2 channel amp sound VS. HT amp sound


I am getting back in the game and interested in getting a mid-range amp to replace an old Marantz SR6200 possibly. Well, actually I am torn between getting a new HT amp that would make things easier with HDMI inputs and wouldn’t cut-out every few minutes with my current cable tv setup, or getting a dedicated 2-ch integrated amp. I listen to a lot of vinyl and current listen to everything source direct on my amp. I have an MMF-5.1 and a set of Mordaunt short MS-908 floor standing speakers with a matching center channel and some polk rears. Music is my primary concern so I was thinking of using the pre-amp outs to hook up a 2-channel amp so I could have both options but getting a new HT amp instead is appealing if I am not losing much in the sound quality of my music.

For 2-channel systems I was thinking of a Marantz PM 6006 or Cambridge Audio CXA60 (I like this because of the bluetooth option for streaming). In this case I could take advantage of FLAC files (I dont have many but could grow this collection) with the built in DAC"s. Although the Marantz has a phono stage, so i could do away with my NAD pre-amp.

if I went with HT amp I was thinking of an SR5011 because I like the streaming options and easy remote app. My main concern is if I go source direct with this amp, will it sound as good as an integrated 2-ch amp around the same price level? I mainly use a fire box for entertainment and although I have a blueray player I rarely use it except for cd’s. Vinyl and spotify are my main music sources but I have considered going the FLAC/DAC route as well.

I know it’s apples to oranges comparisons, but if anyone has debated this before I’d love to hear your input.

Thanks


blindside07
For 2-channel systems I was thinking of a Marantz PM 6006 or Cambridge Audio CXA60 (I like this because of the bluetooth option for streaming). In this case I could take advantage of FLAC files (I dont have many but could grow this collection) with the built in DAC"s.
Both are very good integrated amps and will do a far better job with music than any AVR could.

if I went with HT amp I was thinking of an SR5011 because I like the streaming options and easy remote app. My main concern is if I go source direct with this amp, will it sound as good as an integrated 2-ch amp around the same price level?
No, it will not sound as good. AVR's are built primarily to decode, process and amplify signals from digital sources.  AVR's are all about features and not about hardcore audio performance.  The biggest reason being their preamp sections.  These are just a mere afterthought, even in so called pure direct mode, and usually comprised of a few op amp chips.  The preamp sections in a quality integrated amp uses far more discreet parts resulting in much higher level of musical performance before the signal is sent along to the power amp section.

And finally, speaking of the power amp sections - don't get misled by the power output figures that AVR's boast.  Either the PM 6006 or CA A60 will kick the SR5011 to the curb when it comes to driving a pair of speakers.  And this an amps first priority - driving speakers.  Everything else is just a feature.

If you don't need surround capability, and it doesn't sound like you do, stick with 2 channel stereo components.  Especially with vinyl.  Digital sources can still be enjoyed too.  That's why a DAC is for.





You'll get the standard advice that HT receivers suck with music and that a 2-channel amp will always sound better. Of course, there is no evidence to support this claim; it's just subjective opinion. So, there is no way to definitively answer your question.

With so many products on the market, I'm sure you could find a 2-channel amp that you prefer over your existing HT receiver. You might also find an HT receiver that you prefer over your existing one. 

My advice, based on the idea that the speakers and room dominate the sound of an audio system, is to not get too caught up with the electronics.

If your budget allowed, you could use an AV preamp with any power amps of your choice.

AV gear offer features that the majority of 2-channel gear does not: 1) proper speaker setup, 2) bass management, and 3) room mode correction.

Good luck in your hunt.
Regarding the amplifier sections of 2-channel amps and HT receivers, you'll hear that HT receiver amps are "weak" and not capable of driving speakers effectively. An old way of judging the robustness of amps is by weight. Assuming the same amp technology, the heavier product will more likely have a more robust power supply (implying that it would be capable of delivering more current).

Note that multichannel HT receivers have power supplies (transformers) capable of driving more than two channels. So one might argue that the power supply in an HT receiver is over built when driving only two channels.

Here's the weights of the products you mentioned:
Marantz PM6006 - 17.2 pounds
Cambridge CXA60 - 18.3 pounds
Marantz SR5011 - 22.1 pounds

I think you will find it difficult to get a new HT-receiver that sounds "as good" as a similarly-priced two-channel integrated on two-channel, generally, and in a vacuum.

The HT-receiver(s) will probably have loads more features and toys that might make the difference for you--bass management, room correction, etc.--especially on your digital stuff, and depending on what other gear you are using. 

If you don't need stuff like Atmos, DTS-X, 45 surround and subwoofer channels, 4k conversion or video processing, maybe take a look at a used HT-receiver that was several "levels" up in its day.  Maybe you will find a middle ground that gets you some of the flexibility and features you want but with "better" two-channel or at least "better" amplification.

Just a suggestion to think about.
There's a lot of great info here, thanks!  Going by weight the SR6200 is over 32 lbs.  I am leaning towards using my SR6200 for a pre-amp as is, and upgrading to a 2ch integrated for my phono, digital music files and cd player but there's a lot to think about here
Glad you found some of this helpful.
Two things to comment about regarding what your leaning towards.

The main gist of my post was to avoid the 2 channel preamp section of an AVR altogether. IMO, this is the biggest reason why they are a poor choice for music.

Next, would be the weight argument. Of course an AVR would weigh more - its a DAC, decoder, processor, tuner, and has anywhere from 5 to 9 little amplifiers inside much bigger casework and chassis. An integrated amp weighs almost as much and only has two amps and a preamp section. And a much bigger power supply. The integrated I have weighs 41 lbs - not too many AVR’s around that are that heavy.

But weight notwithstanding, just look at the specs to see which models are 4 ohm rated across the entire power band of 20-20kHz. A 4 ohm rating is the spec that will tell you the true power of an amp. Neither your current SR6200 or the new SR5011 are rated into 4 ohms. Most other AVR’s are not either.

The PM6006 is at 60 wpc into 4. The CXA60 is at 90 wpc into 4. That what I meant by these amps running rings around the SR5011.

But I hope you get more opinions on this matter as the this thread moves forward. Three opinions so far are not enough.
Just my deflated 2cents worth, but I also got 'back in the game' about 2009 and started with an Audio Video Receiver (which you are calling an HT 'amp').

And you'll need an AVR if you want a simplified/consolidated system interconnection with HDMI features and surround sound processing - if you intend to build a multichannel setup.

You can get 'good' sound from an AVR - plenty of smiles and toe tapping.

But if the audio bug is still in your veins, you'll begin to wonder (don't we all?)...what if....

That's what happened to me - and I went down the rabbit hole with upgrading my modest entry level speakers, using an external amp, power conditioner, etc, et al.

And they all provided modest gains in my sonic enjoyment.

Then the next time the bug 'bit', I got an integrated amp with HT Bypass to build a hybrid HT/music setup.  And my experience was - 'oh, now I get it'.

The AVR preamp was holding back that next big step up in sonic quality for 2-channel listening with source components.

My point is - you gotta start somewhere and you need think that there are still places to 'go' - this ain't a one stop hobby.

Just to clarify the weight comment I made. Of course, it's not a precise measure. Ideally, you'd like to know the KVA rating of the transformer. But, integrated circuits that implement most of the features of an AVR are extremely light. And the casework of AVR gear is typically lighter than that found in the 2-channel world; you won't find a 1/2" thick AL face plate on a Marantz AVR. 

Since the OP listens to a lot of vinyl, he's not taking advantage of the features offered by an AVR. So there's little reason to use the AVR as a preamp for music. Using an analog source almost forces one to go analog all the way.

A newer AVR, as erikt said, will yield a simpler connection via HDMI and decoding of newer audio formats.

I would start with a new AVR, cleaning up the cabling and see if the music aspect is good enough. If not, then you can always add an integrated amp later as erikt did.

Note that the integrated amp does not have to have an HT bypass input. It just makes volume control more convenient. If you go this route, I suggest you look for an integrated amp with bass management so you can still take advantage of a sub with music.

All the best,
Bob
@bob_reynolds
A couple of things about an int or pre with true HT Bypass are:
1) When using the AVR to the Int Amp you are not passing a signal thru two preamp stages (AVR and Int Amp) as the HT Bypass will "bypass" the preamp stage in the int and it’s just an amp.
2) If you have a sub that has separate LFE and L/R line level inputs you can have the sub connected simultaneously to the AVR (LFE input) and the preouts of the int amp (L/R):
a) when using the AVR and the int amp selected for HT Bypass, the preouts are disabled on the int amp, so no doubling up on signals to the sub
b) when listening to 2-channel, your source components are connected to the int amp, the avr is turned off (or muted) and the int amp preouts send signals to the sub

I do this now with my setup -works slick and clean.

I’m just tossing this out as there are several ways to combine an AVR with dedicated 2-channel components when one is constrained to a single room for HT and music.


This is all great info, I think I will be holding off on an AVR for now because we plan to move in a couple years and I would rather start fresh at that time with a new AV system based on the room I will have for it.  I do want to improve my music sound in the meantime.  Something like the AX60 still appeals to me and running it in conjunction with my 6200 should get me by for a while.  I have also considered getting a slightly older integrated amp like the Marantz PM8003 in the classifieds here, or something similar.  The only problem with that is all the inputs are analog so I would likeley need a DAC to play high quality FLAC files from my computer-then the price of the amp and the DAC are almost as much as getting a newer integrated amp that has a built in DAC.  I suppose I could run the MacBook Pro through the digital in of my 6200 since i would be using it as a pre-amp to the integrated amp but the sound may not be great.  Lots to consider here!
@erikt 
I'll take your word that the HT Bypass in some preamps disable the preamp outputs, but I'm not aware that that is a universal behavior. I bailed on analog preamps about a decade ago so it very well could be. The goal of the HT Bypass is to provide unity gain; so for all practical purposes the signal is still passing through two amp stages. Volume control of the HT Bypass input isn't necessary since it has fixed gain.

Thanks for the info!
Holding off until the move and using what you have seems logical. I believe the idea of purchasing a used integrated is a good one. The older Marantz PM800x series are very good products and contain a phonostage. You could also look for a HRT Music Streamer II USB DAC. I have purchased several for ~$80 and they make for a great starter DAC. One could be connected directly to an input on the integrated using male to male RCA plugs eliminating the need for a cable. I do this with my headphone amp. Purchased the plugs off Ebay for ~$8.
@bob_reynolds 
The goal of the HT Bypass is to provide unity gain; so for all practical purposes the signal is still passing through two amp stages.
Sorry but it doesn't and erikT is absolutely right.

The goal of HT Bypass is to effectively turn an integrated amp into a power amp to be used with an external preamp/processor.  In this case, an AVR.  The integrated amps preamp section is Bypassed and all sources connected to the AVR are controlled by the AVR's volume know.
So only one preamp stage - the AVR's.

When listening to any analog source connected directly to the integrated amp, the AVR is not even turned on so again, only one preamp stage - the integrated amps.

Unity gain is only a matter of concern when using an AVR with an integrated amp that does not have an HT Bypass feature.  Then your right, it goes through two preamp stages. 

This the beauty of the HT Bypass feature and why it is the absolute best solution to blending both a 2 channel stereo system with a surround sound system.
Thanks Mesch for the  HRT Music Streamer II USB DAC info, I will look into that as a possibility.  if I sold my NAD pp-1, it would almost balance out the DAC price.  There is a CA AX60 for sale for $650 on ebay from an authorized dealer, but I can get the PM8003 for $350.
DO you know the age of both units? Since the Marantz PMs are now in the 8006 series, the 8003 must be 10+ years old by now. Once you move are you planning 2 separate systems, 2 channel and surround or a merge? 
I will likely merge the systems when I move.  I am unsure of the age of the pm8003, but the CA cxa60 is new.
A used Marantz PM8004 with HT bypass may be the best option. It's $600, but I would still need a DAC so I have to decide if it's a better option than the Cambridge Audio for me
Nevermind, the pm8003 has the bypass and I could use the extra money on a DAC.   
Yes, I saw the ad for the 8003 and based on sellers description did have HT bypass. If budget is tight I would go for it. Should match well with your Marantz AVR and will provide you with both worlds. Should prove to be a nice amp for the money and will get you through your move and beyond.