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Pre-Amp advise (1 Viewer)

Nippy

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Hi Everyone,
It’s been a long time since I’ve been on this forum, and I hope you can offer some advice.

Twenty years ago, my wife and I designed and built our southwestern theme home theater. It was one of our most fun projects, even fortunate enough to have our theater featured in Sound & Vision a long time ago. We have a 7.2 setup, good speakers and screen. However, our pre-amp is 20 years old and works fine but doesn’t decode any of the new surround formats or have HDMI.

Here’s the issue, I am almost blind, can see some images but rely more on the audio portion of movies. My wife can see perfectly, so video quality is important to her.

Our TV is 4k capable and we have good speakers, even though I want to add additional speakers at some point. Now need to focus on a new pre-amp. We have a Blu-ray player but mostly use either a 4k Fire TV or 4k Roku.

I like researching products but unfortunately, I found most AV equipment web sites not user friendly for people with a visual disability. My narrator will not speak most text on many AV web sites, and it has become very frustrating trying to learn about the new surround sound formats and pre-amps. Even trying to call a company for guidance is impossible. If I can send an email, they don’t answer my questions, only give general information or links. Then I am back right where I started.

I’m retired so my budget isn’t high. We only watch movies in our HT and use mostly streaming services for movies. My wishes are simple, hard button interface, room correction, upgradable to new formats, provide surround sound for streaming services such as Prime and Netflix. I want to add more speakers but that will be a while down the road so a pre-amp with that in mind. Also, even a B-Stock or previous hold over model would work. Heck, I have had my old pre-amp for 20 years so anything newer is better than I have.

This is one pre-amp I’ve checked out, the Emotiva BASX MC1 13.2 with the upgrade room correction. Their web site is good for a sighted person but terrible for a very low vision person using a narrator.
So any suggestions or direction would be great. I appreciate your help.

Thank you
 

DaveF

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Do you have standalone amplifiers, and want a pre-amp / pre-processor? Or do you want an integrated amplifier (AVR) with its own amplification?
 

Nippy

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Hi Dave,
Yes, I have a stand alone amp, a 7 channel 200 wpc, RCA connection, no XLR. Only looking for a pre-amp/processor.
 

Doug2000

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Looking at the specs it looks like that unit (the Emotiva BASX MC1 13.2) would meet your needs. I’d be happy to look something up for you about the unit and report back here is that would be helpful. Or cut and paste info here if that‘s helpful.

But I have no hands on experience with the unit. I’m running a Marantz preamp (AV7705). I bought this Marantz unit because I need XLR.
 

DaveF

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There’s been discussion about the Tonewinner AT-300. Here’s an HTF thread and the manufacturer’s website. The upside is big features for the price. The downside, I believe, is direct import from China and not a “Brand Name”.


 
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DaveF

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I can’t find any other pre-processors in the $1000 range. The products that came to mind (Marantz, Anthem AV, Trinnov, Monoprice Monolith) are in the $3000+ range.
 

JohnRice

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Without going used, those two are your choices, as far as I know.
 

DaveF

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Here’s a discussion thread on the Emotiva, with some links to a couple other discussion threads and technical review. Hope this helps.

My impression: if you need your processor to do room correction, evaluate carefully if the Emotiva or Tonewinner will work for you.

 

Nippy

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Wow, thank you very much for the information. I’ll try to answer all replies in one message.

  • Doug, thank you, any short and sweet articles would be great. If a message forum, just a link is fine. My narrator will not speak images or PDF’s. BTW, I like the Marantz line, but it is a bit pricey.
  • Dave F, thank you. I’ve checked the Tone Winner and it was interesting to see what I could learn. I like the fact the Emotiva is mostly constructed in the US, and they have been in business for over a decade is good. I checked the message forum regarding Tone Winner and one comment did concern me… the GUI is a bit on the rudimentary side and somewhat difficult to follow since the manual is not great according to one person. An easy GUI would be better though I like challenges, so this model is not off my list.
  • John, thank you. I’m open to a used model. As I mentioned, my old pre-amp is 20 years old, so a good used model is not out of the question. My concern is that there is no way to verify if a pre-owned model is good or not until I have it. I just hate to buy a used pre-amp then it fails, and I am out of that money.
  • Dave F, room correction is important to me, or I believe it is. If I had vision, then setup would be easy, I’ve done so in my HT and for others many times. Without vision, setting up can become overwhelming and I must rely on my wife or a friend for help. Not that I am against asking, heck it seems I asked for help all the time but if I can set up my new pre-amp by myself then I have one more bit of freedom to be normal.
Thank you very much, each of your comments, links and suggestions are very welcome and helpful. I will review the links provided and gain more knowledge and take my mission to find a pre-amp onward.

Thanks again,
 

DaveF

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If you want room correction but also want to go with Emotiva or Tonewinner, you should look into REW. I’ve never used it, and my impression is it’s an expert-enthusiast approach.
 

Wayne_j

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The Emotiva would definitely be the best cost effective choice for you.
 

John Dirk

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My concern is that there is no way to verify if a pre-owned model is good or not until I have it. I just hate to buy a used pre-amp then it fails, and I am out of that money.
You are correct in that there is no guarantee, however, if you're going to be involved in this hobby long term, at some point you probably will want to delve into the secondary market. With the new Anthem and Marantz models hitting the market, there will likely be some good deals available. In fact, there already are. I'd be selling my Marantz AV7702MKII if I hadn't reprioritized to purchase a new center speaker this year and @DaveF just scored an amazing deal on a pre-owned projector.

I would highly recommend taking a look at US Audio Mart. It's true there's risk involved but you can use seller feedback to get a fair idea of who can be trusted. We also have a classified section here on HTF.
 

Nippy

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I will say, I am glad I contacted the HTF, the information was awesome.

Many, many, years ago I was totally involved in HT, setup, install, design etc. Totally enjoyed every aspect of HT. Now so many changes, so many options to choose from, it’s rather overwhelming. Most definitely a learning curve to get back into the saddle so to speak.

  • Dave F, thank you, great advice, I will check out REW.
  • Wayne, thank you. Yes, right now Emotiva is at the top of my list, though subject to change at any given moment as I learn more.
  • Psycho, thank you for the advice. Your point is well taken, and I have checked out the link you provided. This may very well be the option I will take. I found many interesting deals. Also, a good place for me to sell a vintage Carver 6 channel amp.
More questions,

  • If I pursue a used pre-amp, what brands/models would be a good choice. Of course, within my budget range. Or should I ask, which brands / models to stay away from.
  • Has the HTPC evolved enough to use a PC as a pre-amp?
Thank you
 

ManW_TheUncool

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I can definitely support the idea of going used for at least some gear like prepro. I went w/ a used Anthem AVM-60 a couple years ago myself right after Anthem (originally) announced the then-upcoming new line of AVM-70 and AVM-90 -- quite a few AVM-60s hit the 2ndary market at that point around the $1.8-2K price point (vs its original price of $3K or the succeeding AVM-70's $3.5K).

A quick look on eBay and Audiogon suggests you should be able to find one for <=$1.5K if you exercise a bit of patience -- there's actually already one offered at that price on Audiogon, but sounds like it may have a minor issue w/ its volume knob (that sounds more or less like mine though) that might not bother/matter to you.

But if you need to stay very close to the $1K price point, then maybe a used Marantz prepro?

_Man_
 

John Dirk

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Has the HTPC evolved enough to use a PC as a pre-amp?
Sadly HTPC's are not evolving. The opposite is actually true. There are a few of us who still use them here but the major software players [Microsoft, Arcsoft] have long since abandoned the format. Unless you're pretty tech-savvy and of the DIY persuasion, it's probably not the way to go. That said, I use mine daily as the hub of my media center.

There's a whole forum dedicated to HTPC's here.
 

JohnRice

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  • Has the HTPC evolved enough to use a PC as a pre-amp?
Those are two completely different things, so you'll need a preamp or a receiver in any situation.

As others have alluded to, I'd probably look mostly to Anthem or Marantz for a used preamp. I have a Marantz AV7703 I'll probably be selling next year, but I don't know when. I've been wanting to replace it with an Anthem AVM-90.
 

DaveF

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I wonder if a high-end AVR with pre-outs could be found on the used market for a good price to serve as pre-pro? I’m thinking of something in the range of a Denon 6700.
 

Nippy

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Hi again,

The used market is looking more interesting. Not sure I can justify spending over $1500, even though I want to but with the economy as it is, I prefer not to.

Sad to hear the HTPC hasn’t evolved into more. I had high hopes someone would develop the software to use a PC as the brains in an HT without the use of pre-amp, oh well.

If I get this correct, the brands in order of preference are, Anthem then Marantz. Which models would be the ones to search for or stay away from? How old, 1 year, 2 model years.

Dave F, good idea, using an AVR as a pre-amp. My concern is the GUI, when I had vision I setup AVR’s for others and including Denon, Yamaha and others but if I remember correctly the GUI was rather clunky with many setup options for every conceivable room whether music or movies. Usually, the setup means reading a manual or trial and error but either way requires good vision, and I don’t have that option. And my wife hates reading manuals… lol.

So, my question, are the new AVR’s more streamlined or still include an abundance of overwhelming buttons, audio and video selections or are they now more refined. Easy enough for a blind person to set up or do the new AVR’s require a PHD in aeronautics.

I wish AV companies included a narrator in their functions, now that would be nice.

Last question, we stream mostly Prime and Netflix movies, which format works best to decode surround sound?

Thanks again for all your suggestions and help,

Nippy
 

ManW_TheUncool

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HTPC was never gonna "evolve" enough to make for good prepro -- the analog output stage would never be competitive enough. A good prepro could probably be designed/built to incorporate much more of HTPC capabilities, if there's a market for that, but that's not the same as what HTPCs generally are. Indeed, prepros (and AVRs) have been adding such functionalities, eg. increasing streaming support, to make HTPCs less relevant.

It's odd though that you want HTPC to be your prepro and yet are so concerned about clunky, cluttered UI that come about in large part because of all the bells-and-whistles such would entail.

Anyway, I'm not sure about the Marantz options, but the Anthem AVM-60 is pretty streamlined (and doesn't offer the myriad of streaming functionalities that many more recent prepros, NVM AVRs, offer). AVRs aren't generally all that much more cluttered than their prepro counterparts -- afterall, from functionality standpoint, the only diff is AVRs include the amp output stage, which wouldn't generally involve any UI change other than perhaps a simple switch to limit power based on resistance perhaps (or ideally, maybe to completely disengage whatever amp out stage/channel not being used).

No idea anymore what AVR would make for a decent, budget-minded prepro in usage. I'm guessing you're probably better off just going for the Emotiva BasX prepro or a used Marantz prepro at this point.

_Man_
 

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