Buying that AV amp

Buying that AV amp

Life is complicated. Just when we have that spare cash to build up a new home theatre system, we discover that there are so many brands, models and features.

Actually it gets simpler when we do the guy thing - break it down into compartments:

First - budget.

Decide on a realistic amount. It is quite silly to ask for "great music performance", "superb home theatre experience", "lastest technology" and only want to pay a few hundred.
Life isn't fair and some compromises will need to be made.

Second - music / HT balance.
When we have a limited budget, avoid spreading your budget too thin. Unless you exceed 2-4k, a typical AV amp/ reciever won't come close to a stereo amp in performance. It is usually equal to a stereo amp in sonic quality 1/3 the price. You are paying for features, so if music matters mainly, get a stereo amp. Otherwise the main reason we get a AV amp is for HT.

Third - features.

Do we need 3D? Itunes playback? Network?
To some, this is the main reason, to others they are mere frills.

I need a good room equalisation software, be it Audyssey, MACC, YPAO, ARC or others, but the most solid, my money can buy.
I need dual sub outs
I need GUI displays

Secondary stuff: network, DNLA, are fluff, 3D is way down the list.

I need a solid amp section, not merely some published spec but the real deal. What caps, whats the weigh of the amp, are there fans?
If you choose some low impedance speaker, say 4ohm design etc, this is less likely to be those budget friendly entry level stuff, so why partner it with a AV amp that has a weedy power supply. An entry level amp with a specification of 100w times 7 written on the side of the box is not going to do the job. If you belief that it will really produce that amount of power, you must also believe in tooth fairies and strike lottery daily. A simple calculation involves downloading the manual and seeing the power consumption of the unit, if it consumes 400W in total, it is less likely to give you 700w worth of output.

But even a budget amp with pre-outs can give you thunderous output, by outsourcing the power needs to an external power amp. That's why pre-outs form part of my checklist.

Pre-outs, multi-inputs, 12v triggers.

Ease of use is something we neglect too that is pretty important.

I also need 7.1 at least, but I will go 9.2 or 11.2.

Made in Japan?
Gold plated plugs?

Cute but not a deal breaker.

Your own list may vary, but have a system of what is most important.

Fourth: partnering equipment

There is a balance. Remember, the amp is only as good as the speakers / sub and source. For hi def programs, the differences between BR is less, so the speakers play the most important difference.

Each brand of amps will advertise it's own sonic signature, but there are less differences than stereo amps. Go with what you are comfy with, choose one model and partner it with the speakers you have shortlisted.


No amount of solicitation of advise will replace a good demo session. And if you opt for satellite speakers, there is really no sense in buying a top of the line AV amp, which cannot bring out the best in your system. And if your idea of hi fi is Bose, well save the money and spend it on the software like BR discs instead.

One very important thing is that amps tend to go obsolete. So I would not expect resale to be great and buy what you need.

Good luck!


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

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