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  1. #1

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    Default Amp Education for the New Guy

    Ok it is time to show my ignorance again. Though I will not be purchasing one until after the holiday season, I am curious about getting an Amplifier for my system. Though I am having no problem pushing sound quantity (most of my usage is for HT with the stereo set around -6 from reference), I understand that I will not get the sound quality potential of my speakers until I get some additional power. Also let me remind everyone that I am new to this hobby (though addicted terribly) and am learning as I go. So I have lots of questions.

    1) Should I get a 7.1 system Amp (to power all my speakers), a 3 speaker amp (to power just my fronts and center), or just a 2 speaker amp (to power just the fronts)?
    2) Do I take a chance of changing the timbre of the speakers by attaching them to an amp and thus messing up my seamless transitions from one speaker to another?
    3) What amount of power (wattage?) per speaker should my new amp have?
    4) What is the difference between balanced inputs and unbalanced inputs? Which would fit my HT needs?
    5) If I add power just to a few of the speakers (e.g. the front stage), would I have problems calibrating my system? For example would I have to turn my new amp very low to compensate for only a few speakers being amplified? Currently, my system is calibrated to 85db using the AVIA DVD system with my front stage set at Left -0, Center – 0, Right - +1. I would hate to have to adjust to Left - -10, Center - -10, and Right -9 to be calibrated on my system.
    6) Since my front speakers can handle 500watts and my surrounds can only handle 150watts, if I purchase a multi-speaker amp (as opposed to monoblocks) do I take a chance of blowing my surrounds by getting a too powerful amp? Never know, I or one of my friends may crank it up for Saturday Night College Game night celebration.
    7) I hear a lot about digital (or is it circuitry) amps as compared to tube amps. Which should I be interested in?
    8) What brand and model amps should I consider? What brands and/or models should I avoid?
    9) I know this is a tough question since price on amps run from $60 - $60,000, but understanding that I am just learning this hobby how much should I expect to pay for my first amp?

    Sorry again about my ignorance on this subject and thanks in advance for any and all your replies. I am just looking and making sure I understand what is “the best bang for my bucks”. I am hoping that once I purchase a nice amp, I can keep it as I upgrade receivers/pre-amps and speakers in the future.
    Holydoc (Home Theatre Lover)
    __________________________________________
    Panasonic -50PX600U 50" Plasma
    Onkyo -TX-NR901 Receiver
    Oppo -Oppo 980HD Universal DVD Player
    Outlaw -770 (7x200watt) Amplifier
    PolkAudio - RTi12 (Left and Right)
    PolkAudio - CSi5 (Center)
    PolkAudio - FXi3 (Back and Surround)
    SVS - PB-12/Plus (Subwoofer)
    Bluejean Cables - Interconnects
    Logitech Harmony 880 - Remote

  2. #2

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    Holydoc, If I knew then what I know now what I would do would be to buy a 5 channel amp from Outlaw Audio @ 200Wts per channel & be done with it.

    You should buy as much power as you can afford. You blow speakers by not giving them enough power & making them work too hard by turning up the volume.

    I subscribe to the addage that more is better, that way no matter what future speakers you get you will never again have to worry about having enough power to drive them.

    And as you correctly noted, the amp can be attached to any future upgrades you make, including the jump to a separate pre-processor!
    Sunfire TGP III PrePro, Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature 405wpc 5 ch. Amp, Rotel RCD-1072 CDP, Onkyo TA2600 Tape Deck, Pioneer Elite 47-A DVD, Sony 32" XBR TV, Polk RTA-8T Main Speakers, Boston VR-920 Center Channel, Boston PV-600 Subwoofer, Polk DSW 400 Subwoofer, Polk FXi-3 Surround Speakers

  3. #3

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    I agree with cfrizz on this 1000% (yes that is one thousand percent). Good amplifiers will usually last you a long time without much problems (maybe a few blown fuses :P). If you do look for multichannel amplifiers, there really are some designs that are better then others. I personally have come to like "blade" designs (basically it is a cue from the computer world, where you have an overall chassis, but each amplifier is its own blade that you could swap out and replace). It basically gets you as close to mono-blocks while saving space and additional outlets, but they are heavy as hell...

    Now for sending too much power, well I will leave that for more people who have more experience then I do in this area, but for the most part, if your room isn't too "big" for your speakers, then simply calibrating the pre-processor with something like Avia and a SPL meter, then you should not risk blowing a driver... (although the image that pops in my mind is a story from John Stasny where some of his friends use to use pick up some super cheap speakers and run a 2000W welding power supply to the speakers to shoot the cones 50 feet across the room in a flaming ball of mass...)

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Holydoc
    1) Should I get a 7.1 system Amp (to power all my speakers), a 3 speaker amp (to power just my fronts and center), or just a 2 speaker amp (to power just the fronts)?
    It all depends how much you want to spend. For mainly home theater use, I would say 3, 5, or 7 channel. If it is for 2 channel use from your HT rig, 2 channel amp is fine.
    2) Do I take a chance of changing the timbre of the speakers by attaching them to an amp and thus messing up my seamless transitions from one speaker to another?
    There is a chance but it is slight. Timber really matters the most for your front stage though (and my amp recommendations for mainly HT start at 3 channel...:) ).
    3) What amount of power (wattage?) per speaker should my new amp have?
    I would try and go with a minimum of the top your speakers will take or 200 watts (whichever is lower). I would say more is better, but start here at a minimum.
    4) What is the difference between balanced inputs and unbalanced inputs? Which would fit my HT needs?
    I believe it is the amount of noise that the cable will pick up. (I could be wrong on this) - an balanced cable will not pick up as much outside noise (from power lines and such) as a balanced cable. It is not inherantly a better cable, just better shielded. - If anyone else has an opinion on this, take thiers over mine because I am not sure.
    5) If I add power just to a few of the speakers (e.g. the front stage), would I have problems calibrating my system? For example would I have to turn my new amp very low to compensate for only a few speakers being amplified? Currently, my system is calibrated to 85db using the AVIA DVD system with my front stage set at Left -0, Center – 0, Right - +1. I would hate to have to adjust to Left - -10, Center - -10, and Right -9 to be calibrated on my system.
    Nope - it will calibrate just fine.
    6) Since my front speakers can handle 500watts and my surrounds can only handle 150watts, if I purchase a multi-speaker amp (as opposed to monoblocks) do I take a chance of blowing my surrounds by getting a too powerful amp? Never know, I or one of my friends may crank it up for Saturday Night College Game night celebration.
    There is a chance but that chance is MUCH lower than if you purchased a smaller amp. (I know it sounds backwards, but it is true)
    7) I hear a lot about digital (or is it circuitry) amps as compared to tube amps. Which should I be interested in?
    I would look at digital or solid state if your main purpose is home theater.
    8) What brand and model amps should I consider? What brands and/or models should I avoid?
    This really depends on your budget, but whatever you get for a first amp, I would consider purchasing used (if you are ok with that sort of thing) It will let you try something and not lose your shirt if you decide its not for you and you want to try something else.
    9) I know this is a tough question since price on amps run from $60 - $60,000, but understanding that I am just learning this hobby how much should I expect to pay for my first amp?
    For a decent used 3-7 channel amp I would expect to pay in the $400-$1200 range for it. I know it is a broad range, but there is some killer stuff available in that price range. You can, of course, spend less or considerably more depending on how expensive your tastes are.
    Sorry again about my ignorance on this subject and thanks in advance for any and all your replies.
    Never apologise for wanting to learn and don't frequent places that would require you to..... And your welcome.. :)

    Michael
    Last edited by McLoki; 09-30-2005 at 06:00 PM.
    Mains.............Polk LSi15 (Cherry)
    Center............Polk LSiC (Crossover upgraded)
    Surrounds.......Polk LSi7 (Gloss Black - wood sides removed and crossovers upgraded)
    Subwoofers.....SVS 25-31 CS+ and PC+ (both 20hz tune)
    Pre\Pro...........NAD T163 (Modded with LM4562 opamps)
    Amplifier.........Cinepro 3k6 (6-channel, 500wpc@4ohms)

  5. #5

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    Before spending uber bucks on an amp, please see Steveinaz's post about the outboard DAC. While an amp will make a bigger difference than an outboard dac will, it is not going to be day/night different.

    Not that I am telling you not to buy an amp, you should. I just don't want your expectations to be set to high.
    Setup:
    Adcom GFA-545 amp
    Nad 1600 pre
    Dual 704 TT
    Pioneer 707 R2R
    Pioneer DV-578A Multi-format
    Polk SDA-2 Mains

  6. #6

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    Thanks so much for the advice so far. I am learning a lot!

    Sounds like the best advice so far is to grab an amp that will handle my 7.1 system. Though I am not a rich man, I do not want to regret getting way too little for my system or introducing an unbalanced sound to an incredibly matching sound now. I am willing to spend the extra money to keep that. I do agree that timbre is most important for the front soundstage, I was actually bothered when one of my back speakers did not tonally match. To avoid that aggravation, I think a 7 amp system will be necessary. Your top quote of $1200 sounds very reasonable.

    Yes, my main purpose is HT. Sure I use it to listen to music (Pink Floyd, Sade, Jazz, etc.) but the main job of this system is to make me "live" the movie. One day I will definitely let you guys help me spend a bunch more money on a 2-channel system, but today HT is the goal.

    As for purchasing used or even from a non-sanctioned dealer, I am very leary and will probably steer away from that option. So I will be looking for a new (though I may be lured by one of the "elder more wiser" members of this forum who may have one to part with). I have heard brands like Outlaw, Rotel, Nad, and Parasound being thrown around this board. However, I have no personal knowledge of the pros and cons of any of them.

    Thanks again and PLEASE keep posting advice. I am like an audio sponge attempting to soak up as much as I can!
    Holydoc (Home Theatre Lover)
    __________________________________________
    Panasonic -50PX600U 50" Plasma
    Onkyo -TX-NR901 Receiver
    Oppo -Oppo 980HD Universal DVD Player
    Outlaw -770 (7x200watt) Amplifier
    PolkAudio - RTi12 (Left and Right)
    PolkAudio - CSi5 (Center)
    PolkAudio - FXi3 (Back and Surround)
    SVS - PB-12/Plus (Subwoofer)
    Bluejean Cables - Interconnects
    Logitech Harmony 880 - Remote

  7. #7

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    Go to outlawaudio.com and check out there amps. They also have a "B" grade section that might save you a little money.
    Setup:
    Adcom GFA-545 amp
    Nad 1600 pre
    Dual 704 TT
    Pioneer 707 R2R
    Pioneer DV-578A Multi-format
    Polk SDA-2 Mains

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spawndn72
    Before spending uber bucks on an amp, please see Steveinaz's post about the outboard DAC. While an amp will make a bigger difference than an outboard dac will, it is not going to be day/night different.

    Not that I am telling you not to buy an amp, you should. I just don't want your expectations to be set to high.
    a high Quality amplifier can make a big difference in the overall sound of an audio system as long as the rest of the gear is up to the task.
    JAS Audio Bravo 2.3 SE Single ended Class A Tube Integrated Amplifier Svetlana 6C33-B triodes @ 18 wpc-Eastern Electric MiniMax DAC W-LME49990 op amps w Siemens 12AU7 -Black Cat Morpheus cables -Silverline Audio Sonata III

  9. #9

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    I would definitely recommend B&K amps as well, if you're looking at Parasound, they're in the same general price bracket. Adcom is supposed to be very good, as is Rotel. For my money, I would say B&K amps would definitely excel at movies and music, as would Parasound.
    As far as balanced connections go, a high quality amp would offer them, but they would be useless to you unless you planned on going w/ a nicer preamp in the future and ****canning your Onkyo (a good goal to shoot for).
    Balanced connections offer a cleaner connection, reducing the noisefloor of your listening experience. The difference between unbalanced and balanced is most noticable in two-channel. A single rca uses one conductor and a ground, whereas a balanced uses two (positive and negative) and a ground. My experience with the difference is that balanced (also known as XLR) further refines the sound, reduces distortion, and makes the music seem more tangible. Voices are more realistic and "in the room," and details are just that bit more clear. It's a relatively subte difference, but noticable all the same.
    Current System:

    Mitsubishi 30" LCD LT-3020 (for sale**)
    Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Concert Grand (Rosewood)-Mains (with Audioquest Mont Blanc cables)
    CSi5-Center (for sale**)
    FXi3-surrounds (for sale**)
    Martin Logan Depth-Sub
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  10. #10

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    One thing to remember about multi-channel amps.

    If one channel blows... your without power on all channels (since you have to take the whole unit for repair)...

    I would seperate it... maybe a 3 channel amp and a 2 channel - or 3 2 channels - or 5 Outlaw Monos...

    More power supplies are better - the power supply is the back bone of an amp...
    www.Vr3Mods.com ///// www.Version3Audio.com

    "No, that's silly talk. Dude, you can't possibly be this audio dumb so quit the act." - Doro

  11. #11

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    Wonderful! I will be looking at Outlaw (they have a nice 770 Amp I just read about), B&K, and Parasound per your recommendations. I will start searching forums and reading specs. Keep those recommendations coming!

    Gregure, as for dumping the Onkyo, that is for another day. Right now it does everything (upconversion of all input video to component, total mute control at different levels, net-radio connectivity, dialogue normalization and enhancement, default playback modes for each type of input, Start-up volume settings and max volume settings) that I desire. Eventually, I will desire a lot more and will depend on smart people like you to point me in the right direction.
    Holydoc (Home Theatre Lover)
    __________________________________________
    Panasonic -50PX600U 50" Plasma
    Onkyo -TX-NR901 Receiver
    Oppo -Oppo 980HD Universal DVD Player
    Outlaw -770 (7x200watt) Amplifier
    PolkAudio - RTi12 (Left and Right)
    PolkAudio - CSi5 (Center)
    PolkAudio - FXi3 (Back and Surround)
    SVS - PB-12/Plus (Subwoofer)
    Bluejean Cables - Interconnects
    Logitech Harmony 880 - Remote

  12. #12

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    IMO*

    I would get a 2 channel amp and a 5 channel...

    Seperate your mains from your center and surrounds...
    www.Vr3Mods.com ///// www.Version3Audio.com

    "No, that's silly talk. Dude, you can't possibly be this audio dumb so quit the act." - Doro

  13. #13

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    Sid,

    Are channels blowing a common occurrance? Is this something I should be worried about? What amps should I avoid?

    I am NOT electronically blessed. I also do not want to get something that I have to worry about. I like "plug-n-play" and "go-away".
    Holydoc (Home Theatre Lover)
    __________________________________________
    Panasonic -50PX600U 50" Plasma
    Onkyo -TX-NR901 Receiver
    Oppo -Oppo 980HD Universal DVD Player
    Outlaw -770 (7x200watt) Amplifier
    PolkAudio - RTi12 (Left and Right)
    PolkAudio - CSi5 (Center)
    PolkAudio - FXi3 (Back and Surround)
    SVS - PB-12/Plus (Subwoofer)
    Bluejean Cables - Interconnects
    Logitech Harmony 880 - Remote

  14. #14

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    Its not a common thing.

    But if it does happen... you will be without all that power for a few weeks... ---- and going back to a receiver for that time period will not be fun...

    My recomendation - get a 2 channel and a 5 channel...

    2 channel amps are designed around musical reproduction, where as 5 channels are not. 2 Channels amps share one (or two) power supplies per amp, where as a 5-7 channel shares 1 or 2 power supplies between 5 or 7 amps...

    I know Outlaw uses 2 per multi-channel amps...

    The Monos for instance use one - for one channel. See the difference?

    This allows you to have optimum power for your mains - and it allows you to seperate (seperates??) them from your center and surrounds as far as sharing a power supply..
    www.Vr3Mods.com ///// www.Version3Audio.com

    "No, that's silly talk. Dude, you can't possibly be this audio dumb so quit the act." - Doro

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vr3MxStyler2k3
    One thing to remember about multi-channel amps.

    If one channel blows... your without power on all channels (since you have to take the whole unit for repair)...

    I would seperate it... maybe a 3 channel amp and a 2 channel - or 3 2 channels - or 5 Outlaw Monos...

    More power supplies are better - the power supply is the back bone of an amp...
    Not all multi-channel amplifiers are like that (mine sure isn't). It all depends on how it is designed. I guess the Emotiva MPS-1 is a little different since it is a blade/chassis style amp with each amplifier being an individual mono-block amplifier simply with power connectors, on/off, and status circuitry that connects to the chassis when fully inserted (each has its own power-supply, with a IEC style socket to get power from the chassis). So, in this case, I can lose one or more amplifiers, and I just lose those individual amplifiers. I call up the company and can get replacements sent out or send back in the faulty ones for repair (basically I have 7 mono-blocks that share a common chassis)...

    Again, it is all about the design, and many multi-channel amplifiers are getting better.
    Last edited by Fallen Kell; 10-01-2005 at 01:18 AM.

  16. #16

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    I still like mono blocks/2 channel amps for the mains...

    I like having seperates to keep things seperated where it counts. Music is first - always.
    www.Vr3Mods.com ///// www.Version3Audio.com

    "No, that's silly talk. Dude, you can't possibly be this audio dumb so quit the act." - Doro

  17. #17

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    I went to outlaw.com and took a look. The main amp I was concentrating on was the 770. (Sid, I realized I do not have the power lines to hook up 7 separate amps. The advice was sound though.) It appears that Outlaw is phasing out the 770 in place of a new 790 (300watts and balanced inputs). This phasing out process means they have reduced the price of the 770 from $1799 to $1599.

    I like the fact that all speakers will be run from the same amp. I like the fact that there is no fan to make noise. I like the fact that there is just one power plug to contend with. I hate the fact that it is 90lbs of dead weight. I hate the fact that this price is a closeout price until all their 770's in stock are gone.

    Is this something I should do? Is this price good or average? Will my system improve enough for me to feel good about spending the $1599?

    Recommendations are welcome.
    Holydoc (Home Theatre Lover)
    __________________________________________
    Panasonic -50PX600U 50" Plasma
    Onkyo -TX-NR901 Receiver
    Oppo -Oppo 980HD Universal DVD Player
    Outlaw -770 (7x200watt) Amplifier
    PolkAudio - RTi12 (Left and Right)
    PolkAudio - CSi5 (Center)
    PolkAudio - FXi3 (Back and Surround)
    SVS - PB-12/Plus (Subwoofer)
    Bluejean Cables - Interconnects
    Logitech Harmony 880 - Remote

  18. #18

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    Bah.... done!

    Outlaw 770 (7x200watt) Amp ordered.

    *blows the dust out of his wallet* At least I can see the bottom of my wallet, bankaccount, etc.
    Holydoc (Home Theatre Lover)
    __________________________________________
    Panasonic -50PX600U 50" Plasma
    Onkyo -TX-NR901 Receiver
    Oppo -Oppo 980HD Universal DVD Player
    Outlaw -770 (7x200watt) Amplifier
    PolkAudio - RTi12 (Left and Right)
    PolkAudio - CSi5 (Center)
    PolkAudio - FXi3 (Back and Surround)
    SVS - PB-12/Plus (Subwoofer)
    Bluejean Cables - Interconnects
    Logitech Harmony 880 - Remote

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Holydoc
    Bah.... done!
    I like someone that can be decisive. Nice choice, just don't hurt your back.

  20. #20

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    Congrats! I'm sure you will be very happy!!!!
    Sunfire TGP III PrePro, Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature 405wpc 5 ch. Amp, Rotel RCD-1072 CDP, Onkyo TA2600 Tape Deck, Pioneer Elite 47-A DVD, Sony 32" XBR TV, Polk RTA-8T Main Speakers, Boston VR-920 Center Channel, Boston PV-600 Subwoofer, Polk DSW 400 Subwoofer, Polk FXi-3 Surround Speakers

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