The SEPARATES vs. AVR Thread

Do Separates (Preamps or Pre-pros + Amps) Sound Better Than AVRs in Direct/Bypass Modes?

  • Yes, Separates sound better than AVRs

    Votes: 24 53.3%
  • No, Separates and AVRs sound about the same

    Votes: 10 22.2%
  • No, Separates and AVRs sound about the same when they are similar in price range

    Votes: 11 24.4%

  • Total voters
    45
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Seriously, I have no life.
Ratings
6,781 16 6
#1
The topic of using “Separates” vs. AVR is extremely popular. It seems like we see a new thread on this topic almost every week. Many people have asked, “Should I buy an AVR or a Pre-pro?”

Many of us have used a variety of components through the years including Integrated Amplifiers, Preamplifiers, Amplifiers, Audio-Video Receivers (AVR),Surround-Sound Processors, Preamplifier-Processors (Pre-Pro). And with the recent introduction of the AVC-8500 in Europe, Denon now has the world’s first 13.2Ch Audio-Video-Controller (AVC). Yes, just remove the AM/FM Tuner section of the AVR, and we get the AVC, which I guess qualifies the AVC-8500 to some people as a “separates component”, instead of the lowly AVR.

I think many audiophiles/enthusiast only consider “separates” as high fidelity or Hi-Fi audio; they often sneer at AVR and deem AVR only appropriate for the mass-market folks who think Bose is official speaker of the world.

Why do you use Separates?

Do AVRs have enough power for most speakers and rooms?

Do AVRs sound inferior to Separates because Separates have better measurements?

Are AVRs more prone to obsolescence?

Are $3,000 AVRs more prone to malfunction than $3,000 Pre-pros ?

What constitutes a “Separates”? Is the new Mark Levinson Integrated Amplifier with DAC and USB connections really a “Separates”?

Since we have a thread for everything, I thought of starting an official thread just for this extremely popular topic. After all, I can’t let <Eargiant have all the fun starting a new thread every week!

I got these measurements from S&V Magazine:

AudioControl M9 $9,000 Pre-pro:
FR +0.04dB@ 20Hz, -0.03dB @ 20kHz
SNR: 118dBA
THD: 0.02%

Denon AVR-3400 $1000 AVR:
FR -0.01dB@ 20Hz, +0.1dB @ 20kHz
SNR: 110dBA
THD: 0.004%

Just looking at these S&V measurements, the Denon X3400 (which some people are paying $550 brand new) doesn’t look all that different than a $9,000 AudioControl Pre-pro. Are any of these measured specs even audible and worth losing sleep over?

Here are some more lab measurements from AVTech Miller Audio Research.

Denon AVR-3805:
Dynamic Power Output into 1 ohms: 170W (1%THD) x 2 Ch
http://www.milleraudioresearch.com/download/reports/aug04/denonavr3805.html

Arcam P1 Monoblock Amp:
Dynamic Power Output into 1 ohms: 46W (2%THD)
http://www.milleraudioresearch.com/download/reports/nov04/arcamp1.html

It seems like the lowly Denon AVR can output even more power than an Arcam Monoblock Amp. Wow! 170W into 1-ohm at 1% THD vs. 46W at twice the THD! How is that possible? An AVR can output 170-dynamic watts into 1-ohm?

For people trying to decide between AVR vs. Separates, what are your thoughts and what advice do you have?
 
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M

Mark of Cenla

Full Audioholic
Ratings
84
#2
I think of an AVR as a DAC with all of the right inputs and an amp. So that is what I prefer. One of my systems has an Onkyo integrated amp with a good DAC, but to me it sounds no better than any of my AVR's. I used to have a Hafler preamp and power amp, but I do not miss them at all. Peace and goodwill.
 
little wing

little wing

Senior Audioholic
Ratings
168 1
#3
I am a music lover, pure and simple. I also enjoy watching movies in surround very much. I did not want to want to spend the $ on separates or allocate the space (although I could),so I chose an AVR. I like the features, and it works for me. I know all the arguments against purchasing and AVR, and I did it anyway. Maybe separates will give me a little better sound, and maybe one day I'll try an external amp, but a year and a half later, and I'm still happy. Peace.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Ninja
Ratings
2,491 6 2
#4
I use separates because well-chosen examples have better ergonomics on the front and back panels, less heat, higher reliability, smaller size, and overall better build quality as measured by mechanical sturdiness.

I think AVRs generally suck, I have no interest in surround sound, and there's no way I'll ever have another one in any of my systems.
 

TechHDS

Audioholic General
Ratings
738 2 12
#5
I use separates because well-chosen examples have better ergonomics on the front and back panels, less heat, higher reliability, smaller size, and overall better build quality as measured by mechanical sturdiness.

I think AVRs generally suck, I have no interest in surround sound, and there's no way I'll ever have another one in any of my systems.
Hard not to disagree on separates. In the long run they are better built for long haul. I agree to a point that AVR's suck but to a point. With the build quality on the lower-end that it would cost more to have the unit sent in for a repair. So Your right, after you have to throw that unit in the garbage go buy another AVR and another one a few years later. Nice post makes sense to me.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
4,328 17 37
#6
I think AVRs generally suck, I have no interest in surround sound, and there's no way I'll ever have another one in any of my systems.
Without an interest in surround sound that makes sense. Beats hell out of my old 2ch separates for handling such as well as modern media, tho. :) I do like surround sound, and not just for movies.
 
A

Andrein

Full Audioholic
Ratings
59 8
#7
I bought my power amp Anthem mca 525 to avoid potential clipping during demanding song peaks. Mostly because i had a weak avr at the time.
 
A

Andrein

Full Audioholic
Ratings
59 8
#8
With the trend of avr getting more and more channels and features i have a feeling they will loose amp section aver time and separates will become mandatory)))
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
4,328 17 37
#9
With the trend of avr getting more and more channels and features i have a feeling they will loose amp section aver time and separates will become mandatory)))
If the multi-ch thing sticks around I think avrs will still appeal to a lot of consumers. Those seeking high volume or have difficult speakers may just need to have external amplification, tho....hopefully pre-outs remain an option :)
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
4,485 22 4
#10
My perspective is quite simple:
Separates (should) have the advantage of better cooling/longevity due to less in the box and more room for cooling fins.

However, there are two factors that make generalized statements faulty - budget and intended use!

If you rephrase the question as which is better given a budget of $500, or $1000, or $1500, or $2000, etc. it becomes a different question.
Obviously, if you have no budgetary constraints, separates is better - you can buy a very capable amp that will last decades and a pre-pro which gets replaced every 1-10 years (depending on what features come out and your desire to have the latest and greatest).
Like many here, I have been inclined to split the difference using an AVR as a pre-pro along with a separate amplification (at least for the L&R). Personally, I wish I could get (as an example) a Denon 3400 at the same price without the amplification built in! Unfortunately, D&M only sells pre-pros at a much higher price.
However, I do like that the newer AVR's have the ECO mode because it tends to reduce the heat in the AVR (which is the main reason I would like to avoid the amps in the AVR),and if you are using an external amp, it will have absolutely no impact on SQ.
As compared to an AVR, most pre-pros (and definitely budget pre-pros) are a compromise on features. Budget pre-pros such as those made by Emotiva and Outlaw are produced for a few years before being replaced by a newer one (instead of the annual updates most AVR models see).

Intended use matters because if you are a simple 2 channel music guy, You don't need all of the features of an AVR and you get saddled with an interface that is overly complicated and almost requires a TV for the OSD to comfortably operate. While there is no doubt that the AVR offers more for less, much of what it offers ends up being a liability for a simple stereo setup.
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Seriously, I have no life.
Ratings
6,781 16 6
#11
The salient question is, do you feel that separates sound better than AVR within similar price range?

IOW, a $3K Pre-pro vs a $3,000 AVR?

Or a $10K Pre-pro vs a $5K AVR?
 
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Out-Of-Phase

Out-Of-Phase

Senior Audioholic
Ratings
268 1 2
#12
DBT, DBT, DBT.

Then after completion of all the volume level-matched testing between devices, that X4400H AVR over in the corner doesn't sound so bad after all. ;)
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
4,727 7 1
#13
The salient question is, do you feel that separates sound better than AVR?
Not "feel", many separates will sound better than many AVRs depending on........... Yet, the best separates and AVRs should, and most likely be able to (because it depends..) sound the "same" enough that 99% of the population will not know about it if one get swapped out with another, if the UDT are volume matched and hidden, assuming the IDT have normal hearing and the UDT have rated output > 1.5X required for THX reference volume (85 dB average+20 dB peak) from their listening position.

The salient point is, it depends. If you narrow it down to some specifics, then the answers could become more definitive.:D
 
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Mikado463

Mikado463

Audioholic Chief
Ratings
331 3 28
#14
I'm pretty much in the same camp as Irv, being a 2 channel guy first and foremost, separates rule, simplicity, quality, musicality, flexibility, etc.
 
K

kaptan

Enthusiast
Ratings
1
#15
How about an AVR as processor and use a dedicated power amp to power the speakers. Main channels taken care by the power amp and surrounds or heights by the AVR. Will that be considered as separates?
 
Mikado463

Mikado463

Audioholic Chief
Ratings
331 3 28
#16
How about an AVR as processor and use a dedicated power amp to power the speakers. Main channels taken care by the power amp and surrounds or heights by the AVR. Will that be considered as separates?
I don't see why not ......
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Seriously, I have no life.
Ratings
6,781 16 6
#17
How about an AVR as processor and use a dedicated power amp to power the speakers. Main channels taken care by the power amp and surrounds or heights by the AVR. Will that be considered as separates?
I think for the general purpose of our discussion, Separates would only be components that do NOT have an internal amp.

Although the external amp is a separates, the AVR is not. So the whole system combined would not be considered a "Separates" system. :D
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
2,698 9 4
#18
AVR Positives-

They usually have a ton of inputs, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to need more.

They often have preamp outs, in case more power is needed, but that doesn't need to be a deal breaker.

AVRs can often be updated easily when they're connected to the network, but the fact that they're connected sometimes requires that Network Standby be turned off, to prevent the AVR turning on for no apparent reason (saw it in one house, on three AVRs).

AVRs can come in a neat package, taking up less space than separates.

AVR Cons-

The stated power isn't across the whole frequency range and is frequently rated with only one channel driven. Yes, we have had that debate, but for an amplifier to really be robust, it needs to drive any load that might come its way in most situations. I used italics because there's always some pinhead who'll design a speaker with a crossover that would make a welding machine puke or string a bunch of speakers in a way that nothing would handle the load. I would like AVRs to be subject to the stringent requirements of the past.

The updates from year to year make many AVRs obsolete, to a large degree- I hate waste and that's what I consider this to be. If they can't settle on formats for video, that shouldn't be our problem- it's the marketing departments and sales quotas that drive this, not actual need.

I would like the video input section to be modular- when there's a good reason to update it, remove the old one and slide a new one in. That's where most changes happen, anyway.

Processors become obsolete too soon and when that changes, it makes the last part about a modular video input section moot.

Making consumers want more and newer isn't doing anyone a service.


If one piece isn't being compared to something else, thinking the one that's in use has some kind of inferior qualities is just neurosis. Driving somewhere and hearing something else and deeming it 'much better' is dubious, considering the typical assault on our ears when going from place to place.
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Seriously, I have no life.
Ratings
6,781 16 6
#19
Not "feel", many separates will sound better than many AVRs depending on........... Yet, the best separates and AVRs should, and most likely be able to (because it depends..) sound the "same" enough that 99% of the population will not know about it if one get swapped out with another, if the UDT are volume matched and hidden, assuming the IDT have normal hearing and the UDT have rated output > 1.5X required for THX reference volume (85 dB average+20 dB peak) from their listening position.

The salient point is, it depends. If you narrow it down to some specifics, then the answers could become more definitive.:D
Like in the case of the Denon AVP-A1HDCI Pre-pro + POA-A1HDCI Amp (or any other amp like ATI, Mark Levinson, Krell, McIntosh) vs. the Denon AVR-5308CI?

Both the POA-A1HDCI Amp and the AVR-5308 have 150WPC (the POA has 10Ch, while the 5308 has 7CH).

DENON AVR-5308CI:
236W x 2Ch continuously into 8 ohms @ 1% THD
339W x 2Ch continuously into 4 ohms @ 1% THD
185W x 5Ch continuously into 8 ohms @ 1% THD
169W x 7Ch continuously into 8 ohms @ 1% THD
SNR = 110dBA with 2.83 volts into 8-ohm load 10 Hz - 24 kHz

https://www.soundandvision.com/content/denon-avr-5308ci-av-receiver-ht-labs-measures

DENON POA-A1HDCI AMPLIFIER
197W x 2Ch continuously into 8 ohms @ 1% THD
318W x 2Ch continuously into 4 ohms @ 1% THD
188W x 5Ch continuously into 8 ohms @ 1% THD
182W x 7Ch continuously into 8 ohms @ 1% THD
SNR = 114dBA with 2.83 volts into 8-ohm load 10 Hz - 24 kHz

https://www.soundandvision.com/cont...mplifier-ht-labs-measures#dKXCbwMe8fxhVuLr.99

But you think the AVP-A1HDCI (or other $4K-$10K Pre-pro)+ POA-A1HDCI (other any other high-end amp) would unequivocally sound better than a $1K Denon X3400 (let's assume the X3400 is not clipping and not over-driven at all) ? :D
 
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P

PENG

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
4,727 7 1
#20
AVR Cons-

The stated power isn't across the whole frequency range and is frequently rated with only one channel driven.
That is not true if you look at D&M, Yamaha and other popular brands, they all specified something like 20-20 kHz, two channel driven, at 0.05 to 0.08 % THD+N, along with the inflated rating for higher THD, peaks, dynamic etc. S&V, and Audioholics.com have quite a few units bench tested, and the results typically confirmed their stated 1 and 2 channel outputs using the CFB-BW (continuous full bandwidth) protocol. For multi-channel (5 or more) ACD, yes they would mostly fall short, and that's the one topic we have had that debate on this forum if that's what you referred to.

https://www.audioholics.com/audio-amplifier/basic-amplifier-measurement-techniques

The updates from year to year make many AVRs obsolete, to a large degree- I hate waste and that's what I consider this to be. If they can't settle on formats for video, that shouldn't be our problem- it's the marketing departments and sales quotas that drive this, not actual need.
I fully agree, since I switched to prepro (a pseudo-separate I guess..),I have upgraded from the AV7005 to AV8801 and really feel the pain now that I have to get around the HD audio and 4K thing. Skipped the AV8802A, but the AV8805's now at USD4499 list price is getting ridiculous if it is to be updated again in 2-3 years. So my next upgrade will be to a $999 Denon or Marantz AVR, then I won't feel much pain to upgrade every 3-4 years. That is a big plus for AVRs. I am quite confident that a $999 previous year model AVR can last a year or two past the 3 year warranty period, especially when external fans are installed.
 

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