Question Better AV Amp or Stereo Power Amp?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by Loperhet, Jul 23, 2018.

  1. Loperhet

    Loperhet
    Novice Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    4
    Location:
    Leamington Spa
    Ratings:
    +0
    I'd appreciate some advice on how to best improve my set up.
    Bought everything used over the last year or so.
    Speakers are all PMC - GB1, DB1i and DB1 Centre. Amp is a Denon AVR-3808.
    Sub is an Arcam Logo and also have a Marantz UD7006. The PC provides FLAC audio.

    The set up sounds spot on for movies but I'm sure the PMC speakers can deliver more than the Denon can provide in 2 channel.

    What would be the best amp improvement?
    I could purchase a (used and older) higher end AV receiver such as the Yamaha RX-A3030 or go for a stereo power amp like the Meridian 557. Or perhaps go for an Anthem or Arcam AV amp.

    I know the PMC speakers have a lot more to offer. What would you advise?

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2018
  2. gibbsy

    gibbsy
    Moderator

    Joined:
    May 17, 2007
    Messages:
    14,583
    Products Owned:
    3
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Location:
    Cwm Cynon, De Cymru
    Ratings:
    +8,405
    Just for film or do you think there is something missing for stereo music? The addition of a Rega Elicit R integrated stereo amp with HT bypass greatly increased the musical performance of my KEF R300s. With allowing the Rega to drive the fronts the headroom of the remaining speakers was improved giving an overall improvement of the soundstage. Music however was the driving force behind the addition of the Rega.
     
  3. Loperhet

    Loperhet
    Novice Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    4
    Location:
    Leamington Spa
    Ratings:
    +0
    For music, gibbsy. I'm not sure if I should add a stereo power amp or whether a higher quality AV amp will do the job.
     
  4. Khazul

    Khazul
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    1,862
    Products Owned:
    3
    Products Wanted:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    116
    Location:
    UK
    Ratings:
    +676
    Also have a hybrid setup here - relatively cheap AVR paired with a very good stereo integrated amp. The amp acts purely as a power amp for the front speakers when watching TV and the AVR is not used at all when listening to music (all stereo music source direct to the stereo integrated amp).

    If you want to go down this route (which IMHO is best of both worlds) then you will need a pre-amp/amp combo or integrated amp that supports HT bypass (ie where one of the inputs work in a fixed gain mode and bypasses the pre-amp's tone controls, volume and balance etc). I am using a Yamaha A-S2100 for the job. There is a cheaper A-S1100 which is basically the same for most people, but I have never seen either come up second hand in the UK - I guess people tend to stick with them maybe (I certainly expect to).

    The downside with hybrid setups can be convenience of use, but so long as HT bypass mode can be easily access via remote control and the amp in general can be remote controlled at least for volume and input selection, then something like Logitech harmony can make it very convenient to use for a family if that matters.
     
  5. Rambles

    Rambles
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2004
    Messages:
    10,447
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    167
    Location:
    UK
    Ratings:
    +2,154
    If you go for a stereo amp, you would be better off going for an integrated amp so you can use that pre-amp for music. Adding a stereo power amp to an AVR won't make it more musical, it will just make it louder. Not that there is anything wrong with louder, louder is good, especially if you can get good audio peaks without clipping. But good music reproduction needs both a good pre-amp and power amps, and that is one area where AVR's are generally compromised.
     
  6. Loperhet

    Loperhet
    Novice Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    4
    Location:
    Leamington Spa
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks, Khazul.
    I will have to check whether the Denon AVR-3808 offers this.
     
  7. Loperhet

    Loperhet
    Novice Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    4
    Location:
    Leamington Spa
    Ratings:
    +0
    Don't want it louder. Want it more refined in stereo. I know the PMC speakers are a league above the Denon AV receiver. Don't know if the 3808 would serve as a decent pre-amp when used with a decent stereo power amp.
     
  8. Khazul

    Khazul
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    1,862
    Products Owned:
    3
    Products Wanted:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    116
    Location:
    UK
    Ratings:
    +676
    Yes and no - depends on AVR, amp and speakers and how you use them for music.

    I found that for AV use where bass management is active (the usual 80Hz crossover), then adding a power amp doesn't really make much difference, though may help with higher listening levels for a movie etc.
    OTOH disable bass management in the AVR (or use pure direct type mode), then the much better amp starts to be noticeable with much more impactful and better controlled bass which does go along way to make music more enjoyable depending on music taste. You probably wont gets any extra detail however as like you I believe most of that gets lost in the AVR's DAC+pre-amp equivalent (varying according to the AVR quality).

    I am of course relating my experience with large floor-standers that need a good amp to properly drive the bass on them. With small bookshelf speaker then I would expect the difference to be very much less.

    Of course the ideal is you don't use the AVR at all for music, however sometimes it is convenient to use the AVR for streaming background music just because of the all-in-one control of everything from a single remote and/or phone app rather than the common case of app for managing streaming and a remote for volume, inputs etc. Personally, I don't really like AVR type room correction active when listening to music - just never sounds right to me and seem to just make an AVR it even more lifeless, and yet it works well for a movie.
     
  9. Loperhet

    Loperhet
    Novice Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    4
    Location:
    Leamington Spa
    Ratings:
    +0
    The PMC GB1 speakers aren't big floorstanders but they are decent. Cost £1700 or so when new. The rears, the DB1i's cost a grand new. The Denon AVR-3808 was around £1200 new. Great for AV but not for 2 channel with these PMC speakers. I only paid £130 second hand for the Denon. Great deal but time to get the most out of the speakers.
     
  10. Rambles

    Rambles
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2004
    Messages:
    10,447
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    167
    Location:
    UK
    Ratings:
    +2,154
    In a word. No.

    I have experimented with this fairly extensively myself. Denon AVR's are not very good at stereo music reproduction. Although, it depends on your expectations. Marantz AVRs are better, Cambridge Audio better still. But all of them are beaten by a good integrated stereo amp. I now use a Musical Fidelity M3i for music, it has HT bypass so integrates well with my Denon AVR that I use for movies and TV.
     
  11. Rambles

    Rambles
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2004
    Messages:
    10,447
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    167
    Location:
    UK
    Ratings:
    +2,154
    You may actually find that you would improve your set-up by adding external amplification for movies as well as a stereo pre amp or integrated amp for music.
     
  12. Loperhet

    Loperhet
    Novice Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    4
    Location:
    Leamington Spa
    Ratings:
    +0
    I know, Rambles. That's why I want to upgrade from the Denon. Expectations are for better than I have right now.

    Having previously owned an Arcam AV receiver, they would be on my list. Not half bad in 2 channel.
    I have £500 or so to chuck at this. Plus the £100 or so I'd get back for the Denon.
     
  13. Loperhet

    Loperhet
    Novice Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    4
    Location:
    Leamington Spa
    Ratings:
    +0
    Movies are sorted. It's the stereo that I'm keen to improve. Be that an AVR upgrade or an amp solution for stereo.
     
  14. Rambles

    Rambles
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2004
    Messages:
    10,447
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    167
    Location:
    UK
    Ratings:
    +2,154
    You can keep the Denon and add a £500 stereo integrated amp to it via the front left and right pre-outs. You are not going to get much by way of an Arcam AVR for £600, but it is an option.
     
  15. Loperhet

    Loperhet
    Novice Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    4
    Location:
    Leamington Spa
    Ratings:
    +0
  16. gibbsy

    gibbsy
    Moderator

    Joined:
    May 17, 2007
    Messages:
    14,583
    Products Owned:
    3
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Location:
    Cwm Cynon, De Cymru
    Ratings:
    +8,405
    For music an integrated amp will be better than a power amp. Nothing wrong with keeping the Denon for film. Concentrate your funds on a good stereo option with HT bypass. I use a Marantz SACD player solely for music connected to the Rega amp. It has totally transformed my musical pleasure and the sound quality if much higher even when I had the Marantz connected to the Denon AVR by analogue and running in pure direct.

    Only drawback for me is that in the four months or so that I've had the Rega I've been buying SACDs at prices that are likely to bankrupt me...…..or get a slap around the ears if the missus finds out.
     
  17. Rambles

    Rambles
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2004
    Messages:
    10,447
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    167
    Location:
    UK
    Ratings:
    +2,154
    Power amps do help. Especially when running multiple speakers. Relying on the AVR to power multiple speakers to loud levels, such as during dynamic peaks in movie soundtracks, can be a compromise. I'm my 5.2.4 set-up I use 6 channels of external amplification. I recently tried removing some of these and the audio was noticeably worse, so they have gone back and I am sticking with multiple boxes. That is one AVR, one integrated stereo amp and two stereo power amps.

    If you want to keep the cost down you could look at pro audio power amps, such as the Behringer A500 and the Crown XLS 1002 / 1502.

    None of these will address the Denon's pre-amp section being bad at music reproduction though. For that you need a stereo pre-amp that is good at music, such as one found in a stereo integrated amp.
     
  18. Abacus

    Abacus
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2015
    Messages:
    747
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    67
    Location:
    Torbay
    Ratings:
    +482
    Anthem and Arcam AVRs are music first, home cinema second, whereas the mainstream players ore home cinema first and music second, so if you stick with one you need to prioritise. (The latest Mainstream AVRs have improved significantly over the last few years though)

    PMC require a power Amp with plenty of oomph to get the best out of them, and most mainstream AVRs aren’t up to the job. (The power supply is not up to it)

    An integrated amp on its own has a big downside in that most have no room correction, so you are at the mercy of the room when it comes to sound quality, (Some people prefer to hear the room as well as the speakers hence they choose direct mode, but really for the best the room should disappear so that you can hear it as the producer intended) so take this into account.

    If you can’t try before you buy, get an integrated that can have the pre/power amps separated, (Not just a HT input) and try it out to see which combination sounds best. (Best to avoid the big boys intergraded though)

    Bill
     
  19. Delija

    Delija
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2009
    Messages:
    376
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    46
    Location:
    NS
    Ratings:
    +149
    That is exactly my dilemma - do I really need room correction for Hi-Fi and which solution would sound better for Hi-Fi.

    I've started with Marantz SR7012 vs NAD T758 v3 and idea to use my old Harman Kardon HK6950R as an power amp for front channels, but bit by bit I came to rising the budget from ~2k to ~5k € for AVR/amp upgrade - and already thinking about main speakers upgrade :facepalm:


    Parasound HINT seems like a perfect solution for 2.1 - good integrated amp, bass management and even DAC which is quite OK - BUT without room correction.
    I have optimized manually subwoofer (SVS SB16-Ultra) with integrated 3-band PEQ and measurements done by XTZ Room Analyzer, but Dirac/Audyssey/ARC could probably do that somewhat better.

    I really like Yamaha sound for movies, so combo Parasound HINT for music + Yamaha RX-A3070 for movies could be one way to go. The only downside of Yamaha for movies is subwoofer optimization, but as I've already said, I've done it manually and it's pretty good.


    The other solution would be with AVR as preamp/DAC and with room correction.

    In that case there are no many AVRs that are good enough for this purpose - either because of room correction algorithm, or by raw "musicality". Let's just say that at the moment Arcam with Dirac is my favorite. NAD T777 V3 and T758 V3 are also ok sound wise, but reliability issues have dragged me away from them.

    In that case I see three options:
    1. Arcam AVR390 + good power amp (Parasound Halo A21, NAD M22 v2...)
    2. Arcam AVR550
    3. Arcam AVR850

    I was also considering cheaper power amp with AVR390 - Emotiva XPA, but if I go that way I'll choose some better amp.

    My front/main speakers are very efficient, but their impendance is 4 ohms (Triangle, 92 dB/W/m, 150W). I'm using them as small (crossover on 80 Hz - that's where SVS SB16-Ultra takes over).

    Since I will use only 5 of 7 amps (good old 5.1 :) ) - bi-amp for front channels is also viable.

    The second option is the cheapest of all and maybe even good enough. Between the first and the third - the first option sounds a little "smarter" because power amp could be used also later with some new AVR and it should be better at keeping the value/price.

    Unfortunately, I can only test Yamaha RX-A3070, which I did. For movies it's great. For music - nope. I cannot test Arcam.

    BTW, there are some stereo solutions with room correction and bass management like Lyngdorf TDAI-2170, but together with good AVR price goes above projected budget.

    The rough prices with some discounts for all options would be:
    1. Arcam AVR390 + Parasound HALO A21 ~4700€
    2. Arcam AVR550 ~3200€
    3. Arcam AVR850 ~5000€
    4. Yamaha RX-A3070 + Parasound HINT ~4200€

    Tough choice :)

    Maybe even to combine Arcam AVR390 with Parasound HINT, but I'm affraid that in this case I would never use HINT preamp and DAC since I would have Dirac on AVR and it would be waste of money - the price for much more powerfull Halo A21 is very similar.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
  20. Abacus

    Abacus
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2015
    Messages:
    747
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    67
    Location:
    Torbay
    Ratings:
    +482
    Emotiva make fine amplifiers that are at ease with 4 ohm loads.

    For the Arcam I would leave the 550 as everything is the same as the 390 except for a bigger power amp, the 850 however is a different kettle of fish, as while the pre-amp part is the same as the 390/550 the amp is a class G which moves things up a level sound wise.

    If I were in your position, I would either go for a 390 with a quality power amp or the 850, however if you could stretch to the 860 processor and a power amp that would be even better. (This is purely my personal opinion after having heard various amps etc. but it may not correspond with yours, as sound is a very personal thing)

    Yamaha would be right at the bottom of my list, as while its fine with film, its sounds much to lose with music and in comparison to Dirac Live its room correction software falls short.

    Bill
     
  21. badman

    badman
    Standard Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2016
    Messages:
    43
    Products Owned:
    1
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    22
    Location:
    Lincolnshire
    Ratings:
    +29
    I've got a denon avcx8500 with a power amp.
    It's awesome for stereo music.
    So not all denon pre amps are bad!
     
  22. Delija

    Delija
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2009
    Messages:
    376
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    46
    Location:
    NS
    Ratings:
    +149
    I've ordered Anthem MRX 720.

    Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to test it before buying, but from all I've read on forums and in reviews it should have pretty good preamp section and DAC and also pretty decent room correction. Maybe not as good as Dirac, but good enough at least for subwoofer where it's the most important for me.

    We'll see whether the benefits of ARC room correction for subwoofer and also optimized subwoofer integration with main speakers will be sufficient to keep Anthem as preamp and DAC for stereo system.

    I hope it will. In that case, I'll just add some good power amp for front/main channels.
     
  23. Delija

    Delija
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2009
    Messages:
    376
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    46
    Location:
    NS
    Ratings:
    +149
    Parasound Halo A21 ordered, too.

    It was a very tough decision between A21 and NAD M22 v2, but I still don't have enough confidence in class D. From all I've read M22 could sound great, but also could be a pretty serious mismatch with other components in Hi-Fi / HT chain.

    Since I don't have a chance for a test, I've decided to go safe - as far as I could see, there are no many people who dislike A21.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018

Share This Page

Loading...