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  1. #1
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    Which Amp and Which Preamp??

    I would like to purchase a Home Theater System and I don't know what to buy. I hear that separate components are a better choice than a AV receiver. I have a budget of about five thousand dollars. I like receivers from Denon, Yamaha, and Pioneer in this exact order and speakers from Paradigm or from any another reputable manufacture.

    I would love to buy a 5.1 or 7.1 amp and a good sound processor for a cleaner sound. Which brand should I be looking at? I need a HT that can last me for the next five to ten years.

    Can someone in here put together a system for me. I'll be using my HT for 50% music and 50% video. I will appreciate any recommendation you can offer.

    Thank you very much for your input.
    P.S. I already have a sub (M&K V-125) and surround sound speakers.

    Jmzmta

  2. #2
    Forum Regular psonic's Avatar
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    With your budget you have a lot of choices. If I were you I'd go visit several hifi shops in the area and do the following: listen to $5000 7.1 systems then listen to $5000 stereo systems with music and movies. Bring some DVD's and CDs and spend hours listening. Keep demoing different systems and see what moves you. Bring a friend or significant other, see what they think. Many of us prefer the sound of quality 2ch systems. A $5000 2ch system (well-chosen) will sound killer with music. The quality of the components goes way up as you only have 1 pair of speakers, 1 amp to buy.

    For me, I have no interest in having speakers all over my TV room. I have 1 great pair of speakers and one great amp, so I get great music reproduction and good movie reproduction. If you switch to 5 or 7 speakers movies may be more involving but music will not be as good as the stereo system. I started out with a 5.1 system a few yrs ago and ended up here. It's just too much clutter with 7.1 IMO, unless you have a dedicated HT room for all the speakres, wiring and gear. What size is your HT room and what else is in this room? This is important also as it determines how much power / speaker size you may need. Would you consider just a killer music system 2ch to play music and movies?

    Wether you go 2ch music or HT, here are some speakers I recommend as excellent sound to value. Check out their websites and see if a dealer is nearby. Also, if you decide to go with a 2ch system, $5000 allows for many other great speaker options at higher prices.

    In order of preference (ratings 1-10 for < $1000 speaker sound / value)

    Dynaudio Audience 52, 62, 72, 82 $900-1500+ Rating 10/10 www.dynaudio.com
    Kef Q5 Q7 $800+ Rating 8/10 http://www.kef.com/products/qseries/qseries5.html
    Energy C5, C9, C7 $700+ Rating 8/10 http://www.energyloudspeakers.com/c...akers1_c-5.html
    Paradigm Monitor 7 $600 Rating 7/10 http://www.paradigm.com/Website/Sit...onitorSpecs.htm
    You may want to audition B&W also.

    As for amplifiers, I like Rotel and B&K separates which would work well in HT and music. I am not a big fan of receivers at all. Integrated amps are great if you go 2ch. My 1st integrated was a 35w/ch NAD, it crushed my 2 prior receivers in every regard with musical playback. It just cant do 5.1. So you have to decide which will work for you.
    Dynaudio Audience 60
    Audio Refinement Complete Integrated
    Sony DVP-NC685V CD/SACD/DVD
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    "hey dreaming it up accounts for half the fun - and time"

  3. #3
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    Arcam offers a couple of options, their new receiver will give you performance much better than the receivers you were looking at and they also have some new separates pre/pro and power for about $4k for the pair. Primare has a HT integrated that is a great performer for about $4k. These would be my choice of first look. Rotel also offers affordable separates that are well regarded as well as a couple A/V receivers. Anthem is also a possibility, their pre/pro runs about $3k and I liked it quite a bit. Also in the $3k range is the Classe' pre/pro but last I saw it did not offer any video switching but would give you great sound for both HT and 2 channel. All of these options would be much better than buying a mass product in my opinion.

    I am a Dynaudio fan for speakers. There are many good brands out there you'll have to listen for what you like speakers seem to be more of a personal thing.

  4. #4
    RGA
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    Here is what i would do.

    1) buy the Cheapest receiver that you can possibly find from any maker (it doesn't much matter) that has 7.1 which you say you want, and that ALSO has preouts (so that you can add external power amplifiers).

    2) Once you find a receiver that has the preouts (this starts at $500.00 or so then look for a receiver that also has a nice functional remote control and has the surround modes that are necessary not the ones that are gimicky -- I can see no more than $1500.00 is necessary to spend.

    3) then buy power amplifiers USED. you can get some very good used Arcam Rotel Bryston Oddysey etc power amps on the used market. If you were running 6.1 you could buy three of the upper end Rotel Power amps used for pretty cheap. Power amps will last 30 years and are probably the safest thing to buy used - they also depreciate fast. For example you could have 3 Bryston 3bST power amps for $3500.00 (these come with 20 year transferrable warranties so even if they are ten years old you would still have ten year warranty) added to the $1500.00 Receiver and I'm betting it would clobber any $5k reciever on the market.

    Personally I would go with a less exensive amp like Rotel or Oddysey over Bryston because to me the others sound nicer and the Bryston is more about brute force than musicality. Three used Rotels may only run a combined $2k

  5. #5
    Forum Regular psonic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Here is what i would do.

    1) buy the Cheapest receiver that you can possibly find from any maker (it doesn't much matter) that has 7.1 which you say you want, and that ALSO has preouts (so that you can add external power amplifiers).

    2) Once you find a receiver that has the preouts (this starts at $500.00 or so then look for a receiver that also has a nice functional remote control and has the surround modes that are necessary not the ones that are gimicky -- I can see no more than $1500.00 is necessary to spend.

    3) then buy power amplifiers USED. you can get some very good used Arcam Rotel Bryston Oddysey etc power amps on the used market. If you were running 6.1 you could buy three of the upper end Rotel Power amps used for pretty cheap. Power amps will last 30 years and are probably the safest thing to buy used - they also depreciate fast. For example you could have 3 Bryston 3bST power amps for $3500.00 (these come with 20 year transferrable warranties so even if they are ten years old you would still have ten year warranty) added to the $1500.00 Receiver and I'm betting it would clobber any $5k reciever on the market.

    Personally I would go with a less exensive amp like Rotel or Oddysey over Bryston because to me the others sound nicer and the Bryston is more about brute force than musicality. Three used Rotels may only run a combined $2k
    I agree with this also, if he is really set on HT after listening to good $5k 2ch systems. Problem is, it appears he needs speakers and amps. So he cannot do Bryston - more realistically an inexpensive reciever with pre/out and some inexpensive or used amps and then he needs speakers and a sub still. He could probably get a set of Energy speakers with sub for ~ $2500.

    If going this route, I would also look at Receivers with decent preamps like NAD, Arcam, Rotel or possibly a surround preamp from them used
    Dynaudio Audience 60
    Audio Refinement Complete Integrated
    Sony DVP-NC685V CD/SACD/DVD
    Audioquest Viper Interconnect
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    "hey dreaming it up accounts for half the fun - and time"

  6. #6
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    Except you are very lucky, the cheapest receivers will be very grainy and/or veiled if the 7.1 outs are not well implemented. You get what you pay for! the bottom end of the market is not the place to be, if you are not interested in the power section, get a good processor that has a well implemented outputs, the cheapest receiver will likely have very compromised analog preouts.

  7. #7
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by theaudiohobby
    Except you are very lucky, the cheapest receivers will be very grainy and/or veiled if the 7.1 outs are not well implemented. You get what you pay for! the bottom end of the market is not the place to be, if you are not interested in the power section, get a good processor that has a well implemented outputs, the cheapest receiver will likely have very compromised analog preouts.
    maybe maybe not -- let's see the proof first.
    Last edited by RGA; 06-22-2005 at 10:17 AM.

  8. #8
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    And what proof will that be

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    maybe maybe not -- let's see the proof first.
    And what proof will that be? Or do you suppose that receivers preouts are 'straight wire with gain'?

  9. #9
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    RGA your suggestion can NEVER outperform any of the options I suggested in my prior post for one simple reason, a $500.00 receiver's preamp cannot match the performance of the higher end preamps therefore if sound is a concern he should forgo the popular yet senseless configuration of receiver and power amp. When you stick a power amp on a receiver all you have is a more powerful receiver you really haven't gained much sonicly. You gain some because the power amp is definitely superior to the one in the receiver but the sonic signature of the receiver is still there.

    Why didn't you buy a $200.00 receiver with preamp outs and just use that for an Audio Note power amp?

    You could also buy a 2 channel integrated or separate preamp with a HT pass through feature. This is also an option if you want good stereo listening but didn't want to spend big dollars on the HT side. I have heard HT receivers and preamp processors and the superior sound quality of a processor is worth the money even for HT.

  10. #10
    RGA
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    Audiohobby -- any proof measured ? The top receiver versus the $500.00 receiver. Which speicifc preamp processor are you talking about? Anthem makes them and they are no better than a Denon receiver. Arcam is average but the surround modes are not nrearly as sophisticated as the big japanese rewceivers. I owuld definitely take the Arcam for music listening or the recievers from NAD and Rotel -- but they always seem a step behind surround mode wise -- basically make a decision which is it gonna be because IMO you don't get both well.

    Mr. P

    Well you are making a rahter big assumption that all recievers preamps suck -- they do not. First we're talking about SS amplifiers so differences are not particularly imnportant or relevant to me musically. The point of adding a power amp can be huge -- granted I agree so can a preamp but there is only so much money to go around. My Old Pioneer Elite was pretty well isolated in the preamp section and sound quite decent with a good power amp attached -- in my case a Bryston. Certainly better than a better preamp and running the poweramp part of the Pioneer I would guess. Not all or many receivers allow a defeat of the preamp secion anyway. So your stuck with upgrading the power amp only.

    Dedicated preamp processors are still compromised musically and for movies alone none of this is going to matter much with the lack of accurate cues we have with sound effects.

    If I'm dropping $5k for surround sound I want the most up to date best surround sound I can get -- if you can get a preamp processor with 7 channels of separate amplifiers for this price then I'll gladly conced this point and be happy to switch my recoomendation over. Separates big advantage is flexibility.

    When I finally get serious about Home theater I'll sell my receiver buy all speakers that are exactly the same and it will be a class A SE surround system preferably a SET. But someone needs to make the processor. indeed AN has been toying with a 845 tube amplified Subwoofer. So someone make the bloody processor.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Audiohobby -- any proof measured ? The top receiver versus the $500.00 receiver. Which speciifc preamp processor are you talking about?
    Measurements, are you pulling my leg? I hope not , I did not have any preamp-processors in mind, but the cheapest receivers will not cut it.

  12. #12
    RGA
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    you're on odd fellow TAH because you are so measurement happy on one thing -- and yet on most SS amplifiers which are practically identical you'll say that a output jack makes supreme differences and "it won't cut it" -- cut what exactly - surely there must be a 50decibal spike at 1khz on the one that doesn't cut it or a dip??? surely from the measurements are all that count guru you should be able to present say my Marantz 4300 preouts with that of a top of the line preamp processor. It is your strange inconsistancy that is tiresome to me -- of course no one can win an arguemwent with you because your arguemnt is continually shifting. You try and say that the big treble rise in the Elac does not matter you present no argument but some lame line about this should be in another thread, but the measurement difference in the preout stage is going to be incredibly small -- adding a power amp to even a cheap receiver by passes a large section of the receiver. When I did it with a Bryston the noise dropped and the difference was impressive. It was the top of the line Pioneer Elite receiver but todays cheaper receiver would easily compete with it.

    Most very cheap receivers don't have preouts - The Marantz was about $600.00Cad I believe -- So if you are thinking about a Quest receiver or Wal-mart receiver then I might agree with you. But the difference between the 4300 and the top Marantz is a better Surround processor and a torid power amp -- and a nicer remote -- but everything else looks pretty much identical.

    If your saying all receiver suck musically for the money you pay -- well you won't get much arguement from me.

  13. #13
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    RGA,

    You are so funny Meishu is so much better than the OTO SE. . however your modest Marantz 4300 is as good as a top of the line preamp-processor, ain't that sweet

  14. #14
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    RGA, we will have to agree to disagree. First there is a big advance in sound quality in separates, it's not just flexibility. Arcam may have a no nonsense approach and leave off some of the BS features a Japanese receiver might have but the Arcam would outperform the Japanese receiver in both stereo and HT sound quality. If a better preamp gives you more detail on music it will do the same for your movies. You are out of your mind to say the Anthem is no better than a Denon receiver. The Anthem 20 I heard sounded better than the McIntosh processor which cost about $2k more and both are leaps and bounds better than any Denon receiver. Furthermore I'd bet the Anthem would even have more features, it was pretty well dressed, including a dedicated headphone amp for the headphone output. Sure it may be cheaper to buy a receiver but if you have the budget a processor is the way to go for performance. Even the Rotel 1066 pre/pro will out perform the Denon.

    You for one should know not to talk about specs and measurements because on paper a Denon receiver probably has better specs than your Audio Note amp, so why did you pay mega bucks more for the Audio Note with worse specs? Anyone who has been in the audio hobby for any length of time and has actually had experience listening to high end gear knows that the differences heard in gear is difficult to measure if at all. It's impossible to put character, textures, various sound stage cues and sonic signature on paper. There's no spec to tell you if 2 components are going to have synergy.

  15. #15
    Forum Regular 46minaudio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    Anyone who has been in the audio hobby for any length of time and has actually had experience listening to high end gear knows that the differences heard in gear is difficult to measure if at all. It's impossible to put character, textures, various sound stage cues and sonic signature on paper. There's no spec to tell you if 2 components are going to have synergy.
    I disagree.That has to be the biggest pile of horse sh1t ever posted.I been in audio for 30 plus year and have owned and still own some very nice seperates.I just replaced a Lexicon DC 1 V3 with a Yamaha RXV 1500 powered by 2 Aragon amps.I prefer the 1500 (feature rich with the same SQ).Other level matched tests with a Rotel 1070 ,and Adcom GFP 750 preamps(using a Acurus amp to power both),against the direct stereo mode on a Yamaha RXV 1400.No one could pick a winner..
    To the op look at the reciever option.Play with it ,if you feel you need an external amp add it later.Save that extra money for real world improvements like DVDs,CDs,DVDa,SACD,room treatment,adding a nice sub,and a peq for the sub..

  16. #16
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by theaudiohobby
    RGA,

    You are so funny Meishu is so much better than the OTO SE. . however your modest Marantz 4300 is as good as a top of the line preamp-processor, ain't that sweet
    Umm who said it was better? I would not assume it's worse than ALL of them either -- after all I have heard $1300.00 Arcam's that embarass $6k recievers -- so why assume it's about price? There is more to to the Meishu and OTO that separate them like a completely different topology. The basic marantsz and the top marantz well you tall me -- it's not like you're getting point to point wiring and class leading connectors and a revolutionary high end preamp in one model versus another. And some people prefer the EL84 based OTO to the 300B Meishue with their gear -- I am NOT one of those people but I do hear why they may think so.

    You are saying the output stage to an add on power amp is lousy in cheap receivers (which means then you are saying they are better in expensive receivers -- I don't see that and I bet you they are exactly the same stage).

    It may very well be higher quality in an Audio Refinement or Theta but the latter costs a ton and bloody well should be better, and the former is not up to date in surround modes. Arcam has been struggling with this as well as they always semm to be at least one generation behind and ever since the Xena 1(SP?) they sound musically better but not great with surround -- now if I'm the guy buying I don't care about surround as much so I take the Arcam -- but the Pioneer Elite with a dedicated Power amp murders the Arcam surround system of the day. The marantz I have I don't even like - but I would rahter spend $300.00(one left demo price from $600.00 New) on a banal sounding receiver like this than spend $1500.00 or $5000.00 on a banal sounding receivr with more flashing lights and an overpriced remote control. At least with the marantz ine can get 3 Arcam 290P power amps or better for about $300.00Cad each. Now you have a real surround system for about $1200.00. Compare it to a $1200.00 reciever without the power amps - I did several years ago.

    A dedicated GOOD processor/preamp will be better - for surround sound though -- the qurestion is does it matter enough to bother? If i'm coming across defending receivers then I've written poorly -- receivers to me a overpriced paperweights --- so get one of the ones that isn't overpriced.

  17. #17
    RGA
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    Mr Peabody

    Well I am not going to get into the broad generalizations -- I would take the NAD or ARCAM or Rotel sound over the Denon sound -- I don't like receivers much anyway. That was my point buy a basic receiver and fix it's biggest failing the power amp -- some units I would agree probably has the preamp as its biggest weakness -- but which ones I don;t know because it's not like I sit home testing them all -- The Pioneer Elite I had was competant enough -- it's discrete rugged power amps sucked.

    As for measurements it depends on the measurements -- SET does better on some than most any SS amp going -- but you will never see those measurements presented you only see the ones they want you to see. I mean when i had my Ford Escort if i was comparing it to a Ferrari -- the measurement I would stress as most important is the one that shows how high the car is off the ground and convincing you that higher is better. (oh no a car analogy). For instance in audio SET performs best from the moment of silence to the moment the music plays -- basically under a watt. This is typically where the vast majority of SS amps perform their worst. Where do they measure in this industry? At maximum volume where SS performs its best and where SET performs its worst. Most music in either set-up rarely goes beyond 10 watts or even beyond 3 watts at normal low medium levels. there are some exceptions from Class A SS amplifiers like Sugden which performs very much like a SET without tubes. Somewhere along the way good music reproduction has been called coloured or Euphonic(Euphonic means good or pleasant and lord knows if your music sounds good or pleasant it should be completely utterly avoided ). Indeed if it isn't Euphionic it is fatiguing bright artifical grainy etched but this has been called neutral or worse accurate. Measurements not related to the listening experience mean little to me - I don;t carry an spl meter and a graph-o-matic when I go to the symphony or to recital or to a rock club to make sure there is no frequency dips in the hall -- our ears cut through most frequency response weakness depending where they are anyway - grain and etch for me may as well be a baseball bat hitting me in the ear.

    I have not as I recall heard the Rotel -- if it is reasonably priced and sounds better and you can buy the spearate amps then I would go that route over the cheap reciever I suggested.

    Anthem versus McIntosh isn't resounding -- I have only heard one good mcIntosh in my years and it was a tube model - I don't get their popularity -- they look good though but I dunno. Then again I'm always hearing them with speakers I don't much like so it could be I need to use a better speaker -- next time I'm at soundhounds I may see if they have any mcIntosh left -- I think they dropped the line -- come to think of it I have only heard Anthem with Paradigm so I may try the Anthem with something better.

  18. #18
    Forum Regular gonefishin's Avatar
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    You know...reading the first couple post...I figured I'd poke my nose in and make a few comments. But heck with the advice. This thread has fallen to much of the same fate as almost every other speaker/amp/system thread has turned into.

    Rga first suggestion was some great advice...but sure...it wasn't full proof and there would be excpetions. Then people make a differing opion that rga. then the thread starts to look like nearly every other thread at AR.

    oh well...maybe repetition will make things so, hmmm.

    wow...week ahead of myself. HAve a good weekend


    dan
    Last edited by gonefishin; 06-25-2005 at 12:49 PM.
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    enjoy the music!

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    OK then..... 46min dude, the next time you want to "upgrade" from a $5k or so Lexicon processor to a Best Buy receiver, let me know, I'll be more than happy to take your short end of the stick.

    I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you really couldn't hear a difference but you must realize that there are those of us who can.

    RGA, I think we are finding some common ground. I guess if one had $1k or less a receiver with a used power amp would be better than just a $1k receiver. I'd say if the budget was above $2k one could get better overall performance from an A/V integrated or separates. There is no hard fast rule, much of it depends on which gear and system synergy. I just cannot recommend using a receiver for preamp in most instances with good conscience. There are some exceptions like Arcam, B&K and a couple others but generally receivers cheese out on the preamp.

    I'd bet you'd like Rotel, it's your style. I actually am not fond of it but I'd recommend their pre/pro and amp over any Denon or mass market receiver. I think your problem with Arcam is that the sound is too agressive for your taste and that doesn't allow you to notice how revealing this stuff is and how much information it gives. I also respect it because I've seen those little integrated amps drive speakers that would cause a receiver to melt down. Our dealer carries Marantz and Arcam, the Arcam receivers killed the Marantz. The dealer had to quit ordering the larger Marantz because people bought the Arcam. They sounded better and cost less. I was impressed by them. Again, features wasn't their goal, it was performance, so some Japanese receivers offered more bells & whistles. I'm not sure why our impressions differ so much on the Anthem. The system I heard was the AVM-20 with all Anthem power amps driving Paradigm Studios, I think the fronts were 100's. I wouldn't describe the sound as agressive but it wasn't laid back either, and I remember the midrange being slightly emphasized. The bass could have been stronger. Some one told me later who was familiar with the brands that he thought that was due to the Anthem power amps that Paradigm does good bass.

    What made you drop the Sugden for the AN amp?

  20. #20
    Forum Regular 46minaudio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    OK then..... 46min dude, the next time you want to "upgrade" from a $5k or so Lexicon processor to a Best Buy receiver, let me know, I'll be more than happy to take your short end of the stick.
    No problem,BTW I still have the Lex if you are interested.Perfect condition.Send me a PM if you want it/,

  21. #21
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    Nice Combo

    Look At The Cary Audio Cinema 6 Pre/Pro And Cinema 5 Amp. The Value Is Unbeatable And The Reviews Are Excellent.

  22. #22
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    If your interest is divided 50/50 music and video I would recommend the following.

    1.) Purchase an analog 2 channel preamp that will be used for music only but have HT processor loop for movies.

    2.) Purchase the correct 5 channel amp that is a good match for your speakers

    3.) Purchase a receiver that has preamp outputs on all channels and a good DAC for movies

    * Run your DVD player digital audio to the receiver

    * If you have a stand alone CD Player or other 2-channel source run that analog direct to the 2-channel preamp. If not run the DVD players analog L&R outputs to the 2-channel preamp

    * Connect L&R preouts from the receiver to the processor loop on the 2-channel preamp

    * Preouts from the analog pre go to channels 1&2 of your 5 channel amp

    * Preouts for C, RS, LS go from the receiver to channels 3,4,5 on the amp

    There is a real advantage here for music because you can use a dedicated tube preamp for music and get the HT gear out of the way. For movies flip a switch and the processor loop is open and the 2-channel preamp is completly out of the way.

    Based on past exp. it is my opinion that $5k will go a long way if put in the right place.

  23. #23
    cvc
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    These guys have gotten out of hand here.

    Here's the real deal. Go to OutlawAudio.com You can read all about their amps and pre amps. Don't worry it won't take to much time because they only make a few pieces. These guys have gotten excellent reviews for their gear. If you don't believe me then go to your local newsstand and pick up Sound and Vision magazine or Hometheater magazine. I know for a fact one of them reviews the new pre amp and they said it's great.

    This company sells their product only on line to save you cash. You get the gear shipped to you and get to try it out for a month before you decide if you want it. How cool is that? They have a 5ch amp and a 7ch amp.

    Speakers are another story. You have to get up off your butt and go audition those. Ha! But for Gods sake, don't go to best buy. That stuff is crap. Try to find an audio shop near you. I would recommend Monitor Audio though. They make excellent sounding speakers.

    OutawAudio is the way to go. Good luck!

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