Which Part of Receiver Makes the Most Audible Difference: pre/pro section, or amp?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Arthur S, May 27, 2005.

  1. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

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    Some people buy a receiver and then buy separate amps to use instead of the amps in the receiver. How do those people know how the receiver will sound not using its built in amps? Does anyone audition a receiver using outboard amps before buying?

    Seems like making receiver recommendations when using outboard amps is a stretch.
     
  2. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    If using a digital connection, the DACs in the receiver can have a big impact, regardless of internal or external amps. If using analog, the source's DACs will make the difference and the receiver will be less of a factor. Amps pretty much just amplify, though they do add some sonic signature to the mix, the pre section is a bigger part of the sound than the amps. With most external amps, the sound will still be mostly determined by what is being fed to them by the receiver.
     
  3. John S

    John S Producer

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    Tough questions these days when thought about...

    On the pre/pro side, AVR's offer amazing pre/pro sections these days per dollar spent, some even down into the $300-ish dolar range. Really quality amplifier sections and the power supplies to feed them, still seem to cost way more money to produce in general.
     
  4. Mike Keith

    Mike Keith Second Unit

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    In my experience it's totally one sided toward the Processor, Amps seem to make very little difference in my Active system. However Amps will make more of a difference with passively coupled speakers.
     
  5. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello,

    I am no expert, but I can share my own experiences.
    I have a H/K AVR430 receiver (connected to Mordaunt-Short Avant 908 fronts and 906 surrounds) which I use for both music and movies. Even if I watch lots of movies, music sound quality has always been my priority, especially multichannel SACDs and DVD-As (I use a Marantz DV6400 player). CDs are decoded by my Marantz SA8400 player and played on the AVR via an analog input.
    Assuming that my AVR430 has a good enough processor section which (just an assumption, never cared too much to actually compare it with separates), I tried to improve my CD/SACD/DVD-A playback by adding two H/K PA2000 power amps on both my fronts and surrounds. The result was nothing short of spectacular, everything sounds better with better soundstages and definition, there is much more 'air' in between the instruments.
    Improvement was also huge on movie soundtracks with lots of symphonic music (like LOTR or Gladiator). The only problem with movies was that (since the center was still powered by the AVR) the voices were a little bit 'laid back' in comparison with the other channels. So I've added a Marantz MA6100 monoblock to power my center speaker and everything is fixed, the voices sound supersweet on movies.

    Have Fun!
     
  6. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    That would tend to suggest the 430 did not have enough power to drive those speakers.

    Why all the Marantz & Mordaunt Short, then an H/K receiver? Marantz and Mordaunt Short match up great. Nice speakers [​IMG] I have 902s fed by a Marantz PM7000 in my bedroom setup.
     
  7. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, it's actually the Marantz monoblock which is the exception... I don't particularly like Marantz amplifiers because they sound a bit 'soft' and warm with movies. I like the H/K amplifiers a lot because they are punchier and have a neutral sound. In this case I took a Marantz monoblock for my center speaker because I don't really need extra punch for this channel (and H/K does not make any mono power amps ... [​IMG] )
    On the other hand, I buy all my CD/SACD/DVD-A players from Marantz because I like warmer vinyl-like sound with my music.
    So my combination is: Marantz players, H/K amps and receiver and Mordaunt-Short speakers and it works quite fine for me.

    I think the AVR430 was a bit underpowered also because it had to push 4 floorstanders at the same time (which really is hard work for multichannel music). By using two 2-channel PA2000s, this load got better distributed and it's also important to mention that a PA2000 gives 100W per channel instead of the AVR430's 65W (H/K watts, of course [​IMG] ).
     
  8. Daniel-S

    Daniel-S Auditioning

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    Another vote for pre/amp section....amps do sound different but more drastic sound changes are likely in the preamp sections....
     
  9. Jake S

    Jake S Stunt Coordinator

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    Processing quality yes, pre-amp quality dubious.
    The digital sections are quite impressive but the analog quality, design and signal path are not up to stand-alone standards and the last sound that comes out of the pre-amp section of a receiver is what the seperate amp has to work with. Many argue that there is little differance between solid state amps of comporable specs, but feeding those amps differant sounds will produce differant results. YMMV,IMHO, Yada-Yada-Yada.
     
  10. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I don't think John S was trying to say that the pre/pro sections in receivers are as good as separate a separate pre/pro, just that they are pretty decent these days. I don't think there's any question that most receivers cannot give the same sound quality as a dedicated pre/pro can.
     
  11. Jake S

    Jake S Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't think so either, but many disagree with the notion that a dedicated pre-pro is better than a receiver used as such
     
  12. Steve_D

    Steve_D Second Unit

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    Imho, all of the above. Each step will make a large and noticable difference. By "step" I mean the typical upgrade path of receiver, power amp using the receiver as a pre/pro, full separates.

    If you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose, I would pick separate amplification.
     
  13. Levesque

    Levesque Supporting Actor

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    My vote is for the room acoustics first. [​IMG] Then the speakers, and really far far away in my book are the pre/amp and the amp...

    Some new receivers are really good today, and can easily go head-to-head (and sometimes be better...) then the best pre/pro out there. But I decided to go separate so I could choose the power I need and want. Good luck finding a receiver that could match my 7X325W of amplification on 3 dedicated circuits with 3 power cords...
     
  14. Jake S

    Jake S Stunt Coordinator

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    try doing blind A/B comparisons between a dedicated pre-pro vs a receiver, used as one, into the same seperate amps.
     

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