Originally Posted by kbarnes701
I am impressed by your response. It's rare when discussing external amps to see someone acknowledge scientific fact in this way. If you are not clipping when using your current amplification at the SPLs you require, then you have the amps you need already and won’t hear any benefit from external amplification. Most people rarely need more than a few watts of amp power if they are using speakers of average sensitivity (say 89dB/w/m) and sit at a typical listening distance from them (say 12 feet) and require typical listening levels (say 85-90dB, which is actually pretty loud). Most modern AVRs are sufficiently powerful to deliver these requirements.
With the money you have saved on the amp, you could spend it where you really will hear a difference - a better, or additional, subwoofer, better speakers or, most important of all, room treatments if you are able to accommodate them. The latter will make huge differences to the sound quality and can cost surprisingly little. They are also easy to DIY and if you go that way you can fit out an entire room for the price of an external amp!
One other thing you can do to improve SQ actually costs nothing, other than a little time, and maybe some research: and that is to position your speakers and sub(s) in their optimal positions wrt to room modes and reflections.
Oh man, how do I write this without disagreeing with the previous posters? All right, I will give it a go.
The fact that you dont experience any clipping at your regular listening level doesnt necessarily mean an external amp will be a waste of money. You may listen regularly at 12 feet 80db, but may want to crank it up one in a while and only then your amp will count.
I got my external amp after I listened to my AVR at very loud levels (about 100db and 12 feet). The sound was constricted, strained. I had no point of reference because I've never had a power amp before. I assumed it was just a loud painful sound and/or bad speakers. The truth is the AVR was fine so were the speakers. Someone on this site suggested I try a power amp. There was a big difference for the better. It wasn't painful anymore. Delightful at any level.
I would suggest this sort of test.
Sit down an listen to your favorite dynamic soundtrack at normal listening level and normal distance. How long can you listen to it? Lets say "until you got other things to do". Now crank up your AVR up to the loudest tolerable - meaning it isnt immediately painful or discomforting - level and set the time until it becomes tiresome, fatiguing , unpleasant . If your soundstage collapses at high volume, the speakers become harsh, like they are shouting from the top of their lungs, strained, become some torture instruments faster than 5-10 minutes: then you need an appropriate power amp (there are ways to find out what appropriate for your setup), even if you are not clipping.
There are a lot of other considerations for getting a power amp. The device has ints own power supply which is a lot larger than the one in your AVR (lift my 20lbs AVR and my 60lbs power amp and compare). The weight mostly goes to the power supply, which is essential for proper sound.
The power amp also has a separate enclosure from all other electronics of an AVR - Marvel video processors, tuners, preamplifier, surround processing circuit, etc. Power amp doesnt. There are many other considerations (granted they are most likely not quantifiable, but not easily forgettable either).
My suggestion is to:
1) Define your budget.
2) Decide what gives you best bang for the buck
3) Buy the power amp experiment for a few days with a lot of different soundtracks, borrow speakers you want to upgrade to next, different volumes, music or HT, even different impartial listeners, etc.
Then decide if you really need it. If you dont - return it. Otherwise you will always have a doubt that some people in some online forum talked you into ignoring one of the most important components in many music and HT setups.
As for me, I can tell you this. If someone secretly replaced my power amp with a dummy one, a look alike that only has a run-through wire inside: I probably wouldnt notice for a couple of days. I tend crank it up once or twice a week. Would I notice then? Yes, I definitely would. So, knowing that power amp is there but I dont need it all the time is better than knowing all the time that may be I should have bought it a long time ago, but didnt .
Music is supposed to give you pleasure, not discomfort. Help your own setup by giving it components that it needs and you will enjoy it.
Disclaimer. To all who will slam me next I have never quantified nor conducted any double blind studies of this strange phenomena called "enjoyment". Guilty as charged.
.Edited by grigorianvlad - 11/22/13 at 7:46am