Product Information — 5 Min Read

Separate vs. Integrated

Product Information — 5 Min Read

Separate vs. Integrated

If you consider yourself as a true Audiophile, there’s probably no debate in your mind as to which is better, the separate amplifier or the integrated amplifier. In the world of high-end audio-video, this is a big topic of conversation.

For the rest of us, however, it’s not that clear cut. The questions continue both online and off as to the value add the separate amplifiers bring vs. the integrated amplifiers. When it comes to audio-video, perhaps it is best to leave it to the professionals.

This is a house divided where one part of the family loves to hear Brahms while the other half of the family would prefer to listen to Whitesnake. The amplifier(s) needs specific characteristics to have the most precise sound (the speakers are crucial too) for the listener.

Why should that make a difference, you say?

Because, both feed the sound to the speakers, and speakers come into play as they would for either configuration. It’s pretty easy to mismatch the pre and power amps, and the amplifier to the speakers, so it’s essential to know your amplifier systems. A complete audio-visual system depends on many parts, and it doesn’t matter which choice of amp you prefer if there are no speakers. That’s an entirely different topic which we’ll set aside for right now.

The amplifier serves a dramatic purpose of sound input and sound output, so it’s all about quality, customization, availability, personal preference, and budget.
There is a great metaphor that helps explain the process if you are not clear on the responsibilities of the pre-amplifier and the power amplifier here.

The Advantages of the separate amplifier system to the integrated one:

  • Separates provide more ability to fine-tune the pre-amp
  • Separate amplifiers allow for easier future upgrades
  • Separate the pre-amp and power amp – The pre-amp chooses the raw sound from which sound comes from what source and pushes it clean and clear to the power amplifier which elevates the sound and drives it to the speakers
  • Separate pre-and power amplifiers allow for the mixing and matching of various manufacturers (personal preference)
  • Separate pre-and power amplifiers can operate a full function without overheating for the fact that they’re separate from each other
  • The sound processor has its own power supply so low powered components are shielded within
  • The pre-amplifier controls the inputs (which can handle more than an integrated system) and can be switched easily and quickly (DVD, CD, phono, USB from a phone or laptop, etc.)
  • Separates can connect with a room/response between the pre-amp and the power amp
  • There is more freedom in the selection of speakers as they are not limited based on the amplifier’s capability

The Advantages of the separate amplifier system to the integrated one:

  • Integrated amplifier systems are matched and balanced by the manufacturer
  • Integrated amplifiers have fewer interconnects, which also means fewer cables
  • The sound path of the integrated amps is far shorter and eliminates one connection between the two
  • Integrated amplifiers have both the pre- and power amplifiers in the same housing, and are matched for maximum compatibility, and the process as described above is the same. The sound comes in; the sound goes out.
  • Integrated amplifiers are typically more affordable
  • For some, space is a problem, which integrated amplifier is only one piece
  • The integrated amplifier is better suited for limited space or small to mid-size room
  • Integrated amp manufacturers are far more able to adapt and change, thereby the sub-woofer which drains the most power and is under its control, thus easing up on the workload of a separate system

Getting what you pay for is one of those things that come into play for either choice of amplifier. Setting your levels is the first thing you should do before actively using your system. You wouldn’t want to blow out the picture window because the pet or child moved the sound dial.

With the setting at approximately 65%, (dials differ, so set it at a three if the maximum is a 5) and the amplifier will push out a very crisp, clean, consistent power to the speakers. The balance of the dial is for when you want to crank it up. If and when you do, your sound should be distortion-free, and just as high a quality as if dialed to a lower setting.

In Conclusion

Whatever decision you make is entirely up to you, including no-decision. Each has its positive attributes and negative ones as well. Historically, two separate pieces are how it began, but like everything else, technology has contributed its fair share into just about everything.

This blog will be addressing speakers and how they impact sound output, the technologic advancements they provide, and some cautions within as well.

The separate vs. integrated amplifier debate continues and will continue to as long as there is recorded sound. Amplifiers are just one component of the entire audio-visual “must haves.”

You can learn more by visiting us for a demo. You’ll be happy you took the time to learn more.

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