obviously, your question is not suceptible to pithy absolutes and its answer is dependent on the details. a top flight avr like b&k or sunfire will undoubtedly sound better than a garden variety mass-market avr augmented with a garden variety power amp. however, if you're comparing products within the same price range, i believe you're better served with separates since, among other reasons, the inboard amps in most avrs are generally wussy and underpowered and cost-cutting and engineering compromises are inevitable in the process of sticking everything in one box.
To keep it simple: A $400 receiver with a sunfire amp will not be anywhere nearly as good as a sunfire pre/pro with the same amp. Better DAC's, better video processing, better crossover systems, better binding posts, bigger power supply, nicer remote and so on...
Do you have anything right now? If yes, what? If no, ask where to begin and on what budget.
Think about this: whenever you've purchased something/anything, how many times have you said to yourself "I wish I had spent a little more for better quality"?
Then think about how many times you've said "I wish I had bought the cheaper lower quality model instead"?
The bitterness of a poor quality purchase remains long after the satisfaction of low price has been forgotten.
You get what you pay for.
I'm with Bob_B. you usually do get what you pay for.
I'm hard pressed to believe one can make up for some lack in the processed or preamped signal by adding better amplification downstream.
My preffs in HT are different than my preffs in 2 ch. as well. For HT I look towards the upper half of the line up. usually settling for a step or two below the top O line receiver/processor. Same with HT amps more often than not. Mostly due to the price/cost of HT than anything else. Multiple speakers, sub (s) cables, amps, etc.
Given that, once I get used to it all, I tend to look to upgrading things, so some flexibility must be attained early on in the reciever or processor, or that road is a cul de sac
AS much as I'll want to continue to upgrade my HT deal, it carries far less priority for me. So very good there is good enough for me. Very good IMO starts up front. Regardless if it's HT or 2ch.
Think we need more info....regarding your needs and what is "cheap"
If you do not need 7.1/hdmi/extensive bass mgt etc....an older 5.1 AVR from BK/Arcam/etc (around 500) along with a nice older amp (forte, CJ etc @ 600)...probably will sound pretty good when compared to a new Denon or Onkyo AVR at around +1,000.
But you will miss out on the latest HT features and do not have to spend $$$ on the rca cable.
I am a retired EE background and advanced amateur musician(low brass, still active) but never possess natural musical talent. When I purchase something, I get prosumer model. The quality of a product improves on linear curve until it hits the plateau where the improvement starts to crawl compared to the cost. That's where I quit spending $$$. I stop at best bang for the buck. As an amateur that is good enough for me. I still work on tube amps and will build one if some one asks me to his specs. but at almost 70, my eyes bother me now for good soldering job. I am Mil-spec./SMT soldering certified.
This is impossible to answer due to too many variables, but keeping it general...
If you're using this setup strictly for HT (where sound quality is not the only focus) I would tend to doubt the preamp section of a $1500 receiver will make a huge difference over that of a $500 receiver when paired with a good amp. That said, using the pre/pro section of a cheap receiver (or even a more expensive one) in front of a good amp is a bit of a waste since you likely won't hear all the benefits that amp can bring. I think it's all about balance, and in audio the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. If you care enough about sound to invest in a decent amplifier then your long-term goal should be to pair it with a decent pre/pro, so starting with a cheap receiver as a pre/pro could make sense if upgrading to a better pre/pro when funds allow is the ultimate goal.
The problem with a more expensive receiver is a lack of flexibility. You're stuck with the amp and pre/pro packaged together, and using the pre ins/outs when you upgrade to a better amp or pre/pro seems kinda silly to me if you're spending a good amount of money on the whole unit. At least with separates you can sell off the piece you're looking to upgrade, which can be a nice benefit especially on the pre/pro end since formats/connections/DSP will undoubtedly continue to evolve.
Anyway, I don't think I answered your question but I'd be careful about spending a lot on a HT receiver because you start to run up against the cost of decent quality separates and their inherent advantages (separate/beefier power supplies, better shielding, flexibility, etc.). Best of luck.
Hi, thanks to you all.
Actually most of my budget was spent, and will be spent in the future, on the 2 channels system. HT is an after thought. (i.e. I won't spent the $ on a Krell or a brand new Anthem etc, I'll spent the $ on the 2 channels sys instead)
However, HT is something my whole family enjoys. Currently, I have a Harmon Kardon HK635, which is a pre-HDMI era receiver (it's resell value is like dirt right now). After the HK635, I learned that the digital front end is so easily and quickly becoming obsolete.
I do believe good amps are always worth the $.
So I was thinking, asumming my budget is less than $2000, if I get a good ~$1000-$1200 used power amp, and mate it with a $500-600 current receiver (e.g. Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer), I'll have a good analog amp and the most recent decoding front end. (I know the analog preamp sucks but it's all about picking the lesser evil).
Another option is to have the pre-out from the receiver as an input to my 2 channels setup using HT bypass. But I dislike the idea of buring 11 tubes for watching TV and movies.
Man, given your priorities (which are identical to mine by the way) I'd buy one of the brands you mentioned in the $500 range with the audyssey room correction built in and be done with it. Take the grand you save and put it into your 2-channel rig and/or more music. I seriously doubt inserting a $1000 amp into your HT system in the way you propose will make that big of a difference in how much you enjoy movies (I'm assuming you're currently using a sub, but if you're not THAT is where the additional money would be best spent rather than on an amp). As always, I could be wrong.
Can I make a comment on "prosumer". I totally disagree. Consumer gear like HK gives you as many features as possible for the buck. Pro gear like QSC gives you a bulletproof design and reliability for the buck. Both have made huge compromises to get where they are. That's where high end audio fits in. An Anthem unit will have lots of feature and should have great reliability with the best technology they can reasonably put in the gear. The Anthem will have better quality parts, better remote controls, better DAC's and Video processing and so on...over the HK. An Anthem amp will keep up with the volume level of a QSC (to a certain extent) but with much lower distortion levels and way better imaging.
It looks like a 2nd hand Onkyo Integra pre/pro + 2nd hand 5 channels amp will be much better a brand new $2000 receiver!
Kschiu - with the Integra pre/pro and a 5 channel amp, how would you use the new amp for HT and the tube amp for 2 channel? Usually with this type of hybrid system, you use a HT bypass solution, but that is a lot harder with a tube amp?Swapping speaker cables can be a pain.
I agree that the pre/pro + amp is the way to go. Note that a receiver with pre-outs can also be used as a pre-pro - depending on the features you want and the price.
If I don't want to use the tube amps for HT, then unfortunately swapping speaker cables is the only option for now unless I buy another pair of monitors just for HT. Wife wouldn't want to see 6 speakers in front of us.
Just get in where you fit in with the priorities you have now
and get as much flexibility as you can while you are at it.
As receivers move up the feeding chain normally one gets more power, more inputs & outputs, and more decoding capabilities
. Added zones also increase in an oh by the way effect. Great for some, though not usually the main interest.
I also feel as the investment goes up the preamp/proc quality improves. If it does or doesnt, getting the analog inputs & pre/proc analog outputs are a must. Regardless.
Separates can be done for $2K and provide very good results. Check out the DHC 40.1 integra multi ch proc which just came online
and is being sold & shipped now for $1200 MSRP. It has all the current features including networking via USB
I think ehternet would be better but
Theres lot of amps for a grand or less which aint bad too.
The optimum approach always is going to be having two rigs. The constant pursuit is going to be for one all encompassing system which sounds great instead of having to do two systems.
The price tag for either always depends on expectations/desires and budget
. If patience is in force, one need not look at an initial purchase as the final outcome. Remember, theres that Audiogon shuffle
Or more uncommonly around here
be OK with your planned purchase. Many arent just a short time after initial ownership, and why I say get as much flexibility (inputs & outputs) as possible. Later on sources can do all that decoding if the proc does not or can not.