Is it the pre amp or the amp?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Joe, Mar 2, 2003.

  1. Joe

    Joe Stunt Coordinator

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    Which influences the sonic character of music more, a pre amp or the amp?
     
  2. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    Both.

    With a capable amplifier that easily drives the speakers the pre-amp becomes the piece that taints the sounds.

    In other words, there is not blanket answer to your question.
     
  3. Kurt Kelson

    Kurt Kelson Extra

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    Based on my experience, I would say the pre-amp will make a more noticible difference. Whether or not it is a 'better' upgrade depends on your system though.

    I recently upgraded my Denon 3300 to an Anthem AVM-20 and Rotel RMB1075 amplifier. Due to delays in being able to get the Anthem I had the Rotel in my system for almost 2 months using the Denon as a pre-amp. I was very used to how my system sounded with just the Denon and I had high hopes for hearing a significant difference with the Rotel amplifier addition. While there was some improvement, it wasn't as jaw-dropping as I'd hoped.

    When I replaced the 3300 with the Anthem, THEN my jaw hit the floor. There was a much more noticeable improvement in my system that I was thrilled with. I don't have the audiophile vocabulary to quantify the differences that I heard, but I dug out every CD and DVD I owned to listen and view them with my new system.

    I think the difference you'll hear with an amplifer change is more dependent on the speakers that you are using. In my case, I'm using DefTech BP2004's which are basically bi-polar mini-monitors connected to an active 10" subwoofer. The two 5.25" midranges and two tweeters of my DefTechs don't require a ton of amplication to sound good, hence the less than overwhelming difference when I added the amp. I think that if I were using a set of full-range passive speakers, the amp would have made a more noticible difference in my system.
     
  4. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    I think John is correct in that there is no blanket answer.

    But I do think once your system hits a certain level that on average the preamp will be the more limiting of the two.
     
  5. Mike_Ch

    Mike_Ch Stunt Coordinator

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    IME the preamp makes more difference to the sound. In addition, a dedicated stereo preamp will better that of a receiver or HT pre/pro's preouts.

    Btw, I generally believe that speakers are a limiting factor once a certain point in associated electronics is reached.

    Cheers,
    Mike
     
  6. Joe

    Joe Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the answers guys. Your thoughts coinside with my findings.

    I think this quote sums it up well. "With a capable amplifier that easily drives the speakers the pre-amp becomes the piece that taints the sounds."

    It looks like I will have a tough time finding a HT setup ($2500 budget for prepro & 5 channel amp) that will match the sound quality I currently get out of my Rotel stereo amp and preamp. What to do, what to do? (Sorry, but I'm passing on the Rotel 1066 and the Outlaw 950.)
     
  7. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    Joe,

    That all depends on your speakers and the volume you desire.

    [​IMG]

    If a good 100 watt amp will give you what you need with your speakers, then great!

    But for your budget you may want to look at used gear for your amp and concentrate on your pre/pro. If you're used to quality two channel then you may have to separate the 2-channel stereo and work on HT as a separate entity.

    2500 bucks in the 2-channel world could get you a nice pre-amp (700-1000) and a good amp as well (1500-1800), but in home theater you're scratching the surface in seperates.

    Then again how much you spend on an amp, the power, etc will totally depend on your speakers and your room and how loud you want it. [​IMG]
     
  8. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    Joe
    Let me get this right you have s tereo set-up but are wanting to add HT and at the same time not sacrifice sound quality.

    If music is of more importance to you as the above would suggest, I would recommend getting a low cost surround receiver like an HK 325 or something along those lines, bascially something for a couple hundred dollars but it must have preouts for the two front mains. Then put the rest into good two channel sound. So you will have the receiver doing processing and amplifying three channels and then sending the fronts unamplified into your 2 channel rig. Preamps or integrateds with an HT bypass or Unity gain make this easier to do but really any preamp can work.

    What speakers are you using currently?
     
  9. Craig_Kg

    Craig_Kg Supporting Actor

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    Since Joe already has a stereo amp setup he is happy with, he could just get a receiver with preouts as advised by Scott. Then he can put the rest of the budget into good speakers to match his stereo pair.
     
  10. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    The only problem with that is the pre-amp sections in the receiver's I've listened to are very poor. A Denon 3802 and HK 525 were used.

    If one is looking for music, then avoid at all costs the receivers pre-amp.
     
  11. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    John, you would not be using the preamp of the receiver for anything but processing DVD's, everything else would be run through a stereo preamp or stereo integrated. This is best low cost way of having home theater(5.1) capabilites yet still having your musical priorites set on good 2-channel sound.
     
  12. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    Gotcha Scott.

    That's what I do as well - run everything HT through a 3802, but music path (CD/SACD, pre-amp, 2ch amp, main speakers) is totally separate.

    The only way they are connected is the pre-outs of the 3802 attach to the 2ch pre-amp.
     
  13. Craig_Kg

    Craig_Kg Supporting Actor

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    Absolutely. Then the receiver is only used for HT.

    Of course with multichannel SACD or DVD-A, you need something with a high quality 5.1 preamp section.
     
  14. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    Joe, you listening we have got it all figured out for you here![​IMG]
     
  15. Keir H

    Keir H Second Unit

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    Great question! For those that say the amp has more to do with sonic character, tell me, how does an amp have a sound type? I am a bit confused on this. I thought an amp just amplifies a signal fed to it, so it would it get its character fed to it from the preamp/source abilities right? Can someone shed some light on how this works? Thanks so much!
     
  16. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    audible levels of even order distortion come to mind
     
  17. Greg Johnson

    Greg Johnson Stunt Coordinator

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    After reading through this thread it makes me very happy I purchased an Sony TA-P9000ES analog preamp when you could get them. It allows me to have the best of both worlds. Both multi channel SACD, DVD-A and a 5.1 bypass for home theater. I plan to get a very good 2 channel preamp in the near future and run that through the 2 channel bypass on the 9000. Should be a great all in one system.
    Like others have said. There is no blanket answer to the question asked. But IMO it's the preamp and the speakers that effect the sound the most.

    Greg
     
  18. Joe

    Joe Stunt Coordinator

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    Okay, I'm back.

    So, if I connect a AV receiver as an input to my stereo preamp, how much of an issue is it to balance out the volume levels of the front & back speakers when watching a movie? Where should the stereo preamp's volume control be set db wise? And finally, won't this introduce some hiss or distortion to the front speakers?

    Thanks for your input.
     
  19. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    If the preamp were to have unity gain or a processor loop/bypass input, you wouldn't have to do anything but switch to that input.

    If you just have a standard preamp with no such convienences then you would need to set your stereo preamps volume control to a certain reference point. Most folks I have read use the 12'o clock position for the volume knob as a reference since it is pretty easy to get to that point each time. Then with the volume knob set to that reference position you would do all of your 5.1 speaker level settings through your A/V receiver using its test tones with a SPL meter. Once you have got all of your speakers level set then whenever you want to watch a movie it would just be a matter of switching your stereo preamp to the right input and putting the volume control back into the reference position. Once this is done then everything else would just be a matter of using the receiver as normal.

    BTW Every preamp has some volume level that gives zero gain or attenuation, you could possibly ask the manufacturer if they know where that point is or you could do some testing using an SPL meter and the receiver's test tones to find it as well. Of course if this point hapeens to place the volume control at a position that is not at 12 o'clock then it could hard to find that reference point each and every time.
     
  20. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    I agree with Scott, below is a description of the way I've done it with my HT processor and 2-channel preamp for the last 4 years. You can also click on my Equipment List below to see what I use.

    If the 2-channel preamp doesn't have an HT bypass input then just use an AUX input and:

    Go through the standard processor/receiver speaker level calibration sequence using an SPL meter to adjust the main L&R speaker's to a 75dB SPL level (with Video Essentials DVD and most processor internal test tones) or 85db SPL (with AVIA DVD) by adjusting the 2-channel preamp's volume control.

    After getting the correct SPL level, mark the 2-channel preamp's volume control for HT use (many times this is the 12 o'clock position).

    You can continue on adjusting SPL levels for the rest of the speakers as well, although their SPL levels will be adjusted from the processor/receiver unit. If they were previously adjusted correctly, they should not have changed.

    One item I should point out, different processors/receiver's describe how to prepare for the speaker calibration differently. Some say zero the volume control first to zero (0 or 00), some do it automatically, some simply say adjust till the L&R mains are at 75dB SPL.

    Whatever method you use, don't adjust the processors/receiver's main volume control manually during the rest of the speaker calibration process once you get the L&R mains correctly set.
     

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