AVR vs. Separates - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 04-25-2013, 09:59 AM - Thread Starter
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I am upgrading my whole system, and with WAF requiring fairly narrow fronts and music being more important to us than HT, am likely going to get a set of Totems (going to audition this weekend to confirm, was weighing Totem vs. Paradigm Millenia). My dilemma is that most posters here seem to prefer separates, but it seems to me that even a pretty basic amp would be more than I need. Hoping someone can enlighten me / correct my ignorance.

We'll probably end up getting the Hawks, which state a range of 30-120w. They're 6 ohm speakers and are not very sensitive (88dB). The matching center and surrounds are similar: 87.5dB sensitivity, 30-120w at 8ohms (center) and 30-100w at 4 ohms (surrounds).

If I get the Onkyo TX-NR5010, it seems like it would drive 7 channels somewhere around 80-120w at 8 ohms. This is somewhere in the middle of the tests cited at http://www.avsforum.com/t/1436438/does-watts-per-channel-all-channels-driven#post_22543617 (5010 at 78 watts / 7 ch driven) and http://www.hometheater.com/content/onkyo-tx-nr3010-av-receiver-ht-labs-measures (3010 testing at 114.1 watts / 7 ch driven).

If I go the separates route, it'd probably be an Emotiva XPA-5, and I'd just get a separate 2-channel amp if I decide to go up to 7.1 in the future. XPA-5 is 200 watts per channel.

I've seen many posters say Totems are power hungry and need a good amp, but isn't a 200-watt amp far more than I need? I've also seen people say you're unlikely to damage speakers by using a too-powerful amp, but isn't it safer to get an AVR that seems to be sufficient and can't push more power than the stated speaker range?
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post #2 of 16 Old 04-25-2013, 10:49 AM
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The Onkyo 5010 should be fine for that. It depends on the room size and how loud you listen but even a 200 watt per channel amp will only give you an extra 3db.
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post #3 of 16 Old 04-25-2013, 11:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Immoros View Post

I am upgrading my whole system, and with WAF requiring fairly narrow fronts and music being more important to us than HT, am likely going to get a set of Totems (going to audition this weekend to confirm, was weighing Totem vs. Paradigm Millenia). My dilemma is that most posters here seem to prefer separates, but it seems to me that even a pretty basic amp would be more than I need. Hoping someone can enlighten me / correct my ignorance.

We'll probably end up getting the Hawks, which state a range of 30-120w. They're 6 ohm speakers and are not very sensitive (88dB). The matching center and surrounds are similar: 87.5dB sensitivity, 30-120w at 8ohms (center) and 30-100w at 4 ohms (surrounds).

90 dB/W is considered to be average sensitivity, and 88 dB being only 2 dB less seems to be little cause for concern. If you want to understand what 2 dB means, grab the remote for your AVR and change its volume while you are listening to music by just 2 dB in either direction. It is noticable, but just barely so.
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If I get the Onkyo TX-NR5010, it seems like it would drive 7 channels somewhere around 80-120w at 8 ohms. This is somewhere in the middle of the tests cited at http://www.avsforum.com/t/1436438/does-watts-per-channel-all-channels-driven#post_22543617 (5010 at 78 watts / 7 ch driven) and http://www.hometheater.com/content/onkyo-tx-nr3010-av-receiver-ht-labs-measures (3010 testing at 114.1 watts / 7 ch driven).

All of those tests are based on a pure tone playing into a resistor on a test bench. This is far more taxing than playing music into loudspeakers. This picture shows how music has about 1/8 of the steady-state power of pure test tones.



Also, the front speakers typically handle the vast majority of the power. Most people don't even have surround speakers that can handle as much power as their front speakers. Therefore evaluating AVRs based on all channels playing max is somewhat unrealistic.

Depending on your room and where you sit with respect to the speakers you should be able to attain average reference (85 dB) SPLs with 110 dB (ear damage if it lasts for long) peaks with something like 50-100 wpc into 2 speakers. Add a powered subwoofer and these numbers drop appreciably.
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post #4 of 16 Old 04-26-2013, 09:48 AM - Thread Starter
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That is really helpful, thanks both. Room is medium and we don't listen very loud, so it sounds like we'll be fine with an AVR. All of the "Totems are so hard to drive" comments I've seen had me worried.
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post #5 of 16 Old 04-26-2013, 09:51 AM
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I was thinking about going separates myself for two speakers only but then I was told it would be overkill and the separates also didn't have HDMI inputs. Right now the receiver that I'm anticipating purchasing is the Onkyo 818.

HDTV: Panasonic TC-P50ST50
Speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 685
Receiver: Sony STR-DA80ES
Blu-ray Player: Playstation 3
Power Center: Monster HDP 1800
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post #6 of 16 Old 04-27-2013, 09:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Follow-up question: if I were to go with separates, or test vs. an AVR, is it safe to go with a 200 watt/ch amp on speakers rated up to 100w or 120w? Obviously I don't plan to max out the gain.
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post #7 of 16 Old 04-27-2013, 09:20 AM
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I use an AVR as my pre/pro (Anthem MRX300). I already had a good 5 channel amp (Parasound 220W/ch), so I just bought the MRX with the smallest amps. Many find the amps in them adequate for most speakers.
I think a good way to go would to buy a good AVR and then add an amp for the LCR if needed. Pre/pros just seem so overpriced for what you gain, most of which probably has to do with economies of scale.
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post #8 of 16 Old 04-27-2013, 09:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Immoros View Post

Follow-up question: if I were to go with separates, or test vs. an AVR, is it safe to go with a 200 watt/ch amp on speakers rated up to 100w or 120w? Obviously I don't plan to max out the gain.
IMO the gain seen in most separates are the ability to play low impedance without running out of headroom something AVR's have issues with until you reach their flagships.
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post #9 of 16 Old 04-27-2013, 11:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Immoros View Post

Follow-up question: if I were to go with separates, or test vs. an AVR, is it safe to go with a 200 watt/ch amp on speakers rated up to 100w or 120w? Obviously I don't plan to max out the gain.

If we take the typical AVR as being a 100 wpc 2 channel box, a 200 wpc power amp doesn't make sense because of the small difference that the addtional 3 dB worth of power makes. If your AVR or separates have a volume control calibrated in dB, make a +3 dB or - 3 dB change and see what you think of the difference. I predict it will be audible, but far less than inspirational. Now say to yourself "I'm going to pay $$$$ (fill in the blanks) for this". How do you feel about yourself?

Now, consider the fact that said 3 dB difference would only exist if you were already pushing your AVR right up against clipping. If you aren't clipping out your AVR, then all the additional power in the world won't make any difference!

Now, lets try to get a little serious. See what a +10 dB or -10 dB change sounds like. That should be something like twice as loud or half as loud. It is actually somewhat interesting!

To get a +10 dB loudness advantage over that AVR that you can hear clipping on loud passages, you need a 10 times more powerful amplfier! We are talking a killowatt!

Now 1 KW per channel is not rocket science or hyper expensive - your nearby pro audio dealer can fix you up.

But here's the risk factor - what happens if you actually try to take real world advantage of that 1 KwPC amp and your 100 or 120 watt speakers? More likely, what happens if you have errr, a little accident?
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post #10 of 16 Old 04-27-2013, 11:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oztech View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Immoros View Post

Follow-up question: if I were to go with separates, or test vs. an AVR, is it safe to go with a 200 watt/ch amp on speakers rated up to 100w or 120w? Obviously I don't plan to max out the gain.
IMO the gain seen in most separates are the ability to play low impedance without running out of headroom something AVR's have issues with until you reach their flagships.

Does that sort of thinking hold together if you understand this post? http://www.avsforum.com/t/1469931/avr-vs-separates#post_23244985

The whole point of that post is that due to the difference between music and test tones, AVRs running just below clipping are dealing with average power levels that are like 1/8 of their ratings.

Another way to look at this is that if you are wise, and use your AVR with a subwoofer, then it has even more headroom.
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post #11 of 16 Old 04-27-2013, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Does that sort of thinking hold together if you understand this post? http://www.avsforum.com/t/1469931/avr-vs-separates#post_23244985

The whole point of that post is that due to the difference between music and test tones, AVRs running just below clipping are dealing with average power levels that are like 1/8 of their ratings.

Another way to look at this is that if you are wise, and use your AVR with a subwoofer, then it has even more headroom.
I guess my point would be if a person has speakers that dip in impedance around 200Hz or lower (way before the 80Hz crossover for the sub) then they may get an audible gain with an external amp that can drive 4,3,2 ohm loads but There seems to be a few that advertise THX rated which use to state into a 3.2 ohm load and were flagships.
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post #12 of 16 Old 04-27-2013, 08:03 PM
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IMHO I think separates are overrated, my 50watt HK 254 has more than enough power to run my setup.
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post #13 of 16 Old 04-28-2013, 02:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Immoros View Post


If I get the Onkyo TX-NR5010, it seems like it would drive 7 channels somewhere around 80-120w at 8 ohms. This is somewhere in the middle of the tests cited at http://www.avsforum.com/t/1436438/does-watts-per-channel-all-channels-driven#post_22543617 (5010 at 78 watts / 7 ch driven) and http://www.hometheater.com/content/onkyo-tx-nr3010-av-receiver-ht-labs-measures (3010 testing at 114.1 watts / 7 ch driven).

Hometheater.com only tests receivers at 1KHz, that's probably why the 3010 managed 110+W/channel and most likely why the TX-NR5010 managed only 78W/channel in another test, it was like a 20Hz - 20KHz test.

Lower bass is very taxing on receivers, so a 20Hz - 20KHz test will give you a much lower value than just testing at 1KHz. Hometheater.com USED to actually test more completely, if you look back on older reviews you can see the 57lb, $4100 Marantz SR9600 managed 133W x 7 at 1KHz, but only 61W x 7 at 20Hz.

With rising inflation from the Global Financial Crisis, and rising costs of licensing fees for DLNA, HDMI, 4K, THX, etc, etc, the size of receiver's amp sections have been decreasing on an annual basis. Most publications know at this point you can only test receivers at 1KHz or every product out there will look underwhelming.
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post #14 of 16 Old 04-28-2013, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Ryder125 View Post

IMHO I think separates are overrated, my 50watt HK 254 has more than enough power to run my setup.

I agree, but would also say there's no reason not to get separates once you hit $1K or more.
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post #15 of 16 Old 04-28-2013, 08:00 AM
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I have always looked at the test reports and make sure the amp section will work with the speakers I have at the time and since going from seperates to AVR's I have always got their flagship since most of the time its the only way to get a good amp section those that have Paradigm Studio's know what I mean.
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post #16 of 16 Old 04-28-2013, 08:28 AM
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Really depends on you room size, expectations for your system and typical listening levels. Most are not ever going to listen at Reference level, but this is worth mentioning because most receiver amplification can't produce true reference unless the setup is in a small room with very high efficiency speakers all around. At typical listening levels of -25 to -20dB power demands are much much less, and most any mid level receiver can provide a very pleasing experience. For example my setup is in a 23x14 room and at my typical listening level of -25dB my Onkyo 1010 is more than adequate, but I have added separate 5ch and 2ch amps to my system that can provide 200+ watts with all channels driven. My system can technically only reach 4dB below reference with my current amp/speaker setup, I never listen that loud, but in my treated room @ -4dB while quite loud my system doesn't seem "strained" at this level.

Woo Hoo
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