Originally Posted by olfac87
Justindo - that is some amazing advice and I appreciate you taking the time to write it. You have helped confirm a number of thoughts I had going to bed last night (feeling none too restful after 4 hours of research). A few points that hit me:
1. Trying to figure out why I would go pre/pro vs a receiver. I am not interested in bells and whistles generally and sound is more important. You said the pre/pro does produce a better sound and that hit home. Last night I read the reviews on the Outlaw and the Emotiva UMC-200. I don't have any legacy equipment (new TV, Oppo, new amp-to-be, etc.) except a 5 year old CD player I need to keep. I like the looks of the Outlaw better. What I was trying to reconcile is I want to build a somewhat future-proof, one-time system. I realize that may not be possible with how tech changes but I was tainted by the words "entry level" on the Outlaw and Emotiva pieces. But what I am hearing is they will actually perform better and without spending madly on a higher-end AVR or higher-end pre/pro.
2. You stated the 200+ wpc @ 8 ohms for the amp. Is that more important than the amp being rated for 4 ohms? The speakers are 4 ohm units. I am glad you confirmed that spending now on a good amp is worth it. I went to bed thinking an Outlaw or Emotiva plus a good amp would be good and you confirmed that.
3. It sounds like I could be ok buying used versus new on the amp. Good to know. Any specific questions to ask a seller about a used amp?
4. On the Outlaw route, any thoughts about it not having any calibration software like Audyssey? Maybe I take the money saved and hire someone or do it a different way? Or pay the extra $600 or so for the AV7005 (even though it is only XT and not XT32). Maybe my novice self won't know the difference.
The fact the AV7005 is double the price but has *some* more features is appealing. It's the "what I don't know" syndrome where maybe I am protecting myself by buying something with at least a few features. And you are right, the reviews on it seem great.
I think I am almost convinced to go the less expensive pre/pro route (Model 975 or AV7005) and pick-up a decent 5 channel amp.
I'll address your points one by one.
1. The only reason to go the receiver as a pre/pro route is that you don't want to/can't spend $1000 or more on a dedicated pre/pro but you want all the whistles and bells that the Marantz, Integra, etc. pre/pros offer. It sounds like you're willing to spend $1000 or more, so this doesn't apply to you. Future proof your system with good speakers and a good amp. You simply can't do it with a pre/pro because this technology changes rapidly. Also, when I'm talking about "entry level" pre/pros, keep in mind you can easily drop five figures on a pre/pro, so $550-$1,500 is "entry level" but those "entry level" pre/pros will sound better than the pre/pro sections in Japanese flagship receivers. As for the Outlaw, I think I'll probably be buying one myself later this year.
2. As I previously wrote, a good amp will easily handle 4ohm loads. All of the amps I've mentioned (Bryston, ATI, Outlaw (made in California by ATI as Jima4a writes), Parasound, NAD, etc.) will handle this impedance. I would be looking for at least 200 wpc 8 ohms and 300 wpc into 4 ohms. If it doesn't mention its 4 ohm capabilities, walk away.
3. Although I don't buy much used gear myself, amps are the safest thing to buy used. The nice thing about them is that either they work or they don't. If it works when it arrives, it will probably keep working for quite some time. You may have to replace the fuses down the road, but that's about it. The Bryston I linked to is a 12 year old amp, which may scare you, but it sells for $8,000 today new. I'm using an almost 15 year old high end stereo amp and I've never had any problems with it and it sounds just as good as as it did the first year I had it.
4. Many on this forum love the Audyssey "room correction" and I personally think it has some benefits, especially with a really bad room and lesser speakers and electronics. I've A/B'd several people's mid-fi home systems with and without Audyssey back to back and I think it helped in some ways and hindered in others. For example, it sounded as if it did help compensate for some resonance and reflection problems but on the other hand it added a somewhat artificial and undesirable quality, taking the life out of the sound and making it both sterile and muffled. I've never owned a system with it and I've been perfectly happy without it. Personally, I wouldn't bother with it. Most professional reviews I've read have seen Audyssey as a mixed bag as well. I've heard it described that Audyssey attempts to undo all the effort that the designers put into their speakers. Also for what it's worth, few if any high end pre/pros feature Audyssey. It seems to be a feature on mid-fi gear only, just as they have dozens of "concert hall", "jazz club", "stadium", "rock venue", etc. modes that sound dreadful.
The Outlaw 975 and the Outlaw 7500 would be just over $2,000 and would provide great sound for a very reasonable price. Of course you could spend three times the amount and max out your $6,000 budget and get better sound, but diminishing returns start kicking in.