Stereocheck Reviews:
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Stereo Amplifier
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Stereo Amplifier
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Stereo Amplifier

Common mistakes to avoid when using a stereo amplifier

When engaging with high-fidelity audio equipment, it’s common to encounter mistakes ranging from minor setup missteps like incorrectly spacing speakers to major accidents such as damaging a speaker’s tweeter dome by dropping it. In the excitement of assembling your audio system for immediate use, it’s easy to overlook crucial setup details or fail to assess how well your stereo amplifier meshes with the rest of your setup.

Below, you’ll find a concise guide on what to avoid when utilizing an amplifier. While some may view this as merely a refresher, others may discover valuable insights.

Consider Your Connection Choices

Modern integrated amplifiers and preamplifiers often come equipped with digital inputs to accommodate digital sources. However, not all digital-to-analog converters (DACs) within these devices are created equal, particularly when compared to their analog counterparts. It’s wise for owners of CD players or similar devices with both analog and digital outputs to test both connection types to ascertain which delivers superior sound quality. This comparison might reveal which component in your audio chain possesses the best DAC.

Furthermore, if contemplating an amplifier upgrade, prioritize models with necessary features like digital connections or Bluetooth to avoid unnecessary costs. External DACs, which can be superior to built-in options, can always be added later.

Don't use digital jacks just because they're there.
Don’t use digital jacks just because they’re there.

Do Not Overlook Digital Filters

If your amplifier supports digital input, it likely offers a selection of digital filters, such as steep, shallow, linear phase, or low phase options. These filters play a crucial role in the digital-to-analog conversion process by eliminating unwanted frequencies. Experimenting with these filters can subtly influence sound quality, potentially enhancing your listening experience based on personal preference or system characteristics.

Don't forget about digital filters
Don’t forget about digital filters

Ensure System Compatibility

The interplay between an amplifier and speakers is critical and hinges on three factors: amplifier output power, speaker impedance, and speaker sensitivity. An underpowered amplifier can lead to sound lacking in dynamics or even damage the speakers. Interestingly, speakers are more prone to damage from an underpowered amplifier driven into distortion than from a more powerful one. If louder volume is desired, opt for speakers with higher sensitivity rather than a more powerful amplifier. Also, consider the tonal balance of your system components to ensure they complement each other.

The synergy between the amplifier and the speakers connected to it is vital.
The synergy between the amplifier and the speakers connected to it is vital.

Balanced Connections Aren’t Universally Superior

Many stereo amplifiers feature both RCA and three-pin XLR inputs for balanced audio signals. While balanced connections can reduce electrical noise, especially in noisy environments or over long cable runs, they don’t guarantee superior sound quality in every system. Testing both connection types with your device is advisable to determine which yields the best sound in your specific setup.

Don't assume that balanced is always better.
Don’t assume that balanced is always better.

Placement Matters

The material and stability of your amplifier’s mounting surface can significantly affect sound quality. Different materials can impart distinct sonic characteristics; for instance, glass may introduce too much brightness, whereas wood might provide a warmer sound. Ensure the mounting surface is rigid, level, and low-resonance to minimize vibrations that could degrade sound quality. Also, maintain adequate ventilation around the amplifier to prevent overheating.

Consider Display Options

The operational display on audio equipment, while seemingly minor, can influence sound quality by generating electrical noise that distorts the audio signal. If the display is not essential for operation, turning it off can potentially improve sound quality.

Invest in Quality Cables

Allocating 10 to 15 percent of your hi-fi system’s total cost to cables can enhance overall sound quality. This investment includes both interconnects between sources and the amplifier and speaker cables. Even budget systems can benefit from high-quality cables, with the difference in audio clarity becoming more pronounced in higher-end systems.

Additionally, replacing the stereo amplifier’s power cord and avoiding close placement of power and signal cables can further optimize system performance.

As a rule, we recommend spending 10 to 15 percent of the total cost of a hi-fi system on cables
As a rule, we recommend spending 10 to 15 percent of the total cost of a hi-fi system on cables

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can ensure your hi-fi system not only performs optimally but also provides the most enjoyable listening experience possible.

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