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  • Separate components vs. integrated. Which is better?
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Separate components vs. integrated. Which is better?

The first question you will face when assembling a home audio or theatre system is whether to go the route of separate components or a receiver or integrated amplifier. Years ago, this question was easily answered based on budget, but these days it might not correlate so directly to cost or ease. Of course, if you don't have the space for several pieces of equipment, then an integrated component may be your only option. The power requirements of your speakers are also an important consideration. 

Theoretically, separates provide better sound. Consider that an integrated component fits multiple jobs all in one box: it may have a tuner (radio), a power amplifier (several if it is a home theatre receiver), and a preamplifier (for volume, tone controls, etc). That's a lot of noise-generating circuitry going on in one box. By having separates, each one is designed to handle one task, with their own dedicated power supplies, and without interference from the other. 

This also makes it easier to upgrade or repair a component. Ordinarily, receivers and integrated amps cannot be upgraded, and if one section breaks, you must bring the entire unit in for repair, creating system down time. If you have a separate component that breaks, it can be sent for service but you can still enjoy the remainder of your system while you wait. And if you find a better replacement that strikes your fancy, changing to the new model is easy, as opposed to living with whatever is built-in to your integrated unit.

Having said all of that, receivers have come a long way. It could be argued that if you invest in a very high quality receiver, such as Rotel's RSX-1562, you could approach (but not match) the level of separates. A receiver will also require less interconnects and may prove easier to use and faster to set up. 

In general, if you have the money and the space, seriously consider separates. Otherwise, buy the best receiver or integrated amplifier within your budget, such as our new RA-1570.

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