Integrated Amplifier recommendations, anyone?

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Integrated Amplifier recommendations, anyone?

Postby Jezebelle » Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:24 pm

I mostly listen through to games and/or GSP through two big old 8ohm bookshelf speakers that are holding up the bookshelves on my desk, powered by a very old GE Compact Stereo, so old there's no documentation of it online anywhere. I think it's running out of fish oil. Before it dies all together, I'd like to replace it with something that can amplify my PC sound output, and possibly other sources, like an external CD player, occasional tapes, maybe even bluetooth or wi-fi DLNA, although I don't use those yet. I'll mostly be listening to whatever's coming from the line out on my PC most of the time, so I can just throw CDs in there, and this old stereo still plays tapes, for now. I'm not looking for supreme quality enthusiast/audiophile level professional gear, but it would be nice if I had some room to expand, to maybe include a powered sub. I don't think I need surround sound for this system, but I'm sure there are games I play that would benefit from it if I did, so that's a maybe.

I think what that means is I want is an integrated amplifier, but most of the available brands I know nothing about, and the reviews on Amazon are not especially helpful. Anyone have any opinions of Onkyo or Technical Pro or Yamaha or Grace Digital or Sherwood for integrated amplifiers? Or is it really worth looking at separate amplifiers and pre-amps? Are there any specific issues I might need to might need to consider that I'm not aware of yet?
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Re: Integrated Amplifier recommendations, anyone?

Postby Gridfan » Sat Apr 29, 2017 3:24 am

PC desktop speakers are dime a dozen. While you can get good sound with some of them they are usually very thin sounding.

This means you'll need to move up from USB speakers to powered speakers or a PC surround speaker set with a sub. But those are only intended to be plugged into a soundcard, usually ther ar no extra inputs.

What you want is a "Receiver" (I think that's what they are called), some of these should have a amp able to drive bookshelf speakers and similar.

You mention wanting Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi and now we're no longer in normal Home Stereo land, now it's Hi-Fi or House Sound System stuff. If you want something good here you'll have to cough up the big cash.

I might have (if strapped for cash) looked at used Receivers/Amps, there's always some nerd (or audiophile) upgrading and dumping their old gear for a lot less than it would cost new.

Googling for: dlna bluetooth receiver amplifier
Did show some results.


Also looking at your planned usage "I'll mostly be listening to whatever's coming from the line out on my PC most of the time, so I can just throw CDs in there, and this old stereo still plays tapes, for now."

You might want to get a cheap but good PC speaker package (2.1 setup, with two "desktop" satellites and 1 sub and usually the amp tucked inside the subwoofer box), hook that up to the PC (onboard Realtek sound should be fine if you don't have a soundcard) and get some cables and hook your tape deck to the line in on that.

If you like your old speakers you could get a nice second hand amp, drag a cable from your PC to that one, hook your speakers to the amp, then get a sub and hook that up to the amp. The tape deck you hook up to your PCs line in.
(BTW! Checking out stores selling returned stock or demonstration models can be a nice way to get some good hardware cheaper.)


You can buy bluetooth stuff for your PC, and WiFi dongles. So if you need WiFi and Bluetooth you can make that happen.
Now if you want to play music from your phones Bluetooth to your speakers. Why would you do that? Bluetooth is not lossless and it will degrade audioquality (the wireless iPhone earpods has the same issue) Assuming your phone has a jack connections, you can actually hook that up to your PC.

Also keep in mind that you could put a remote app on your phone and control your PC's music playback through that instead. It depends on the app/software an what media player you use on your PC, but you can get it to work. And no quality loss.

Your old 8ohm speakers should be fine, unless the cardboard/material in the speaker is degrading or the rubber seals are cracking those speakers will last many more years. Assuming you like the sound they make.


BTW! An Audiophile does not necessarily want quality. They just what what makes the sound experience the best for them (even if it is snakeoil). Those with bottomless wallets are Enthusiasts who love to burn cash. Then there are the Nerds and Geeks (I never can recall the difference of those two, and I'm probably one or other or both), and we know that beyond a certain point our ears/mind can't tell the difference or benefit from more expense so why pay more than needed.

The stuff you are looking for (basically Receivers) can get very expensive. For the same cost you can easily get a good soundcard + PC speaker package + a WiFi Dongle + a Bluetooth dongle + a commercial remote software/app for your PC and mobile.

Re-think what you want vs what you need.

Also, do you dislike headphones? Spitting some cash into a good headphone amp + good headphones (full size closed or full size half open back) can give you better or as good as sound as a high end Hi-Fi amplifier + "pro" speakers. Just make sure to get e headphone amp with bass boost or a EQ as headphones has less bass than large speakers so for games and movies and maybe some music you might want a little more umf.

So now I've helped by suggesting like 3, or 4, no maybe 5 solutions here. (Don't worry, it will hurt less in the morning) :P
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Re: Integrated Amplifier recommendations, anyone?

Postby Jezebelle » Sat Apr 29, 2017 9:37 am

Gridfan wrote:PC desktop speakers are dime a dozen. While you can get good sound with some of them they are usually very thin sounding.
Agreed. I've had several different kinds and the dime a dozen ones are underwhelming. There are good ones out there, but that's not the option I've been focusing on.

Gridfan wrote:What you want is a "Receiver" (I think that's what they are called), some of these should have a amp able to drive bookshelf speakers and similar.
My research tells me a receiver and pre-amplifier and amplifier all packed into the same unit are now called "an integrated amplifier" but add a tape deck and a bunch of years and that description also applies to my old "compact home stereo system". Not knowing which terminology to use for what vendor makes the searching take longer, but browsing categories helps.

Gridfan wrote:You mention wanting Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi and now we're no longer in normal Home Stereo land, now it's Hi-Fi or House Sound System stuff. If you want something good here you'll have to cough up the big cash.
Eh. I'm not really a big fan of wireless solutions for stationary things that are in perfectly reasonable range of wires, but those are common features of a lot of the receivers I've been looking at, so I thought if it didn't add too much to the price tag, it wouldn't hurt to have the option, in case I ever find a use for it. They're a footnote, not a requirement.

Gridfan wrote:You might want to get a cheap but good PC speaker package (2.1 setup, with two "desktop" satellites and 1 sub and usually the amp tucked inside the subwoofer box), hook that up to the PC (onboard Realtek sound should be fine if you don't have a soundcard) and get some cables and hook your tape deck to the line in on that.
That's pretty much what I was thinking, except it didn't occur to me that the amplifier might be in the subwoofer. That does sound like something I should browse around for, since I do already have decent speakers I was planning to keep using.

Gridfan wrote:If you like your old speakers you could get a nice second hand amp, drag a cable from your PC to that one, hook your speakers to the amp, then get a sub and hook that up to the amp. The tape deck you hook up to your PCs line in.
(BTW! Checking out stores selling returned stock or demonstration models can be a nice way to get some good hardware cheaper.)

The tape deck part is going to be the tricky bit there. My tape deck is built into my old stereo, which has no line out. But I hardly ever play tapes, anyway. Maybe I could run a line from the stereo's headphone out to the PC's microphone in, but I'm not sure exactly how bad an idea that is. I'd rather just piggyback the speaker outputs from the old stereo and the new amplifier and unplug the power to old one when I'm not using it.

Gridfan wrote:You can buy bluetooth stuff for your PC, and WiFi dongles. So if you need WiFi and Bluetooth you can make that happen.
Now if you want to play music from your phones Bluetooth to your speakers. Why would you do that? Bluetooth is not lossless and it will degrade audioquality (the wireless iPhone earpods has the same issue) Assuming your phone has a jack connections, you can actually hook that up to your PC.
Well, I have no idea why I would do that. I really haven't thought of any reason for it. That's half the reason I mentioned it, to see if anyone else knew why they're so common in the mid-range receivers and integrated amplifiers. It seems to be the way things have been going lately that the technologies that used to make no actual sense turn out to be the ones you're expected to have, but I was hoping for a better explanation than that.

Gridfan wrote:Also keep in mind that you could put a remote app on your phone and control your PC's music playback through that instead. It depends on the app/software an what media player you use on your PC, but you can get it to work. And no quality loss.
See, that makes way more sense. Which is probably why people aren't doing that, right?

Gridfan wrote:Your old 8ohm speakers should be fine, unless the cardboard/material in the speaker is degrading or the rubber seals are cracking those speakers will last many more years. Assuming you like the sound they make.
Yeah, that's the plan. That's pretty much the firmest part of what I'm calling a plan, anyway.

Gridfan wrote:The stuff you are looking for (basically Receivers) can get very expensive. For the same cost you can easily get a good soundcard + PC speaker package + a WiFi Dongle + a Bluetooth dongle + a commercial remote software/app for your PC and mobile.
Yeah, I noticed that. I've been limiting my searches to the $100-$200 range, and that cuts out a few of the better rated manufacturers, but there are still some decent options with good reviews, and that's just shopping new items on Amazon. Once I know what I'm actually looking for, I can probably find it cheaper.

Gridfan wrote:Also, do you dislike headphones?
Not at all. They're just situational. I have a decent pair of Sennheisers I like and I wear them a lot, but they're not always feasible. For example, when I'm brushing my hair, moving around the room, sitting across the room, or even in bed, I want the music audible without headphones.

And thanks for bringing up the things I hadn't considered. I'd rather ponder them now than find out about them later.
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Re: Integrated Amplifier recommendations, anyone?

Postby Gridfan » Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:01 pm

Jezebelle wrote:I'm not really a big fan of wireless solutions for stationary things that are in perfectly reasonable range of wires, but those are common features of a lot of the receivers I've been looking at, so I thought if it didn't add too much to the price tag, it wouldn't hurt to have the option, in case I ever find a use for it. They're a footnote, not a requirement.


Yeah I swear to wired keyboard/mouse/headphones, I've used wireless mice before and they always die at the worst possible moment. A few more expensive things let you use them while charging, but they they've become a wired gear anyway.

Jezebelle wrote:it didn't occur to me that the amplifier might be in the subwoofer. That does sound like something I should browse around for, since I do already have decent speakers I was planning to keep using.

Most 2.1 or 4.1 or 5.1 PC speaker setups tend to do that. If there are actually subs with a 2ch amp in it I'm not entirely sure, but IMO it sounds like a great space saver if there are.

Jezebelle wrote:The tape deck part is going to be the tricky bit there. My tape deck is built into my old stereo, which has no line out. But I hardly ever play tapes, anyway. Maybe I could run a line from the stereo's headphone out to the PC's microphone in, but I'm not sure exactly how bad an idea that is.

Audio is audio, just turn the volume knob to minimum, and then make sure the Line In on the PC is set to 0dB (100%) then play the loudest music you got on tape and carefully turn the volume knob up, you should see the levels in the windows mixer somewhere. Make sure it's loud but not so loud it distorts on the Line In.
And make sure the Line In is set to "Line" and not "Microphone" as extra amplification is applied to Microphone In which you don't want/need.

Jezebelle wrote:to see if anyone else knew why they're so common in the mid-range receivers and integrated amplifiers. It seems to be the way things have been going lately that the technologies that used to make no actual sense turn out to be the ones you're expected to have, but I was hoping for a better explanation than that.

Ah you mean from their perspective. Feature sell. If this thingy has that feature which the competitor don't and they cost the same what do you think people will buy?
Unfortunately unless the features are all provided in a single All In One microchip that is mass produces, most added features eat into the overall component cost which means they may cut corners on the other feature. Like make the amp weaker, dump the Aux in or Aux out, smaller speakers. Cheaper circuits, plastic instead of aluminum cabinet. etc.
More features and higher "numbers" on feature sell, it does not mean they are better, usually they are not unless you buy the really high end stuff they don't cut corners on.

Jezebelle wrote:And thanks for bringing up the things I hadn't considered. I'd rather ponder them now than find out about them later.

I'm always happy to flap my lips.

Here is an example of something you might want to look at. (I know nothing about it and can't directly recommend it) but as a solution it seems nice.
https://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/ ... ?crid=1548
You can't use your old speakers sadly. But it's got two satellite speakers and a sub. It has a 3.5mm jack and L/R RCA phono in and Bluetooth.

The way I'd set this up is:
Tape deck headphone to 3.5mm jack (via 6.3mm to 3.5mm cable or adapter).
PC Line Out to RCA Phono (3.5mm jack to 2x RCA Phono cable or adapter).
Cellphone to bluetooth (nice if you got guests that want to play you a song or show you a video and play the sound over your speakers instead of the mobile's inbuilt speaker).
It also has a nice power and volume knob that you place on your desktop, and you tweak the bass level on the back of the sub.

This one is not PC specific so you could use it with a Xbox Scorpio or Playstation 4 (Pro) in the living room in the future for example.

I'm sure other brands have something similar. If you go to a local physical store/retailer that sell Logitech (or similar brands) you might find one of these on display so you can take a listen. The local Electronics stores here do that sometimes. If the store price is the same as buying directly from Logitech then you might as well get it there (easier to return too) but I'm sure you can find deals on this online somewhere.

Note! This was just an example, see if you can Google some reviews on this and similar setups.
PS! There is only one immediate flaw I see with that Logitech example, it has no headphone out which would have made it almost perfect IMO, maybe other models/brands has that feature.
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Re: Integrated Amplifier recommendations, anyone?

Postby Gridfan » Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:14 pm

I noticed that Logitech also has this one https://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/ ... ?crid=1548
It's similar to the other one but it has also a headphone connection. And it's cheaper. But it's slightly weaker in sound. 30w vs 24w sub, and 15w satellites vs 8w.

I do believe the info on Logitechs page is wrong for the Z537 and that is does have a headphone jack. None of the marketing images nor the video shows the back of the desktop volume control puck, I'm assuming it has a headphone out on the back.
(Why would the cheaper model have it and not the more expensive one right?)
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