Why do people have so many amps? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Question Why do people have so many amps?

I imagine building a home theater with 3 LCR bookshelf speakers, a couple powered subwoofers and let say 11 side/atmos speakers. I see myself plugging all these speakers into an AV receiver, lets say the Marantz SR8012 or the Marantz SR70139 or the Denon AVR-X6500H. I plug in my tv or projector and bam, I'm done baby! Maybe the room is something like 27x9x9 or the like.

But wait, I must be missing something... I've been looking at a lot of home theaters on here. Some are huge (Hahn) and some are similar to what I am hoping to build in terms of dimensions (White Oaks, Island View), but most of them use many amps. I'm talking like 3-7 amps and pre-amps, post-amps, sub amps, surround amps, upside down amps and unicorn amps. Why so many? Is the receiver designed to power 11.2 speakers not powerful enough?

Educate me please (once more)!
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post #2 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 12:29 PM
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I had exactly the same thought. Then I discovered the integrated receivers often don’t have enough channels, and even if they do, the power per channel is really low.

Be mindful when looking at the rms output of a receiver. They might say ‘120W per channel’ but then you see in the small print that this is the value for ‘1 channel driven’. In other words you only get that output if you only use one channel at a time. A review typically mentions the ‘all channels driven’ value, which is significantly lower and often too low for serious home theater speakers.

That’s why I ended up with a separate 13.1 channel marantz preprocessor, 1 8 channel amp and 1 4 channel amp.


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post #3 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:01 PM
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Been looking for me some of those unicorn amps...


I use my Denon x4400h plus a 5 channel Outlaw Model 5000 and it's plenty of power for my setup. You could do separates but it all depends on what you are going for and what kind of budget you have to work with. My goal was a full 7.1.4 setup and I wanted to keep my entire HT budget under 15k, so that was the starting point that led to many of my purchase decisions. For a lot of folks, they invest in the amps and then carry them over from system to system over time.
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post #4 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ijansch View Post
I had exactly the same thought. Then I discovered the integrated receivers often don’t have enough channels, and even if they do, the power per channel is really low.

Be mindful when looking at the rms output of a receiver. They might say ‘120W per channel’ but then you see in the small print that this is the value for ‘1 channel driven’. In other words you only get that output if you only use one channel at a time. A review typically mentions the ‘all channels driven’ value, which is significantly lower and often too low for serious home theater speakers.

That’s why I ended up with a separate 13.1 channel marantz preprocessor, 1 8 channel amp and 1 4 channel amp.


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It seems absurd to me that an AVR made to play over 11.2 channels wouldn't be able to do this adequately under normal circumstances. That doesn't seem right... I recently learned about the wattage stuff, but still, this doesn't make sense to me.
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post #5 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by m0j0 View Post
Been looking for me some of those unicorn amps...


I use my Denon x4400h plus a 5 channel Outlaw Model 5000 and it's plenty of power for my setup. You could do separates but it all depends on what you are going for and what kind of budget you have to work with. My goal was a full 7.1.4 setup and I wanted to keep my entire HT budget under 15k, so that was the starting point that led to many of my purchase decisions. For a lot of folks, they invest in the amps and then carry them over from system to system over time.
Why do you need the Outlaw beyond the Denon? Is the Denon x4400h not enough to power a normal 9.2 system? This is where I'm getting lost!
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post #6 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:19 PM
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Why do you need the Outlaw beyond the Denon? Is the Denon x4400h not enough to power a normal 9.2 system? This is where I'm getting lost!

The Denon supports 11 channels but only powers 9 channels. Therefore, I need to add at least a 2 channel amp to power those extra 2 channels if I want a 7.1.4 setup. Additionally, when I was running a 5.1.4 setup without the amp, I had the Denon power off a couple times as I was running it too hard and it switched off due to some built in protection mechanism. With my Polk LSiM's, I just didn't feel like I had enough juice to get the kind of dynamic sound I was wanting, so that is what led me to begin my search for an amp.
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post #7 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:25 PM - Thread Starter
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The Denon supports 11 channels but only powers 9 channels. Therefore, I need to add at least a 2 channel amp to power those extra 2 channels if I want a 7.1.4 setup. Additionally, when I was running a 5.1.4 setup without the amp, I had the Denon power off a couple times as I was running it too hard and it switched off due to some built in protection mechanism. With my Polk LSiM's, I just didn't feel like I had enough juice to get the kind of dynamic sound I was wanting, so that is what led me to begin my search for an amp.
Fascinating, thank you. The fact that it shut down seems strange to me considering it as designed to do this, no? Were you really pushing it? Like very high volume.

Would a quality AVR be enough if it powered enough channels?
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post #8 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Snoochers View Post
It seems absurd to me that an AVR made to play over 11.2 channels wouldn't be able to do this adequately under normal circumstances. That doesn't seem right... I recently learned about the wattage stuff, but still, this doesn't make sense to me.


It’s not that absurd. I use an AVR in my living room just fine. The speakers there fit the wattage just fine. However my home theater speakers recommend 250W per channel so there I use separate amps.

Another benefit is that if in 2 years we have new Dolby Folby Whatevery, I can replace my preprocessor and keep the amps instead of replacing an entire AVR. Preprocessor tend to get outdated as new formats and services emerge, whereas amps can last for years since there’s no real advancement there anymore.


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post #9 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:33 PM
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Fascinating, thank you. The fact that it shut down seems strange to me considering it as designed to do this, no? Were you really pushing it? Like very high volume.

Would a quality AVR be enough if it powered enough channels?

It didn't shut down all the time, but when I started to move the volume knob to roughly between -15 and -10 reference volume or so it would increase the chances that it would cut off during a movie. After adding the amp, never had the issue again, regardless of the volume level.
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post #10 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ijansch View Post
It’s not that absurd. I use an AVR in my living room just fine. The speakers there fit the wattage just fine. However my home theater speakers recommend 250W per channel so there I use separate amps.

Another benefit is that if in 2 years we have new Dolby Folby Whatevery, I can replace my preprocessor and keep the amps instead of replacing an entire AVR. Preprocessor tend to get outdated as new formats and services emerge, whereas amps can last for years since there’s no real advancement there anymore.


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Wow those are some crazy hungry speakers! I thought more like 1-30w was normal in most home theatre applications. I'm looking at speakers like PSB or Kilpsch or whatever.

Your point about the outdating of technology is very relevant. How much does it cost to have an individual processor (not sure what called) AND an amp, compared to just the AVR?
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post #11 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:45 PM
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I have an 13.2 setup. And use it for the following:
- Denon 4400H. Started using this to power the front 3+surrounds
- Emotiva UPA700 powering the rest of the surrounds
- Behringer iNuke 3000DSP for the butt shakers

After running this setup for about a year I added an Emotiva XPA-3 to power my three mains (JBL Studio 590's) as I was really pushing them and wanted more headroom, etc.

Very happy.
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post #12 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:49 PM
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Wow those are some crazy hungry speakers! I thought more like 1-30w was normal in most home theatre applications. I'm looking at speakers like PSB or Kilpsch or whatever.


Klipsch also has models that are in that range. It kind of depends what you are trying to achieve. Living room friendly volume levels in a living room have different requirements than trying to build an actual cinema with ‘reference level’ sound. 30W won’t get you far in the cinema scenario but might do fine for casual viewing in the living. (And of course room size might play a role too)


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post #13 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:50 PM - Thread Starter
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I have an 13.2 setup. And use it for the following:
- Denon 4400H. Started using this to power the front 3+surrounds
- Emotiva UPA700 powering the rest of the surrounds
- Behringer iNuke 3000DSP for the butt shakers

After running this setup for about a year I added an Emotiva XPA-3 to power my three mains (JBL Studio 590's) as I was really pushing them and wanted more headroom, etc.

Very happy.
Ok thanks for the info. Can you tell me why something like the 13.2 AVR-X8500H wouldn't do the trick? It just seems so silly to me that I can buy an AVR designed to run a 13.2 system and.... it can't.
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post #14 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 01:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ijansch View Post
Klipsch also has models that are in that range. It kind of depends what you are trying to achieve. Living room friendly volume levels in a living room have different requirements than trying to build an actual cinema with ‘reference level’ sound. 30W won’t get you far in the cinema scenario but might do fine for casual viewing in the living. (And of course room size might play a role too)


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Help me understand this a bit. Most speakers I see seem to push about 85-90db from 1 Watt. This seems very loud, isn't it? Why do you need to push much harder than this? Even at 15ft that is still like 76db. Is it because parts of movies or music go much louder than this so they get really hungry? This also seems kind of dumb since presumably the AVRs are designed to play movies lol
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People run lots of amps for 3 reasons...imo

Excessive channels to power
High power/or very inefficient speakers
They believe it makes everything sound better...lol
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post #16 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 02:02 PM
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Ok thanks for the info. Can you tell me why something like the 13.2 AVR-X8500H wouldn't do the trick? It just seems so silly to me that I can buy an AVR designed to run a 13.2 system and.... it can't.
It depends on the sensitivity of your speakers and the OHM rating. 4-6ohm rated speakers put more stress no the receiver and many receivers are not rated all channels driven and inflate their numbers. There are other factors like:
- how hard you drive your system
- cooling/ventilation

etc.
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Help me understand this a bit. Most speakers I see seem to push about 85-90db from 1 Watt. This seems very loud, isn't it? Why do you need to push much harder than this? Even at 15ft that is still like 76db. Is it because parts of movies or music go much louder than this so they get really hungry? This also seems kind of dumb since presumably the AVRs are designed to play movies lol
What are your speaker specs? Look at sensitivity and ohm rating, those are both very important.
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post #18 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 02:06 PM - Thread Starter
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What are your speaker specs? Look at sensitivity and ohm rating, those are both very important.
I don't have speakers, I'm still in the research phase haha. But one thing is I am hoping to get bookshelves for a home theatre (27x19x9' or similar), so certainly they need to get loud enough. But for example I believe the Revel, PSB, Axiom, KEF, mainline speakers etc. all have 8 ohm and sensitivity around 87.
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Get better speakers and you wont need a crazy amount of amps/power..

I have said it before and I will say it again.. Buck up, pay the import duties and go with DIYSG..

They will outperform anything you can buy in that price range and they do not require an excessive amount of power to get loud..
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Get better speakers and you wont need a crazy amount of amps/power..

I have said it before and I will say it again.. Buck up, pay the import duties and go with DIYSG..

They will outperform anything you can buy in that price range and they do not require an excessive amount of power to get loud..
Has anyone done spinorama yet on the DIYSG? I think I need more than just a frequency response graph and people's opinions...
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Has anyone done spinorama yet on the DIYSG? I think I need more than just a frequency response graph and people's opinions...
Doubt it.. IMO that test isn't even worth it since dedicated rooms would have the speakers positioned to optimize the MLP and no one is going to care what the speakers sound like in a 360 degree field.. But that is just me.. Reality vs paper is two different things

There are hundreds of comparison threads of speakers that cost 3-5X that of the DIYSG and everyone agrees the DIYSG sound better (for movies).. I wasted a lot of money on Klipsch stuff only to find out it didn't hold a candle compared to the DIYSGs I have now. 95% of the time you are paying for a name when you buy name brand speakers and little goes into the quality of the product..

Search the forums for someone near you that has the speakers and see for yourself.. I guess seeing is believing..
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It seems absurd to me that an AVR made to play over 11.2 channels wouldn't be able to do this adequately under normal circumstances. That doesn't seem right... I recently learned about the wattage stuff, but still, this doesn't make sense to me.
Well depending on the sensitivity of your speakers and your desired listening spl level, just the AVR might be fine. But it depends on what you want out of it, and as others have said more channels powered less wattage per channel in the AVR. Most people seem to run an AVR and then go 3 channel or 5 channel for the LCR and surrounds and leave the atmos/other to the AVR. MOST of the power is going to be going to the front stage anyway, which is why many prefer a 3 channel amp for them. You will also run into some people, god I'm not trying to start anything I promise, that say a dedicated amp sounds better than an AVR, so they go the pre/pro with external amplification route. Then you have others here who are just running a crazy amount of subs and in that case they are almost always passive and therefore you need a lot of power on tap.
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Fascinating, thank you. The fact that it shut down seems strange to me considering it as designed to do this, no? Were you really pushing it? Like very high volume.

Would a quality AVR be enough if it powered enough channels?
I had my Denon x2300 shut down after 2 movies back to back at shall we say spirited listening levels. I since bought a avr fan and no issues since then. The sensitivity of the speakers and how your using them have a big effect on the AVR. Low sensitivity speakers played at a loud volume, say approaching reference level use a lot more power than very efficient speakers do. Also whether they are 8 ohm or 4 ohm has a large effect as well. There are plenty of variables that can make external power make sense. I almost tried finding a cheap 1 channel amp that can accept line level input to power my center, it's an Emotiva C2 which is 4 ohm, therefor harder to drive, and the rest are all 8 ohm, but I have had no issues.
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Originally Posted by Snoochers View Post
Help me understand this a bit. Most speakers I see seem to push about 85-90db from 1 Watt. This seems very loud, isn't it? Why do you need to push much harder than this? Even at 15ft that is still like 76db. Is it because parts of movies or music go much louder than this so they get really hungry? This also seems kind of dumb since presumably the AVRs are designed to play movies lol
85 to 90 db sensitivity is actually kind of on the low side. Many of your dynamic speakers that most people prefer for HT use are in the 90+ range my JBL Studio 590's are rated at 92 at 6 ohm many or most of the Klipsch are in the mid 90's like 95 or 96, and some of the DIYSG speakers, like the 1099's, which are almost universally loved here, are 99db/1m.
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This has all been very informative, thank you!
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I have always do used Denon receiver‘s as preamp processor‘s. I had to use the denon in a pinch and it worked fine, I really like it as a pre-pro

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Originally Posted by Snoochers View Post
Help me understand this a bit. Most speakers I see seem to push about 85-90db from 1 Watt. This seems very loud, isn't it? Why do you need to push much harder than this? Even at 15ft that is still like 76db. Is it because parts of movies or music go much louder than this so they get really hungry? This also seems kind of dumb since presumably the AVRs are designed to play movies lol
Sensitivity ratings are 1 watt at 1 meter. You're going to be sitting more than 1 meter away from the speaker. Also consider that sound drops off with the square of the distance or something like that - basically it drops off exponentially.

If you want to know the ins and outs, I suggest reading this guide from Crown. https://www.crownaudio.com/how-much-amplifier-power

I did the calculations for my room to hit reference level with 3db headroom and ended up needing 145 to 326 watts depending on the speaker and distance to listening position.

So for my 7.1.4 setup, I need more power than an AVR can provide. I'm choosing to go with pro amps which are typically 2 channels. Then consider that I will have 2 pairs of side surrounds (1 for each row) and 4 subs, I need 11 amplifiers.

As others have mentioned. I will probably never have to upgrade the amps so it makes sense for me.
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post #28 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 08:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Sensitivity ratings are 1 watt at 1 meter. You're going to be sitting more than 1 meter away from the speaker. Also consider that sound drops off with the square of the distance or something like that - basically it drops off exponentially.

If you want to know the ins and outs, I suggest reading this guide from Crown. https://www.crownaudio.com/how-much-amplifier-power

I did the calculations for my room to hit reference level with 3db headroom and ended up needing 145 to 326 watts depending on the speaker and distance to listening position.

So for my 7.1.4 setup, I need more power than an AVR can provide. I'm choosing to go with pro amps which are typically 2 channels. Then consider that I will have 2 pairs of side surrounds (1 for each row) and 4 subs, I need 11 amplifiers.

As others have mentioned. I will probably never have to upgrade the amps so it makes sense for me.
I am coming to an understanding, thank you! Isn't reference ridiculously loud though? Isn't even 90db pretty loud for a movie? Why are you choosing to go with pro amps?
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post #29 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 08:26 PM
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IMHO pro amps are a good value. A lot of live venues trust these amps to be reliable and deliver clean power.
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post #30 of 64 Old 10-23-2019, 10:42 PM
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I run a 7.x.6 Atmos setup with all 13 speakers being 30yr old Mordaunt Short 4.5" bookshelf speakers (so not sure of their sensitivity) in a 20x14.5x9 room.
I power this with a Yamaha RX-A3040 for the 7 bed level speakers and an old RX-V750 AVR for the heights.
More than enough power to get to (my) ear splitting levels - plays comfortably at 0MV and will go louder but starts to struggle - I usually listen around -10 and that's enough to shake the house and annoy the neighbours.
I have never had any issue with AVR shutdown.


I understand the need for separate amps when you are really pushing the envelope but for us 'normal' folk a good AVR is more than enough.


Slightly off-topic though - I can't understand the logic of Pre-Processors and dedicated amps when the Pre-Pros are more expensive than the AVRs ??
And what I have read recently is that all AVRs and Amps sound exactly the same until you apply EQ................


And after saying all that - I would love to have a 6' tall rack filled with amps
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