What kind of amplifier do you use to drive your loudspeakers?
It’s a simple question with several possible answers. Those looking to maximise sound quality, often with a spend to match, might go with separates. That means a pre-amplifier connected via RCA or XLR cable to a power amplifier, both of which enjoy separate enclosures, separate power supplies and a separate mains feed.
Putting these two stages in a single box gives us an integrated amplifier with a single mains feed and single chassis. Buh-bye interconnects. Hello, shorter signal paths. Power output varies, often with operational class: D is the shortcut to the bigger numbers and from smaller units with A/B often requiring larger toroidals, power supplies, enclosures and more sophisticated cooling.
In the 1970s, an integrated amplifier like the iconic NAD 3020 gave us the bonus of a simple MM phono stage. Nowadays we often see a DAC integrated instead. If we take (what I call) the super-integrated route, our integrated amplifier will have both phono stage and DAC. And if he’s really hip to the times, our integrated amplifier designer will add a network streamer and, to ice the cake, room compensation software.
Not all amplifiers sit in plain sight. Moving from passive to active loudspeakers places the amplification after the mains powered crossover network where it is tuned at the driver level. Inside the most modern of boxes, the post-crossover amplification sucks on D/A conversion, streaming and room compensation. Powered loudspeakers often look like their active brethren but they aren’t. Instead, they put the amplification before a passive crossover and inside the ‘primary’ speaker to umbilically feed the secondary speaker,
So — which kind of amplification do you use? A couple of weeks ago I asked the Darko.Audio YouTube subscriber base this very question. 10,000 people responded. This number alone is interesting. It’s more than the number attending AXPONA in Chicago; or just under half a Munich High-End.
Here be the poll results:
Just over 1 in 10 runs active (or powered) loudspeakers and just under a quarter have gone the separates route to leave almost two-thirds of respondents rocking an integrated amplifier.