What are Separates?

Simply put AV separates are exactly what it sounds like, separating the functions of an AV receiver, into two separate functions. This offers two benefits — one is greater flexibility, and the other, better performance.

Time to get a bit more detailed about separates.

What are the separate components?

This is really simple. An AV receiver does a whole lot of stuff but at the end of the day it comes down to 2 things.

  • Signal processing.
  • Sound amplification.

Most receivers do those things really well and when you are spending a decent amount of money (above $750), you can get some really good sound and sound quality.

When you REALLY want cleaner sound or more powerful and higher quality signal processing, it’s usually better to split those two functions into separate hardware.

So separates are usually composed of:

  • A Pre-amplifier – dedicated to processing the sound signals
  • An Amplifier or Amplifiers – dedicated to pumping out the sound
ATI AT6005 Amplifier

ATI AT6005 Amplifier

Are separates necessary?

So, now that we know what separates are, and how they allow you to move up to the high end of a home theater, the question then arises is are separates necessary?

Do you actually get a benefit from using them, instead of packing it all in a compact little AV receiver?

Well, it kinda depends.

For most people, a high end receiver will provide a good enough home theater experience but if you have a sophisticated and discerning ear AND have a strong wallet, separates may be the way to go.

Separates start at about $3000 and only go up from there.

If you spare no expense, and go for the most expensive amplifiers, preamps, and digital signal processors money can buy from the high-end, luxury manufacturers like JBK, Krell, and Meridian, you will definitely get better home theater sound an processing.

Reasons to move to separates

As noted above, you might want to go with separates for a couple of reasons.


A separates system lets you choose exactly what components you want. If you like the amplifiers from one brand, and the controller function from another, then you can easily mix and match.

In addition, this flexibility also extends to the upgrade path of your home theater setup, too, as you will only need to upgrade only the decoder, not the whole system, if you want to make the move to a newer surround sound format like Dolby Atmos.


While most AV receivers today deliver excellent sound quality, there is that last bit of sonic realism that separates can offer. If you want the ultimate in sound, then putting all your audio components away from each other prevents distortions in your audio for that extra clarity that only a distinctly detached system can offer.

So at the end of the day, it comes down to how much you want and can afford higher quality home theater audio and video.

OK so now you know what separates are, lets take a detailed look at pre-amplifiers and amplifiers.

=> Let’s start with the question – what is a preamplifier?