Newbie amp help......why?

Im confused about why an amp is needed. I am not a cranker by any means. I dont listen to my music loud at all. I really dont listen to rock much so why is an amp needed? I could understand if it was like when i was younger and wanted more bass or better treble in my car but that was only because i wanted to listen louder without distortion. I have a old pioneer elite 39tx reciever/pre amp. I have a nad c541 transport, with psb stratus gold speakers. please help me understand how this works. My stuff will already go way louder without distortion than i would ever want to listen to at that level. thanx alot Kevin

A receiver is a combination of preamp, amplifier and tuner. An integrated amp combines the preamp and amplifier. You could also choose to go with separates— a preamp in one box and an amplifier in another box. In all of these scenarios, there is an amp in the system. If you're going to listen to music via speakers, you need an amp; you already have one in your receiver.
right then why would i need an amp. my reciever is 120watts per channel. would even a small amp help clarity or bass? i am very confused. thanks alot
You don't need an amp at got the music already.
It sounds like your question may be ... why do I need a separate amp, if I already have a receiver? The answer is that you don't. If you like the music that it is coming from your present set-up, don't change a thing.

The parts of the reproduction chain are the same regardless of packaging...
a source (CD player or radio) ... a preamplifier ... an amplifier ... speakers. It is just a question of how they are packaged ... from a boombox (everything in one) to receivers (tuner/amp/preamp) to separate components for each piece of the reproduction chain.

You may find that if you try separate components that the music will sound better ... clearer sound, deeper bass, etc.


You already have an amp.
Kevin, I would encourage you to invest some time listening to a range of hi-end systems. This will help you discern the differences in various types of equipment and the attributes that components can provide to the audio experience. You may discover a whole world of sonic possibilities and performance.
Does your receiver have "Pre-amp out" jacks on the back? If so, you could continue using the tuner and pre-amp sections of the receiver, and hook up a better quality power amp to drive the speakers (bypassing the amplifier section in the receiver). But the signal from the CD player would still be going through the pre-amp section of your Pioneer, so I'm not sure how much would be gained by this. It's all about quality--not volume levels. So I would second Maineiac's recommendation.
ok i kinda understand. i will look to see if it has pre amp outputs. so if i added a amp thats 100wpc it would actually be less power to thje speakers than the regular amp in the pioneer. i was thinking the golds may need more power to run them this true? thanks for the replies kevin
Taking it one step further, call around and find a dealer who carries 2 or 3 brands of tube amplifier, and go listen to those. For many people, a tube amp will provide sonics that much more closely resemble live instruments. As others have said, it's not about volume. There are different types of distortion, and tube amps tend to perform in a way that its distortions bother the ear less than the most solid state amps. This is true regardless of how many boxes you are talking about(e.g. receiver vs. amp/pre/tuner separates).
If you don't hear anything that makes your heart beat a little quicker, save your money and buy more music. Cheers,
IMO..if your music is acceptable stop right there..its like chasing the audio crack pipe around the room trying to find audio nirvana..the more ya spend ,the more ya spend

Be afraid... be very afraid... one false step here and you'll have fallen into the abyss of audiofoolishness, from which, few ever return.

Sure... it's just a thought about adding an amp, or more subtley, just a harmless question regarding amps. Before you know it, you'll have a new Mercedes sitting in front of your couch! ;-)

Loudness isn't the only reason folks seek out additional, or replacement amplification.

Refinements,quality, both sonically and in regard to the overall builde, are also notes why going to an outboard amp is a valid endeavor. Chiefly, it's the sound though.

80% of the music (perhaps more), is made in the first 20 watts.... consequently, adding an amp 'just for watts sake', isn't usually the best path to follow as it seldom relates to sonic improvement.

Adding any 'this or that' item to a "what ever" product (outside of a pure replacement part) is generally intended to increase performance. In the case of audio, the performance increase is determined 'subjectively' by the sound it makes after the change/addition.

Louder is easy... better is not so easy.

Many separate amps however, will surpass the performance level of those within a receiver handily.
The hobby is fun, but Blindjim gives fair warning. Tread carefully, but there certainly is better sound quality ahead of you, but you can waste a lot of money without a good dealer, experienced friends, or a judicious assessment of recommendations you get on Audiogon. Remember, you can 90% "there" for 20% of the price - if you know what I mean. $$$ doesn't always mean best sound. More important is the system and how the parts play together. It makes sense to hear some very highend stuff to get a sense of what is possible and decide how much of that you want and/or need.
I think that the critical question might be: What is your motivation? Why are you considering taking this perilous step? Is it because you find your current system wanting, or are you reading these threads and letting us get into your head?
Phaelon makes a good point. Upgrading audio systems past the general consumer level is more about the hobby of upgrading audio systems than that of listening to music. Music listening on a system that is aimed at the general consumer vs the audiophile community can be just as rewarding. It sounds like what you have is already giving you the music listening experience for your taste in music. I have met many people over the years who are true music enthusiasts but who listen to systems that they have had since the 70's or 80's, and even then were just general public type systems, and they are completely satisfied. What they discuss is the interpretation of the music by the performer, the songwriting, and so on, rather than the intermodulation distortion of a given amplifier or the jitter of a digital source. Neither approach requires the other and neither is inherantly better. So it really depends on your focus; if your focus is listening to music rather than tweaking the system, it sounds like you are already all set.
How did the issue of whether you might need an amp come up? Did someone else tell you this? Or did you come up with it on your own?

PSB Stratus Golds are decent speakers, and some other A-goner with more experience of them can probably tell you how easy or how difficult they are to drive, and what works well with them.

If you're satisfied with the sound, and someone else is messing with your mind, let it be.

If you yourself have got a hankering for better sound, then the Pioneer is probably the weakest link in the chain, and you have a whole host of possibilities for improvement. One way to go (certainly not the only way), is like I said, if you add, say, a better power amp now (still using the Pioneer as pre-amp), and then, when finances permit, a better pre-amp later (and the eliminate the Pioneer).

If you haven't heard tubes, you should try and do so. Try and find a dealer who stocks Cayin, PrimaLuna, Jolida or some other of the less expensive brands.

Or find a dealer stocking PSB, and see what they drive them with...
Come on guys. If he asked the question we all know it is too late. It is that very curiosity that has taken over our souls.

Blindjim, the Mercedes comment was great!
i guess what im chasing now is a experience i had in the mid 90s. i was working and accidentally went into a higher end store thats no longer here and heard asystem with the speakers i have now and was blown away. i dont even know the equip he had other than the golds. it sounded un real completely 3d sounding out of only 2 speakers. it literally made my eyes water and my balance was all messed up. well 20 yrs later i have a bit more to spend but i cant even get close to what i heard that day so im chasing a system i have no idea about....thanks for the warning i think im already sunk. kevin
Flyin2jz, do you know if your speakers are well positioned for your room? A lot of improvement can be had by the speaker/room interface being right; then you can start looking at equipment upgrades.
heard a system with the speakers i have now and was blown away
that right there is why you would need a new amp. If you heard what a really good amp (ie any amp better than the one you have) sounds like, one that "made your eyes water", you would know you need a new amp. Until then, as long as you ask these questions you are perilously close to the slippery slope of audiophoolishness Blindjim describes.
That might be true, once the speaker/room interface is right. I find that the speaker and the room (and your ears)account for a lot of performance from a system with a given speaker -- then the amp/speaker is possible the most crucial component matchup IMHO.
Yes this hobby will bring tears to your eyes again - when you go bancrupt.
I agree that your speakers are keepers and that the rest of your system could benefit from some smart upgrades. But that said, please don't disregard or take lightly what Pubul57 said about speaker placement. I think you'll likely be amazed at how much of that "previous experience" you can recapture just by getting the "speaker/room interface" right.
yea this hobby is already bringing tears to my wifes eyes, she doesnt understand. i dont either obviously. im chasing a system that i dont even know what it was. i would think that the stuff i have now would be at least close to stuff from the low 90s. at this point the problem is im just spending money on wires, interconnects and cd transports with very little gain. i think i need help or someone who knows whats up before i spend more money. thanks for the replies much appreciated.
go visit a local hi end dealer!!!!
Flying2jz - I would spend as much on electronics as on the speakers and 10% of total bill on the cables. Find in reviews and posts good amplifier match (synergy) to your PSB speakers.
This is probably more than you want to spend, but I'm recommending a couple of preamp/power amp combinations that provide a lot of high end speaker control and musical refinement at a relatively low price. The first combo is from the Parasound Halo series:

Parasound Halo P3 Preamp at $799 and Parasound A23 Balanced Amplifier at $850; 125 wpc, high current to get tight control of the ported 10" woofers on your PSB Stratus Golds, smooth refinement and musically engaging detail throughout the spectrum.

The other overachieving combo would be the Vincent Audio SA-31 hybrid preamp at $499 and its matching amp, the Vincent Audio SP-331 Hybrid Power Amp for $999. Make sure you click the "Reviews" tab and read the excerpts of the reviews.

The PSB Stratus Golds deserve nothing less to bring out their bass power, overall clarity, midrange transparency, and soundstage. Either of these amp/preamp combinations will make your system come alive, and noticeable improvements over these electronic combos will likely cost significantly more. There may be a few other "overachievers" out there, and a few used deals if you know what you're doing, but in general, these are safe, reasonable entries into the world of high end electronics.

And make sure you use biwired speaker cables.
Your current limiting factor (s) is the power train and source, mainly. I suspect there are other areas you’ll need to address as well.

Personally, I like receivers. Though they do have their limitations. The very best idea I think you can proceed with is to make up your mind as to how you wish to go from here. Multi Channel? Or 2Ch. Wanna proceed modestly, or hock the family jewels?

Like yourself, though by sheer chance in my case, I heard a system a while back which simply floored me. Absolutely, hands down, flat out, the sweetest sounding rig I’d ever heard. Natural. Rich…. And wet. Full of body, and harmonic rightness.

Then I found out the price tag…. I did ponder a spurious withdrawal from a bank wherein I had no account, but the thought of a quick and clean getaway nixed the whole thing for me.

Long story short, and many here can attest as well, today my system I feel is superior to that one I heard several years ago. In fact I know it’s superior to a few others whose tags exceed good sense… and I’ve greater flexibility now with my own rig, than did that particular one. BTW that rig I heard also convinced me, as perhaps it did you, it’s what’s up front that counts.

Speakers alone will not pull off the show.

Take a gander at the other virtual rigs here on display… one can even just copy one for themselves… or by addition and subtraction, even improve upon them… That is as easy a way to go as I can think while avoiding a fair number of miscues along the way.

Or, go as I did. Ask. Listen. Research. Try. As you go you’ll find the sound you want. SS? Tubes? SET? Integrated? Digital? Analog? PC based? As it appears you’ve encountered the WAF factor already, I’d suggest a nice integrated unit. Perhaps a hybrid unit, so you can get a taste of what tubes can do for you… or not. Simple. One less set of ic’s… and usually they ain’t large overbearing or intimidating things. Many are elegant and very nice looking too.

Then I’d advise a source upgrade… or at the same time… there’s really no right or wrong way… just shorter and longer. Integrateds are a shorter path, but no shortcut in sonics and I’m near certain the improvements will easily reveal themselves over your current rigs performance.

Further, IF you tire of it, then the addition of an amp might make more sense, as you will have improved upon the preamp aspect as well.

However, do take some time first off to shuffle them speakers about a little and throw some sofa cushions into the corners behind them, Put some plants at the first reflection points and check that out! You should gain greater focus of the sound stage, right then and there.

Cabling, isolation, power conditioning, and room acoustics can be done as you go. . . . and they all do really matter.

Do have a good time and involve your better half as much as she is willing, and enjoy…. It’s all up from here.

BTW... I'm now the proud owner of a vintage XKE. It's a fixer upper, but it runs like a deer, handles very well, and is easy on gas. It doesn't get out much, and it really excels at big band jazz, vocals, blues, and pretty much anything but rap. rap seems to make it anxious and testy.
If you want to limit the number of boxes you're playing with, I'd recommend a good integrated amp that combines both amp and preamp. You can get a good used solid state integrated amp, such as a Naim Nait, for under 1K. The advantage of a good solid state unit in this price range would be better bass control than a comparably priced tube unit. On the other hand, you'll get more transparency and natural tonality out of tubes. You need to experiment and see which brings you more satisfaction.

I have to say that I disagree with the comment by Musicnoise. I personally find that I'm more tuned into the nuances of a performance and the emotional communication of artists when I'm listening through a truly high-fidelity system. This is the main reason I'm into the hobby. Sure, I can get into the tweakery of it all, but ultimately, I prefer the musical experience through a high-end system. This doesn't mean than lower fidelity has no place in my life. I have a car system and an iPod and they serve their purpose well.
What I think you will hear with "better" equipment is more accurate resolution of timbre, changes in volume and "force" (voices or instruments), small changes in pitch, and decay of notes. This is proabably what is referred to as microdynamics. The better you pickup on those performance cues, the more musical meaning IMHO. If you can also get better soundstaging and presence, all the better.
Well im a bit embarassed. i purchased a sonance 2 channel amp and it doesnt have enough power. I have to turn up the volume much higher now than when i was using the pioneer 39tx. Spur of the moment buy. I know, i know, i should have researched more. Thanks alot for the words of wisdom. im learning thru my bank account. thanks again. Kevin
Does it not play loud enough? Nothing wrong with turning your dial further in and of itself - some may argue its best if your playing in the 11-1 positions. It doesn't necessarily mean you don't have enough power.

Above and beyond the issue of sheer volume (and Pubul57 is right), I have to say that Sonance is not a brand name that comes up very often on A'gon as incarnating the kind of sonic qualities that most high-enders are looking for. I would have thought you'd be better off with a number of other ss products: Musical Fidelity comes to mind, that might go well with PSB, as well as Creek, Sim Audio, Bryston, and the other names already mentioned here (Naim, Vincent, Parasound). Where did the Sonance come from? Do they have a return policy? Or trade-in/trade-up?....