IMDave

To amp, or not to amp ?...that is the question

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Alright, this is probably going to be an area of at least some debate, but I'll pose the question anyway.

As per my signature, my HT PJ room runs a 5.1.4 Atmos system comprising a 20+ year old pair of Spendor SP2mk2's ( LR ), a 10yo Krix Centrix, some Krix Equinox surrounds and 4 B&W in-ceiling speakers. A mixed bag collected over the years, to say the least.

Amplification is provided by a Marantz SR6010 7 channel AVR , with my old Audiolab 2-channel powering the rear 2 ceiling Atmos speakers.

Let me say that these days I don't do much 2 channel stuff, so we are talking movies/HT here.

As per a couple of the recent speaker threads in the HT forum, I contemplated just upgrading my Centre speaker ( Budget up to say $2000). Then started leaning towards the conventional wisdom of having the same drivers across all 3 LCR speakers, and therefore replacing all 3 front end speakers. ( Up the ante on the budget to $4000 now).

Now my local dealer has recommended that I would be better served keeping all my old,existing speakers and investing in a quality power amp.

I am aware of the legend that is "Arthur" and an Elektra 7 channel has been proposed at RRP $4000.

Decision,decisions.

So let's say the budget is capped at $4000. ( Hope the wife isn't reading this) . Which way would you go and why?

I know there are some passionate Elektra owners here, but can adding a power amp to 20yo speakers really be better than a moderate to high quality AVR powering $4k worth of 2017 speaker technology?

Discuss.

 

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My preference is to upgrade the speakers. Why?  Am old school with a focus on audio and a tendency to spend more on speakers.

Will throw in another option. What do you have as your sub and will you consider adding a second one? A cost effective upgrade to the HT experience.

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Thanks for the suggestion Snoopy. 

Current sub is a very musical Velodyne 10". Quite happy with it. Not to say I wouldn't add another, but I'd think it would be later rather than sooner.

Forgot to mention in the OP that my room is 6.5m x 4.5m, but due to family restrictions usually  watch/listen at -15dB to -5dB as a maximum. That is, not looking to add a power amp for "volume".

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2 hours ago, IMDave said:

upgrading 

Hey Dave, may I enquire as to what you wish to "improve" with your current system, i.e. what areas do you feel are possibly lacking?

I'd probably start with speakers first as Snoopy8 suggests and then move onto a power amp when funds allow... or get both and spend a bit less.

Of course 2nd hand is an option, but there is always that allure of a nice new product too I suppose. :)

Is the business you are dealing with able to possibly lend you a display model power amp to try out and see if it improves your setup at your current listening levels?

JSmith :ninja:

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My opinion is that a Poweramp will not add to the quality of sound but will take the load of the AVR so the other channels can breath a bit easier so to speak. Agree with Snoopy as well and am heading down this road with getting 2 subs.

I had an Elektra running the front 3 channels I didn't feel it added much, there is a reason why they are pushed heavily on the forums as you don't see advertising anywhere else for them do you.

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It probably depends if you like the laid back sound of the Spendors - I haven't heard that model, but they've got a reputation for rolled off treble and an emphasis on midrange response.

Haven't been able to find specs, but looks like the Spendors don't have any nasty impedance dips and while not particularly efficient, not too hard to drive i.e. you may not get a huge difference with a power amp.

I'd probably be more inclined to go with a new matching LCR set, but that may bring the slippery slope of purchasing something that needs some more grunt to drive properly and the need for a power amp...  Do you have a forgiving wife? :)

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1 hour ago, IMDave said:

Current sub is a very musical Velodyne 10". Quite happy with it. Not to say I wouldn't add another, but I'd think it would be later rather than sooner.

Forgot to mention in the OP that my room is 6.5m x 4.5m, but due to family restrictions usually  watch/listen at -15dB to -5dB as a maximum. That is, not looking to add a power amp for "volume".

Sorry, I did not see your signature (does not show on mobile view!).

Another question - is your room treated ?  If not, you may not be getting the best out of your sub.  I have a non-dedicated room with only family friendly soft furnishings and a second sub helped overcome some of the issues. 

If you can answer @jsmith's excellent question: " what you wish to "improve" with your current system, i.e. what areas do you feel are possibly lacking? " , that will help guide the discussion.  Or is it a case of upgrade-itis, something that afflicts all of us from time to time?  :P:D

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30 minutes ago, jsmith said:

Hey Dave, may I enquire as to what you wish to "improve" with your current system, i.e. what areas do you feel are possibly lacking?

JSmith :ninja:

Like a lot of the "older audiophile generation" ( spent a lot of years in the 80's and 90's chasing vinyl 'sonic nirvana ') during those years I was always trying to create a 3D soundstage with a discrete space around each instrument. 

With HT , I love waiting till the closing credits and listening to the final soundtrack music. ( Usually wide & deep orchestral arrangements). At the same time I feel that a better Centre would improve vocal dialogue "timbre".

As you may gather I'm about the subtleties not the "slam".

I don't spend any time with 2-channel anymore because my JVC X7000 has had me chasing "visual nirvana", but now that I'm really happy I've got 4k UHD HDR to a place that is really enjoyable,  I thought it time to look at the long neglected sonic side.

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8 minutes ago, Quark said:

It probably depends if you like the laid back sound of the Spendors - I haven't heard that model, but they've got a reputation for rolled off treble and an emphasis on midrange response.

Haven't been able to find specs, but looks like the Spendors don't have any nasty impedance dips and while not particularly efficient, not too hard to drive i.e. you may not get a huge difference with a power amp.

I'd probably be more inclined to go with a new matching LCR set, but that may bring the slippery slope of purchasing something that needs some more grunt to drive properly and the need for a power amp...  Do you have a forgiving wife? :)

Yeah the Spendor are typically British bookshelves.

Top end doesn't exactly sparkle and they roll off a bit before 60Hz, but the midrange is all warm and fuzzy. Lol. As I say,  I've had them for 20+ years and probably really need to listen to something else to give myself a new perspective. 

When I moved from my Marantz SR7002 to the SR6010 in 2015 I was initially disappointed as I was sure I lost some of the subtle depth of image in the soundstage, but I needed to make the change for Atmos and 4kUHD. Swings and roundabouts. 

 

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23 minutes ago, Quark said:

...  Do you have a forgiving wife? :)

That's what the " Discretionary " bank account is for.

I might have a bit of trouble camouflaging an Elektra 😂

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7 minutes ago, IMDave said:

Like a lot of the "older audiophile generation" ( spent a lot of years in the 80's and 90's chasing vinyl 'sonic nirvana ') during those years I was always trying to create a 3D soundstage with a discrete space around each instrument.

I do not know the subtlety of Audyssey licensing on the Marantz, but if you can, upgrade to the Pro version which improves the soundstage and steering of channels in movies.

9 minutes ago, IMDave said:

With HT , I love waiting till the closing credits and listening to the final soundtrack music. ( Usually wide & deep orchestral arrangements). At the same time I feel that a better Centre would improve vocal dialogue "timbre".

I agree that identical left, centre, right speakers is ideal (and I have this setup).  The centre provides the dialogue, and having a good centre helps making the dialogue clearer.  However, room correction also helps with the dialogue.

17 minutes ago, IMDave said:

As you may gather I'm about the subtleties not the "slam".

I was never (and still am not) a bass head, and would have said the same statement prior to my second sub upgrade.  What the second sub did was make up for the room inadequacies and provided the missing lower notes for both movies and music.  My setup now provides audio as the maker intended, including the subtleties. 

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@IMDave  I do not know the spendor sp2 however do know they have a great rep of speakers and 20 yr old doesnt mean anything in my opinion as far as speakers go. when i had my previous mains after decade plus it took me spending about 10x their original worth to really better them. very easy to get different... not necessarily to sometimes improve... with speakers too very much the law of diminishing returns play in heavily ! 

I would 100% as a first stop look at upgrading the centre though. can do a lot better than the krix centrix and if happy with the spendor krix mix up front I would have no qualms replacing the centrix with something much much higher ion the krix ladder. 

at the very minimum I would be going the krix vortex mk2 and if can the epicentrix mk2

http://www.krix.com.au/centre-channel/

note the vertically aligned tweeter mid range... I would 100% get a centre with that driver orientation and will find good steps forward in clarity, vocals punch etc from the krix you have. The centre is SO important a speaker

if down the track if wanted to up the ante could then consider replacing the spendor with either the harmonix or neuphonix.

could also go the b&W path if wanted starting with say CM line or above B&W make lovely speakers if looking there, some of the best centres as well. so many choices really depends what brand takes fancy.

now coming back to the amp...whcih is what kicked off this thread no doubt. I can tell you ...and you can go back 10+ years ago to early days of this forum and will read how I found adding theatre7 the benefit I got drivijng my system back then a surround sound rig rather than off the relatively grunty and  good quality avr I ran back then and instead using it as a processor which it did a great job at. what comes through is  not just detail but envelopment all around the dynamics have up the sleeve. 

I ended up going the amp first... only because I experienced straight away the gains got. maybe there is an opportunity for yourself being in melb to borrow an amp to check out like i did to decide .... you should have your answer on whether its something to do straight up or not. 

I myself still did end up upgrading the speaker set that I had at that stage for some 10+ years already and slowly upgraded over the last 10+ years infact with most recent upgrade last year with the atmos.

it doesnt have to be all at once... can indeed do one step at a time... take your pick as to what has the most bang to kick things off :D

 

 

 

 

Edited by :) al
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I should add... the speaker - amp thing will always be a chicken and egg argument. however fact remains you cant have a chicken without an egg and egg without a chicken. and same goes with amps and speakers. its a pairing that is the most important :) 

 

you can have really nice speakers and be let down by amps not driving them adequately of with finesse. or you can have a really nice amp and with speakers you have that will be the limiting factor. 

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Al's suggestion of having a listen to a few of the B&W range is a good one, albeit IMO these absolutely need a decent power amp like the Elektra to shine.

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16 minutes ago, Quark said:

albeit IMO these absolutely need a decent power amp like the Elektra to shine.

Or even maybe a Rotel

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3 hours ago, Quark said:

Al's suggestion of having a listen to a few of the B&W range is a good one, albeit IMO these absolutely need a decent power amp like the Elektra to shine.

with the centres I wouldn't go any less than the CM centre 2 but yeah need good quality power and an amp wiht some driving capability. AVRS can be pretty decent for many but up the ante on the speakers and can eventually run out of steam and start to show not their best.

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10 hours ago, :) al said:

@IMDave  I do not know the spendor sp2 however do know they have a great rep of speakers and 20 yr old doesnt mean anything in my opinion as far as speakers go. when i had my previous mains after decade plus it took me spending about 10x their original worth to really better them. very easy to get different... not necessarily to sometimes improve... with speakers too very much the law of diminishing returns play in heavily ! 

I would 100% as a first stop look at upgrading the centre though. can do a lot better than the krix centrix and if happy with the spendor krix mix up front I would have no qualms replacing the centrix with something much much higher ion the krix ladder. 

at the very minimum I would be going the krix vortex mk2 and if can the epicentrix mk2

 

The centre is SO important a speaker

if down the track if wanted to up the ante could then consider replacing the spendor with either the harmonix or neuphonix.

could also go the b&W path if wanted starting with say CM line or above B&W make lovely speakers if looking there, some of the best centres as well. so many choices really depends what brand takes fancy.

now coming back to the amp...whcih is what kicked off this thread no doubt. I can tell you ...and you can go back 10+ years ago to early days of this forum and will read how I found adding theatre7 the benefit I got drivijng my system back then a surround sound rig rather than off the relatively grunty and  good quality avr I ran back then and instead using it as a processor which it did a great job at. what comes through is  not just detail but envelopment all around the dynamics have up the sleeve. 

it doesnt have to be all at once... can indeed do one step at a time... take your pick as to what has the most bang to kick things off :D

 

All great advice there Al ( & the other "usual suspects :-) ).

As usual, we are pretty much on the same page. The "chicken and egg" analogy is a good one.

By coincidence, the Epicentrix mk2 was the $2k+ Centre I was thinking of, and then the B&W 683 S2 + HTM61 S2 was the LCR combo that fitted the $4k budget.

I appreciate the input from all, and whilst not wanting to shut the thread down by any means, am steering towards the amp being the last point of upgrade at the moment.

Edited by IMDave
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10 hours ago, :) al said:

with the centres I wouldn't go any less than the CM centre 2 but yeah need good quality power and an amp wiht some driving capability. AVRS can be pretty decent for many but up the ante on the speakers and can eventually run out of steam and start to show not their best.

The B&W CM Centre 2 S2 ( $1800 RRP ) is purported to be best matched with the CM 8/9/10 S2 series ( $3500 - $6500RRP), whereas the HTM61 S2 ($1200RRP) is the match for the 683 S2 ( $2700).

Don't think SWMBO nor the Discretionary bank fund can stretch beyond $4k.

Back on topic.

A technical question about speaker sensitivies and the "need" for more power.

At what point does a speaker become "hard" to drive? 

Take 3 different Centre speakers: sensitivities of 88dB/1w/1m , 89dB/1w/1m , 90dB/1w/1m.

If I currently listen to music/movies at -15 to -5 on the AVR, would there be any obvious signs that any of these speakers are desperately in need of a Power amp?

Let's say the SR6010 can put out 70 watts into 8ohms with 5 channels driven. Would I know the difference between the speaker sensitivities?

( BTW, the 88dB = BW HT61   //   89dB=20yo Krix Centrix   //   91dB = Epicentrix mk2, so it would actually be the easiest to drive? )

 

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8 minutes ago, IMDave said:

The B&W CM Centre 2 S2 ( $1800 RRP ) is purported to be best matched with the CM 8/9/10 S2 series ( $3500 - $6500RRP), whereas the HTM61 S2 ($1200RRP) is the match for the 683 S2 ( $2700). Don't think SWMBO nor the Discretionary bank fund can stretch beyond $4k.

hi dave, only you know best what can afford far be it for me to suggest otherwise. however I wouldn't even look at rrp. have a peep around, and dont be too concerned to pick up a series 1 on run out, e.g. see ere is cm8 is here at $2699... and thats without even asking or before any arm twisting :)

http://www.visionliving.com.au/speakers/bowers--wilkins-cm8/id-vf#.WXHgpMZ7FE4

and heres a demo cm centre 2 going for $1599...keeping in mind these actually launched a couple of years ago at that very same price :D 

http://www.visionliving.com.au/speakers/bowers--wilkins-cm-centre-2/id-yf#.WXHdwMZ7FE4

so yeah take it there is room to move .... and i reckon you would get pretty close.... with some arm twisting ;)

I also want to ask seeing your need you mentioned wasnt 2ch but looks like you are gong for a 683 for instance. id suggest drop back on the mains and up ante on centre instead. blybo did something like that wiht running top range focal chorus floor stander and dropped back to top of range chorus stand mount. made no difference... likely because he runs as small and much redirects to sub :) I can understand if wanting good capability for 2.0 however much of movie stuff doesn't use mains so much.... infact disconnect them to find out for your self :) maybe upping centre and dropping back on mains will get you there. in anycase no rush dont have to get it all at once. as mentioned I myself built my current system up over some 10+ years ...previous av system before that the 10+ years prior :)

 

 

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Firstly, I'd take manufacturer claims about efficiency with a grain of salt. Ditto for impedance unless they provide a chart and/or guarantee a minimum impedance dip.

In my experience it's the big impedance dips (usually in the bass range) that draw more current than some amps can provide that you should focus on. B&W have produced many speakers that have impedance dips below 3 Ohm.

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