it that way (I notice a pretty sharp drop in perceived loudness after about 18.5 kHz but hey at this age I'll take it!).

What I found with my main HT system though recently adding in a 5 channel amp for the main 5 speakers was that they sound clearer and tighter. IE during movie scenes where there's a lot of shift between loud and soft sounds everything stays crisp and the shift in output between loud and quiet was notably improved. When driving everything only from the AVR in comparison, when things suddenly were loud it sounded like the AVR's internal amps were being starved for power - things that should have been loud were weaker than they ought to be, sudden changes from soft to loud to soft again sounded muddy the entire time, etc.

So even in my case where I'm not listening at hearing-degrading reference volumes it really did still improve the experience and I'll definitely be going with a pre-pro and at least 2 separate power amps in my next HT room build.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Forum statistics

Threads
349,675
Messages
4,887,918
Members
142,643
Latest member
CeruleanBlue
Recent bookmarks
0
Top