Help With Upgrading My Amplifier

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by mattst, Aug 8, 2013.

  1. mattst

    mattst
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    Hi

    I am looking to upgrade my existing (20 year old) amplifier and wondering whether this would be a significant upgrade.

    Current model is a Sony STR-D311 Receiver. I can't find much info online (I guess because it's so old) but this is the instruction manual that has some specs - http://www.docs.sony.com/release/STRD311.PDF

    I am looking at the £200 - £300 range, and was considering the Marantz PM6004 - http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/...&pf_rd_t=3201&pf_rd_p=466496393&pf_rd_i=typ01

    But I'm open to other suggestions in that price bracket.

    I use it for DJing in a fairly small basement room - so especially interested in good bass reproduction. I have 2 x active monitors, 2 x floor standing speakers and 2 x bookshelf speakers.

    So, a few questions I'd appreciate some guidance with:

    1. Would this be a significant upgrade to be worth the money?
    2. Should I consider getting a DAC too, as I mostly play digital files (MP3s)?
    3. Is it worth adding a subwoofer?

    Any guidance or advice would be much appreciated.
     
  2. MTech535

    MTech535
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    It is a good amp, also have a look at Yamaha.

    Bass reproduction will largely be down to your choice of speaker.

    Sub, again depends on your choice of speaker.
     
  3. MTech535

    MTech535
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    In answer to 1 I can't comment as I know nothing about you current receiver.

    Re 2 A DAC would be worthwhile (I assume a PC is the source), but I would not spend a lot if you are only playing MP3s.
     
  4. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    The Marantz PM6004 is certainly a good choice.

    Other in your price range would be the Yamaha AS300 with 60w/ch.

    The Denon PMA-720 with 50w/ch.

    If you can push the budget a bit higher, consider the Yamaha AS500 with 85w/ch.

    £250 is the common price for the Marantz PM6004 -

    [ame=http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&tbm=shop&q=Marantz+PM6004&oq=Marantz+PM6004&gs_l=products-cc.3..0l2.2073.8444.0.8681.16.10.1.5.5.0.169.999.6j4.10.0...0.0...1ac.1.zSY6l8GE4x0]Marantz PM6004 - Google Search[/ame]


    [ame=http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&tbm=shop&q=Yamaha+AS300&oq=Yamaha+AS300&gs_l=products-cc.3..0l2.3736.9900.0.10217.12.6.0.6.6.0.130.623.3j3.6.0...0.0...1ac.1.oKtVnE5XD18]Yamaha AS300 - Google Search[/ame]


    I think you should find several places that have the Yamaha AS300 amp for £199 - SuperFi, AudioAffair, others....

    [ame=http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&tbm=shop&q=Denon+PMA-720&oq=Denon+PMA-720&gs_l=products-cc.3...3597.12372.0.13596.21.8.4.9.10.0.144.881.3j5.8.0...0.0...1ac.1.vpU9BN2_OD4]Denon PMA-720 - Google Search[/ame]
    .

    Note there are places where the Denon 720 sells for as high as £350, making £199 something of a bargain.

    The more powerful Yamaha AS500 with 85w/ch is over your budget, but still a fine amp at a fine price. Anything at £279 or less is a bargain on this amp -

    [ame=http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&tbm=shop&q=Yamaha+AS500&oq=Yamaha+AS500&gs_l=products-cc.3..0.1820.6928.0.7434.12.6.0.6.6.0.122.652.2j4.6.0...0.0...1ac.1.fTtTAFSNgbI]Yamaha AS500 - Google Search[/ame]


    AudioAffair has the AS500 for £279, SuperFi has it for £266, ExceptionalAV has it for £266.

    1,) Amp Upgrade - your existing amp is broken, anything is better than nothing. All the amp listed above are highly rated and good value.

    2.) DAC - Probably not for MP3. Though a quality USB DAC, which would be best for a computer, is not going to be cheap. Expect a good DAC to cost as much as the amps listed above.

    3.) Subwoofer - it depends on how much money you have and how much you want to annoy the neighbors. Are you active monitors PA speakers or are they Active Studio Monitors? Specifically what floorstanding speakers do you have? While we are at it, what is the brand and model of all your speakers.

    Whether you should get a Sub, depends on the size of your space, and the size of your main floorstanding speakers. If you do consider a Sub, consider that you are going to need a minimum of £200, unless you can find a sale or a used Sub that has not been abused.

    The other factor in considering the Sub, is whether you actually want to hear the music, or if you just want thumping bass. To some extent, assuming you get a decent Sub, you can tailor the sound by how well you blend the Sub with the front speakers. A well blended Sub will be seamless. But, you are certainly free to crank it up a bit to where it overwhelms everything.

    I think both the Yamaha amps have Subwoofer outputs. Though no Sub control, you have to blend the Sub with the front using the controls on the Subwoofer itself. Most good Sub are able to take input from either the Pre-Amp, Sub-Out, or form the speaker terminals. You might want to make sure any Sub you consider has both Line Level and Speaker Level inputs.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2013
  5. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    As a side note, if you are looking for some Rock the House speakers, you won't do better than these DJ speakers from Hughes Direct -

    Wharfedale XARUS5000-BLACK from Hughes Direct

    Big speakers, high output, high powered, solid bass, retail price about £450/pr - Hughes Direct Price = £179/pr.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  6. mattst

    mattst
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    Thanks very much, that's all really helpful. Just to clarify a few things:

    1. My existing amp isn't actually broken, it's just 20 years old so I'm thinking a new one might be an improvement. Which specs in particular are the most relevant to sound quality? I can probably find them from the manual and post them here if that helps?

    2. DAC - yes it's MP3s from a PC, played through a Traktor S4. I think the S4 actually has a DAC built in but not sure how good it is. Makes sense though that a DAC wouldn't really be worth the cost outlay when I'm playing 320 MP3s.

    3. I think the monitors are active studio monitors. I'll post up the exact makes and models of all the speakers this evening.

    Re a sub - most of the music I play is quite bassline and sub-bass orientated, so I was thinking that it would benefit from a sub to hear those lower frequencies. Or have I misunderstood the function of a sub?

    Also sorry if it's a stupid question, but what is a pre-amp output? Is that like the 'Record' red and white outputs on the back? For example I have the monitors plugged into 'Tape 2 Record Out' on my current amp.

    Thanks again for all the help and the amp recommendations - I would be prepared to stretch the budget for the right piece of kit but if I can get something decent for a bargain then even better.
     
  7. MTech535

    MTech535
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    Yes you understand the use of a sub correctly. But some large floorstanders do a better job than some small subs, so depends on what speakers you use and what sub you can afford.

    Re amp sound quality I cannot say and I Doubt specs in the manual will help much, best have a listen.

    Pre outs would be affected by amp volume control, recording loops are normally at a fixed level.
     
  8. mattst

    mattst
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    I see, thanks very much. I will post details of the floorstanders this evening. I would be prepared to spend £2-300 on a sub if it would have a noticeable effect on the bass.

    Ok thanks, I was kind of hoping that someone would be able to take one look at the specs of my old amp and immediately tell me it was terrible. Or even that a 20 year old amp is likely to sound a lot worse than a decent new one. Probably naive of me though.

    Yes the monitors are currently at a fixed volume level and not affected by the amp volume, so I'm guessing this is because they are plugged into recording outputs? Unfortunately this seems to be the only place to plug them in to my current amp.
     
  9. mattst

    mattst
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    Ok these are the speakers I'm using:

    Eltax Floorstanders - 200W 45-20.000 Hz
    Monitors - Alesis M1 Active 520 - Alesis M1 Active 520 Monitors (Pair) - Djkit.com
    Mission 701 (although I don't usually have these plugged in as they rattle a bit and I think the sound is better without them)

    Does this affect the amps I should be looking at and would a sub make a significant difference?

    Thanks
     
  10. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    1.) Amps - how good an amp sounds is based on the integrity of the manufacture and the amount of power. For most though, simply an adequate amount of power is enough. For me, adequate mean 45w/ch to 8 ohms full spectrum or more.

    I've had several amps in the 45w/ch to 50w/ch range and they have served me well even with very large speakers. However, the higher the better. The Yamaha AS500 was rated as the best amp in its price range by "What HiFi?", and is well regarded for the money but people who have the amp.

    Yes, absolutely there are much better amp out there, all you have to do is pay Three to Five times more for them.

    2.) DAC - I think this has been covered. It really depends on what you want and need.

    The Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100 is pretty good at £200, it has optical/coaxial/USB inputs.

    Richer Sounds - Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100 Bundle

    In a USB DAC, then the AudioQuest Dragonfly is highly rated and priced at £215 -

    Superfi - AUDIOQUEST DRAGONFLY USB DIGITAL TO ANALOGUE CONVERTER

    Now it is possible to get a DAC for much less, but as with all things, you get what you pay for -

    Superfi - CYP AUD150 USB AND OPTICAL DIGITAL AUDIO CONVERTER

    3.) Studio Monitors - As have been explained, if you connect the Monitor to the TAPE OUT, then the volume is fixed. To change the volume you have to change the control on the Speaker (ignoring the computer volume for the moment). If connected to the Pre-Amp out, the input to the Active speakers will track changes to the volume and tone on the amp.

    Either way is fine, as long as you are getting what you need.

    4.) Subwoofer - Blending a Subwoofer with a Stereo system is a bit more tricky than with an AV Receiver. However, people do it all the time, so it is not that difficult. You just need to find the right blend between the Sub and the Front speakers. The perfect blend is when they are seamlessly combined. When you can't tell where the Sub ends and the Front speakers begin. However, you are perfectly free to tune it to your personal taste.

    Again, it depends on what you have for front speakers, and how much thundering bass you want. £200 to £300 will buy you a decent Subwoofer. Again, check out BK Electronics.

    Most Subs have both Line Level (low level) inputs, and Speaker Level (high level) inputs, so they will work with any amp.

    The Yamaha Amp have Subwoofer outputs, however, they do not have Pre-Amp outputs.

    It should be note that when you use a Subwoofer with a Stereo amp, the Front speakers and the Sub run in parallel. There is on crossover between them as you would find in an AV amp. You simply set the crossover frequency on the Sub to best blend with the Front speakers, then adjust the level so the speakers are balanced to your taste.

    With an AV Receiver, you do have a Active Electronic Crossover between the Sub and Front, so typically, the Sub is set to 80hz and covers everything 80hz and lower, while the front speakers cover everything 80hz and higher.

    With a stereo system, both the Sub and Front cover everything up to 80hz (or where ever you have it set), then the Sub starts to fade out. That is a very different dynamic than with a AV Receiver. However, I again point out that people do this all the time, it just takes some effort and some tweaking to get the blend of Sub and Front that pleases you.

    If you can push you budget even higher, and you want an absolute killer amp, then consider the Harman Kardon HK3490 Receiver with 120w/ch to 8 ohms, built-in DAC with Optical and Coaxial inputs, Pre-Amp outs, MM PHONO Input, etc.... Priced at £349 -

    [ame=http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&tbm=shop&q=Harman+Kardon+HK3490&oq=Harman+Kardon+HK3490&gs_l=products-cc.3..0.1536.10684.0.11147.32.12.4.16.12.1.228.1416.1j10j1.12.0...0.0...1ac.1.hEDVU4dYt4Y]Harman Kardon HK3490 - Google Search[/ame]


    Still, for the money, it is very hard to beat the Yamaha AS500 with 85w/ch.

    At a lower price, both the Yamaha AS300 and the Denon PMA-720 are worth considering.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2013

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