Power amp to add to my AV receiver

adamrs6

Novice Member
Hi all
Fairly new to this so please bare with me.
i am in the process of upgrading my home cinema set up.
i have a set of b&w dm603 s3 as my main speakers. A matching centre and surrounds.
i am wanting to add a power amp to power the main speakers.
my current av receiver is a cambridge audio 540R which I will be upgrading to a denon x4700H.
can anyone please recommend a good power amp to bring the b&w 603s to their full potential?
thank you
 

Jamie

Distinguished Member
Whats your budget?

Do you use the system for just surround or so you have a desire to improve music playback at all?

If music is a consideration I'd be looking at a stereo integrated with HT bypass rather than a power amp.
 
Whats your budget?

Do you use the system for just surround or so you have a desire to improve music playback at all?

If music is a consideration I'd be looking at a stereo integrated with HT bypass rather than a power amp.

It's always all about the budget!

I use an Arcam SA20 with my Denon X3700H and B&W 603s.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
As above the difference lies with pure power for just a home cinema set up or a HT capable stereo amp if music is of importance. Either way it's a simple uncomplicated exercise to connect and use.
 

adamrs6

Novice Member
As above the difference lies with pure power for just a home cinema set up or a HT capable stereo amp if music is of importance. Either way it's a simple uncomplicated exercise to connect and use.
So i am able to get a sterao amp and connect it to my av receiver and use the stereo amp for the music aspect?
i am wanting the extra oomph for music really
 

gibbsy

Moderator
It's worth it if music is a priority. It will only work and you can connect all of your music sources directly to the stereo amp cutting out the AV amp completely. This is the road I follow and makes sense to me personally as I find my Denon X6500 to be relatively poor at stereo music and only have the space for one set of stereo speakers.

The stereo amps needed must have the ability for HT by-pass, I've posted a link below. I use a Rega Elicit-R and the front speakers are connected to the Rega only. The front pre-outs on the X4700 are easily connected to the 'Direct' Input line in on the Rega and HT by-pass is enabled by a simple press of the Direct button on the Rega's remote.

After initially connecting the speakers and the Denon to the stereo amp you will need to re-run Audyssey to EQ the stereo amp into the system. For film and TV then both Denon and stereo amp needs to be fired up. For music then the stereo amp gets used as normal. It's easy to set and works very well for me.

 
So is the arcam a power amplifier? Budget around a £1000 max.
Nope, the Arcam is a integrated stereo amp, 90W/Channel. Drives the 603's well, and allows the Denon to take care of centre/ surrounds/ Atmos duties. Bang on your budget as it happens.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
Option B is to buy an AVR that is better at music, eg Nad or Arcam. Depends on your priorities in terms of budget, number of boxes, features, room correction etc..
 

ashenfie

Well-known Member
Had the same decision recently. More boxes or one box to drive them all. I had an Denon AVR 4500 and my initial step was to try a musical fidelity m2si. This didn't really get me where I wanted to be, first l need a good quality input and simply Spotify is not that, but Qobuz is. I guess a system is only as good as the source the music comes from. The amp was good and nothing to complain about for sure. So I decided the most cost effective solution would be sell the M2si which was hard and the Denon which was very easy, despite have already been replace by the 4600 and 4700 in less than a year. I went with the ACRAM AVR20 an ex-demo unit with plenty off. Sold the Denon on here and the Mf of eBay. Slightly out of pocket but not to bad.

Definitely a big step up, the Mid range of Kef 700 much better along with very clean bass. All stably working and simple to use day-to-day. A lot to take onboard setup wise.

There are many on here that knock kit they don't have quoting often old issues, so always be careful of these and ask people on here that have the kit. With that in mind thu. you need to consider the Arcam is different in areas like using a web interface to setup and Dirac quite involved.

I looked at Athems and the Nad 778 which I am sure would given similar step up in sound and room correction. Simply the discount on the Arcam was not to be missed.
 

Dorian

Active Member
Great discussion - I'm at a similar point, but perhaps with lower expectations. Not at all satisfied with music on my STR-DN1080 and know the speakers can do so much more from previous setups. Also, really fed up with throwing out decent amplification every few years (e.g. Arcam AVR-350) when the processing/video side goes obsolete. I don't listen to a lot of music, and am not aiming for the moon. The AVR-350 and also (surprisingly) the Pioneer SC-2023 I had were perfectly fine.

Been considering a (perhaps used) 5 channel power amp and something like a Denon 2700x, but read some really great discussion on this site about the pre-amp side of AVR's being as much of a problem as the power amps, and that a stereo amp with HT-bypass is the way to go.

Am I right in saying that going down the stereo HT-bypass route is most effective with sources that can be directly connected to the stereo amp? Tbh I don't have these any more - just use spotify which I appreciate is not (yet) high end. Could be tempted on one stereo source but don't really want to go all-in on a CD player, turntable and network streamer.

Given what I've said, is stereo and HT bypass still worth it over a power amp?
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
Given what I've said, is stereo and HT bypass still worth it over a power amp?
Yes!

Adding a power amp to an AVR will not make music sound better, it will just give you the option to play it louder.

However neither the Sony 1080 nor the Denon 2700 have the necessary pre-out connections to enable you to add either a power amp or a HT bypass stereo integrated amp.

To keep the costs down, you could instead invest in a speaker / amp switch and then share your front main speakers between any AVR and any stereo integrated amp. You then wouldn't need an AVR with pre-outs nor a stereo amp with HT bypass.

This is a good switch:

 

gibbsy

Moderator
on my STR-DN1080
Unfortunately the Sony doesn't have any pre-outs which would be required to connect a power amp to it.
 

Dorian

Active Member
Thanks. Yeah I knew about the 1080 not having pre-outs, although I really thought the 2700x had them. Need to step up a level for that then.

Is it really the case that a power amp would only provide more volume? I figured that more powerful amplification would mean better control of the speakers and ideally a more powerful sound at lower volumes.

In actually fairly volume constrained in this new room.
 

Dorian

Active Member
I keep going round in circles, looking at arcam integrated amps or high end Yamaha or Denon. But i still don't like the idea of chucking money into an integrated amp again.

Plus tbh, the 1080 I have now seems fine for centre channel and surround duties. It's just the front L/R that's lacking.

However, I can afford to spend to fix this - total budget could be ~£1500.

What I can't afford to do is lose the earc setup of the 1080, at least not without amp that supports hdmi 2.1
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
I keep going round in circles, looking at arcam integrated amps or high end Yamaha or Denon. But i still don't like the idea of chucking money into an integrated amp again.

Plus tbh, the 1080 I have now seems fine for centre channel and surround duties. It's just the front L/R that's lacking.

However, I can afford to spend to fix this - total budget could be ~£1500.

What I can't afford to do is lose the earc setup of the 1080, at least not without amp that supports hdmi 2.1
Peter Tyson have the end of line Arcam AVR390 for £1299, brand new with 5 year warranty. No eARC though. What are you using eARC for, I wonder if there is a workaround?

Or keep your Sony 1080, buy the Beresford switch and add any stereo integrated amp that you like, it won't need HT bypass.
 

Dorian

Active Member
If the arcam had earc I would be all over it! The lack of hdmi 2.1 wouldnt matter.

I've got an LG CX65, with an Xbox series X directly connected, so earc is used for the audio there. Plus it's the glue the pulls together everything else - got a Sony UHD Blu-ray player and Nvidia shield connected to the amp, but the TV remote lets me switch between all those inputs and control the amp volume.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
Hmm, I see. There is someone on here who posts about an eARC extractor device, not something I've used myself, but might be worth a look. I'll see if I can find it.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
You're in a difficult position. You would need an AV amp with pre-outs, for argument's sake let's say the Denon AVR X3700. That's going to cost you £1100 then you have the additional cost of a good stereo amp to drive the fronts for music. That has the potential to cost you a total amount that could cost almost double what you would pay for the Arcam 390.

Now that Arcam, even though you've already ruled it out because of the lack of eARC, may require you to buy an external amp if you have ambitions to exceed 7.1 or 5.1.2. You have to factor in any expansions as well.

The new Arcams have eARC but the cost is high and back to the price of a Denon and stereo amp, add to this the need for external power as well and it's an expensive game. I thought about going down the Arcam route several years ago when the prices of the outgoing models were still at their highest, the 550. Because I already had a high end Denon the smart move was to add a HT capable stereo amp. So glad I did.
 

Dorian

Active Member
Hmm, I see. There is someone on here who posts about an eARC extractor device, not something I've used myself, but might be worth a look. I'll see if I can find it.
Nice find! I've looked before and the only one I could find is $349. Will do some looking into that and see how well it works. Sounds perfect from the spec, even has configurable audio delay for lip sync
 

Dorian

Active Member
You're in a difficult position. You would need an AV amp with pre-outs, for argument's sake let's say the Denon AVR X3700. That's going to cost you £1100 then you have the additional cost of a good stereo amp to drive the fronts for music. That has the potential to cost you a total amount that could cost almost double what you would pay for the Arcam 390.

Now that Arcam, even though you've already ruled it out because of the lack of eARC, may require you to buy an external amp if you have ambitions to exceed 7.1 or 5.1.2. You have to factor in any expansions as well.

The new Arcams have eARC but the cost is high and back to the price of a Denon and stereo amp, add to this the need for external power as well and it's an expensive game. I thought about going down the Arcam route several years ago when the prices of the outgoing models were still at their highest, the 550. Because I already had a high end Denon the smart move was to add a HT capable stereo amp. So glad I did.
Yes very well put. What do you think of pairing a Denon x3700 with a musical fidelity m2si? That should be in budget.

Tough call on how well that would stack up to the AVR390 I guess.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Yes very well put. What do you think of pairing a Denon x3700 with a musical fidelity m2si? That should be in budget.

Tough call on how well that would stack up to the AVR390 I guess.
The MF is a good amp and easy to set up and use along side the Denon. Dirac is better than Audyssey, no doubt about that but you will hear an improvement with Audyssey XT32 on the X3700. With the MF alongside the Denon you are good for a 7.2.4 speaker arrangement. The Arcam would still need external amps to get to the number. Inconsequential if you don't want to expand past 7.1 5.1.2 so it could be argued that the X3700 is overkill for the number of channels used which possibly brings the Arcam 390 back into the game.

I won't go down the Arcam route as there is no way that I'm going to part with my Rega stereo amp as it puts a big smile on my face every time I listen to it for music.

How well do you think you would get on with Dirac as it's not the easiest to conquer (too difficult for an old fart like me), that's why I prefer the simplicity of Audyssey, basically plug and play.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
I was using a Denon 4400 plus Musical Fidelity M3i directly before getting my Arcam AVR550.

I much prefer the Arcam, it sounds as good as the MF for music and better than the Denon for movies. It's also a neater and more convenient set-up for the family lounge.

Dirac does a much better job in my room than Audyssey did, although I use a very light touch on room correction because I like how my system sounds without it. But, Dirac does do some magic for dialogue, so I use it on my front three speakers for films / TV and not at all for music.

Whichever way you go, you do need to factor in something else to use as your music source, such as a cd player / DAC / streamer. The MF amp is analogue only, and, to me, the Arcam sounds best in stereo direct mode when being fed an analogue signal.
 

Dorian

Active Member
The MF is a good amp and easy to set up and use along side the Denon. Dirac is better than Audyssey, no doubt about that but you will hear an improvement with Audyssey XT32 on the X3700. With the MF alongside the Denon you are good for a 7.2.4 speaker arrangement. The Arcam would still need external amps to get to the number. Inconsequential if you don't want to expand past 7.1 5.1.2 so it could be argued that the X3700 is overkill for the number of channels used which possibly brings the Arcam 390 back into the game.

I won't go down the Arcam route as there is no way that I'm going to part with my Rega stereo amp as it puts a big smile on my face every time I listen to it for music.

How well do you think you would get on with Dirac as it's not the easiest to conquer (too difficult for an old fart like me), that's why I prefer the simplicity of Audyssey, basically plug and play.
Yeah totally understand about the Rega, if you're so happy with that amp it's got to be worth holding on to.

For me it's pure 5.1. Got a dedicated room, but it's on the small side (12'7" x 8'7") and rear speaker arrangement is a challenge. This is why it's important to have something that sounds good at lower volumes, which I believe is something you tend to get with high quality amplification.

I think I'd probably be ok with Dirac, I'm old too (mid-forties), I'm a software dev so do use computers a lot. I don't like complexity for the sake of it though, and love my old analogue watches and cameras. But it sounds like Dirac is worth the effort
 

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