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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I think there's little that pits the "consumer" level HT fan from the big boys and girls is the racks and racks of shiny separates. It's a whole new, frightening world, splitting apart processing from amplification in a way that on the one hand seems entirely intuitive, and on the other smacks of typical audiophilic drivel.


As this is the first time in this hobby that I've considered the jump up to this next level of commitment (both in terms of the space it takes up and the added cost), I thought I'd cut through a couple of the more lingering doubts...


[indulgent backstory]

I've for years been quite happy with my (at the time) flagship HK AVR7200. It was a bit more than I could afford at the time, running about $2500CDN. It's got a decent toroidal transformer, no fan, and certainly provides enough "oomph" when it needs to. In order to accept signals from the higher res formats I've added a zektor to switch 4 devices with 6ch analogues (Oppo, A1, BD10, Oppo), and a monoprice switcher for HDMI. I've got a nest of cables behind my rack that's a sight to behold, and I'm currently running a $40 crappy solid state turntable amp with a nasty hum.


Ideal? Well, not really. But it all sorta works...



Just as until the Kuro came out I had though that Plasmas were a bad idea, until the recent release of the Integra 9.8 pre/pro I had never considered the separates route. With this one unit I seem to get lots that would help - burr browns for excellent D/A, capability to decode all the formats I'd want for the near future (certainly all those spec'd by HD-DVD/BD).


I'm not someone that can blow $10k on an addition to my system, alas. My room is relatively small, crammed with media (and lego!), and doesn't need some giant 300w/ch system to blow down the walls. Hell, I'm in a semi-detached house!


I know that any improvement to my system will be subtle, but that the jump to separates can indeed create =better= rather than just =louder=. Making what I've got sound better can only be a good thing, right?

[/backstory]


Sooo, I'm looking at the Integra as a solution to many issues - the first step in the road to separates, the move to HDMI, the addition of excellent DACs for DVD-A/SACD/HD-DVD/BD, a phono pre-amp, all for around $2kCDN.


I could, hypothetically, spend the same money and get an Elite (or even Integra) receiver and get amplification thrown in.


What can I really expect, for those that have jumped into the modern separates game from the land of all-in-one receivers, in terms of improvements to my moderate system?


For amps, I'm looking at spending around $2k, it's got to be fanless, and be a significant improvement from what I've already got with the HK. So far, while Arcam and NAD are on the shortlist (one of those has fans, can't remember which one), the B&K is the leading contender. Everything else I've seen is either way out of my price range (mmmm...Bryston...) or has fans. Damn fans.


LONG STORY SHORT:


- Given my moderate budget of around $4k is the move to separates premature, and I should wait 'till I can really jump on the bandwagon when I have a room that demands a much larger amp system, getting a receiver instead? What differences/advantages can I really expect over simply getting the Integra receiver?


- Other than those I'm already looking at, any suggestions for Amplifier systems that fit my budget, would work well with my deftechs, and would be fanless?


- Would it be -entirely- stupid to buy the pre/pro first, and use my HK as a power amp pending purchase of a standalone? I mean, the HK -does- work, it just isn't up to doing the switching and processing I require. Would a move from the HK to the B&K, say, be one worth the financial pain, or should I go pre/pro now and save up for a "real" amp system?


- Would it be -less- stupid (but still stupid) to drive my mains with a higher quality 2ch amp that'd drive my mains, and my HK for now pending the addition of a (future) 5ch amp to drive the other 5 channels? Frankly, spending as much on driving my mains as driving my rear surrounds (that aren't even matching, and used with maybe 5% of my current source material) is somewhat weird to me. I grant, of course, that they'll be used more often with the move to the new processing options in the Integra, but, still, you know what I mean...



Well, another rambling post from me - hopefully for those patient enough to get this far can be of help to another poor, confused, and about to be less wealthy AVSer...
 

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I've had processors for years now (just moved from a Meridian to a NAD T175)

One of the things I like about the separates route is that I've been able to pick up (very) good quality power amps secondhand over time. Power amps don't go out of fashion, you don't need to 'upgrade' them when the newest audio format comes along. Once you've got your power amps they'll do the job for as long as you want.

So my advice would be, get the processor now and use it with the HK as a power amp. Then look out for really top notch power amps going secondhand (monoblocs, five channel, whatever) and pick them up over time.

Another option is to pick up a flagship top of the line AV receiver from yesteryear (with pre-ins) which is now going cheap secondhand because it doesn't have HDMI or whatever, and use that as a power amp.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
cool, thanks for the advice - I'm simply not convinced that many $2k-ish amps will do that substantially better a job than my current setup... It'd indeed be pretty silly to go back a step just to jump into the separates realm. On the other hand, we're talking such subtle jumps from high res lossy to lossless that the whole thing is a smaller and smaller increment to get larger results...


Oy, this hobby sucks sometimes...
 

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All I can tell you is that I moved from an H/K 7300 Flagship receiver to the Onryo Pro 885 (same as the Integra 9.8) and it is NIGHT AND DAY COMPAIRISON. The 885 sounds much better then the H/K in all modes (including the L7 surround on SD material), better Video and does more.


Just my 2 cents
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Max N /forum/post/12950360


I've had processors for years now (just moved from a Meridian to a NAD T175)

One of the things I like about the separates route is that I've been able to pick up (very) good quality power amps secondhand over time. Power amps don't go out of fashion, you don't need to 'upgrade' them when the newest audio format comes along. Once you've got your power amps they'll do the job for as long as you want.

So my advice would be, get the processor now and use it with the HK as a power amp. Then look out for really top notch power amps going secondhand (monoblocs, five channel, whatever) and pick them up over time.

Another option is to pick up a flagship top of the line AV receiver from yesteryear (with pre-ins) which is now going cheap secondhand because it doesn't have HDMI or whatever, and use that as a power amp.

When I got my first HK receiver I put my Adcom amp into storage in a closet. Fast forward 10 years and I buy a Denon for all the newer connections etc. The Denon was pitiful as an amplifier but great as a preprocessor. Out comes the Adcom, dust it off, hook it up and it is still great. I picked up another on eBay to get my full 7 channel fix and the Denon will go into a bedroom HT with two wonderful Adcom amps.


I replaced the Denon in the main HT with a Pio 94 receiver, knowing full well if it did not have a good amp section there were low cost amp alternatives. Turns out the Pio is a great amp as well as a superb pre. I would put it on the short list with the Integra. I was almost convinced to get the Onkyo pro version until I heard the Pio.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
...this is the whole shebang, at the amount I'm willing/able to spend, should I instead be looking at the Elite 94 instead, waiting to dive into separates at a later time? I just worry/figure that a new flagship receiver and the Integra/B&K combo won't be anything but the smallest of differences in my setup, and the price is literally double.
 

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You need to go out and listen for yourself. I reviewed Yamaha, Denon, H/K, Pioneer and Marantz and I made my choise. To me, I can use my sunfire amp with any equipment in the future. You maybe held back by you speakers, if you are looking at a speaker upgrade then you may want to get a receiver, it will save you money and you can upgrade your speaker sooner.
 

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sharkshark, I don't see that big of a deal. I mean, I understand your feelings (I am in a constant conundrum), but 4k should easily do the trick. I have refurbished NAD separates with a "beefy" 68lb amp that I got for 2k total. I am looking to upgrade the pre now as well.


As Max has already alluded to, I have no need to change the amp! It would suck to have to buy a new "amp" each time you change the receiver.


I think you said your room is modest. Just change the pre for now then. Use the receiver until you feel like upgrading that for sure.


Sure you can just add 2-ch amp as well. Or even a 2-ch pre with HT passthru. How much are those Outlaw monoblocks, just like 325 a piece? Or something beefier if you wish, and use the receiver for the other channels. Or a 3 ch amp for the front three. I dunno.


In any case, I would imagine 4k already gets you a decent pre and decent amp for sure.
 

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Hey Shark,


I'm not too familiar with the Elite but if it has all the connections (HDMI) and new codecs (DD+/TrueHD, DTS-HD, etc) that the Onkyo/Integra seperates and receivers now offer, I see know reason not go with the Pioneer. I didn't notice what speakers you were driving, but if they are relatively efficient and you don't care to "blow down the walls," the Pioneer--or even one of the Onkyo receivers, should be fine for you.


I have been up and down the food-chain on several occassions and have found positives in both directions. And while I also recently picked up an Onkyo 885 SSP, my decision was made easier because I already had amps in place from my previous system. Regardless, if your room isn't a cathedral and you have easy to drive speakers, a receiver with the all these new advances should give you all you need.


Heck, this Onkyo is the cheapest (priced) SSP I've owned, yet it is giving me some of the best multichannel sound I've heard; I wouldn't expect too much a difference with one of these new receivers--"given the prerequisites above." You can even add an amp and move in the other direction as your system/speakers (and new formats) evolve.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
heh, thanks for all the advice that's come in today - I don't want to give the impression that this is entirely misdirected angst... As it is, the flagship receivers are getting better and better, while the price of separates is getting closer, particularly with the Integra. This opens up this rarified market for the likes of me - I don't have $10k+ to spend on this portion of my system, alas. So, I'm torn between going the pre/pro and dedicated amp route (in CDN prices, $2000ish for the Integra, and another $2k-300 for a B&K, Arcam, NAD, etc.), vs. $2k in =total= for the Yammy/Pio/Onkyo/Denon flagship.


It's an impossible question, I grant, and I do appreciate the indulgence many have shown in trying to steer me in the right direction, but I'm sure I'm not alone with this debate - is the jump to separates really worth it if one isn't going whole hog, delving into much more capable/expensive amps (20 year warranties!). As it stands, my gut is that the B&K/Arcam/NAD in that range is at least a close call to the Denon/Pio/Onkyo amp portion, at HALF the price of delving into separates at this stage in my HT build.


With a dollar at par, and current CE manufacturing prices, the flagship receivers are downright -steals- compared to what they used to be... As such, they're all the more compelling to pick up.


Anyhoo, I'm going in circles here, but I hope that it sorta makes sense what I'm trying to get at... Ah, the written word, never easy, particularly when we're talking about something as subtle as the difference between one amp and another...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by goldear /forum/post/12952735


Hey Shark,


I'm not too familiar with the Elite but if it has all the connections (HDMI) and new codecs (DD+/TrueHD, DTS-HD, etc) that the Onkyo/Integra seperates and receivers now offer, I see know reason not go with the Pioneer. I didn't notice what speakers you were driving, but if they are relatively efficient and you don't care to "blow down the walls," the Pioneer--or even one of the Onkyo receivers, should be fine for you.


I have been up and down the food-chain on several occassions and have found positives in both directions. And while I also recently picked up an Onkyo 885 SSP, my decision was made easier because I already had amps in place from my previous system. Regardless, if your room isn't a cathedral and you have easy to drive speakers, a receiver with the all these new advances should give you all you need.


Heck, this Onkyo is the cheapest (priced) SSP I've owned, yet it is giving me some of the best multichannel sound I've heard; I wouldn't expect too much a difference with one of these new receivers--"given the prerequisites above." You can even add an amp and move in the other direction as your system/speakers (and new formats) evolve.

this came in while I was scrounging for words above - I'm -not- in a cathedral, as you eloquently put it, nor am I suffering with my current HK not driving my DefTechs, known I believe as fairly efficient speakers.


It seems a bit nuts, but I'm still leaning towards the SSP being fed into my HK7200 for =now=, pending a longer term goal of higher end amplification. Crazy, huh?
 

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With the pricing some of the new pre/pros are doing (Integra, Emotiva, upcoming Sherwood, etc.), I personally think it is worth it to go separate ... even if your HT isn't state-of-the-art.


To me, it simply offers far greater flexibility. In the past, you had to contend with pre/pros lacking cutting-edge decoding and I/O. That isn't the case now. It kind of puts receivers at a disadvantage, since you have to make sure it has the features, processing and I/O you need ... plus a quality amp in it (that's why lots of people use a receiver with a separate amp - they want all the new features, but the built-in amp isn't to their liking). I love being able to use whatever amp I want.


For me, the best part is I/O switching when I don't feel like using my HT speakers. My HT is in my living room, and there I times when I simply don't want all the speakers on ... but I want to be able to select all my components. This way, I don't have an amp that being muted, draining extra power, and putting wear-and-tear on my receiver.
 

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I haven't read any of the posts, so this might be a repeat, but the only way to know if there's a difference or if it's worth it is to listen and decide for yourself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
...true words, Noah...



I'm at the precipice that I'm sure lots of you are at/were at. I've got a system that shames that of all of my friends, they look to me as the idiot that's spent tens of thousands on a HT system, and it's my house they come to when nerding out to Superbowl, the latest BD/HD DVD release, etc. Yet, all things considered (this hobby in general) I've got a "modest" setup.


Strange world, isn't it...



I simply can't get my head around the radical (or subtle) differences in amplification from similarly spec'd devices. Yes, 500w monoblocks will be substantially better (different?) for power ravenous speakers, but apples to apples comparing of the amp section of my HK7200 (toroidal amp driving 100w High Current measured conservatively by HK) to the amp section of the newer flagships, or the B&K.


I'm -not- fighting against the fact that there -can- be an audible difference, but I feel in my gut (Colbert would be proud!) that the differences have to do with the =processing= that these new devices provide rather than the =amplification=.


Thus, to get the advantages of things like native TrueHD and DTS-Lossless, internal DSD>PCM conversion, HDMI switching, etc., etc. I'm looking at either a new flagship receiver ($2kCDN, approx.) or a new pre/pro ($2kCDN, approx.) and a current/future need for amplification. See the pain?



I drool over brystons, as I've had serious experience in the past trying really hard in a concert situation to kill one (electroacoustic "diffusion" back in University, driving a soundtrack derived mostly from 20hz and below signals from an SH-101) only to fail and have the amp suffer no damage whatsoever. They're tanks, they'll last the rest of my HT life, as will I'd think any of the other premium brands when you step up to the $7k+ for amplification. THAT I get, and, sadly, that I -can't- get right now...


What I'm still not getting, petulantly perhaps, is how it's likely that a standalone $2k-4k 7ch amp is going to do a better job (qualitatively or quantitatively) than my current HK at simply driving the speakers based on signal input.


A big advantage of separates, as many of you have indicated above, is that you don't need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I'm looking at this the same way - why rid the fairly respectable performance of the amp section of my '7200 simply because I want to upgrade the -processing- portion of the receiver. Relegating the HK to poweramp status is unconventional, perhaps, but it, twinned with something the likes of the Integra, might be a better building block to a larger system than to rid myself of it for far less than sonically it's actually worth in favour of the newest flagship models.


But, yeah Noah, I should really just listen to these to determine that for myself. Unfortunately, of course, that's not as easy to do, as I'd need to pre-order the Integra in order to bring it in to Canada. I could perhaps steal the Elite from my dealer for a week or so to try it in-system, but then we're back to square one.


Ah, hell... maybe I should just give up and get 10w tube monoblocks. Agree?
 

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"Relegating the HK to poweramp status is unconventional, perhaps, but it, twinned with something the likes of the Integra, might be a better building block to a larger system than to rid myself of it for far less than sonically it's actually worth in favour of the newest flagship models."


Can you even do that? Does the 7200 have inputs for all the amp channels?


By all accounts you'd be happy with the sound from one of the new NAD receivers (T775 or T785).


They lack decoding for TrueHD/DTS-MA, but in a few months players will be out that do that.


Also in a few months the Sherwood Newcastle R-972 with the intriguing Trinnov room correction, and it will have the decoders.


Before any points out that decoding is ideally done in the player, I know, but apparently the only currently foolproof way to get proper LFE levels is with decoding in the receiver.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz /forum/post/12957656


Can you even do that? Does the 7200 have inputs for all the amp channels?

Yarp.


I'll be upgrading my BD player soon anyway, as I now have a 24p capable set, and I'm the rare few that actually goes through all those damn extras. Whatever that player will be, it'll also have analogue outputs, so I can hypothetically have the best of both worlds.


Ken, thanks for the advice - please don't misconstrue my point, I'm certainly not saying that the HK is the be-all and end-all, I'm simply concerned that spending another $2k-4k atop the pre/pro price won't be a significant enough jump from what I've already got, and I should instead hold onto the HK pending saving up for some more serious (read: pricey) amplification options.


I'm intrigued by the Class-D's from Rotel, but that's a whole 'nother bag of worms.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Max N /forum/post/12950360


I've had processors for years now (just moved from a Meridian to a NAD T175)

One of the things I like about the separates route is that I've been able to pick up (very) good quality power amps secondhand over time. Power amps don't go out of fashion, you don't need to 'upgrade' them when the newest audio format comes along. Once you've got your power amps they'll do the job for as long as you want.

So my advice would be, get the processor now and use it with the HK as a power amp. Then look out for really top notch power amps going secondhand (monoblocs, five channel, whatever) and pick them up over time.

Another option is to pick up a flagship top of the line AV receiver from yesteryear (with pre-ins) which is now going cheap secondhand because it doesn't have HDMI or whatever, and use that as a power amp.

Which Meridian did you have? I have one now, but, of course, it will not do any of the new Lossless audio tracks. It only does DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1, along with ProLogic II.


My concern is if a proc like the Integra DTC-9.8 will sound as good as the Meridian? After all, the Meridian sounded great on Music as well as in HT modes. It also cost >3 times as much as the Integra!
 

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Apologies for going off-topic slightly - I had a very early 561 (actually still have it, now in storage). I think I paid 2800 UK pounds for it back in the day. But I was single then, I could never justify or afford that now. It was a great sounding unit, but so is the NAD.


To the OP, reading the whole thread again I personally think that a separate processor feeding the amp section of your HK makes sense as part of a staged upgrade. But if you can borrow an Elite from your dealer to try, I guess that should be your first move. It would give you another data point to help you decide?
 
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