Just Curious - About using a AV Receiver as main unit

Just curious about something.

I know it is preferable to use a Integrated Amp or Pre-Amp+Amp combo as your main unit in the system but sometimes I see used AV's receivers see from manufacturers who make really good high end 2 channel equipment and these receivers sell for less then say a 2 channel component from the same manufacturer (units from say Rotel, Anthem, Arcam, Marantz, etc). Also, since we are talking about AV Receivers, I guess it's fair to compare them to SS Amps. If your into Tubes, then that is whole different story.

I wonder sometimes if you start a build using one of the AV receivers instead of the 2 channel component, would that be a good system to build off of.

I will say for myself, I started with a Denon AVR-5700 (which I still have and was a beast in it's day) and I think it was an excellent piece of equipment and had a great 2 channel section.

Last year I bought a Integrated amp but honestly, I could have easily stayed with the Denon and build off of that.

Sure, these AV's receivers wont compare to components that are way up there in the thousands but if your budget is bit tight I think these components would be great to start with and I am not talking about your $400 dealer receiver from best buy, I mean AV's receivers that were top of the line in their day and now can be had for much cheaper. 

Well just curious and my opinion.

I see used AV's receivers see from manufacturers who make really good high end 2 channel equipment and these receivers sell for less then say a 2 channel component from the same manufacturer

Yes and for a really good reason: AVRs are crap. Pure crap.
Its not that they set out to deliberately make crap. As you point out there's some decent names with decent 2ch rep making AVR crap. It is however always crap, no matter who makes it, and for good reasons.

One of the hardest things to do, and most important to get right in any component, is the power supply. A seemingly simple thing to do it is in practice quite hard to supply constant clean power. Hard to do with just one component. In an AVR one power supply is supposed to power a 5 channel preamp, 5 power amps, one multi-channel processor, one tuner, and God knows what else. Because AVR buyers all think the more they get the better the deal. They are in other words ignorant and misinformed. Don't be like that. Especially not now. Having been informed you are mono longer ignorant and would then have to be deluded. Don't. Just don't.

Sure, these AV's receivers wont compare to components that are way up there in the thousands but if your budget is bit tight I think these components would be great to start with and I am not talking about your $400 dealer receiver from best buy, I mean AV's receivers that were top of the line in their day and now can be had for much cheaper.

Yeah, no. Not even. Quite the opposite. The less you have to spend the harder it is to get quality and so its even more important not to search out a high value integrated and not squander your scarce resources on a POC AVR.  

But hey, don't take my word for it. Just go back and look at those prices. Listen to price. Hear the message those prices are sending: this is all its worth- because its crap.
Millercarbon just gave you the very best advice supported by a well composed succinct summary of key reasons why.

The “older” receivers ( pre-HDMI ) arguably may still be operating longer when compared to the current predictable failing AVR HDMI offerings ..... ok .... maybe ... but It’s not that they were built better,

Rather, it’s only because their obsolete legacy composite inputs and non-HDMI main boards don’t suffer from the well-travelled posts about the HDMI dodgy handshake issues and eventually failing HDMI main boards. 
Most importantly, the key point highlighted by Millercarbon involves the important issue that AVRs have comparatively crummy power supplies that limit their performance.


AVRs have their niche in “manufactured sound” multi-channel audio home theatre setups .
However, quality build 2-channel audio components (either a pre-amp / power amp or an integrated amp ) is your preferred pathway forward for 2-channel audio performance and audio enjoyment in lockstep. They will clearly best the AVRs - full stop - and the differences are not subtle.
AVRs are all over the map. Pure sound quality, the Onkyo receiver and Emotiva processors I heard were garbage. I haven’t heard every brand and every unit though. In particular, these units sounded thin, powerless and lifeless.

Anthem is much much better. It is worthwhile and simpler to think about an Anthem MXR-720 for instance, and then consider adding an external 2 channel amplifier for your mains, especially in terms of system simplicity and having a built in DAC. You save a lot on cables and shelf space!

Currently I run an Anthem AVM into a Luxman integrated with spearate 3 channel amps for the rest of the HT. Waaaay too much shelf space when you consider the 3 sources (streamer, dac, Roku, Bluray), so I feel your pain in terms of money and space savings and the sheer volume of remotes!


I don’t think AVRs are all that bad. My 11 year old Onkyo (post HDMI) is more than adequate for casual listening. It 1. Does not distort 2. Has no noticeable frequency imbalances 3. Is very dynamic (you should see the power supply tranny on this baby!) and 4. Has versatility out the wazoo!
It is lacking some power (on paper) compared to my BAT two-channel and some refinement but it isn’t "total crap" -not by a long shot.
Finally, what the Onkyo does with a movie soundtrack is awesome!
Onkyo TX-SR876
I had an Onkyo receiver, and Theta Casanova at the same time.

Even my non-audiophile friends didn't like the Onkyo. This was many years ago and your mileage may vary, but it was yet another piece of gear I recycled quickly.

I ended up using a Parasound P7 with an Oppo Bluray player for a very long time.
If money is tight while you're building your system, then an A/V receiver is fine to start. You can find them cheap (sometimes very cheap) on a variety of websites. I have seen them for 10% of their original price. Try to get one from a well-known manufacturer (like Marantz or Pioneer), with HDMI. You can always upgrade, but in the meantime, you'll be listening to music or watching movies.
I'm sure it goes without saying, but I was talking about buying your A/V receiver on the used market.
They sell for 10% of original price for a reason: nobody wants them. Nobody wants them for one very good reason: they are crap.
When money is tight the absolute last thing you can afford to do is throw it away on crap.
Pennywise, pound foolish. Think about it.
I don’t think AVRs are all that bad.

Marantz SR-14 and SR-18 are my favorite, you can use it as power amp just remove the jumpers.

Thanks for all the suggestions

This was just a thought experiment, as I stated I already have a Integrated Amp that I use.

At Millercarbon,

I have to say, I can’t imagine they are all crap. I get that if a person can start off with a 2 Channel Component from the get go, that is the ideal way to go but some of the more higher end AVR’s that are now cheaper (money wise) I just can’t believe they are crap and that they can not perform strictly for 2 channel music.

For example, the older Denon 5800 or even the slightly older Yamaha CX-A5100 (preamp) and MX-A500 (Amp), which I see for much cheaper now. One benefit I see of these components is that they have so many inputs available.

And how about using the AVR as just a pre-amp and adding a really good 2 channel amp to it, if power is a issue in the AVR?

This was just a thought experiment
I can’t imagine they are all crap
Well then thanks for letting us know this is all in your mind. Would have been nice to know before wasting our time. But whatever.
If you do at some point decide to quit just making stuff up and venture out into the real world, there you will discover the reality that AVRs are indeed all pure crap. Whether you can imagine it or not.
Reality. What a concept.
And how about using the AVR as just a pre-amp and adding a really good 2 channel amp to it, if power is a issue in the AVR? 
Nope. Sorry. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Actually, in my original post, I stated "Just Curious" and I also stated, " I will say for myself, I started with a Denon AVR-5700" and also, " Last year I bought a Integrated amp but honestly, I could have easily stayed with the Denon and build off of that."

So I think I was pretty str8 forward with the intention of this post, if you feel this was a waste of time for you, that's on you.

And I was under the impression forums were a place to gain knowledge, share ideas and thoughts. Something popped in my head and I thought I would come here to talk about it.

And I am not making stuff up, I was trying to have a conservation with the community and I very much live in the real world.

Conversation:  a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.

Wow, what a concept.
jay73 - Don't let it get to you kid. Most of us are on your side.
Enjoy the miracle.
Hello Jay,

It seems like you want a system for 2-ch music and surround sound for television and recorded movies(home theater or HT).
If so, I have a suggestion that will be a good transition from an AVR to higher quality separates that you can build on as funds allow:

The main hub component of this solution is to buy a used Oppo 105 Bluray player. This is a very versatile product with a very high quality audio section that can serve as a preamp (but only for CDs and streaming since it has no inputs for other sources), CD and SACD player, streamer, surround sound processor up to 7.1 (but no Atmos) as well as an excellent Bluray video player (1080p but not 4K).
For 2-ch listening, the Oppo has left and right rca and xlr outputs you would connect to a separate stereo amp of your choice. This is a transition point into higher quality stereo playback since almost any separate stereo amp will perform and sound better than the amps in your Denon AVR. The l+r stereo channels double as your front l+r mains when your using the Oppo for HT surround sound playback.
For the other 5.1 or 7.1 surround channels, you could start out by connecting the analog surround channel outputs on the Oppo to the analong surround channel inputs on your Denon AVR. This will allow you to utlize the internal surround channel amps in the Denon.
When you have the funds, you can transition to better separate amps for these surround channels that would be connected directly to the analog surround channel outputs on the Oppo. You would have the option of using a high quality 5 channel amp or using a combination of multiple channel,stereo and mono amps for powering the center, side and rear surround channels. Remember, your separate stereo amp for l+r 2-ch music playback would double as the amp for your l+r front mains for HT playback.
Volume and source selection would be controlled via the Oppo’s remote. There’s also an analog sub output that can be connected to your sub if you have one. This output allows you to use the sub for LFE (low frequency effects) for HT and as a normal sub for music. The Oppo has internal menus that let you control the cutoff frequency for the sub and for setting and balancing the relative volume of all surround channel speakers including the sub.
You can connect the Oppo to your wi-fi, either through an ethernet cable or wirelessly, to receive software updates and stream music, tv and movie content from internet sources such as Apple, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Tidal, Spotify, etc.
You can also connect an external storage device for movie and music playback that utilizes the Oppo’s excellent Saber DACs for high quality digital to analog audio conversion on both video and music stored content.
When you’re ready, you can continue your transition to higher quality separates by choosing a preamp with HT Passthru to allow for more source components to be connected to your system and even further improve audio playback quality.
I utilized my Oppo 105 in exactly this manner for about 6 months, in a effort to simplify my system, with excellent results.


Thanks, I am doing ok. 


Thanks for your input, I appreciate it.

Actually, I am not looking to incorporate a AVR as I already have a 2 channel system with a Integrated Amp.

I had just brought up the subject because I thought it would be beneficial to talk about in case someone out there was looking at building their first 2 channel system but were on a tight budget and so I thought starting with quality AVR might not be a bad idea.

As they build their system around it, they could simply replace the AVR with a good Integrated or Separates. 

That's the only reason I brought up the topic but to be clear, I was not trying to get advice on incorporating a AVR for my own system (I had started that way but moved on).

Sorry for the all the confusion, perhaps I started a bad topic.
"quality AVR" is the key. The giants pop out crap because 90% of people think spending more than $500 for an AV receiver is foolish. My Onkyo full retail is close to $1800. For that much they can afford good parts. Don't worry about your topic. I'm sure it was interesting and inspiring to more than a few people.
" I had just brought up the subject because I thought it would be beneficial to talk about in case someone out there was looking at building their first 2 channel system but were on a tight budget and so I thought starting with quality AVR might not be a bad idea."

Hello jay73,
     Okay, so you decided to make up a pretend and hypothetical post without stating so right from the get go?  Then I, never even considering another member would display such poor judgement as to think this was a good idea, spend about an hour of my life describing in detail how using an Oppo 105 is an excellent and much higher quality method to avoid using an AVR?  WTF? Really Jay, as if making up a pretend and hypothetical post was not a dumb enough idea, you took it to a super-uber-dumb knuckle-headed level idea by not stating it was a hypothetical post right from the beginning.  
     Please don't do this again.

If you can find an old high quality AVR with multi channel analog input for cheap, pair it with miniDSP, you can build a 2/3 way active system for not much money.
If I’m building a 2-channel system only, I’m gonna start with 2-channel components.  Period.  I’d rather spend $500 on a good used stereo integrated like a Rega Brio R or Peachtree Decco 125 that I’d enjoy and actually want to keep around for awhile than on an older jack of all trades/master of nothing AVR I’d like to get rid of ASAP. 
@jay73 You took some flak there. No worries, dust off and regroup. I think it’s a good thread idea. You just didn’t state your case very well.

I used have an Onkyo receiver and 5:1 speaker set up in a temporary lodging and it sounded pretty dreadful. I got rid of the speakers and shelved the amp. One day, I needed a quick rig and used the Onkyo with my Spendors and a CD player. Guess what? It did not sound that bad at all. We used it in a church and you’d be hard pushed to think it wasn’t a more expensive rig.

Thanks for the positive feedback.
Yea, I also used my Denon in the past and I thought it sounded pretty decent and that is why I am keeping it. Besides, I wouldn't get much for it anyway, it might have been close to $3k in it's day but I picked it up for about $250 a few years ago. It works perfectly and is a hefty monster.

I packed it up and put it away as maybe I can use it in the future for a 2nd system if I get more room.

Jay, not all receivers are crap.  I still have an old Denon receiver (pre-HDMI), made in Japan, 45WPC, 4 channels, non AVR, just straight up receiver.  It blew the crap out of a Parasound P3 and Acurus A150 combo, no questions asked.  How's that for crap?
Jay, I pulled up the owners' manual on your Denon...!
It has more jacks on the back of it than an old Moog synth....or even the new ones....*whew*G*

You might employ it as a 'head unit' to feed whatever input into whatever you'd consider....your integrated, an amp, or ?

I feed 'source' into my 'puter....can employ eq that way, run a monitoring prog, run the output back into the matrix I have.

Defeat the tone controls if you can.... but all of the above makes the SAF go *foom*, so....;)

Mine has her own system...simple as a brick, but she still has issues with it....*shrug*
Millercarbon has a knee-jerk reflex where has has to call all HT stuff crap. He has a big negative attack especially on AVRs. I wouldn’t take his comments too seriously.

That being said, there is a small grain of truth in his comment (however, a very small one). It is trued that AV receivers can give a nice bang for the buck, but the preamp sections are not really going to compete with dedicated preamps. Part of the problem is that everything runs off one main shared power supply, and it’s always a power supply that is severely undersized (especially for the amp boards). The compensation for that is that receivers usually run at higher voltage (such as 60 or 70 volts DC). The preamp circuits are just regulated down from that. Or they may be run off a separate switching power supply.

A receiver is not going to compete with a dedicated HT pre/pro (which has no amp part). Some exceptions might be Anthem and Arcam.

If a AVR receiver is what you have to start with due to budget constraints, then go for it.  It is an okay platform "to start with".  If you have to budget for a dedicate HT processor, that would be significantly better.
The different from top of the line AVR than average AVR is the power supply, for example, Marantz SR-14 all five channel @1kHz measured continuous output power:
8 ohm 139.4 W 138.6 W 138.6 W 138.6 W 139.4 W
4 ohm 205.9 W 205.9 W 201.6 W 208.8 W 203.1 W
Front two channel only:
8 ohm 165.7 W 166.9 W
4 ohm 274.2 W 276.3 W
Not too many stereo integrated amp can deliver this kind of power!

   If we're all now misguided enough to treat hypothetical posts seriously, then the solution for this phony scenario is not difficult:

     A used Oppo 105 connected directly to an individual's choice of amp or amps will outperform virtually any AVR ever produced.  The sound quality levels achieved will depend on the combination of either new or used, multi-channel, stereo or mono and quality levels of the amps chosen. And it's a high quality universal video and audio disc player, to boot.  
What's left to hypothetically discuss? 

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I have an old Denon 4806 as the hub of my system and its incredibly versatile and sounds amazing to me whether I'm playing DSD through Denon link and doing room correction in the digital domain using Audessy or switching through numerous components hooked up for maximum quality playback (ex. Node 2i decoding mqa via its internal dac, Node 2i to external Doge 7 tube dac streaming hi res, Pioneer reference BD09fd playing hi res surround through its Wolfson dacs in dual mode and sending video (only) through HDMI, two channel DSD via Sony EX SACD player or the cd layer as transport to the tube dac, etc., etc. There are practically endless permutations you can explore and compare with a click of your AVR remote. These AVRs can shut off the circuits not being used and as far as I can tell are more versatile. sophistcated, and high quality then alot of stuff sold today and you can find lots of reviews to get the best for pennies on the dollar. The Denon and Pioneer reference quality mid to late 2000s AVR and Blue Rays had separate hdmis for video and sound AND external analog inputs! You are free to play any source hooked up any wau you could possibly need (unlike most of todays stuff with very limited connections). Sure, you can buy a multi thousand dollar prepro but a reference quality Pioneer or Marantze Blue ray might sound just as good for a fraction of the cost. My experience is limited but I seriously doubt I'd be blown away by separates as the original poster stated as powerful and sophisticated as these 3 to 4k Denon's were back in the mid to late 2000s. Of course, cheap AVRs are always crap but u can buy super high quality used for pennies on the dollar these days that wasn't designed for obsolecence like so many of today's products. Sound quality used to be a mainstream thing back in those days. You don't have to buy these botiquey esoteric brands and chotchski's costing thousands for every piece in the audio chain to get good sound. Buy quality used components and put the savings into better speakers. All that being said, I love my new tube dac and its not like anyone is really stuck with the dac the comes in their amplifier.


You can use it, you’ll most likely clip the receiver.     If you don’t listen loud, sure, use it. 
   When I transitioned to separates, I have not looked back.

play what you have!
enjoy the journey!
i only listen to 2 chanell stereo. i bought a mcintosh mx132 as a pre-amp tuner to mathch my mc602 power amp. is this a good choice???
Also, for 4k these days you can stream in dolby vision and run optical to your old AVR in 2 channel, or to play 4k blue rays in surround buy a cheap 4k player and run hdmi to your old AVR and picture is still amazing but not 4k I guess. I'm more a sound person so I'm more impressed with the old players with high end dacs to play 5.1 blue ray audio than I am concerned about picture quality when I can alternatively stream and play 4k dolby vision. That is about the only constraint I can think of in using a mid 2000s high-end AVR (not having 4k + surround at the same time)]. If you looked at the features on one you might be surprised and how they upsample and do sophisticated processing and I'm not talking about cheesy DSP effects either. We are talking decoding dsd, bass management in the digital domain, 24 bit processing, and ability to handle a multitude of popular codecs. I'm sure dolby has some new thing but I haven't been particuarly limited on any media I"ve wanted to play to this date. These things are very deep monstrosities though weighing over 50lbs so that's another BIG constraint for most people. Lots of fantastic opinions and info in this thread. Thanks to the original poster for asking such a great question even if my opinion is in the minority.

It doesn't clip. In fact it goes from -100 to +12 db and at 0db it is very loud! Seriously, if you don't have direct experience with the models being spoken about you really have no idea. Its driving my KEF R200s. Kef 1600 center, Kef surrounds and Martin Logan sub effortlessly as far as I can tell. It does get warm but it rocks on movies or music and I 've never heard clipping. When I first got my Kefs and a panasonic dvd multichannel I was playing Come Together in surround and the martin logan was sliding on the floor and you could hear it down the street. No clipping or distortion, just lennons voice clearer then I ever heard it coming from the center channel and amazing drums. That was playing it extremely loud at maybe +4. Aerosmiths SACD of Toys in the Attic breathes new life into the album. People would be blown away if they listened to dsd with good 5.1 speakers being fed 140 watts per channel. Elton John's tumbleweed connection is an absolute revelation compared to its stereo counterpart. One of the best albums I've ever heard.

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This is the benchmark test from Stereophile showing the 4806 does everything well and puts out 181 per channel in 2 channel mode.

This is the model below the flagship the original poster referenced. with even more power and better dacs. A great benefit is there are complete multi hundred page forums and reviews dedicated to the performance and operation of these AVRs because they were so well regarded and popular. You can peruse this info to see if it meets your needs. 

The sheer amount of switching you can do is incredible. I can have the album of a track playing on one channel, cd on another, sacd on another, hi res streaming version on another, blue ray 5.1 on another and switch back and forth between all of these to compare.

As I mentioned before you are not limited to using the dacs in the AV which is stlll some of the best sound you'll probably hear anywhere when letting dsd pass undecoded for the AVR to decode or optionally let your player decode and play through the analog inputs. I'm not knocking separates but most 2 channel systems don't need more than 180 watts per channel. Having a high end AVR switcher in you system provides alot of flexibility and you can always add a tube preamp or outboard tube dac such as I did for two channel. I don't doubt if you spend enough money, separates don't sound superior but where exactly is that line and is it worth it? By definition I suppose an AVR is a compromise, but to me the higher end ones can seem like the best of both worlds.My guess is I'd need to go from mid fi to high end reference speakers to really need separates and I've seen plenty of lower priced high end speakers like Dyna audio etc. being powered by these large AVRs to great effect.
By definition I suppose an AVR is a compromise, but to me the higher end ones can seem like the best of both worlds.My guess is I'd need to go from mid fi to high end reference speakers to really need separates
The only correct part of this statement is “an AVR is a compromise.”  As for the rest, well, not so much.  You really need to go hear even some decent, modestly-priced 2-channel setups to hear what’s possible.  Most any relatively cheap stereo integrated will outperform the priciest AVRs for 2-channel.  

Actually no not even that part is correct. An AVR is not a compromise. An AVR is abject surrender. Total fail.   

Most any relatively cheap stereo integrated will outperform the priciest AVRs for 2-channel.   

Correctamundo. Absolutely. Without a doubt.
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You guys love to exagerrate and speak in generalities. Cheap stereo integrated will not be better simply by virtue of that layout. The highest end AVRs back in their day were made to meet or exceed separates for home theatre and many thought them superior due to additional abilities that greatly affect sound like room correction and internal dsd decoding to reduce jitter. As a consequence of their high prices some also had very good preamplifier sections matching the best home theatre separates. Consequently many sounded really good in 2 channel mode. A relatively cheap stereo integrated is not going to have 180 watts per channel for one thing, and quality is commensurate with any components original when new price tag. Buying used you can often get much higher quality for the same cost of buying new but you have accept the risk. Just saying if you do your research and find a good example it can pay off. Yes, nobody wants them anymore but that is due more to size and complexity of use than sound quality. If your willing to take the time to set one up properly you may really appreciate the versatility. For example, extra channels can be reassigned to biamp speakers. I’m not sure my KEFS would be able to handle the extra power but some people say this can be a performance improvement and I have that option.
Ordered a fully balanced Yamaha se - 2200 integrated recently which should have an advantage over my old Denon AVR in terms of sound quality for music. I love researching audio equipment and this amp will allow me to hook up my tube dac using XLR to take advantage of all 8 tubes. Figured I'd take the advice I was given to see what's possible with a good 2 channel integrated because I do mostly listen to music via cd, SACD, blue ray, and hi res streaming. I'll report back with my impressions in a couple of weeks. I've heard KEF R 3s scale well to better quality comoonents so I'm hoping the same holds true for my R300s (similiar previous model)
Listening to my new Forte 4s powered by my trusty Onkyo receiver as I write. Dan Fogelberg's "Souvenirs" is easing my worried mind...
The Yamaha as-2200 arrived yesterday. The first thing I noticed is it accentuated the top end and sounds more refined overall. Playing rock like Led Zeppelin I didn't think the difference was night and day but liked what I heard. Today I hooked up the tube dac via XLR, put on some Gino Vanelli (early jazzy stuff) and woah...this amps got rythm! For the ultimate test I put on the Body Heat album by Quincy Jones. The effect of going through XLR is dramatic. I'm in the middle of the soundstage with background singers and harmonica sounding like it is coming from behind me. I also hooked it up to pass through my home theatre and can't tell much difference (still sounds excellent!). My conclusion is adding a 2 channel amp to your existing AVR can be worth it but primarily if you can also upgrade your connection and other aspects to make the most out of the difference. Doesn't change my opinion of how great my Denon sounds though, especially decoding dsd but indeed it makes a difference for stereo when streaming. I probably need more time for the Yamaha's highs to settle down just a bit or try dsd to completely fall in love with it. Doubt I'd made the jump if I hadn't also been adding XLR and activating additional tubes in my dac. The only problem is this amp has no line level input for a sub. Going to try using RCA to the preout and then hopefully it will play when using the yamaha alone and with the denon. Not really missing the sub right now playing Carol King and Folgleberg's beautiful acoustic songs. This amp has plenty of punch!
Well the Yamaha is broken in now. I have to say, there is something special about running your speakers full range in stereo without a sub to see what they can do. I like percussion and in my bedroom the R300's really slam on drums. I'll be moving so the system will be going in a family room soon and I may have to go 2.1 but I hope not as I'm enjoying this option. Haven't really a b tested with the Denon but thats apples and oranges anyway considering I was using 2.1. Given the Denon was overated at 140w and the Yamaha is underated at 90 it doesn't seem to be a huge difference between the two, but it did allow me to run xlr from the dac and passthrough the Denon so its worth it for the options it opened up. The cool looking VU meters on the Yamaha really spice up the looks too!