Originally Posted by stash64
The "you don't need a separate amp if you can already play loud" comes up all the time. It's a shame because a quality amplifier does so much more than just play loud when paired with other quality audio equipment. I think it comes up so often because people by nature like simplification (including me) and using separates adds complexity and cost. I am glad that I switched to separates many years ago... and will likely never go back to an AVR.
I'm of two minds on this. The first is the objectivist side stating that if test groups in controlled double blinds have a hard time distinguishing between the two, there are probably better places to put your money.
Along those same lines, while I've felt that I've heard differences between two amps (talking solid state here, valves are pretty easy to hear differences between), I've felt they have had less of a noticeable difference than phono-pre's and pre-amps.
Finally, different isn't always a better/worse scenario, the two could both be equally pleasing yet still be different.
In order of where I have noticed the most difference, a good phono pre was the most dramatic, followed by the pre amp, and then the amp. This is for stereo only, not surround as it gets harder to tell differences with lots and lots of channels.
This makes sense to me as well as the phono pre takes an extremely small signal and boosts the hell out of it. Doing so can lead to all kinds of differences. Throwing in different loading options and it's pretty easy to see how some phono-pre's can be much more noticeable, and dare I say, better, than others.
Similarly a pre ups the signal for the amp, may or may not have ADC/DAC, analog or digital volume control, tone controls, or a myriad of other items that can color/change the audio.
An amp I feel does make a difference, especially if you are talking about a flea powered amp on a tricky load (and again SS vs. tubes), but it's got a lot of diminishing marginal returns going on.
On the other hand, we are all gear and music geeks, this is a hobby, and we all want the best we can get. So if you want an amp, go ahead. It's unlikely to make things worse than an AVR, can instill some pride of ownership and piece of mind and the darn things last decades.