bigtime newbie help: integrated amp?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Talal, Mar 1, 2002.

  1. Talal

    Talal Stunt Coordinator

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    So, I'm currently just trying to put together a decent stereo system for $900, and have been reading/posting and researching.

    I'm getting a pair of JBL S38s for $300.

    I'm going to be getting a Cd player for $250-$300.

    Now, about the receiver part...

    KeithH suggested I get an integrated amp instead of a stereo receiver. He specifically mentioned the NAD C350

    for $325, which I can swing...

    BUT, I just wanted to know exactly what an integrated amp is.

    AM I better off getting a ~$300 amp with a cd player and speakers, or am I better off getting a $300 stereo receiver?

    I'd appreciate suggestions of specific models in my price range(whether amp or amp)...

    Thanks for your help,

    Talal
     
  2. Ken Seeber

    Ken Seeber Supporting Actor

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    Basically an integrated amp is a receiver without the built-in AM/FM radio tuner. It's a preamplifier and power amplifier together.

    If you don't have a need to listen to the radio, you'll be spending all of your money on the parts of the component you'll be using, not on a radio.

    My very first piece of stereo equipment was the venerated NAD 3020 integrated amp. I still have it and will be using it in my bedroom eventually. It's 20 years old and sounds as good as ever.
     
  3. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Talal, you've obviously heard from me on this subject, but let me echo one of Ken's excellent points. If you will not be listening to the radio much, why pay for the built-in tuner? Here is why I suggested an integrated amp over a receiver. Let's say that you were torn between an integrated amp and a stereo receiver that were both priced $325 (brand new). Since the receiver has a built-in tuner, the designer had to account for it in his or her budget (parts selection, for example). This usually leads to compromises elsewhere in the design, namely the pre-amp and power amp sections. Rarely does one get something for nothing. The stereo receiver for $325 will likely have an inferior power supply and inferior internal construction overall relative to the integrated amp. Note that for $325, the NAD C 350 integrated amp has a quality toroidal power supply.

    Some stereo receivers that you might be considering, such as the Onkyo TX-8511 and Harman/Kardon HK 3370 are even less than $325 by mail or in brick-and-mortar stores, and they are not going to compete with the NAD C 350. Note that brick-and-mortar dealers often sell the C 350 at its retail price of $430, so $325 is an excellent deal. I honestly don't feel you can do better for stereo amplification for the money.

    The C 350 was the first integrated amp I bought. I bought it back in November 2000 for my bedroom stereo system. At the time, I was using a home-theater receiver for music in my main system. The sound quality from the C 350 was a revelation. I bought the C 370 integrated amp for my main system shortly thereafter.

    Before buying the C 350, I looked into the Harman/Kardon HK 3470 stereo receiver. While it is a capable receiver, one thing that turned me off was that it offered pseudo surround-sound modes, which I would never, ever use. Now, you can certainly turn these modes off, but the idea of a stereo receiver even offering these modes turned me off. To me, inclusion of surround-sound modes was an indication that the H/K receiver was not a serious stereo component. Some will argue with me, but that was my take on it. I wanted a no-nonsense stereo amp, and since I don't listen to the radio, except in the car, the C 350 made perfect sense for me.

    If you do listen to the radio at home often, I still wouldn't get a stereo receiver. Chances are, you don't listen to the radio as critically as you would a CD. As a result, you could buy a separate tuner for little money that could be connected to the C 350. A stereo receiver within your budget isn't going to have a very good tuner anyway, so there is a good chance that even a budget separate tuner would beat one built into a receiver.
     
  4. Michael Yung

    Michael Yung Stunt Coordinator

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    My understanding is that an integrated amplifier is nothing more than an amp + volume control. An integrated amp is not a 'receiver - tuner' because a receiver is a pre-processor (prepro) + tuner + amp. And a preamp is different than a prepro because a preamp does not process the signal from the source in anyway other then adjust the volume.
    I would consider integrated amplifier to be better than stereo receiver because you’re not paying for a digital processor that you won’t use. Be it as in the receiver or in the CD player. Also the power supply of an integrated amp is use primarily for the amplifier function instead of the decoding function which means at the same price point, an integrated amp has a better amp unit than an same price stereo receiver. And you’re not paying for a tuner section if you don’t use it.
    I would suggest you go to www.audioasylum.com to get more opinions about this. From my experience, HTF is good for HT stuff but not too strong on 2 channel audio stuff. And what you’re doing right now is putting together a 2 channel stereo system and the folks from audioasylum will have more expertise in this area.
     
  5. Talal

    Talal Stunt Coordinator

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    thanks a bunch especialy to Keith, and also to everyone else..

    I'm definitely going for the nad amp..
     
  6. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Michael,

    You are speaking from the home-theater perspective, so it seems. With stereo components, an integrated amp has a pre-amp section (line-level inputs and volume control) and a power amp section (with speaker binding posts). In NAD's product line, you can choose from the C 350 and C 370 integrated amps (and a couple lower-priced models in Europe). Of course, you can buy a separate pre-amp and power amp that will often afford even better sound than an integrated amp. As an example, NAD offers the C 160 pre-amp and C 270 power amp that could be combined as an alternative to using the C 370 integrated amp.

    Now, stereo receivers almost never have digital processors. Thus, stereo receivers have no DACs, and therefore, no digital inputs. Some do offer pseudo surround-sound modes and subwoofer inputs, like the Harman/Kardon HK 3470, but traditional stereo receivers do not offer these features. A stereo receiver is an integrated amp plus a tuner.

    Talal,

    No problem. Glad to help. Let us know how your system comes together.
     
  7. Michael Yung

    Michael Yung Stunt Coordinator

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    Talal,
    I was just browsing Ubid and found this deal for a Nakamichi RE10 stereo receiver and thought it might be just what you're looking for. The reviews are fairly favorable in AudioReview and it even has video switching capability so it would be a good interm solution before you get into HT. Hope it helps.
     

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