Using Receiver as a Switcher?

I currently have a Marantz SR7002 receiver powering my Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Concert Grands. When I was at Best Buy Magnolia I decided to stop by and see what their VA Mozarts sounded like by comparison. To my chagrin, they sounded better/clearer to my ears in the mids and highs. I'm not sure how much of this may be due to the room acoustics, but I noticed they had a Denon DRA-CX3 integrated amp powering the Mozarts.

I really have three questions. First, is the DRA-CX3 really THAT much better than the Marantz SR7002? My dad seems to be under the impression that as long as an amp has the power to drive the speakers without distortion (and it's not a tube amp), then there should be an extremely negligible difference in sound quality between amplifiers, and that what I have is fine, and I'll be disappointed if I shell out the cash for an upgrade, and that room acoustics are way more important. I don't think he's very accurate in his assessment, but I'd rather ask you guys. I'm basically assuming he's wrong, but under this assumption, still is the difference really THAT big between the Marantz and the Denon?

Second, if I do get the DRA-CX3 (which for only 570 on listenup right now is a real temptation), is there a way to use my Marantz as simply a switcher, and use the pre and power amps on the Denon? Giving up my switching capabilities would be terrible.

Third, for the extremely reduced $570 price tag on the Denon at the moment, would I be better off getting a standalone power amp at that price, and using my Marantz as a pre (which I know I can do)?

Thanks for taking your time to read this post, and please help!
I agree with your father, especially regarding his comment about room acoustics. I think his comment is even more relevant at this price point.

However, it's possible that since you already have the belief that the Denon integrated amp will sound better than your Marantz receiver, it quite likely will once installed in your system.

Finally, I don't think $570 is terribly expensive for an educational experience. I'd spend the money.
All right Bob, I want to make sure I'm getting a good understanding of what you are saying. It seems that you're saying that my dad is correct, and the higher the wattage, the better, and room acoustics are much more important when it comes to the sound you'll actually hear.

All right, well I'm still pretty new in this realm, and I cannot personally attest to knowing otherwise. However, if this is the case, there is something that I don't understand. Why does something like my receiver, which puts out 110 watts per channel, on up to seven channels, cost only $600 (at least on sale at Amazon right now, $1400 retail)? I picked a random integrated amp to compare this to, the Primare 130. Why is that $2500 at retail when it only puts out 100 watts per channel, and only on TWO channels? Not to mention the lack of HD switching capabilities. I just don't understand why they would charge that price, and also why people would actually buy it, if there is no difference in sound quality.

Also I was incorrect, the price is $579 for the Denon DRA-CX3 right now. Not a huge difference, but I figured I'd clear that up.
My personal opinion is that the number of watts isn't always a true indicator of quality. I believe that an amplifiers ability to handle high current loads (i.e. low ohms) is more important. I recently stepped up from a Onkyo receiver that was rated for 90 watts per channel and a 6 ohm load to an Integra receiver that is rated for 135 watts per channel and a 4 ohm load. My Focal speakers have an 8 ohm nominal impedance, but have a low impedance of under under 3 ohms (I believe). High watts is only required at higher volumes. As long as you can get the volume that you're looking for you should be fine as long as the amplifier has adequate current handling capacity.

The Denon is a more 2 channel specific design which could allow it to sound significantly better, but nothings a given. The more simple the design of the amplifier the less things there are to degrade the signal.

You could use the pre-outs on the Marantz and run them into the Denon, I think, and just use the Denon as an amplifier. I'd consider packing up the Marantz and taking it to the store for a side by side comparison.

I say get the Denon IF you were considering a straight swap, but I doubt the addition of another component would be worth the additional cost and inconvience of having one more component. Marantz is a very respected name and they have quality products. I'd suspect it might sound more different than better/worse.
From what my electrical engineering buddy has told me, you can judge the power output on your amplifier to a certain degree if you have a volume that reads in minus dB. At 0 dB you are providing 100% amplifier power and something like -3dB is half power. I have a few CDs that I can listen to at, or near, zero, but the majority are at a volume lower than -10dB.

Maybe someone else will correct me on this or provide more insight.

Also, the Denon is listed as 4 ohm (high current) capable, but I'm sure the Marantz is as well. The specs should indicate the rated speaker range of either 4 ohms to 16 ohms or possibly 6 ohms to 16 ohms. If it isn't rated for 4 ohms I think you'll like the Denon.
changing electronics for slight improvemeents is the audio industries version of 3 card monte. i,m sticking with well built well designed value orinted gear and making adjustments in things that clearly seem to matter to me.. better signal sources as in a great cd player. room acoutic treatment and good isolation strategies. and find the wire and interconnects that perform as advertised. this is hard to do but once you find something that works it is rewarding. thanks john. then spend money on a music collection
I haven't heard the speakers to compare them.But one thing to consider is the power rating doesn't affect the sound if your within their power output capabilities.The Denon puts out less than 50 watts a channel.Is that going to be enough power for you?It(the Denon) may just have a simular design as their receivers.If it concerns you a lot,see if you could try one with a return policy.A lot of this newer gear doesn't give the true power output ratings that gives the true older FTC ratings anymore.They either made the laws easier,or they have found loopholes.The high end companies usually give the true output,or real close to it.If it was me,I would bring something familiar(cd) with me and listen to them again.This time make sure they DON'T have the bass and treble turned up.Best Buy,and other box stores have a bad habit of doing it.It's not fair to the customers,or other companies that make speakers,etc.This would be my first move.Double check the tone,equalizer controls yourself also,and make sure their set flat,or turned off.
Sweetnumb, I didn't read that your Dad said that higher wattage is better. His comment was "as long as an amp has the power to drive the speakers without distortion." I think his main point was that room acoustics are more important than electronics. I agree with both statements and in general I don't think it hurts to have more power than necessary.

A lot goes into the price of a product that has little impact on sound quality. For example, the chassis and face plate. Buying in lots of 10,000 units (Denon) versus 100 units (Primare) can add up. The cost of labor can have a big impact. Some companies do almost everything in house using local labor and others outsource everything, including the design.

People are willing to spend varying amounts of money for perceived differences in audio gear. I think it's fair to say that many audiophiles, including myself, are fickle. There's this notion of "pride of ownership" that can cause us to own gear that may not sound any different than our previous setup.

Why do av surround processors cost several times that of many av receivers and yet they have no amplification at all? Better parts? Probably in some cases, but not enough to justify the cost difference. Potential number of units sold? Yep.

BTW, I think most people will agree than you can hear differences between different pieces of electronics, but it's not always clear that those differences are better.
The true power rating of a good amp will show a power rating 8 ohms from 20 to 20,000 hz and will almost double at 4 ohms. Now it seems like all smoke and mirrors the way they rate power ratings. I laugh when I see these cheaper amps with big impressive specs but they are just not in the same league as the real stuff.
All right. Well that makes a lot of sense Bob. Does it make a difference that my receiver isn't officially rated to drive 4 ohm speakers? I'm just having a hard time understanding the difference I heard, and I don't think room acoustics can account for that difference, as I heard amazing clarity and detail at extremely low volumes.

Perhaps the CD Player they used can account for the difference? It always seems ridiculous to me to be spending great deals of money on one, since the data is just digital, and seems it would either get read or not read. I have my PS3 setup to send the signal straight through digitally via the HDMI cable without converting it to analog. Perhaps I'm wrong about this concept though. I have also tried playing through a Panasonic Blu-Ray player we have with no audible difference, but I'm sure they are of relatively comparable quality either way.

The other possibility I can think of (aside from me just being crazy, which may very well be) is that the source material they used was just recorded and mixed/mastered flawlessly. If that's the case, then I'll need to find out what they were playing so I can experience it again.
I recently purchased a Pioneer Elite SACD player from Pioneer for a great price and have been really impressed with the sound quality improvement compared to my Integra 6-disk player and Samsung blu-ray player. The difference in redbook playback is significant. It's better, not just different. You might consider spending the $250 it cost to my door.

I don't know how much difference you'd hear going from the Marantz to the Denon just to get the 4 ohm rated capacity. My receiver swap had significant improvement in high current capacity and rated power so I have not heard the effect of high current capacity with lower power output. I'd expect that it MIGHT sound a little better, but really can't say.

The SACD might be a better bang for the buck.
Does it make a difference that my receiver isn't officially rated to drive 4 ohm speakers?
Sure, if the speakers have a low impedance in a region that your typical music uses heavily and you push up the volume.

I've found that I tend to get accustomed to the sound of my system. It happens pretty quickly over a few weeks. Then hearing any other system I notice differences and I immediately start thinking that the new sound is better than what I'm used to.

Unless you can control the audition experiment, it's about impossible to draw any valid conclusions from it. Ideally, you'd need to borrow the Denon for a couple of days for use in your system AND you'd have to level match comparisons to your Marantz to within 0.1dB.

The digital to analog conversion (including the analog output section) can have an audible impact, though even $40 DVD players don't sound terrible today. The analog section of my Samsung Blu-ray player is obviously inferior to any CD player I've ever owned -- so I only use digital out from the Samsung.

So, it's possible that the digital to analog conversion in your Marantz receiver has a different flavor than the combination of a CD player + Denon integrated. But, I'll still bet that the room (and the newness of the roon to you) has the biggest sonic impact.

Obviously, you have to be very familiar with the source material during an audition. You should bring your own demo discs.