Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Should I use one or two amps for 4.1 surround?

I recently got an ASRock B550m Steel Legend which supports surround sound through multiple jacks or an optical connection. For front speakers I'm using two B&W DB601 S1 and for rear I use B&W DM603 S2. I'll maby buy a sub, but I'll see about that. I am currently using some cheap Philips amp from an 120€ speaker system. It supports only two front speakers so I just power all four of them through the front channel/channels.

So since my motherboard now supports surround audio I figured out that I can buy a new amp and have a proper surround audio experience. So I started a research on best budget surround amps and I noticed they only have one stereo set of cinch inputs. Does that mean that I can't get surround if I use jack to cinch cables? Can I get a surround to work with optic cable?

I figured out that I can still buy two old audiophile amps and hook front two speakers to the first one and rear two to the second one and I could probably get better sound quality with audiophile amps. And I can get true surround for sure. If I end up choosing this way and also buying a sub, I'm just going to get something for a sub.

 

So my questions are:

- Do surround amps have separate inputs for front and rear speakers?

- Can a optical cable carry 4.1 surround sound?

- What will get me better sound, two cheap used high-end audiophile amps (like 200€ each) or a budget surround sound amp (like 250€)?

- What will be the better solutions overall and why?

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, akranjc71 said:

I noticed they only have one stereo set of cinch inputs. Does that mean that I can't get surround if I use jack to cinch cables?

 Surround sound is typically done over optical (compressed 5.1) or HDMI (uncompressed, e.g. TrueHD, Dolby Atmos etc.).

1 hour ago, akranjc71 said:

- Do surround amps have separate inputs for front and rear speakers?

Inputs will vary from receiver to receiver. Plain power amplifiers don't care to my knowledge and just amplify however many channels they offer.

1 hour ago, akranjc71 said:

- Can a optical cable carry 4.1 surround sound?

Optical can carry compressed 5.1 surround sound (e.g. Dolby Digital) at most.

1 hour ago, akranjc71 said:

- What will get me better sound, two cheap used high-end audiophile amps (like 200€ each) or a budget surround sound amp (like 250€)?

€200 is not much for audio gear and would typically not be considered a "high-end audiophile" either. Just get a decent surround receiver I would say. Don't buy the bottom of the barrel, but also don't overspend. Audio equipment quickly goes into snake oil territory in my opinion.

1 hour ago, akranjc71 said:

- What will be the better solutions overall and why?

Probably HDMI to a surround receiver as only HDMI has the bandwith to carry uncompressed audio. It also depends on the content you will consume. Plan to watch your favourite UHD Blu Ray with 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Atmos soundtrack? Definitely need HDMI and a supporting receiver then, for example.

Crystal: CPU: i7 7700K | Motherboard: Asus ROG Strix Z270F | RAM: GSkill 16 GB@3200MHz | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti FE | Case: Corsair Crystal 570X (black) | Storage: 250 GB Crucial BX100 SSD + 2 TB Seagate HDD + 1TB WD Green + 3TB WD Red | PSU: EVGA Supernova G2 1000W | Monitor: Asus VG248QE 24"

Laptop: Dell XPS 13 9360 | CPU: i5 7200U | RAM: 8 GB

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, tikker said:

 Surround sound is typically done over optical (compressed 5.1) or HDMI (uncompressed, e.g. TrueHD, Dolby Atmos etc.).

Inputs will vary from receiver to receiver. Plain power amplifiers don't care to my knowledge and just amplify however many channels they offer.

Optical can carry compressed 5.1 surround sound (e.g. Dolby Digital) at most.

€200 is not much for audio gear and would typically not be considered a "high-end audiophile" either. Just get a decent surround receiver I would say. Don't buy the bottom of the barrel, but also don't overspend. Audio equipment quickly goes into snake oil territory in my opinion.

Probably HDMI to a surround receiver as only HDMI has the bandwith to carry uncompressed audio. It also depends on the content you will consume. Plan to watch your favourite UHD Blu Ray with 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Atmos soundtrack? Definitely need HDMI and a supporting receiver then, for example.

A while ago I found an Rotel ra-971 (which I heard is a great amp) for $46 on ebay. I know, that was a pretty decent deal and now they are more like $200, but I think I could stretch to that. That said, I'm also increasing my budget for a surround reciever. Any recommendations?

So would I get a better sound quality and experience with HDMI and a surround reciever or with two used high-end amps like Rotel ra-971?

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is territory that kind of blur's lines

 

Typically you have a home theater setup which is an Audio Video Reciever which is the heart of everything, it receives audio and video input and does all of the decoding and converting then outputs separate audio and video.  The second option is a rack of hardware with power amps and decoders that split up the jobs.  It sounds to me like you're trying to Frankenstein something for the PC, which is cool and all but confusing.

 

What you need in audio

1. Digital Source

2. Digital to Analogue

3. Amplification

4. Output

 

In a home theater your source is let's say a DVD player.  The digital to analogue conversion is done inside the AVR and so is the amplification and the output is your speakers.  An AVR has the benefit of being able to take a source more than stereo and decide what goes to each amplifier (each speaker has it's own amplifier inside of an AVR).  So part of the decoding and converting is to decide which amp get's which signal, which creates surround sound. (a different sound track for each speaker)

 

What you're asking in the most basic terms I gather, is should you have the computer do the digital decoding and converting or should you get an AVR to do that for you.  And I would say for simplicity's sake you should get an AVR.  Relying on the internal DAC, meaning use of 3.5mm jack to RCA is unreliable for surround sound.

 

I say take as much of your onboard audio out of the equation as possible.  Let it all go through HDMI and use an AVR to decode and convert the signal to analogue.

 

 

 

All of that said, why are you trying to use surround sound?  Very little of what occurs on a computer is put into surround sound, maybe movie watching but that's about it, at which point you want 5.1 not 4.1  Typically rear speakers do very little in standard surround sound, the biggest improvement is from a center channel that can produce voice tracks better and front left and right that are a little off the the side, then the mentioned rear's that throw in a little emersion here and there.  To be honest 2.1 would provide just as much engagement in near field IE: on a desk as 4.1 would.  In my experience I blew a rear speaker in my livingroom and had little inclination to replace it, now I'm on headphones on my computer and it's perfectly acceptable.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd go for dedicated power amps. Most cheap surround receivers are hot garbage. 

 

Used Rotel multi-channel is probably where I'd look first. Rotel amps are actually pretty well-designed, sound reasonably good (Not a Bryston / MC2, but not bad) and are reliable. Historically they did what Schiit does these days- decent, no-frills designs. They fetch next to nothing on the used market. 

 

One other consideration would be used QSC or Crest amplifiers. Most have fans in them, but you could do a fan mod since you won't be pushing them. Way more power than you need, but sometimes you can get used amps out of an installation for very little, and aside from their cooling fans most of these things last practically forever. I've got QSC amps from the mid 90s that have probably 200,000 hours on them that still work just fine. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Psittac said:

This is territory that kind of blur's lines

 

Typically you have a home theater setup which is an Audio Video Reciever which is the heart of everything, it receives audio and video input and does all of the decoding and converting then outputs separate audio and video.  The second option is a rack of hardware with power amps and decoders that split up the jobs.  It sounds to me like you're trying to Frankenstein something for the PC, which is cool and all but confusing.

 

What you need in audio

1. Digital Source

2. Digital to Analogue

3. Amplification

4. Output

 

In a home theater your source is let's say a DVD player.  The digital to analogue conversion is done inside the AVR and so is the amplification and the output is your speakers.  An AVR has the benefit of being able to take a source more than stereo and decide what goes to each amplifier (each speaker has it's own amplifier inside of an AVR).  So part of the decoding and converting is to decide which amp get's which signal, which creates surround sound. (a different sound track for each speaker)

 

What you're asking in the most basic terms I gather, is should you have the computer do the digital decoding and converting or should you get an AVR to do that for you.  And I would say for simplicity's sake you should get an AVR.  Relying on the internal DAC, meaning use of 3.5mm jack to RCA is unreliable for surround sound.

 

I say take as much of your onboard audio out of the equation as possible.  Let it all go through HDMI and use an AVR to decode and convert the signal to analogue.

 

 

 

All of that said, why are you trying to use surround sound?  Very little of what occurs on a computer is put into surround sound, maybe movie watching but that's about it, at which point you want 5.1 not 4.1  Typically rear speakers do very little in standard surround sound, the biggest improvement is from a center channel that can produce voice tracks better and front left and right that are a little off the the side, then the mentioned rear's that throw in a little emersion here and there.  To be honest 2.1 would provide just as much engagement in near field IE: on a desk as 4.1 would.  In my experience I blew a rear speaker in my livingroom and had little inclination to replace it, now I'm on headphones on my computer and it's perfectly acceptable.

So what you're saying is that I won't get output on my rear speakers if I just play music (I use YT Music if that matters)? If that is true I'm just going to buy a single Rotel RA-971 and power all four speakers of of it. If rear speakers don't really make much difference in movies, then I rather have the same track on all of them because rear two have better sound since they are higher-end.

Link to post
Share on other sites
59 minutes ago, akranjc71 said:

So what you're saying is that I won't get output on my rear speakers if I just play music (I use YT Music if that matters)? If that is true I'm just going to buy a single Rotel RA-971 and power all four speakers of of it.

No . Music is (often, there are exceptions) stereo, meaning two channels only. If you want surround sound you need to feed it proper surround sound. You can't just plug in 5.1 speaker set and magically expect surround if your source does not have the channels for it. Receivers can often upmix or do an "all stereo" in which all speakers are just considered left or right channels.

1 hour ago, akranjc71 said:

If rear speakers don't really make much difference in movies, then I rather have the same track on all of them because rear two have better sound since they are higher-end

If your rear speakers are higher quality then your fronts I would switch them. Highest quality for front left/right and centre as that's where the bulk of the sound is coming from. Also again if you don't feed it surround sound you won't have proper rear sound and are just duplicating the stereo channels.

 

That Rotel RA-971 you mention only has stereo input anyway, so you're not going to get anything more than stereo out of it unless as you say you treat it as a power amp and feed front L/R in one and rear L/R in a second one.

 

However, that just sounds cumbersome to me and if you're willing to spend €400 on two of those you might be better off just spending that €400-500 on an entry-level surround receiver. What exactly are you trying to achieve? Is this a PC setup, movie setup, are you going for actual surround? What will be the source(s), both device and material?

Crystal: CPU: i7 7700K | Motherboard: Asus ROG Strix Z270F | RAM: GSkill 16 GB@3200MHz | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti FE | Case: Corsair Crystal 570X (black) | Storage: 250 GB Crucial BX100 SSD + 2 TB Seagate HDD + 1TB WD Green + 3TB WD Red | PSU: EVGA Supernova G2 1000W | Monitor: Asus VG248QE 24"

Laptop: Dell XPS 13 9360 | CPU: i5 7200U | RAM: 8 GB

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, tikker said:

No . Music is (often, there are exceptions) stereo, meaning two channels only. If you want surround sound you need to feed it proper surround sound. You can't just plug in 5.1 speaker set and magically expect surround if your source does not have the channels for it. Receivers can often upmix or do an "all stereo" in which all speakers are just considered left or right channels.

If your rear speakers are higher quality then your fronts I would switch them. Highest quality for front left/right and centre as that's where the bulk of the sound is coming from. Also again if you don't feed it surround sound you won't have proper rear sound and are just duplicating the stereo channels.

 

That Rotel RA-971 you mention only has stereo input anyway, so you're not going to get anything more than stereo out of it unless as you say you treat it as a power amp and feed front L/R in one and rear L/R in a second one.

 

However, that just sounds cumbersome to me and if you're willing to spend €400 on two of those you might be better off just spending that €400-500 on an entry-level surround receiver. What exactly are you trying to achieve? Is this a PC setup, movie setup, are you going for actual surround? What will be the source(s), both device and material?

So I'm going to use it for movies and some light music production.

If I wold use a single Rotel RA-971 for al four speakers, I would connect front and rear left speakers to left channel and front and rear right speakers to right channel.

I was also thinking of switching them, but since the rear ones are standing (B&W DM603 S2) I can't really since I want to have front ones at my desk. And I can always just lean back and have my head in the middle of the back speakers and enjoy a really good sound experience.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you just doing 2 channels anyway, having 4 speakers is going to sound worse than 2 like 99% of the time. With more speakers you are dealing with timing and phase alignment problems, (room reflections will amplify the complexity of this problem). This is less of an issue with proper surround (discrete channels per speaker) because they're playing different sounds. 

 

IMO, either spend a little more to get a quality AVR that can do proper surround, or just run a 2.0 or 2.1 with a quality amp. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

As was mentioned, there really isn't much content (besides movies and maybe some games) available in surround. Putting two speakers behind you that run all the time won't sound good.

 

Content will usually sound best when the playback setup mimics the setup in the control room where it was mixed. If it was mixed in stereo, listening to it as "surround" will just make things suck.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×