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best budget power amps?

post #1 of 83
Thread Starter 
Until recently, I was leaning towards a receiver, with a used Arcam 300 topping my list of candidates. I'm starting to think seriously about separates though, and was wondering if I'd get appreciably more bang for not TOO many more bucks that way.

I'm planning to audition the Nuforce AV-16 pre/pro in the near future, based on what I've heard about its music performance (and attractive pricing).

Does anyone have detailed impressions of quality budget 7 channel amps? My range is about $750-$1000 for used. Naturally, I plan to do some listening myself, but others' experiences can be a great head start.

So, I guess I have two questions:

1. What are the best budget 7 channel power amps out there? (Detailed observations and comparisons are especially welcome!)

2. Am I likely to hear a distinct improvement in SQ (especially with 2 channel music, but I also care about multi-channel and movies) over a superb receiver, such as the Arcam 300 (or, let's even say for the sake of argument, the 350, which I haven't heard yet)?

My fronts and surrounds are KEF 201s; 202 center; and PSW4000. (I plan to add rear surrounds as soon as everything else is in place and my budget has recovered.) I'm currently using an older Sony surround receiver, which, though not terrible, leaves much room for improvement.

OK, thanks for any thoughts.
post #2 of 83
1. Probably Emotiva
2. Unlikely, you'd do better upgrading your speakers.
post #3 of 83
5 of the Behringer A-500's. Run 3 bridged mono (500 x 3) and two in stereo (150 x 2)
$995 plus shipping, brand new. Ridiculous sound quality for the $$ and way more power supply than anything even remotely close to the money. Good online reviews.
The only drawback is rack space and you'll want a 20 amp line.
post #4 of 83
Thread Starter 
I hadn't thought of Behringer for HT, but that sounds like a great idea. That will probably be the way I go if I end up taking the separates path. I also want to hear the Emotiva though.

I'm still wondering if a good receiver might be sufficient for my purposes. Here's a follow-up question. I've heard that virtually all receiver manufacturers, including Arcam, cut corners on the surround channels. (I can't attest to this myself, since I've only heard Arcam receivers in stereo mode). For those who know more about this, do the limitations mainly lie in the preamp section or the amp (or both)?
post #5 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylester View Post

I hadn't thought of Behringer for HT, but that sounds like a great idea. That will probably be the way I go if I end up taking the separates path. I also want to hear the Emotiva though.

I'm still wondering if a good receiver might be sufficient for my purposes. Here's a follow-up question. I've heard that virtually all receiver manufacturers, including Arcam, cut corners on the surround channels. (I can't attest to this myself, since I've only heard Arcam receivers in stereo mode). For those who know more about this, do the limitations mainly lie in the preamp section or the amp (or both)?

Ummm, no corners have been cut in the surround channels on Arcam receivers I can assure you!

John Dawson (Arcam)
post #6 of 83
I have the Outlaw 7125 and I'm very happy with it.
7 channels x 125 Watts.

Great for music and HT.

Outlaw has a great return policy...try it for 30 days and return it if you dont like it...no questions asked.
post #7 of 83
Older Carver models.
post #8 of 83
post #9 of 83
Thread Starter 
Quote:


I have the Outlaw 7125 and I'm very happy with it

Thanks, I will definitely check out the 7125. I've heard good things about their amps but have had only brief first-hand experience.

Quote:


Ummm, no corners have been cut in the surround channels on Arcam receivers I can assure you!

Fair enough. I should have said alleged limitations, since I'm reporting mere heresay. (Why is it so commonly maintained that even the higher-end receivers are weaker in the surround--or center & surround--channels?)

Given that I have no interest in changing my speakers, I'm still wondering how much benefit I would get from separates vs. a very good receiver, such as the Arcam 300. (For example: $1400 for a used Arcam 300 vs. $1600 for used Nuforce Av-16 & used Outlaw 7125.)

I realize I'll have to decide in the end for myself, but I'm still interested in hearing impressions...
post #10 of 83
Have any of you guys heard the Audiosource modular amps? They seem like they wouldn't be too bad.
post #11 of 83
Review of 2 channel amp, but it comes as 8 channel too ($600)...
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...&&#post8019156
post #12 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Dawson View Post

Ummm, no corners have been cut in the surround channels on Arcam receivers I can assure you!

John Dawson (Arcam)

I can assure you that everything in this world is a work of compromise (cutting cornors).

that includes the Arcam or any other receivers, in spite the claims to the contrary.
post #13 of 83
I really HATE, repeat HATE when manufacturers reps come on the board and drop statements like that. Some of them feel the need to come here and "correct" every negative thing that gets said about their products. We used to get this constantly from SVS and still do from HSU. Everytime something is said about their company or product there they are trying to control the conversation. Then there are other reps who contribute without much editorializing. Paul of Triad comes to mind. Guess who I'd be willing to buy from and who not.

I have to say that some of these guys do add some technical info to the conversations which I think is cool. It's just the ones who feel the need to come in and spin every issue that annoy me and turn me off instantly from their products.
post #14 of 83
Thread Starter 
I'm still curious about whether affordable, quality separates (like the ones people have been mentioning), are likely to make a clear difference over a very good receiver.

Better yet, does anyone have a sense of whether the speakers I have are such that I could expect an audible difference in SQ with the right separates? If not, I'd prefer the convenience of a receiver. Again, I know there's a lot of room for personal taste and disagreement about what counts as an appreciable difference--all I'm asking for are impressions from people who've done more extensive listening than I have.

(About 5 minutes ago, I picked up a pair of used (mint) 203s on Ebay, so I have four 201s for surrounds/rear surrounds, a 202c, and a PSW4000.)
post #15 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylester View Post

I'm still curious about whether affordable, quality separates (like the ones people have been mentioning), are likely to make a clear difference over a very good receiver.

Yes I agree - I'm willing to bet that a good used Arcam AVR300 will give an overall better sound experience than any of the above combos.
post #16 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylester View Post

I've heard that virtually all receiver manufacturers, including Arcam, cut corners on the surround channels

I have not heard that. If you can substantiate it, I would like to see a link to some tests. Five or so years ago, that might have been true with Dolby Pro Logic units. Some even had a center channel at lower power than the L/R channels.

Yamaha, for example rates all their channels equally. So they must all be using the same rail voltage. They must use the same power transistors as all the channels have the same output rating. They all eat from the same dish so to speak, sharing the power supply. I can't fathom them using different DAC's per channel.
post #17 of 83
Thread Starter 
Quote:


They must use the same power transistors as all the channels have the same output rating.

Good question. Aren't there other variables, though? Or is that a misconception on my part? (I've read descriptions of these things, but, admittedly, I don't have the technical background to evaluate, or even adequately retain, a great deal of it.) Besides voltage and DACs, what distinguishes a higher- from a lower-end receiver, and is it likely that there's variation among the different channels of the same receiver even at the high end?
post #18 of 83
From a recent buyer of Emotiva I would recommend the LMC-1/LPA-1 combo.

I've never heard a receiver in any configuration(yes I have heard the Arcam's many times) that comes close in terms of sound quality.

The user interface on the LMC-1 controller is absolutely awful IMO, but the sound quality is superb. If you can live with its limitations the Combo is superb and if you can't then get the LPA-1 amp which has to be the best value in AV.
post #19 of 83
Quote:


I really HATE, repeat HATE when manufacturers reps come on the board and drop statements like that. Some of them feel the need to come here and "correct" every negative thing that gets said about their products. We used to get this constantly from SVS and still do from HSU. Everytime something is said about their company or product there they are trying to control the conversation. Then there are other reps who contribute without much editorializing. Paul of Triad comes to mind. Guess who I'd be willing to buy from and who not.

I have to say that some of these guys do add some technical info to the conversations which I think is cool. It's just the ones who feel the need to come in and spin every issue that annoy me and turn me off instantly from their products.

The original comment was that Arcam had compromises with their surround channels, even though the person making the comment had never listened to the receiver's surround channels! As much as I hate manufacturers jumping in at inappropriate times I can understand their need to correct misinformation. Perhaps you should also hate posters who make completely unsubstantiated claims?

Quote:


I can't fathom them using different DAC's per channel.

Some units do use different amounts of processing for each channel. Heck, even a Theta offers different processing boards for each channel (most users use the "cheap" DAC boards for the rear surrounds).
post #20 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg_R View Post

The original comment was that Arcam had compromises with their surround channels, even though the person making the comment had never listened to the receiver's surround channels! As much as I hate manufacturers jumping in at inappropriate times I can understand their need to correct misinformation. Perhaps you should also hate posters who make completely unsubstantiated claims?

Some units do use different amounts of processing for each channel. Heck, even a Theta offers different processing boards for each channel (most users use the "cheap" DAC boards for the rear surrounds).

With all due respect, and I probably should not let myself feel this way, but I don't really care if someone complains that their receiver will not work properly underwater. Somehow it still bothers me that the reps come here to make comments. My feeling is that there are enough smart people around here to call posters out when they are not on solid ground. At least that way we have a free flow of information rather than a marketing opportunity. I see your point, defenately though.
post #21 of 83
Thread Starter 
Quote:


The original comment was that Arcam had compromises with their surround channels, even though the person making the comment had never listened to the receiver's surround channels! As much as I hate manufacturers jumping in at inappropriate times I can understand their need to correct misinformation. Perhaps you should also hate posters who make completely unsubstantiated claims?

As long as we're airing our annoyances, I'll add that I'm not crazy about posters whose reading skills need improvement!

I haven't claimed that Arcam makes compromises in its surround channels. As the above poster acknowledges, I immediately go on to say that I can't attest to this claim myself. (Does it make sense to say, "I endorse this claim about Arcam, but I can't attest to it mysef"? Pretty clearly not!)

As should be clear, I was reporting something I've heard said more than once, and seeing if others could corroborate or counter this. In that immediate context, it doesn't bother me to get a brief repsonse from an Arcam rep; however, I do see the general case for reps keeping a low profile.

In any case, I appreciate the many helpful suggestions...I will be following up on them in the coming months.
post #22 of 83
Tylester,

I just purchased the Arcam AVR300 used from Audiogon. I had many of the same questions you have. I looked at Rotel pre/post and multi channel amp combo but they didn't fit my budget. I heard and read good things about the processing capabilities of the AVR300 so that is the direction I went.

My goal is to eventually get to a 5.1 system that still has decent 2-channel sound for music. I am, so far, thrilled with the sound from the Arcam. My previous equipment was Adcom amp (GFA-555 200 wpc 2 channel) and adcom preamp/tuner. The adcom sounded nice, but I have to say the new receiver sounds better to me even though it has less power.

I have listened to the analog 2ch stereo, digital 5 ch and analog DVD-Audio outputs from my DVD player. I like all of them

In the near future I will use the adcom to power the 2 main speakers and the Arcam to power the rest to see what it sounds like.

From what I can tell the Arcam is a good base to build from. If you find that you want/need more power, you can always buy a multi ch AMP and use the ARCAM for pre/post.

Paul
post #23 of 83
Thread Starter 
Paul, thanks for that impression. Sounds like a good way to go: Start with an Arcam and then see if adding a 2 ch. amp for the L/R seems advisable. With the Behringers being so affordable, that would be a relatively low-risk experiment.

I keep hearing that the Arcams have the best overall SQ among receivers, and I was very impressed when I heard the 300. I'm hoping to do some side-by-side comparisons, maybe with the Marantz sr8001 and the Emotiva pair that was mentioned a couple of posts back; and also the Nuforce pre-amp, which I've read such good things about recently...
post #24 of 83
tfs,

John Dawson is not just a manufacturer's rep for Arcam. I believe he is the founder of the company. There is a decent interview in Sterophile Jan 2007.

Paul
post #25 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by jgiddyup View Post

From a recent buyer of Emotiva I would recommend the LMC-1/LPA-1 combo.

I've never heard a receiver in any configuration(yes I have heard the Arcam's many times) that comes close in terms of sound quality.

The user interface on the LMC-1 controller is absolutely awful IMO, but the sound quality is superb. If you can live with its limitations the Combo is superb and if you can't then get the LPA-1 amp which has to be the best value in AV.

Id like to hear more about this combo. My wife wants my 3a tower speakers out of the living room. I was going to use them with my surround set up in the basement but need an amp that can handle the 4ohms.
post #26 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by tlf9999 View Post

I can assure you that everything in this world is a work of compromise (cutting cornors).

that includes the Arcam or any other receivers, in spite the claims to the contrary.

I think the wording needs to be careful here. A $4000 Parasound A51 is going to have compromises compared to a $50000 Krell Monoblock, because that is simply the price point they are trying to achieve. Instead of using the best parts which may last 5 years longer and triple the retail price, a compromise must be made to use cheaper parts to achieve the lower price.

Cutting corners on the other hand is deliberate bad-quality engineering to lower manufacturing costs and still charge the same relative price. For instance, Ford vehicles cut corners to lower manufacturing costs and increase profit, and still the retail cost relatively the same as a Toyota, and yet Toyota vehicles last 5 times as long because they dont cut corners.

As far as Arcam receivers go they are an absolute masterpiece of high value engineering. There is not a single product out there that does what the Arcam receiver does at its price and single box solution. I will 100% back the claim that no cutting of corners are done in any Arcam product especially not their receivers.
post #27 of 83
This post is neither for nor against John Dawson at Arcam, but I can tell you that it is now common within the industry to use the same amplifier topology for all channels: front, center rear and surrounds. I would be very surprised, indeed, if Arcam's receivers did not follow the same practice.

Jeff
post #28 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by AudioArchitect View Post

Cutting corners on the other hand is deliberate bad-quality engineering to lower manufacturing costs and still charge the same relative price. For instance, Ford vehicles cut corners to lower manufacturing costs and increase profit, and still the retail cost relatively the same as a Toyota, and yet Toyota vehicles last 5 times as long because they dont cut corners.

it depends on what you mean by "deliberate bad-quality engineering".

No one in his right mind would produce a bad product, all else being equal and Ford included.

At the same time, everyone "deliberately" engineers their products to use the lowest cost parts given the same level of performance, that includes Arcam and Toyota.

No matter how you word it, don't think for a second that Arcam or Toyota or any sensitive and good manufacturer will use a better (and presummably more expensive) part if a cheaper and/or worse part will do.

Good engineering isn't about using the best part - that is simply too easy and primitive. Good engineering is about using the cheapest part that does the job. It is in that department Ford differs from Toyota.
post #29 of 83
Thread Starter 
No one is questioning the fact that Arcam's receivers are a superior product, one that sets a very high standard for both design and SQ. That said, my original question was whether even the best companies try to reduce costs by using less expensive parts in their surround channels. To repeat, I have heard this said enough times (including on this forum) that it seemed worthwhile to solicit responses from those with more technical and listening background. So far as I know, it's entirely possible that this bit of "common knowledge" is completely unfounded or based on outdated information. But, being in the market for a receiver or prepro, that's certainly something I'd like to clear up before making a decision.

1. Is it feasible in general that a company might reduce costs by scaling back in the surround channels?

2. Does anyone have specific reason to believe that some companies have done this in the past?

3. What does the scaling back consist in?

4. Is there good reason to believe that this practice (assuming that it has existed) is no longer an issue (or is not an issue with today's higher-end products)?
post #30 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg_R View Post

The original comment was that Arcam had compromises with their surround channels, even though the person making the comment had never listened to the receiver's surround channels! As much as I hate manufacturers jumping in at inappropriate times I can understand their need to correct misinformation. Perhaps you should also hate posters who make completely unsubstantiated claims?

Well said. Misinformation = rumors = waste of time and money.
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