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To Doug Schneider,

I have currently an Onkyo HT-S3200 home-theater A/V receiver hooked up to a pair of KEF iQ30 speakers (as well as the stock speakers that came with the Onkyo). My primary source is a Samsung Blu-ray player (BD-C5500). My headphones are Sennheiser HD 595s.

The problem is that I mostly listen to music from CD, and I think that it should sound better.

I have been thinking of upgrading to a hi-fi amplifier, maybe a Cambridge Audio Azur 350A and in the near future a Cambridge Audio Azur 350C as my CD source, costing nearly $700 to $900.

Is the upgrade worth it? Am I going to notice a jump up in sound quality worthy of the price? I am always looking for better sound but I am on a budget and do not know if I should be happy with what I have or, on the other hand, if I could really get a major boost in sound quality for that price. I considered Cambridge Audio because a local dealer has their products in stock.

Thank you for any help you can give me.

Best regards,
Mark Sánchez

There are some very good-sounding A/V receivers on the market today, so it wouldn’t be correct to say that in every instance a stereo hi-fi amplifier would sound better. In general, though, I think it’s safe to say that you can get better audio performance from a dedicated, high-quality stereo amplifier than you can from an A/V receiver. The reason is that the good hi-fi companies tend to put more effort into optimizing the audio performance of their stereo integrated amplifiers and preamplifier/power-amplifier combos than the companies that make everything-in-the-box A/V receivers. So if improved sound quality is what you’re after, a good two-channel amplifier can provide an upgrade worth the price.

Cambridge Audio is an excellent brand, and since your dealer carries their products, that’s as good as any place to start out shopping. But I wouldn’t end your journey there. NAD has made excellent, affordable hi-fi components for years, so I’d certainly seek that brand out as well. . . . Doug Schneider