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Let's Talk About Amplifiers (2 Viewers)

aard

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I know what you mean by 'airy'. All of my other amps that I have owned sounded a bit dead after I found my first A370. Havnt felt the need to ever change from them. But yes, they did suffer from heat too and hence the rebuild(s). Probably way behind the current technology these days.
 

John Dirk

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Class A/B amps ...

I started out like many as a stereo person so after many amps ended up with one that I was happy with. It was an 185W Class A/B design by Tim de Paravicini. I managed to get a hold of a second one and was blown away when bi-amping. So moving on, I eventually decided to go Home Theatre, so decided to just get a 3rd and a few more speakers. So I now have 3x Class A(B) big solid state amps.

I love the headroom that they have. They effortlessly go and go and go. Great slam and very revealing. And that is also part of their downside. Unless it is playing something quite modern and well made then it doesnt sound very good. But then when I listened to a friends AV receiver set up I was happy to go back home and switch mine on. I cant use it for every day easy listening. I have to manually switch (all 3) on before listening, let them warm up for an hour and then switch them all off again after my session ends, so not the easiest to live with. They use gallons of electricity and fill a small room with heat.

Not easy to go to 7.1 as would need to find another power amp.

If you want an easy life then I would suggest a good AV Receiver that you like the sound of. If you like to play then go the separates route.

Oh, and why do AV Processors cost way more than AV receivers? Separates cost a lot.

Your experience is interesting but I don't think it paints a clear picture of A/V receivers vs Separates so I thought I'd chime in.

  • Modern amps generally have 12V triggers that can automatically power them on/off when a signal is received from other compatible components in your system, such as a Pre/Pro.
  • Sound preference and quality is too subjective to argue so I'll just say, my class A/B amps [Acuras A200x3, Outlaw 7140] sound pretty awesome to my ears, depending on the source material of course. They are hands down better than any A/V receiver I've owned and I have owned many over the years. One of these days I would love to get into either a class H or D design but for now I'm OK with what I have. You can't blame an amp for not sounding good with poor source material.
  • I have no idea why a solid state amp would require a warm-up period. Mine certainly don't. Tubes, yes. Solid state, no.
  • Again, a good, modern class A/B amp should not run terribly hot unless it is being pushed too hard. I use A/C Infinity Aircom T8's for mine but, even without them engaged, I've never experienced overheating.
Separates cost more up front but a good amp can last a lifetime whereas A/V receivers need to be upgraded to keep up with the latest standards of the day and also present a compromise in sound quality as their power ratings are usually only spec'd for 2 channels driven. In a 5.1 or 7.1 configuration they will provide significantly less power per channel and likely begin to run quite hot when pushed too hard.

For smaller rooms and less demanding listeners, A/V receivers are fine and there are a few out there that can adequately power larger rooms in 5.1 or 7.1 configurations but the cost of those will likely begin to approach the price of separates anyway
and when they eventually fail you'll have to absorb that entire cost again.

There are good arguments for both approaches and my intent is not to suggest a one size fits all solution here. Just adding some context.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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Your experience is interesting but I don't think it paints a clear picture of A/V receivers vs Separates so I thought I'd chime in.

  • Modern amps generally have 12V triggers that can automatically power them on/off when a signal is received from other compatible components in your system, such as a Pre/Pro.
  • Sound preference and quality is too subjective to argue so I'll just say, my class A/B amps [Acuras A200x3, Outlaw 7140] sound pretty awesome to my ears, depending on the source material of course. They are hands down better than any A/V receiver I've owned and I have owned many over the years. One of these days I would love to get into either a class H or D design but for now I'm OK with what I have. You can't blame an amp for not sounding good with poor source material.
  • I have no idea why a solid state amp would require a warm-up period. Mine certainly don't. Tubes, yes. Solid state, no.
  • Again, a good, modern class A/B amp should not run terribly hot unless it is being pushed too hard. I use A/C Infinity Aircom T8's for mine but, even without them engaged, I've never experienced overheating.
Separates cost more up front but a good amp can last a lifetime whereas A/V receivers need to be upgraded to keep up with the latest standards of the day and also present a compromise in sound quality as their power ratings are usually only spec'd for 2 channels driven. In a 5.1 or 7.1 configuration they will provide significantly less power per channel and likely begin to run quite hot when pushed too hard.

For smaller rooms and less demanding listeners, A/V receivers are fine and there are a few out there that can adequately power larger rooms in 5.1 or 7.1 configurations but the cost of those will likely begin to approach the price of separates anyway
and when they eventually fail you'll have to absorb that entire cost again.

There are good arguments for both approaches and my intent is not to suggest a one size fits all solution here. Just adding some context.

RE: AVRs vs separates, there's also the issue of packing more electronics into one confined box increases potential for signal contamination (to put it one way) while further taxing the limited power supply (and alloted $ budget) being shared w/ the amp section.

Not sure what Aaron's driving w/ his amps, but more difficult, (relatively) inefficient loads will increase the (over)heating issue as I'm finding out while doing some homework for my upgrade plans.

I haven't had any such issue driving my aging Vandy 2Ci's w/ my similarly aging B&K AV5000 (shared w/ 2 cheap, bookshelf surrounds), which is moderately high bias class A/B (using mosfet for which B&K was well known) IIRC, but these Vandies aren't difficult at all, if (moderately) inefficient by (some) modern standards.

However, something like the (used) Thiel CS 5i's I'm buying will be a completely diff story. They are apparently even somewhat more difficult than @JohnRice's CS 3.6s, avg-ing maybe just under 3.5 ohms and going down near 1 ohm for the low bass region. Everyone seems to strongly recommend at least 300-400Wpc of high current power (essentially w/ need to roughly double the power vs impedance) for them -- they were originally designed w/ Krell FPB-600 as their ideal target mating amp. That's why I've been somewhat concerned whether the XPA-DR2 will do well enough driving them and might eventually try to go for something like the Parasound JC1s, if not actually a Krell, which I never would've imagined owning (or needing) before buying these Thiels. Of course, I also never thought I'd be buying into this tier of (albeit old) speakers either... until the right opp just happened to present itself now...

Anyhoo...

_Man_
 

Dave Upton

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RE: AVRs vs separates, there's also the issue of packing more electronics into one confined box increases potential for signal contamination (to put it one way) while further taxing the limited power supply (and alloted $ budget) being shared w/ the amp section.

Not sure what Aaron's driving w/ his amps, but more difficult, (relatively) inefficient loads will increase the (over)heating issue as I'm finding out while doing some homework for my upgrade plans.

I haven't had any such issue driving my aging Vandy 2Ci's w/ my similarly aging B&K AV5000 (shared w/ 2 cheap, bookshelf surrounds), which is moderately high bias class A/B (using mosfet for which B&K was well known) IIRC, but these Vandies aren't difficult at all, if (moderately) inefficient by (some) modern standards.

However, something like the (used) Thiel CS 5i's I'm buying will be a completely diff story. They are apparently even somewhat more difficult than @JohnRice's CS 3.6s, avg-ing maybe just under 3.5 ohms and going down near 1 ohm for the low bass region. Everyone seems to strongly recommend at least 300-400Wpc of high current power (essentially w/ need to roughly double the power vs impedance) for them -- they were originally designed w/ Krell FPB-600 as their ideal target mating amp. That's why I've been somewhat concerned whether the XPA-DR2 will do well enough driving them and might eventually try to go for something like the Parasound JC1s, if not actually a Krell, which I never would've imagined owning (or needing) before buying these Thiels. Of course, I also never thought I'd be buying into this tier of (albeit old) speakers either... until the right opp just happened to present itself now...

Anyhoo...

_Man_
A lot of the hardest to drive speakers are best suited to high current class AB designs or class D. I've got a local acquaintance driving some Apogees with a 1500WPC D-Sonic amp that sounds phenomenal, and I think he needs every last watt! :D
 

aard

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Yes, modern amps with triggers to power on ... that would make a huge difference for my situation anyway, as the amps draw a lot of power on idle. Perhaps another conversation if there is some retrofit device available to do this.


I agree that separates can (and do) last a lifetime and so the price per year is lower. But I found that my processor (Onkyo PR-SC5507) was more expensive than their Receivers, and this tech does age quite quickly.
 

aard

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regards heating of amp ... the amps themselves dont actually have overheating issues (well one does a bit but that is a different story), but when they are pooring out 2kW of power continuously with a lot of this as heat, then then the room needs to be big to take this sort of heat load over time. I had the kit in my office (other side of the listening room wall) and it was a room of about 8m2 which was insufficient. I had to open the door and window. Yes, I need a dedicated room with AC etc :)

Even the AV processor chucked out a lot of heat. Couldnt keep the cat off of it.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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Yes, modern amps with triggers to power on ... that would make a huge difference for my situation anyway, as the amps draw a lot of power on idle. Perhaps another conversation if there is some retrofit device available to do this.

I'm supposed to go DIY tubes for headamp to drive my (high impedance) Sennheiser HD600s w/ a Bottlehead Crack OTL kit, but still haven't gotten to building it yet -- been just using my old, entry level-ish Yamaha AVR that seems to do surprisingly well for this... as well as playing prepro when I first upgraded to the BD format. The OTL headamp will probably need some warmup time, which might be very welcome during the winter months, but not the summer, especially w/ my recent-ish AMD Ryzen 7 x3800 PC build (w/ nVidia GPU burning 200W alone) cranking [email protected] next to it. :lol:

I agree that separates can (and do) last a lifetime and so the price per year is lower. But I found that my processor (Onkyo PR-SC5507) was more expensive than their Receivers, and this tech does age quite quickly.

Yeah, that's partly why I've been slow to upgrade the prepro and started out (for BD) w/ just the inexpensive Yamaha AVR that I've never actually used its amp section -- never even tested it. Had a used Rotel prepro before that, and then refurbed Emotiva UMC-200 the last several years... and finally, just picked up a used Anthem AVM-60 to handle 4K and Atmos, etc.

Many have done similarly...

_Man_
 
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aard

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nice. If I do go the Atmos route then it is likely I will do something similar. Thanks for the insights.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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nice. If I do go the Atmos route then it is likely I will do something similar. Thanks for the insights.

For Atmos, you could also consider something like the Anthem MRX-720 AVR and only use the built-in amp section for the Atmos height speakers and/or additional surrounds since those will probably be much less demanding.

That's what one HTF reviewer, @Type A, started doing IIRC. And you could just forgo using the built-in amp section later if you find need perhaps...

And of course, offloading more of the bass to powerful sub(s) will also help a lot (at least for HT even if not so much for stereo music playback).

Options...

_Man_
 

aard

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Does anyone know how the AVR with external amps compares with the same brands Pre/Pro. Are their dacs and better? i.e. where does all that extra money go?
 

ManW_TheUncool

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Does anyone know how the AVR with external amps compares with the same brands Pre/Pro. Are their dacs and better? i.e. where does all that extra money go?

At least w/ the recent Anthem models (other than the new flagship AVM-90), the gut electronics for the prepro section should be essentially the same w/ some diffs in implemented features -- the lowest model (now obsoleted) MRX-520 AVR doesn't actually provide Atmos channels (though it might still benefit from decoding Atmos).

So in theory anyway, they should yield same sound quality if you don't use the amp section... though the MRX-720, which is closest to the AVM-60 (in price), doesn't offer balanced XLR pre-outs, if you want that -- and @Dave Upton seems to think that may matter since the AVM-60 is supposed to be fully differential...

_Man_
 

JohnRice

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Does anyone know how the AVR with external amps compares with the same brands Pre/Pro. Are their dacs and better? i.e. where does all that extra money go?
I don't think there's a single answer to that. Lower end AVRs that have pre-outs tend to have insufficient line level output stages, which can't always sufficiently drive some or any amps. For instance, a Denon 3600 or 3700 is not going to be as good a choice when you want to do a hybrid setup as maybe a Marantz 7015, but the 7015 costs twice as much. At the same time, the 7015 is the same price as the lower model Marantz preamp. I think the processing in both 7xxx units is pretty much the same. With the preamp you get balanced outputs, but I can't really say I know if there are other upgrades. I have both an AV7703 preamp and an SR7012 AVR, and they seem to be pretty much the same quality, even though they cost the same and the preamp obviously has no amps in it.

So, I guess my point really is, if you want an AVR to use as a preamp or a hybrid setup with the internal amps driving part of the system, I'd stay away from the cheapest receiver that have pre outs. Now, sometimes there have been models that only had pre outs for the L&R.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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And then, you have some folks trying to skip the (traditional) prepro altogether and use something like an Oppo 205 as a minimalist prepro hub w/ built-in universal disc player -- it's partly what's driving its nutty-ish pricing on the 2ndary market these days...

I actually briefly considered doing that w/ the Oppo 105 before settling for my Emotiva prepro to go w/ Oppo 103. The Oppo 105 wasn't designed well enough to be used that way for its digital inputs. Presumably, Oppo addressed that (well enough) for the 205... but the 205 doesn't have enough pre-outs for Atmos.

The Oppo X5 series players have been prized partly for their use of Sabre ESS DACs. I picked up a used 95 ~3 years back for dedicated music playback -- and it still costs nearly the same on used market.

_Man_
 

aard

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And then, you have some folks trying to skip the (traditional) prepro altogether and use something like an Oppo 205 as a minimalist prepro hub w/ built-in universal disc player

Just reading the spec and it mentions it can do 7.1 channels, so not really up for a 5.1.4 Atmos set up or am I reading it wrong.
 

JohnRice

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snap. I picked up a Chinese made USB DAC around the same time to try out the Sabre Dac with music.
Honestly, the DAC is only one small part of the factor. The analog output stage is probably more important to actual audio quality. The Sabre has been excelled in most aspects, I think, and it was never really the best for two channel output. It just is or was a very flexible chip for surround with good quality.
 

aard

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100% agree. I watched the video on designing the chip and got a bit hooked on its hype. didnt want to spend crazy money on something that was essentially a hobby side project. It ended up as a bit of a joke, as it came with 1 missing foot and no USB driver for High Resolution audio. I had to borrow one from another manufacturer and it seemed to have some issues. As I waited for windows 10 to incorporate Hi Res Audio USB driver it went into moth ball state. I will pick it up again one of these days as it did sound interesting. Was part of a HTPC / silent PC project that never got finished.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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Honestly, the DAC is only one small part of the factor. The analog output stage is probably more important to actual audio quality. The Sabre has been excelled in most aspects, I think, and it was never really the best for two channel output. It just is or was a very flexible chip for surround with good quality.

True that.

The Oppo X5 series players have been good performers, particularly good value as a Swiss-army-knife sorta front-end at their normal price points. The current 2ndary market for the 205 bumping prices as much as ~3.5x their original certainly seems nutty -- not even talking about whatever modded version that enhance the analog sections, etc.

Still, I'm not hearing anyone on HTF actually putting their 205s on eBay nonetheless. @Dave Upton might be tempted though, haha... I probably would if I have one, and maybe replace it w/ a 105+mods perhaps and put the savings toward something else -- or maybe the Anthem AVM-60's DAC performs well enough to forgo such for stereo playback. Not so keen on spending $$$ on a dedicated DAC separate though -- considered a modest one from PS Audio back in the mid/late-90's when Theta, et al were all the rave, but they always seemed like a mix of voodoo hype + diminishing real returns, especially while raising a young family w/ too little time to relax and listen seriously... :lol:

Besides, no audio (playback) gear setup and recordings will truly rival actual live, well performed music anyway. Can't even beat a pair of inexpensive (under $1K) violins playing some simple, beginner's harmonies by complete amateurs w/in a couple feet away as I found out when I first took up the violin w/ my kids over a decade ago -- I got the most goosebumps and fell in love w/ that. And to my surprise, you really can easily hear the diffs between violins close up no matter how much (or little... as long as properly set up w/ decent strings) they cost... far more so than any audiophile setup AFAIK. I imagine that's a big reason why good musicians, especially acoustic musicians, don't actually fret over this stuff and usually do not own any serious audiophile setups.

_Man_
 

ManW_TheUncool

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BTW, for anyone curious and remotely interested, I definitely do recommend picking up an instrument and get into the music-making side of this. Never too late IMHO... though maybe start w/ something more forgiving and/or better suited to your physicality, related skillset, etc.

A fair number of older adults seem to take up the cello for instance. The viola is also quite forgiving w/ a lovely, rich, often mello, velvety warm -- think hot fudge and molasses like some good Brahms in typically broad/slow tempi -- alto voice (almost like a mini-cello, but an octave higher), if you like the idea of violin, but need something a bit easier (and not potentially ear-piercing) and have long arms, broad shoulders, big hands and/or long fingers -- I have none of those, so it's a bit more challenging. I definitely need to get back to practicing and playing some viola me thinks, but I've been too lazy, haha... and well, my right arm (and hand) also needs to get back in shape...

Been trying to convince my youngest to learn the wonderfully sweet and beautiful Bach Double 2nd movement (alongside my oldest), but she hasn't learned to appreciate and dig into the slow stuff enough yet. She's gradually getting there though... and likes the popular Chopin Nocturne in C# minor (arr Milstein) though that (like the Meditation from Thais) is probably another level or so above where she is now -- she probably needs to at least get beyond the also amazingly beautiful Bach A minor concerto (at least the slow movement) the next level up before trying the Chopin. She probably has just enough of the technical skills to start them, but not quite enough of the feel and musicianship needed yet...

Anyhoo... yeah, definitely consider taking up (or getting back to) an instrument if you haven't already. Probably adds good perspective to this audio (playback) hobby too...

_Man_
 
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ManW_TheUncool

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Wish there were reviews for the Emotiva XPA-DR1 monoblocks. Given what this HiFi News review found about the XPA-DR2's performance into 1 ohm load (of just 255Wpc), starting to think I should probably just go w/ the monoblocks instead...

https://www.hifinews.com/content/emotiva-xsp-1xpa-dr2-prepower-amplifier-lab-report

Tried asking Emotiva about it (and their DR1 model) via their site's CSR chat, but they don't seem much help. This was the somewhat canned response:

Sir,

Our amps are only rated to a 4 ohm minimum.

Plus the Differential Amp of the DR amp HALVES the impedence, so a 1 ohm speaker will be seen as 0.5 ohms.

You will need to look elsewhere if you need to drive that low of a load.

I had explained the speakers' overall load is around ~3.5 ohms avg w/ the low bass reaching down near 1 ohm. And obviously, their amps have to be able to handle below 4 ohms at least temporarily in at least part of the FR spectrum... and the HiFi News review, which I also sent to the CSR, actually found the DR2 performs well down to 2 ohms (providing ~2KW at 1% THD), which apparently works very well for John's Thiel CS3.6s.

Anyway, seems like I should play it safer and go w/ the monoblocks instead... even though they do essentially offer "free" trial (w/out explicitly calling it that)...

And with their current deal of 20% credit back for next purchase, think I might just go w/ an XPA-5 Gen 3 for the center and surrounds -- was originally just going for 5.x.4 setup, but maybe 7.2.4 makes more sense for an ~18x18ft room... though ceilings are just 8ft. IF I ever (unexpectedly) need to downscale in the future, it probably means no more big Thiels... and probably no more need for the DR1 monoblocks (or whatever else I end up using). I imagine the XPA-5 would probably do plenty fine driving something like the Vandy 2Ce Sig 2 or 3 or 3A Sig for the mains in a smaller 5.x.x HT setup -- might not even do Atmos at that point...

IF I do go 7.x.4, will probably just hang 2 small surrounds on walls -- had ordered a pair of ELAC OW4.2s to try -- since one will need to be near/next to a doorway... and use the old Vandy 2Ci's for rear surrounds.

Since the dedicated HT room probably won't be fully ready for a few months and I probably can't set up the Thiels in there til month's end (probably mainly for stereo-only testing and playback), probably gonna push the DR1 amps purchase to the very end of the promo period -- and then use the promo reward credit for the 2nd amp in late March just before they expire.

_Man_
 
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