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michaelharvey

Power Amp - will it make a big difference?

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Hi all,

A very long time between posts for me. Time for me to upgrade my AV receiver. Current speakers are Kef Rs, with a SVS SB13 Ultra sub.

The top of the list is the Arcam AVR 550 (RRP $5.5k) and a demo has been very impressive.

I'm wondering though, the Arcam AVR 390 (RRP $4k) with a power amp (i.e. Elektra HD2 7) would no doubt be a much better performing option (but another circa $2k over just the AVR).

For those of you who have added a power amp to an AVR, has it really been that much of a difference? I'm cautious of the law of diminishing returns.

I note the AVR550 is already quite powerful for a receiver - 90w per channel all 7 driven.

Thanks for the advice

 

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Arcams have decent internal amps and power supply so you won't get the same big jump in performance as you would with many mainstream receivers. I would still expect a modest improvement with the Elektra.

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At $4000+ you have well and truly entered the domain of diminishing returns. No matter how much you spend now you'll never get more than twice as much audio purity. Perhaps another 20%. The question now is do you have money to burn?  

Regards

Peter Gillespie

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At $4000+ you have well and truly entered the domain of diminishing returns. No matter how much you spend now you'll never get more than twice as much audio purity. Perhaps another 20%. The question now is do you have money to burn?  

Regards

Peter Gillespie

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If you are going to spend that sort of money on an AVR and a power amp,  why don't you look at pre-power options ?   Marantz 7702 MK2, Yamaha 5100 and even Anthem AVM60.   I am not into AV any more but if I am I would definitely look those options to pair with a multichannel amp.

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4 hours ago, pgdownload said:

At $4000+ you have well and truly entered the domain of diminishing returns. No matter how much you spend now you'll never get more than twice as much audio purity. Perhaps another 20%. The question now is do you have money to burn?  

Regards

Peter Gillespie

Well I know I am in that world already. Another 20% sounds pretty noticeable to me!

1 hour ago, Jliang70 said:

If you are going to spend that sort of money on an AVR and a power amp,  why don't you look at pre-power options ?   Marantz 7702 MK2, Yamaha 5100 and even Anthem AVM60.   I am not into AV any more but if I am I would definitely look those options to pair with a multichannel amp.

I am hoping to check Anthem out in the morning.

Arcam is at the top of the list as I have had a sneak peak of Dirac in my room already and it made a noticeable difference.

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My view is if you are not going to use the onboard amplification why pay for it ?   

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1 hour ago, Jliang70 said:

My view is if you are not going to use the onboard amplification why pay for it ?   

Arcam AVR 390 Receiver = $4k

Arcam AV860 Processor = $9k

Anthem MRX 720 = $3.5k

Anthem AVM 60 = $5k

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1 hour ago, michaelharvey said:

Anthem MRX 720 = $3.5k

Anthem AVM 60 = $5k

Anthem comes with its highly rated Anthem Room Correction (ARC).  ARC makes a significant difference to the movie experience see old (but still relevant) thread here. Also look at  reviews of MRX 720 and AVM 60.

Have the MRX 710 with a SB13U.

 

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3 hours ago, Snoopy8 said:

Anthem comes with its highly rated Anthem Room Correction (ARC).  ARC makes a significant difference to the movie experience see old (but still relevant) thread here. Also look at  reviews of MRX 720 and AVM 60.

Have the MRX 710 with a SB13U.

 

Thanks Snoopy.

I had a demo of the MRX 520 and 1120 today. The were both very impressive. Interestingly the sales guy didn't try to sell me an AVM60, stating the 1120 would be more than enough.

Overall I think the Arcam is a smidge better, but it costs a fair bit more too.

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michael

I have an mrx 720 - 5 good amps plus 2 surround amps.

The 1120 has 5 good amps plus 6 surround amps, plus a torroidal transformer.

I didn't need xlr connections, so didn't get seduced by the higher priced avm60.

I don't know the Arcam apart from the good reputation.  Good luck, enjoy the selection process.

Benje

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1 hour ago, michaelharvey said:

Thanks Snoopy.

I had a demo of the MRX 520 and 1120 today. The were both very impressive. Interestingly the sales guy didn't try to sell me an AVM60, stating the 1120 would be more than enough.

Overall I think the Arcam is a smidge better, but it costs a fair bit more too.

It is likely that your Anthem demo system was not setup with ARC; not sure any dealer would?  Had a similar similar demo which showed the Anthem to be good. BUT after purchase, found that ARC took it to another level when it was set up properly at home.

Would love to see you join our small group of Anthem owners but let your ears be the judge, tempered of course by the wallet. Have fun choosing your next HT component(s?) and please let us know what you end up with.

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I continue to say that folks MASSIVELY overstate the difference that power amps make.  in the vast majority of situations at reasonable listening levels with moderately or better efficient speakers the difference between the onboard amplification on a midrange or higher AVR and an external power amp will not be that significant.  Subtle upgrade: yes.  Night and Day: absolutely not.

I have posted a few times over the years but we did a blind test at my house some years back between the onboard amplification on my DTR-7.9 AVR and using the pre-outs to and Elektra 7 channel amp.  The only person out of several audio Perth members able to consistently pick the difference was me, and that is because the difference was VERY subtle and I was intimately familiar with the set-up.

The Elektra amp are very nice units that perform well.  They will absolutely not be a large upgrade over the already powerful onboard amplification of an Arcam AVR.  Save your money, buy the Arcam and spend the difference on room treatments...

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It depends on how efficient the speakers are and how loud you like to listen to music or watch a movie. A lot of people get a power amp and say wow it sounds a lot louder now at the same listening levels. Its sounding more open, more detailed and basically taken the leash of your speakers. Its how they should have always sounded, they just didnt have the power to drive them to that output before. It doesn't necessarily change how they sound, it just provides them with enough power to open up and give there proper output.

80% of speakers require more juice than an avr can provide. If your spending $1000+ per speaker you clearly like music and movies and are into the hobby so spend the extra on a proper power stage and you will get a proper sound stage :)

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4 hours ago, Snoopy8 said:

It is likely that your Anthem demo system was not setup with ARC; not sure any dealer would?  Had a similar similar demo which showed the Anthem to be good. BUT after purchase, found that ARC took it to another level when it was set up properly at home.

Would love to see you join our small group of Anthem owners but let your ears be the judge, tempered of course by the wallet. Have fun choosing your next HT component(s?) and please let us know what you end up with.

No, definitely not setup with ARC as I carried one of the speakers to the demo room myself! It was a properl demo room however.

The Arcam wasn't any better, in fact the demo scenario was much worse. Basically straight out of the box into a less than ideal room (4 walls of equipment).

The sneak peak of Dirac I was referring to was just a trial version of the software on my laptop, with the laptop plugged into the current AVR. It created what I would describe as a seamless sound field. It sounded very different, not subtle at all. Keeping in mind, my room at home is (theoretically) probably better than many with acoustic plasterboard and heavy curtains on 3 walls. 

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Lots of good comments re the power amps. I've been giving it a lot of thought, but I think I'll (probably) stick with the onboard amps (at least for the time being). I usually listen at -10db to -15db, so I can probably get away without them. Advice from dealers has been mixed, with some for and some against (or indifferent).

Of course, the other reason is budget. My wife originally thought $2k would be sufficient, anyway with 4 (expensive Kef R) in ceiling speakers to buy too (I think I can fit 4 in), plus an Oppo HD Player, the upgrade cost is at about $9k with the Anthem and just under $10k with the Arcam. I've distracted my good wife with an overseas trip and she has given her blessing.

Oh, and believe it or not I do actually have a 2 channel Rotel power amp, circa 20 years old but rated at 200wpc. Current AVR has no pre outs, so no real way to check how it sounds. Anyway this would be on Atmos duty only with the Arcam (5.1.4). 

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Well, I now have an Arcam AVR 550 sitting in the boot of my car (thankfully about 4 floors underground in this very warm weather).

In the end, deciding between the Anthem and the Arcam was a very tough decision.

In terms of raw sound quality, I don't think they are that different from each other, with the Arcam having a very slight edge. Room correction is where the big difference is, and despite ARC2 being great, Dirac is just that little bit better. If Arcam didn't have Dirac, I would have simply gone with Anthem.

The AVR 550 still has a good upgrade path to a 7 channel power amp and I figured it was worth paying a small premium over the AVR 390.

I'll be keeping an eye out for some good 7 channel bargains :)

A big shout out to Apollo Hi fi (who quickly arranged a demo unit in 30 mins) and the distributor (who let me pick up direct from them).

 

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18 hours ago, michaelharvey said:

Well, I now have an Arcam AVR 550 sitting in the boot of my car (thankfully about 4 floors underground in this very warm weather).

Congrats!

18 hours ago, michaelharvey said:

In terms of raw sound quality, I don't think they are that different from each other, with the Arcam having a very slight edge. Room correction is where the big difference is, and despite ARC2 being great, Dirac is just that little bit better. If Arcam didn't have Dirac, I would have simply gone with Anthem.

 

Just wondering how you compared Dirac and ARC?  I like ARC because it is simple to set up and the end result is very good.  Dirac appears to be more complicated with lots more measurements and tweaks.

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On ‎14‎/‎01‎/‎2017 at 9:59 AM, Snoopy8 said:

Congrats!

Just wondering how you compared Dirac and ARC?  I like ARC because it is simple to set up and the end result is very good.  Dirac appears to be more complicated with lots more measurements and tweaks.

Well, all sorts of issues with the latest Arcam Dirac version, so I had to get someone to send me the prior version.

Anyway, I measured Dirac successfully, then put a Dolby Atmos demo disc on. The volume wasn't even that loud (I'd say about 10db below reference) and it went into thermal shutdown in 15 seconds.

There are a few other minor issues too, as well as a cosmetic issue with the front fascia.

So in summary, not much to recommend at this stage. Arcam technical support was very helpful during the pre-purchase stage, so I'm sure they will work hard to solve it. If not, then I suppose a refund and I'll pick up the Anthem 1120.

BTW - for Dirac, I installed the trial software on a laptop and plugged it in via HDMI. I was impressed with the results. For ARC, I couldn't really demo it to be honest.

Edited by michaelharvey

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On 1/14/2017 at 6:59 AM, Snoopy8 said:

Congrats!

Just wondering how you compared Dirac and ARC?  I like ARC because it is simple to set up and the end result is very good.  Dirac appears to be more complicated with lots more measurements and tweaks.

Realistically ARC and DIRAC are not in the same league in terms of processing, especially in the sub base range where DIRAC is truly effect in both frequency and reflex down to 20 hz..  I have personally never seen better measured in room response form an EQ than from Dirac.  I would like to see some data from B & O as suspect the system in the Beolab 90 even better.

Not to say that ARC isn't a useful tool, but you could reasonably (and lots of folks have argued the point) compare ARC with Audyssey in terms of effect.  Dirac take it all to another level, but obviously come with a price tag...

 

 

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2 hours ago, POV said:

Realistically ARC and DIRAC are not in the same league in terms of processing, especially in the sub base range where DIRAC is truly effect in both frequency and reflex down to 20 hz..  I have personally never seen better measured in room response form an EQ than from Dirac.  I would like to see some data from B & O as suspect the system in the Beolab 90 even better.

Not to say that ARC isn't a useful tool, but you could reasonably (and lots of folks have argued the point) compare ARC with Audyssey in terms of effect.  Dirac take it all to another level, but obviously come with a price tag..

I think the difference is DIRAC corrects for both frequency and impulse, whereas ARC just does frequency.

From what I have read, the forum verdict at least sees ARC ahead of Audyssey.

Still having issues with the Arcam, but it does sound superb when it does work!

Lots of late night troubleshooting for me.

Edited by michaelharvey
extra detail

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What kind of issues?

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23 minutes ago, POV said:

What kind of issues?

Currently going into protection mode when playing the Dolby Atmos Horizon clip at reference level.

Same spot, twice in a row.

Also a minor issue, where the stickers which they plaster over the front (DTSX, Spotify) have discoloured the chassis, quite noticeably.

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15 hours ago, michaelharvey said:

I think the difference is DIRAC corrects for both frequency and impulse, whereas ARC just does frequency.

From what I have read, the forum verdict at least sees ARC ahead of Audyssey.

Its interesting how they market the arcam 550 Michael ; the pre amp sections of the 390 ;550 and 850 are actually the same I read [ have a close look at the identical specs for a start] ; the difference is just the power amp section of the avr with the 390 being only 60w class a/b 7 channels driven ; the 850 being class h and considerably more powerful and rated into 4 ohms as well as 8 ..

If you have trouble with it another option that also has dirac :wub: is the emotiva xmc1 [even with the markup here its still in the same realm ] It also has a dual differential 2ch analog passthrough ; no single ended circuitry here..

 https://www.digitalcinema.com.au/emotiva-xmc-1-gen2-7-2-channel-av-preamplifier-processor.html

This is close to getting an atmos;dts-x upgrade board as well as a 7 port hdmi 2.0b hdcp2.2 board for uhd bluray . You can pick one or both depending on your system . The resellers here can install the new pcbs .The nice thing is its modular so is more future proof than most . In fact that 2.0b is a tad better than 2.0a when it comes to HDR :)One of these for your surrounds and ceilings ? http://www.deephzaudio.com/Wyred 4 sound MC7150 product page.html

Edited by cwt

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8 hours ago, cwt said:

Its interesting how they market the arcam 550 Michael ; the pre amp sections of the 390 ;550 and 850 are actually the same I read [ have a close look at the identical specs for a start] ; the difference is just the power amp section of the avr with the 390 being only 60w class a/b 7 channels driven ; the 850 being class h and considerably more powerful and rated into 4 ohms as well as 8 ..

If you have trouble with it another option that also has dirac :wub: is the emotiva xmc1 [even with the markup here its still in the same realm ] It also has a dual differential 2ch analog passthrough ; no single ended circuitry here..

Actually there are some slight differences between the 3.

Only the 550 and 850 have a toroidal PSU, and the 850 has gold plated binding posts!

As for other options, well I'm optimistic of a good outcome with the Arcam but if not I'll just grab the Anthem MRX1120. That had no trouble driving the clip I mentioned!

Time for me to chase up support, they are being a little slow.

 

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