Amplifiers & Separates

Can I Use a Professional Amplifier in my Home Theater?


People love a deal. We are no different. But it is easy to look at one or two things and say, “This one is better,” when you don’t really know what you are looking at. This is what happens when people start considering adding a professional amplifier to their home theater setup. They look at the price per channel (which is usually lower for the professional amplifier) and the wattage (which is usually higher for the professional amplifier) and wonder how they are the first ones to discover this great deal. They aren’t. We’ve all gone down this road. So let’s talk about why you should, or should not, add a professional amplifier to your home theater setup.

Power to Price Ratio

We’ve already mentioned this, but the price to power ratio of professional amplifiers tends to be much better than what you find in amplifiers designed for the traditional home theater environment. If you look hard enough, you can find amps that cost a fraction of what a home theater amp would cost for the same wattage. This is true. And if wattage was the only thing we cared about, we’d all have professional amplifiers in our home theaters. But, it isn’t the only metric you should be worried about.

Noise

You can’t always tell by looking at pictures of professional amplifiers but they often have fans. That’s because they are used in professional applications. This usually means they are tucked away in their own room where the noise from a fan isn’t important.

And these fans can be loud.

You can often adjust how or when the fans engage, but you can’t get around the fact that it will occasionally be on. In a professional environment, this isn’t an issue. In a home theater? You don’t want to hear a fan cycling on and off.

Impedance Curves

Professional amplifiers are used by…well…professionals. These people have training and know a lot about what they are buying. When you look at the user manual or cut sheet of a professional amplifier, you are going to see a lot of numbers. These numbers won’t mean much to you. But they will to the professional.

One thing that professionals can do is match the impedance curve of the professional amplifier to the speakers. Making a linear amplifier is expensive. Making a powerful very amplifier that isn’t exactly linear is much cheaper. When you are buying 10 or 20 or 30 amplifiers, you can save some money if you know how to match your amplifier to your speakers. For the home theater enthusiast, having a linear amplifier is imperative. For the professional? They can work around it.

Weird Connections and Controls

Your home theater amplifier will have connections that look very familiar. The back of the pro amp will look very different. While the home theater amp will have inputs, outputs, and a power button, and little else, the professional amplifier will be very different. They’ll have weird speaker connections, screws that are used for controls, and a menu system that requires an engineering degree to manage.

“Boy, this doesn’t look frustrating at all,” said no one ever.

We’re not saying that an enthusiast couldn’t figure it out. We’re just saying you won’t want to.

Plus, they are controls you really don’t need. Individual crossovers for each channel, channel delays, and stuff we’re not sure exactly what it does. Your receiver does most of this for you, and the rest? You really don’t need. But in a professional environment, they are essential.

The Rest of the Specs aren’t So Good

The professional amplifier will usually have worse specifications on nearly every metric. The one that you’ll probably notice immediately is the noise floor. Professional amps don’t need to be as clean as a home theater amplifier. There could be a number of reasons. The speakers might not be as sensitive, the audience is likely sitting too far away to notice, or others. The reality is that the professional amplifier sacrifices performance in most metrics so that they can keep the costs down and the wattage up.

There Are Professional Amplifiers that Can Be Used in the Home

Professional amplifier manufacturers have caught on that home theater enthusiasts have started eying their amps. So they have started offering amplifiers that are more appropriate for the home environment. But when you compare these amps to the other offerings on the market, the “deal” status starts to fall apart. The reality is that a linear, quiet, well-performing, fan-less amplifier isn’t cheap to make.

Conclusion

We know we’ve given you a lot of reasons to steer clear of adding a professional amplifier to your home theater. But, it doesn’t mean you can’t. If your gear is in another room, and the pro amp you’re looking at is relatively linear, you can save some money by buying a professional amp. You just need to be a bit more careful than just grabbing the least expensive, highest wattage professional amplifier and expecting it to work in your home theater where the gear is all six feet away from you.

When you are shopping, pay very close attention to the reviews. Some people will gush all over a product. But take note if people are complaining about a noise floor or fan noise. These are problems that some will not notice but you might. And make sure you buy from somewhere with a good return policy.

Do you rock pro amps in your home theater? Tell us your experiences in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


7 Comments on Can I Use a Professional Amplifier in my Home Theater?

  1. jcr159

    Unless you design speakers for a living…

    stick to pro amps for subs if you can put them in another room… or run away… just run away…

  2. SuperFlyEDSguy

    When I was younger, let’s say in my 20s, I would seek out the most complicated ‘professional’ pieces that I could find if only to make a ‘project’ out of figuring out how to set it up (read: not properly) and subsequently use the damn thing. For some bizarre reason that I can’t for the life of me conjure up, the very thought of this was ‘fun’ to me. The weirder thing is that I am fairly intelligent, but not a nerd per se. I did have a social life, I was in the Navy, and even had friends (most of which were just as dorky as I was). The issue was that when I did decide to kick off a ‘project,’ I would go ‘all in.’ Sometimes I got them to work, other times I did not, and I did get my fair share of electric shocks from a rather wide plethora of sources. That part was not fun, but figuring out how to bridge a wide array of cables that were probably never meant to be tied together was kinda, sorta, well… fun! I loved it when I ‘hit the jackpot’ and heard the sweet sound of sound, just absolutely exponentially louder!

    So, between everything that life threw at me, I really didn’t get much time to mess with audio and electronics once I segued into my 30s. I was working… a lot. I also was in three automobile accidents, two of which were in my 30s, so I needed time to rest, recover, and do my physical therapy. I had two MORE kids. To top it off, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) at age 39. So, not too much time to do anything, but…

    By age 42, I was medically retired as the boatload of EDS-related issues finally caught up with me. I remained very active most of my life, and it spared me from the really bad problems. Just to put this into perspective, I will be turning 43 in a couple of months and I’ve already literally had 10 orthopaedic surgeries AND 2 additional spinal surgeries — and those are just the major ones! So, at first I hated the thought of retiring, but I ended up digging it as I do need a lot of rest, but I also have more family time now than ever. I’m actually passing along this knowledge to my own son. We work on projects together and though I deal with enough pain on a daily basis that would make a ‘normal’ person scream to a doctor for morphine, I learned to function well enough. It may sound crazy, but I don’t mind not leaving my house for weeks on end. Travel is very difficult for me, even light travel, so I simply avoid it.

    The point to all this is that I made a major flip flop somewhere along this timeline. I now like things succinct and despise wasting countless hours on tasks that could be simply avoided. So, when purchasing audio equipment, I do my research, make a plan, and enjoy it when everything comes together smoothly. Yes, I like building things and coding with my kids, but when it comes to the sound that I choose to listen to, I prefer it drama free.

    This article basically reinforced the last twenty something years of my life. Buy good equipment, what you actually need, and maybe leave a bit of room for expansion or upgrades that you may want at a later date. The thing is, Tom is SPOT THE {BLEEP} ON in this article; just as you don’t fix what is not broke, please, please, please take Tom’s advice and ignore the gear marketed for studio use. The quality hardware for home use has come down to some excellent price points as of late — Buy that and actually enjoy it!

    Brilliant article Tom, and a great many thanks for helping me take this proverbial trip down memory lane 🙂

    ~ Jay

  3. @SUPERFLYEDSGUY I feel your pain quite literally. I do have a decade on you! lol I quit counting surgeries when they went over 20 all kinds of types. I have an artificial left knee. I just had my right hip replaced a month ago after waiting way too long to have it replaced. Covid killed the surgery scheduled March 2020. I have an ACDF from C6-C7 and posterior fixation from C5-T2. I am due to have C3-C4-C5 done. My last neurosurgeon told me to wait as long as I can. I’m afraid I may be there, but I am not doing anything for at least a year. I have recently gotten into a new local doctors program which includes the neurosurgeons in SoCal that do the cutting edge minimally invasive procedures. I am excited to see what they have to say. I have Advanced DDD and Degenerative Facets with large osteophytes. I am on permanent pain management nothing too heavy, but the pain I deal with would completely debilitate a normal person. On pain management I am at a 7 on a daily basis, and have operated at this level of pain for years. Nobody gets chronic pain unless you have/had real chronic pain!

    So I am permanently disabled as of 2015. I can no longer do installs though I find myself over doing it. My main focus is design & programming and final tuning. I have a business partner that is able to handle most of our physically intensive stuff for the time being. It’s been working out well and we do a lot of small business I.T. too. We are able to cover for each other as we use Araknis Networking as backbones with their OvRC remote network connection system which gives us full access to anything on the clients network. We also use our own custom software for security, remote and service & app updates. These packages are available for Windows, Mac & Linux OS’s.

    Now regarding the gist of the article…
    I agree that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
    I have and do use both Crown & QSC amplifiers. I am quite particular about which models of amps I use. In 2011 & 2012 I did two systems in Mosque’s. They are very particular regarding their sound. The system I did in the oldest Mosque in Orange County, CA is absolutely insane. I tested the system with several types of music including slayer. I am not a religious person, but I do find their call to prayer one of the most beautiful sounds produced on the planet.
    FYI I started singing professionally when I was 5yrs old until my neck fusion around the age of 42. They went in through the front and damaged my vocal cords unfortunately. The call to prayer invokes a very emotional response for Muslims when done correctly. I used Crown’s newest clast D amplifiers CROWN XLS2500 8OHM 440W/CH Stereo 2ohm stable. I have eight of these in the system. Now this is a pro audio install obviously I am qualified for such systems, but these were my very first Mosques.

    I have also used these amps in a 9.4.2 with an Aventage 3070 KEF speakers and Sunfire Subs. This system was a ground up dedicated theater I designed from the ground up from room build and design etc. To say it can get loud is really under stated. There is zero noise in the system including from the amps! It uses a Sony 4k laser projector and a Stewart 168″ screen. More than loud it’s an extremely clean and accurate system. It is THX-2, Dolby Atmos and DTS-X certified.
    I primarily use the QSC for passive in wall subs and for single zones in home audio that need more power. Example I have a home that has 21 Sonos zones that were built on the original Sonos zone players with four Channel vision 12 channel amps @50-60 watts RMS into the 8 ohm Jamo speakers throughout. The Jamo’s still sound excellent the oldest ones are from 2008 & I need to repaint the grills. I really believe they are the best speakers on the planet for the money as far as in ceiling and in wall speakers. The one exception is the clients sundeck. I have some Polk 8″ outdoor speakers on the deck, but it’s never been quite loud enough for him so I installed the QVC 150w RMS into 8 ohms and I am running around 70 watts RMS into the speakers. It sounds absolutely amazing. I can hear them clearly from 3 floors down at ground level! I am running the amp gains around 2/3rds position with zero floor noise.

    I can’t say I saved money on the 9.4.2 system, but they were the proper tool for the job being able to run balanced cables from the 3070 to the amps helps exceedingly. This client was very particular about how he wanted the room to sound and was ecstatic with the outcome. He listens to the system at a level that is a little past my comfort level and I’m partially deaf, but those subs will make your heart skip if they are played at high volume in this room! I haven’t felt anything like this since I was apprenticing at a high end mobile audio and AV specialist when I was 18. We worked on many manufacturer demo vehicles including in this case the Cerwin Vega van. It was a wall of 16 12″ subs we measured the low frequency drop off at 18hz that’s where it started to roll. Meaning below the audible range which it why it has physical effects on peoples bodies. We were watching the fly by sequences from Top Gun while tuning the vehicle and it messed with my bosses heart and equilibrium. We then found out it actually gave someone a heart attack in WA at a competition and blew out the eardrums of someone dumb enough not to put in the ear plugs he was given before he got in the vehicle. Just prior to an SPL run. Just an FYI the lowest system we ever measured was at 10HZ it started to roll around 14-12HZ, but was only around 6-8 DBL drop off at 10HZ. We would play Michael Jacksons Bad CD and your back would actually start getting pushed off the seats before you ever heard any of the bass notes. It was one of the first DVD’s to be DDD meaning it was was completely digitally recorded, mixed & mastered. I measured the dedicated theater down to 15HZ then it started to drop dramatically. The twin 15″ Sunfire’s are no joke!

  4. @Tom Andry you think your diagram is complicated you should see the one I have plotted for the big Mosque!!! Which includes a Peavy analog mixing board with built in digital DSP. I had floor noise that was driving me insane. I got rid of their noisy Roland board and separate DSP unit completely irradicated the floor noise. I also have 3 Berringer 3 zone analog volume controls.(I would have used something higher quality, but there wasn’t anything still sold that could do what I needed. Luckily the youngsters at the Mosque I was teaching on how to use the system were able to dial in the DSP to the Iman’s liking. I have multiple zones the main mosque 4 JBL CBT-70J-1-WH with the bass attachments 8 6.5″ Jamo ceiling speakers the ceiling speakers in the main mosque overhang. Overflow outside the mosque’s doors 4 JBL CBT-70J-1-WH, Upstairs women’s enclosed area with 4 speakers I reused the QSC speakers that were in the main mosque. Outdoor 3 zones one for the youngsters area one outside, outside the main mosque and finally 3 outside the exterior area of the mosque. I had to blend the ceiling speaker audio with the main mosque. Sometimes the 3 outside zones were on and sometimes not.
    Unfortunately I was working under constraints of what they had already in a lot of cases.
    In the ground up build smaller mosque I was able to use a DBA Zone Pro and a DBA Driver Rack Pro for the main room eq and volume control for the entire system. So much less complicated for multizone volume control and feedback cancelation! including the mosque volume for the upstairs classrooms which runs off of a 70v system and has it’s own announcement microphone!

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