AVR to integrated Amp via speaker pre-outs and zone 2 out?

ubistonk83

Active Member
Right, apologies if this is a really stupid question.
I've been in the world of Home Cinema for a good few years now, but am starting to look at expanding to include a music set up as well as part of the same system. So I would be upgrading my AVR to something with speaker pre-outs to drive the fronts (probably Denon 3700 or similar) and connecting this to a HT bypass type input on an integrated amp. So far, pretty straight forward. However, I'll probably be getting an integrated amp that doesn't have Bluetooth or streaming capabilities. My question is, can I connect the AVR to the stereo amp again via the Zone 2 RCA out? And then stream music to the AVR as normal, let it pass the signal onto the stereo amp via zone 2? Is this a good way of still being able to get streamed music to the stereo amp, or have I come up with something really stupid? Would I still get the benefit of the better sound quality that the pre amp in the stereo amp should bring, or would that be bypassed and I would only get "AVR quality stereo"
Any advice would be appreciated. What I don't want to do is end up having some kind of separate streamer if the AVR can do the same job.
 

Dobbyisfree

Well-known Member
If using the Zone 2 RCA output from the AVR, then there will be no quality gain over just using the front channel pre-outs but setting it in either stereo or direct.

There is a zone output through HDMI, if you had an integrated amp that could take that input, convert to analogue and then send to its pre amp, that would be different. I don't think that is what you are asking though.

In your case, I would consider either a separate music player to plug into your integrated amp or get an amp with the facility built in. Quite common for AVF members is the Audiolab 6000a Play, which has HT bypass and streaming functions.

Don't forget that anything direct from the integrated amp will lose subwoofers (as they are plugged into the AVR).
 

ubistonk83

Active Member
If using the Zone 2 RCA output from the AVR, then there will be no quality gain over just using the front channel pre-outs but setting it in either stereo or direct.

There is a zone output through HDMI, if you had an integrated amp that could take that input, convert to analogue and then send to its pre amp, that would be different. I don't think that is what you are asking though.

In your case, I would consider either a separate music player to plug into your integrated amp or get an amp with the facility built in. Quite common for AVF members is the Audiolab 6000a Play, which has HT bypass and streaming functions.

Don't forget that anything direct from the integrated amp will lose subwoofers (as they are plugged into the AVR).
Thanks for that, told you it was probably a stupid question.
As a work around, I do stream hi-res audio via my iPhone and I also have a AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC, along with a USB connector cable for the phone. I assume I can just wire this up via the 3.5mm in the DAC to the analogue connections on the stereo amplifier and I wouldn't be losing any quality? Just means I can't change the track etc. from the listening position.
 

Dobbyisfree

Well-known Member
Difficult to comment on whether that will be better or worse.

You'll be using a digital output from the phone, to the Dragonfly. You then reply on the Dragonfly's DACs to convert to Analogue, then it has internal pre-amplification that will send the signal via the 3.5mm output to your integrated amp.

So, will the DAC and preamps in the Dragonfly be better than those in the x3700? I'm not sure really. Possibly not. Especially regarding the analogue side. You'll, I presume have the x3700 assigned in 11.1 mode with the fronts selected for pre-outs? So that is a very clean signal path compared you the example you give.

Does your integrated amp have a digital input and does the Dragonfly have a digital output?
 

ubistonk83

Active Member
Difficult to comment on whether that will be better or worse.

You'll be using a digital output from the phone, to the Dragonfly. You then reply on the Dragonfly's DACs to convert to Analogue, then it has internal pre-amplification that will send the signal via the 3.5mm output to your integrated amp.

So, will the DAC and preamps in the Dragonfly be better than those in the x3700? I'm not sure really. Possibly not. Especially regarding the analogue side. You'll, I presume have the x3700 assigned in 11.1 mode with the fronts selected for pre-outs? So that is a very clean signal path compared you the example you give.

Does your integrated amp have a digital input and does the Dragonfly have a digital output?
Wow, now I'm really confused. Does that mean the DAC would be the only thing influencing the sound quality and the integrated amp would just be acting as a power amp? I thought the integrated amp would still apply it's own pre-amplification to the analogue signal it receives, which is where the better sound quality of a stereo amp is created?

I haven't actually purchased an integrated amp yet but the Dragonfly only has an analogue out, nothing digital.
 

Dobbyisfree

Well-known Member
Yes, it can get a bit complicated.

If your Dragonfly analogue output has a volume control (so is a variable output) you could plug it straight into the AV bypass in (i.e. power amps) - start it at minimum volume! That way the preamp in the Dragonfly would do the job.

If you plug it into any other input on the integrated amp, which you may have to because (a) the Dragonfly may be a fixed (no volume control) output and/or (b) you're already using the AV bypass input for the AVR, then the Dragonfly preamplifies the signal, it is input the integrated amplifiers pre amp circuits before it goes to the power amplifiers.

The preamp in the integrated amp can't "fix" anything or any losses etc from the already analogue signal - e.g. any losses already made in signal to noise ratio.
 

ubistonk83

Active Member
Yes the bypass would be already used by the AVR. The volume output is controlled through the iPhone rather than the DAC. Are you saying that the solution I've suggested would potentially sound worse than just streaming music on my AVR and the integrated amp isn't worth getting with that kind of set up.
Are analogue amps only worth having for playing physical media in that case?
 

Dobbyisfree

Well-known Member
No, I'm not saying that. Many people use an integrated amp with AV bypass on the front channels. The idea behind it being that there are inputs directly to the integrated amp for music.

I'm expressing caution over the output quality from the Dragonfly's analogue output and whether you will hear audible gains over just using the AVR. It would be ideal if you could test it first.

Someone using a higher quality source, e.g. an SACD player, may use it's internal DACs and I wouldn't question the audible quality gain there.

I don't want you to go off and spend money to hear no gain. Another consideration is how much you split music/TV in importance and time. If you can pick up the x4700 for the same money as the extra amp (for example) you could make other gains that may be more important to you.

@Jester1066 may have a good view on this. He has the above mentioned Audiolab setup in AV bypass.
 

ubistonk83

Active Member
No, I'm not saying that. Many people use an integrated amp with AV bypass on the front channels. The idea behind it being that there are inputs directly to the integrated amp for music.

I'm expressing caution over the output quality from the Dragonfly's analogue output and whether you will hear audible gains over just using the AVR. It would be ideal if you could test it first.

Someone using a higher quality source, e.g. an SACD player, may use it's internal DACs and I wouldn't question the audible quality gain there.

I don't want you to go off and spend money to hear no gain. Another consideration is how much you split music/TV in importance and time. If you can pick up the x4700 for the same money as the extra amp (for example) you could make other gains that may be more important to you.

@Jester1066 may have a good view on this. He has the above mentioned Audiolab setup in AV bypass.
I was looking at something a bit higher end. Possibly Arcam SA20, Roksan K3 or Rega Elicit R and buying some Kef R3's to go with it. I was expecting this to be a massive step up from listening to music via my AVR like I do now. But now I'm wondering if it's not worth it as I don't listen to physical music sources.
Everything I've read about the dragonfly suggest it's a good DAC.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I use a stereo amp with HT by-pass. The reason is to cut the AV amp out of having any influence on stereo music. To make the most of it then all your music sources have to through the stereo amp without any quality issues brought about from using the AV amps pre-amps. My only music source is one of my SACD players so I use a very simple set up. That particular player, a Marantz sa8005 has a USB port on the front, my other player, a Denon does not.
 

Dobbyisfree

Well-known Member
Is there anyway you can try it out first?

If there isn't then what I would do, as a minimum, is once you have the AVR you can at least try that out and see what you think. I mean we all have different ears and brains. For example, I'm happy with music through my x4400.

But if I listened to music 50% split with TV - I'd probably want to make more effort with the musical quality 🤣
 

ubistonk83

Active Member
A match made in heaven. I have the Elicit driving my KEF R300s.
Think it was one of your posts that put it on my shortlist. I was planning on demoing a few amps with the KEF's anyway when it comes to upgrade time. So I guess the best thing I can do is take my iPhone and Dragonfly DAC along with me and decide from there if the upgrade is going to be worth it.
 

Dobbyisfree

Well-known Member
is take my iPhone and Dragonfly DAC along with me and decide from there if the upgrade is going to be worth it.

Excellent idea.

To add to that, if they can set up a good quality CD player for you as well. You could take a couple of favourites on CD and compare to the phone/Dragonfly. That way you have "a reference point".

If you have no CDs, surely worth getting them 2nd hand versus the spend you're considering?
 

gibbsy

Moderator
If you have no CDs, surely worth getting them 2nd hand versus the spend you're considering?
Well worth visiting a local charity shop if you don't have any discs. Try and avoid most of the current artists who turn out discs with a dynamic range that's flattered than hammered s****.
 

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