Let's Talk About Amplifiers

ManW_TheUncool

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My wife joked that I'm now probably gonna use the few Ks (per year) saved from ending our 13-yo's voice (music) lessons on HT gear instead, LOL :lol: -- she actually still has (more expensive) Suzuki violin lessons and classes going for her music ed (along w/ a complimentary, teen voice ensemble class). :blush:

Yeah, having kids, especially in a high cost city like NYC, gets very expensive fast, LOL... :rolleyes:

_Man_
 
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Thanks all for input. I considered D-Sonic but seven channel is just more than I want to spend and B-stock is very limited.

So now Im back to Emotiva. $2k budget keeps me going back and forth between a 7 channel with 7 high powered modules or 3 high powered modules and 4 stereo modules for 11 channels. Former allows driving all the Signatures properly but I would have to retain the XPA-5 Gen 1 for Atmos duty, in my case four ceiling channels. Sadly the Anthem 720 will only drive a pair of Atmos channels so using the AVR for Atmos is out. The later option allows me to run just one 11 channel amp and free up some badly needed space in my component rack, which seriously appeals to me. However Shane's review on youtube gives me pause, Ive found his reviews to be spot-on. He clearly heard a difference between the stereo and high powered modules (albeit full range, I cross at 80) when he tested the 11 channel and I want my lower 7 to be as seamless as possible. Good Lord, First World problems!

Thoughts so far? Would you go 7 channel matched lowers with a Gen1 backup for Atmos or 11 channel with mismatched on 4 out of 7 lower channels? Im leaning 7 channel but opinons?
 
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JohnRice

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Here's what I would lean toward to stay in the budget, but get the most where it's needed. A Gen 3 XPA-3 for the front, keep the XPA-5 for surrounds and an A-500 for Atmos. You'll have a couple spare channels, but that's no big deal. An option for a bit more is two A-300s instead of the A-500 for Atmos. That's just what I'd tend to go for. An XPA-DR3 would blow your entire budget on the front, but it's an awesome amp. I doubt you would regret it. You could go with that and the XPA-5 that you have, then expand into Atmos later.
 

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Great suggestion John, and its tempting. If I had the room I would happily spring for 350 watts up front and add a third amp but alas my component stack says, 'no room dude.' That being said I think 65 watts on 8 channels from the XPA-11 would be a step backwards for me. No, I think the goal should be 200 watts X 11 or its not worth spending the cash on this upgrade. Sadly I still end up with two amps but for 11 channels of solid amplification I dont see a better solution. If I had sprung for the Anthem 1120 I could use the AVR for just 4 channel Atmos but Im stuck with all or nothing if I want consistant power for lower channels within my budget, space in the rack and current processor that will only drive two Atmos channels.
 

JohnRice

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Great suggestion John, and its tempting. If I had the room I would happily spring for 350 watts up front and add a third amp but alas my component stack says, 'no room dude.' That being said I think 65 watts on 8 channels from the XPA-11 would be a step backwards for me. No, I think the goal should be 200 watts X 11 or its not worth spending the cash on this upgrade. Sadly I still end up with two amps but for 11 channels of solid amplification I dont see a better solution. If I had sprung for the Anthem 1120 I could use the AVR for just 4 channel Atmos but Im stuck with all or nothing if I want consistant power for lower channels within my budget, space in the rack and current processor that will only drive two Atmos channels.
Yeah, I get you. Just keep in mind, you need less power on the surrounds and even less on the Atmos channels. They are frequency limited, especially Atmos, and removing low frequencies reduces the power required by a substantial amount. You want the most power to the front three channels, and don't sacrifice that in order to get more power where it won't have much if any benefit.
 

JohnRice

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...but OK, of the options you are leaning toward, an XPA-7 Gen 3 along with the XPA-5 Gen 1 for Atmos is a solid choice.
 

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XPA-7 on order, $1800 shipped after veteran discount. If I can get $300 for the UPA-700 that makes this a $1500 upgrade. Emotiva may not be the last word in performance but for value theyre hard to beat. Thanks again for the input guys.
 

Amerkin

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Since I’ve been on here, I haven’t heard comments concerning NAD electronics. I heard a M27 series 2 multi-ch amp in a very good system recently (big McIntosh pre pro, and front amp, B&W 802,804,805s and Atmos speaks, JL Audio dual 13 subs, a 7.2.4 configuration). The NAD held up quite nicely in a very expensive and demanding system. Opinions on NAD? I had an early 3020 back in the day of my first stepping into audio with better sound than mid-fi. It looks like they’ve moved up substantially in the audio world, but still very good value for $ spent.
 

JohnRice

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XPA-7 on order, $1800 shipped after veteran discount. If I can get $300 for the UPA-700 that makes this a $1500 upgrade. Emotiva may not be the last word in performance but for value theyre hard to beat. Thanks again for the input guys.
I'm telling you, don't sell this latest generation of Emotiva amps short for performance. They have shifted their priorities. They actually don't have the save "value" as they used to. The first amp I bought of theirs, a Gen 1 XPA-5 cost me $680, so the value was great. It's a nice, powerful amp, which I consider to be "budget good" but not anything particularly special sonically. The XPA-DR2 I got a few months ago is the best sounding amp I've ever connected to my Thiels. I've had those for almost 30 years and powered them with a variety of stuff, ranging from pure Class A, to the workhorse Adcom 555II, a high bias A/B Aragon 4004 mkII and now the DR2. The DR2 has them all beat. The pure Class A Threshold might have had a little silkier sound, but it completely lacked the impact of the DR2. I suspect that is the damping factor Dave talks about. Class A amps are silky, but their damping sucks.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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John, are you Jrr over in Steve Hoffman's forum?

I just decided to check into the Thiel CS3.6 some more, especially in comparison to Vandy 3A Sig, and found an old-ish thread in that forum focused on amplification for those speakers.

That Jrr poster is also from Colorado Springs and had been driving his old Thiels w/ an old Adcom 500 series amp at some point. He joined that thread towards its end a couple years ago and had not settled on anything new. At first, I assumed he wasn't you because he made no mentions of Emotiva gear, and I had forgotten you had an old Adcom amp before.

Anyhoo, there was an interesting, old article about amplification (especially re: solid state vs tube) linked early on in that thread that might be worth checking here:


BTW, John, are you familiar w/ the used dealer The Music Room out in Erie, CO? They seem to be highly rated as an online dealer. I'm looking at possibly buying used speakers from them... since they apparently currently have used, excellent condition pairs of both Thiel CS3.6 and Vandy 3A Sigs... and they ship for -$300. The used Vandies are priced higher, but still ~$1K less than brand new Vandy 2Ce Sig III, so I'm seriously considering either of them. The price diff could probably go toward getting an XPA-DR2, if I go w/ the Thiels, haha. Wish I could just get both, compare for myself and maybe sell off whichever I don't keep, but that doesn't seem so feasible -- I don't even know if I can set them both up (properly) in the same space w/ associated gear for good, proper comparison... and then, still have to deal w/ the hassle of reselling such beasts... :oops::lol:

The Vandies would definitely be the safe-ish way for me to go, especially since I'm upgrading from old 2Ci's. But I really would like to give those Thiel CS3.6 a try... except that old thread in Steve Hoffman's forum scares me a bit... although it sounds like you're finding the XPA-DR2 to be a great match now, which probably simplifies that a lot, so...

IF only my wife would allow me to have both, LOL... maybe the Vandies for the HT and Thiels for the livingroom perhaps (w/ all the existing HT gear vacated and simplified just for stereo music playback in the latter)... :lol:

_Man_
 

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Yeah, I get you. Just keep in mind, you need less power on the surrounds and even less on the Atmos channels. They are frequency limited, especially Atmos, and removing low frequencies reduces the power required by a substantial amount. You want the most power to the front three channels, and don't sacrifice that in order to get more power where it won't have much if any benefit.
Its interesting you mentioned this. Two reviews on youtube, Shane on his sparechange channel and Channa De on his technodad channel both make a pretty big deal out of the disparity of using the lesser wattage stereo modules even for the 'frequency limited' surrounds and atmos channels. These reviews were for the XPA-11 and XPA-9 respectively and both reviewers mention the same disconnect between the high power and stereo modules, even though both amps were front stage high power module and stereo module surround/Atmos seperated.

While what you say may very well be true I do think theres a limit to the disparity you want between channel wattage, even when youre talking lesser used and frequency limited channels like Atmos and surround. Personally I think an 11 channel amp is a bridge too far, unless ALL channels are dropped to a very low 65 watts and thats all youre needing for wattage. While technically mixing and matching wattages according to the assigned duties of the channel is acceptable it sounds like it has a direct affect on performance and cohesion of the system (at least when it comes to mixing and matching the HP and stereo modules offered by Emotiva in their Gen3 line).
 

John Dirk

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Personally I think an 11 channel amp is a bridge too far, unless ALL channels are dropped to a very low 65 watts and thats all youre needing for wattage.
i agree but for a different reason. A single amp creates a single point of failure. My Outlaw 7140 has been in repair hell for over a month now but, fortunately, it only powers my rear stage and Atmos channels. In my case I was able to sub in an old Onkyo receiver I had laying around but even if I hadn't had a backup, I would still have my fronts and center going while waiting for the return of the amp. i also can't imagine what it would cost to ship an 11 channel amp.
 
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JohnRice

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Its interesting you mentioned this. Two reviews on youtube, Shane on his sparechange channel and Channa De on his technodad channel both make a pretty big deal out of the disparity of using the lesser wattage stereo modules even for the 'frequency limited' surrounds and atmos channels.
Well, that's a big difference. The regular modules are 300 WPC and the stereo ones are 65WPC. Surround and especially Atmos don't require as much power, but that's a pretty big discrepancy between the two. Plus, I don't know what kind of difference (if any) there is in the input stage, which is extremely critical to the sound. My point is that the front channels are most important, when making budgetary decisions. Up until Atmos, I had at least 300 WPC in all the channels, with 500 to the L&R. Now it's 800 to the L&R, but I'm certainly not going to spend to get 800 all the way around. I'm not going to settle for 65 either. Ultimately, if I do what I'm planning, it'll be 800-1,000 across the front, 300 or more to the surrounds and 150-200 for the Atmos. I think that'll be sufficient. ;)
 

JohnRice

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The Vandies would definitely be the safe-ish way for me to go, especially since I'm upgrading from old 2Ci's. But I really would like to give those Thiel CS3.6 a try... except that old thread in Steve Hoffman's forum scares me a bit... although it sounds like you're finding the XPA-DR2 to be a great match now, which probably simplifies that a lot, so...
You might have noticed, I talk about the Thiels, but I never recommend anyone gets a pair. I'm sure what scared you in that thread is comments about how unforgiving they are. And they are. On one hand, they sound better with the XPA-DR2 than anything I've ver powered them with, but they're still pretty unforgiving. Play a perfect recording with suitable electronics, and they're magical, as long as you have them set up right. Still, as demanding as they are, I've had them for nearly 30 years.

BTW, having said that, I think a new era is probably coming. Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if I finally moved on to something new. I've lived with them a long time, and as gratifying as they've been, I think it's just going to be time for something new.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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You might have noticed, I talk about the Thiels, but I never recommend anyone gets a pair. I'm sure what scared you in that thread is comments about how unforgiving they are. And they are. On one hand, they sound better with the XPA-DR2 than anything I've ver powered them with, but they're still pretty unforgiving. Play a perfect recording with suitable electronics, and they're magical, as long as you have them set up right. Still, as demanding as they are, I've had them for nearly 30 years.
That plus some of the more experienced posters over there suggested they probably need to be driven by quality tube amps (outside of maybe very few exceptions like $$$Mark Levinsons$$$) to sound their best (or even all that good)... and I really don't wanna go in that direction. But that thread was also over 3 years old... before the XPA-DR2 came along, so...

Hmmm... maybe I should convince my new neighbors to get the Thiel CS3.6 (and matching electronics) while I settle for the Vandies, haha, so I can drop by every now and then to enjoy something different, heh... :lol: He's some kinda musician, and they've been (gut) renovating their house, which is symmetrically identical (and attached) to ours, apparently partly to soundproof(?) it -- and they're planning a dedicated HT room as well... probably in the same part of the house as we're planning...

BTW, having said that, I think a new era is probably coming. Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if I finally moved on to something new. I've lived with them a long time, and as gratifying as they've been, I think it's just going to be time for something new.
Hmmm... have you already some ideas of what you'd consider? Quad ESLs? :D I came across a pair late last year at some relatives' new in-laws' house out in San Diego -- was there for the wedding -- but didn't get a chance to listen to them. Think I was probably the only wedding guest who recognized what they were, hehheh...

_Man_
 
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Amerkin

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You might have noticed, I talk about the Thiels, but I never recommend anyone gets a pair. I'm sure what scared you in that thread is comments about how unforgiving they are. And they are. On one hand, they sound better with the XPA-DR2 than anything I've ver powered them with, but they're still pretty unforgiving. Play a perfect recording with suitable electronics, and they're magical, as long as you have them set up right. Still, as demanding as they are, I've had them for nearly 30 years.

BTW, having said that, I think a new era is probably coming. Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if I finally moved on to something new. I've lived with them a long time, and as gratifying as they've been, I think it's just going to be time for something new.
The audiophile’s conundrum: finding recordings that as you say “knocks your socks off“ when played on your system. But that sound ruins you to hear anything less, having heard what we consider to be “The Holy Grail”. But the down side is an ever decreasing really good sounding music collection to play on the ever increasing pursuit of the nirvana system. My wife, who likes to hear good music and sound (she engineers live sound for bands) would remind me of this situation every time I’d change the system to something “better”. Finally, after facing that reality, I parked the hi-end hi-fi and entered the world of more forgiving home theatre audio. I’ve seen that realm continually improve in sound reproduction in the last 16 years to where I’m planning on a fairly large move up with a new theatre and components. One thing that I am adamant on is that the sound will be pleasing and easy on the ears. I’ll sacrifice unforgiving (or retrieval of the last bit of detail) for the ability to listen to a much larger list of material. For clarity, (no pun intended) I’m not talking about getting back into mid-fi equipment where most recordings sound similar and nothing close to the real thing. I still want to go fairly close to “being there”, but just with many more artist.
 

JohnRice

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The audiophile’s conundrum: finding recordings that as you say “knocks your socks off“ when played on your system. But that sound ruins you to hear anything less, having heard what we consider to be “The Holy Grail”. But the down side is an ever decreasing really good sounding music collection to play on the ever increasing pursuit of the nirvana system. My wife, who likes to hear good music and sound (she engineers live sound for bands) would remind me of this situation every time I’d change the system to something “better”. Finally, after facing that reality, I parked the hi-end hi-fi and entered the world of more forgiving home theatre audio. I’ve seen that realm continually improve in sound reproduction in the last 16 years to where I’m planning on a fairly large move up with a new theatre and components. One thing that I am adamant on is that the sound will be pleasing and easy on the ears. I’ll sacrifice unforgiving (or retrieval of the last bit of detail) for the ability to listen to a much larger list of material. For clarity, (no pun intended) I’m not talking about getting back into mid-fi equipment where most recordings sound similar and nothing close to the real thing. I still want to go fairly close to “being there”, but just with many more artist.
Yeah, I get you, though I disagree there is an "an ever decreasing really good sounding music collection" because a great recording remains great.

The thing is, I've had these speakers for almost 30 years. It's safe to say, I'm quite happy with them. Yes, I've been on a quest to make them even better, but how many people can say they've had and been happy with their speakers for 30 years? It's just that after all these years, it might finally be the time when I can actually improve on them. And I think maybe I'm finally ready for something new.
 
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Amerkin

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Very true on the 30 year ownership, and congrats on that. I’ve had Vandersteen 2, 2B and now 2Ce Sig II (I think) since the inception of the speaker.
About the recordings comment, agree, but my experience was that many recordings that weren’t great but acceptable to listen to, became unacceptable as the system increased its resolving capability, resulting in the phenomenon I mentioned. Typically, it was a elevated upper mid-range and very compressed sound, but many times just a lack of dimensionality or sense of recording space from an over produced recording. Once you “hear” the space a performance took place in, it’s hard to go back. BTW, the Vandersteens did a good job of sound reproduction, but my reference system was custom hand built equipment and speakers by Hovland Company out of Los Angeles. There stuff was truly a revelation in audio reproduction. Unfortunately, they are no longer in business.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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... in search of The Absolute Sound... or experiencing, embracing and living the love (and journey) of the music itself...?

_Man_
 

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