I have been thinking a lot about how I am going to proceed in replacing the stellar sound I got from the Harman 525 I had to retire. While researching various receivers and amps, I stumbled upon a really nice, favorably reviewed and high value priced three channel amplifier from a company called Emotiva. These amps can be used in a separates setup where a pre-amp is used to feed a signal to the amplifier.
Typically, these types of setups sound a lot better than using just a receiver, but can be prohibitively expensive. Well, most nice mid to high end receivers have the capability to be used as a pre-amp. This capability allows the receiver to work with a separate three channel amp like the Emotiva XPA-3, a 200 watt per channel amplifier, that will sound excellent when paired with a nice receiver. This is what I have in mind for my new setup for my main home theater. This strategy is beneficial in creating great sound in a lot of ways. First, the front left, center, and right channels will have a full 200 watts of power available to them, and this saves the full rated power per channel of the receiver to power the rear surrounds with little strain on the receivers power supply and will result in a very clean and pure sound from all 5 channels. Second, the problem with rating power on consumer grade receivers is that the testing is usually only for one or two channels at a time, and not all channels driven at the same time. The reason for this is because of the relatively weak power supply sections in these receivers. The power ratings for separates tend to be more true in their rating. The Emotiva XPA-3 as an example, uses 600 watts as a minimum power rating with all channels driven throughout the frequency range. The typical power on the Emotiva is usually closer to 650 watts. The reason for this becomes very apparent when you look at the power supply sections of a receiver vs the Emotiva. There is a reason the really good receivers weigh a lot and the average performing ones don't. There is usually a correlation between the ability to create adequate power, great sound and weight.
The added weight is due to a more robust power supply section capable of delivering higher current when needed.
Item Watts/Ch #Ch Weight
HK AVR 525 70 5 42 lbs.
Yamaha RXV-765 95 7 25 lbs.
Emotiva XPA-3 200 3 57 lbs.
In this comparison, I am only showing the relationship of weight to rated power. I have heard the honest 70 watts/ch from the HK AVR 525 and it sounds good. I have also heard the RXV-765 and although rated at 95 watts/ch played no louder or clearer than my HK. I am actually amazed at the sound it delivered weighing in at 25 lbs. Unfortunately, the only way to demo the Emotiva is to order one and try it risk free for a month which I have not done yet. The spec sheet looks awesome though and is comparable to other high end amps costing thousands, and at $599 is a bargain.
Time to save my pennies, fill my piggybank and purchase this setup.