As a long time audiophile I'm finally able to bi-amp my setup. I'm using two identical amps in a vertical bi-amp configuration.
Now me not fully understanding all of the ins/outs of internal speaker crossovers and what not. I've read quite a few people tell me that bi-amping like I'm doing whether it's vertical or horizontal bi-amping is a waste since there's really not a improvement because of how speaker manufacturers design the internal crossovers.
Can anyone explain to a third grader how it's beneficial or if the naysayers are correct in the statement?
Bi-amping provides the most improvement when the source signal (most commonly the output of a pre-amp) is divided into bass frequencies for one amp, mids and highs for the other. The dividing is done with an electronic crossover which receives the output of the pre-amp, and has two sets of output jacks, one for each power amp.
The benefit is the result of keeping bass frequencies out of the amplifier that handles the midrange and high frequencies. Bass frequencies use most of the power an amp produces, and cause of a lot of the distortion all circuits create as a byproduct.
If you bi-amp horizontally, you can use one amp particularly good at reproducing bass (solid state), the other an amp good at mids and highs (tube, if you like). Yes, vertical bi-amping does allow you to amply the entire frequency spectrum with the same amplifying circuit, if that’s your priority. But remember, the power supply for both channels of a stereo amplifier is the single transformer most amps contain, so there is a price to be paid by bi-amping vertically.
bi-amping, in my experience, is best with 4 identical channels of amplification and a speaker allowing separate low octave and upper octave inputs. the reason is my priority is always coherency first and foremost. and if the amps for upper and lower octaves are different, unless the speaker is designed with those particular amps in mind, you will always fight for optimal coherency. and in theory that should more control the speaker compared to just two of those same channels, resulting is better performance; the amps are less stressed, the speaker more under control, with a better soundstage, more authority in the lower octaves, and lower noise.
that said, it’s hard to generalize about bi-amping, each case is separate. too many variables. and if you have the budget for 4 channels of amplification, most times investing in better 2 channels of amplification and not bi-amping will equal a higher level of musical result. based on my personal priorites.
OTOH if ultimate dynamics or bass punch is more significant than coherency, then all bets are off and bi amp to your heart’s content. for me though, i’d rather have the very finest first watt and listen happily ever after which would be the better performing 2 channels.
so quality almost always trumps quantity.
one case is tempting, where you have a low wattage SET tube amp, and need something to kick it on the bass, so you find a solid state amp for the bass. maybe your best overall result is with those different amps, but you will always be fighting your bass being solid state and not ’of a piece’ with the SET tubed upper octave amplification. but you might love it anyway. comes down to what you like. no rules.
at the modest level of gear, maybe you have a multi-channel amp you want to use to bi-amp some speakers. in that case, it does make sense to do it. again, hard to generalize.
It’s not a waste. Assuming the passive crossovers in your speakers are good, you still gain the benefit of having separate amps for each channel, which have similar benefits as monoblocks. There’s better physical and electrical separation.
Are you driving the woofers with one side of each amp, and the tweeters with the other? (ie: one stereo 2 channel amp per side)
The benefits should be more about soundstage and separation improvements than any tonal balance changes, but in theory there could be some clarity improvements too. The improvements you may hear are a variable that depends a lot on the rest of the system. What are the amps and the speakers?
There are pros and cons with every choice, and few absolutes. Active crossovers and passive crossovers each have their pros/cons. Most active crossovers can’t address problem areas within the drivers like passive crossovers can. They only act as high, low, or bandpass filters, no notch filters, no shelving networks, no zobels, etc. Hook an active crossover to a driver with issues, and you can have a mess that can't be compensated. A really good passive crossover with high quality parts can sound amazing. Passive crossovers can be more complicated to design well, and many use cheap parts that effects performance.
I’m taking sort of a hybrid horizontal approach . Tube amp monoblocks on the mid and tweeter with passive crossovers, then an active crossover to an integrated solid state amp that just drives the woofers @ ~ 80hz and down (and the active subwoofer).
@knotscott makes a very important point: electronic crossovers provide only "textbook" filters. TF’s are 1st/2nd/3rd/or 4th order, which create slopes of 6/12/18/or 24dB an octave for each driver. The internal passive crossovers in almost all good loudspeakers do more than provide just those slopes; they also contain parts that create compensation filters for the drivers themselves.
To best bi-amp a loudspeaker, the speaker should really be designed with that as a given. Older Maggies (those with parallel crossovers) are perfect candidates for bi-amping, as their crossovers contain no driver compensation networks, only textbook slope filters. The .7 series Maggies contain not parallel but series crossovers, so need to be modified to allow bi-amping.
Just my opinion, but the difference between bass drivers and midrange/tweeter drivers FAR exceeds the difference between comparable amplifiers. Except of course for planar-magnetic’s, ESL’s, ribbons, etc. Different drivers made of different materials sound radically different from one another.
Amplifier designers have to make compromises in their amps: bigger output transformers in a tube amp produce better bass than does the same amp with smaller transformers. But smaller transformers produce better high frequencies (smaller ones create less saturation of the transformer core, a consequence of magnetic flux).
Of course the above pertains to only tube amps. But ALL amplifiers are designed with compromises made. Using different amps for different frequencies makes a lot of sense. Everyone with a subwoofer is already doing exactly that.
Totally agree with Mike L. He's dead on. Waste of money for most people because seldom is it done correctly. It's expensive to do right and the complexity just isn't worth it in most systems. Upgrade the speakers or amplification for real noticeable improvements instead.
IF you have speakers with large woofers, or even subs that are not self-powered
Then, to get more power for the demanding bass frequencies, you bi-amp, size your bass amp for both strong fundamentals/overtones, and enough control to work with the woofer's magnet to stop the woofer
IF you have enough power, I do think bi-amp based on ’this cable is better for bass’ frequencies, this ’other cable is best for mids/highs’ is ......................................
If you can afford it, like many other ______, why not, unless you lose something messing about.
This made a slight difference, a big difference, a huge difference.
Ten ’upgrades’ all made a slight, big, huge difference: oh my god, gotta be the BEST system you ever heard! Gotta be.
The issue is half in the speaker, half in the amp. Lots of speakers have challenging loads in the bass, and lots of amps can perform better with better power supplies. Notice this is kind of statistical. I say "lots" and "most." So, while bi-amping may help, it won't always.
When you bi-amp you double the power supply and output transistors, therefore making the amp less sensitive to impedance issues.
Whether or not it helps you is something you should hear for yourself. Generally you should hear better defined bass and transients. If you don't hear that you may as well sell an amp.
My first "go" at this was many years ago when I got my Genesis V speakers that came with an outboard amp/crossover and used my VAC tube amp on top. My next setup was the internally powered Golden Ear Triton 1.r speakers which also "bi- amp" the bass. I recently got rid of them in favor of the Legacy Audio Focus XD speakers that are "bi -Amp" speakers. They have an internal amp in them. I am now in the process of doing this right and have ordered their external crossover Wavelet II which will go between my VAC pre amp and the speakers as well as my VAC tube amp for mids and highs. The Wavelet will then feed to the speakers internal amp and my external VAC amp simultaneously. So far all have worked out for me, yet this final ventures is yet to be determined although it may most likely be the best of them all.
In my case it was worth the effort in a previous system.
I had floorstanders with dual 6-3/4 inch woofers that had their own set of speaker termminals. They had another set of terminals for the 4-1/2 inch midrange and 1 inch tweeter. The internal crossover managed the signal between midrange and tweeter.
With my 80 watt integrated amplifier driving the entire speaker using the supplied brass jumpers, the system ran out of power sooner than I liked- sounded strained, harsh and slightly clipping in the midrange and bass punch reached its peak.
I then used the pre-outs of the integrated to connect to a 150 WPC power amp of the same brand, same gain, and connected it to the woofer terminals.
I connected the speaker terminals of the 80 watt integrated amp to the midrange+tweeter terminals.
Wow what a change. Bass punch and response was incredibly powerful and beyond my needs, never ran out of gas. The midrange never ever sounded strained or clipped, could crank that system as high as I could ever want.
So in that case the original amp was underpowered for the entire speaker at the volume level I preferred. Also since the speakers had a midrange / tweeter setup and had separate jumpers for the woofers, driving them with a separate amp was worthwhile.
I would never find biamping worth the effort with an amplifier just for a tweeter- they consume such a small amount of power. I would also not consider biamping a speaker without dual sets of jumpers and having to bypass the internal crossovers. Opens up a can of worms not worth the effort.
I have two NAD M23 amps and speakers are Paradigm Founders 100F.
I am using them in a vertical bi-amp configuration.
I have four subwoofers handling the very low end. So the amplifier shouldn't be stressing out in any way. Even when I had just the one M23 amp connected using both speakers it sounded phenomenal. That's when I decided I wanted two. I loved it!
The amps can be bridged but I felt this could degrade the quality of the amp and chose the buying of two amps instead kind of like a monoblock setup. I've usually used monoblock amps for my system but NAD doesn't make a monoblock amp in this M23, even though it can be bridged I just felt bridging could degrade the quality l heard when connected in two channel.
I've never tried bridging these amps but based upon Audioholics testing said it did kind of decrease the quality over running two channel mode.
I'm just trying to learn more and appreciate the feedback knowledge!
Yes. I have XLR Y-cable splitters. It comes out of my preamp splits the channel and then each of those goes to a channel on the amp.
My preamp (Marantz 8805A) has a bi-amp mode in the setup menu that allows me to use another channel for bi-amping. They claim setting it up this way and I'll quote from their explanation:
"This connection enables back EMF (power returned without being output) from the woofer to flow into the tweeter without affecting the sound quality, producing a higher sound quality."
But for some reason unknown to me when I use this method of connecting my XLR cables and run a level test in the setup menu. When the left speaker is putting out a test tone I'm getting both main speakers playing at the same time the high frequencies and when I switch to the right speaker I get both the main speakers low frequencies playing at the same time. Not sure if Marantz implemented something wrong here or not but I don't understand it all. So I connected back the XLR splitters. 🤷🏻♂️
I experimented with bi-amping Magnapan 1'6's with two Arcam Alpha 10's. I really couldn't hear a difference. I went the next step and added a Bryston 10B active crossover removing the passive crossovers with a custom speaker terminal. Huge difference in everything for the better.
FWIW - Maggies are known for their simple and somewhat cheap crossover components, so as others have said, the conversion to active might not be as simple or as fruitful in other systems.
Two identical amps....one for each channel has less crosstalk, and a dedicated power supply on each channel....similar benefits as mono blocks. Any amp should benefit from that scenario. If you use two identical stereo amps, you can use one channel for the woofer, and the other for the mids/tweeter on both sides. A channel that doesn't have to deal with the stress of driver a woofer is usually going to be better...how much is audible is an unknown, but its a better situation for the amp. I don’t see it as a total waste at all. It can really improve the soundstage, and dynamics of a system, and sometimes clarity other characteristics, depending on other factors. How much improvement you can hear depends on many things. It may not be worth the improvement to spend a lot for another identical amp, but if you already have them, or can pick up another at a reasonable price, there’s definitely some benefit.
I would bi-amp. I agree with @knotscott, he gives good advice about passive bi-amping. I have no experience with passive bi-amping, as my speakers can only be actively bi-amp. When I horizontally bi-amped my speakers, with an analog active crossover design by the same manufacturer (of the speakers), it brought my speakers three notches above the passive crossover in sound quality. A good external crossover is very important when actively bi-amping. Also you said you have two amps then just do it, you might like it. 😎
That said, passive or active bi-amping should not be undertaken without first asking the speaker manufacturer’s advice.
Why doesn’t Wilson allow for biamping of their speakers? Seems really odd with all those drivers in use. Even with all their glorious crossover designs, it would seem to make sense to allow use of a tube amplifier for the upper drivers and solid state for bass drivers. Anyone who buys these speakers is probably very versatile with all of biamp benefits yet Wilson doesn't do it. Same question for a lot of other upper end speakers that choose not be biampable.
2) "Passive Bi-amping" is BS. You’re still delivering a full range signal to both the LF and MF/HF passive crossovers, the unused half of the signal is just turned to heat.
3) Horizontal Bi-Amping allows for hybrid amp usage e.g. SS Bass Amp / VT Mid/Highs. If the concern is power supply demand, that’s an amp issue; bi-amping has no impact, per se. Get a bigger amp if needed.
4) Vertical Bi-Amping uses CH 1 of the first am for LF and CH 2 for Mid/Highs. In theory minimizing incongruities dues to differences in amp design.
ALL bi-amping requires a line level crossover to provide LP and HP as well as level matching functionality.
@knotscott said "Most active crossovers can’t address problem areas within the drivers like passive crossovers can. They only act as high, low, or bandpass filters, no notch filters, no shelving networks, no zobels, etc. Hook an active crossover to a driver with issues, and you can have a mess that can’t be compensated. A really good passive crossover with high quality parts can sound amazing. Passive crossovers can be more complicated to design well, and many use cheap parts that effects performance." This is by and large true. There are two mitigations however: use a DSP that can provide notch and shelving as well as crossover functionality or connect the amp post-crossover and pre-equalizing elements. This preserves the compensations, but may not easily be accomplished with some crossover designs. I probably would back out at that point, unless the MF/HF access is provided where necessary by the manufacturer.
All that said, there are two major advantages of vertical and horizontal bi-amping done with an electronic crossover: Improved dynamic range, by as much as 6 dB. 2 - 50W amps can deliver the dynamics of the same speaker driven by a 400W. More realistically, a 75W LF and 25W MF/HF - which argues for vertical bi-amping. Active speakers like Genelec G-Series, KEF LS-50 and LS-60 Wireless or JBL 4305 and 4329 are a good examples of this type of asymmetrically powered active speaker design.
The other advantage is eliminating the both the LF series inductor(s) and their associated DC resistance, which destroys woofer damping and control as well as keeping the back EMF from the LF driver away from the MF/HF elements, reducing any distortion, and improving power handling. The latter two are easily audible.
It should come as no surprise that virtually all high-performance live sound systems are bi-amped, tri-amped or even quad-amped, and have been for over 50 years. The systems I co-designed and worked with in the mid-late 70s sprung from the Altec Voice of the Theater tradition, eventually using subwoofers bins under the stage crossed over between 80-120 Hz, LF boxes from there to 800Hz and large 4" compression drivers from 800- 6Khz both vertical line arrays, and 1" compression drivers from 6KHz up, all hung, flown from the venue ceiling . We went through a number of amps, beginning with the 150 W/Ch Crown DC-300A (not roadworthy), An Altec 200W/Ch 9440A (not reliable) before settling on the now-legendary Yamaha P2200.
Two final notes - the advantages proper bi-amping are clear: improved LF performance and dynamic range, but are most apparent only in high output (loud) applications. If your home listening never gets above 90dB or so, bi-amping is doubtfully a cost effective add-on . If you have a big system in a big room, it’s the only way to go.
Virtually all subwoofers on the market today are actively bi-amped, although few have proper HP filtering, relying instead on the ’Bass Management’ capabilities of the preamp or AV processor. Low end subwoofers often have speaker level connections to the subwoofer, then pass-through connections to the main speakers. This is a very economics-driven and compromised solution.
One of the reasons some high end manufacturers don't offer bi-wiring/biamping capability is because it means that those who don't use the facility end up having to use jumpers to connect the two sets of speaker terminals.
Bi-wiring/amping introduces a whole lot of extra complexity - double the cable runs, possibly the use of splitters etc.
Personally, I prefer the approach of just buying a better amp - preferably a pair of monblocs.
I believe that you get value from bi-amping speakers that are designed to be bi-amped and have a proper complimentary crossover- preferably made by the speaker manufacturer for that particular set of speakers.
Because there are so many variables in "complex" amplification I'd start by listening to the above before you buy.
I recently bought a set of Bryston Model Ts. I listened to them bi-amped with a matching crossover. They sounded wonderful. When I got them home my ARC VT130 couldn't keep up with the speaker's demands at higher volume and the bass was a bit mushier than when they were bi-amped. I bought Bryston's crossover and a pair of their solid state 7B's to drive the woofers and I drive the mids/tweets with my ARC tube amp. Viola! They sounded as good (actually a little better thanks to the tube amp) as they did in the retailer's listening room.
Moral of the story: Listen before you buy and be prepared to spend a lot more money than you hoped to get it just right. I've got my wife and car up for sale now to recover the added costs of bi-amping.
Some of us kind of do it already with an addition of a sub-woofer. We also have enjoyed the time, expense and fun this can be to get it right.
As far as waste of time, you will never know yourself if this is BS or not.
1, You stated, "I'm USING two identical amps in a vertical bi-amp configuration." Sounds like you are already doing it. ??? Which stage of this are you?
2. You mentioned the Internal Crossover. You should Not have to touch the internal crossover. Are you thinking of Active Biamping? If so, Stop. You will be defeating all the reasons you chose those speakers. A Whole different very ugly animal.
I would suggest Bi Wiring first. You are going to need these cables anyway for your Biamp endeavors. If your speakers are not biwireable, you're full stop. Or you have to Make your speakers biwireable. Then buy and install another amp.
I incline to view Avanti1960’s favorably, as it matches my own experience. This is what we are calling ‘passive biwiring’. Panzerwagen states unequivocally that “the unused half of he signal is just turned into heat”. But is that really all that’s happening? If so, why have Avanti and I heard benefits from using this technique with separable passive crossovers in our speakers? Maybe the passive HPF presents the amp an easier load with less back EMF, allowing it to more optimally drive the MR and tweeter….
If done right, bi or even tri amping is the way to go. But I repeat if done right. If you have ever been to a large concert or even board meetings are always bi or tri amped. But as others have said, it’s not as simple as plugging speakers into two different amps.
I vertically bi-amp my system. Two AGD Tempo stereo amps, each driving a Fyne F1-8. I compared this to using a single Tempo and there is no question that bi-amping here was a big improvement - the same kind of improvement you would get from going from a stereo amp to mono blocks. But when I compared this vertical bi-amp setup to using one channel of each Tempo the improvement was not as distinct. My 2¢.
I have never tried bi-amping my system. I have noticed that many of the very high end speaker manufacturers do not have speaker post for bi-amping. If companies like Wilson, and Magico are not allowing this, can we tell the difference.
Alright found out some information about my preamp and the bi-amp mode it has.
It’s pretty neat when turned on.
Within the preamp (setup in the setup menu) and before the amp, the preamp sends out each channel as a high and low signal (two channels for each speaker and a total of four channels for two HF & two LF signals). When connected properly the LF channel doesn’t receive a HF signal and vice versa.
What Marantz does is separates the one channel for just low frequencies sent out and another separate channel for just the high frequencies. 👍🏻
I have learned that Wilson and others who do not offer biampable speakers it's because they don't trust the world to do it properly. So they don't want you to screw up their speakers.
I am a big proponent of doing tube anp mono to the upper range drivers and solid state to the bass for each side.
wilson of all companies should be allowing this capability. You can get it if you order it special. Many upscale restaurants charge extra if you want your sandwich cut into four pieces. Kind of like Biamping a meal.
I Triamped my Boston a400 and they sounded like different speakers .
highs very detailed , more solid bass. I used an active crossover .My energy Veritas 2.8 are passively triamped, the manual even says not use external active crossover because the 2.8’s have a complex impedance smoothing cross over.
With passive triamping, it only delivers more power to the speakers, you don’t get the benefits of an active crossover.
Like I said, some speakers do great with it. I might get some new cards for active xover and triamp my GNP Valkeryies .
I think speakers with simple crossovers have more promise triamped than ones
with complex crossovers.
”Ask yourself why almost nobody, including people who could easily afford it and wouldn't mind the extra hassle, ever bi-amps home audio systems. Almost nobody”
No speakers offer inputs for active biamping because it’s incredibly easy to accidentally hook up the woofer to the tweeter input and destroy a tweeter!
When I first went to an active x-over and tri-amping the x-over had adjustable x-over points as well as levels for the three (stereo sets) of speakers.
I defy anyone from just setting it and forgetting about it. Want DSTM to sound like it does live? Bump that bass way up, and yes its not what the mastering engineers were shooting for, but what the hell do they know.
Favorite track has bloated bass turn that stuff way down. Got to the point where I was taking notes on individual tracks as to volume on x-over and overall on pre-amp. Madness is the right word for it.
Removing biamp options is a doofus move by the likes of Wilson, Magico, etc. (My guess is that went on a route where their crossover designs are suboptimal for biamping). I don’t care for their speakers eitherway. Other high-end manufacturers (TAD, Schwiekert, etc) who have stuff that sounds even better do permit biamping. No problem there!
As a practical matter, biamping is a way to put some high fidelity lower powered class A amps on the mid driver, tweeter, etc and some class AB or class H that runs cooler for the bass drivers. Running gigantic space heaters/amps in the room will inevitably make the HVAC system kick on a whole lot more ---> Higher noise floor from the airconditioner running ---> You just lost your high fidelity when the air conditioner/HVAC kicked on Sherlock.
Some refer to active configuration simply as "bi-amping," or tri-, quad- etc. ditto, as it requires running multiple amp channels to feed each their driver section. As such it’s an inherent necessity of active and its true asset compared to just bi-amping passively. Multiple-amping as an approach should at least have its specific implementation clearly outlined to avoid confusion, i.e.: whether it’s passively or actively configured, but no doubt the latter option holds the real advantage here.
bi-amping, in my experience, is best with 4 identical channels of amplification and a speaker allowing separate low octave and upper octave inputs. the reason is my priority is always coherency first and foremost. and if the amps for upper and lower octaves are different, unless the speaker is designed with those particular amps in mind, you will always fight for optimal coherency.
I fully agree. It’s a tempting route to try and tailor amps to their respective driver sections, which I’ve tried in my 3-way active setup, and while I’m not saying it can’t be done with a careful approach (or luck) the effect of hearing what similar amps can do by comparison, to me at least, has been the most convincing and rewarding. It requires of one the seek out the amp that "has it all," or certainly has a balanced presentation that ticks off the boxes to one’s preference over the entire frequency range, in regards to resolution, tonality, power capacity, etc. Once there I’ve not since looked back; it just makes the presentation fall into place more effectively.
Ask yourself why almost nobody, including people who could easily afford it and wouldn’t mind the extra hassle, ever bi-amps home audio systems. Almost nobody
You mean actively? If so, then ask yourself how many have actually tried configuring their speakers actively. Not that many are aware of the fact that ’active’ isn’t defined preemptively as a bundled, all-in-one package, and as an outboard active solution intimidation creeps in with the thought of not least setting filter values by oneself. I can understand that, truly, but for someone who doesn’t mind the extra hassle and perhaps has a secondary system to experiment with, it’s just go ahead and do it.
No, by and large it’s not experience with actual intel to go by that keep audiophiles from venturing into outboard active bi-, tri- or whatever-amping, but rather the opposite and a bunch of conjecture. Conservatism as well, even dogma. Economy may be a factor to some, but it doesn't have to be expensive as such to go active. Use the same money on 2 or 3 cheaper, less powerful amps for an active approach. Many would be surprised to hear those cheaper, actively configured amps would likely, and rather easily hold on to the more expensive amp running the speakers passively.
Lot of interesting info, some of which I agree with, other that I don’t.
... the advantages proper bi-amping are clear: improved LF performance and dynamic range, but are most apparent only in high output (loud) applications. If your home listening never gets above 90dB or so, bi-amping is doubtfully a cost effective add-on . If you have a big system in a big room, it’s the only way to go.
I believe that’s shortchanging active a bit in its breadth and diversity of use. Yes, improved LF performance and dynamic range, but it goes beyond that to my ears with improved resolution, less smear, and an overall more uninhibited and tonally "accurate" presentation - at all volumes. Perhaps it’s the added "bonus" of active at elevated SPL’s with its better composure and precision here that to some makes for the more impressive take-away, which I cherish as well, but I find there’s much more to it than that.
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