Help with finding a new 5.1 amp

Eruden

n00b
Joined
Aug 12, 2006
Messages
17
So it's been a while since I've had to do this and I thought for sure there would be more options, but I'm hitting a wall. So I've got and older Cambridge Audio 5.1 system (the small Minx predecessor) and they're fine for my needs, so I'm not in need of new speakers or sub. For years I've been using a Creative Soundworks breakout amp that has mostly met my needs, but now it's clearly time to upgrade. The old box doesn't support so many audio formats that it's basically useless.
So here's the challenge, I want a small amp that handles the 5.1 surround I've already got, but I really want it to have the footprint of my existing breakout box. It's about 12" wide, 3" tall, and 6" deep, or about the size of a large hardbound book. It's got a great remote and if it had some better digital processing (or even true surround analog input) I would keep it around forever. Last thing, it would probably be in my best interest to pull audio off my HDMI output from my video card (Nvidia GTX970) rather than from the on-board Realtek that I'm pulling from now.
Are there any options like that, or am I going to have to bite the bullet and drop a full size receiver on my desk somewhere?
Thanks in advance for any advice!!!
 
D

Deleted member 93354

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What you want isn't exactly 100% clear.

It sounds like
1. You want an amplifier
2A. You want something that can take a digital input (coax/TOSLINK) and the break that out to 5.1 amplified
OR
2B. Something with 5 analog inputs which you want amplified

And you want this all in a very small package

Is this correct?

Is your subwoofer amp'd already?

To be honest your best bet is to use car stereo amplifiers using the analog outs on your motherboard. They are small and compact and should fit the bill.

But you can also look here:

http://www.parts-express.com/cat/ho...eca:matches(.,"P_Searchable","1")]&PortalID=1

To be honest you are asking for a lot. The best amplifiers are Class A/Class AB. And these generate a lot of heat. Heat means heat sinks. Heat sinks means ventilation and space around said heat sinks for air flow.

Very modern fast digital switching Class D/T and is very cool, efficient and compact. But they suffer in sound quality.
 
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Eruden

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Aug 12, 2006
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17
That sums it up pretty well. The sub is powered, so I'm good there. I've got an old Yamaha RX-V2700 that I could easily use, but it would be massive overkill. I figured that there would be something available for PC users who want an upgraded sound over crappy powered PC speakers, but don't need integration into a full home theater setup.
 

Brian_B

2[H]4U
Joined
Mar 23, 2012
Messages
3,356
Now, this isn't exactly what you are looking for, but it's close. What about mini-amplifiers like Topping or Lepai mini-amps? Most models are only single or 2-channel, but 4-channel models do exist. They are very small, decent sound quality, inexpensive, and a few of them stacked would pretty much fit in exactly the footprint your looking for.

Also, you can get digital-analog audio converters. I don't know how the quality is, but here is one example, there are many different models:
http://www.amazon.com/Panlong-Audio-Digital-Decoder-Converter/dp/B00AMC2J1Y
There are also models that can pull from HDMI as well.

Just some ideas there. The car amplifier idea isn't horrible either, there are a lot that will work there, you just need to get them 12VDC power from someplace.

Apart from that, I think if your looking for something that will natively decode audio formats, your looking at stepping up to a full-blown receiver, unless you want to get into the really high end components.

As far as where to pull audio - if your outputting a digital signal, I don't know that it'll matter all that much where you pull it from.
 

Eruden

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LOL, thank Kyle. Mostly just lurking, but a regular visitor for much longer than just the 10 years. Thanks for the bump!
 

Wrecked Em

Supreme [H]ardness
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Sep 14, 2004
Messages
7,325
I found this:
http://www.allaboutadapters.com/hddodtsdihdo.html

AU-HDMICP-InputSelect.gif


hdmi-multi-channel-pcm-5-1-7-1-surround-audio-decoder-6.gif


Maybe pair it with some Monoprice active monitors.
 

chaos4u

Limp Gawd
Joined
Dec 1, 2004
Messages
349
you can find several in the multi-ch. amp world that is low profile . but finding one that is less that 12" wide is going to be a trick as most i have seen are between 15" or 17"

is the 12" necessary ?
 

Eruden

n00b
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Aug 12, 2006
Messages
17
Dimensions are not necessarily a requirement, it just surprised me that there weren't more offerings that aren't basically a full sized receiver. The current unit stands on it's side and doubles as a headphone stand. I should just post a picture, that might make it easier.
 

Scizyr

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jun 24, 2015
Messages
235
You posed an extremely difficult challenge.

The main reason I see for you wanting to upgrade is to support newer audio formats that you currently cannot with your hardware. This is the biggest stepping stone to solve your problem. Disregard any recommendations involving digital coax or optical audio inputs, they do not have enough bandwidth to support new formats like TrueHD, DTS HD Master, PCM 5.1, etc.

Bare minimum you need an HDMI input, there are a lot of options for that in your footprint, but I've only found one that has the processing for the aforementioned audio formats. At best you'll get PCM, which isn't really too bad a thing(as long as it is more than 2 channels). Most newer games can stream up to 7.1 over PCM in hdmi. The one solution I found for you is the Sherwood R-N04, but it isn't available, you'd have to find it used, it is of poor quality in design and has absolutely disgusting THD.

Your best bet, and the only thing I could recommend as someone who appreciates audio is to bite the bullet and get a full AVS receiver, not your old Yamaha as it doesn't support newer formats, I checked. You don't have to get a "full size" receiver. The Marantz NR1504 has a slim design, has all the formats you need and has respectable amplification quality. I think it would pair nicely with your Cambridge Audio speakers.
http://www.us.marantz.com/us/Produc...?CatId=AVReceivers&SubCatId=&ProductId=NR1504

The main reason we can't have all these things in a smaller footprint is the need for discrete circuits and heatsinks for those circuits. You could most likely separate the amplification and audio processing, thereby spreading out the footprint, however much more research would be needed and those systems are usually in the "audiophile" price range and for your speakers, the several thousand extra dollars wouldn't make a difference.
 

Eruden

n00b
Joined
Aug 12, 2006
Messages
17
You posed an extremely difficult challenge.

The main reason I see for you wanting to upgrade is to support newer audio formats that you currently cannot with your hardware. This is the biggest stepping stone to solve your problem. Disregard any recommendations involving digital coax or optical audio inputs, they do not have enough bandwidth to support new formats like TrueHD, DTS HD Master, PCM 5.1, etc.

Bare minimum you need an HDMI input, there are a lot of options for that in your footprint, but I've only found one that has the processing for the aforementioned audio formats. At best you'll get PCM, which isn't really too bad a thing(as long as it is more than 2 channels). Most newer games can stream up to 7.1 over PCM in hdmi. The one solution I found for you is the Sherwood R-N04, but it isn't available, you'd have to find it used, it is of poor quality in design and has absolutely disgusting THD.

Your best bet, and the only thing I could recommend as someone who appreciates audio is to bite the bullet and get a full AVS receiver, not your old Yamaha as it doesn't support newer formats, I checked. You don't have to get a "full size" receiver. The Marantz NR1504 has a slim design, has all the formats you need and has respectable amplification quality. I think it would pair nicely with your Cambridge Audio speakers.
http://www.us.marantz.com/us/Produc...?CatId=AVReceivers&SubCatId=&ProductId=NR1504

The main reason we can't have all these things in a smaller footprint is the need for discrete circuits and heatsinks for those circuits. You could most likely separate the amplification and audio processing, thereby spreading out the footprint, however much more research would be needed and those systems are usually in the "audiophile" price range and for your speakers, the several thousand extra dollars wouldn't make a difference.

This is more and more what I'm finding. It sounds, on paper, like it should be something that is doable, but obviously hasn't for a reason.
Here's those pictures, just so you can see what I'm currently dealing with. Looks like I'll need to make some space for another piece of hardware :mad:
20160205_120840_a.jpg

20160205_120855_a.jpg

(edit - wow those were large images - resized and hopefully looks better)
Sorry for the poor quality, I just snapped them with my phone.
Thanks for all the great replies, and if something does turn up, don''t hesitate to post!
 
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prime2515102

[H]ard|Gawd
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Mar 3, 2003
Messages
1,595
Have you considered putting a receiver or integrated amp under or next to your desk on the floor?

I have mine sitting in the corner on top of an old keyboard drawer/monitor stand that I painted black. Anything hard and flat would do though- a piece of wood even - unless you don't have carpet then it wouldn't be needed at all.

I find I don't need access to the front panel at all since everything is controlled in Windows. I just keep the remote on my monitor base for power and volume (and occasionally switching to FM).
 

Scizyr

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jun 24, 2015
Messages
235
This is more and more what I'm finding. It sounds, on paper, like it should be something that is doable, but obviously hasn't for a reason.
Here's those pictures, just so you can see what I'm currently dealing with. Looks like I'll need to make some space for another piece of hardware :mad:
*snip*
(edit - wow those were large images - resized and hopefully looks better)
Sorry for the poor quality, I just snapped them with my phone.
Thanks for all the great replies, and if something does turn up, don''t hesitate to post!
Those pictures help, am I correct that you have all 5 of your speakers set up in an array in front of you along your monitors?

If that's the case, you can remove 3 of them, get a cleaner 2 channel DAC and tiny amp. The soundstage you get from 2 channels with a good DAC+amp will outperform your 5 channel setup. Right now if you listen to surround content your soundstage will be quite jarring, as things supposed to be behind you are coming from in front of you.

If you do go with the full receiver option I would implore you to move your 5 channel system so you can experience proper surround sound. Otherwise ditch 3 speakers and go 2.1 channel, either way you'll be much better off than your current setup.
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2011
Messages
52
Those pictures help, am I correct that you have all 5 of your speakers set up in an array in front of you along your monitors?

If that's the case, you can remove 3 of them, get a cleaner 2 channel DAC and tiny amp. The soundstage you get from 2 channels with a good DAC+amp will outperform your 5 channel setup. Right now if you listen to surround content your soundstage will be quite jarring, as things supposed to be behind you are coming from in front of you.

If you do go with the full receiver option I would implore you to move your 5 channel system so you can experience proper surround sound. Otherwise ditch 3 speakers and go 2.1 channel, either way you'll be much better off than your current setup.
If the above is right, I agree.



QUESTION:

How much are you willing to spend?
 

Eruden

n00b
Joined
Aug 12, 2006
Messages
17
Those pictures help, am I correct that you have all 5 of your speakers set up in an array in front of you along your monitors?

If that's the case, you can remove 3 of them, get a cleaner 2 channel DAC and tiny amp. The soundstage you get from 2 channels with a good DAC+amp will outperform your 5 channel setup. Right now if you listen to surround content your soundstage will be quite jarring, as things supposed to be behind you are coming from in front of you.

If you do go with the full receiver option I would implore you to move your 5 channel system so you can experience proper surround sound. Otherwise ditch 3 speakers and go 2.1 channel, either way you'll be much better off than your current setup.


Currently correct, but only because I recently had to move my desk. Once I get cabling re-done they'll be back on the bookshelves behind me where they belong. Right now it doesn't matter too much since I'm only getting stereo output anyway.
I'm thinking there is consensus that a receiver is the best way to go, and from everything I've seen it looks like that's the case. Unfortunately now I'm rethinking my entire layout too :(
As for budget, I would rather not spend more than say $500 or so, but if something is truly great I can always be persuaded :)
 

westrock2000

[H]F Junkie
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Jun 3, 2005
Messages
9,305
Very modern fast digital switching Class D/T and is very cool, efficient and compact. But they suffer in sound quality.

This isn't really true anymore. Even mid range "Chipamps" are getting very good reviews (from normal people, not paid reviewers). And you can even buy the basic assembled circuit boards for these from China for <$10. It's remarkable.

When coupled to good speakers, they sound just as good as any other amplifiers near their price point. And as long as they are not pushed.

Remember anything thats powered by 12V DC is only going to realistically push out about 5 watts. And hitting the limits (or thermal protection) on that will definitely make you think it sounds like crap.
 

chaos4u

Limp Gawd
Joined
Dec 1, 2004
Messages
349
http://www.optomausa.com/soundproduct/MCA18
8ch class d amp 3 inches high. 17" wide they also have smaller 2 ch amps under there home stereo section

http://www.outlawaudio.com/products/7075.html
7 ch amp 4" high

http://www.lexicon.com/productdetail/~/product/dd-8.html
8 ch amp 2" high

http://www.yamahaproaudio.com/global/en/products/poweramps/ipa8200/index.jsp

8 ch amp 3" high

http://www.crownaudio.com/en-US/products/ct-875
another slim amp 1.75 high 8 ch



you can also take a chgance on these tiny amps
http://www.amazon.com/Watts-Stereo-...=1454724696&sr=1-1&keywords=Amphony+amplifier

they are minuscule and maybe work for your application.



then there is the Dared Products - DV-6C which may be a perfect fit for your needs minus the dsp stuff at 7 inches wide and 13 inches long it offers 6 channels in a nice compact build that will fit you desk

http://www.dared.us/products_dv6c.php


marantz has a low profile receiver with all the trimmings (minus the auro-3d stuff , for that you will need a bit more equipment)

http://us.marantz.com/us/products/pages/ProductDetails.aspx?CatId=avreceivers&ProductId=NR1606
 
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Eruden

n00b
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Aug 12, 2006
Messages
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Have you looked at Creative Sound Blaster X7
Here s a great review of it at head-fi
http://www.head-fi.org/t/756102/creative-sound-blaster-x7-detailed-review-impressions

Interesting idea, but I'm struggling to understand how it would be cabled up to PC and to drive my current speakers. My stuff is more typical to home audio than PC speaker setup (where I would assume that the sub has all the other audio outputs baked in), and I was starting to get my heart set on being able to use HDMI as an input. Would the USB connection pose any kind of limitation? Optical has worked OK in the past, but it's not supported for a lot of the newer formats, and what purpose would the Optical input serve anyway? Does anyone have one of these currently in use with a 5.1 system that could chime in?
 
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darme

Weaksauce
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Mar 17, 2011
Messages
120
I know this doesn't add any value but its nice to see someone else with the old cambridge soundworks 5.1 set. I have two of them still kicking, one on my gaming pc and one on my daugters pc. 15 years or so later and nothing has failed on either of them. They don't make anything like this anymore it seems.
 

Eruden

n00b
Joined
Aug 12, 2006
Messages
17
then there is the Dared Products - DV-6C which may be a perfect fit for your needs minus the dsp stuff at 7 inches wide and 13 inches long it offers 6 channels in a nice compact build that will fit you desk

http://www.dared.us/products_dv6c.php


marantz has a low profile receiver with all the trimmings (minus the auro-3d stuff , for that you will need a bit more equipment)

http://us.marantz.com/us/products/pages/ProductDetails.aspx?CatId=avreceivers&ProductId=NR1606

The Dared thing looks really interesting, but sketchy website and pictures. What the heck does the back of this thing look like?!
Someone earlier mentioned the Marantz 1506, which I've been doing some more homework on. I'm currently leaning in that direction. It's affordable, and has a ton of features (90% of which will never be used), but I'll need to figure out how to get that incorporated into my next build. Thanks for all the research, some interesting stuff in there!
 

chaos4u

Limp Gawd
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Messages
349
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/dared4/dared.html

has some addtional pics


amazon reviews http://uedata.amazon.com/Dared-Dv-6...KsWuipL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160,160_


but yeah the dared seems a lil dicey despite the reviews, at least with marantz you know there is at American distributor behind it, with the dared i think it comes straight from china.

also the marantz has all the dsp stuff you was wanting to have acess to with the dared or any amp for that matter you would need a pre/proc amp to get the dolby and the dts stuff.
 

Eruden

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Aug 12, 2006
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This thing looks crazy. I'm tempted to get one just to see what it actually does, but the only place I could find one it was $450 and really shady reviews.
The Marantz is probably the way to go unless someone with a SoundBlaster X7 using a 5.1 setup can actually show me how that's accomplished with analog speakers and sub. Sounds like there's a market out there though. Someone just needs to come up with a way to split out the HDMI audio from a modern video card into 5.1 discrete channels in a small form factor and market it.
 

Eruden

n00b
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Aug 12, 2006
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The only thing that concerns me about the Marantz is the huge number of broken units for sale out there. A quick search turns up dozens of units on various forums and ebay for sale where the seller is stating that Marantz didn't honor the warranty or some such. The Yamaha RX-S series doesn't seem to have the same issue, but is several hundred dollars more (avg. price $559 vs. the Marantz at around $340). I'm not sure it's worth the price difference, but the reliability is a concern.
 
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