Great multichannel amps do not cut it in stereo


This is more of a comment than a question.

I have been dabbling in hifi for almost two decades, and in the past 8 years or so moved into what I call 'quality' audio - as far as my budget could muster. I listen to multichannel all the time for TV and movies, but love my 2 channel set up, supported by my dedicated 2 channel amp to run stereo duties.

Since 2009 I had been lusting after the Arcam AVR600 as a no-compromise one box solution for both multichannel and stereo. With the AVR600 model coming to the end of its life I managed to land a new one for a very reasonable price compared to its original rrp. Heavy? Yes. Impressive? Yes.
However, as a two channel amplifier it did not come close to my $1500 Burson Audio integrated stereo amp in terms of detail, soundstage, PRAT etc - in my opinion.
As many have said before, you can not expect one car to be both a utility and a sports car; and you can not expect a jack-of-all-trades also be a master in one area. And this became very evident to me in my comparison.

The Arcam AVR600 is definitely a nice piece of kit, albeit it has its technical gremlins. But it simply can not keep up with a high quality dedicated stereo system, if that is what floats your boat. I can not imagine multichannel separates being much better, as these had been extensively compared to the AVR600, with most indicating a close to on-par performance.

So really, my message is that for high quality multichannel and great stereo reproduction, look for a two box solution including a dedicated stereo amplifier. Spend less on the former, and more on the latter!
54987f36 2966 4a25 a011 76cfd85ca82amarcinziemski
Hmm, maybe that's why the 3 channel amp I had didn't cut it in my 2 channel system.
I doubt OP's contention would stand scrutiny as a general statement. What about 3 mono blocks packaged in a single case rather than 2 for stereo, e.g. some of the Levinson amps? I would guess there are multichannel amps that sound better for stereo than a $1500 Burson Audio integrated amp.

db
Yes that may be true ,ultimately, but multis are still better across the board than the amps in a receiver!
If I needed vastly improved home theater, doing stereo music duties, on the lite, im very ok with uper end midfi 3/5/6/7 ch amp n bettter AV processor running everything!
If however higher end 2ch music as priority is the setup, then im going two channel amp, dedicated 2 ch preamp, and I loop an AV receiver or prepro into that system, plus a multi ch amp possibly for the surrounds. Simple.
This is all of course considering an all in one location double duty system, as opposed to two separate systems, obviously. Pretty much that's it, I think.
Yup, mono amp s best, then stereo, then multi. Done
yea each monoblock must be connected to a separate dedicated power line. don't forget that.
As an instantiation of avgoround's suggestion, I use an analog Parasound JC 2 BP preamp with a pair of JC 1 mono blocks for stereo; for mch and HT I use a Bryston SP3 prepro, the front LR of which passes through the JC 2 BP to access the JC 1s while the SP3 goes directly to a third JC 1 for center channel and to a pair of A 23s for side and rear surrounds.

db
Dbphd's setup is really the only type of setup that makes sense if one's pursuit is to maintain the highest level of fidelity for 2 ch duties -across a wide range of 2 ch audiophile setup budgets - when doing a single location/all in one system, really. You still get the relative level of performance desired out of the multi/HT setup, while maintaining the hi-fidelity 2 ch system. Because even going for a relatively modest budget 2ch preamp, mated to quality sources w superb analog out capabilities for the 2 ch part, is almost always going to yield better sonics across the board than the same or even more money spent on a more expensive higher end AV prepro set up that's doing both the music and HT multi in one standalone AV unit! (Likely all connected up n processed in the digital domain internally, typically, which you really need for processing DD/DTS multi, IMO)
If someone has a better concept for getting better overall results with two ch as a priority, I'd like to hear about it..
From what I can see the AVR600 is not a multi-channel amp, it is a receiver. They are many compromises made in the design of a receiver versus a pure power amp so I would expect a receiver to not be sonically on par with separates.You are not really comparing apples to apples.
Yes, Michael, it IS indeed a receiver. In this case, his best Sonics -by far- are to use the preout mains for left/right channel of the AVR600, looped into a better 2 ch music preamp and dedicated 2Ch amp setup for 2ch music. This is basically as I suggested.
You can forget all the massively OVER HYPED ballyhoo of reviewing gloss-overs that the hifi rags wrote on these otherwise very nice sounding AV receivers which Arcam rolled out over last decade n a half! They were simply better sounding AV gear than most Chinese made AVRs, and without Room Equalization!!
Better 2 ch can be easily had, even from passive pre/direct approach, imo.
How about using the stereo music speakers and preamp and amp  as theater front channel when the music preamp's auxiliary is fed by the   "front channel output" of the AV receiver for video use and the preamp/amp/ speakers as the stereo music source when fed from the music components attached to it?
This statement is BS on its face. It depends entirely on the amplifier design itself. Any two channels of my 5 channel BAT 6200 will run rings around nearly every stereo amplifier for sale today. How you ask ? Each channel has its own independent power supply. In that sense, it's essentially 5 monoblocks in one big case.

Multi-channel amps that share a single power supply are more suspect, but then so are stereo amplifiers that share the same power supply, of which most do.
I OWNED A DENON AVR-3808CI SINCE 2007 AND IT WAS SUPERIOR IN EVERY WAY. COUPLED WITH MY OPPO BLU-RAY PLAYER THE STEREO WAS AMAZING WITH GREAT CLARITY, SUPERB SOUND STAGING AND VERY FINE DETAIL TO THE POINT OF EVEN HEARING THE MUSICIANS FOOT TAP KEEPING HIS TEMPO.
JUST PURCHASED THE DENON AVR-X6200 AND IT IS EVEN BETTER THAN THE AVR-3808CI.
FANTASTIC OVER FUNCTIONALITY.
DON’T THINK I NEED A 2 CHANNEL AMP.
Superior is a comparative.  Superior to what?
The new Theta Dread D Is a great amp and will compete favorably with any 2 channel amp at the SAME price point.  My Dread D is configured with 5 channels.  A great feature is 2 AC inlets that allows the amp to act like 2 mono blocks when only 2 channels are being used. 

Home theatre and 2 channel doesn't work very often in the same box ie receiver or in the same room very often, too many compromises. Best way to do it two separate rooms two separate systems. I run an Anthem pre/pro with a five channel amp for theatre and a Krell setup for two channel. Works the best if you have the room. Just my two cents. 
I live in small NYC apartment...the living room is used for BOTH my 2 channel audiophile system AND my movie theater as with ceiling-mounted projected projecting between my Platinum Audio Solo speakers onto the wall.  I am thinking about the following - from the hi-rez analog outputs of an Oppo, feed the FL and FR into the analong inputs of my DACpreamp and the center analog into a long RCA connected to a single self-powered monitor speaker set up between the Solos. 
Think that would work???

Some multi channel power amps can be pretty good sounding.

I had to put my AV surround amp in as main player for the system for a couple of weeks (an ATI 1505) and was pleasantly surprised with the decent sound.
I never liked multi-channel (5.1) audio, with a TV, or in a movie theater.

The picture is in front, there is "NO' back!

Stereo only, for home theater IMO.
I read that the marantz 8802 and 7792 Mkii Do a  fantastic job as Both for theater and for stereo due to their good preamps . I guess the question is what amp to use ? B&k lexicon, parasound, ???
Try a Krell Chorus 5200 using only two channels and listen to determine if it cuts it. I've personally been amazed coming on the heels of some very fine high end amps. 

Nah, best bang for the buck is to get active monitors. You get bi/tri amp per speaker for pennies on the dollar, some even give you digital crossover.
I find myself (possibly) looking for a good new (to me) multi-channel amp for my HT.  

My Arcam P1000 lost the auto muting circuit so it's heading to the repair shop to get looked at.  If the repair costs are substantial, I'll be in the market for a new 7-channel amp.  Space and funding considerations make it difficult to run monoblocks (7-Thor Veritas would fit space-wise, but not budget-wise!) or multiple amps of any variety.  The Arcam P1000 (135wpc) fit the bill nicely, though it did run out of air at higher volumes powering my ATC SCM 19's in a somewhat large room.

Maybe the McIntosh 8207 in the for sale section here may have to slide into the Arcam's old spot.  However, it would be stretching my budget, so I'll be looking closely at the for sale section for a while.

In the meantime, I'll be experimenting with 2-channel HT by putting my old 1980's vintage SAE 50wpc amp back into service.  Should be a fun experiment.  

FWIW, HT processing is done by the Marantz 8801 that has served me well since I purchased it new shortly after it (and Kal's review) came out. 
Some multi channel separates (of non mono design) benefit with having a larger PS vs there two channel sibling in the same line. While doing side by side comparing it was pretty obvious the 3ch had the edge with better bass response and a higher ceiling than its 2ch sibling.
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"I can not imagine multichannel separates being much better, as these had been extensively compared to the AVR600, with most indicating a close to on-par performance. "

Well, then 1) you need to expand your imagination, and 2) the AVR600 is quite good (when it isn't broken), for a one box solution, but compared to good AV separates - well, no.

I cuurently have a Marantz 8802a, along with a Theta Intrepid, and / or a Bryston 9BST, and a AVR600 couldn't touch this combo in any manner, shape or form, and, when playing in 2 channel (using Tansparent Super XLR's from the Oppo 105 to the Marantz (and, of course to amp), please tell me how bad it sounds.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Yes and no.  I've owned a "dedicated stereo system" in many guises - stereo receivers, integrated amps, separates, and mono blocks.  The keys to evaluating a multi-channel amplifier vs. a dedicated stereo one are multitude.

If you have a auditorium-sized listening space and/or if you listen at rock concert levels and/or if your speakers are low-impedance/difficult-to-drive, then one is unlikely to get equivalent stereo out of a multi-channel device of most varieties.

If, however, like me, you have a more modest room, listen at more modest levels, and have relatively sensitive and easy-to-drive speakers, then I would suspect that you can get very good audio from a well-made and good-sounding multi channel source.  In fact, you could get so close that in one of those mythical double-blind tests, I'd suspect that you couldn't really tell a difference.

This is pure heresy to high-end audiophiles, I know.  We're invested heavily in the idea that consumer-grade audio is somehow inferior and can never rise to the lofty accuracy of our carriage-trade gear.

But the world has changed, and many of us don't yet realize it.  Even the most cost-driven AVRs on the market know that they have to compete in the sound quality arena, or they won't sell.  And when a company the size of Yamaha or Denon gets a sound-quality hit in a major magazine review, it gets their attention.

No, your $399 entry-level AVR won't now (and never will) compete with your Mark Levinson or even your McIntosh, but the entry level sounds better now than they've ever sounded before.  And the improvements don't stop at the entry level, either.

"Midrange" brands like Rotel, Arcam, Emotiva, and others now provide a greater percentage of "cost no object" sound than they ever have.  And that sound quality improvement spills over into AV gear too.

So I'd contend that SOME multi-channel amps, used within their power envelopes, with appropriate speakers DO rival the mono block or stereo-only amp sounds.  Of course, this is my opinion, and you're always welcome to disagree.

Cheers - Boomzilla (moniker NOT indicative of listening preference)
Some curious thoughts I have about this thread. Not a single mention that the AVR600 has a Class G Amplifier , 150 WPC & bi-wireable in 2 Channel. Did you ever utilize its Direct Stereo mode to eliminate any and all digital processing?
marcimzienski,
You are absolutely right. One way to be sure you have the right answer is when its proven in spite of whatever you may want to believe. That is how I can be quite certain you are right, and anyone who thinks home theater gear can ever touch stereo gear is simply wrong.

When my dream of a lifetime, a dedicated listening/home theater room came true I could hardly wait for the remodel to be finished to start shopping for all the great home theater components. Which I of course did by following all the accepted wisdom of THX home theater 5.1 surround sound yada yada. I say yada yada now but back then it was Gospel.

Unfortunately for the surround sound setup I had this nasty habit of going and listening to everything I was even halfway interested in. Immediately every single thing I tried that was home theater oriented sounded like crap compared to every single thing that was not. Including an awful lot of very high end multi-channel components that cost far more than I'd ever even consider spending.

Not just receivers, which you never really expect will sound all that good anyway. But separates too, even down to separate pre-amps and amps. I was so determined to get a good sounding surround system I even tried some separate surround processors. I tried everything.

Sorry, but it is all crap. Like, the good stereo gear is so much better than the good surround gear its not even close. Its in your face obvious. Surround is the apex and the epitome of Robert Harley's famous saying that if the first watt isn't any good why would you want 200 more of them? Surround is crap.

In hindsight this all makes total sense. For whatever budget you may have, does not matter, the fact is you take that budget and divide by two and get a lot bigger number than when you divide by 5. More money per channel simply equals more quality per channel.

But that's not all! It turns out one of the hardest things to do in high end is provide good clean steady power while keeping the noise from one thing getting into and ruining the sound from another. This is as true within a component as between components. This is why every good component, and especially higher end more critical components like phono-stages, go to extreme lengths to isolate their power supplies from the other sensitive circuits. The physical demands of surround systems here are quite simply obviously incompatible with high quality. Where less is more they try to tell you more is more. Its not.

But wait! It gets even worse! Because, bottom line, people listening to stereo are ..... listening to stereo. And that is ALL they are doing. They aren't distracted by looking at anything else. They don't have a projector fan blowing overhead or a screen flickering in their face. They aren't trying to follow a plot and they usually aren't munching on popcorn either. Often times they turn the lights way down or even off to concentrate on the sound and the sound alone.

So why in a profit driven business would you ever devote all your resources to delivering perfect sound to customers who despite whatever they might say clearly have voted with their wallets to put video above audio? You'd have to be crazy.

Which they are not. Which ultimately is why no surround system can touch a good stereo. And never will.
You could also do an integrated + HT processor. At least the Luxman units let you separate the amp, so you can feed it directly from another source, such as a HT processor, or an Anthem HT receiver.

I am seriously thinking of going this route.
Interesting comments. It really is a dilemma. I'll give my solution which works for me and my ears. First a little about my cave, 15 x 23 x8 with room treatment.  HT gear is 5.1 Lexicon MC12B, Emotiva amp (my Krell died) B&W 803D2, Oppo 103, Hitachi 65. It never did 2Ch stereo justice although it was still very nice. Then I went to a 2 system setup in same room, Rogue integerated, VPI Prime Polk SrsSda 3.1TL. Also very nice, actually better than very nice. Then noticed everything being a bit congested. So I started to think about decongesting by finding a way to open things up. I build my own switching unit which allowed me to use both systems with one set of speakers thus eliminating the Polks out of the room. I'm of the opinion that 2Ch will beat HT in most cases. I learned this by playing the same source thru both systems simultaneously via switching between them a almost immediate comparison. I think I've hit the jackpot, at least in my view. FWIW I have yet to hear a better soundstage than what them old vintage Polks could produce and I've heard a lot of great setups in my days. Polks were really on to something before they went mass market.
This has been the story of my life for the last year.  I hate to even think of how much money I've spent trying to build the universal system only to find out that I...  well... failed.

Bear in mind that my system is comprised of separates so I have some flexibility with some of the things I'm able to try.  You won't get away with this if you're using a receiver.  I've spent stupid money on my listening room and did so with a home theater engineering-first approach.  I have a beautiful system with Levinson amps and a Classe surround processor.  It's everything I ever wanted and more for watching movies but I do have a music collection that I've amassed over the course of the last 30 years and it just falls flat in stereo on my HT system. 

Because my marriage depends on NOT having a truck load of gear eating up our living space I've heavily modified the walls and deployed  wisdom insight in-walls.  Their sound fidelity coupled with my Levinson amps does exactly what I want but the Classe is the piece that deadens stereo to the same aggravating swill that spawned this discussion thread.

Go figure though, the SP is more or less a computer and it's asked to a whole lot in terms of algorithmic decoding and channel separation all while passing video streams and somehow keeping it all synchronized. A top notch stereo preamp does as little as possible in order to transmit the purest possible signal from source to amp.

I've hit on what I refused to call a permanent solution because as my poor wife knows, I will spend more money to get it done the right way... eventually. The reason I say this is not a permanent solution is because I've added complexity into the signal path but I have to say it's a really big improvement.  

What I've done as a proof of concept (and as an interim solution) is put a Kramer VS-4X 4x1 Balanced Stereo Audio Switcher (XLR) in front of my L/R channel amps so I can switch my L/R mains between the Classe surround processor and a stereo preamp.  I've played with a number of different stereo preamps and in each case I've been thrilled with the results.  I'm currently using to an old Aragon Aurum with 2-channel sources running through that.  The results have been way beyond my expectations.

For about $200, I'm now able to switch back and forth between surround and stereo and it solved my dilemma (and my marriage) for the time being.  Of course I won't live with a switching device in the middle of my main L/R signal path forever. I'll end up with another set of speakers and amps purely for stereo listening because I'm dumb like that.  What I will say is that something like this may work for you.  Right now and for the next year or two it's working for me.  It's a HUGE improvement!
I struggled a long time with this same problem. Fortunately by spending vast amounts of time not money. Time driving around listening bringing stuff home auditioning, until it was well and truly proven that genuine audiophile quality and conventional home theater are incompatible. Can. Not. Be. Done.

Its simply impossible. Cannot have both. Not within the constraints of the THX mandated 5.1 type system.

So what's so big about 5.1 anyway? Surround. Big deal. Most of the really good movies, the ones with natural sound, the surrounds hardly do anything anyway. So for some fake sound effects way off to the sides I'm supposed to sacrifice really impressively good sound, so good it puts you right in the movie or music? I don't think so.

So the answer it turns out is really simple. You do your music thing with your music system, with a screen between the speakers for movies. And he lived happily ever after.


This is the holy Grail of audio Shangrila. For years I did sacrific exceptional stereo enjoyment for DTS, True Dolby Digital, SACD, DVD-A. Not that I am complaining as these formats do really offer an exceptional listening experience, and you don't have to spend $5-$10k to do it.

The Oppo 95 opened my eyes and then I purchased a pair of Ohm H's two years ago and that really renewed my love for analog stereo. I recently upgraded to an Oppo 105 and this player did reveal  more benefits in my new quest to get the best stereo out of my rig.
  
As many posters have shared  a separate system might be the ticket. I no have a stereo system in my kitchen. I have a  Nikko intergrated amplier, only 60 watts, Ohm L2's and a Yamaha CD-2100 and so far I am very impressed and quite happy. It clear many of us got into music because of anolog stereo and there is nothibg wrong with a home coming.