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  1. #1
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    How to drive separate amp - XLR, IR blaster, used AV receiver question

    I wasn't sure where to post this, and I figured this forum was best, even though it revolves around consumer-level gear for the most part. Let me know if it should go elsewhere.

    I've been interested on & off in a separate amplifier to drive the squeezebox with my primary house speakers. I look at the new generation of beefy class-d amps and they start to look pretty good to me - for example this https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...-pwr-amp.8979/. I'm fine with the cost of the amp, but when I start to look at everything else involved it either gets too expensive, bulky, or I fear I'll have to give up something I like about the current setup.

    Current gear:

    * Squeezebox Classic (SB 3)
    * Onkyo HT-R520 AV receiver
    * DIY Speakers - Zaph Audio SR71s.

    I do have a few other devices hooked up to the Onkyo, like a bluetooth audio adapter, so ideally I need more than one source input. Crucially, I use and love the IR blaster functionality of the Squeezebox and use it to set volume and power the Onkyo on & off. I frequently use the sleep function to finish a track off or play 15 more minutes, and then have the system shut itself down. I'd rather not change anything than have to give this up.

    So when I look at a lot of discrete amps, they just have XLR inputs. For example:

    https://vtvamplifier.com/product/vtv...iscrete-opamp/

    I typically only see XLR outputs on two channel preamp type gear, all of which seems to cost a lot more than I feel like spending, and typically lack remotes so I'd be giving up something crucial to me. I would like, say, 5 inputs, a legible screen telling me the input and volume level, IR remote capability, a decent volume knob, and two channel XLR output for $150 or less. I don't actually think this exists, but if it does I want to know about it.

    I have no qualms about used gear. Which leaves me looking at perhaps a used AV receiver with RCA pre-outs? Unfortunately these tend to be pretty large and bulky with a lot of inputs, as well as a multi-channel amp, and that amp would just be taking up space and drawing power for no reason. This still seems like the most feasible route to me, although it seems ridiculous and still more expensive than I'd like, so much so that it's hard to get excited about it. By the time you get into the class of AV receiver that has pre-outs they are typically pretty expensive, even used.

    Also, I'm clueless about 12V triggers and how they fit into all this.

    Is there another option I need to know about? Any suggestions?

    Thank you!
    Last edited by StewLG; 2020-04-20 at 08:22.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    The obvious first question to ask is: why are you thinking of doing this? Is there something about the sound using your Onkyo AV receiver that you find lacking? Keep in mind that modern solid-state electronics (if competently designed and built) are all pretty much of a quality that is more than adequate. And also bear in mind that the kind of electronics that are NOT competently designed and built tend to come from small-scale boutique manufacturers. In other words, chances are that your Onkyo receiver is more than up to the task. Given that your current setup works well from an operational viewpoint, changing it might just buy you a lot of hassle for no benefit.

    If you are determined to buy a separate power amp, then XLR inputs are not really a problem. It's perfectly possible to drive balanced inputs from unbalanced outputs - you just won't get the common-mode noise rejection and ground-plane isolation benefits. But whether those benefits are relevant in a domestic application is debatable in any case, so I wouldn't worry about it.
    Transporter -> ATC SCM100A

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by cliveb View Post
    The obvious first question to ask is: why are you thinking of doing this? Is there something about the sound using your Onkyo AV receiver that you find lacking? Keep in mind that modern solid-state electronics (if competently designed and built) are all pretty much of a quality that is more than adequate. And also bear in mind that the kind of electronics that are NOT competently designed and built tend to come from small-scale boutique manufacturers. In other words, chances are that your Onkyo receiver is more than up to the task. Given that your current setup works well from an operational viewpoint, changing it might just buy you a lot of hassle for no benefit.
    I'm 100% fully aware of that, and on most days I agree wholeheartedly. I have no illusion that I can, for example, hear the differences between DACs, given that I can barely distinguish 128 kbit MP3 vs. FLAC on a good day with a statistically valid ABX test. I expect it will be the same with the first 25 watts of amplifier power that I actually use - so long as I'm not using the wimpiest T-amp, or something truly ancient with dried-out caps, I figure its unlikely I'll be able to tell. So, it's insecurity/curiosity that makes me want a powerful/ultra-modern amp. That's probably not a good enough reason.

    I have done a little more research, and the closest I can come to a minimal front-end that might work for the use-case I described is a DAC with a volume knob, source selection, and remote that are targeted at headphone applications. Some have built-in bluetooth radios, which is a requirement for my setup. For example:

    Topping DX7 Pro - Too expensive but checks all the boxes.

    Topping DX3 Pro - Fine but no XLR, and the price doesn't deter me.

    The ironic thing is I'd be buying it for everything EXCEPT the DAC - again, I have no illusions I can detect any improvement over the performance of what's in the SB 3 for two-channel FLAC audio. And I can't immediately figure out the 12v trigger issues - no clean solution for powering down the amp that I can come up with.

    Anyway, with C19 supply chain issues, the amps I'm interested in are hard to buy at the moment, and so this idea will probably be shelved until at least fall. I've mused on it repeatedly, and will probably again, I can't help it.
    Last edited by StewLG; 2020-04-21 at 09:14.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by StewLG View Post
    I'm 100% fully aware of that, and on most days I agree wholeheartedly. I have no illusion that I can, for example, hear the differences between DACs, given that I can barely distinguish 128 kbit MP3 vs. FLAC on a good day with a statistically valid ABX test. I expect it will be the same with the first 25 watts of amplifier power that I actually use - so long as I'm not using the wimpiest T-amp, or something truly ancient with dried-out caps, I figure its unlikely I'll be able to tell. So, it's insecurity/curiosity that makes me want a powerful/ultra-modern amp. That's probably not a good enough reason.

    I have done a little more research, and the closest I can come to a minimal front-end that might work for the use-case I described is a DAC with a volume knob, source selection, and remote that are targeted at headphone applications. Some have built-in bluetooth radios, which is a requirement for my setup. For example:

    Topping DX7 Pro - Too expensive but checks all the boxes.

    Topping DX3 Pro - Fine but no XLR, and the price doesn't deter me.

    The ironic thing is I'd be buying it for everything EXCEPT the DAC - again, I have no illusions I can detect any improvement over the performance of what's in the SB 3 for two-channel FLAC audio. And I can't immediately figure out the 12v trigger issues - no clean solution for powering down the amp that I can come up with.

    Anyway, with C19 supply chain issues, the amps I'm interested in are hard to buy at the moment, and so this idea will probably be shelved until at least fall. I've mused on it repeatedly, and will probably again, I can't help it.
    What kind of power are you looking at for the amplifier?
    LMS 7.7, 7.8 and 7.9 - 5xRadio, 3xBoom, 4xDuet, 1xTouch, 1 SB2. Sonos PLAY:3, PLAY:5, Marantz NR1603, JBL OnBeat, XBoxOne, XBMC, Foobar2000, ShairPortW, JRiver 21, 2xChromecast Audio, Chromecast v1 and v2, , Pi B3, B2, Pi B+, 2xPi A+, Odroid-C1, Odroid-C2, Cubie2, Yamaha WX-010, AppleTV 4, Airport Express, GGMM E5

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by philippe_44 View Post
    What kind of power are you looking at for the amplifier?
    150-200W into 8Ω, maybe? I'd do more but budget/sanity would start to hold me back north of $800.

    Again, I have no illusions I actually need this much power. If I'm going to replace anything, I want it to be firmly in the overkill department.

  6. #6
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    How to drive separate amp - XLR, IR blaster, used AV receiver question

    Quote Originally Posted by StewLG View Post
    150-200W into 8Ω, maybe? I'd do more but budget/sanity would start to hold me back north of $800.

    Again, I have no illusions I actually need this much power. If I'm going to replace anything, I want it to be firmly in the overkill department.
    Well, I wanted to offer you the service of my little SqueezeAMP project, but your target is way beyond it's ability, even in bridge mode.
    Last edited by philippe_44; 2020-04-22 at 13:14.
    LMS 7.7, 7.8 and 7.9 - 5xRadio, 3xBoom, 4xDuet, 1xTouch, 1 SB2. Sonos PLAY:3, PLAY:5, Marantz NR1603, JBL OnBeat, XBoxOne, XBMC, Foobar2000, ShairPortW, JRiver 21, 2xChromecast Audio, Chromecast v1 and v2, , Pi B3, B2, Pi B+, 2xPi A+, Odroid-C1, Odroid-C2, Cubie2, Yamaha WX-010, AppleTV 4, Airport Express, GGMM E5

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