AVR vs Integrated amp


Novice Member
Long time lurker, first time poster…

I know it’s generally agreed upon that at a given price point an integrated amplifier will deliver a better two-channel music listening experience than an AVR. I’m in the process of transitioning our living room from a home theater setup to a more stereo music listening-centric system. My current setup includes a lower-end Denon AVR with Wharfedale Diamond 230s as the front L&R speakers. Sources include an Oppo bluray player for CDs and a Bluesound Node2i for streaming Tidal and Amazon Music HD.

My question is this: How much would I need to spend on an integrated amp to hear an appreciable difference in sound quality with my current setup? I’m pretty satisfied with the Wharfedales so I’m going to keep them around a while and probably upgrade within a few years. I’d rather not go the budget route for an incremental difference in SQ on the amp as I’d like it to be appropriate for when I upgrade the speakers. However, my available budget is decidedly mid-fi, maybe $1500 max, possibly a bit higher. I live in Japan where taking home equipment to demo is pretty much unheard of. My Denon doesn’t have pre-outs so just adding a power amp is out of the question. I am generally ok buying used but used gear in Japan isn’t so cheap.

I realize “appreciable difference” is very subjective but it would be nice to hear from people who’ve made the same transition or from anyone with some insights or opinions on this topic. Thanks in advance for any input!
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Distinguished Member
What model Denon?

I've got a ~15-20 year old Cambridge Audio A1 Mk3 which to my ears sounds a bit better than a Denon 2808 for music, the old Denon is close to be fair. This is in my cobbled together bedroom system using some equally old budget Mordaunt Short MS25i speakers.

I also have a similar vintage 3808 Denon which is a considerable step up and at least equal to the A1, which lets not forget was a properly budget offering back in the day.
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Active Member
$1500 buys you a lot of cracking amps, as someone who has recently bought an integrated amp and combined it with my AV amp (no pre outs) using a Beresford switch box I will say the difference you will hear between the two are night and day. Marantz might be a good place to start PM6007 or PM8006. Not sure how easy it is getting other brands in Japan but Cambridge Audio CXA61 or 81 get good reviews.
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The price differential between here and Japan can be huge indeed.

It will be difficult to advise from this side.
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Specifically what is the AV Receiver? Does it have HDMI?

AVR do have a place in Stereo Music. You will not get a larger feature set in a Stereo Amp relative to a AVR. However, you don't get something for nothing. The more features you buy, the less each feature is worth. But that I mean, those features aren't free. For each new one you add, it lowers the cost of all the others, assuming a fixed budget.

With Stereo, the features are concentrated where they need to be for the same fixed amount of money, and there are Stereo Amp that come pretty close to the feature set of the AVRs.

The Yamaha RN803 Network Receiver has 100w/ch, Network Streaming, DAB/DAB+ radio (in the UK), 2xOptical, 2xCoaxial, Phono, Room-EQ, and Full Bass Management. Though not sure of the cost or availability in Japan. I think in the USA this same RN803 is about US$800.

Now with (assume USA) US$1500 to spend you can certainly do very well in a Stereo Amp. I don't know about the availability of Rotel in Japan, but they are nice amps packed with features -

I have an older version of the RA-1572, which is the RA-1570 that was priced about $1600 in the USA. Though the price on the new 1572 has gone up a bit -

However the Rotel A14 would be in your price range, assuming you can get it in Japan -

In your price range, I think you need to look more at features. Decide specifically what you need from an amp in terms of feature - Tone Control, DAC, Streaming, Bluetooth, Phono, Sub-Out, other - and find amps that meet those requirements.

There are very Full Features amps like the Yamaha and Rotel, and there are very minimalist amps that are basically a Volume Control and a Selector Switch. You have to decide where on that spectrum you are, and focus on those amps.

Just a few thoughts.

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Novice Member
Thanks everyone for all the input! Sorry to not reply sooner...Just waking up here with the time difference. I'll try to respond to everyone.

Jamie - Thanks for sharing your experiences. I think your 2808 is a few steps above my x2400h. Seems like it may very well be worthwhile to upgrade the amp.

Bodas- I was going to go the amp switcher route. Luxman makes one here which gets good reviews. However, my local audio shop guy discouraged it. He said SQ would degrade with that kind of device. Sounds like you haven't found that to be the case? Those Cambridge amps are ones I was considering. Luckily they're available here. I was also thinking about the PM8006 as it's all analog. I have the DAC covered with my Node 2i. I've never listened to a Martantz amp but people seem to say in reviews that it's on the warmer side as far as sound signature which would suit me.

BlueWizard- My Denon has HDMI. The Yamaha you mention is available here for about $1000 US (list price). I think I could manage to get it somewhat cheaper. Don't think Rotel has a distributor here. Nothing came up using a local search engine. As I mentioned in my original post I have a Node2i so that takes care of my network and streaming needs. I was thinking I could buy a DAC-less amp for now and see how it sounds with the Node DAC. I could always add an external DAC later. I will think about what other features I want as I search.

Again thank you all for responding. I will post my progress. Any other tidbits would also be appreciated any time.
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BlueWizard- My Denon has HDMI. ...
I asked about HDMI just to get some sense of the age of the AVR.

If you do not want or need all the features of the Yamaha RN803 Network Receiver, then consider the Yamaha A-S701 and Yamaha A-S801. These are both amps with DACs and Phono, both with 100w/ch, but the A-S801 has a significantly better DAC. Though the A-S701 still has a good 24b/192k DAC. Also, with the enhanced DAC, the A-S801 has a USB-PC connection for direct connect to a computer in addition to Optical and Coaxial connections.

You'll have to check on the prices, but these are the Top and Second from the Top in Yamaha's line of Consumer Amp. It is a very substantial jump in price to move up to the next model which would be in their Audiophile line of amps.

And for reference, he are the specs on the Yamaha R-N803 -

Here is the next model up in Yamaha's Audiophile line, and as you can see a VERY substantial jump in price -

The Yamaha A-S801 is US$899, the Yamaha A-S1200 is $2799. So, relative to consumer amps, the Yamaha A-S801 is top of the line.

Obviously you can look at Marantz, which have a good reputation. Though not quite the value of the Yamaha.

Probably the closest to your budget would be the Marantz PM8006 -

But, while good sounding, it is 70w/ch. It has a MM Phono connection, but no DAC.

You could also look at the Denon PMA-1600NE -

That might be just a trace over your budget. Don't be fooled by the Power Rating. They rate at 4 ohms which inflates the apparent power. The actual power is 70w/ch to 8 ohms. It does have a DAC with USB-Media, Optical, and Coaxial inputs. Plus it has MM and MC Phono inputs.

All that said, for sheer value, it is very hard to beat the Yamaha.

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