Which is better: separates or receiver?

My husband and I are considering integrating our stereo with our home theater. I am looking for any advice on which is better, running with a 5 channel amp and a preamp/processor, or using a big HT receiver. Any recommendations are appreciated. We are working with a budget not exceeding $3000.
I forgot to also ask if anyone has any imput on the Odyssey 5 channel amp. Is it worth the money?
At that price a big Denon receiver is excellent, or B&K, then Integra. My Denon AVR-5700 has given me great service and is only topped by components costing twice as much. It also depends on your speakers and room size.
For $3,000 I would definitely go with separates. AV Receivers drop in value dramatically as soon as you take them out of the box. With separates I think you'll be happier with the quality of the sound and you'll also be in a position to upgrade down the road if you choose to. At your price point I would recommend the Adcom GFA-7500 5 channel amp and the Marantz AV9000 preamp processor. The Adcom GFA-7500 is five separate mono amplifiers on a single chassis. Each module produces 150 watts into 8 ohms and 225 watts into 4 ohms, with all channels driven. The unit weighs about 60 pounds. It is THX certified and can drive low impedance load speakers without breaking a sweat. You'll wake the neighbors if you're not careful. Lucas Films uses this amp in its studios for mixing THX soundtracks. I'm currently using this amp in my home theater with some low impedance electrostatic hybrid speakers and getting exceptional results. This amp retails for $1,500 but you can pick this amp up on the internet new for around $1,100. It really is a nice piece for the money.

The Marantz AV9000 is an excellent preamp/processor for home theater at your price point. It is THX Ulta certified, uses premium-quality parts and is really well made. The unit has a host of features including a very respectable am/fm tuner. It has 96kHz/24-bit D/A converters and 24-bit A/D converters for exceptional audio quality. It also has one of the best multi-purpose learning remotes I have ever seen! (I know, it's a guy thing). This preamp does a fine job on DVD movies. Musical presentation is warm and accurate. The manual is not so good so patience is needed when you're setting this unit up for the first time. This pre amp retails for around $1,800 but you can get it on the internet if you really look for around $1,300. After shipping, this leaves you about $500 for interconnects, speaker cable, DVDs and popcorn! Regards; -Jerie

I think that would depend on a few factors. And those factors would be (1). What is the size of your room, (2). what are the size of your speakers, and (3). how far are you willing to go (i.e.: 30/70, 40/60, 50/50 music/movies, or 60/40 or 70/30 music/movies).

If it is the latter, then I would be going with separates, otherwise, if this going to be a 50/50 type of system and if you or your hubby is not seriously into listening to music, then I think a receiver would make better sense. If I were going with separates and want something of a musical pedgree, and only have about $3K to spend, then the only thing I would go for would be the Anthem pre/pro and their matching amp. But with the pre/pro going for about $2,500.00, that doesn't leave much money for an amp, does it?? So in this case then, I think a receiver is probably your best option. And at $3K, there are a lot of good receivers out there. Two of which I would look at would be the Denon AVR-5800 and a Marantz SR-19. I hope this helps. Good Luck.
I totally agree with Chaskell except on the recommendation of the Anthem pre/pro. For $3,000 you can find really nice pre/pros second hand mostly for about $1,500. Unless you are more concerned with have 6.1 or 7.1 availability, then there are more than enough pre/pros that are DD/DTS capable with excellent sonics and many people who are more than happy with their performance. $1,500 for amplification is a good price point to look especially second hand but you can have an awesome power amp offered by Outlawaudio.com for $1,099.. Their reviews are plentiful and they are known to sound very good as well. Hey, if you want to get a real steal you can get their new reciever which is 6.1 capable and use it as your processor and still have change for good cables. Once again the name is Outlaw Audio (Outlawaudio.com)

Good Luck
You've gotten great advice already....if you want convenience, are likely to not get the upgrade bug over time, and want the system for movies as much as music, I agree with the advice to buy one of the top-of-the-line AV Receivers (my preference is Denon). You'll get excellent performance for years with a minimum of hassle and complexity. If you're willing to look at used equipment (a great approach IMO), you can get a lot for $3000 in separates. You've been given some good things to look at - I'll add a possible combination of a used, decked out Lexicon DC-1 pre/pro and a 5-channel Rotel amp. The DC-1 is somewhat dated, but it's very powerful yet a joy to use - fabulous for movies, very decent for music. You can find them for about $1500 used - look for one that is upgraded to v4.0 software - the software improvement is worth having and the new remote is a major improvement. As somebody else mentioned, receivers depreciate quickly out of the box, so if you're looking at upgrading down the road (even if you don't realize yet that you'll want to), separates offer more options.
Kt, and jerie make good points. If you max out your budget and get used gear you can get a good seperates system, but if you also think about getting a near top of the line receiver like the Denon AVR5700
second hand as wel,l you can have almost every function you need at under $1400, leaving some room for cables. Michael Fremer stated in the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater that the DAC's in the 5700 were worth the price of the receiver alone and that it reminded him of the awesome Linn system for 5.1 channel use. It is very easy to think of the budget without cables, but if you choose wisely you will get a significant improvement in sound. IMO they don't often come cheap, I have heard many very good cables that are reasonable, but no great cables at the lower price ranges. To be specific I think you may need to spend at least $750 on speaker cables and interconnects to get it right.
By a wide margin the best bang for buck is a receiver. Denon, Onkyo/Integra, Yamaha, Pioneer/Elite, Sony, etc. all make perfectly usable products that will stand up to all but the most intense sonic scrutiny. Be sure to match them to reasonably efficient speaker whose impedance doesn't drop below 6 ohms. My recommendation is to not go over $2,000 on the receiver. Theoretically, separate components can provide superior performance when compared to a receiver, but unless you're willing to provide a dedicated room with extensive sound treatment these advantages will not be realized.
I think that Onhwy61 misses the mark ... a carefully matched system does not need a dedicated room with sound treatment to reach higher than a lesser receiver based system!!! The room IS important, but not likely to mask the difference between systems. My "non-dedicated" room is not a factor when I change something as "subtle" as a cable!! Buy used, shop carefully and you will far exceed a new system at the same price point. Leave a sizable chunk for cabling your system. This I have learned the hard way. If you plan to have any distance at all between any parts of your system, plan on even more for cables.
If you go the receiver route check out the tread on b&k vs denon and you will find 28 to one in favor of b&k.
But like I said again, that would depend on how far Emily wants to go. If all she and hubby wants to do mostly is look at movies and all, then I wouldn't advise her, per se, to purchase separates. If all she and hubby is going to do is look at movies, then there are a number of very good "top-of-the-line" A/V Receivers available for about $3K (like I said, there are models from Denon and Marantz, but I would also like to add Yamaha, Rotel, Pioneer Elite and Sony ES to the mix), some for considerably less than $3K. But now on the other hand, if she and hubby are music buffs and all, then I would say she should go for something more ambitious than an A/R Receiver (and that means separates). If I were to go the separates route, then I could do one of the following.

(01). Rotel RSP-985 Pre/Pro -- $1,200.00 + Rotel RMB-1075 5 Channel Power Amp -- $1,300.00.

(02). Adcom Tuner/Pre/Pro -- $1,500.00 + Adcom GFA-7500 5 Channel Power Amp -- $1,500.00 (Just like Jerie has said).


(03). Lexicon DC-1 Pre/Pro -- $1,300.00 (Used) + Outlaw 5 Channel Power Amplifier -- $1,100.00 (on the internet only..... @ www.outlawaudio.com).

But whatever she decides to do, I'm sure she and hubby are going to be quite happy.

I wish her the best of luck.

I have separates. Over the past 5-7 years, I've upgraded my stereo system to about a $8,000 HT system.

A couple of years ago, I wanted to move to a Dolby digital system. I went to Circuit City and told them I wanted to buy their best AV Receiver. They sold me a $1,100 Kenwood. I hooked it up at home, and within 10 seconds of this first cut, Fleetwood Mac DVD, I knew it did not have the dynamics or frequency response of my separates. I listened to a CD, but the product went back a couple days later. I later bought the Rotel 985 ($2,000 list) for $1700. I've been pleased. I've seen it selling for around $1,100 used.

There may be some $2,000 receivers that are worth considering, like the Yamaha and B&K.

Things are changing in this industry very rapidly. There are a couple features I would consider important with anything I would buy today.

1. Does the receiver/pre-pro have 5.1 audio inputs for the next generation DVD-players? The Rotel 985 does. The Sony 9000 does not.

2. Does the receiver/pre-pro have component video switching? Video from cable or DVD's is transferred using either composite video, S-video, or Component video. Component video is the best and most good TVs now sold have all 3 type of inputs. My Rotel does not have this. If you buy a progressive scan DVD, you will want component switching. If you do not have it, you will need to directly connect your DVD player to the TV and use the TV as your video switcher.

3. As for DVD player, either buy a $250 unit or a $1,000+ unit. I decided to upgrade my Sony 300 (probably equal to $200 units today). I could not see/hear any improvements with $500/600 players. I even brought two home. I then bought the Sony 9000ES for $1300. The audio sound from CDs and DVD's were vastly superior to the Sony 300 (or the JVC723GD that I had home at the time.) The video was superior as well. There's other $1,000+ DVD players that are similar to the Sony in sound/video quality.
I would look at separates, B&K ref 20 and matching 5 channel amp or Lexicon DC-1 upgraded, and sometype of good solid 5 chaneel amp, B&K, Rotel, Bryston(if you can afford one), The key is performance for the dollar with a possiblilty for upgrades. I have a B&K and like it, has 2 channels so it plays music very well. And with some of the prices on the Ref20 $1000-$1400 you cannot beat it.
Slingshot, your points are well taken, but please answer the following: Being that the room is the single largest determinate of sound quality, why would anyone spend large sums of money on equipment if they are going to not address room issues. Using bang for the buck as the guideline, money spent on room treatment is probably a better investment than cables.
The room treatment and the cables are all important I think we can all agree on this point. I'm just wondering what are the locations of room treatment products when you are considering five speakers and a sub? When people say room treatment are they only considering an improvement in two channel sound? Are the locations for room treatments the same for five channels and 2 two channel systems? I'm not sure but I think I'm getting confused.
The subject of room treatment is too big for this format, but let me give an overview. Low frequency standing waves need to be addressed. Speaker placement and corner bass traps are effective for this. Early speaker reflections from nearby walls, the ceiling and the floor need to be attenuated. At the same time you must be careful not to overdamp the room. These points apply to 2 channel as well as HT systems. The Stereophile Guide to HT has a series of excellent articles that go into great detail about acoustic problems and their solution.
Onhwy61 ... You are right. My post assumes that the current room is at least acceptable, from a sonic stand point. Tweaking a room can cost a bundle or next to nothing if done creatively. I just feel that dismissing seperates out hand due to a lack of dedicated, highly specialized listening space is short sighted. Sharing a room with other household activities does not preclude making good sound, or even getting more out of said room through changes. Ergo, imho, seperates are still a better bet ... ASSUMING that the current room isn't a sonic basket case.
I am not sure how these product compare sonically at this price level. I will reiterate though the flexibility of seperates. Its great to be able to add or swap one piece giving you a long time value.
I'd have to give the nod to seperates. Purely from an upgradability and sound quality standpoint. While there are a lot of "good" receivers on the market, I don't think you can achieve "really good" power, processing, flexibility and upgradability from just a receiver. Also, I tend to shy away from "multi-channel" amplifiers, such as using only one to power your entire system. What would happen if the amplifier goes on the fritz? You've now lost your entire system. I prefer to stay with seperate 2- or 3-channel amps, (4-channels, if they're going to be bridged), that way if one dies, at least you still can listen to stereo sound by simply doing a quick re-wire of your system, if necessary.
Tmartin's post is valid, but given that few components have component video switching, especially in a budget market, and the number of outboard video switchers (extron comes to mind) the video issue is an easy upgrade later, especially if you use a good universal remte (I use a pronto)that can tie it all together...

Just a thought, personally I'd go seperates, I started my HT with a receiver, then added seperate power amps and finally went to seperate AV pre/pro (Linn AV5103). Seperates are always easier to upgrade and I find maintain resale value far better than receivers.