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Question Will I notice a difference in switching to a 2 channel amp?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by Mike292, Sep 13, 2017.

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  1. Mike292

    Mike292
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    Sorry for the longish post but I'm keep to get opinions

    I currently have some B&W CM8 S2s connected to an Onkyo TX-NR1010 AV amp as part of my home cinema setup. Music forms the majority of my listening and musical sound quality is more important to me than movie performance. The Onkyo is a powerful amp but I wonder if I'd get better sound quality by adding a 2 channel amp for music (fed by the Onkyo's pre-outs for movies)

    I listen to a wide variety of music, mainly via the Onkyo's Spotify Connect, some vinyl, some FLAC digital downloads from my PC

    So my questions are

    1) Considering the Onkyo is a £2k piece of kit, what kind of level of 2 channel amp would I be looking at to get noticable differences.

    2) If I went ahead, would using the 2 channel amp driving front channels and the Onkyo for the rest cause many issues sonically? (I'm not overly critical in this respect)

    Thanks :)
     
  2. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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    Just a couple of observations -

    If the Onkyo is a £2000 7 channel amp then the cost needs to be shared amongst the 7 channels and also include all of the preamp/decoding circuits and software licenses etc. So I would hazard a guess that a simple 2 channel power amp with similar quality would be around the £500 mark (i.e. £2000 divided by 7 channels minus a bit for the preamp etc. bits)

    If you are using the onkyo as a preamp then you only need to add a power amp to the front channels (this will ensure that the onkyo controls the volume once calibrated for movies), the onkyo being used in a direct 2 channel model for music.

    I would guess you need to be into something around the £1500 (new price) for a stereo power amp to make a significant difference in quality.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. Rambles

    Rambles
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    Hi, I have been on a similar journey myself recently. I found that cutting out the AVR altogether for music listening made the biggest improvement for me. Fortunately, I managed to spend a lot less than £1500.

    My set-up is now Marantz SR7011 AVR - Musical Fidelity M3i - Behringer A500.

    The front left and right speakers are Kef Q700. I managed to pick the MF M3i up new for £550, it has HT bypass mode, and pre-outs, so integrating it with the AVR is relatively seamless. I had the Behringer power amp already.

    I have my cd player connected directly to the MF, so when listening to music the AVR is switched off, and it is just the MF + power amp + speakers.
     
  4. RRRuss

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    How would you describe the differences please punctilio? I heard R500's on that Naim streaming thing (£1700) and was blown away by the quality for music.

    Can you hear any tonal differences across the LR and C now with different amplification?

    I was mainly using Spotify via Wifi to my 7011 for music and simply changing to Tidal Hifi and analogue out from a MacBook Pro has improved things a lot for me.

    To the OP I was suggest £1000-1500 too for a notable upgrade unless you can get a bargain like punctilio did on their MF
     
  5. Rambles

    Rambles
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    That's a tricky one to answer. I went to town auditioning different amps and combination of amps using three cd tracks - Elbow - All Disco, David Bowie - Little Wonder, Gomez - We haven't turned around.

    The speakers, cables, sources and room stayed the same, and in the mix was the Marantz SR7011, The MF M3i, Marantz PM8005, Behringer A500 and Yamaha A-S501. The listening took place over a few days, but I made notes about elements that sounded good, or not good.

    In the end, the MF with the Behringer sounded the best. In terms of not harsh / shrill (this was a big problem, especially at the beginning of the Elbow track), and being able to pick out different instruments and voices throughout the tracks, and mainly, how it made me 'feel'.
     
  6. Mike292

    Mike292
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    Thanks guys, I was thinking something along the lines of the Arcam FMJ A39, but didn't know how it would sound when using for home cinema, with the centre & surrounds being powered by a different amp. I guess it wouldn't be too noticeable.

    I don't really have much experience with 2 channel amps, all my previous setups have been powered by an AV receiver, so I don't really know whether to expect much of a difference in adding something like the Arcam, though it's interesting to note that you felt the change was worthwhile, Punctilio.
     
  7. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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    The FMJ A39 is an integrated amp.

    So, if you take the front L/R preamp output from your AVR to the FMJ (not sure which input you will be best putting it into, line levels need to be checked) you need to make sure that once set up for movies you do not move the volume knob on the FMJ otherwise it will throw out your room calibration. The use of a power amp may be more practical if you are happy using the onkyo as the preamp.
     
  8. Don Dadda

    Don Dadda
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    Agree with above. Been on the same journey and done similar at the time (don't have an avr anymore).

    If using the AVR as pre it would still be doing the processing and the stereo /power amp will just amplify what it is receiving. I found that leaving the avr out of the music chain altogether was much better. This may not be for everybody as they may be very happy with what the avr is pumping out when playing music. But for me I wasn't as it didn't quite reach satisfactory levels. This is the same for some folks with flagship models which i would expect to perform to good levels

    HT Bypass is, not quite a 'must'' but makes life a lot simpler and wife friendlier in situations like this and would recommend to look at a stereo amp with this capability.

    Amplifiers with HT-bypass - update 03. September 2017
     
  9. Mike292

    Mike292
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    Yeah I see what you mean Ugg10. The practicality doesn't bother me as much though so I guess once I've found the right volume setting I'd just switch it to that each time.

    That being said, I'd go down the power amp route if it would offer the best sound quality, though like you say Don Dadda, I don't know if the using pre amp section of my Onkyo with a power amp would sound as good as using a completely separate integrated.

    I think I'll have to see if anywhere will allow me a home demo so I could compare & see for myself.

    Edit: I've just looked at that link you sent and the Arcam amp I mentioned does have the bypass option.. could be well suited to what I'm looking for!

    Edit again: I've just looked at the manual online & can't see this feature..
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
  10. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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  11. Mike292

    Mike292
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  12. gibbsy

    gibbsy
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    I've been looking at improving my stereo music listening and think going down the HT by-pass or AV Defeat, as I've also heard it called, seems to be the best way. I'm currently thinking of the Rega Elicit-R or one of the Roksan Kandy models so I can properly make use of my Marantz CD player, as at the moment I'm just using that as a headphone amp. All I've got to do is convince the wife.
     

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