whitehart

Advantages and disadvantages of pre/power over intigrated

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1 hour ago, MF 1000 said:

Currently my amp box count in my active system is 7 and shortly to increase to 8 :nerves:

My current active system has the amps attached to the back of the cabs, so they don't count :D

So the only things on view are the passive pre and the miniDSP. 

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If we apply the KISS principle to amplification what is the technical reasoning (performance wise) behind splitting things into two boxes?

I see none.

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The single biggest advantage for me of having gone down the pre/power route many years ago, is that I've now been able to do away with the pre-amp and run my power amp directly from the output of my miniDSP.

In terms of anyone buying amps, I'd listen to integrated amps and pre/power combinations, and buy what works best / you like best.

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Ok in my opinion separate pre and power is the ideal way for the enthusiast.

You find an amp that will drive your favourite speakers, you find a preamp with a superb phono stage and then forget about it.

You decide that your speakers need changing - oh heck the ones you want to buy need twice the power and an amp capable of driving speakers down to 2 ohms.  With a separate pre power - you just have to switch out and replace the power amp.

You find the integrated that you think has everything soundwise - only to find it does not have a balance control or enough inputs (I could not live without one because my ears are not equal so the balance needs to be turned slightly to favour the right ear).

Your power amp goes bang - you slip it out and send it off for repair - just two rca connectors to unplug and the mains - and you get a cheap class D or summat to keep you going (or unless you love your power amp so much you have collected three of them to ensure you have enough spare parts to keep at least one going for your lifetime .. then you just slot in one of the spares).

At the end of the day it is horses for courses.  To me all the above makes sense but it might not for you.

Oh I forgot one thing - you are a cable lover and love lots of exotic cables and you love trying new ones and switching them about,  well with a pre power you have another two to connect the pre to the power and you can spent lots of time and money finding the ones you like the best.

Last but not least if you want to go the whole hog you can have the pre close to hand and the power amps situated close to the loudspeakers thereby having the shortest speaker cable run possible and not have to walk 20 feet to the other end of the lounge every time you change a cd or lp or tinker with volume and balance etc (sorry my kit is so old no remote controls here :D ) 

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Posted (edited)

There is no intrinsic sonic advantage. There is a flexibility one but that is dispensed with if you buy a good integrated with enough inputs. I have had both, in many varieties, and I do believe it a myth that a combination of valve and solid state holds some advantage given there is no such thing as a valve sound or solid state sound. There are just good amps and less good amps so buy what suits you, and your speakers, in your room. If you enjoy the fannying around, choosing kit and swapping stuff in and out, that is all good too. In the words of Rizzo, "There are worse things I could do!"

Edited by oldius

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Super Wammer

There I see no way that you could 'manufacture' an integrated amp using my Type 26 valve Preamp stage and a 'beefy' power amp stage (either solid state or valve based).  It would hum like crazy, be huge and or require multiple separate power supplies etc and weigh a 'kin tonne too, so for me separate pre, power, phono etc is best

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1 minute ago, MF 1000 said:

There I see no way that you could 'manufacture' an integrated amp using my Type 26 valve Preamp stage and a 'beefy' power amp stage (either solid state or valve based).  It would hum like crazy, be huge and or require multiple separate power supplies etc and weigh a 'kin tonne too, so for me separate pre, power, phono etc is best

And if you like your amp fella, then power to your elbow. There are not many who go to the lengths you do in creating the sound you wish for so I doubt that a manufacturer would produce something that would suit you to the same extent that the investment you have made has helped you enjoy your system.

The only way to know, is to strip out all your gear and put a good integrated and fine speakers into your room. Does it sound better? If it does, then once again we get back to being no intrinsic advantage.

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Thanks for all the replies.

Sadly, listening before I buy isn't an option on this occasion... looking at the specs between my Accuphase integrated and their pre/power, there should be a significant improvement in sq and knowing the brand as I do, reliability and build quality won't be an issue.

I don't really want to become a seriel box swapper and certainly don't have the desire to try valves in the chain, besides Accuphase don't do valves and I intend to stick with that make as long as possible.

Mac

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2 hours ago, tuga said:

If we apply the KISS principle to amplification what is the technical reasoning (performance wise) behind splitting things into two boxes?

I see none.

22 minutes ago, oldius said:

There is no intrinsic sonic advantage. There is a flexibility one but that is dispensed with if you buy a good integrated with enough inputs. I have had both, in many varieties, and I do believe it a myth that a combination of valve and solid state holds some advantage given there is no such thing as a valve sound or solid state sound. There are just good amps and less good amps so buy what suits you, and your speakers, in your room. If you enjoy the fannying around, choosing kit and swapping stuff in and out, that is all good too. In the words of Rizzo, "There are worse things I could do!"

Generally, both these are true.

I guess (and it is a guess) the reason for separation to pre/power boxes was not merely marketing in days gone by, but because of eddy currents and the possibility for a huge transformer in the power stage to possibly induce unwanted currents in the preamp stage which are then amplified - so increase distortion. How significant this would be, I don't know, but I feel with modern practices paid to layout and internal shielding it probably doesn't matter.  

It also borrows the setup from pro audio where typically you have a singular pre somewhere in a rack alongside dedicated power amps in multiple other boxes selected according to need and compatibility with what they would be driving.Perhaps as it became fashionable to have huge expensive class A monsters like Krell KSA monos, the idea of an integrated you couldn't put in a hifi rack may have seemed anathema to marketing departments, but a pair of monos on dedicated amp stands would appease the marketing departments because it would convey a sense of pride of ownership and act like a status symbol.

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Posted (edited)
36 minutes ago, whitehart said:

I don't really want to become a seriel box swapper and certainly don't have the desire to try valves in the chain

Best listen to active speakers (ideally ones with a DAC inside, thus can accept a digital signal) and choose a single box high quality streamer to feed the speakers. Then assuming you really enjoy the speakers you bought, you won't be perpetually box swapping as there is little to change unless changing the speakers, for which the alternatives are far more limited in number compared to traditional audiophile gear.

For instance, you could get some Dutch & Dutch 8C speakers (or Kii Three speakers) and an Auralic streamer, or dCS Network Bridge and not look back. In the short term, your Sonos would work well too. The speakers make the biggest difference to sound quality, so if these are top notch, the result will be excellent even if the Sonos has higher jitter than some of the more expensive options and gets sneers from some people. 

Another way to ice this cake is to build a dedicated audio PC with either a pro audio sound card like a Lynx AES16 or a motherboard with its own high quality digital outputs, and, together with Roon, drive digital speakers direct from that. You could put some measurement software on the PC like REW or miniDSP and use a USB microphone to take measurements and provide any additional corrections for your room acoustics by adding a convolution filter to Roon. Such a filter would amend the digital signal before output to the speakers such that playback is corrected for any speaker foibles and uneven room acoustics. You can always update the PC hardware over time to enable plenty of processing power (more than commercial 'hifi' units) and thus never becoming obsolete, whilst use of Roon will permit you to use a tablet or phone for control of music much like your Sonos software.

At the end of the day, if you can provide a bit-perfect, noise free signal to digital speakers, the quality of playback will solely be based on your choice of digital speakers. So if you find digital speakers where you are truly enamoured with the sound quality, you won't need to consider box swapping to get 'better' and can simply enjoy great sound.

Edited by Metatron

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Tony_J said:

My current active system has the amps attached to the back of the cabs, so they don't count :D

So the only things on view are the passive pre and the miniDSP. 

There is absolutely no way I am going to get involved in a 'how many boxes in your system' thread at the moment  :nup:

Edited by rabski
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Posted (edited)

Stewart Hegeman, a Harman Kardon engineer from yesteryear, once described the perfect amplifier as "A straight wire with gain."

I like to equate an audio system to a formula 1 car, a tool designed with a single purpose in mind: performance.

From that perspective, and please correct me if I'm mistaken, it seems logical that in order to achieve gain with maximum effectiveness and as little distortion as feasible the circuit should be as simple as possible but not simpler. And whatever else one adds to the signal path will consequently have a negative impact on transparency or accuracy. This includes tone and balance controls, source selectors, cables with their plugs and sockets, two completely separate circuits. I also wonder whether adding an extra box with an extra power supply won't affect grounding, but my knowledge is quite limited. An extra box and PSU will also consume financial resources which would be applied more effectively in improving the quality/tolerance of electronic components, more effective heatsinks, EMI/RFI and vibration control, etc.

Moving on to the next cliché, "Jack of all trades, master of none", I find that trying to add more functions to an amplifier is from a conceptual perspective not a good idea, so I would rather have the phono stage and the D/A conversion located in a separate unit.

But I do wonder if a DAC/pre + power has more performance potential than a DAC + integrated... Or if it wouldn't be even better if we were to just skip the preamplifier altogether and use the music playing software's digital volume control into a DAC + power.

.

But it's nice to have a lot of flexibility because some people have particular real-world requirements regarding inputs/sources or wish to season the presentation to taste.

Edited by tuga

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Like many here I've been playing this silly game for too many years and have owned and enjoyed many systems costing from many thousands to a couple of hundred.

If faff wasn't an issue, I would say that the fewer design compromises and the flexibility of separate pre / power can be made to result in a better sound, ultimately.

I still own a decent pre, power and phono stage, but spend all of my time listening to my far simpler, less faff, late 70's integrated.

I lose next to nothing in ultimate SQ and seem to enjoy the music more, maybe because I listen less critically.

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Super Wammer
2 hours ago, uzzy said:

Ok in my opinion separate pre and power is the ideal way for the enthusiast.

You find an amp that will drive your favourite speakers, you find a preamp with a superb phono stage and then forget about it.

You decide that your speakers need changing - oh heck the ones you want to buy need twice the power and an amp capable of driving speakers down to 2 ohms.  With a separate pre power - you just have to switch out and replace the power amp.

You find the integrated that you think has everything soundwise - only to find it does not have a balance control or enough inputs (I could not live without one because my ears are not equal so the balance needs to be turned slightly to favour the right ear).

Your power amp goes bang - you slip it out and send it off for repair - just two rca connectors to unplug and the mains - and you get a cheap class D or summat to keep you going (or unless you love your power amp so much you have collected three of them to ensure you have enough spare parts to keep at least one going for your lifetime .. then you just slot in one of the spares).

At the end of the day it is horses for courses.  To me all the above makes sense but it might not for you.

Oh I forgot one thing - you are a cable lover and love lots of exotic cables and you love trying new ones and switching them about,  well with a pre power you have another two to connect the pre to the power and you can spent lots of time and money finding the ones you like the best.

Last but not least if you want to go the whole hog you can have the pre close to hand and the power amps situated close to the loudspeakers thereby having the shortest speaker cable run possible and not have to walk 20 feet to the other end of the lounge every time you change a cd or lp or tinker with volume and balance etc (sorry my kit is so old no remote controls here :D ) 

Some great points in this thread and uzzy really gives some good pragmatic reasons for pre power . having tried close to 30 plus pre amps in recent years i am leaning more to integrated and its just less space taken up, less cables and there are some tremendous integrated amps out there 

One might change the power amp if  getting different speakers but these shl5plus have apparently sounded  good with the e470 integrated , would it not just make sense to move to a better integrated like the accuphase E650 ? 

http://www.accuphase.com/model/e-650.html

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