Convince me that separates are better

Dan Mackowski

Auditioning
Joined
Nov 27, 2001
Messages
7
I currently have a low end Yamaha receiver (RX795a), and I have been intrigued by all the discussion concerning separates.

I have been debating as to whether to upgrade my receiver with another higher end receiver, or to go the separates route.

Do separates really offer a night and day difference compared to higher end receivers (eg. Denon 3802, Yamaha 3200)?

I am not interested in listening to movies or music at extreme volumn levels, so does all that extra power that separates provide offer me any advantages?
 

Mark C.

Supporting Actor
Joined
May 21, 1999
Messages
558
Hi, Dan:

The only way to really tell if separates are for you is to listen to a few different set-ups, either at the homes of friends or at quality audio shops.

Does your receiver have preouts that allow an outboard amp to be plugged in? If so, that might be your first step: a multi-channel amp running through your receiver would probably be a real eye-opener for you. I know it was for me. The top-end is so much higher with an amp over a receiver, even a good receiver like yours.

Good luck

Mark
 

John Royster

Screenwriter
Joined
Oct 14, 2001
Messages
1,088
From my experience with the 3802 i can say the design was focused on features and digital performance which is excellent. BUT, not much there in the amplifier section. This seems to be the general design with sub 1200 dollar receivers (before anybody flames me because they love their receiver i'm making very broad sweeping statements that do not apply to everything).

but really only listening can tell you if its worth it.
 

ManojM

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Feb 13, 2002
Messages
242
I used to own a Yamaha 795a myself mated with DefTech speakers. The sound was OK, but I then replaced the Yamaha with a high end receiver, the B&K 202 (the predecesor to the 307, and considerably higher up the rung than a 3802 or 1200). That made not just a small difference, but an absolutely enormous one. The B&K would just grab the BP8s by the throat and force great sound out of them. They sounded so good, I started wondering why I was shopping for new speakers... I then bought B&W Nautilus speakers, 804/805/HTM2. The B&K sounded surprisingly good with them, and did a very reasonable job. I have since upgraded to a Classe CAV-150 amp and a Sunfire processor. The difference is now signficant again, with the Classe being much, much smoother, more detailed, and much more authoritative in controlling the bass. Now the soundstage is bigger and the already solid imaging is totally rock solid. BTW, along the path, before the Sunfire, I temporarily had a less expensive processor in my system for about 2 weeks, the very well reviewed Adcom GTP-830. The switch from the Adcom to the Sunfire was like night and day, the Sunfire let the Classe do its work, and the sound just opened up as if somebody took the wrapping off the speakers. The point of this story is, a high end receiver is much, much better than something like a 795, but we are talking about somthing like a 5803 or 305/307 here (the 202 is an absolute bargain and can be had used for about $1000). A 3802 or 1200 will be better, but by no means can be construed as a quantum leap. The use of a mid-level receiver as a processor probably would not be all that different than the Adcom processor, and perhaps not quite as good, as that is a stand alone processor for $1200, and no money went into amplifiers. I found that processor did stifle my amplifier, but the combination of a good amp and a weaker processor was still fairly good. Separates are really very good, but the difference can be heard mainly when the other equipment allows the full effect to come out (mainly the speakers). I would not recommend someone who owned speakers like my BP8s to buy my Classe and Sunfire, but rather go with a high end receiver. I would not tell them to run out and buy a 3802 if they owned a 795. I would tell them to buy a used high end receiver such as a 202, and if they then upgraded their speakers, add an outboard amp using the reciever as a processor, and eventually replace it with a better processor.
 

Ken Situ

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Aug 6, 2000
Messages
102
There are many people believe separates are better, as there are just as many people believe separeates are no better. So you will just have to pick one or the other, but I am sure you will be happy with either direction, if you don't go too low-end.
 

Ritesh_M

Grip
Joined
Nov 22, 2000
Messages
17
Ken,

it really depends on the speaker setup. If you are using $600 speakers with a $2k+ processor plus amps. i doubt you speakers will be able to product the kind of detail and bass repsonse the better equipment can dish out. because if you are using expensive power hungry speakers, you cannot seriously drive them with the amplifiers in receivers.

so

Dan, the question is what speakers are you using.
 

Holadem

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2000
Messages
8,967
$600 for the mains only or for the whole thing?

Seriously, my Paradigm Montor 7 are in that price range. I want to slowly move from my Onkyo 575x to separates. If I plop $1500 on the Outlaw 950 and some decent amps and don't hear a night and day difference then...
--
Holadem
 

Evan S

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2001
Messages
2,210
The rule of thumb is this. Great speakers will sound like crap with a crappy front end. So, getting $10,000 Aerials mated with a JVC receiver will produce $300 sound. However, good speakers mated with GREAT amplification and front end will sound GREAT. They won't sound as good as if you did have the $10,000 Aerials, but you will be getting the best out of your system that you can get.
So, if you are going to go the upgrade route, get a great front end first (amps, pre-amps and source components) and THEN down the line...upgrade your speakers. I think you will see a greater enjoyment of your system if you do it this way than the other way around.

I need to slightly edit the above statement. I am going on the assumption that your speakers are fairly good to start with...not junk. Obviously you have to have something decent to start with otherwise you should just go ahead and get everything at once!!!
 

Dan Mackowski

Auditioning
Joined
Nov 27, 2001
Messages
7
For additional information, my speakers consist of:

Klipsch RF3 - mains

Klipsch RS3 - surrounds

Klipsch RC3 - Center channel

Klipsch KSW12 - subwoofer (will be replaced with SVS PC+ when available)
 

RichardMA

Second Unit
Joined
Apr 16, 2002
Messages
446
Considering a "do all receiver" now runs from $3000

to $4000, and you can buy a Outlaw or Rotel processor plus a good multichannel amp for $2200-$2700, why buy a receiver?

The only possible reason might be for space saving.

Separate pre/power amps generally perform better.

If you have even marginally good speakers ($1500 for 5 of

them from a good company) you should be able to hear a difference. If you're speakers are JBL, Bose, Cerwin Vega, Klipsh and the like, the receiver is probably fine. The differences will probably be in the mid-high frequency range, where the sound is likely

to be better defined, clearer. This helps dialog sound

better in the centre channel. There is nothing worse on this EARTH than unnatural dialog emitting from a centre speaker. Also, receivers are supposed to keep the power amps out of the digital/analog areas of the single box and

this isn't always done well. Results are EMI interference

and other noise. Also, the multiple power amplification

sections of a receiver are often fed from one toroid (good

receivers) or an old-style iron core transformer which is multitaped to provide voltage/current to each power amp

section.

Crosstalk and other distortion generally goes along with

this. The better separate power amps generally use better separated amp channels so this is minimized. Some even have entire discrete amp sections for each channel. These

are kind of like "monoblocks" in the same housing.

Separate power amps also have greater headroom, meaning

they are capable of handling much greater demands than

the multiamps shoe-horned into a receiver. 100wpc in a

receiver is generally NOT as good as the 100w you'll get

from a separate amplifier. I had a Yamaha (RX-V2090) that

was rated at 100wpc and it would constantly kick into

"protection" mode because it had a hard time driving 4 ohm

speakers of any size. My Adcom amps (100wpc) never have

any trouble with the same load. The way to determine this

is to see how they rate the receiver amps. You might see

something like "100wpc into 8ohms, 125wpc into 6 ohms

and they may not even recommend you try to drive 4 ohm speakers, especially across all 5-6 channels.

A separate power amp will likely have 100wpc into 8ohms,

then 150 into 6ohms and up to 200 into 4ohms. The current capability of separate power amps is generally higher than a receiver, despite having the same wpc capabilities.

The net result is more effortless driving of the system,

and cleaner sound.

However, "night and day" differences in sound in this

"digital" one chip age are unlikely unless the receiver is

a real dog (read: JVC or the like). The differences are

likely to be noticeable but not hyper dramatic. But after

long term listening, you will appreciate the better sound.

One thing is for sure, if your source has harsh or distorted

or coloured sound, changing speakers will do nothing to help

it.
 

Kevin. W

Screenwriter
Joined
Oct 27, 1999
Messages
1,534
Dan,

Your speakers are very sensitive(95-97db), so your reciever should have no problem powering them. An amp on the otherhand will add a whole new dynamic to the sound that comes out of the speakers. To hit reference level your rec/amp would only have to produce 8-16watts(104-107db).

Kevin
 

Keith Ro

Agent
Joined
Feb 7, 2002
Messages
35
Fierce battles have been waged over this topic for years in the audio world. I know I'm stirring up a hornets nest, but I actually don't understand what the controversy over double blind testing is. I remember seeing a report in an audio magazine a number of years where they pitted a $250 pioneer receiver against multithousand dollar McIntosh separates. The result? As long as they were both run without causing cipping, statistically, no one did better than chance telling them apart. My understanding is that most double blind testing tends to bear this out.

I'm not trying to start a flame war, but I'd appreciate it if someone explains the anti DBT POV to me...As in I understand how you can dispute how well specific studies were conducted...but if in repeated, controlled tests a diverse group of people can't tell expensive cd transports vs run of the mill cd players, zip cord vs. expensive wire or cheap receivers vs. expensive separates apart, then how does one dispute the notion that the differences between these components are in fact insignificant?

Even people who swear that separates are better would probably concede that dollar for dollar, your biggest bang for the buck comes in investing in speakers.

i.e. Does anyone disagree that $1000 speakers driven by a $300 receiver probably sounds a lot better than $300 speakers driven by a $1000 amp?
 

BeatCrazy

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 7, 2002
Messages
129
Real Name
Sam
Keith Ro,

You bring up an example of a DBT with a cheapo Pioneer vs. McIntosh seperates. Do you really believe this statement? Have you ever upgraded amplifiers/receivers before and heard better sound?

I agree that speakers are a better bang-for-the-buck improvement, but realize that you can only go so far with just decent speakers. Eventually you'll need the juice to back them up. Where in the price point does that happen? Well, that's for everyone to decide for themselves. Personally, I think its OK to spend the same amount for all 5 speakers as you do for amplification/pre-amp, i.e. $5K worth of L/C/R/surrounds= $2500preamp & $2500amp (or some combination).
 

Claude M

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jan 18, 2001
Messages
239
Convince yourself. Get a two channel amp hooked up to your receiver and see what you think. I'm sure you can find a local that has some demos to let you have for a weekend.
 

Keith Ro

Agent
Joined
Feb 7, 2002
Messages
35
Convince yourself. Get a two channel amp hooked up to your receiver and see what you think. I'm sure you can find a local that has some demos to let you have for a weekend.
Yes I've done receiver/receiver and receiver/intergrated amp and receiver/separate etc. comparisions in audio stores. In almost every case, I think I hear a difference. I really do find Yamaha's to sound quite 'sterile,' 'bright' and 'harsh.'
But this has nothing to do with blind testing -- i.e. if you can't hear the differences when you don't know what the source is, then doesn't that indicate that there isn't in actuality a detectable difference? Therefore you're better off buying the cheapest reliable product that has the feature set you want.
Obviously I've seen a lot of ink on this subject, and I know people are fatigued by it. But I've never seen anyone satisfactorily address this line of reasoning. Most of the responses seem to be something along the lines of 'I don't care what DBT tests show, I know I hear a difference and that's all that matters to me.' or the 'I don't care what dozens of people of various backgrounds in repeated tests found. I have golden ears and I'm sure if I ever did a DBT test I could tell the difference.' This totally fails to address the issue. I'd appreciate it if someone in the 'anti DBT' could articulate a sensible rebuttal.
I ask all of this because I believe it gets at the heart of the original post -- is there anything to be gained by going from a receiver to separates?
 

BeatCrazy

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 7, 2002
Messages
129
Real Name
Sam
Keith,

You are confusing me. First you say that you agree with the DBT test where the cheapo Pioneer would have the same sound as $10,000 (presumably) McIntosh seperates. Fine. But then you say the Yamaha receivers sound "'sterile, 'bright' and 'harsh.'" So obviously you can distinguish among different sounding amps/receivers. If the the Yamaha can sound bad to your ears, cannot the McIntosh set-up exhibit "non-harsh", "smooth" or other good qualities over a Pioneer?
 

KonradN

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Dec 3, 2000
Messages
131
imo, as long as all the amps have a flat frequency response, thd less than 1%, and are are not driven to the clipping point, then the combined voting results of about 10 randomly chosen ppl will not statistically show a difference in sq among the amps. However, I am not precluding the fact that there may be one person or more that can discern a difference in sq among the amps and this is where I can offer a critique against the dbt done at abx.

I have not read the entire abx site , but during my short visit to their site I could not find the following information that would have strenghten their test results:

-who were the listeners and more particular how well trained are their ears? are they casual listeners, audiophiles or teen that listen mostly to mp3?

-abx only list the combined voting results, but not the indivudual results which makes it impossibe to tell if there might have been at least one person who statiscally was able to hear a difference among certain amps.

If somebody can address the two points I have raised, I see no reason not to believe that there is no difference in sq among amps.
 

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