To amp or not to amp new speakers? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 12:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello,

Since everyone seems to have a unique environment and equipment configuration, I guess it is my turn to ask what I hope is a basic question. I am trying to understand whether I should be adding a 2 channel amplifier now (with the possible goal of upgrading my AVR to separates over time) to properly power my main speakers. If so, how powerful an amp should it be? I fear that I am under powering them and am missing out on sound quality. Not to mention overly taxing my AVR.

I finally upgraded my 7.1 home theater speakers (after 17 years) where the L&R mains have the following stats:
Brand = Atlantic Technology
Model = IWTS-30 LCR
Impedance = 6 ohm
Sensitivity = 89db
Frequency = 55Hz - 20kHz
Amplifier power range = 25 - 200 Watts RMS
Listening distance from L&R speakers = approx 12'
Room = The room itself is approximately 5K cubic feet, not including the open area to the kitchen/eating area.

Currently all the speakers are set via the AVR at 80Hz for the PSW to handle below 80Hz (if I understand it correctly). I should also mention that I am 50/50 movies/music. Music is often played between -50db and -30db - but I do go much loader sometimes. Movies are often near reference -9db to +6db depending on the movie.

All 7 speakers are currently powered by an AVR: ONKYO TX-NR3007 (140 watt X 9) but states for each speaker category 2 channels driven, FTC. The AVR does have 4 independent power supplies - not sure if this really matters (but it sounds good on paper).

Overall Speaker Summary:
Mains: Atlantic Tech IWTS-30 LCR (6 ohm with 25 - 200 watt rating)
Center(s): (qty 2) Atlantic Tech ICTS 6 LCR (wired parallel) (6 ohm with 10 - 100 watt rating each)
Surrounds: Atlantic Tech IWTS 30SR-P (6 ohm with 25 - 150 watt rating)
Rears: Atlantic Tech IWTS 30SR-P (6 ohm with 25 - 150 watt rating)
PSW: Paradigm Seismic 110 (850 watt, 1,700 peak)

So here is my question again now that you may have a better understanding of the environment described above - I am trying to understand whether I should be adding a 2 channel or 3 channel amp now (with the ultimate goal of upgrading my AVR to separates over time) to improve the sound. If yes, how powerful an amp should it be? I fear that I am under powering the speakers, beating up the AVR and am missing out given my current investment.

Sorry for the long winded back ground, but I've noticed people being asked a lot of follow up questions when not providing many data points. Although I am sure I left something out.

Thank you for your expertise.
Dan
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post #2 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 12:41 PM
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You'll get a range of opinions. IMO, if you are not hearing distortion, you do not need more amplifier power. People will say that having more power "behind" the 1 to 5 watts you may use for typical loud levels (say 85 to 90 dB) makes the 1 to 5 watts sound different somehow. I don't buy it. It's possible that hard to drive speakers will suffer FR anomalies if the amp has a particularly high output impedance, but it appears to me that the practical impacts are very limited. And it's not really about power, anyway.

Note that if your average levels are 85 dB (especially with movies) you can expect peaks up to 20 dB higher, which would require 100 times as much power to reproduce cleanly. Luckily, much of the power-sapping content is in teh bass, and handled by subwoofers, not the receiver's amps.
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post #3 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 12:46 PM
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Here is a simple test to do. Play some of your favorite music in 2-channel mode. Then keep turning up the volume all the way to 0db reference. Do you notice a change in sound along the way? Does the bass get less tight? Does the sound get more bright? Do the instruments get a little muddier? If the answer is no, then you don't need more amplification.

Me, I tend to think most people under-power their speakers. They tend to try to match the power to the size of the speaker. I don't think this is the best approach. See my review of Paradigm speakers and a concept I call "over-amp"ing here: http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...nature-Speaker

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post #4 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 12:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you both for your comments, I will perform the volume test tonight to see if there is a quality change. I also took a look at your review - thanks
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post #5 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 02:54 PM - Thread Starter
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I welcome any other opinions out there as well.

Thanks
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post #6 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 03:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amirm View Post
Here is a simple test to do. Play some of your favorite music in 2-channel mode. Then keep turning up the volume all the way to 0db reference. Do you notice a change in sound along the way? Does the bass get less tight? Does the sound get more bright? Do the instruments get a little muddier? If the answer is no, then you don't need more amplification.

Me, I tend to think most people under-power their speakers. They tend to try to match the power to the size of the speaker. I don't think this is the best approach. See my review of Paradigm speakers and a concept I call "over-amp"ing here: http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...nature-Speaker
Nice review. I have never been to a dealer that carries the sigs so I have never had the pleasure of listening. I have thought about upgrading from my studio 20s to the Sig S2s but I don't have the funds at this time. For some reason I thought the S1s were alot smaller than they are so I never really considered them. About 6 months ago I saw some S1s in a picture next to some atoms and I realized they were bigger than what I thought. I may end up getting some s1s at some point and it's good to hear they are that similar to the s8s in the highs. Could you give me a comparison between the S1s and the Studio 20s. I see you have them right next to each other so I figured you have already done some comparing.
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post #7 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 03:22 PM
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I welcome any other opinions out there as well.

Thanks
Sorry, I didn't mean to hijack your thread I just wanted to ask a question to Amrim. It will take some power to fill up a 5000 sq ft room. I'm sure an Onkyo 508 would not be up to the challenge but its tough to say weather or not the 3007 is having problems. One thing to consider would be just the piece of mind having an amp running your front 3. You wouldn't have to worry about clipping when turning up the volume. If you don't hear any distortion then you may want to save your money. If you want to make sure your not getting distortion you could add an amp. Emotive gives you 30 days to decide if you want to keep the amp. You would have to pay the return shipping if you decide you don't need it. If I had a room that big I would probably get one just to ensure my speakers had enough power.
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post #8 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 04:45 PM
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Thank you both for your comments, I will perform the volume test tonight to see if there is a quality change. I also took a look at your review - thanks
Unless you are hear distortion at the loudest volumes that you find comfortable with demanding material there is no reason to upgrade to an amp. I personally think most people buy into the idea the more power the better,.... resulting in them purchasing more power than they need.
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post #9 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mjpearce023 View Post
Could you give me a comparison between the S1s and the Studio 20s. I see you have them right next to each other so I figured you have already done some comparing.
The main difference is reduction in distortion in mid to highs. The S1 just sounds cleaner.

That said, the 20 is no slouch. It definitely belongs to the family. The only fault, relative to more expensive speakers (such as Mark Levinson M22) is the low bass which is a bit soft and uncontrolled.

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post #10 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 07:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the additional perspective. I do not have a problem going off in tangents if it helps more people. I'm still breaking in the speakers, but I did run them over reference this evening to see how they would do. Obviousy, running in surround mode with the PSW they sound good. Running in pure audio (mains only - no PSW), I'm not sure I am getting the fullness I am looking for - but then again, it is a big room with a 6' opening to another large room. Will a more powerful amp (say 200W/ch 8ohm or 350W 4ohm) give me the fullness I'm looking for?

Thanks
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post #11 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 07:20 PM
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If you feel that you would benefit from more power there are several low cost option; Emotiva, Outlaw, ATI, Adcom and many more that can be purchase new or used at very reasonable prices. A nice2 or 3 channel to power the fronts would take a big load off your AVR and provide more available power to the remaining channels in use. With the volumes you are pushing and the sensitivity of you speakers I could see you might get some improvement at high volumes.
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post #12 of 16 Old 03-30-2011, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Scout's staff View Post
Thanks for the additional perspective. I do not have a problem going off in tangents if it helps more people. I'm still breaking in the speakers, but I did run them over reference this evening to see how they would do. Obviousy, running in surround mode with the PSW they sound good. Running in pure audio (mains only - no PSW), I'm not sure I am getting the fullness I am looking for - but then again, it is a big room with a 6' opening to another large room. Will a more powerful amp (say 200W/ch 8ohm or 350W 4ohm) give me the fullness I'm looking for?

Thanks
For music, at high volumes, an amp might help. At lower volumes...not sure. You seem to be comparing speakers with a sub to speakers without a sub - kinda like comparing apples and oranges, IMO.

"But this one goes up to 11"
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post #13 of 16 Old 03-31-2011, 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Scout's staff View Post
Thanks for the additional perspective. I do not have a problem going off in tangents if it helps more people. I'm still breaking in the speakers, but I did run them over reference this evening to see how they would do. Obviousy, running in surround mode with the PSW they sound good. Running in pure audio (mains only - no PSW), I'm not sure I am getting the fullness I am looking for - but then again, it is a big room with a 6' opening to another large room. Will a more powerful amp (say 200W/ch 8ohm or 350W 4ohm) give me the fullness I'm looking for?

Thanks
As MichaelJHuman said: you're comparing different things. The sub will provide low frequency re-enforcement that your speakers may not be able to approach given your room, so this might be what you're hearing.

If we assume your AVR can approach, let's say, almost all of its power in stereo mode (so you're getting something in the neighborhood of 120-140wpc) with no problems, and let's say at worst half with all channels driven all at once (so lets say 70wpc), a 200wpc amplifier will give you at best something like 4-5 dB of gain in terms of absolute peaks. You may or may not benefit from this (if you listen to a baseline at 85 dB, and peaks are supposed to hit 105 dB (and you have no compression enabled) your current amplifier can potentially handle that; depending on how many channels are meant to be that loud at once and for how long - a bigger amplifier will make "potentially" more concrete).

If you don't have any issues with the output volume you get now, I wouldn't futz with it; leave well enough alone. If you want louder or if you're distorting at volumes you'd like to play at now, then yes, a new power amplifier would be a good choice. 200-250wpc would be a good starting-off point (Emotiva's XPA-5 is a good example).
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post #14 of 16 Old 03-31-2011, 01:46 PM
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From many years of reading and posting at AVS I have reached the conclusion that virtually every audio question, at least the subjective ones, of which most are, depends primarily on the one doing the listening. Despite the "experts" claiming that all amps sound the same I kept hearing differences and went through a dozen or more before I found the "perfect" amp for me. This was not an inexpensive endeavor, but not as costly as you might think since I mostly bought and then sold at Audiogon, sometimes taking a loss, sometimes making a small profit. I did the same thing with pre/pros before finding the best that I can afford.

So my opinion is that there is no substitute for listening for yourself, and the OP is just going to have to bite the bullet and buy an amp. I do opine also that for a HT system (as opposed to a 2 ch stereo music system) a multichannel amp is the way to go because the center channel really carries the brunt of the load, and so giving more power to the LR speakers and not the center makes no sense at all to me. Also I suggest that some amps work better with certain speakers, and vice versa. Some speakers are "bright" meaning they emphasize higher frequencies and so are helped by a softer sounding amp (Sherwood Newcastle A-965 for example). Another more mellow speaker would benefit from a more detailed and dynamic amp (ex. Theta Digital Intrepid). Just to complicate things we all hear differently and what I consider "bright" may not be so for another set of ears, not to mention the room acoustics which themselves can emphasize higher frequencies and acoustic nodes/null spots.

This all sounds like too much for some to bother with, but it is what separates the average consumer from the real audio enthusiast. I think it is worth the effort and can be a very enjoyable and rewarding endeavor, but then I am a bit of an audiophile (a rational one, I hope).

I do have one other bit of advice for the OP: Read as many relevant articles as you can at this very good informational site:

http://www.ecoustics.com/articles-index.html

One more tip: The discontinued Theta Digital Intrepid is an outstanding 5 ch amp, IMO, and can be had "new" with full warranty for a fraction of it's original price from Classic Audio Parts, an authorized ATI/Theta dealer, for $1,499. Go to Audiogon and search for "theta."

"The truth is out there!"
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post #15 of 16 Old 04-01-2011, 06:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all for your insight - I had not put a lot of thought into the center speaker even though I understand it's significance. Not applying the same power to the front 3 could/would cause an imbalance.

When I wrote my initial question, I really thought it was going to be a cut and dry answer. I'm glad I asked.

Thanks
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post #16 of 16 Old 04-01-2011, 07:43 AM
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Thank you all for your insight - I had not put a lot of thought into the center speaker even though I understand it's significance. Not applying the same power to the front 3 could/would cause an imbalance.

When I wrote my initial question, I really thought it was going to be a cut and dry answer. I'm glad I asked.

Thanks

While I hold to my original advice concerning power to the center speaker, using different power amps for center/LR/surrounds does not really cause an imbalance, it just means the lower powered speaker is more likely to experience distortion during rising levels earlier than the higher powered ones. I should also confess that I actually use a separate power amp for my full range LR speakers that is rated at 300 w @ 8 ohms (Innersound ESL), whereas my center and surrounds get 120w @ 8 ohms (more actually since I only use 3 ch of a 5 ch amp - the recommended Intrepid). The reason for my setup is that I listen to a lot of 2 ch music and the Innersound ESL amp, which was designed by Roger Sanders of Sanders Sound Systems (previously of Innersound) is IMO among the best in the world at any price, and sounds noticeably better with my LR speakers.

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