Separate Amp For Speaker Home Theater

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ljcool_17

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First foray into proper home theater setup. Planning on a 5.1.4 system. My question is it okay to run different amplifiers to different speakers? Say a Stereo for the front, Multichannel for the surround and center?
 
Yes it is.
On higher quality speakers it is better if the three front speakers run off the same amp (or same make and series). That way the sound of the amp won't change the blend of the fronts.
The surround speakers rarely need or can handle as much power as the fronts. Atmos speakers usually need even less power. You can save you money driving these and put in in the front amp and subwoofer.
 

ljcool_17

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Thanks. Wouldn't it affect overall sound quality and volume if the Fronts and Center were running on a separate amp while the Surround and Atmos speakers ran straight from the AVR? Say the Front speakers would be too loud or it can all be adjusted through the Receiver?
 

Well that depends on the capabilities of each pieces are you jury-rigging.

And it depends why you are doing this for. In a 7.1/9.1 AV receiver for example, not only does the AV receiver has the amplifiers built-in but it also as the master volume and the trim (adjusts FRCS independently). So when you are using multiple amps, which piece(s) get the master volume + trim job?

I run a 5.1 and my master control is a 5.1 Pre-amplifier, this box controls the volume to everything, and it feeds 3 separate stereo power amplifiers, this was done by design from day 1, following the SEPARATES components philosophy.

However, if you are doing this just because you have a few stereo receivers sitting around and really no master controller then you will be dealing with volume adjustment across several boxes + remotes.
 

ljcool_17

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I reckon the Master Control would be on the AVR and the Amp will be connected via pre-out and the Fronts and Center will be on the Amp while the Surround would be connected straight to the AVR.
 

So this is simple. If the pre-out are variable output then ur all set. If pre-out are fixed output when you will be relying on the outboard amp for that volume control.
 

I thought this was obvious.

You are making the assumption the outboard amp is more powerful than the built-in, OK, you don't have to guess, the amp has a manual does it not, so it will tell you. You can have an outboard amp that's weaker. Bottom line is, the outboard amp that you intend to hook up is not originally designed to work that way so you should expect DIFFERENCE, but as long as you have gain control available to you, then adjust at will.

U maybe bogged down with power, but surely the BALANCE between the channels is important is it not? The rears, for the most situations should not sound louder than the fronts, but like you already asked, and already discussed, the need for individual gain controls.
 

ljcool_17

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I see. Sorry. Really have no experience with amplifiers. But i do get it now with your explanation. Will have to head to a store and try auditioning some. But my current pick so far is that Yamaha AVR and some Emotiva amp. Looking at some Elac and Pioneer speakers.
 
Oh, you are not putting together boxes you found in the attic, you are buying new?

So you heard it's better to have separate amps?

OK, as usual poster like yourself don't disclose the exact nature of your query and we are guessing and try to give you answers that may or may not applicable to you.

IF YOU ARE BUYING NEW...... There are 2 schools of thoughts: (1)One box multi-channel Receiver, this is the most convenient, cost effective and perfectly fine for most homes, or (2)SEPARATE Components, like what I have, a Single Pre-amplifer, this box is the control center, the master switch, then this Pre-amp feeds external power amplifier(s). This second school of thought says, the right tool for the right job. PRO: You get to pick what works best for you and the components can be upgraded individually. CON: Be prepare to pay 3x-5x.

Read the last paragraph carefully, if this is just an intellectual exercise for you.

Buying an AVR and adding external amps is non-standard and unnecessarily complicated, but I commend on your creativity. Buying a Pre-amp + External Power Amp(s) is more standard and will potentially afford you better fidelity as long as budget not a concern.
 

ien2222

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Actually, a lot of people use AVR's with external amps for the LCR as it's somewhat cost effective vs a more true pre/pro/amp setup. In fact, I've seen quite a few Marantz 7XXX AVR's strictly being used as a pre/pro with external amps for all channels.

OP, though you didn't specify what your budget for speakers are, given that you mentioned ELAC and pioneer speakers I'd suggest skipping external amps for now and put that money towards your speaker budget. You'll see a larger improvement in sound there.
 

Fascinating. A little unorthodox but it makes sense.
 

madmatt30

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You're planning on running an atmos speaker setup??

Just stick with the yamah amp on its own.
There is absolutely no need for seperate amps, it won't be half as immersive if you use one.
Look into how atmos decoding sets spacings & volume on the front presence & left/right surround speakers & you'll realise why you shouldn't add anything else into the equation.

That atmos enabled yamaha is a great choice , absolutely top of its game for the money.
Supports 9 speakers + 2 sub's out of the box.
 
If your system has front speakers that can handle a lot more power than the effects speakers and your room is large enough the higher quality amp will be better sounding even if the power is the same as the receiver. Why?
The power of a surround receiver usually goes down drastically when all channels are playing loud. A 100 watt x 7 receiver might only produce 40-60 watts when the system is working hard. Separate power amps (even multi-channel ones) don't decrease in power.
A good power amp will usually sound better than the ones in surround receivers. Limited space for power supplies. Lack of high current to drive more difficult loads. Quality of sound is usually low priority with the makers. Features usually take precedence. Just so long as they reach the magic 100 watts on paper what happens in the real world doesn't matter because it's expensive to correct it.
Theoretically all the amp channels should sound the same. In real life the audio from the effects speakers is usually different than the fronts anyway. If you had identical speakers all around they would still sound very different because of placement and your listening position. This makes the amp not matching unimportant usually. If you have good speakers you can hear the center channel amp not matching the L/R fronts.
Using a receiver and adding a power amp for the fronts only is a good way to save some money. Preamp processors start higher than mid level receivers. A 7-11 channel amp will cost more than a 2 or 3 channel amp and there will be a lot of wasted power since most of the channels will be more than needed.
All receivers have variable preamp outputs. The different amounts of power are matched when you go through the setup procedure just as the efficiency and placement of the speakers is compensated forl
 

ljcool_17

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Yes, I'm purchasing new speakers as my old ones don't have proper terminals too hook into a receiver and looking at the $1k-$500 speaker range and preferably in the same family. I want to setup a system that can double as a music player that's why I'm looking at amping the front speakers. Preamps with Atmos are simply too expensive that's why I'm looking at receivers.

@americanaudiophile
Thanks for that helpful insight! But what happens if you hook up a speaker with lower recommended amp usage to a higher powered amp? Say a 120W speaker to a 150W or higher amp?
 

ien2222

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It doesn't matter what the wattage difference is between amp and speakers. You can run 15 watt speakers off a 1000watt amp, or 1000watt speakers off a 15watt amp. What matters is how loud you want your system to max play at and if all your components can get you there.

For your budget, is that $500-$1000 for the entire 5.1.4 setup?
 

ljcool_17

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I guess you run the risk of blowing up lower watt speakers on high power amps. No that's for individual speakers, not the whole setup but most likely not going over $800 for a single standing unit.
 

ien2222

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You can also blow up speakers using an amp that's rated lower than the speaker too. I was exaggerating a bit with my example, the difference between 120 and 150 is negligible.

That's a healthy budget then for speakers, what's the room setup like? More specifically, the room layout and dimensions (just roughly), distance the main viewing area is from the various speakers,
 

Just make sure the volume knob stays below 70% that's all you can do. Unless you have a large room and having dance parties, most homes listening levels are very civilized and the extra power is just for HEADROOM (a very specific audio terminology).

On my last upgrade, I gained a new feature, AUTO ROOM EQ. What it does is, during configuration you place the supplied calibrated microphone at your normal listening position, the box's software goes through self-calibrating steps, sending out tones to the speakers and at the end sets up the correct loudness and equalization adjustment to the speakers. Is beautiful, is automatic, it takes the guesswork out of initial setup. Highly recommended.
 
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