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Pro power amp vs. hi-fi integrated/power amp for 700-series (or any) speakers?

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  • Pro power amp vs. hi-fi integrated/power amp for 700-series (or any) speakers?

    I was wondering if anyone here uses "pro" amplification to power their Chane speakers and, if so, what you think of the sound compared to ~$500-1,000 integrated amps or power amps. I've been looking at the Crown XLi 2500 amp (500 W/ch into 8 ohms, 750 W/ch into 4 ohms, US$450) vs. something like the Emotiva A-300 power amp (150 W/ch into 8 ohms, 300 W/ch into 4 ohms [albeit with different criteria], $399) or an integrated like the Yamaha A-S801 (100 W/ch into 8 ohms, 4-ohm figure not given, $899), or, finally, even a receiver like the Cambridge Audio AXR100 (100 W/ch into 8 ohms, 4-ohm figure not given, $499).

    What sorts of differences in the sound of these amps might I expect, particularly between the Crown and the other home-use amps in general? Is the added power/headroom worth the potentially increased distortion or noise or (from what I've read) harsh or grainy treble?

    Not trying to open a can of worms, just want to get a reality check of whether I should go down this path. If not, which of the ones I've listed would you recommend for the upcoming Chane 753 speakers?

    Thanks, all, and particularly Jon if you can shed some light on this. :-)

    —Chris
    Last edited by cgramer; 09-17-2020, 01:32 PM. Reason: One edit to price range for amps and added tags
    New system: Receiver/integrated amp TBD; Chane Model 753 speakers!

  • #2
    I'm not nearly current enough, no pun, on the amplifier market to offer much. Generally, the very large pro amp using a switching supply is in a different area than an excellent conventional audiophile-style amplifier. So is the typical imported AVR - it's much different than both too.

    I'd personally stay in that second category, and I'd shop the products recommended by ears-on reviewers I trusted. As a professional opinion, I'd avoid the pro class almost entirely, as would I avoid the inexpensive imported AVR class. This in reference to the 700 models and the L models.

    The classic A/B circuit and a linear supply driving it have been staples of the better sounding audio amplifiers for decades, although positive claims are being made for D class amps like the Hypex NCore. That just could be a top performance value choice.

    EXPERT opinion: Bruno Putzeys (Purifi, Hypex, Kii, Mola Mola)

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    • #3
      I've used pro amps for years to run subwoofers because you get a lot of watts per dollar where you really need power, and DSP flexibility. I've never considered using them for speakers, but some folks do. The main complaint I've heard when used in the higher frequencies is a problem with hiss. I would stick with more conventional A/B or better quality switching amps, but it wouldn't hurt to experiment to satisfy your curiosity. You could move it to the subs if it doesn't work out.

      Incidentally, the best amp I've ever owned was a Sunfire Cinema Grand. I still regret selling it.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Vergiliusm View Post
        I've used pro amps for years to run subwoofers because you get a lot of watts per dollar where you really need power, and DSP flexibility. I've never considered using them for speakers, but some folks do. The main complaint I've heard when used in the higher frequencies is a problem with hiss. I would stick with more conventional A/B or better quality switching amps, but it wouldn't hurt to experiment to satisfy your curiosity. You could move it to the subs if it doesn't work out.

        Incidentally, the best amp I've ever owned was a Sunfire Cinema Grand. I still regret selling it.
        Lots of expertise and experience with pro amps as well.

        The hiss that Vergilisium noted is due to the crushingly low signal to noise ratio that most pro amps have. Some fail to exceed 50dB SNR. That's in poorly-designed-chinese-tube-amp territory. Abysmal.

        This is due to a number of factors. Not the least of which are usually an excessive number of gain stages, often seeing 5-8 in class A/B designs. They only care about current delivery. Some of the newer amps are getting into the 80dB to low-90dB SNR range; about what a 30 year old Adcom or Rotel will do.

        The only exception I've experienced with noise in pro amps is when they are paired with a ridiculously expensive power regenerator. One that could supply even a low model Crown would be like a PS Audio P20. Costing many thousands and destroying the benefits of a low cost pro amp. But that setup (an HT setup) was DEAD quiet. As well it should be with a $8000 power generator. Might have been more. You get the idea.

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        • #5
          We tend to think of power amps as specialized circuitry - the "signal path" - powered by some forgotten lump that plugs into the wall. That power supply almost never factors in our common parlance.

          In actuality the audio power amplifier is a power supply sourced to the load - the speaker connected to the output - that's modulated by a valve, the specialized amplifier circuitry, whatever it may be. In the sense that it supplies the very dynamic signal leveraged by the input amplifier to moderate the output amplifier, the power supply is actually the amplifier.

          This then calls for two things: Noiselessness and low output impedance, or more practically put, a load-invariant, low-recovery time current source to the load.

          Awhile back Lynn Olson wrote a definitive practical guide to the perfectionist amplifier, and published a series of theoretical circuits - and by now practical real amplifiers - based on the special audio triode. The thrust of his work was that low-shudder recovery time, where the music signal could not induce much energy storage in the amplifier. While a tube amplifier has high relative output impedance, a circuit of this type is supremely musically responsive. It just gets out of the way of the current drive to the primary of the output transformer.

          It also features copious power supply filtering, each stage in the 3-stage amplifier having it's own, with regulators stabilizing the voltage supplies and current sources flattening and linearizing the already very low inherent distortion tube plate curves. Good audio triodes have supremely low inherent distortion and can switch at very high frequencies. It's why they were and are used for radio frequency.

          In practice a very well stabilized, regulated, and minimal feedback amplifier works very well, which returns us to the basics: Very robust, quiet power supplies. This also tells us why in 2020 we're just now seeing the emergence of Class D amplifiers with the musical ease and flow of over a hundred years of combined vacuum tube and classic transistor amplifiers.

          This also tells us why great amps aren't cheap. A gonzo tube amplifier may have a dozen major pieces of magnetics in the power supplies, and the chassis can be enormous, just for ten or twenty watts. And as Buford notes, excess stages and poor supplies naturally wreck the sound.

          PS: The implications of responsiveness and low energy storage apply just as much to speakers. Here in the day of cheap data we're tempted to see speakers as simple tonal devices, their sound wrapped up in amplitude responses with a nod to low distortion. Admirable traits and a good starting place, but speakers, like music, are time and pitch devices, having impulse behaviors, energy storage, and so on. Simple tonal data doesn't describe their sound all that well. It only informs as to their relative loudness uniformity over frequency.

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          • #6
            Hey Cr I think it may have a lot to do with the music you listen too also. If it is a lot of heavy metal or electronic music at LOUD volumes the his or THD may not be an issue. I can tell you when I was 17 and listening to black sabbath in my friends basement on his old pioneer receiver we could not tell the screech from the hiss. If you are more into the quiet jazz or classical you mat what something more elegant, maybe an NAD or Hegel or luxman. I was going to look for the IOTAVX AVXP1 for a 5 channel system but cannot find it in the us.

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            • #7
              Another pro amp user here, but that was for my DIY subs, for powering speakers I have owned Emotiva, D-Sonic and currently use a Outlaw 7000X amplifier, I have personally really liked them all, I'm not certain on the specs of the 753 but having more power is better than not having enough, and also quality power. Emotiva is internet direct like Chane so they have a great dollar to performance value.

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