Why should I bother with an expensive amplifier for my surround system?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by mattscholey, Oct 19, 2004.

  1. mattscholey

    mattscholey
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    Hi,

    I am looking into buying a home cinema specifically to play DVD Audio and SACD disks (not interested in movies). I have decided on a Pioneer DV575 DVD player (does DVD Video, but also DVD-A and SACD) and am now thinking about what sort of amplifier I need to get.

    As the Pioneer has an inbuilt Dolby Digital Decoder, I think it can do all the digital decoding I need, even for the audio disks. This means all I need is a basic analogue amplifier to amplify the sound, just a 5.1 channel one. So I've been looking at getting an old Dobly Pro-Logic amp off ebay, like here http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=72406&item=5725948054&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW . This would be gerat because it is very cheap, where as if I buy one from a shop, they are all Dolby decoders, and cost £80+.

    My question is:
    1. Would the above process all work?
    2. Will I gain anything sound quality wise from buying a decent amplifier, and why shouldn't I just get the cheapest I can find?

    Thanks in advance,
    Matt
     
  2. Crustyloafer

    Crustyloafer
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    Firstly I would ask yourself why you want to look at higher resolution formats when for that sort of budget you are not even half way to making CD sound as good as it can let alone a higher quality source.

    I am a big advocate of DVD-A and can recommend it highly, but only if you have the hardware that is capable of demonstrating its benefits.

    I do not intend to offend with this post but it's just that I am fed up to the back teeth with the flood of disc spinners appearing on the market that play every disc under the sun but do none of them justice in the least.

    Get CD playback right first then start worrying about other formats, don't run before you can walk.
     
  3. NaimBoy

    NaimBoy
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    I've got to agree with Crustyloafer on this one.....

    Bear in mind that most AV amps are designed to sound good with movies - music, whether it be 2 channel or multi channel, come second. That's not to say you can't get one that sounds better on music than others but it's back to the old advice of listening to them with your own ears.

    If you're going with a Pio 575 I suspect you'll need to look closer to £300 for a 'musical' AV amp - maybe something from Marantz who also have a good reputation for Hi-Fi.....

    Again, like Crustyloafer I don't want to appear to 'poo poo' the idea but I really do suggest you go an listen to the options - you may find that once the novelty of multi-channel music has worn off you'd be happier with a reasonable CD player and stereo amp........

    As for the amp in your link - it's no good as it's only a 3ch amp for the center and rears. Bear in mind that SACD is only available through an analogue connection so the AV amp will need at least a 5.1 analogue input if you decide to go this route.

    Good luck,
    Mark
     
  4. John Dawson

    John Dawson
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    I too agree with Crustyloafer; however if you spot an Arcam AV50 on e-bay I can tell you that has a pretty good set of 5 x 50W power amplifiers in it and a 5.1 channel input, so that would be an economic choice with pretty good sound quality. Note some older Dolby Pro Logic amps may only have one rear channel amplifier and no 5.1 input, making them less suitable.

    Also an Arcam AVR200 has sound quality well above average for an AV receiver - these are £799 list but I have seen some deals on this model now the 250 has hit the streets. The same is true of the now discontinued Arcam DV89 DVD-A player.

    HTH.

    John Dawson (Arcam)
     
  5. mattscholey

    mattscholey
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    Thanks for all your advice.

    My main question however is why should I bother buying an expensive amp, when, as far as I know, all the amplifier does is boost the volume of the source, and so has no effect on sound quality? I can see that if the AV receiver is decoding a digital source, then you want a good one, but if the DVD player does the decoding, how does the amp matter?

    You seem to have raised a serious issue Crustyloafer about the quality of the equipment I'm buying. I planned for my budget to be £350. Is this realistic? Will the Pioneer 575 DVD player, which seems a good deal on the surface, really be one? How will it fall behind?

    Thanks again,
    Matt
     
  6. bobbypunk

    bobbypunk
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    The quality of sound you get relies on much more than the quality of the processor.
    It will be effected by the quality of amplifiers the unit uses, the simplicity of the signal path, and many other factors.
    I made my home cinema on a tight (wife has no interest) budget, picked up a old DVD player for next to nothing with a decent dolby digital processor built in and picked up a Kenwood AV amp that was not known for it's processor but had a reasonable set of amps for the price.
    The ideal product for you would probably be the AVR200 as suggested above, i'd expect you to pay a little under £500.
     
  7. Knightshade

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    The amp has to as it suggests amplify the signal. Simple right? 'fraid not.
    Amps are not just about power either. One of the most important parts of an amplifier is the power supply. It has to be flexible enough to produce a constant level of power at all levels. Most amplifiers fail to do this. Generally the more expensive the amplifier the more efficient the power supply. Companies Like LINN and CHORD use Switch mode power supplys (same as in a PC). Capable of generating a smooth and clean power source over all frequencies. Obviously the signal paths tend to be shorter in more expensive amps with as little as possible to clutter them up. All of this improves the sound.
    The closer you get to perfection the less the signal is affected by the amp.
    An amp should boost the signal adding and removing nothing. Most cheaper amps fail and tend to smear the sound.
    The trick is to find a balance. Find the amp that gets the best out of the source without breaking the bank.
     
  8. NaimBoy

    NaimBoy
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    Matt,

    It all comes down to what sounds best to you within your budget (Rule No.1 of Hi-Fi/AV shopping - NEVER listen to something you can't afford :D )

    99.8% of the population would think people like Crustyloafer, Knightshade & myself should be sent to the Loony Bin for spending what we do on our kit (no offence guys..... ;) ) - I would be more than happy to spend £24k on the Naim 552/500 Pre/Power combo if I had the money, but I don't.

    Are expensive pieces of kit, not just amps, worth it ? Yes, but again it's all relative. When I was demoing various systems before buying mine I managed to drag my Ex along to one session. Once she got over the shock of the price and actually started to listen even she could tell the difference between them, despite insisting she was tone deaf !

    The difference between her and me was that the differences were only subtle to her once we got beyond a couple of grand for the system and once we got to about £5k she couldn't tell the difference. I recently demoed a £22k system and it was enough to make me want to upgrade again (reminder to self - buy lottery ticket...) - meanwhile she's happy with a £150 Toshiba DVD player and a £200 Yamaha amp & speaker package.

    The point of my ramblings is that only YOU can determine what sounds best and if it's worth it to you...... get yourself along to a hi-fi dealer and ask for a dem - it's free and if nothing else it's an enjoyable way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon. Whatever you do though, don't forget Rule No.1 ! As us loonies can confirm, it can be a life (and bank balance) altering experience :D


    Bear in mind that DVD players under, say, £300 are likely to be concentrating on picture quality over sound - especially SACD/DVD-A.

    If you want suggestions then for 2ch stereo I'd start with a budget of around £200 for the CD player and the same again for the amp - try NAD, Rotel, Marantz...

    If you still want to go the mutli-channel route then John Dawsons recommendation isn't a bad idea - the cheapest I've seen an AVR200 for so far is £550.

    Hope this helps...
    Mark
     
  9. bluesfan

    bluesfan
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    Go listen...
     
  10. Crustyloafer

    Crustyloafer
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    My main issue with the Pioneer 575 is that it does not have proper speaker management for SACD and DVD-A playback. It does not have the ability to set independent speaker levels for each speaker which is a major flaw unless you have identical speakers all round and all equidistant from your listening position and in a room which is perfectly balanced acoustically. If you are not in such a position then these discs will not sound the way they are meant to sound and therefore defeats the purpose of playing them. For a decent DVD-A player I would set a minimum budget of about £400 which will get you a decent player like the Harman Kardon DVD31. For universal player that do both DVD-A and SACD I would look at the Denon DVD-2900 as a starting point which can be had for around the £500 mark.

    You've got to remember that DVD-A and SACD are effectively 'state of the art' audio formats and you can seriously expect to do these justice with 'biscuit tin' players. Also bear in mind the other end of the system, the speakers. In order to hear DVD-A and SACD as it should sound then you need speakers that are capable of reproducing the extended bandwidth of these sources. A subwoofer that can reach an undistorted 20Hz would be useful and speakers with an upper frequency response towards the 30-40 kHz mark would be a good start.

    I'm not trying to put a dampener on your plans, I'm suggesting that you reassess what you should expect for your budget. Get the simple things right first then work up from there. The advantage of buying separates is that you can upgrade one component at a time.
     
  11. mick23

    mick23
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    matt

    moorgate accoustics have arcam avr 200 for £449 brand new, i would suggest you have a demo of pioner 575 with a av reciever and also dem cd player with a dedicated sterio integrated amp and see what gives you the sound you prefer.
     
  12. Kish Kash

    Kish Kash
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    This is only a problem with multi-channel material though, IIRC. This is not an issue if:

    a) You are only listening to the stereo mixes on your SACD, through a stereo amp.

    b) you are using an AV amp that allows you to set speaker levels individually (most do).

    Again, going on faint memory, I thought the 575 allowed +/- 6db adjustment on each channel?

    KK
     
  13. Ed Selley

    Ed Selley
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    Most amps do not have adjusted levels on their driect ins (hence "direct") and need the signal to be sorted before they get it. This is why many guru's recommend putting a CD player in this input as the purest input on an AVR.
     
  14. Kish Kash

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    Is there any reason why this is the case? I'm sure my yammy 640 allowed channel adjustment on the 6.1 inputs :confused:

    Haven't used it for about 6 months though, so I'm probably wrong.....
     
  15. BrianC

    BrianC
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    I think most of the newer yammys allow you to adjust the dbs but not the delay or speaker size or cross over via the multi channel in - well at least my 1400 is like this.
     
  16. Crustyloafer

    Crustyloafer
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    Sorry you are wrong, the Pioneer DV-575 does not allow any level settings at all for any speakers. Its predecessor the DV-565 did have this facility and in my opinion was a better machine. At the end of the day you get what you pay for and for £150 I would expect a nice meal out with some friends not a piece of electronics capable of showing off a state of the art audio format at its best.
     
  17. Crustyloafer

    Crustyloafer
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    Quite right 'Tons'. There are very few amplifiers/receivers that allow you to set level adjustments to each individual input on the multi channel inputs which is why it is imperative that this facility is available on the player.

    Again I wonder at how many people think that going down the SACD/DVD-A route is going to guarantee them better results when they are not even barely close to getting the most out of the CD format. Sorry to keep repeating this phrase, BUT, 'Walk Before You Can Run'.
     
  18. kgulls

    kgulls
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    Hi,Sorry if this is a daft question.I've asked in the headphone forum and had no feedback.
    As I listen to most of my cd and music dvd collection thru headphones via a dedicated headphone amp(musical fidelity x-can3) what difference in quality is there likely to be in the sound heard via a bottom of the range dvd player and ,for instance, Arcams dv79.Obviously this is only using the outputs of dvd player to amp but I'm interested to know what I'm missing.
     
  19. Kish Kash

    Kish Kash
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    That would explain my confusion. I currently use a 565 and thought the feature would have made it through to the 575. Apparently not, it seems.

    I'm finding it quite strange how pioneer seems to release updated/improved versions of a player without really "improving" it! OK, I know the 575 supports divX, but you loose a scart and the feature above, for example.

    Unless of course, its not a straight replacement for the 565. Was the 565 the replacement for the 656?? If so, same situation - cheaper, but fewer features and poorer build. Same situation with 757>668 (if that is the "replacement") IMO.

    Or am I talking out of my bumhole?

    KK
     
  20. Crustyloafer

    Crustyloafer
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    The DV-575 is intended to replace the DV-565 but like they did with the move from the DV-656 to DV-565 there was a big reduction in build quality and certain features along with the big price drop. If you want something comparable to the DV656 then I would consider the DV-668. Pioneer appear to be dividing their DVD player range into two distinct categories, budget biscuit tin boxes and mid range half decent all singing all dancing players. At the end of the day you get what you pay for and if you are serious about getting the most out of the DVD, DVD-A and SACD formats then a budget of around £1000 should not be out of the question.
     
  21. mattscholey

    mattscholey
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    Would I be better off buying the DV-565 then? What advantages (other than price) does the newer 575 have?

    Also, how about Pioneers NSDV99 package system? Will this provide better quality?

    Also, do AV receivers provide normal stereo inputs, allowing my new DVD-A system to replace my current hi-fi?

    Thanks,
    Matt
     
  22. Crustyloafer

    Crustyloafer
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    The 565 is now discontinued and therefore difficult to buy, although I still think it is a better DVD-A/SACD player nthan the 575. The only advantage, if you can call it that, that the 575 has over the 565 is the ability to play DivX files.

    I can't believe I'm going to have to say the same thing for the third time on the same thread but get the basics right before you start worrying about SACD and DVD-A. Get something that can play DVD-Vs and CDs properly. The Harman Kardon DVD-22 would be a good start for a DVD player that has a great picture and sound for DVDs and plays CDs to a level that they almost sound like CDs should. If you want a machine that can play DVD-V, CD, SACD and DVD-A and make them all sound roughly how they should then you need to seriously reassess your budget.
     
  23. mattscholey

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    Ok, reassessed my budget. Will the Pioneer NSDV1000 to the job on CD DVD-A and SACD, or do I need to reassess my budget even more?

    Thanks for your continuous help,
    Matt
     
  24. bobbypunk

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    (Is there any reason why this is the case?)
    Direct inputs are only controlled by the volume as this gives the shortest and cleanest signal path possible, which is essential for retaining DVDA and SACD's higher resolution quality!
     
  25. morksbeanbag

    morksbeanbag
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    matt, try not to think of an amplifier(or any other component) improving the sound, its more about getting and preserving as much detail of the signal as possible. An amp can make or break a system, the same way any other component can. You really ought to go to a hifi show. The Bristol ones, (every February?) are great. They will really open your eyes and ears to how music can sound. I think if your wanting to start with new types of formats then to get the most you need to do it properly. Instead of buying the whole system just buy one piece at a time and get the best you can afford.
    its surprising how much difference more expensive parts make. I had a yamaha RXV-800 before i got my Sony Amp and the difference in sound quality is VERY noticable.
     
  26. hi_robb

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    Lo there,

    I agree with Crusty on this one. You really need to refine your budget if you're going to get anything like decent quality audio on dvd-a etc. It's taken me about £2000 (discounted at ful retail more like 3k) to get my system to the point where I'm now happy with the sound. That doesn't include money spent on cables, and money lost selling bits to the 2nd hand market to buy new bit. Even then I know that my speakers are presently probably letting me down.

    I've gone through various dvd players including sony, yamaha and denon, and sony and pioneer amps and have now finally settled on the system in my signature which to my ears sounds lovely.

    I know though that I can get better and like others have said, if I had 20k to spend on a system would do so quite happily. My only grumble about my system is it doesn't do SACD only DVD-a but it does it to a lovely standard, I have a sony dav system in the bedroom which plays sacd for the times when I want to listen to the 1 sacd (DSOTM) that i actually own.

    It has astounded me just what a difference a component will make to a system. My dv89 sounds way better on cd + dvd-a playback than my denon 2900 ever did. Likewise my Avr200 sounds far better musically (and I do mean far better) than my previous pioneer ax3i did.

    When u hear someone on here say that something is good at what it does or that certain dvd players, av amps are better for musical duties, please listen to them they do know what they are talkig about, and have most likely had many pieces of equipment over the years.

    Dave
     

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