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Older prepro vs new receiver vs 2-ch preamp? (1 Viewer)

Tim Baldwin

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Sep 11, 1999
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I am in similar straights as Keir in his Encore vs 950 thread. I am comparing an older higher quality prepro like the Encore (and a temporary low cost 5-ch amp) with a new one-box like a Newcastle 963, Onkyo 898, or HK AVR8000 (which would be upgraded eventually). Like Keir, I am probably 70% music and 30% HT. Of late, I am considering an even lower-grade receiver, like a Newcastle 863, Onkyo 600, or HK AVR520 and an analog 2-ch preamp and separate 2-ch amp (since the HK amps are assignable this still works for the 7-ch formats).

I am leaning toward the latter approach, but what are your opinions on the 2-ch performance of something like the Encore in comparison to an analog preamp (something used in the 500-1000 range like a Melos, McCormack, C-J, AR, AI, etc)?? It has been mentioned that th4e Encore is upgradeable (presumably to Ovation and/or Signature status?), but with EAD out of business who handles this? And could it still compare to the same $ invested in a quality 2-ch pre?
 

John Kotches

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Mar 14, 2000
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EAD is not out of business, they were purchased by Alpha Digital Technologies, which is part of Tara Labs.
You can get information at their new web site, at http://www.alphadigitaltech.com
You can upgrade your older Encore for a product in the TheaterMaster 8000 series, but I don't know what the pricing is like.
Contact information is listed at the new web site.
Regards,
 

Frank_S

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Oct 28, 1999
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Quote: "Of late, I am considering an even lower-grade receiver, like a Newcastle 863, Onkyo 600, or HK AVR520 and an analog 2-ch preamp and separate 2-ch amp (since the HK amps are assignable this still works for the 7-ch formats). "
Tim, if music is your primary source, I would go the 2-ch. preamp and 2 ch.amp combo for music and a receiver for HT.
I went through the same thing last year and decided to buy a separate tube preamp(EAR864)for 2-channel after going through expensive DAC's and processors, none of them sounded as nice as a dedicated 2 channel preamp for music.:)
I have a Classe SSP-25 pre/pro for HT and had run all my analog sources through it via "Analog Bypass" but the linestage in the Classe just does'nt match the performance of the 2 channel preamp, YMMV of course.
 

chung

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Feb 23, 2002
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Tim:

I think you will be happy with using the HK520 as a preamp for 2-channel analog music. You can always add an analog preamp later if for some reason you are not satisfied. Getting a good separate stereo power amp is definitely a good thing, IMO. There are lots of good deals on used stereo gear, if you don't mind buying used.

The other poster's comment about the separate 2-channel preamp sounding better has to be taken in the proper context: he is using a separate tube preamp. It is not hard to understand why the tube preamp would sound different (whether better or not is up to the listener). The difference between the HK as a stereo preamp and another solid-state separate preamp is much smaller.
 

Frank_S

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Chung said, "The difference between the HK as a stereo preamp and another solid-state separate preamp is much smaller."
Granted, tubes can sound different/better than SS but after reading your post, what other SS preamps have you A/B'd with the HK receiver, I am very curious to hear.:)
 

chung

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Feb 23, 2002
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Frank:

I have A/B the HK510 vs a Sony ES preamp from the early '90s. I don't think I could detect any difference. I carefully made measurements of the Sony preamp after I bought it 10 years ago, and the measurements were great. I also A/B'ed that preamp vs other SS preamps at that time, and could detect no sonic difference.
 

Tim Baldwin

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Sep 11, 1999
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Thanks for the correction John. I do now remember seeing them in the zoo (CES) alongside Tara. I've corresponded with Brooks there, and the upgrades are a bit pricey (Encore 5.1 > TM8000 would go about $2200, or $3200 to 8000Pro). If I was content to stay at 5.1 the upgrade to the Ovation is not too bad.

While I love the look of the Encore, and the likelihood of much better sonics (at least in the short run), I can't dismiss the allure of the new formats. I also can't minimize the grief of a remote-challenged wife and the utter dependency on the remote with this unit. I think I'm going the receiver route and then add the 2-ch gear again over time.

BTW Chung, I don't think you gave the pure preamp route comparo much to choose from. Sure the price diff is there, but can't believe you won't hear a difference between a 510 and something like a CAT, Counterpoint, Simaudio, etc. But hey, it would be wonderful if I didn't, and then spend all that extra $ on LP's and CD's, right?
 

chung

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Feb 23, 2002
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BTW Chung, I don't think you gave the pure preamp route comparo much to choose from. Sure the price diff is there, but can't believe you won't hear a difference between a 510 and something like a CAT, Counterpoint, Simaudio, etc. But hey, it would be wonderful if I didn't, and then spend all that extra $ on LP's and CD's, right?
If you are comparing phono-preamps, there are most likely going to be detectable differences among different models (the HK does not even have a phono section). For simple line-level inputs, it is not easy to find the difference at all among competent SS preamps, in my opinion. You may want to read about the Sunshine trials, where the Pass monoblocks were tested against a $500 Yamaha integrated amp with the preamp built-in. The audiophile salesman could not tell them apart. That was how transparent the Yamaha integrated amp's line stages were. Do you believe the Counterpoint or another preamp in your list could be more transparent such that one can reliably tell them apart in a DBT? I don't think I can, but perhaps I just don't have very sensitive ears anymore.

You can always add a stereo preamp later if you are not happy with the performance from a HT receiver/prepro.

Just realized that you listen to LP's, too. Then the HK would not be right for you, since you would need a phono-preamp.
 

Ted Kim

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Apr 11, 2002
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Chung makes some interesting points that I would like to chime in on. First, using an AV Receiver as a preamp versus a stereo only preamp. In my experience, I used a HK AVR 30 (older prologic only unit) that used to be their top of the line model as a HT preamp coupled with a Citation 7.1 amp. For the heck of it, I replaced the HK receiver with a Classe integrated amp, using the Classe's preamp section. The difference in presentation, especially in the slam and tautness of the bass and greater 3D of the sound was immediately apparent, that's without critical listening. The winner, as a preamp, the Classe integrated amp by a clear margin versus the HK receiver. Now, the preamp section of the HK is probably comparable to the newer models out there now from HK and I have a hard time believing that a capable 2 channel pre would be indistinguishable next to any receiver. I've also compared the preamp section of the Classe to a NAD integrated amp's preamp section using a Pass Labs 30 (volksamp) amplifier and the difference in quality was again immediately noticeable.

The only possible advantage I could see to using a current receiver as a 2 channel pre, is to make use of its D/A conversion and/or bass management with a relatively "inexpensive" digital source. However, if you have a relatively "expensive" source, then using the D/A in a receiver would be counterproductive.

Another option would be to use a passive preamp for the 2 channel performance and use the receiver and/or prepro for HT. But that depends heavily on what you equipment you have and want to get as system compatability issues with passives require careful system matching.
 

Keir H

Second Unit
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Jan 4, 2001
Messages
462
Hey guys, Just wanted to tell Tim not discount the Encore so quickly. I too have gotten the prices from Brooks (nice guy) and I think that a gradual upgrade is what I am in store for. First the Ovation then, when I get more room for EX,ES, the 8000 unit. I have the Encore right now and I tell ya that it ranks right up there with the other big boys (Meridian, Theta, Lexicon,Proceed) in sound quality. Yes, the remote is an issue but if you can get one of these reduced in price then it is more than worth it and maybe get a Pronto to simplify things a bit for other users. I'm actually 70/30 more to HT than to music, but this preamp has gotten me back on the cd shelves in Best Buy and looking at high resolution cd's from Telarc, ect.. I am truly impressed and the level of detail I am getting from music and from HT. It is not subtle either. Upgrading from a HK Sig 2.0 which was no slouch, cannot compete. I can only imagin what the Ovation can do. Remember that the Encore got high marks and is very similar in sound to the much more expensive Proceed AVP.

I am agreeing that 2ch preamps do sound better when comaring in the same price range or a bit lower. But to have the best of both worlds for a 50/50 HT/music person, this one is very solid and will satisfy as well as be upgradeable. Good luck.
 

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