Preamps versus Receivers with preouts - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello there, I have a question about the difference in using a preamp and discrete amp versus using a receiver with preouts and a discrete amp. Is there any difference in audio quality, or reasons to choose one route over the other in general?

For specifics, I am comparing these two setups:

1) Emotiva UMC-200 preamp and UPA-200 amp

2) Onkyo TX-NR717 receiver and Emotiva UPA-200 amp

Thanks for the help!
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post #2 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 07:08 PM
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For one thing .. the former is generally more expensive than that latter. smile.gif

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post #3 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 08:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Too true! The latter route looks much better on paper as far as the ol' wallet is concerned. I was just curious if there would be a large difference in the quality of the sound when using receiver preouts. I've read that they can be of questionable quality. I also like the enhanced video connectivity options of the receiver.

But then, I hear far more complaints of receivers kicking the bucket prematurely or even not working out of the box than I do with preamps. Which makes sense because they jam so much circuitry into one device, whereas the "separates" route has simpler circuits. So it would seem that a preamp/amplifier combo would last longer and perhaps be worth a more hefty initial investment.

I'm just looking for some opinions from people who have had experience with any of this to broaden my general knowledge before I make any purchases smile.gif

Or maybe I could just buy used equipment. Anyone know a reputable website that sells used preamps and the like that will give you some sort of guarantee (even if it's just 60 days or something) on purchases?
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post #4 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 08:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavendish View Post

Hello there, I have a question about the difference in using a preamp and discrete amp versus using a receiver with preouts and a discrete amp. Is there any difference in audio quality, or reasons to choose one route over the other in general?

For specifics, I am comparing these two setups:

1) Emotiva UMC-200 preamp and UPA-200 amp

2) Onkyo TX-NR717 receiver and Emotiva UPA-200 amp

Thanks for the help!

Preamps have XLR outputs if long cabling is anticipated. AVR's typically only have RCA jacks for the preouts.

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post #5 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 08:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Gooddoc View Post

Preamps have XLR outputs if long cabling is anticipated. AVR's typically only have RCA jacks for the preouts.

Nope, don't anticipate running long cables. So over short distances are RCA cables just as good as XLR?
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post #6 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Cavendish View Post

Nope, don't anticipate running long cables. So over short distances are RCA cables just as good as XLR?

No, not really, but it's close. It really depends on how carefully you route and separate your cabling and the quality of the RCA cable. But all things equal, XLR is better at noise rejection.

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post #7 of 17 Old 09-14-2013, 05:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavendish View Post

But then, I hear far more complaints of receivers kicking the bucket prematurely or even not working out of the box than I do with preamps. Which makes sense because they jam so much circuitry into one device, whereas the "separates" route has simpler circuits. So it would seem that a preamp/amplifier combo would last longer and perhaps be worth a more hefty initial investment.

Generally speaking, standalone pre-amps are comparable to pre-amps in high end receivers. Not many companies make a pre-amp that's similar to the one in a $500 receiver. Cheap receivers tend to fail at a higher rate than expensive receivers.

Having said that, I prefer a receiver over a similar pre-amp since I have the option of using the amp portion of the receiver if I choose to.
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post #8 of 17 Old 09-15-2013, 01:15 PM
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I prefer a decent AVR + amplifiers over a pre-amp + amplifiers because of their feature set vs. pre-amps. I don't think the average person can tell the difference between an AVR + amp setup vs pre-pro + amp. Economics of scale favor the AVR and new features WILL appear THERE first before they make it to a pre-pro -- and probably at a much lower price-point as well. AVRs with pre-outs tend to be in the middle / upper line, so they will generally have good components to start with. This point can be illustrated in the two setups the OP listed. The Onkyo TX-NR717 is going to have WAY more features than the Emotiva UMC-200, including a robust room correction AND video processing. The UMC-200 + UPA-200 is only a two-channel setup while the Onkyo + UPA-200 will give you a strong 7.x setup plus a two-channel setup using the UPA-200. Only thing I'd change is maybe upgrading to the Onkyo TX-NR8xx or 9xx for Audyssey MultEQ XT 32 room correction. A refurbished 818 will cost the same as the UMC-200.

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post #9 of 17 Old 09-15-2013, 01:54 PM
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Is the avr amp section insufficient for your needs, i.e. why do you need an external 2-ch power amp in the first place? That amp's not a lot different than the avr in 2-ch (at least at 8ohm). What are your speakers?

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post #10 of 17 Old 09-15-2013, 01:55 PM
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An AVR is a much better value..
Too bad the brands don't think ahead and deliver certain features that provide better flexibility and system connectivity..
For example, havng Pre-Outs' is a nice touch but why not also include Main-Ins' as well..
Now the user can add a component amplifier for the front L/R channels to the Pre-Outs' but could now configure the L/R Main-In channels for use as a Zone II amplifier. Also this would provide the rare capability to connect a Bose 901 loudspeaker as well...


Just my $0.05... 👍😉
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post #11 of 17 Old 09-15-2013, 04:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies, everyone!
Quote:
Originally Posted by jevans64 View Post

I don't think the average person can tell the difference between an AVR + amp setup vs pre-pro + amp.

That's what I was mainly wondering. I'm certainly no audiophile, but I want to get something that sounds better than a HTIB setup. I have the Logitech z-5500 computer/HTIB setup, which I love. But after messing around and swapping in an old pair of bookshelf speakers (nothing fancy, some 10-year old JVC units) I had lying around for the fronts, I couldn't believe the sound I had been missing! I unfortunately have no way of listening to a lot of different setups at a high end store without driving a considerable distance, so my research is mainly limited to online reading.
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Originally Posted by lovinthehd View Post

Is the avr amp section insufficient for your needs, i.e. why do you need an external 2-ch power amp in the first place? That amp's not a lot different than the avr in 2-ch (at least at 8ohm). What are your speakers?

My current line of reasoning (based on my research alone, no actual listening, so please correct me if I'm wrong) is that most say having a discrete amplifier will surpass anything in a receiver, and that receiver specs are actually very overrated in the power department. I would like to get a set of towers. I'm mainly looking at Wharfedale Diamond 10.4, 10.6, or maybe wait and save for the 10.7. They are 6-ohm speakers, I believe. Also, my understanding of receivers is that if you want to use anything besides 8-ohm speakers, discrete amplifiers are better. Again, correct me if I'm wrong smile.gif
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post #12 of 17 Old 09-15-2013, 07:13 PM
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I had the same question, glad you posted it Cavendish. After doing a little research, it appeared as if the pre pros are overpriced and underfeatured. The have no amps, less features, and cost the same or more than many upper end receivers. After reading the responses I will forget all about going the separates route. I just wish the manufacturers would make the less powerful avrs with preouts. The mid grade models have all of the features I need. I could then use the money saved to put towards a nice amp.
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post #13 of 17 Old 09-16-2013, 05:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M Code View Post

An AVR is a much better value..
Too bad the brands don't think ahead and deliver certain features that provide better flexibility and system connectivity..
For example, havng Pre-Outs' is a nice touch but why not also include Main-Ins' as well..
Now the user can add a component amplifier for the front L/R channels to the Pre-Outs' but could now configure the L/R Main-In channels for use as a Zone II amplifier. Also this would provide the rare capability to connect a Bose 901 loudspeaker as well...


Just my $0.05... 👍😉

I agree that receivers should also have pre-ins so you can use them as amps if need be. I have an old Marantz receiver from around 2000. I think it's an SR8000. It has pre-outs and pre-ins. it also has a great 5 channel amp. It doesn't turn into an oven at higher volumes. I love having the option of using it as an amp if needed. They don't make receivers like they used to.
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post #14 of 17 Old 09-16-2013, 05:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavendish View Post

Too true! The latter route looks much better on paper as far as the ol' wallet is concerned. I was just curious if there would be a large difference in the quality of the sound when using receiver preouts.

Yes, the AVR preouts are just as clean but are likely to have better features. I've checked out the schematics in service manuals for these components, so I know parts numbers and how things are laid out.

In times past the added features had a cost in terms of analog circuits and switches that could harm quality and cut reliability, but modern AVRs now implement all of those features in software, which adds neither switches nor circuitry to the signal path. The software is effectively out of the signal path when it is not used.
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I've read that they can be of questionable quality.

Old school, and a vain attempt to overcome the fact that the AVR with pre outs usually costs a lot less due to the economies of scale.
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I also like the enhanced video connectivity options of the receiver.

The be fair there is a common kind of preamp called the surround processor that typically has video features. So fi you want to compare apples to apples...
Quote:
But then, I hear far more complaints of receivers kicking the bucket prematurely or even not working out of the box than I do with preamps. Which makes sense because they jam so much circuitry into one device, whereas the "separates" route has simpler circuits.

Again if you balance the comparison and consider surround processors, the only real difference is the absence of somewhat bulkier circuitry in the form of power amps and their power supply. There is a reliability bonus to AVRs because of their high volume.
Quote:
So it would seem that a preamp/amplifier combo would last longer and perhaps be worth a more hefty initial investment.

You aren't dealing with a very real question, which is do you need separate power amps in the first place? The AVR gives you the option of trying out not using them before you invest in them.
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I'm just looking for some opinions from people who have had experience with any of this to broaden my general knowledge before I make any purchases smile.gif

I'm like a lot of people that have shelves full of large heavy power amps that went onto the shelf at some point, and stayed there.
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post #15 of 17 Old 09-16-2013, 05:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavendish View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gooddoc View Post

Preamps have XLR outputs if long cabling is anticipated. AVR's typically only have RCA jacks for the preouts.

Nope, don't anticipate running long cables. So over short distances are RCA cables just as good as XLR?

I do a lot of live sound and professional recording so I literally have tubs of XLR cables and piles of gear with XLR connectors. My home audio system has a few pieces of gear with XLR connectors but for all intents and purposes the cables are all RCA. IME, the basic reason for balanced I/O is avoidance of hum and noise, most of which is due to grounding problems that can exist for two pieces of equipment that are literally sitting on top of each other, and not cable length.

I do have one congentical grounding problem in my home system but I solved it with a ground isolator which is just a high quality transformer. It is actually due to a component with balanced I/O!

Why does pro gear have balanced I/O? Let me put it this way, I built up a sound system at a location that had about 100 pieces (each with its own power cord, mostly grounding cords) of interconnected A/V equipment. One of the reasons one has hum is the complexity of the system. The other situation is remote work where I brought in about 15 pieces of gear from >50 miles away in the afternoon, hooked them up, did the gig and exited the same evening. Given some time to diddle like we can with home systems (that are usually not that complex anyhow) I could have probably done it without balanced I/O, but I didn't have time to diddle. Just for grins, some of the gear was microphones that have far lower signal levels than just about anything in a modern home system.
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post #16 of 17 Old 09-16-2013, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
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arnyk, thanks so much for your detailed help! What you say makes sense. I think I was using terminology incorrectly; I think the original setups I was comparing did include a surround processor as you are referring to - I just didn't know to call it that.

I still feel a little leery of AVRs, due to a bad experience with one (failed several months after I bought it, but it was used so maybe that was my fault for buying something I didn't know the story behind). It always got really hot (I am assuming it was the amplifier section generating the heat), so I figured some circuit just failed due to the high temps. This is probably why I was even considering the surround processor / separate amp route.

How safe is it to buy refurbished AVRs? I feel like there are enough bad reviews on new ones anyway, so I might as well look into that.
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post #17 of 17 Old 09-16-2013, 09:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KidHorn View Post

I agree that receivers should also have pre-ins so you can use them as amps if need be. I have an old Marantz receiver from around 2000. I think it's an SR8000. It has pre-outs and pre-ins. it also has a great 5 channel amp. It doesn't turn into an oven at higher volumes. I love having the option of using it as an amp if needed. They don't make receivers like they used to.

If one looks @ the newer AVRs be 9.2 or 11.2, Zone 2, Zone 3...
Having the Pre-Outs'/Main-Ins' provides all types of flexibility and expansion options..
I think that since the major AVR design teams have been shifted from North America to China, replaced by financial, number crunchers... 😊
They lack adequate vision to innovate/design/deliver a stepup, feature-oriented, value-added AVR....
Instead they shoot for the front row position @ Best Buy/Frys/CostCo/Walmart/Amazon, lowest price points, mostest watts (whether real or not) while along the way losing significant $ ...

Just my $0.05... 👍😉
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