Do you really need a power amp?

 I know some readers will be up in arms over my opinion, but this is my personal observation:

This came up during our recent gathering, and new bros may find all the heady talk on processors and power amps very sexy and feel a need to get one.

Well here are some salient points to consider:


If you have a small room, eg a apartment living room or bedroom, most AV amps are fine

If you use efficient speakers - 8 ohms design, 89 db and above, most AV amps are fine

What a typical budget or value for money power amp does for you is:
- give you more headroom and dynamics
Which means that if you have less than efficient speakers you can enjoy the real dynamics and not risk your speakers sound like they are running out of steam or clipping
(if there are terms like clipping which sound unfamilar, then this power amp thing is NOT for you and you are strongly advised to read up first!)

- this increase in dynamics does make a difference in the sound quality if you prefer your music loud and proud, like 4 ohm design speakers such as Dynaudio, etc.

BUT do the standard Emotiva, Rotel, NAD etc give you a more musical sound?

IMO, no.

They will sound better than the AV amp's internal power modules simply because they are usually rather weak, have low damping factor etc. But if you are looking to improve the sound for music, I would suggest two means of getting better sound:

- get a better source, eg, get a CD player that is good for music and avoid that budget Blu Ray player as a source. One with good DACs and use the analogue outputs to the amp

- get a good stereo amplifier with HT BYPASS, so that in HT, the amp acts like a power amp, and in music, the stereo amp is used along with the speakers and the RCA outputs of the CD player or BR player.

I had a few power amps, most of which top 200W per channel. They gave my Dynaudio Audience speakers more dynamics, but did not sound better than the internal amps of my Marantz AV amp (SR 19, SR 18 etc).

And in stereo, many decent AV Amps can provide sufficient juice, esp if you get a mid-level and above one.

I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

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