Tuesday, February 18, 2014

So eventually I figured what I wanted from my mew Amp

Make something small bigger. In this instance electrical energy is added to an audio signal, weather its solid state or valve technology it will either be increasing the voltage or current. Thereby providing more energy to a speaker; resulting in larger kinetic movement; larger compression wave; and therefore greater decibels.
DAC $250
Digital Audio Converter, to replace the on-board sound card in a PC
Pre Amp $1-2k
May increase volume, but it’s primary purpose is to improve the signal quality (at all audio frequencies) in preparation for amplification by the “Power Amp”.
I think this belongs here, once the sound is analog (DAC) and  clarified (pre-amp) it could be passed through an Equalizer. This splits the left and right channels, then allows fine tuning of various frequencies. In it’s simplest for an equalizer consists of three dials for Treble/Mid,Bass otherwise there will be ~10 individual sliders, each labelled for a specific Hz. The Equalizer then recombines this into a single waveform.
Power Amp $1-4k
Seems to make no difference to the price if its stereo, 5.1 or 7.1. They weigh 10-30kg, depending on the wattage. This has a nice big dial on the front to adjust the amount of power that is actually sent to the speakers, reducing the power decreases volume and distortion, turning the dial the other way sends more power to the speakers increasing volume and distortion.
Integrated Amplifier
Is a pre-amp + power amp
Receiver $1-5k
A combination of any/all of the above; Plus a lot of added features like LCD display and input selectors.

Sound Card $10-300
Lives in a computer; Combines a DAC, Pre Amp and Equaliser. All controlled through software on the PC. You can’t get a Power Amp in a PC because the PC power supply cant supply enough electricity. Plus the weight and heat dissipation problems.

Speaker $0-10k (usually complimentary when buying an amp)
Turn electrical energy into kinetic energy, creating a compression wave that we can interpret as sound.
Should be rated with watts and inductance for example 20W (RMS) 8Ω, as per this guide
A single speaker unit may have up to 4 individual speakers, each sized (by diameter/weight/stiffness) to be optimal for a specific frequency range, for example. 40cm (20-100Hz), 20cm (100-600Hz), 10cm (600Hz – 6kHz), 2.5cm (6-20kHz)

Will component A work with component B?
As near as I can tell the answer is yes, though it may not work well. On the other hand I couldn’t tell the difference. As a rule of thumb the RMS wattage output should be more than the sum RMS wattage of all the speakers you intend to plug into it. It’s easier to turn down a system that’s too loud than mane an underpowered system audible. And speakers should be wired in parallel, not serial to maintain their impedance (Ω)

What is the one thing I should upgrade the most?
If you want clearer sound then, Speakers you could double the wattage but better than that is to get ones with an inbuilt tweeter, mid-bass, woofer. Then a powered subwoofer will give you the 4 main frequency ranges.
If you just need dB then a Power-Amp is the way to go.
Alternatively have a look at buying a full home theatre system that is more expensive that what you have, then check your spec to theirs and upgrade the weakest link. Though it may be impossible to compare apples with apples.

In the end I found a friend who wasn't using his 2.1 Edifier S330D so I bought it. There is separate power to the Subwoofer unit which functions as the DAC + Integrated Amp. I've settled on the fiber optic input and connected my 40+yo Sanyo speakers in parallel with the existing satellite speakers.
Thus I have:
16.5cm 36W 5Ω
and 2x
~13cm 20W 8Ω
5.08cm 18W 5Ω
0.19cm 18W 4Ω