Integrated amp or stereo receiver?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by BillHewitt, Apr 26, 2004.

  1. BillHewitt

    BillHewitt Auditioning

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    Howdy folks. Here's the story: I'm trying to set up a decent stereo setup for my dorm room next year with a budget of $300-500, with some options for upgradeability later on.

    I was thinking of getting some Paradigm Atoms or Titans (if I can find them cheap used), but I am not quite sure as to what the distinction is between an integrated amp and a stereo receiver, or what I should get in this price range. I plan on using it mostly for music (hip-hop, classic rock, & electronic), with a great majority of the sound sourced from my PC (I might buy a standalone CD player later on). I don't listen to the radio, so I don't feel any real attachment to having a tuner. That aside, could someone elaborate on the differences and possibly make a recommendation or two?

    I was eyeing up the Denon DRA-395, but I've heard the bass is somewhat recessed.

    (Edit: *sigh* Just noticed other thread immediately below this one dealing with the same topic. I suppose that's what I get for posting after staying up all night.)
     
  2. kevitra

    kevitra Second Unit

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    An integrated amp won't have a tuner. A two channel receiver will.

    The tuner in the receiver might bleed over into the other inputs, which is one reason some 'purists' like integrated amps.

    If you go the integrated route, NAD and Rotel both have reasonably priced units.

    The NAD C320BEE has received great reviews. It has a $400 MSRP, but you should be able to get 15-20% off of MSRP.
    Here is where I have purchased my NAD equipment. They are an authorized dealer and they have great customer service. You have to email them for a discounted price.
    http://www.yawaonline.com/amplifiers.html

    Rotel's integrated amps are a bit more expensive. Their cheapest integrated is $500. Rotel does not allow online sales so you will have to visit your local retailer to demo/purchase one. My local Rotel dealer offers 10% off of MSRP, which is good for Rotel.

    Good luck!
     
  3. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    You can also look used. Rotels don't come up too often on audiogon, and they sell pretty quick when they do, but NAD integrateds, such as the C370, can be found relatively often. IMO, the typical integrated is going to sound better than nearly all stereo receivers, and probably most sub $1K receivers as well.

    Yawa is a great place for NAD gear.
     
  4. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    If you choose an integrated amp, you will have to pass an analog output signal from your soundcard, with D/A conversion happening at the soundcard. This may or may not be desirable, depending upon the quality of your card's DAC's.

    Otherwise, you might want to consider (a) an external DAC and a digital output from the soundcard to it, and then an analog output to the integrated amp, or (b) a receiver instead of the integrated.

    If your soundcard doesn't have a digital output, then none of this may matter.
     
  5. NoahD

    NoahD Auditioning

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    The difference as stated above is the Tuner. If you listen to radio then go for a receiver. However, in a dorm room with good internet you probably do streaming radio, or share streams, I do.

    In addition to the NAD integrated mentioned above, consider also the Cambridge Audio Azur 540A ($379 list). A different forum discussed low cost integrateds pretty well. address is below to second page of thread.

    *edit* because I'm a newbie it wouldn't let me post a link... Find the AudioReview Forums>A/V Forums> topic "Integrated Amp Recommendations started by topspeed. -noddin0ff

    forums"dot"audioreview"dot"com/showthread"dot"php?t=3449&page=2

    I have the Azur 540A in my office connected to Paradigm MiniMonitors and use my Powerbook G4 for a source with a USB DAC (the Griffin iMic, highly recommend this!). The sound is great. In my other workspace, I've got the Denon 395 receiver hooked up to a pair of Atoms. I got the 395 for $179 as a refurbished unit at JandR (www"dot"jr"dot"com). Full warranty. This was a great buy I thought. Its also running off a PowerbookG3/iMic combo. For small bookshelf speakers, room placement will affect the sound far more than the receiver vs amp choice. Denon has a great reputation for sound quality. I'm impressed with the Denon/Atom combo. Just out 8" from some concrete walls on a book shelf, they get pretty good bass. The sound it full. I don't like the ergonomics of the Denon compared to the Azur. And the Azur looks 50 times better. The build of the Azur is better and I believe that just comparing the amplifiers that the Azur gets the nod. But, I can't fairly compare the sound quality because the MiniMons are much better than the Atoms for detail. And I'm too lazy to go move everything around. I'm a big fan of the Paradigms, I've got Studio 20s at home with a Yamaha receiver. If your budget is for Atoms don't listen to MiniMons, If your budget is for MiniMons, don't listen to the Studio's!!! Made that mistake, and paid (happily) for it.

    I don't think you've got any poor choices. Honestly, your speakers will be more limiting than the Denon or any integrated. Read the comments on the NAD and the Rotel in the thread above.
     
  6. Shannon S.

    Shannon S. Stunt Coordinator

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    I have the Nad c320BEE and love it. It is very detailed and can get really loud.
     
  7. Aaron Howell

    Aaron Howell Stunt Coordinator

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    I would buy an integrated either way, even if you listen to radio. Everyone I have seen has a tuner input. I picked up a very nice denon tuner that was about 5-6 years old for $30 shipped on ebay. Well worth it, even if I only listen to it twice a year.
     
  8. Jonty Rees

    Jonty Rees Stunt Coordinator

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    Your choice and likelyhood of finding a screaming deal might be better with a receiver - there are just more of them.

    One thing that occured to me - if you're listening to a lot of Hip Hop, you'll probably want to either get a powered sub, or bigger speakers. I'm not sure that bookshelf speakers will do it for the bass heavy tunes. I grabbed a pair of 1984 Cerwin Vega speakers off Ebay for $100 for my computer system - obviously not the most subtle units, but since I'm using the analog output from a cheap soundcard through a $2.99 Radio Shack Y-splitter to an old Pioneer integrated amp, they do the job.
     
  9. Joshua H

    Joshua H Stunt Coordinator

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    Have you considered a separate amplifier? It would seem to me that if you are looking for upgradability, a decent 2ch amp would allow you to retain at least some of your investment when you get to a surround setup. I have no idea what the costs are for stereo pre-amps, tho. I suppose you could go used and save some bucks on it, since 2ch processing hasnt made any leaps and bounds recently. Just my 2 cents.
     

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