Improving Stereo Performance of a Surround Sound Setup – Part 1

I hear and read of numerous reports from people with surround sound systems, that are not performing as well as desired for stereo music playback. Some are people who sold their old stereo setup, jumped on the surround sound band wagon, and now miss the musical qualities of their previous system. Others have started out with a surround sound system, but underestimated how much music they play and now find their system lacking in this department.

In both cases, people have fallen for the marketing hype that more channels is better, 5.1, 7.1, z height channels etc. For films, games and TV this can provide an enjoyable listening experience, but most of us still listen to a lot of music, 95% of which is still in 2 channel stereo. In this article I’m going to address why a surround sound system can’t compete with a dedicated stereo system and discuss some solutions to work around and improve your stereo performance.

So why do surround sound systems have such poor stereo performance compared to a stereo system? 
There are several reasons:-

  1. Digital processing; many surround AV receivers will digitize incoming signals by default, then process them, be it bass management, DSP modes, or matrixing them up to multi channel surround sound (using Dolby ProLogic for example). All of which degrades and colours the sound.
  2. Economics; if you spend £1000 on a stereo amp, that’s £500 per channel of amplification. With an AV receiver at £1000, that’s split between digital processor, video processor/switching, and 5 or 7 channels of amplification. Essentially for stereo usage, you’re listening to the equivalent of a £100-200 amp! No wonder it can’t come close to a £1000 stereo amp.
  3. One box mentality; with everything in a one box AV receiver, all the digital electronics crammed in can cause interference with the analogue circuitry. There simply isn’t the room to separate them out. For many receivers all circuitry and amplification channels are powered using a single PSU (see photo below, #6), which can struggle at high loads and may not be able to provide the cleanest power to each component when everything is at full swing.
Inside a Sony STR-DA3600ES Receiver
Inside a Sony STR-DA3600ES Receiver

For top notch stereo playback, your front left/right speakers will be doing all the work. As such these should be the best speakers you can afford. Cheaper speakers for the rear channels will be far less noticeable than cheaper speakers at the front. Of course, for good quality surround sound, the front centre speaker should match your front left/right.

Stereo Signal Path with an AV Receiver
Before we consider options to improve stereo performance, it is beneficial to consider the signal path a stereo source has to go through when using an AV receiver.

AV Receiver Signal Chain


If you have sources, that can output a digital signal e.g. CD Player, Music streaming devices etc, then the first step, ADC, within the AVR is bypassed. Often these devices can output both analogue and digital signals, with the former using their own internal DAC chip. This gives you a choice on how you connect them, which will be covered later.

Analogue Bypass
Many AV receivers have the option to bypass the first few steps in this path, ADC – DSP – DAC. This is usually labelled ‘Pure’, ‘Direct’ or ‘Bypass’ depending on the brand.  This should be the first thing to experiment with. It will give a cleaner signal with lower noise. Of course, this will mean no DSP can be performed, no matrixing stereo up to surround, no room EQ etc. This will simply send the stereo signal straight through the amp, unadulterated and with least colouration.

Some AV receivers/processors only provide true analogue bypass on the 5.1/7.1 analogue inputs, for example the popular Audiolab 8000AP processor. In which case, connecting the stereo source to the front left/right channels of this input will work fine, the surround channel inputs will be left unused. Unfortunately, this means only one source can benefit from a clean signal path through the receiver.

Turn Video Circuitry Off
Some AV receivers have the option to disable the video circuitry or turn it off completely. Other have the option to disable the graphical LCD display on the front of the case. Both of these options can slightly improve sound quality. This is because these circuits can cause interference to the analogue components, often manifesting itself as a slightly higher noise floor or slight hiss in the background.  Either way, this option is definitely worth experimenting with and costs nothing.

Power Amplification Stage
The next simplest point in the signal path to improve, is the power amplification stage. Assuming you AV Receiver has pre-out connections, at least for the front left/right channels, you can connect a separate stereo power amp to drive these stereo channels. In this set-up, the AV receiver will no longer amplify the front left/right channels and delegate it to a separate power amp.


Connecting Power Amp to AVRNote, after connecting the power amp, run through your AV receivers speaker level setup again. The power amp may have different gain to the power amp stage of your AV receiver, so the front left/right channels may need increasing/decreasing in volume a little.

The advantages with this are many:

  1. No longer sharing power supply with rest of AV receiver, thus no longer compromising the performance of the front two channels, particularly during those moments of high load large transients.
  2. Isolation from the rest of the AV receiver, thus preventing interference, be it air born radio frequency interference (RFI) or electrical from shared power supply.
  3. Returning to our earlier equations of economics, we suggested only £100-200 or a £1000 AV receiver may actually be assigned to the front left/right analogue amplification components. Hence one need not spend a huge sum to acquire a better power amp, a £500 budget should garner a respectable performance improvement.
  4. Using a separate power amp gives you greater choice, so one can find a preferable sound. Many newer AV receiver use Class-D amplification, which sometimes can have a harsh or bright sound. With a separate power, one could opt for a warm sounding class-A amp or even a valve amp.

A related, but alternative set-up, would be to use both a separate power amp and the power amp stage of your AV receiver. If your speakers have bi-wireable terminals, one could drive the high frequency tweeters with the AV receiver and the low frequency bass drivers with a separate power amp. This bi-amp setup presents only the tweeters or bass drivers to each amp, giving each an easier load, pushing them less and resulting in better performance.

Please note, with this setup, case must be taken to match the gain of the AV receivers power amp with the separate power amp, if one is louder than the other, the highs or bass frequencies will be exaggerated. So opt for a matching power amp from the same brand/range as the AV receiver, or choose a power amp which has user adjustable gain controls, so that it can be tuned to the same volume as the AV receiver.

When choosing a separate power amp, the obvious choice is a standard one box stereo power amp, to cover the front left/right channels. However other options are:

  1. Classic Quad II Valve Monoblocks
    Classic Quad II Valve Monoblocks

    A pair of monoblocks, two mono amps, one to drive left speaker, one to drive the right speaker.

  2. A multi channel surround sound power amp, i.e. a power amp with 3 or more channels. Use this to drive the front 3 speakers or all speakers, leaving the AV receiver to just perform digital processing and pre amp duties.
  3. Use a power amp with 4 or more channels, utilising 2 channels for front left and 2 channels for front right speakers, in a bi-amped setup (if your speakers have bi-wireable terminals). 5 channel power amps are more common than 4, so you could use the spare 5th channel for the front centre.
Naim V175 3 Channel Power Amp
Naim V175 3 Channel Power Amp

Note, using the same or similar power amp to drive the front centre channel as the front left/right, helps keep a consistent character of sound across the front, important for good surround sound performance. However matching amplifiers is less important than matching speakers at the front.

In summary, by adding an extra power amp box to your setup, you can simply improve the stereo performance of your surround sound system. The big advantage with this route being no change to usage, volume and source selection are still exclusively controlled via the AV receiver.

Read more in Part 2 of Improving Stereo Performance of a Surround Sound Setup.

58 thoughts on “Improving Stereo Performance of a Surround Sound Setup – Part 1”

  1. Do you think that the power handling of the surround speakers will be better when 3 fronts are running off the pre out to the power amp? I assume that the surround speakers will get more power this way – at least they can be run without overloading internal amp. Can someone give me answer for this.


    1. Definely. Spreading the load across many amplifiers (and power supplies) will lessen the likelyhood of overloading, and should improve the sound all round.

    2. The answer is as follows; use the following third amplified surround sound Dolby processor with line output for front speaker and same component with it’s amplified surround speaker speaker out put directly to Center speaker and front front speakers pre amped line out to separate power amp. Set Dolby Digital 5.1 Receiver to 4 Channel stereo DSP and run A Speakers output to the Rear Speakers..This gives you parametric bass control and bass boost to front three matrixed speaker and the rear speakers as well.

  2. In accordance with what you explained in your article on stereo- and surround sound I want to install a 5.1 home cinema system, and at the same time hang on to my NAD C350 Integrated amp. This stereo amp produces a wonderful sound in combination with the Dynaudio Audience 40 front speakers.

    I have the Dynaudio wireless Xeo 3 speakers at the rear and will soon be getting a subwoofer and centre speaker of the same brand.

    With regard to getting a good-quality a/v receiver, there is only limited space in my audio cupboard. Because of this, I had my eyes on the Marantz NR1603 Slim Line Receiver. To drive the wireless Xeo 3 rear speakers, however, I need to have a receiver with pre-out connections, which the Marantz NR1603 does not have, so I have been told.

    As my living room is medium-sized : 5.5 x 4.0 m., there is no need for a powerful, bulky 5.1 or 7.1 a/v receiver.

    Is there – in your opinion – a good alternative or other good option to resolve this audio/video “problem”?

    My thanks for your response in advance !

    Kind regards,

    Amadeo Kuijpers

    1. Your Dynaudio Xeo 3 rear speakers are active. That is they have a built in power amplifier, and merely need feeding with a line level signal from the pre-out of an AV receiver or processor. Since you want to retain your Nad C350 (which is a decent amp) to power the front channels, it makes no sense going for an AV receiver with 5 channels of amplification – you’d only be using one of them for the centre speaker!

      As such, I would look for a surround processor that just does the decoding and then just hunt down a mono block amplifier for the centre speaker. If space is tight, maybe consider something from the Cyrus AV range (AV5 or AV8) or an old Meridian 5** series processor. These are getting on a bit, and don’t have any HDMI inputs or HD audio decoding capabilities, but can be picked up cheap these days. A HDMI capable processor will set you back a lot more.

      Ideally a Nad power amp would be used to drive the centre channel, but matching amplifier brands across the front is less critical than matching speaker brands/models. So, a small Cyrus power amp for the front would be the obvious choice.

      1. Hi Admin,

        I would like to hang on to my stereo set (NAD C350 amp + Dynaudio front speakers) as indicated.

        Would the following be a good option ? “Getting” a good-quality a/v receiver with proper pre-outs to drive the same 2 Dynaudio front speakers, the (wireless) Xeo 3 speakers at the rear ánd the subwoofer + centre speaker ?

        The front speakers need then to be unplugged from the NAD amp or switched off. with a special switch between amp and a/v receiver.

        My biggest concern, however, is that a surround set-up with analogue ánd digital speakers will nót produce a genuine surround sound. (A police car with sirens blaring coming front the front should be heard disappearing at the rear.)

        I want to hear the sound come ánd disappear !

        What do yoú think ? I would not mind paying a few bucks for the right a/v receiver, the one that produces the real surround sound.

        I very much appreciate your advice in this matter.

        Kind regards,


        1. Mixing the Xeo 3 wireless speakers and your Audience 40 front speakers is not an issue. They’ll work fine together, sounds will pan fine between them. You may need to tweak the delay settings to take into account any latency incurred from the wireless connection. But you should tweak these settings anyway to counter to varying distances each speaker is from your listening position.

          You’re Nad C350 has a ‘main in’ socket on the back, currently hooked up to one of the amp’s pre outs. This is what connects the Nad’s pre amp section to its power amp section. The best way to use this in a surround setup, would be to put a switch box between these connections, so you can selectively plug the front pre-outs connections of an AV receiver or processor into the main-in of the Nad, thus using just its power amp section for surround sound. Putting a switch here is a better option than using a speaker cable switch further down the chain; some switches may cause both amps speakers outputs to be connected to one another momentarily mid switch (bad!) and some amp don’t like having no speakers connected. Besides, you want to use the power amp section of the Nad, in preference to one in an AV receiver.

          If you picked up an AV receiver, you would be simply bypassing it’s power amp section for the front 2 channels, and using the Nad’s power amp section instead. Now, since your Xeo 3 speakers are active and have a power amp section built in, they too, would not use the power amp section of an AV receiver. Rather being fed from the rear channel pre-outs of the receiver. This potentially means an AV receiver would only have one of its 5 (or 7) power amp channels being used for the centre speaker! Not necessarily bad, but perhaps a little daft. Hence my suggestion for an AV processor (essentially an AV receiver without the power amp bits) and a single channel power amp for the centre speaker: save you buying bits you don’t need and a smaller boxes. That said, since AV receivers dominate the low end market and AV processors more the high end, you may find a good AV receiver cheaper…

          What is are your sources? Bluray player, TV, Sky, game consoles? Do you need HDMI inputs?

  3. My sources wil be : blu-ray player, (digital) TV, iPad (4) …..

    Which of the two options suggested – in addition to the NAD amp – requires the least space : AV processor + single channel power amp (for centre speaker) or a good receiver ?

    If the latter option is the better one, which good 5.1 AV receiver (if they are still being made) or else 7.1 AV receiver, would you advise me to get ?

    Is a centre speaker of the same (Dynaudio) brand to be preferred to one of a different brand ? And if that is the case, is the Dynaudio Contour SC 2-way bass reflex 150 W centre speaker in line with the 50 w power of the other 4 Dynaudio’s or is it too powerful ? (The subwoofer I have aleady ordered is the Dynaudio 250 Compact.)

    I hope I have not fired too many questions at once.

    Thank you for the extensive info you have given me, and my thanks again for the response to the questions above.

    Kind regards,

    Amadeo Kuijpers

    1. With your sources, it would make sense to go for a HDMI enabled processor or AV receiver. Space wise, AV receivers tend to be larger than processors, but if you went for a processor you’d need a power amp for the centre, so two boxes. So an AV receiver may well take up the least space.

      I have no idea what your budget is, but the obvious choice would be to stick to Nad, if only for sake of styling. Cheapest option would be a

      NAD T748 (~£550). A 7.1 channel AV receiver with 4 HDMI inputs.

      If you did want to go down the processor + monoblock route, a good option would be the
      Audiolab 8200AP processor (~£1300). A very capable slimline unit with 4 HDMI inputs.
      Power amp wise, you could opt for the NAD C275 BEE Power Amplifier (£900), which is a 2 channel stereo amp, but is bridgeable into mono (double the power to drive a single speaker). Or the Audiolab 8200M (£650) a slim mono block power amplifier.

      Don’t get too hung up sticking with Nad amplification for the centre to match the front left/right speakers. Although preferred, it’s not as important as actually matching the front 3 speakers. I think the centre speaker that matches your Dynaudio Audience 40’s, is the Audience 40 C. As this is no longer current, the 42 C would probably match well too, if you want to stick to new. The Contour SC is really a partner to the Contour S range.

      Don’t worry about matching sub brand.

      1. Hi Admin,

        Thank you for your eleborate answer to all my questions re the surround set-up I am planning to get.

        I have one last question, though. Is it necessary to have the Audience 42 C, as the replacement for the Audiece 40 ? Could it also be a center speaker of a different brand with matching features ? (I consider “matching” as having the same or similar Dynaudio sound colour.)

        I have my eyes set on the Waterfall Elore Center speaker, which has a very wide angled coverage similar to that of the dynaudio Xeo 3, so I have been told.

        This center speaker has a beautiful and modern look and is not as bulky as the Audience 42 C.

        I hope to be getting your answer to the final question above.

        (With regard to the AV receiver, It is my intention to purchase the Marantz SR 5007 or the Yamaha RX-A720. Which of the two – in yoúr opinion is the better one for my surround set-up?)

        Thank you in advance.

        Kind regards,

        Amadeo Kuijpers

        1. It is not recommended to mix brands or model ranges across the front three speakers. Try to keep them as similar as possible. Hence my suggestion for the Audience 40 C or its current incarnation, the 42 C (which I expect to still to have a similar sound character). Although the centre speaker is used primarily for dialogue, surround sound material will often pan music, voices and effects across the front speakers. If these are mismatched, you will notice tonal differences that can be jarring and spoil your immersion into the film.

          Effects will also pan from front to rear, but often the rears are just used for ambience and sound effects. Along with the sound coming from a wholly different direction, tonal differences not so easily discerned. Ideally, they too should match the fronts, but this matching is less important than matching the front three speakers.

          So, if you really are dead set on the Waterfall Elora Centre speakers, then you should also be looking at the Waterfall Iguasçu Evo for your front left/right… Talk about budget creep! 😉

          1. Hi Admin,
            Thank you, in particular for your advice re the Dynaudio Audience center speaker. I will take it to heart and am going to look for the Audience 42 C.

            Kind regards,


  4. An addition to my previous reply : The TV, that need to be connected, will be the Panasonic Viera Led WT 60.

    Amadeo Kuijpers

  5. I find all this fascinating, because for some years I’ve wanted an audio set-up that provided surround sound without degrading (ideally without interfering in any way with) two-channel performance for listening exclusively to classical music. I’ve also wanted it without spending large sums on digital filtering or processing I don’t actually want. I think a possible solution is a modification of your second diagram above – perhaps even its logical extension? Instead of an AV receiver, add an analogue surround processor, connecting power amps for the L/R rears and a monoblock for the centre. Power amplification for the front L/R channels would be through a conventional 2 channel amp for use use in power amp mode. So far, so simple.
    What I’d like to do then is to connect a SACD only player’s analogue outputs to the processor and a 2-channel CD player to the front channels amplifier, here acting as both pre- and power as it happens to be an integrated with different inputs for these purposes. I think I would need some sort of switching device to avoid schizophrenia or damage to the power stage of the last mentioned amp?
    I have most of the kit to do this: the amplification (REGA), speakers (WATERFALL) and 2 channel CD transport and DAC (REGA again). The main expense would be the SACD player: preferably a SACD only model. I am hopeful an “obsolete” processsor like a Meridian 541 might be perfectly adequate…… they can be picked up quite easily.
    Does that all make sense? Do you or anyone else have any advice or comment on any of it including particularly the switching issue? The beauty if it worked would be utilising all this kit so fully, making the investment work to reproduce music and avoiding fairly pointless changes to rather nasty newer products.

    1. You’re quite right, the AV receiver I’ve shown in the diagrams could be substituted with a good AV processor and other power amps/monoblocks to drive the centre and rear channels. I use a very nice Primare SP31.7 processor in my own personal setup.

      Regarding, your idea for connecting a SACD and CD player, especially the connecting the latter directly to the power amp, is very interesting. I’ve heard a reports from a few people of good results from doing this. However, do bear in mind you need a CD player (or other other similar source) that has a built in volume control. Otherwise you will be sending a none attenuated signal to the power amp, effective max volume and undoubtedly damage your speakers, hearing or both! You also have the issue of requiring a switch, to control whether the power amp is fed from the AV receiver/processor or CD player. A box with an input switch and volume control, is pretty much a pre-amp! That said something like the small Creek OBH-12 passive pre-amp (with remote control) would be ideal.

      You are correct in thinking the old Meridian processors maybe ideal. However do bear in mind, none of the Meridian products featured a 5.1 surround analogue input, to cater the surround output of a SACD player. They only supported analogue stereo of SPDIF digital inputs.

  6. Thank you – that’s really helpful advice about the preamp / processor for the 5 channel signal. On the rest, I can’t have explained myself thoroughly: the amp in question is an integrated one that can be variously used as a power amp or an integrated, so I think I’d be OK connecting the 2-channel CD/DAC signal straight to it: it has a volume control. Kind regards.

  7. … and I’ve now navigated to your Part 2 and see that you’ve covered this there pretty comprehensively so apologies for not noticing previously!

  8. Hi. I am wanting a new system for my living room and only wanting to spend around £1200 for amp and speakers. I am wanting to go with JBL for my speakers but stuck as to which amp/Receiver to purchase. I am wanting to use 2 floor standing speakers at the front and 2 bookshelf speakers at the rear. and a powered sub i already own.

    The thing i dislike about surround systems is that i live in an apartment and constantly have my finger on the volume button as i have to boost the volume for speech but then when an action scene kicks in i have to lower it down and my current system doesn’t have many EQ features to play with.

    I’m thinking of going with an Amp instead of an Av Receiver as I’m going to mainly use the system for listening to music and TV through and not really bothered about surround sound but would still like rear speakers and a sub for a fuller sound stage. are there many Amps on the market that have an Optical fiber input as my TV does not have RCA out. and would you say an amp would be better for me rather than an av receiver?

    Thanks for your help..

    1. Regarding your problem with having to constantly change volume during quiet/loud passages of a film; this is due to the larger dynamic range most films have, i.e. the difference between quiet and loud parts. A setup that can handle a large dynamic range like this is what differentiates a quality system from a crap system, and in almost all cases the dynamic range will still not match that of a good live performance. That said, I can understand when in a living room situation (with neighbours next door) you may not want such loud parts, but still want to hear the quiet parts. Most AV Receivers have a ‘night time’ mode, which will squash this dynamic range, bringing the quieter and louder parts closer together, giving a more uniform volume.

      You made no mention of a centre (front) speaker, do you have one? Most 5.1 surround material will send the dialogue to the centre speaker, so it comes from a position close to the actors you’re seeing on screen. If you’re missing a centre speaker and you’re current setup is not redirecting the dialogue to the front left and right, this too would explain why you can barely here the dialogue.

      As to go with a stereo amp or AV receiver – a tough choice. Your TV not having RCA output is a bit awkward, very few stereo amps have optical input (and thus a built in DAC). This could however be negated by the addition of a cheap DAC to sit between the TV and amp. You would also need to ensure your TV can convert Dolby surround material (as broadcast often on HD channels) to plain stereo PCM, for a stereo DAC to handle. Quite a few stereo amps can drive four speakers, which would cover your rears, however I doubt this would add much. A good pair of front speakers shouldn’t need rears to provide a fuller sound (unless you lounge is insanely huge). With a stereo amp, your sub will need to be connected via a high level input (direct from speaker terminals) or a low level input (from the amp’s pre-outs, probably using a Y-cable). Ensure in either case the necessary connections are available.

      Now, an AV receiver would certainly be a neater solution, it will have optical input, be able to decode Dolby surround from TV, drive centre and rear speakers, have a dedicated sub pre-out with bass management and will have the ‘night time’ mode. Personally, I’d go down this route and pick one with a good direct mode, to bypass all the digital circuitry when listening to plain stereo music (albeit without rears and sub). Now you just need to decide if you a newish AV amp with HDMI support, or an older, but high end AV amp without. The latter route will see you picking up an amp that once sold for £2000-3000 for around ~£200, and probably give you much better stereo music performance than a new amp for less than £500.

  9. your website is very clever. and your ideas helpful. the solutions being offered in the commodity market are not on. I have an old adcom GFA 545II. the preamp got lifted in a move. so now i need a solution. I have been running the pc output through a alessis firewire mixer which has a dac in it and have a temp preamp which is working. the fronts are old kef k’s. not much but good enough. so what i need is to do what you advise. 1) get a new multichannel amp (I like onkyo but could be persuaded to NAD or other) to run the center and back and act as a preamp for PC/digital signal inputs for music 2) put a better DAC in front of it. i like the firewire sound through audioquest cable so i lean toward firewire dacs but what do you like. 3) maybe swap out the speakers though kefs do make some nice centers. dont have enough room for towers or a lot. and actually like the two channel more than multi but need a center for tv for most things. thanks.

  10. Hi there, I have a Yamaha Z7 with Spendor D7 fronts and other surrounds.
    I was looking at a Bryston 2.5 (135w x 2) power amp using the pre outs on the Yamaha.
    The yamaha is classed as good (not great) as far as stereo goes but I was wondering how much of an improvement there would be using ther Bryston.
    Is the pre on the Yamaha good enough to warrant the power amp.
    Advice appreciated.

  11. According to this way, as you said : “”A related, but alternative set-up, would be to use both a separate power amp and the power amp stage of your AV receiver. If your speakers have bi-wireable terminals, one could drive the high frequency tweeters with the AV receiver and the low frequency bass drivers with a separate power amp. This bi-amp setup presents only the tweeters or bass drivers to each amp, giving each an easier load, pushing them less and resulting in better performance.””
    What about the crossover frequency? The A/V will send high and low frequencies to the tweeter and the power amp will also send high and low frequencies to the woofers. Doesn’t this increase the possibility to damage the speaker and especially the tweeter (since it will be overloaded from the low frequencies that it can’t handle?) ?? Do we need an external crossover to split the frequencies?

    1. You are indeed quite correct, both amps will send high and low frequencies to the both the high and low bi-wireable terminals on the speakers. However, fear not, almost are bi-wireable speakers still have both terminals connected to an internal crossover that will filter out the lows frequencies from the tweeter and the high frequencies from the bass driver(s). This is known as passive bi-amping.

      Now you can go for active bi-amping. This is where an external crossover sits between the pre-amp and power-amp sections. Thus each power amp only amplifies the lows or the highs, thus each have a much lower load to cope with. Then you can connect each power amp directly to the tweeters/base drivers with no worry of damaging them. This setup is more complicated, but generally gives much greater performance, as each power amp is not amplifying part of the signal needlessly and not pushed as hard.

      1. Thanks for the fast reply! I realized afterwards that you were refering to passive biamping.
        So, for Active biamping i will need 2 integrated amps? The AV receiver will just play the role of the preamplifier. And the signal will go this way : Source>AVReceiver>Active Crossover wired after the pre-outs of the AVR>Splitted (from the crossover) to Integrated amp 1(High Freq) and Integrated Amp 2 (Low Freq)>Speakers.
        Is it correct?

  12. I want to connect a stereo power amp to drive my front speakers but I think I need a dedicated preamp since my AV receiver does not have preouts. Do I have to treat this as 2 separate systems with 2 sets of speaker wires for the fronts (switching them manually as required), or is there another way?

    1. That question has been my dilemma
      Unless someone corrects me ,if the receiver doesn’t have preout,you can’t Biamp !!!
      Can admin give us (me ) a good answer ?since I am trying to improve sound quality but my Yamaha RX V673 doesn’t have preout,yet the manual says you could Biamp ! How ?.?? Yamaha tech didn’t have a clue
      Thank you admin and anybody who can give us an answer

      1. You are correct, the RX V673 only has pre-outs for sub woofers, which is no good for connecting up another stereo amplifier. The Bi-amp functionality mentioned in the manual is where you use two of it’s internal power amplifier channels per speaker. i.e. if you just have a 5.1 setup, you can use the spare 2 channels to bi-amp the front speakers. The manual should describe how to reassign these spare channels such.

  13. I currently have Wharfedale 9.1 front speakers and an A/B source switch that auto-switches the speakers between my amp and receiver depending on which is sending a signal. It was a great solution since my receiver doesn’t have pre-outs, but now I’ll be looking to upgrade my entire AV/stereo set-up – including the receiver, fronts and stereo amp.

    Which is likely to give the least degradation in stereo sound quality – using the receiver’s pre-outs or continuing to use the speaker switch? I couldn’t say I noticed any real difference adding the switch in the current loop with my NAD C320BEE, but my next amp and speakers will be a level up (possibly a NAIT 5si) so any loss of fidelity might be more transparent.

  14. Hi,
    Thank you for the article.
    I’m Building a new home theater and going to use Marantz AV7005 processor and Anthem PVA5 power amp to drive a set of Paradigm Monitor v7 speaker set.
    I have few comments/questions:
    1. I know the processor has pure/direct mode but I’m still curious whether a dedicated stereo preamp would enhance the 2 channel stereo listening. What do you think?
    2. Can you tell me if the analog singnal I’m feeding the processor (e.g. CD or Phono) with be converted into digital inside the processor when using pure/direct mode (I’m asking because the volume knob is always digital in AV processors and receivers)?
    3 If you recommend using a dedicated stereo preamp along with the AVA processor, what is the best way to share the same power amp without loosing sound quality and with minimum user intervention?

  15. Thanks for the suggestions. I have an older Marantz 5.1 and would like to use it to drive the Center and rear speakers. The sub and Fronts will be managed by different amp vis preouts of the Marantz.

    My question is how to “turn off” the front channels? If I don’t connect the speakers wires, will the Marantz stop amplify those front channels, hence has more power for the center and rear channels?


    1. There is not normally any need to ‘turn off’ the front channels. Most receivers will handle this fine. Without the any speakers attached there will be no load, ensuring more current is available for the other channels. However, often in the speaker setup, you can specify what speakers are attached, small, large, or none.

  16. I bought a yamaha dsp-A3090 from a friend about 1 year ago and just recently it has stopped working. When I turn it on it works fine for about 4-5 seconds then there is a click noise that comes from the back left of the amp and it goes in to like a standby mode, it dosent fully turn off. I haven’t had the chance to take it to get serviced I have been quite busy. I have heard it could be a relay, but I don’t really know what that is. Would be great if I could get help from anyone to fix this problem myself thanks.

  17. I need some help. I have a 350 watt 5.1 surround sound receiver and I want to hookup three 1500 watt 2 channel amplifiers to my speakers. I have 2 1000 watt speakers for the front and 2 500 watt speakers for the rear and two 200 watt speakers for the center speakers. Can you help me on how to hook them up.

  18. Wow what a wealth of information. Thank you very much. Could I impose with a “few” questions to help in my search of 2-channel nirvana while still being able to watch Blu Rays with digital master tracks. I know the dam “do everything” AVR is the weakest link in my chain to obtain this goal.

    I have a Pioneer SC-61 with pre-outs. I plan on getting two Calyx Femti 125 amps, bi-amp configured feeding the fronts to improve stereo performance utilizing the SC-61’s pre-outs.

    The SC-61 has two sub connections that are running two JL F110 subs. My new front three main speakers are Snell LCR7-XL’s.

    I just purchased an OPPO BD105 for a source. It has 7 channel pre-outs.

    So my 2-channel chain is BD105 – SC-61 Pre Amp – Calyx Femti 125 – LCR7-XL’s.

    Everything in the chain with the exception of the SC-61 says high quality 2-channel. How much of a detriment is the SC-61 pre-amp to the final output to the fronts? As well how much of an influence does the SC-61’s output to the subs have?

    How good are the typical AVR’s “Direct” modes? How much processing is this eliminating? The SC-61 has two direct options, “Direct” and “Pure Direct”, the pure direct eliminates the subs and I obviously want the subs in my 2-channel listening. The purchase of those subs is what made me realize the rest of my system was not up to speed with them. They are a very fast and musical sub and my old speakers were not keeping up with them.

    The BD105 has a better pre-amp section I’m sure with 7 pre-outs, but seven amps is nuts for me.

    My goal is to improve the 2-channel, not the surround but everything is tied back to the AVR’s pre-amp.

    I was thinking of using the 2-channel output of the BD105 instead of out of the AVR. Is this bad to use the pre-amp from the source for the fronts and the AVR for the others?

    Ok that’s way too much ranting. If anybody has any input at all to my questions I thank you in advance for your time.

    1. The quality of ‘direct’ modes will vary from AVR to AVR. On your SC-61, in direct mode with the sub enabled it is almost certainly doing some processing and bass management to ensure the lower frequencies are sent to the subs. This normally done in the digital domain, so there will be some analogue to digital, then digital to analogue conversion going on. Unless you’re feeding a digital signal in from the BD105, in which case you’ll only be at the mercy of the bass & phase management of the SC-61.

      An alternative, particularly if you have analogue sources likes a turntable, would be to experiment with feeding the subs from the high level front speaker terminal in conjunction with the low level sub pre-outs. Just set your front speakers to full range and then care must be taken with tuning the subs correctly to ensure there’s no awkward humps of dips in the crossover (a mic and the Room EQ Wizard application helps a lot here). This will let you use your subs in PureDirect mode and then for surround sound content they’ll be fed from a combination of the .1 sub channel and the front speaker channels.

  19. I have nothing. And I know very little. Starting from scratch with little money. My priority is listening to music – classical and light classical and some popular and listening to abc FM radio. Also need to improve the sound on TV. But priority is quality of sound for music.

    my head is sore from trying to process all the info. Can u please recommend an amp of some kind and speakers. Maybe from your article I only need 2 speakers + subwoofer. Or do I need 5 channels. Thank u for any help

  20. Hello. Very interesting article. It somehow soves a problem o mine. I have the following setup. Denon AVR 1713 + 5.1 speakers. I want to puchase a turntable, and I am wondering if it wouldn’t be better to use analog amplification dedicated for the turntable, but without adding a pair of speaker.
    In the second picture the turntable is connected to the AV receiver (which acts as a preamp also). DENON AVR 1713 does not have phono pream so I have to purchase a dedicated phono preamp (If I was to connect the turntable to the AV receiver).
    My question is: can I replace the power amp (in the second picture) with an integrated amp, an connect the turntable to the integrated amp (which wil have a buil in phono preamp)?

    Thank you in advance

  21. Hello Admin,

    Need your expertise/advise. I need to upgrade my current 5.1 setup with Marantz sr7005 receiver and my Bower and Wilkins CM8 front speakers. Movie listening with my surrounds are on par with the current setup but not too thin or and lifeless with stereo music. I was hoping to keep the existing system and either add a power Amp or integrated stereo with HT bypass.

    I am considering Parasound A21 or integrated parasound and/or Hegel H160 ( a bit expensive), but unable to decide which will be a better route. I know there are so many out there but due to limited budget and not able to demo the units.

    Your advise will be appreciated!



  22. Hi Admin. I am having a harmon kardon AVR 260 , and have two floor standing JBL studio 280, 5 JBL control now speakers as surround. . This is a 7.1 system. I a, using a JBL ES 250 PW. I am using a Sony BD player.

    I am not really satisfied with the stereo music when I play the music using a stereo mode in the Avr. The depth and the clarity seems to get suppressed. When I use 7 channels the quality of music goes down. I was looking at Marantz PM 7005/ PM 8005. Please suggest.

  23. Quick question….
    Using a NAD t757 to play back both stereo and multi-channel sources. I am thinking of adding the NAD C275Bee stereo power amp to improve the performance of my music. Would I be better off shelling out big coin for an integrated amp (Rega, Primare) with unity gain/ home theatre bypass? Or sticking with my original plan. I play a lot of Lp’s etc

  24. I have a Pioneer Elite SC-05 AV Receiver in my 5.1 setup.
    Would using a secondary AV Receiver (Harman Kardon AVR525) only to power the left / right (ie. using left / right preouts from the Pioneer) benefit the overall sound at all ?
    I find the the HK sound was cleaner BUT that receiver did not have anything HDMI which I need so hence the Pioneer Elite SC-05.

  25. I have an old Denon AVR-1312. It is connected to WD TV Live via HDMI. And i have two Yamaha floor standers as front plus a Roth OLi KH2 subwoofer for lows. How can i enjoy the best stereo sound from the speakers? Shall i take composite output from WD TV Live and hook it to any RCA analogue stereo input of the receiver? If that is the connection is there any audio conversion taking place, sound mode is set to stereo?

  26. Hi..from my understanding it’s possible to hook my 2 cyrus mono amplifier to my yamaha av receiver using the pre out. Then i need to auto setup to syncronise the db level for volume output between yamaha av receive n cyrus mono amp.

    I will use this setup just for music only.

    Am i correct for my understanding?

  27. Hi,
    I am from India. This forum is very much helpful. I want to place my confusion in this forum before this forum i hv a Pioneer VSX 321 AV Receiver. recently I am facing an issue of intermittent shut down. The unit goes off about 3-4 seconds after it turns on. Pioneer service person inspected it and suggested a repair of about $250. whereas the system is about $275 in total. So i decided to throw it up. But when I heated its CPU IC with a hair dryer it started working perfect for a couple of days and then started the problem again after two days. Now I want to ask that if Iwould Change the CPU IC i.e M3030RFGPFP with a new one which is about $10 or so then do i need this I.C to programmed or just to install the new IC? Please reply.

    1. Sounds like it could be a dry solder joint. The heat may have helped re-join the solder. I have fixed an old Apple iBook in the past by placing the circuit board in the oven for a 5 minutes, however this too was a temporary fix that only lasted a month. Either way, the fix sounds quite specialised, I would definitely recommend you take it to specialist repair shop.

  28. If I connect active monitors to stereo preouts of an AVR and active sub to the sub pre out, will my monitors play full range or small (crossed over at 80Hz)? Thank you

    1. This will depend on how you setup up AVR. Where you specify the cut off to be, the ‘size’ you indicate the front speakers to be, and of course if you enable any direct mode etc.

  29. Great advice!
    If I add an external amp to my AVR for the front speakers will I still be able to use Dolby Pro Logic IIx like before?
    Chang them from small to full range with an added amp?
    Thanks in advance.

  30. Hi,
    I have a Sony BDV-N9200W. Power output in each channel is 200 watt RMS with 6 ohm impedance. I have calibrated and manually adjusted every setting and sound positions with my best possible preferences. But still think the left right speakers need much more treble and thump. Some surround contents sometimes contain “THUD” & treble sounds in their central channel also which I need to be exaggerated rather than the voice.
    Can you please suggest me which should be the specifications of additional sound power amplifier or amplifiers to be connected to the center, left and right channels?
    It has a passive subwoofer with no crossover adjustment in the system. Can I connect any arrangement to let it play only below 50 or 60 Hz?

  31. When adding a external power amp to drive the main spks. should the wattage be the same or very similar.IE.- I have a 110 watt into 6 ohm receiver and a 40 watt into 8 ohm NAD will the over all volume level be lowered using this combination?

  32. Hi Admin, hope you can help. I have a Yamaha RX-V3075 receiver and was looking for a better sound for my music, particularly from the Rega RP3 turntable.
    I purchased two Audiolab monbloc power amps connected from the pre-out front on the receiver to the front Mordant Short speakers.
    The problem I am having is that the power amps are not given me the power/volume that you would expect from two 100 watt amps one amp per speaker.
    Do you know what the problem may be?

  33. I have a Denon AVR 1913 that I mostly use for music. I find it does not power my speakers loud enough as I am always in the -5 to -2db range to get it fairly loud. I use a few different channels for music ie: bluetooth, chromecast etc. What kind of amp do I need for this? I should mention I only have the front 2 speakers for each input I use. Finally, my receiver does not have preamp out- it has subout that I use for the sub. Is there a way to connect the power amp to another output? Or a splitter so I can use the subout? Thanks.

  34. Hi!
    I have a home theater based system which consists of,
    Denon 3312
    B&W CM8 (Front RL)
    B&W CMC 2
    B&W CM1 (Surround)

    Now, I want to integrate Pro-ject 2xperience turntable to my system. Using the phono input of Denon 3312 did not satisfied me and I need a better, softer and more natural solution. What is the best way to integrate my turntable?

  35. Hi,

    I have a very nice old Class A pre-amp. I mainly listen to music and sometimes home cinema at my friends place. My Friend wants to sell his Home cinema amplifier – in stereo mode its ok, it has got pre-out and mains in. Do you think by adding my pre-amp will produce a decent quality stereo?

    Many thanks

  36. Thanks for explaining that AV receivers should not digitize incoming signals because that degrades and colors the sound. My husband and I want to get a really nice electronic sound system for the home theater of our custom-built house, and we’re currently in the process of finding the right company to purchase one from. I’m glad I read your article because you gave me some great questions to discuss with the sound professionals we choose.

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