Pre/Proc advice

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Jay_H, Oct 22, 2002.

  1. Jay_H

    Jay_H Auditioning

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    I use my stereo nearly exclusively for music. HOWEVER, one of the things I discovered when I first took the plunge into home theatre components is how vastly superior surround-sound decoding can be for music, especially the addition of a hard center channel. (I listen to basically everything, including romantic and modern orchestral, classic and modern jazz, classic and modern rock, and rap/hip-hop.) Compared to a 3-channel DPL front stage properly set up but made of modest speakers, I find even well-placed 2-channel front stages consisting of truly outstanding speakers (the likes of Audio Artistry Dvoraks, Avalon Avatars, Acapella Violons, or Tannoy D700’s) lacking in key areas. Now I want to improve it further by adding discrete surround capability.
    I had hoped to simply add a processor to my existing pre/proc, but that does not appear to be possible. (If it is, and you have a suggestion, I would still prefer to go that route.) My budget is strictly three-figures USD. I would love to use Meridian’s or Lexicon’s latest-greatest, but that’s not in the fiscal cards. The only thing that might make me consider jumping up to the extremely low four figures is dual-voltage capability, should I go continent-hopping again.
    I’ve been looking in local stores, but the high-end places seem to have very limited selections, and the big box stores have both personnel that is limited in knowledge and also no way to really ascertain the quality of the products. Reading product descriptions in Crutchfield or OneCall make me realise I don't have the handle on all this stuff that I once did. So I ask y’all to help me out.
    Within my budgetary constraints: here are things I need:
    -Good sound. If it doesn’t sound good, it isn’t good. Period.
    -Low noise floor. I’ll never use this thing with a pair of speakers less than 90dB/w/m efficient, and my upgrade path will lead me to speakers between twice and four times as efficient as that! (93-96dB/w/m). Hiss isn’t a big issue when you’re dealing with ScanSpeak 8545-based 2-ways, but on efficient speakers, it’s a killer.
    -Either a headphone jack or two sets of L/R outputs. I must be able to connect my headphone amp to my stereo without unplugging my mains amp.
    -Solid build. I don’t need Krell overbuilding, but I don’t want it to be made out of sorry materials that even GM would reject for their vehicle interiors, either.
    -Full assembly. I can solder a passive xo, but anything tougher is beyond my abilities. So a DIY pre/proc (not that I've seen any anyway) is out of the question.
    -Compatibility with all important 5.1 and 6.1-channel formats.
    -Ability to balance all channels in increments of 1dB or preferably better.
    -No Atari-like displays or wild colours. Only clean, understated elegance, please.
    -Either native support for DVD-A/SACD or analogue inputs to allow for those formats.
    -Coaxial digital input. No special prejudice against optical, just that I already have coaxial cable that can do the job and I’d rather not spend more money on wires.
    And things I’d like:
    -HDCD decoding. At worst, though, I’ll connect the DVD player to both digital and analogue inputs, using the analogue ones for discs encoded in HDCD.
    -Upgradability. This matters less the cheaper the thing is.
    -A good tuner, or no tuner. If I have a good tuner, I can put my current pre in another room. Otherwise, I’ll use it as the tuner.
    -A display dimmer. It’s definitely relaxing, but not a deal-breaker.
    -Dual voltage capability. Current usage would be 120V, but I want to be flexible.
    -Phono preamp. If I can take a box out of my cabinet, that’s wonderful.
    Things I’m not too concerned about:
    -Bass management. As long as I can route the 0.1 channel to the front mains, “collecting all the bass”, I’ll then shunt it to the subwoofer with my current xo/bass processor. I don’t need any other options.
    -Remote control. I’ll waste a day reprogramming my current one.
    -More than two digital inputs. One for the source I have now, one for upgradiblity.
    -Sophisticated video switching. I don’t have sophisticated video. Just analogue cable, VCR, and DVD.
    -Newness. I’ve bought used stuff before (including my current pre), so I have no hang-ups in that regard.
    -DSP soundfield modes. Don’t have ‘em now, don’t miss ‘em.
    -Support for more than 6.1 channels. I just don’t want more speakers in the room.
    So, what should I look at?
    For reference, my rather eclectic current system is as follows:
    Digital source: Toshiba 6-disc DVD with HDCD decoding and an onboard DD decoder than I can’t use, model SD-4109X or something like that.
    Analogue source: B&O TT with B&O MMC1 cart, 1980s-vintage H/K integrated as phono stage. (It’s big and ugly but sounds better than the Rotel or Parasound standalone phono stages.)
    Preamp/processor/tuner: Marantz AV600 (DPL/THX) with the RC2000 Mk. II remote.
    Bass managament/processing: AudioControl PCA3. (think of it as an adjustable LR4 xover with AudioControl’s car Epicenter processor sharing a power supply but not inputs.)
    Amps: Adcom GFA-535II (60x2 front), Adcom GFA-2535II (60x4 configured bridged 200w to the center, 60 to each surround), mid-1990s vintage Kenwood receiver (250x2 into the 4ohm nominal impedance of the subs) for the sub.
    Speakers:
    -L/R: KEF Q15. (6.5” dual-concentric)
    -C: KEF Q95C. (6.5” dual-concentric)
    -SR/SL: Mirage M590i bipoles (5.25”/.75” 2-ways).
    -Sub: Custom-made, two 12” woofers (DEI CS4124), Qtc=0.577 sealed.
    (If I went with a 6.1-channel, I would either make Adire Audio HE10.1’s or buy Tannoy Saturns for the front, and move the KEFs rearward. Actually, one of those two upgrades is in the cards regardless.)
    TV: A hand-me-down decade+ old 31” Panasonic. It doesn’t get that much use outside of football season, although I will swap it out for a thin widescreen when they get mass-market cheap.
    Other: Headroom Total AirHead amp and Sennheiser HD-580 headphones, adequate cables/interconnects, Rat Shack analogue SPL meter.
    Except for the pre/proc, and new speakers, and perhaps more environmentally-friendly amps (Tripath or some such), I don't have any upgrades planned. Despite its electicity, the system actually sounds quite good.
    Peace,
    Jay
     
  2. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    It seems to me that the newest edition (THX Ultra 2, DTS-ES Discrete, and upgraded processors and DAC's) of the Anthem pre-pro is right up your alley.

    Flexible, upgradeable, has all of the latest & greatest formats, highly tweakable (I read a description of what you can mess with, and it made my eyes twirl), sounds great for the money, and even has fully balanced XLR outputs. Has many coaxial digital inputs too, and even a pro-grade balanced digital input.

    I don't know about it having dual voltage capabilities, but if worse comes to worse you can always buy a quality 220 to 120 volt electronics converter.

    If I had the money, that pre-pro would be on my short list. That and the newly upgraded Integra Research RDC-7.

    Dan
     
  3. Michael Mohrmann

    Michael Mohrmann Screenwriter

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    The Anthem AVM-20 does not have dual voltage capability, only 120V. Also, even though I am an AVM-20 owner, I would recommend not purchasing it at this time until Anthem solves some of the bugs that have cropped up with software release v2.0x. Most AVM-20 owners seem to be okay with these few bugs, as Anthem has indicated a willingness to fix the software, but if I were a new owner, I probably would not be too happy.

    Michael
     
  4. Russell _T

    Russell _T Supporting Actor

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  5. Kevin T

    Kevin T Screenwriter

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    isn't the anthem out of the question with his "three figures" fiscal retraint? for three figures i was able to pick up an ead theatermaster encore but i can't think of any pre-pro in that price range right off hand that offers what you're looking for. the encore doesn't even offer some of the items you mentioned as "essential" and it originally retailed at $3000.

    kevin t
     
  6. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    I didn't pick up on that part of the thread. Oops! For that kind of money, yes the Outlaw Model 950 (which I have) is the ONLY thing on the market ($899 plus shipping), although it is a decent product for the price with high end Cirrus 24 bit/192 kHz DACs and DTS-ES/DD EX/ProLogic II/7.1 output/5 and 7 Channel Stereo (there are no DSP modes like Hall, Jazz Club, etc.), with bass management in front pair/center/surround array groupings (40,60,80,100,120 Hz increments).
    Basic, no frills features such as component video switching, on screen display, four optical/two coaxial inputs, and two digital outputs, as well as an 80 Hz analog bass management switch on the back for the 5.1 analog inputs for an SACD or DVD-Audio (or universal SACD/DVD-Audio) player that doesn't include bass management on-board.
    They did include 12 volt event triggers.
    It does have clean, clear sound that would match well with Adcom amps. Good micro audio detail too for home theater applications, especially. Much better than what I had in the past, and those DTS and Dolby Digital processors I replaced were nothing to sneeze at sonically (just too limited in features and it made for quite a tangle of audio cables). Includes a detachable IEC power cord (can be upgraded if you want something more exotic) and 24 kt. gold plated jacks.
    It has a radio, although just adaquate for the task.
    Outlaw makes some very good OEM silver and solid core/oxygen free interconnects at great prices too, if you need some to go along with the processor (if you so choose this one).
    Outlaw Audio Site
    You better add a few more zeros in there for all those requirements you seek!
    The suggestion of using a 220 to 120 volt convert would still apply so you can use it in many places you might find yourself.
    Dan
     
  7. Stephen Dodds

    Stephen Dodds Second Unit

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    I'd suggest a used Lexicon DC-1 which can be picked up for around $1K. If that is too much, a used Citation 5.0 should be about half that. Going down the food chain, a Harman Kardon Signature 2.0 would be good.

    Or use a receiver as a prepro - Denon 3802, H/K 520 come to mind.

    Steve
     
  8. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    Yes, there is something to be said for using a receiver as a temporary pre-pro. The Denon 3803, which is coming soon, looks interesting and would be within your budget if bought on-line at a reputable dealer.

    Although it has a global bass crossover at 40, 60, 80, etc. Hz (rather than in speaker groups like the Outlaw) it does have more sophisticated processor chips (32 Bit Hammerhead SHARC's used in the Denon 5803) and 16 dual-differential Burr-Brown 24 bit/192 kHz DAC's (including a mode to use four DAC's per channel in pure stereo operation), and adds DTS 24/96 decoding into the mix. If the pre-amp out section turns out to be cleaner than the Model 950, it might be the way to go.

    Dan
     
  9. Russell _T

    Russell _T Supporting Actor

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    To me, the biggest downfall of the 950 over something like the 3803 or any Denon for that matter is that the 950's speaker settings are global for surround modes, while many other units remember individual settings. Dan, do you find this glitch easy enough to live with? I would happily exchange the triple crossover for that feature. [​IMG]
     
  10. Jay_H

    Jay_H Auditioning

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    Really? A Lex for a grand? I never woulda thunk it. Last time I looked at these things, I was hughly impressed with Lexicon (CP-3 I think) and Meridian (565?). Have new processors and chips eclipsed these pieces, or are they still trying to catch up? Would a DC-1 support DD, DTS, and DPL2? Also, what forums seem to have the highest concentration of DC-3 owners?

    Thanks for all of the great advice, guys!

    Peace,

    Jay
     
  11. Frank_S

    Frank_S Supporting Actor

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  12. wayne p

    wayne p Stunt Coordinator

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    For the record please note the Anthem AVM 20 bug has been identified and corrected by SF.
     
  13. Jeff H

    Jeff H Stunt Coordinator

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    The Lexicon would be a great choice except there is no 5.1 inputs. You would need some kind of preamp or processor to run the Lex through if you want 5.1 inputs. I own a DC2 and I don't have any desire at this time to have SACD. I have a Lexicon DC1 with Dolby Digital (no DTS) that I will be selling if anyone is interested. I have owned the Citation 7.0 Prologic Processor and the 2 channel and 6-axis mode is incredible, but no DD. I have heard that the 7.0 is far superior to the Citation 5.0 except for the DD/DTS available on the 5.0. The H/K Signature 2.0 can be had for about $400.00 used, but I was not impressed with the 2 channel or surround modes. I owned the H/K for a couple months and quickly sold it to by a Lexicon. There is a lot of good preamps for sale at good prices now. Take your time and look around. You should be able to find something for less than a grand to satisfy most of your need. If you are interested in my Lexicon DC1, email me. Good Luck, Jeff
     
  14. mark bosselmann

    mark bosselmann Auditioning

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    Hi. I was wondering if anyone has a copy of a Marantz av600 owners manual. Thanks. Mark
     

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