Keep the Outlaw 950 or go "backwards" to a new receiver as a pre-amp?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dan Hitchman, Sep 25, 2002.

  1. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    Hello all!
    I am currently suffering the tortures of the damned and I need your help!
    Well, maybe it's not that bad. [​IMG] However, I find myself in one of the most difficult predicaments a "separates or bust" home theater enthusiast can face.
    Currently, I am the owner of a Model 950 pre-amp that I purchased for A) the price vs. features and quality, and B) the cool new formats since my two previous decoders were lacking (and I had a mess of cables in back because I had two decoders; one for DTS and one for Dolby Digital!).
    As much as I want to stay with 100% separates, I've been reading many a post about the upcoming Denon 3803 receiver with refined feature list, and the already released Pioneer Elite 45TX (the closest mid-priced receiver in price and features).
    The internal debate I'm having with myself is should I bite the bullet and return the Model 950 (knowing that I went to pre-amps because I wanted to move away from receivers) and go with one of these decked out units and use it souly as a pre-amp, or stay with the Model 950 until I can one day afford a really nice, higher grade pre-amp.
    One issue I keep having with using a receiver as a pre-amp is the fact that the amps and the pre-amp section are vying for the same power supply. Also, the entire package is crammed into one box. Another is the noise level and cleanliness of the sound coming from the pre-amp outputs vs. what I currently have (perhaps with the Model 950 hiss issue I'd have far less with this option-- and then again maybe it would be worse). And the fact that there could be greater heat build up.
    As for upgradeability, the Model 950 isn't capable and so I'm losing nothing by a switch. I do realize that the Rotel pre-amp has sofware upgradeability, but has issues of its own.
    Basically, do you feel I'm going backwards sonically and quality-wise by buying one of these new feature-rich receivers on the internet (I don't want to lose more than the ~$950 I already spent on the 950, and perhaps stand to gain some back-- for instance the Pioneer 45TX can be had for about $800 with shipping on-line) as a pre-amp vs. sticking with the Model 950?
    I'd really appreciate the advice of those in the same boat as me (Model 950 owners care to chime in??), and others with this kind of experience of going from the pre-amp world back to the receiver-as-preamp side of things. Benefits, negatives found, regrets, quality issues found (or none found), good features lost/gained, useability, etc.
    Those who have first hand knowledge of the new Pioneer Elite 45TX, please speak up too (if you use it as a pre-amp, even better). I hope the reviews of the Denon 3803 start coming in soon so it'll be easier to compare the two products. If a majority feel its worth the risk, I may decide to send the Model 950 back before the 3803 rolls out.
    Don't be shy in your opinions! This is a very tough choice for me, and I don't have a lot of time to get my money back on the Model 950.
    Thanks!
    Dan
     
  2. JackS

    JackS Supporting Actor

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    Dan- Not quite sure what your complaint is with the 950 but by the tone of your post, you are clearly not that happy with it. Purchasing and owning this expensive stuff should be pleasurable and not something to regret. Send the 950 back for a refund and purchase something else. An upgrade would be anything other than what you have now. Best of luck, Jack
     
  3. Chris Carswell

    Chris Carswell Supporting Actor

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    Yah, ya don't sound tooooo happy with that bad boy........
    In comparison, you mean the new Elite VSX-45TX correct? Don't know of a 55tx. I will say that my next upgrade is the 45tx (maybe the 47tx if I can squeeze it). I heard them both & all I can say is WOW, WOW, WOW!!! Best piece of equipment for the $$$ hands down. $900 online for the 45tx & $1700 for the 47tx. Pioneer did their HW this semester. Put the 3802 to shame [​IMG] Don't know about the 3803 but they better have something spectacular if they hope to compete with Pioneer. What speakers are you running? If they are low impedance or huge power hungry monsters for mains then I think all would ever need would be an additional 2 ch amp. Something like an Acurus A200, Adcom 5500, Parasound, etc. I doubt you will need more than 130 watts to power your center and surrounds. That's what I did. I have the 35tx and powered my Infinity Kappa 8.1's with an older Adcom 555 then ran the rest off the receiver. Worked great. Now I can't wait to get the 45tx.
    I think you know where I sand on this issue [​IMG] Hope it helps.
     
  4. Allen Longcor

    Allen Longcor Supporting Actor

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    Is there something you don't like about the 950? You seem like you want a reason to get rid of it, but you don't state anything specific you dont' like about it. Are you basing this just on features? I don't know what else you could find in another receiver that would justify a switch. See if a local dealer will let you take home and demo a Pioneer against the 950 and decide which one is better.
     
  5. Michael Yung

    Michael Yung Stunt Coordinator

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    The only feature I find lacking in the 950 is volume level for different input devises. So for example, DVD always default to -20 dB, CD -30, DVD -15 and etc. But besides that, I love my 950. I think sound wise, very few receiver in this price range is going to be able to come close.
     
  6. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    Usually, a move to separates is made to achieve audio quality improvements. As high quality pre/pros tend not to have all the latest features, or if they do and are not upgradable (and even if they are, there are limits), they become obsolete or at least less up-to-date feature-wise before very long. As such, even a lot of folks who can afford separates cannot afford to upgrade a pre/pro very frequently if one is always looking for the most up-to-date feature set, at least not until more pre/pros at the 950 / 1066 /etc price point enter the market.

    Thus, it seems to me to be a features vs quality issue. If one feels the itch to upgrade frequently for the features, one may not be able to afford pre/pros as the vehicle to satiate such need. High quality may require giving up being on top of the features mountain all the time.

    .02

    Doug
     
  7. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    Yup, I do mean the 45TX Pioneer Elite. Wrote this when I was a bit on the tired side, so I cleaned up a few hanging sentences.

    Ooops.

    Dan
     
  8. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    It's mainly the 2 channel performance and some feature and operational quirks that I find problematic with the Model 950 that I thought I could live with, but find myself getting frustrated at more and more.

    For instance, you cannot individually adjust speaker delay, and each input and audio format has a global calibration and tone setting instead of having memory settings for each.

    I already have 7 channels of outboard amplification already to the tune of 200 watts per channel (so the built-in amps will not be used; this is simply to be used as a pre-amp), and fairly neutral to somewhat warm sounding speakers.

    Four things the Pioneer Elite 45TX seems to have going for it are: 1)The new DTS 24/96 decoding format (this may play a bigger role with D-VHS and HD-DVD fairly soon), 2) The well received AIR auto calibration system with equalizer, 3) It upsamples incoming 44.1 and 48 kHz digital signals to 24 bit/96 kHz resolution (so perhaps 2 channel performance is an improvement), and 4) It has THX settings I can play around with if I so desire.

    As for the 3803, I cannot yet make a determination if it's any better than the 45TX-- it does have many features and pre-amp decoding chips the 5803 contains, though, as well as 16 high grade Burr-Brown 24/192 DACs in dual differential mode for a 3 dB noise improvement.

    I do realize this is a fine balancing act between quality and features, and I don't want to lose too much of the former to gain the latter. But if the pre-amp section of either of these receivers is as good or better than the Model 950 and I lose some of the operational problems, and gain features for (possibly) less money, I'm game to try.

    Too bad I don't have the budget for an Anthem, Krell Showcase, or Integra Research RDC-7 pre-amp.

    I'm also considering the fact I may gain a bit of money out of a switch.

    Argh!!

    Any more suggestions??

    Dan
     
  9. Robin Casady

    Robin Casady Agent

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    I don't know if this is much help, but the 3802 and 3803 were mentioned, so all add my 2 cents.

    I have been running a 3802 as a pre to an Outlaw 770. Recently, a 950 arrived to replace the 3802 (which moved to the bedroom). After listening to the 950 for a while, I moved the 3802 back for comparison. The 950 sounds noticeably better on music and films.

    I'm running NHT 2.5i mains and four 1.5 surrounds with an AC2 center and SVS PC+. So, my system is probably brighter than yours.
     
  10. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    Please keep the opinions coming!

    Dan
     
  11. David Judah

    David Judah Screenwriter

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    I faced this dilemma recently, as well. Last year I bought a Sunfire Cinema Grand amp as the first step towards seperates, using my old Yamaha 795 as a pre/pro with the expectation that I would replace it as soon as I could afford to.
    Originally considering the Outlaw, my financing fell through when my turn on the list came up earlier this year, so I waited awhile until I could demo the Sunfire Theater Grand III. I was very impressed by its performance, but it was going to be a bit of a stretch for me to actually purchase one(even with my dealer discount).
    I did some research online and came across the announcement of the Pioneer 45TX. The feature set looked great and I was already impressed with the 47 & 49TX(especially the MCACC). Long story short, I tried one out the day it came in, and I was simply blown away by the performance for the price(I compared it to offerings from Sony, Denon, Yamaha, & Kenwood in the $800-$1500 range at work).
    As I've fine tuned it, I'm even more impressed that this level of quality can be achieved at this price point. Now I'm under no illusions--the Theater Grand III is better overall(a bit warmer and more musical), but on a performance per dollar basis the Pioneer comes out way ahead(plus I could 0% finance it for a year which made my wife happy[​IMG]).
    So, I know what you are going through. It's a tough call. I haven't demoed the Outlaw, but if you are unhappy with it and you don't want to spend the extra money to get a pre/pro in the $3000 and up range, give the 45TX a shot. It has alot of processing power, a clean analog path for DVD-A & SACD, all the latest decoding formats, and the Auto calibration & Air Studios Sound Tuning works as advertised(the five band equalizer is perfect for less than optimum rooms).
    Good luck,
    DJ
     
  12. dave alan

    dave alan Second Unit

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    keep the 950. can't convince me a receiver sounds better (given good amps/speakers/sub and player).
     
  13. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    Keep the 950 and save your self a lot of trouble. You seem to already have a good setup. I dont know how much if at all will you gain in going from a separate prepro to a middle of the line receiver. I think you are better off going with a superior prepro later down the line. Maybe the discounted Ref 50 when B&K comes out with the REF 60 three years later[​IMG]
     
  14. Chris Carswell

    Chris Carswell Supporting Actor

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    What amps & speakers are you going to use?
     
  15. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    Ultimately, sound is the main factor for most people
    in choosing a piece of equipment. It would seem from
    this forum at least that there is a definite demarcation
    line between processors like the Tag, Aragon, Lexicon,
    upper B&Ks and the Rotels and Outlaws of this world.
    I'd suggest waiting until you can afford something
    noticeably better. The market value of the Outlaw
    will not diminish noticeably, so you can sell it for
    a decent price any time later on.
     
  16. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

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    Dan

    Even if you come out ahead by $100, it won't matter if you don't really like what you swap the Outlaw for. Two channel musicality differences tend to be subtle in my experience. Denon has gained a very favorable following with its Pure Direct mode. Pioneer is making converts with its MCAAA feature.

    No one can tell you which you will prefer in your house with your speakers. There is no way to "think" your way to which you will like better. Things that look good on paper may make no audible difference. The question about the pre-amp and amp sections of a receiver vying for the same power supply is a non-issue. The pre-amp section uses next to nothing, you won't be using the amps, and even if you did, the power supply is designed to give the pre-amp all the juice it will ever need. Amps are a different story.

    Frustrating equipment gets old fast. It seems like you are very particular about the feature set, especially a minimum of frustrations.

    IMHO, receivers are gaining ground on separates every year.

    Unfortunately, you don't have much time to make your decision.

    Since I have no first hand experience with any of the pieces you are considering I can only give you these generalizations.

    If you think through the time limitation, you may find a path where you can answer your question and end up with the Outlaw if you decide it works best for you.

    Artie
     
  17. AntonS

    AntonS Stunt Coordinator

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    Dan, here is a thought. If you think you are not happy with the 950, send it back and try someting else. Try to buy something you can return too, maybe from CC (they carry H/K line) or something like that. If you decide that the 950 was the way, you can always buy it again!
     
  18. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    Here's another thought. Get a stereo preamp with HT bypass. Connect your CDP or other music sources to it, then you can play musical chairs with your HT controller to your heart's content and not affect the music. Only limitation is if you listen to multich SACD / DVD-A, which would require a good bypass / direct mode in your controller.

    Doug
     

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