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What amplifier for an amateur home studio

ratherbirds

Active Member
Hello,
I want to change my old Yamaha hifi amplifier which is at the center of my audio system for listening to my DAW recordings but also TV, CD, Radio, Streaming and Old Tape.
Many home studios are equipped with dynamic speakers with built-in amplification.
Do you think that I must absolutely migrate towards this solution or is a good quality (audiophile) amplifier (pre + amp), and not costly, of the ROTEL type, still valid?
Context of my installation: TV, Tuner, CD, Tape, Komplete Audio 6, Microphones -> Yamaha MG12 Mixer -> Yamaha 2x45 Analog Amplifier -> 2x2 HP JMLab and Elipson.
Can a change in my amplification system greatly improve the quality of my sound reproduction? I'm not necessarily looking for perfect (linear) neutrality, but to find the precision and balance of listening to headphones.
Can give me the benefit of your experiences and possibly advise me of a good amp.
Thank you
 

muk

Senior Member
Good amplifiers don't color the sound when run within specs. I. e. you won't hear a difference between two good amplifiers. Changing your amplifier is not likely to make a huge change in your audio quality if your current amplifier isn't broken or very badly constructed. Here is a good site that scientifically measures and explains amplifiers:

 

Lindon

VST/AU Developer
Good amplifiers don't color the sound when run within specs. I. e. you won't hear a difference between two good amplifiers. Changing your amplifier is not likely to make a huge change in your audio quality if your current amplifier isn't broken or very badly constructed. Here is a good site that scientifically measures and explains amplifiers:

Well that depends (a bit) the nice thing about "built-in" amplification - or powered monitors - they are built to match the speakers and the cross-overs they contain closely...so whilst the specs will show you two amplifiers are pretty much the same - well outside your or my ability to hear a difference - it then depends on the speakers you are matching them to...best bet here is to get powered monitors - I got my first pair ten years ago and I've never gone back...
 

BassClef

Senior Member
Must you absolutely switch to studio monitors and a dedicated audio interface? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I studied music in college and taught music for a few years, but am now retired, relatively new to composition with DAWs and VIs, and just a hobbyist. Studio monitors are different animals but not essential unless mixing professionally. I started with some great passive KEF bookshelf speakers and a Cambridge Audio integrated amp... great sound! I had the speakers “toed in” for working at my keyboard/DAW, then repositioned them when sitting across the room just listening to music. The main reason I switched to some Focal studio monitors and a Focusrite audio interface was that my wife and friends wanted to start recording some vocals in my office.
 

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
I can tell you this. Having tried to toy with mixing things on my laptop, it's literally night and day.

Something I mix on my yamaha hs8s sound good on my laptop. Something I mix on my laptop sounds like flaming rat shit.

I suppose that's a more exaggerated example, but I would say +1 for just a standard set of powered monitors.... There are a few popular models out there(HS8's being one of them) and its a lot less of a headache. Plus if you want to switch to surround or something, you just add more speakers.

In my case I use a Roland Studiocapture - and I could just buy more powered monitors to get 2.1/quad/5.1/ect
 

wst3

Lunatic - it's really that simple
Moderator
the short answer - YES!

the slightly longer answer - YES! Better monitoring (which includes the D/A converter, the amplifier(s), the loudspeakers, and the room) will always be a step up, but you may or may not hear the difference. Only you can tell.

The long, boring answer - It depends! It depends on a dozen factors. Before I bore you with those factors a little background... the modern approach is to use powered monitors, and it makes a lot of sense. The amplifiers and cross-over are matched to the drivers. This allows the manufacturer to build a better monitor for less money. It is a win/win.

But there is no such thing as a free lunch. The amplifiers in the majority of self-powered loudspeakers use an architecture that uses minimal power, but has some (potentially) audible artifacts. Those artifacts are largely inaudible, largely, but not totally.

If you had the chance to listen to a "cost is no object" monitor system you'd hear the difference. My personal favorite amplifiers are made by Bryston, once you have heard them it is difficult to use anything else. They are, however, insanely expensive, or at least beyond my modest budget. Haffler used to make amplifiers that were almost as good, Macintosh still does, and there are probably others, but these are the ones I have heard. I was using a Haffler DH-220 that I modified with balanced inputs, and I really liked it. Something failed, after 15 or more years so I can't complain, and I happened to have a QSC amplifier sitting around, so I'm using that when I'm not using powered monitors.

When using an external amplifier the most common practice is to use a passive cross-over built into the loudspeaker. You can custom tune them, but I've found that most of the better studio monitors are already about as good as you can make them, except maybe for replacing the capacitors?

In contrast, most powered monitors are "bi-amped", that is, the cross-over is placed in front of two amplifiers, one for the lows, one for the highs. It does make a difference! One of the few audio legends that is pretty accurate.

You can do the same thing with a passive loudspeaker, you need a stereo cross-over and two amplifiers, but it can be done.

So anyway, getting back to your question (you had to think I'd do that eventually) - I used an old Heathkit 35W/channel tube amplifier and a pair of PolkAudio Model 5 bookshelf speakers as my first monitoring system. It worked pretty well for me because I was already used to them from my home stereo. Mixes made back then translated well, but would sometimes have little oddities that I could not hear on that system. This was especially evident in the stereo field.

Next up was a pair of Yorkville YSM monitors powered by that Haffler amp. A big improvement in that I could now hear problems that I was missing, but it took a bit to learn how they "worked" so that a mix would sound good elsewhere. Next up was a pair of Urei 809s, which are a coaxial design, that is the woofer and tweeter are physically aligned (I skipped over signal alignment earlier, sorry).

That was a huge improvement. The stereo field was darned near lifelike, and I could hear all but the lowest octave clearly. I could also hear a pin drop if someone dropped a pin in the studio<G>. BUT they used a horn and compression driver for the tweeter, and it took quite a while to adjust to that (proof that there is no such thing as a free lunch.) These were the loudspeakers where I did experiment with the built in passive crossover. There might have been a difference, I like to believe so, but I can't prove it.

Finally I joined the 21st century and purchased a pair of powered monitors (Presonus Sceptre - also a horn loaded coaxial design). I adapter to them quite quickly, and I am still using them. Along the way I had a pair of JBL LRS305s (first generation) as well, and the difference between the two was dramatic, not that one was better or worse, just different. It was fun switching back and forth, and my mixes got better. The JBLs were on loan (a benefit of my day gig), and when I returned them I was going to buy a pair, just never got around to it.

What does that mean for you?

Your current system is probably serving you well. You probably know what your favorite recordings sound like so you can make mix decisions easily. Once you change them out you will have to learn that again.

Your current amplifier is probably better, at least in some ways, than anything you'd buy today. 45 watts is more than enough for most monitoring tasks, and Yamaha used to build some darned good hifi gear! What you will miss out on is those ultra fast transients, but most people listening to you mix won't hear them either.

So no, swapping out just your amplifier will probably provide a small, if any, audible benefit, unless you are ready to shell out for a Bryston or Macintosh (or Haffler if you can find one).

If I were you I'd wait till I was ready to replace the monitors entirely. At that point add a pair of powered monitors (there are dozens of really good ones at several price points) and put them next to your current monitors. Compare and contrast. Listen to your favorite recordings (yours as well as commercial releases) and see what you think. If you like them then spend some time learning them, and off you go.
 
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ratherbirds

ratherbirds

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Thank you all for your valuable experiences. I think I will wait until my amp completely breaks down before possibly replacing it, and try to rent powered monitors to test / listen to the differences in sound reproduction.
 
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