If I don't need louder, does an external amp do anything for me? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 05:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Recently got my 7.1 going. Room is approximately 19 x 22, NOT dedicated to HT only. Using a Yamaha RX-A800 (rated 95WPC). Speakers are rated 89dB. (Boston Acoustics L/C/R and front presence/height, with Fluance bi-pole surrounds).

I don't listen at reference level, and have not had it anywhere near a level where I've heard any straining/clipping.

But, read lots of posts relating to speakers that said adding clean external power really helped to "open them up". To me, this suggests that maybe there is even better sound to be had at my listening levels, without having to go to 11.

When putting my system together, I was close to buying an amp because I thought my room size would require it. But, I held off (mostly due to wife's $$$ complaints) and so far, volume level doesn't seem to be an issue. But is there some other great sound locked in my speakers that the AVR power can't bring out? (FYI, my L/C/R are not bi-ampable)

I kind of expect that my current speaker setup is a "starter" set - I eventually plan to upgrade and move these ones to a secondary living room or bedroom setup. But, this is minimum 2 years out. So trying to get the best sound I can from what I've got now.

So, what say you - is adding an amp worth the time and $$?

Boston Acoustics Classic series L/C/R + front presence; Fluance XLBP Bipole surrounds; PSA XS15se
Yamaha RX-A3040; Emotiva XPA-3
Oppo BDP-103D
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post #2 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 06:09 AM
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No. Stop reading and enjoy your system.

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post #3 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 06:14 AM
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Since you have no clipping issues and don't want/need anymore SPL then what you currently are able to achieve, an external amp is not needed, unless you want some "braggin rights".

What you have heard about speakers "opening up" or "a night and day difference" is nonsense. If you don't need it louder then you don't need any more amplification. At the same decibel level any given amp vs any other amp is pushing the same amounts of watts per channel to achieve it, usually in the 1-5 watts per channel with upwards of 20 watts or so for peaks. With todays gear (solid state stuff) there is virtually no audible difference between competent avrs or external amps.

I don't need snobs to tell me how to think, thank you!
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post #4 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 67jason View Post

With todays gear (solid state stuff) there is virtually no audible difference between competent avrs or external amps.

I wonder how high end amp companies have stayed around for 50+ years? There must doing a damn good job selling snake oil....
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post #5 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 07:36 AM
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All good advise above and the Yamaha looks like a nice receiver. Yes, there is an awful lot of 'snake oil' being pitched at the consumer. It sounds as though you are very pleased with your system, cool! Because that is what it is all about, enjoy your system.

Steve
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post #6 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 07:40 AM
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There are many applications in which external amps (and separates) are necessary and/or preferred. It's not all snake oil. The art of the hobby is knowing when this is necessary and foregoing the belief that it will improve your system all the time, every time.

A lot of money is wasted needlessly. You have two choices - understand the science of sound and determine the right path, or buy gear and try it out.

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post #7 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 08:18 AM
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^
Pretty much my point, I tried to keep it short. I did not say the 'separates' road was all snake oil, I have been meandering down that road for some time now.

"The art of the hobby is knowing when this is necessary and foregoing the belief that it will improve your system all the time, every time."

Nicely said! Truly words to live by. . .

Steve
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post #8 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 08:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

There are many applications in which external amps (and separates) are necessary and/or preferred. It's not all snake oil.

I think the irony of my post was lost on most...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

The art of the hobby is knowing when this is necessary and foregoing the belief that it will improve your system all the time, every time.

No doubt.
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post #9 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 09:09 AM
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If you are completely satisfied with your current sound, why change? You do have preouts for all channels which gives you the option of adding external power amplifiers if you want improvement though.

The fact that you bothered to post, however, suggests that you may not be completely satisfied with what you hear at present. Your Yamaha has reasonably good amplifiers, but there are certainly better-sounding ones out there if you are willing to spend the money; the $30 per channel or so that Yamaha spent on those amplifiers certainly does not result in the superior sound quality that top-quality amplifiers can produce. Amplifiers of that type will usually produce more than 2% distortion on peaks in normal operation when driving 7 channels, which is not obnoxious but certainly a sound quality issue.

Achieving very high sound quality is not about volume or power as much as ultra-low harmonic distortion and also the extremely low output impedance that allows the amplifier to maintain extremely high linearity over varying speaker impedances at different frequencies. Those who are not knowledgeable about the interaction between speakers and amplifiers think that one amplifier is pretty much the same as another; they have obviously never done design and testing of amplifiers and learned how totally wrong that is!

There are not very many power amplifiers available for under $2000 that would be a huge sonic improvement for you IMO. I use a Bryston 3B-SST, which would, if used for your front speakers, give you an improvement that would IMO be a readily audible and excellent upgrade, but it does cost $4300.

There is ONE amplifier for under $2000 that I CAN recommend to you, however. The Vincent SP-331 is only $1300, and that would be a very nice upgrade if you added it to your front two channels. It was voted "Product of the Year" by the editors of The Absolute Sound and is quite an amplifier for its price. I think that you would probably find the improvement worth the price.




Quote:
Originally Posted by AC2011 View Post

Recently got my 7.1 going. Room is approximately 19 x 22, NOT dedicated to HT only. Using a Yamaha RX-A800 (rated 95WPC). Speakers are rated 89dB. (Boston Acoustics L/C/R and front presence/height, with Fluance bi-pole surrounds).

I don't listen at reference level, and have not had it anywhere near a level where I've heard any straining/clipping.

But, read lots of posts relating to speakers that said adding clean external power really helped to "open them up". To me, this suggests that maybe there is even better sound to be had at my listening levels, without having to go to 11.



So, what say you - is adding an amp worth the time and $$?

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post #10 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 09:31 AM
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^^ And yet there will always be the obligatory "your equipment sucks", often accompanied by "this will sound better" posts.

Sigh.

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post #11 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 09:48 AM
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Some people insist that the best view is from their own porch; others have got off their butts and found out what things look like from the top of the mountain.

Every field of knowledge has the doubters and nay-sayers who have no interest in intelligent dialogue, since it is so easy to be an uninformed critic of everything.
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post #12 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 12:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 67jason View Post

With todays gear (solid state stuff) there is virtually no audible difference between competent avrs or external amps.

I have to completely disagree. I have 2 AVRs and 3 standalone amps and they ALL sound different with the same speakers.

The 2 AVRs in no way sound as good or even close to my Counterpoint amp, Stratos or Hafler 9180 AND my Integra 30.3 sounds very different than my HK AVR635.

So I am not sure what kind of gear you used to come up with that statement but I think you should reconsider it.

Now in this case, depending on your speakers and what one considers good sound or if you are completely satisfied with the sound of the Yamaha, don't bother.

On the other hand, if you have only heard receivers and AVRs, you may never know what a good amp and pre-amp can do for the same given speakers unless you try.

Rotel 1072 > VAC CLA 1 MKII > Counterpoint NPS-400 > Clearfield Continental Speakers via Synsergistic Research Cabling
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post #13 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 12:40 PM
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Some people feel that amp-speaker interaction can result in situations that some amps can't handle, even though it looks like they can.

I forget the specifics. Maybe a "worst case scenario," there's a high current draw, and the amp is not up to that task. Sorry, I have no links to post on this.

"But this one goes up to 11"
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post #14 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 12:48 PM
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If you are happy then I wouldn't spend a dime but those that tell you that external amplification is pointless have in fact NEVER plugged an external amp into anything they own.

Bill
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post #15 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

^^ And yet there will always be the obligatory "your equipment sucks", often accompanied by "this will sound better" posts.

Sigh.

Why do feel compelled to force your opinion on others. Upgrading to a better amp is never a bad thing. You have your opinion i have mine. This argument will never end just because you sighed. sheesh.
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post #16 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 01:55 PM
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It is certainly the case that some amp designs can sound better than others and there are technical reasons why this would be the case. In principle, if you could discover the amp design used an AVR, you could decide if there are technical reasons why it would not produce adequate audio. However, most commodity home entertainment companies don't publicize their amp designs, and most people are reluctant to tear their equipment apart to find out exactly what's in them. As a result, you have to try to locate equipment reviews which include bench tests to see what measurable distortions are present in the output of a particular model. Sadly, the amount of work involved in doing a proper bench test is extensive enough that it's usually done only for a very few models of equipment, most often in the higher price ranges and well after they first come on the market.

And then there are the occasional lemons -- defective units which generate internal noise or distort the output in ways that they aren't supposed to do.

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post #17 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrfattbill View Post

If you are happy then I wouldn't spend a dime but those that tell you that external amplification is pointless have in fact NEVER plugged an external amp into anything they own.

Bill

I don't think your statement is true.

For example, I did not notice a difference when I added external amps to my setup. I am not going to say 'pointless', but some people with a similar experience might.

I think it's safest to note that there are many variables, and in some cases external amps may help. There are people on both sides of the fence, many of whom have experience with and without external amps.

"But this one goes up to 11"
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post #18 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 02:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Socketman View Post

Upgrading to a better amp is never a bad thing.

I disagree. If someone is on a budget and they spend an extra $1000 on an amp even though their receiver has plenty of power for their speakers that is wasting money. That money could be better spent elsewhere. They could have bought a second sub or a better TV but instead wasted money on something that isn't offering them an improvement. We see these types of threads all the time where people have budget speakers that will do just fine with a $500 receiver but they still get sucked into buying an amp because people on this forum tell them about this huge improvement they are going to get. This forum is supposed to be here to guide people but a lot of times I see people being steered the complete wrong direction. I hate seeing people throw away $500 or $800 or $1000 when they could have gotten better sound quality just by moving their front speakers away from the wall. People who have bought an amp and gotten an improvement seem to have this idea that it's going to happen for everyone and that's just not the case. These kinds of blanket recommendations are not helpful. Recommendations should be on a system by system basis but you see the same people in all of these threads recomending the same thing to everyone. I'm not saying you do that, Socketman, I'm just saying that I see other people that do it all the time.
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post #19 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 02:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Socketman View Post

Why do feel compelled to force your opinion on others. Upgrading to a better amp is never a bad thing. You have your opinion i have mine. This argument will never end just because you sighed. sheesh.

Define "better."

If an amp costs more but has no audible benefit, isn't that a bad thing?

For every new thing I learn, I forget two things I used to know.
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post #20 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 03:08 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjpearce023 View Post

I disagree. If someone is on a budget and they spend an extra $1000 on an amp even though their receiver has plenty of power for their speakers that is wasting money. That money could be better spent elsewhere. They could have bought a second sub or a better TV but instead wasted money on something that isn't offering them an improvement. We see these types of threads all the time where people have budget speakers that will do just fine with a $500 receiver but they still get sucked into buying an amp because people on this forum tell them about this huge improvement they are going to get. This forum is supposed to be here to guide people but a lot of times I see people being steered the complete wrong direction. I hate seeing people throw away $500 or $800 or $1000 when they could have gotten better sound quality just by moving their front speakers away from the wall. People who have bought an amp and gotten an improvement seem to have this idea that it's going to happen for everyone and that's just not the case. These kinds of blanket recommendations are not helpful. Recommendations should be on a system by system basis but you see the same people in all of these threads recomending the same thing to everyone. I'm not saying you do that, Socketman, I'm just saying that I see other people that do it all the time.

Well said.

Also, I wonder if it ever occurs to people that there are many dealers on these threads who would intentionally mislead a person into buying more gear? You know the type, this 1,000 watt amp will sound sooo much better than your lowly 100 watt amp (even though the person is only using 20 watts/channel at most). Be cautious in your business affairs for the world if full of trickery.
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post #21 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 03:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Socketman View Post

Why do feel compelled to force your opinion on others. Upgrading to a better amp is never a bad thing. You have your opinion i have mine. This argument will never end just because you sighed. sheesh.

Who are you? Why is your nose stuck in this conversation? Why do you feel I have forced my opinion on anyone? You may freely give all the opinion you like. You have my permission. Sigh.

Anyway, this comment, were you perceptive enough to understand what the up arrows (^^) mean, was directed at commsysman. The OP asked whether it was necessary to upgrade his components. The simple answer is no, the complex answer is no - it is not necessary.

the $30 per channel or so that Yamaha spent on those amplifiers certainly does not result in the superior sound quality that top-quality amplifiers can produce

Now, of course it's never a bad idea to upgrade components. This is not a question. Better speakers, better AVR, better display, a better life is something everyone wants. But commsysman chose to tell the OP that his equipment is crap. What kind of feeling do you think this emotes? AC2011 will likely now think his setup is inferior, and upgrading is mandatory.

It wasn't necessary. It was detrimental to the conversation, but then that's commsysman. Had he simply stated "your system is fine, but everyone can do better..." it would not have warranted a sigh.

Got it? Good.

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post #22 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 03:28 PM
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IMO as long as whatever amp I am using is linear through the range it's called upon to reproduce, at the voltages it is called upon to reproduce, I can't improve upon its performance technically. If my current amp is nonlinear (say it has a high output impedance and rolls off a bit at the frequency extremes, or even has a small frequency response deviation in the high mids/low treble because of the speaker's impedance) I might prefer it to a more technically correct amp.

On the flip side, I might have developed my taste in amps with tubes, or cut my teeth on early digital era British amps that roll off the treble ever so politely, and I may prefer that sound. But it appears to some degree that speaker designers are converging, for now, on the view that off axis, at least, speakers should have a falling, but still smooth, treble range. If I have a little roll off in the amp and speakers that are a little less bright in room because of their off axis character, how far am I deviating from my dimly but fondly remembered bouts with cranky old British electronics. (Pace! Tap your toe!) Sorry. I went all Linn there for a second.
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post #23 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EnjoyingMyRide View Post

^
Pretty much my point, I tried to keep it short. I did not say the 'separates' road was all snake oil, I have been meandering down that road for some time now.

"The art of the hobby is knowing when this is necessary and foregoing the belief that it will improve your system all the time, every time."

Nicely said! Truly words to live by. . .

Thank you sir!

As for the first statement, I was replying to Sam, he caught it

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post #24 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

I don't think your statement is true.

For example, I did not notice a difference when I added external amps to my setup. I am not going to say 'pointless', but some people with a similar experience might.

I think it's safest to note that there are many variables, and in some cases external amps may help. There are people on both sides of the fence, many of whom have experience with and without external amps.

What was the real measured power difference with all channels driven between what you had and what you added? For me the BIGGEST improvement adding an XPA-5 to my SC-25 was the added dynamics at the lower volumes and the ICE amps are certainly no slouches.

There are people on both sides of every fence of course, if there weren't we would all be in the middle of a field like sheep

Bill
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post #25 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 04:46 PM
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No subject causes more controversey than the "all amps sound the same/ all amps sound different" subject. If your receiver sounds good to you then I see no need to replace it. I am just a blue collar guy and dont pretend to have a phd in golden ears. I will say that I will never believe that a 200.00 Sony receiver and a Krell amp sound the same (same wpc, driving above average speakers.) I know you could buy 50 Sonys for the cost of the Krell but that's not the point. I don't see why some people get so fired up over this. If you are happy with your equipment no matter how much you paid for it that's all that matters. $100.00 or $100k.

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post #26 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by g_bartman View Post

...I will say that I will never believe that a 200.00 Sony receiver and a Krell amp sound the same (same wpc, driving above average speakers.)....

That's the very definition of "belief." Facts be damned.

But people do ask the question often, and they do deserve a correct answer.

There are many valid reasons to buy premium amps, such as design, workmanship, status, etc.. But, power differences or defects aside, "better sound quality" is generally never a valid reason.
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post #27 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 05:29 PM
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I've been reading Peter Aczel's audio writings for about 30 years. He was one of first critics to actively (and aggressively!) question the publishers of Stereophile, The Absolute Sound and the tweak culture of high-end audio. Peter is now about 86 and doesn't write much these days, but these old articles may be of interest to the OP.

In the end, I don't think anyone here will argue that, dollar for dollar, upgrading amplifiers will have a far lesser effect (if any!) than upgrading your speakers. Put your money in speakers and improving the acoustics of your room...

http://theaudiocritic.com/plog/index...00504&blogId=1

"Hip Boots": http://www.theaudiocritic.com/back_i...ritic_29_r.pdf
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post #28 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by g_bartman View Post

...I will say that I will never believe that a 200.00 Sony receiver and a Krell amp sound the same

There was an interesting listening test, decades ago I think, in which listeners (some of whom I am sure would consider themselves critical listeners) could not tell a cheapo Pioneer from an expensive tube amp.

I won't argue the point either way, but the anecdotal evidence could suggest that, unsighted, amps can be hard to tell apart even when quite different in design.

Seems best to keep an open mind, with a tight grip on the pocketbook, and read everything you can find time to read (not just forum posts.) And then make the best decision you can, and if it does not work out, try to learn from it.

On the bright side, a bad audio buying decision, if you did not bet the farm on it, is most harmless. There are far worse mistakes

"But this one goes up to 11"
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post #29 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 05:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2-4Trippin View Post

I've been reading Peter Aczel's audio writings for about 30 years. He was one of first critics to actively (and aggressively!) question the publishers of Stereophile, The Absolute Sound and the tweak culture of high-end audio. Peter is now about 86 and doesn't write much these days, but these old articles may be of interest to the OP.

In the end, I don't think anyone here will argue that, dollar for dollar, upgrading amplifiers will have a far lesser effect (if any!) than upgrading your speakers. Put your money in speakers and improving the acoustics of your room...

http://theaudiocritic.com/plog/index...00504&blogId=1

"Hip Boots": http://www.theaudiocritic.com/back_i...ritic_29_r.pdf

^^^^^

Good stuff. Thank you.
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post #30 of 115 Old 04-26-2012, 05:51 PM
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I have a Yamaha 3010 and added an xpa-5 to it about two months after the purchase. The only difference I found was low volume playback. The external amp seemed more detailed and my speakers opened up better. At High volume, I didn't notice any difference. Since I got a deal on the amp, I'm not disappointed. Had I paid full retail, I think I would of sent it back for refund.

What I have gathered is, the higher the db efficiency rating on your speakers, the least likely your avr will have trouble driving them and... Making it least likely an ext amp is going to improve your listening experience.
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