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Pre/power combo Vs Integrated/power

plastic penguin

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Apr 28, 2008
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We all know that pre/power combo can produce startling results. Likewise, bi-amping a power amp to an integrated amp is a cheap (and very good upgrade). So has anyone compared to two from the same brand? if so what were your findings?
 

Dan Turner

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Jul 9, 2007
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I know isn't exactly answering the question, but I went from Arcam A32, to bi-amping with a P35 (big improvement in soundstaging, bass clarity and dynamics), to using a Creek passive pre-amp with the A32 (in power only mode) and P35 bi-amping (massive improvement in detail and dynamics), to swapping the A32 for a P38 (a tad more bass resolution but in all honesty not much).

So if nothing else I think that demonstrates that

a)Bi-amping really works

and

b) A good (but not necessarily expensive) pre-amp will outperform the pre section of even a well respected mid-range integrated - slotting that creek pre amp into my system at the cost of £120 all-in from ebay was an unbelievably cost effective upgrade - I'd have been happy with the improvement if I'd paid £1k!

Having said all that, as I have got used to each improvement I still come back to this feeling that I'm lacking something in terms of impact and immediacy so I'm hankering after trying something from Naim maybe...
 

plastic penguin

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Apr 28, 2008
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Thanks for your reply, Dan. I think most of us agree that bi-amping an integrated with a compatible power amp ain't half bad. A few years ago I heard the old Alpha ( 8 I think) bi-amped and it sounded superb.

Would be nice, however, to get a reaction on the original question.
 

Bodfish

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Jun 25, 2009
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In a previous life I went from a Meridian 551 integrated to a Meridian 551/557 bi-amp and finally to a 502/557 pre-power set up.

To my ears at least, the final pairing was the best. OK, so you may lose (ever so) slightly in dynamics but the benefits of the dedicated pre amp far outweigh that...in my experience at least. Hope that helps.
 

Frank Harvey

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Jun 27, 2008
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plastic penguin:We all know that pre/power combo can produce startling results. Likewise, bi-amping a power amp to an integrated amp is a cheap (and very good upgrade). So has anyone compared to two from the same brand? if so what were your findings?

I've always found that integrated amplifiers acting as pre-amplifiers aren't quite as good as a dedicated pre-amp, although there is a benefit to bi-amping. I will usually recommend adding a power amp as an upgrade to using an integrated amplifier, but I will always recommend changing the integrated to a dedicated pre-amp at a later date too, if the user wants to further the system.
 

plastic penguin

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Apr 28, 2008
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FrankHarveyHiFi:

plastic penguin:We all know that pre/power combo can produce startling results. Likewise, bi-amping a power amp to an integrated amp is a cheap (and very good upgrade). So has anyone compared to two from the same brand? if so what were your findings?

I've always found that integrated amplifiers acting as pre-amplifiers aren't quite as good as a dedicated pre-amp, although there is a benefit to bi-amping. I will usually recommend adding a power amp as an upgrade to using an integrated amplifier, but I will always recommend changing the integrated to a dedicated pre-amp at a later date too, if the user wants to further the system.

Thanks for replying, David. When you say "....aren't quite as good as dedicated pre-amp...." are you actually hinting that a separate pre/power isn't a significant jump, or am I misinterpreting your words?
 

Bodfish

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Jun 25, 2009
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Without wanting to put words into David's mouth, I think it depends where you are starting from. If you are going from an integrated to a pre/power you will notice a significant change. If you are going from a integrated/power in a bi-amp config to a pre/power the difference is more subtle.

Your pre amp proper (should!) benefit from having a specifically designed power supply, circuit borad layout, better component quality and so on. When an integrated is being used as a pre amp, it still has to contend with all the (relatively) noisy business going on in the power amp section.

My experience of moving from the 551/557 in bi amp mode to a 502/557 pre/power was one of more subtle benefits rather than a night and day change.

I would mention I tried running the 551/557 pair using the 551 as a pre amp and ended up going back to the bi-amp config.
 

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