Cheap Lepai amp vs cheap Yamaha AVR: shocking difference
So, I'm the last one to believe that expensive amps make any difference in how a speaker sounds as long as it operates within its capabilities and is well designed i.e. low distortion, neutral response etc.
I've had a little Lepai LP269FS amp down in the basement in the workout room driving some cheap bookshelf speakers. Rated at 4x45 watts, and no, I don't believe it delivers anywhere near that power, but I honestly just needed a little amp with bluetooth to connect my phone to that would push 5-10 watts to some bookshelf speakers while working out. I had them crossed to a little Polk PSW-110 subwoofer that played down to 35-38Hz, decent enough for most music in a cheap workout setup.
Well, I loaned the sub to a friend who is getting a starter system off the ground so I've been running without a sub. I upgraded speakers in my main system so, until they sell, I moved the old speakers downstairs. A pair of inexpensive but decent Hsu HB1-Mk2 6.5" two way speakers. Hooked them up to the Lepai amp and the sound was pretty lackluster. Desperately needed a sub to sound halfway decent. I also had a Panasonic 50" plasma TV out in the garage that I was going to sell but, new 50" 4k TV's are so dirt cheap now that its just not going to sell for enough to bother. So I put it down in the workout room and hooked up my old(non 4K) Apple TV. Using RCA outs from the TV to the little Lepai amp, I was getting frequent little cutouts of the sound...very annoying.
So, I decided to hook up my old Yamaha RXV-375 that I upgraded due to HDMI switching issues. Well, to make a long story short now that I've already told the long part, when I switched to the Yamaha amp, expecting no difference at all in the sound, just trying to cure the frequent dropouts that I attributed to the RCA outs from the old Panasonic TV, the sound difference was astonishing. It literally sounded like I was almost running a subwoofer. The difference in bass and low frequency extension was drastically noticeable. Now again, I'm the last one to ever believe in the fairy tales of high dollar audio jewelry amps increasing air and detail and soundstage and imaging and clarity and detail. I still don't. Regardless, I was VERY surprised at how much better the Hsu's sounded with the Yamaha AVR compared to the little cheap Lepai amp.
The difference is so large, I'd like to fire up REW to measure the difference although not sure how I would measure the Lepai. But, its enough for me to retire the Lepai amp and stick with, at the least, lower tier but good quality amps/AVR's even in secondary systems.
So, if anyone is considering these cheap Lepai amps for a garage or workout or outdoor setup, unless there's just something wrong with mine, I'd have to recommend that you consider passing for a bit better quality. Honestly it sounded like it changed the extension of my Hsu bookshelf speakers from 80 Hz with anemic bass to a solid 50Hz or lower. Maybe the power is just so lacking that it can't provide enough power below 80 Hz even at very moderate volume. IDK. Next, I plan to swap the Dayton MK402 speakers with both the Lepai and the Yamaha to see if there is a drastic difference. The Dayton 402's are supposed to produce very surprising low bass for their size and cost but I was never overly impressed with them driven by the Lepai.
I'll report back to see if I notice the same thing.
I currently have a Denon X3300 in my main system driving 94 dB sensitive 2 way bookshelf speakers with 8" woofers and horn loaded compression drivers(DIYSG HTM-8), and I've recently been toying with the idea of upgrading to something like D-sonics 400w x 3 @ 8r for my LCR. Coming from a good quality AVR like the Denon, I don't expect a sound quality improvement at moderate volumes, but was considering the upgrade for that last few % up around reference level. My home theater budget is pretty modest though so that would be a ways out, and a long shot as I feel like its A LOT of buck for a little bang.