What is the Best Amplifier for Your High-End Audio System?
Acoustic Designs Offers Best-in-Class Solutions for Your Arizona Home
When installing a high-end audio system in your Paradise Valley home, you have the choice of working with an integrated amplifier or buying your pre-amplifier and amplifier separately. The amp/pre amp design will give you the highest performance level possible. The downside will be space needed, and price. The integrated amplifier is a combination of an amp and pre-amp all in one chassis, saving you space and money. But, there will be some loss of performance.
To the biggest of audiophiles, there are still a lot of benefits to going with separate components. For one, there’s obviously the nostalgia of setting up a more traditional system. You can also mix and match brands or models to get exactly what you want out of a pre-amp and amplifier instead of going with a consolidated solution that may have had to compromise certain features along the way. In this blog, we’ll discuss the things you need to look for when buying an amplifier (no matter which approach you choose).
SEE MORE: How to Design a Dedicated Listening Room
What to Look for in an Amplifier
Power and Impendance
Your amplifier’s power is measured in watts per channel; it's best to give a speaker a little more power than it needs rather than to undersupply it. You also have to take impendance into account. This is the amount of resistance a speaker gives to your amplifier’s signal. Amplifiers will have different peaks in power depending on a speaker’s impendance (measured in Ohms).
Headroom is having excess power reserves or capabilities available from the amplifier for use during those dynamic peaks to avoid clipping the amplifier and the resulting negative effects it can have on the sound of the system. There will also be the possibility speaker damage without the proper amount of headroom. These are just a few of the many benefits to having an amplifier with a lot of headroom.
A traditional 2-channel amplifier separates your sound into left and right channels. Crosstalk is when something gets lost in translation and signals begin mixing between the two channels. You want to avoid this since it will remove some of the realism from your favorite albums. You want to be able to hear that the vocal is coming from the right while the brass section comes from the left, for example.
THD+N and SNR
Another important specification is Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N). This is how much your amplifier ‘colors’ your sound. You want this to be as low as possible to get your music to sound the most natural. Another number that should be small is the SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio). This represents the amount of background noise the amplifier creates.
Inputs and Outputs
If you’re not using a pre-amplifier, you need to make sure your amplifier has enough input and output connections to connect all your source components and speakers. Some amplifiers even have wireless capabilities so you can relay the signal from your source to your speakers without any wires.
What We Recommend
We’d personally recommend going with Classe’s CA-2300 two-channel amplifier which is as beautiful as it is powerful. When hooked up to 4Ω speakers (typical for a high-end system) it can provide up to 600 watts per channel. It also offers extremely low harmonic distortion (less than .0004%) and Signal to Noise Ratio (-116db). Pair that up with the Classe’ CP-800 two-channel pre-amplifier and a pair of the new Bowers and Wilkins D802 D3, and you will be far more than just impressed!
But forget about all the numbers! Ultimately listening to your favorite music is a largely visceral experience. That is to say, what matters most isn’t necessarily the specs, but what sounds good to you. We encourage you to visit our showroom to test drive some of the top pre-amps and amplifiers in the industry so you can experience the difference in quality yourself.