Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver? - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 22 Old 05-18-06, 10:54 AM
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Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

I was wondering what people here think is the best for a home theatre:

* A Pre/Pro with Power Amp

* All-in-one Receiver

I know that money is a major consideration to take into account regarding the pre/pro option, but I would like to read about what would you consider the plusses and minus of each path toward HT Nirvana.
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post #2 of 22 Old 05-18-06, 12:01 PM
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Re: Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

Money was a major concern for me. I couldn't seem to find a receiver with enough power for me and then I couldn't find a pre-pro that I liked that was within my budget. I've always been impressed with the Sunfire Theater Grand and that new Anthem Statement looks sweet indeed, but both way out of my financial range. There's other that I like too but those stand out the most to me. Several years back I did enjoy my Lexicon CP3+ and DC1, and I like their pre-pros too, but still expensive. I sold my DC1 just in time to come out ahead.

I ended up opting for a receiver/amp combo. I have the Denon 3806 Receiver for a pre-pro and it powers my rear surrounds. Then I chose the Earthquake Cinenova Grande 5 using 3 of its channels to power the front. It's brute power sold me and the fact I got a pretty good deal on it used via another forum buddy.

The 3806 isn't anything near what a separate pre-pro would probably do, but it satisfies me and it was cheap, being I'm a Denon rep.

The biggest drawback with receivers I think is lack of power, if you are power hungry like me. Otherwise, I think they've come a long way in the recent years. Then if you can afford it, no doubt it would be nice to have that separate pre-pro + amp combo. Separates would have their critical listening benefits if you are a music person... I'm mostly (95% or so) a movie buff.

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post #3 of 22 Old 05-18-06, 12:57 PM
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Re: Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

If you ignore the cost angle, a Preamp/Amp combo will sound better than a all in one receiver. I don't know ALL of the technical details, but the fact that the amps and the preamp circuitry are actually separated is supposed to be good thing. People smarter than me have said that any preamp/amp combo is going to sound better than any receiver. I don't know if I buy into that argument completely, but I don't think the statement is completely invalid.

I've also heard arguments that it's cheaper in the long run to go with separates. Since you can keep an amp for decades, you just need to swap out the pre-amp as new formats become available; however, with a receiver, you need to swap out the entire unit. This argument only makes sense if you're going with the really high end receivers.

The obvious pro-receiver argument is cost. A good receiver can be had for <$1,000, whereas an entry level preamp/amp will cost you >$1,000. Probably the best inexpensive preamp/amp combo I know of is from Outlaw. Their 970 PrePro/7075 Pwr Amp combo costs $1,298.

Which speakers will you be mating your electronics with? To me this would be the real deciding factor. My general rule of thumb is to spend ~70% on speakers and ~30% on electronics. So, if your speakers cost ~$3,150, then I think it makes sense to go the separates route.

That's my $0.02 at least..

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post #4 of 22 Old 05-18-06, 01:10 PM
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Re: Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

I concur on the side of seperates - the basics being that preamps/processors have different power requirements to power amps, consequently power supplies can be chosen/designed that meet the exact demands of the equipment they're supplying.
However, some of the integrated units do a great job - here's a good example:

With a good integrated unit you only need one shelf space and no inteconnects to a power amp.
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post #5 of 22 Old 05-18-06, 01:12 PM
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Re: Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

Measurements at Audioholics (albeit limited measurements) gave the nod to the Yamaha RX-V2600 as a better pre-amp than the Emotiva DMC-1 (which is based off the Sunfire IV, IIRC). So the old rule of thumb that seperates will always perform better is something that I consider a fallacy. Especially considering how many people have found their preference to be a receiver for their pre-amp.

However, that isn't the say the RX-V2600 will necessarily sound better. They didn't measure everything. I do agree that receivers will provide less power in terms of watts, but I also think the vast majority people don't really need 300W RMS of power in a single channel. Maybe 300W of power peak, which means if your amp can provide 300W RMS you won't hit as much distortion as an amp that peaks at 300W.

A more meaningful measurement of amps for me is the frequency response for different impedence loads. Many amps cannot drive lower impedence, and speaker impedence can vary a lot. That's proably not an issue if your speakers are 8ohm nominal. Some amps are +/-3dB between 20Hz-20kHz. That might mean a 6dB drop at ~20kHz, which isn't so hot if you think about it. Unless your speakers happen to be one designed to give more "air" and thus have an equivalent boost in the really high frequencies.
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post #6 of 22 Old 05-18-06, 01:31 PM
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Re: Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

I am similar to Sonnie, in that I use a receiver (HK-DPR2005) as a prepro and also to power my surrounds. I use a 3 channel amp, the Adcom GFA-5503 which is 200 wpc to power my L/C/R. It was a really solid improvement for me. The amp retails for $1700, but I bought it used on Audiogon for $500. It made a real difference in my system at both moderate and high volume levels, and the HK has some pretty robust amps to start with. I did a lot of research, and many people feel that there are very few things that can go wrong with amps, and it is one of the better components, as far as longevity, to buy used. If you are open to going with pre-owned, this may be an option for you.

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post #7 of 22 Old 05-18-06, 01:37 PM
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Re: Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

Josuah wrote:
A more meaningful measurement of amps for me is the frequency response for different impedence loads. Many amps cannot drive lower impedence, and speaker impedence can vary a lot. That's proably not an issue if your speakers are 8ohm nominal. Some amps are +/-3dB between 20Hz-20kHz. That might mean a 6dB drop at ~20kHz, which isn't so hot if you think about it. Unless your speakers happen to be one designed to give more "air" and thus have an equivalent boost in the really high frequencies.
This is such an important point! I know some friends that burned amps trying to drive very low impedence speakers like the Apogee Scintillas (1 ohm!!!) Then, you need not only powerful amps, but also amps that can deliver and sustain very high current charges. Excellent point!

Then, most receivers will have a hard time to sustain low impedence load because high current amps take a lot of space (physically) and run HOT!

I guess that is one factor to consider when looking at pre/pro + amp vs. receiver component.
post #8 of 22 Old 05-19-06, 11:13 PM
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Re: Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

Another vote for receiver as pre/pro. Running a Denon AVR-3200 (1998 vintage) with two McIntosh MC-250's (one bridged for the center), surrounds (LaScala's) by the receiver. Works for me. Been eyeing the Outlaw 990 however.

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post #9 of 22 Old 05-20-06, 01:27 AM
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Re: Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

A lot of good comments have already been made about preamp/processors with amps vs receivers. To those discussions, the only thing I can add is that senergies exist between speakers and amps. You want to be careful to match speakers with the right amps/receivers and avoid situations where a bright amp is matched with bright speakers or warm amps/receivers are match with warm speakers.

Another area that should be considered before flashing the plastic, is the total budget. Within that budget, the choice of what equipment to buy will become more obvious. If you have a $4 K budget, once you buy some speakers, you're more likely to be able to buy a better receiver than you would seperates. If you view your system as one that can grow as money becomes available, buy better components and add to them over time. Avoid buying something that will likely be replaced in a few years. (did I hear an ouch?)
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post #10 of 22 Old 05-20-06, 02:45 AM
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Re: Pre/pro + Amp or all-in-on receiver?

I somewhat disagree with this synergy thing. A good amplifier will be flat across the 20Hz-20kHz spectrum. For example, the Emotiva MPS-1 looks to be within +/-0.25dB from 20Hz-20kHz. It's also stable down to 2ohms, which is probably the lowest impedance the vast majority of speakers in all price ranges will hit. If for whatever reason your speaker goes even lower than that, then the Anthem Statement P2 or P5 amps are stable into something close to 0ohms. Granted, these are more expensive products but even very inexpensive per-channel pro gear have measured responses that are flat across 20Hz-20kHz at 8ohms.

A lower quality amplifier will drop off more quickly at the edges of that spectrum, and also drop off more quickly at those edges for lower impedance loads than for 8ohm loads. This might be desirable if you are trying to compensate for a boost in your speaker's frequency response at ~30Hz and ~18kHz. But I would equate that to mixing two under-performing products in an attempt to cancel them out. This is why some people buy expensive cables with the goal of attenuating 14kHz-18kHz, but I would say why did you buy speakers that are boosting 14kHz-18kHz in the first place if you didn't like that sound? Unless it just so happens that you don't like hearing those frequencies as much as the mixer/conductor wanted you to, in which case I suppose that would make sense. Sort of.

An amplifier's response also will never be to boost the frequencies at the edge of its operating spectrum. So an amplifier cannot be "dark" or "bright", in the sense of boosting low frequencies (~30Hz) or high frequencies (~18kHz) exclusively. It might be "warm", if you consider having everything from ~60Hz-~15kHz equally boosted in comparison to the edge frequencies your "warm" area.

All that being said, I'm just saying that I don't find much merit in thinking you need to match your solid state electronics to your incredibly fickle speakers (it's much easier to get voltage and frequency to do what you want than drivers and air). Moving into gear that's specifically designed to not have a flat frequency response is a whole other game, of course. Tube amplifiers are a good example of that, where you will get different behavior based on which tubes you install.

Anyway, all of this is based on what technical knowledge I've learned on the subject, and I'm by no means an expert. So I'm sure there are people who can further explain or correct some of my points.
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