Is adding a power amp to an A/V receiver worth it?

Is adding a high-quality power amp to a receiver-based system worth it? I've built my system gradually over the years and the receiver is now one of the weak links in my system relative to my source and speakers. I would like to put a high-quality power amp behind my front three speakers bypassing the receiver's amps, but I'm concerned I won't be getting the full benefit of a dedicated amplifier without a high-end dedicated pre/pro to feed it clean signals.

I'm happy with the receiver's features and would like to continue using it as my preamp/processor. However, I don't want to spend good money on an amp to have it strangled by a (relatively) mid-fi receiver upstream. As you can see from my system below, some components are in different "leagues" than others, but that's what can happen when you build a system over time. Overall, it's a very enjoyable system and I've taken the time to calibrate it properly. I use my system roughly 60/40% music/movies.

Can anyone comment on their experience with this dilemma?

My system:

Arcam FMJ CD23 cd player
Sony DVP-C600D dvd carousel
Technics SL-5 direct-drive turntable with Grado cartridge
Sony GA-7ES ProLogic A/V receiver ("5.1 ready" and with preouts for the front 3 channels)
Hales Revelation Two main speakers (front L/R)
Hales Revelation Center (front center)
Snell SR.5 bipolar surrounds
Acoustic Research "high output" 8" sub (downfiring)
Sony KV-34XBR800 34" widescreen monitor
AudioQuest Coral interconnect (cd player)
AudioQuest Video 2 (vcr composite video)
MIT Terninator 5 interconnect (dvd player)
MIT Terminator 5 speaker cable (for fronts)
MIT S-Res S-video interconnect (for DVD)
Monster subwoofer interconnect
Monster HTS-2000 surge protector
Harmony SST-768 remote (great unit!)
Salamander Synergy Twin 30 equipment rack
Absolutely, I used an Onkyo 919THX receiver to push the B&W Nautilus 803. It was weak and bass was unexceptable without a Sub. Then I purchased the Mcintosh MC352, hugh different. Musics are more alive, details and I no longer need a sub.

Absolutely, I'm using my Top of the line 5 channel Sony ES receiver as preamp/processor and to drive my rear speakers only. I added 3 channel amp to drive the 2 fronts and center and the improvement is huge.
Ditto on the above posts. By using a power amp your sound will be much improved. Also, since you have been patient in building your system, you can look forward to purchasing a quality pre/pro to eventually improve your system even more. I did just that. Bought a three channel B&K to run my fronts and center while using a Yamaha receiver. Eventually purchased a two channel Innersound amp for fronts while shifting the B&K to the rears. Then complimented the entire system by upgrading to a Classe' pre/pro. Viola! a wonderful system for music and movies.

Go for it. You'll be glad you did...

I use a Denon AVR-4800 for processing & for the fronts a Bryston 4B-ST THX. As I use this system for 2ch listening at times, I feel that this upgrade was worth every cent!
Absolutely. I liked the way my fronts sounded being powered by my Sony DA3ES receiver. I added a Parasound HCA-1500a and all I can say is wow!!!! Can you say bass impact!! Although their are sonic benifits to a dedicated 2 channel Pre-amp, adding the power amp will give you a decent improvement.

good luck
By all means, I added a Lexicon NT512 to an Outlaw 1050 and am enjoying every minute. Likewise, when funds allow, a high quality pre/pro is on the horizon.
I guess I am in the minority here. I think the answer depends on where you want your system to be in a year or two, and how much you care about music vs. HT.

I added a Bryston 4BST to a mid-fi Onkyo receiver with the plan to add a separate preamp when funds permitted. My experience was that there was a noticeable, but relatively small, improvement (sound had a greater sense of ease, slightly more bass). However, it wasn't until I added a separate preamp that I noticed a big improvement. This is all in reference to music as I use my system for HT only rarely. If you take a long-term view and plan on continuing to upgrade your system, I think adding a power amp as you are thinking, then adding the preamp when you can, is a great idea. Just don't salivate over the expected improvement. Good luck.
OK, I'll take the opposing view.

You are correct, some of your current equipment is is a different league. You already have some of the building blocks for an EXCELLENT music system. I think you would be better served if you continue to build on the music side (that is assuming that you are happy with your HT).

That said, here is what I would do:

Instead of buying a power amp for the fronts, I would buy a quality integrated amp that has an HT processor/bypass loop feature. I would connect the Arcam CD player and your turntable to the integrated amps inputs and connect the front L&R speakers (Hales) to the integrated amps outputs. INSTANT high-end 2-channel rig!! As you can see, this is now a dedicated 2-channel music system with zero possibilities of being "mucked up" by the mid-fi receiver.

For HT, you would connect the DVD player, VCR, etc., to the receiver as you are now doing. The Front L&R pre-outs from the receiver would go to the processor/bypass loop inputs on the integrated amp. When you select "bypass" on the integrated, it will work EXACTLY like your proposed power amp, "bypassing" any of the pre-amp controls of the integrated amp.

For me, this is an great way to have the best of both worlds. You have a dedicate 2-channel rig AND an add-on HT setup and they only share the Front L&R speakers and the "power-amp" portion of the integrated amp. I have put together several version of systems using this type of setup and they work very well. And, it eliminates any concerns of your mid-fi receiver "stangling" your amplifiers output.

Feel free to send me a message if you need any more details.


Have went through the same decision making process in the last year. Am using a Denon 5.1 DTS receiver.
I do 80%/20% two channel music to movies.
I tried adding a separate amp for the mains (Parasound) and had a nice improvement.
I then sold the amp and bought a nice used integrated (MF A300) as suggested above.
Major difference in two channel.
Hooking up for movies is no problem even without a HT bypass.
My suggestion is to get a good integrated, or a good preamp and amp and integrate them into your system.
The difference for music is significant and with your very nice source and speakers, you will likely hear a big improvement.
Excellent qusetion!

You have an AWESOME SYSTEM going, and I think you should upgrade to a dedicated pre/pro High current amp for HT. The speakers, interconnects and monitor you have KICK!!! Hales are known to be POWER HUNGRY, and you want MAJOR HEADROOM! Remember, as you welcome friends and family in your state of the art home theater, they will be amazed! Electricity is the most powerful force on the earth, and what you will experience when you harness this amazing force will be TOP NOTCH THEATER!!!
Thanks for all your feedback above. I think I'll demo an amp or two in my system to see how it sounds. Hearing is believing!