Will an external amp make my music sound better?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Yousaf, Apr 10, 2003.

  1. Yousaf

    Yousaf Second Unit

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    I have a Harman Kardon AVR 320, rated at 55 watts/channel. HK is good with it's ratings and it does put out at least that much. Not too long ago, I upgraded to a pair of GR-Research A/V-1s, and I'm beginning to wonder if I should perhaps spend a bit more money on the amp side now (don't want an unbalanced system). I have a pretty limited budget, and I really have it narrowed down to 4 models: Rotel RB985 MKII, B&K AV5000 II, Parasound 855a, and the Carver AV-705X.

    My speakers were designed with tubes in mind, and so they are probably best matched with a warmer amp. I am particularly interested in the B&K and Parasound, though the Parasound is cheaper which is why I am leaning towards it (even though I'm sure the B&K provides a better sound). Anyway...

    Given that the Parasound is rated at 85 watts/channel, and my H/K is 55 watts, will I notice a difference in sound QUALITY (instruments sound more "real", better soundstaging, etc.)? I mean, I wouldn't mind the watts but that is probably giving me less than 2 dB there. The GR-Researches sound great, but I'm just wondering if they could sound better. I would really only upgrade if I will notice a definite difference is sound quality and not just at loud volumes. Is it worth it?
     
  2. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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    There are a couple people out here on this forum that use HK with a parasound 855a and said they noticed improvement.
    I am looking at the same amp for my Pioneer 811.
     
  3. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    that's a pretty nominal difference in power and while there may be a potentially slight benefit assuming all the companies are accurately reporting their power, i'd consider saving my money and augmenting it to find something perhaps around 200/channel. given that particular speaker, i can't see why any of the above amps would be sonically superior to another.
    i trust you're not looking to fill a very large room with substantial volumes using these speakers.
     
  4. Charles Gurganus

    Charles Gurganus Supporting Actor

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    Yousaf, if your speakers are biampable I'd get something like the AV5000 or the Parasound RB985. If they are not, I'd look at something like the B&K ST3140, which is a 3 channel 140 wpc amp. I just saw one at audiogon for $600, which is about what you may pay for one of the lower wpc 5 channel amps.
     
  5. Paul Clarke

    Paul Clarke Supporting Actor

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    Yousaf,

    I agree with the previous posts and would add that much of any improvement will depend on your speakers. I am one of those Chad referred to and run a 510/855 combo using 4 of the amp channels to bi-amp my 125W, 6 Ohm mains. Although the stated power is even closer between these two than in your projected scenario, the differential can still be appreciated.

    Speakers which like power...especially those with greater transparency...are simply happier and reveal more of their characteristics when driven appropriately. While H/Ks are generally stable to 4 Ohms, separate amping removes any lingering concerns and helps to provide greater flexibility as regards future equipment upgrades.
     
  6. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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    Yousaf,
    You might not gain much in DB's but you should gain in clarity and depth. Someone else emailed about the 855a and have it hooked up to a HK and gave it a 6-8 improvement vs the onboard.
     
  7. Yousaf

    Yousaf Second Unit

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    Well thanks guys. I wanted to do this because there was a guy on ebay selling an 855a for $360 shipped (with Buy it Now). I hesitated for a night, and someone else bought it [​IMG] Oh well, I guess I'll just keep saving for the better ones...
     
  8. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    Yousaf,

    A real amplifier will sound better than a receiver, but not so much better that it would blow you away. The difference I found in moving to a better amplifier was the sound became somewhat more clear and dynamic ("live" sounding), and also more pleasant to the ears (less harshness). It's not as big of a difference as new speakers, but it's something you'll appreciate and it's (IMO) worth the money spending a few hundred bucks to replace your HK. And 50-100 watts is fine. The difference is not in maximum power; 100 watts is probably enough to damage your speakers, especially if you are running them full range.
     
  9. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    well the harshness sounds to me like some degree of clipping. to my mind, it's just that a gain of 30 watts in Yousaf's particular case is pretty trivial and while I appreciate his desire to improve matters, I think long term satisfaction will come from saving more money and buying a more robust amp which will provide tangible benefits in the way of both sustained power capabilities as well as dynamic capabilities.
     
  10. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    I found that my old amp (in the same class as a decent receiver) sounded somewhat harsh even well before clipping... maybe 5-10 watts (90-95db) peak. I have 87db/4ohm speakers and, for example, my new 15-watt amp sounds less harsh. Yousaf's speakers are an easier load at 88db/8ohm if I recall correctly, so clipping should not be an issue (100w should be good for 105db) unless the amplifier has a really weak power supply. And if he wants to play really loud (to the point of clipping a 100 watt amplifier), the speakers are probably the limiting factor since they use a single 5.25" midwoofer. The stated power rating of the A/V-1 is 100W RMS which is a reasonable guide for amplifier peak power, but 100 watts continuous would probably destroy that speaker.

    You make a good point about big powerful amps having better dynamics. I've experienced this effect, but I wonder what really causes an amplifier to have good dynamics - is it possible for a smaller amp to sound just as lively and powerful as long as you don't clip it? I haven't yet found an answer to that one...
     
  11. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    well if you're going to stay within the performance critera of the amps, i'd think the average sound pressures would be lower with a less powerful amp. bigger let's you play louder and cleaner (within it's rated distortion) which really isn't much of a mystery.
     

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