Quality music/cinema receiver driving at least 130w for cheap?
May 8, 2012 5:15 AM   Subscribe

I need a new amplifier/receiver for music and TV/home-cinema. I've looked at the Onkyo "network" range, especially entry level around £350-£400, but I am sure I could get my hands on an amp from a few years ago with all the features I desire, and save a bundle. I'd really appreciate your advice.

I have a pair of Polk Audio RT 400 speakers (8 ohms, 20-150W). Ideally, I'd like an amp/receiver that drove these at close to full potential, around 130w would do.

Absolutely minimum features I require of an amp/receiver:

- around 130-150w for first pair of speakers
- potential for a second pair of speakers at similar wattage
- surround sound (Dolby 5.1 etc) I have speakers and subwoofer ready for this
- Multiple HDMI inputs, with upscaling for other formats
- Optical audio inputs
- Usual analogue inputs

The new Onkyo NR609 has "network" capabilities. At the moment I am not too bothered about this. Should I be? From various reviews I've read it's hard to tell whether this amp would drive my speakers over 100w anyway.

What amp/receiver from last few years would you recommend? Could I get one cheap?
posted by 0bvious to Technology (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a little long in the tooth these days, but check out the Panasonic SA-XR57. I have the SA-XR55 (allegedly the same thing but without HDMI) and it sounds absolutely fantastic. It uses a digital (PWM, I think) power amp, so there is practically zero harmonic distortion. "Crystal clear" is how I'd review the sound. If you feed it a warm source, it gives you warm. If you feed it movie sound effects, it sounds like they are in the same room with you.

I've never turned mine up very loud, but allegedly, because of the digital nature of the amplifier, it doesn't sag or sound terrible when driven up to its limits like conventional amplifiers.
posted by gjc at 6:09 AM on May 8, 2012

Not Onkyos from the past few years. We had a 606 and the whole production run was plagued with terrible problems with bad caps or something, such that the hdmi subsystem completely died. Out of warranty, of course.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:58 AM on May 8, 2012

For speakers like that, I think a separate stereo power amp, like this Onkyo, would suit you. Asking for that much power out of a home theater receiver (especially clean, full-bandwidth power) really gets towards the upper end of most ranges. Plus, the receiver would then have more power available to drive your center channel and surrounds (I think).

The good thing is that stereo power amps have been around forever, and I bet a lot of people are ditching them for integrated systems. Then you could get whatever receiver works for you, as long as it has pre-amp outs. (I have the Onkyo TX-SR606, which meets your criteria and that I'm happy with. On preview, I haven't had any trouble with mine like ROU_Xenophobe, but I guess it's a crapshoot.) I actually just ordered a pair of Polk TSi200s; if I ever got heavier-duty front speakers than that, I'd probably drive them with a separate power amp.
posted by supercres at 7:00 AM on May 8, 2012

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