all in 1 vs power amp + pre amp prcessor


Active Member
This may seem like a really simple question to a lot of you out there but could someone explain why some companies do an all in one box i.e denon AVR 5803 while others like arcam offer the pre amp processor and then the power amp.

Is it purely a power based issue and if so would someone looking for a home cinema solution in a moderate sized room but not huge consider the all in one box soultion for ease.

basically what are the benefits of the 2 boxes.



In cinema terms i dont know that much, but in hifi, some of the big arguements would be the individual power supplies, less induced interference due to the proximity of components, added sure there are many more.



Active Member
but surely both the denon avs 1sr and arcam FMJ av8 and FMJ P7 are all aimed at home cinema.
Does this therefore mean that the arcam sytem would/should give a purer ? sound with less interference.

Not trying to sound rude but I've only got a sony 930 at present and with this coupled with my fmj 27 I don't get any interference at all.

Both the denon and the arcam offer discrete 6.1 , both thx , both D Pro II and both offer having a 5.1 system and also running 2 separate speakers elsewhere. So on paper and i admit to a relative novice they seem rather equal. (don't shoot me john dawson, I bought your dvd player).
Maybe i've over simplified things, but would love if anyone could explain this in words less than 3 sylables and bearing in mind i don't have a masters in audio engineering



Well-known Member
You are correct in assuming that the pre/power solution should be the better option, offering a "purer" sound. The relatively delicate pre-amp circuitry is located in a separate box away from the (at this level) massive power transformer. Additionally, the use of separate boxes allows a more focussed approach allowing easy upgrades and better design. Tag’s AV32 processor and Rotel Poweramps are good comparatively cheap examples.
The idea of a single box offering performance equal to pre/power solutions is a good one. Unfortunately one box solutions are a compromise. Shoe-horning a big poweramp and a delicate preamp into the same box require corners to be cut. I remember listening to an A1SE (£2500) a friend had on home dem. Out of interest I took along my poweramp (a Rotel 1075 £750) and helped hook it up. The difference was obvious; with the poweramp, the sound was sharper and a lot more dynamic. Clearly, though the paper specs of the A1SE indicate a more capable amp, the Rotel was superior. This is because Rotel didn’t have to worry about anything other than the poweramp.
I am not saying that the A1SE’s or AX10’s of the world are bad, rather they offer less sonic and material value for money compared to pre/power combos.


Yummy Fur

There is no doubt that Pre/Powers offer superior performance for all reasons stated above. As to value for money, that's probably where the all in ones score. As you 'move up the ladder' the law of diminishing returns apply... I think that you can only decide for yourself, by listening to all in ones and 'seperates' and deciding for yourself if the premium price is worth it. If your budget is limited, then maybe a good course of action would be to purchase an all in one that had as many pre-outs as possible. Then adding additional power amplification as and when funds permit. Finally you could then replace the all in one with a processor working the outboard amplification. The other thing of course, is that you'll probably become more critical of the components as your listening experience increases, so that what may have initially seemed like an unnecessary expense then becomes an essential upgrade;) .....

Yummy Fur


Active Member
to all for giving me their insight into this , I think that perhaps I'll start investigating the 2 box solution as my ears are starting to get quite critical.

I realise that I could pay silly telephone figures i.e. the arcam is i believe about 5.5K.

So bearing that in mind , where I was looking at around 2000 for an all in one box particularly the denon range , can anyone recommened anything that is comparable price wise that would be good for predominantly movies and offer 7.1, D pro II but also be able to play stereo excellently. as a pre amp / power amp 2 box solution. or maybe at this price range the denon would sound better.


you could get a 2nd hand lexicon dc and match it with a rotel 1075. That should be a killer combo!



Active Member
I was under the impression that the rotel only offered 5 channel output , which doesn't suit my purposes
As for the lexicon model this doesn't offer dolby pro II , both of which I stipulated in previous messages


Distinguished Member

There are various potential advantages to having things in two boxes - not having to have such a gargantuan power supply for it all, keeping large power-amp currents as far away as possible from small processor currents, and so on. It can also make the system easier to upgrade, although that's less significant than you might think as most one-box solutions can either output at the pre-amp level (for an external power amp) or take input at the pre-amp level (from a separate processor).

How much all this matters in practice is going to vary from one product to another. For practical purposes, though, separate processor and amp represent the next step up in price and quality from the higher-end all-in-one products. In my view you can arrange products in price/quality steps like this:

All-in-one speakers/amp/processor system (e.g. Acoustic Energy Aego P5)

Cheap one-box (e.g. Marantaz 4200)

Medium one-box (e.g. Denon 3802, Arcam AVR200, Sony VA555)

Higher-end one-box (e.g. Denon A11SR)

Luxury one-box (Denon A1SR, Pioneer AX10)

Separates: (e.g. Arcam, Tag-McLaren, Bryston, Meridian 500 series etc.)

Ultra high-end (e.g. Lexicon MC-12, Meridian 800 series, Theta)

At each step there's a substantial jump in price and (hopefully) an appreciable jump in quality, although how much of a jump is highly subjective.

What you need to do is decide how much you want to spend, then see if you can draw up a shortlist and audition them. If your target for processor and amp is £3000 or less than you'll probably end up going down the all-in-one route. If you're planning to spend upwards of £5000 then you'll probably go the separates route. One final advantage of the latter is that you can mix and match brands. Tag McLaren, for example, make a good processor, but their power amp is less impresive. Having them in separate boxes means there's no reason why you can't use a Tag processor with (say) an Arcam P7 power amp.

If you're looking to spend around £2000 then you could go down to a Denon AVC-A11SR (which can be got for £1260) or you could go up to either a Denon AVC-A1SR or Pioneer VSA-AX10 (both which you can get on the 'Net for around £2300). Whether going high rather than low is worth it will depend on your ears, your budget, and the quality of speakers you propose to hook up to it. Both the Denon and Pioneer boxes are good value IMO.

If you decide to go the separates route, and if you absolutely definitely need 7.1, then processors worth listening to are Arcam AV8, Meridian 568.2, Tag McLaren AV32R and maybe Bryston SP1.7. (There are some others at that price range, but they're limited to 5 channels). On the power amp side there's really only the Arcam P7 if you insist on 7 channels all in the same box. There are lots of very good 5 channel amps, though, and of course one can always add a separate stereo power amp later for the other two channels. Good 5-channel amps: Parasound HC2205, Bryston 9B, Meridian 558.2.


Active Member
nicholas, thank you for that summation it has certainly helped me understand greater. But i feel has left me with a lot of reading up and demo -ing to do

much appreciated.... i think.... maybe ignorance is bliss afterall

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