Need basics of pre-pro vs reciever

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Tim_R_H, Feb 13, 2002.

  1. Tim_R_H

    Tim_R_H Stunt Coordinator

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    I am looking to upgrade my HT receiver. I currently have a Kenwood 1080VR 5.1 DD receiver. I want to explore both the receiver route and the seperates route but I'm not sure I understand exactly what a pre-pro is or is not. I understand that a receiver has an amp built into it and I believe the pre-pro requires an external amp(s). What else does a receiver have that the pre-pro does not? What are the basic differences in upgradeability between a pre-pro and a receiver? I am mainly interested in movies and would use the unit little if any for music. Is one better suited for movies over the other?

    Thanks in advance for any help!
     
  2. Colin Dunn

    Colin Dunn Supporting Actor

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    A receiver is a pre-amp, power-amp, and AM/FM radio tuner all integrated into one box. For a 5.1 home theater receiver, that includes electronics to decode Dolby Digital, Dolby ProLogic, and DTS soundtracks from digital 'lossy' compressed format to 5 discrete analog channels, plus a discrete subwoofer channel.

    Most pre-pros on the market have all the features of the receivers, EXCEPT they don't have a built-in power amp to drive speakers. Some have a radio tuner, but some do not (check specs before you buy). To drive speakers, you run 6 channels of line-level analog audio cables from the pre-amp to a separate power amp(s), which in turn drive the speakers.

    The advantage of separates is that you can get higher-sound-quality, better-engineered components, each optimized for specific portions of the task of reproducing audio. Separate power amps usually have better power supplies to feed the amps, and higher/more-stable power to drive speakers.

    The disadvantage: cost. It's more expensive to put each piece in its own chassis, not to mention that separates are generally sold 'up-market,' at higher price points. If you own cheap speakers, it probably isn't worth it to upgrade to separates. But if you have high-end speakers, separates will help you get the most out of them.

    I don't really believe that either one is "better" for music vs. movies. Hard-core 2-channel stereo lovers have been using separate pre-amps and power-amps for quite some time, mainly to get more powerful, more stable amps to drive their speakers.

    Components considered better for music tend to have a smooth, warm sound. A bright, aggressive sound is sometimes perceived as better for movie soundtracks. But it is all a matter of your taste, so listen before you buy...
     
  3. Scott Page

    Scott Page Stunt Coordinator

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    Keep in mind that many receivers are now so good, that you often must spend considerably more in separates to better the sound of the higher end receivers. The top-of-the-line Denon is widely considered the best receiver on the market (B&K and Marantz owners might reasonably object to this), and isn't much of a compromize to pricer separates. With separates you "might" have more flexability, but receivers often have more "goodies", while not important for music, the "goodies" are often appreciated for the brains of a home theater that must manage a large number of both music and video components, and decode a variety of software types. Things like "DTS-ES Descete" decoding might be very hard to find in separates and cost a great deal if found.

    You can also use a receiver that has pre-outs (most mid to high end models) as a pre-amp/tuner coupled to a separate amp of your choice; in effect as "separates". This is a good and cost-effective way to upgrade to more power and quality sound while keeping the flexible and powerful features of the receivers pre-amp and tuner sections. You could use the receivers internal amps for only the surrounds, and add 3 channels of high-quality amps for the fronts, or use a 5 or 7 channel amp to replace all the channels power. See - very flexable for upgrading.

    Unless you have more money than you know what to do with, I see no reason NOT to get a receiver for a home theater, especially if music listening isn't high on your list. Then when you hit the lottery, you can use the reciever in the bedroom, or add very fine out-board amps to replace as many of the receivers channels as you desire.
     
  4. Tim_R_H

    Tim_R_H Stunt Coordinator

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    Colin & Scott,

    Thanks for your help. I think price may ultimately make my decision for me. I am probably looking at a budget of $1000 so I may have to settle for a receiver. It sounds like if I go with a receiver I should try and get one that I can add an external amp too. My main desire to upgrade is to be able to add a rear center speaker and I haven't been extremely happy with my current receiver. I get very noticeable feedback/hum when there is no audio playing or it's very quite.

    Thanks again.
     
  5. Scott Page

    Scott Page Stunt Coordinator

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    Tim,

    Start looking at the Denon AVR-3802. Perfect for your budget and very nice. The Yamaha's are nice but too "bright" for me. The Denon is more mellow. The Marantz are also very good, especially for music, but you will have to spend more with Marantz for the same HT features in decoding.
     
  6. Craig Ball

    Craig Ball Second Unit

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    Tim, take a look at Harmon Kardon too. You can pick up the H/K AVR 520 for under $1,000 and it's loaded.

    Craig
     
  7. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    with a 1K budget you're probably better off getting a receiver. since you're interested in 6.1 channel sound, consider whether the receiver has an on-board amp for the center channel. i believe some of the lower-end ones require an external amp for the back center?

    think about whether future expansion is important to you. sound formats change often enough, but (for the most part) an amp is an amp is an amp. the same amp you buy today can be used for a newly upgraded pre/pro in the future.

    i feel that if you're going to run an external amp, you're better off getting a dedicated pre/pro and NOT using a receiver as a pre/pro. but a 1K receiver will more than likely have this capability if you decide to go that route. and at least you will have a receiver until you're ready to buy the amp!
     
  8. Geno

    Geno Supporting Actor

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    I am new to surround sound but have had a seperate stereo setup for years. The Pre-amp is basicaly the input selectorand the volume/tone controls. all the amp does is magnify the signal from the preamp up to listening levels. For the most part, seperates have less features than the receivers but improve greately on the quality of sound.

    I just purchased a 5 channel B&K for my home theater and am now looking for a pre amp. in my opinion, I like having the seperates, more customization for your HT. I am also looking into making my own surround speakers thru Parts express. They have a great range of raw drivers.
     
  9. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    I agree, you're not going to get 6.1 separates for that price. Right now and over the last few months some of the manufacturers, particularly H/K and Sherwood Newcastle, have been dumping their leftover 5.1 separates in anticipation of the new models. I got my new 5.1 Sherwood seps for less than $800 this way and I'm tickled pink with the sound. But I'm not interested in 6.1.
    I'm a big fan of Onkyo so I'll advise you to check out their offerings in receivers. At your budget you will be able to get a very nice receiver. If the latest bells and whistles aren't important to you look for older model year models which can sometiomes be had at great discount.
     
  10. Tim_R_H

    Tim_R_H Stunt Coordinator

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    I think I have decided to go with a reciever that I can add an external amp to later so that I can get into a 6.1 setup with all of the bells and whistles I want in my price range. I think the brands I have decided to concentrate on are Onkyo, Denon, and Yamaha. I am interested in seeing Yamahas new lineup to see how it compares. Anyone have any negatives/positives that I should look out for from any of these brands? Is sound dropout really a concern on any of these brands? I read in one of the forums about Onkyo sound dropout being a problem on a few of the new movies playing in DD format.
     
  11. Scott Page

    Scott Page Stunt Coordinator

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    When I went looking for a reciever I was considering Yamaha and Denon in the 1,000 to 1,300 range. The Denon sounded horribly muddy so I was set on the Yamaha.

    Then I read something about how Denon's need a few weeks of run time to sound their best. I realized that the Denon I listed to was fresh out of the box.

    I returned to the store weeks later and re-listened to them both. Sure enough the Denon sound much better IMHO than the Yamaha which was too bright for me in the highs. I preferred Denon's more laid back sound. The Denon also had 7 channel's of amplification while the Yam only had 5 at the same price point.

    I have heard that Marantz has slightly better sound than either of the above, but costs more for the same decoding capabilities.

    Onkyo is a comparable brand, but I don't know much about them.
     
  12. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    I'm a Denon owner and I'm very happy with the 3801. The 3802 is now out in the $1K range and is generally well-praised.

    Onkyo will have something comparable in the same price range and their models in this range also get lots of good marks.

    Both will be 6.1 receivers in that range with several other nice features. I enjoy the 5.1/6.1 stereo option which basically makes both your front and back speakers all part of the L/R sound with the center(s) being a mid-point somewhat like Pro-Logic. Makes for a nice room-filling yet still stereo music experience. Of course your focus is movies.

    I can't speak for the Onkyo but the Denon is loaded with great features for many home theater apps.

    The bottom line on that sort of choice will be best if you base it on what sounds better to you in listening demos.
     

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