What’s the Best Amplifier Configuration for Upgrading My 5.1 Setup to Atmos?

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Q Greetings! I recently upgraded my 5.1 home theater to Atmos by adding a pair of in-ceiling speakers to create a 5.1.2 setup. I want to connect my seven MartinLogan Motion XT series speakers to my A/V receiver and an external amp. I’ve been running the five main speakers off my Denon AVR-X6500H and plan on adding an Integra DTA-70.1 amplifier, which I own but haven’t been using. Here’s my question: How should I best utilize the amps? I first thought I would use the Integra to power the surrounds and height speakers and leave the front three speakers on the Denon, but that got me thinking: Should I also add the center channel to the Integra? Or should I run the two front main speakers (full range or bi-amp) on the Integra and use the Denon to power everything else? Or do you recommend some other combination? The Integra will be in a closet 20 feet away, connected to the Denon with RCA cables. Thanks for your insight! —Jesse

A Between the Denon AVR and Integra amp, you have two solid pieces of gear. My first inclination is to say, “Use the Integra to drive all of the speakers!” It is, after all, a nine-channel THX Ultra 2-certified amp rated to deliver 150 watts/channel into 8 ohms or 300 watts/channel of dynamic power at 4 ohms and your front three MartinLogan Motion XT speakers have a rated nominal impedance of 4 ohms.

However, one thing that concerns me is that the Integra will be 20 feet away from the Denon. So, I’m guessing that all of the speaker wiring is currently located at the Denon? Why wouldn’t you put the Integra next to the Denon? That would make the most sense and make for a far simpler and cleaner installation. If that isn’t possible, I’d ditch the Integra, at least for this application, because there’s a good chance of picking up noise along that 20-foot RCA cable.

Moreover, let’s say you could get the components next to each other and use shorter RCA cables between them. In that case, I’d use the Integra to power everything. If you wanted to bi-amp the front speakers, you’d need to use the Denon’s internal amplifiers, as there is no way to assign the pre-outs for bi-amping.

Your MartinLogan LCR speakers are rated at 94 dB sensitivity, which makes them easy to drive, so I’m not sure you’d notice much difference with bi-amping, but you could certainly give it a listen!

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