Stereo to surround [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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01-09-2010, 07:13 AM
Hello all,

I'm looking for suggestions to convert my system and set it up for surround sound. I currently have a Spectron Musician II amp, and a Sumo Athena pre amp. These are driving Von Schweikert VR3 speakers

For playing music the sound is incredible, but I would like to improve it for movies. Would a Prologic decoder do the trick?

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Mr Peabody
01-09-2010, 08:11 AM
Surround sound has jumped some leaps since Pro Logic. With Pro Logic the rears have a narrow frequency response and are in mono. From there came Dolby Digital, 5.1, which made all channels full frequency and a dedicated (.1) channel for LFE, low frequecy effects. There may be some older decoders of 5.1 but I don't know of any off the top of my head. Now with Blu-ray we have Dlby Tru HD and DTS-MA that are bit for bit supposed to be the same as the original movie master soundtrack. 5.1 is also capable of potentially 360 degree sound effects. There's more like 6.1 or 7.1 but I'll keep it short. In addition, your speakers should match for optimum surround sound. Does Von Schweikert offer a matching center channel for your mains?

Sometimes if your preamp offers a "theater bypass" feature you can connect the front left/right outputs of a home theater receiver or processor in there and use your system as a slave to drive the speakers when using home theater. If that's not an option you could get a modern home theater receiver and switch the wires at the speaker for which system you are using at the time. That's what I do now. My prior set up I had a Krell with the "Theater Through" feature. So I've done it both ways. The switching of cables isn't a big deal with bananas and if the back of the speakers are easy to get to.

What video sources do you have and do you have HDTV? Take a look at the Onkyo TX607. I think you have to go pretty far up Onkyo's line though to get preamp outputs. Yamaha I believe offer the preamp outs at a fairly reasonable price. This should give you something to think about and when you decide what direction you want to pursue we can give you some more options.

.Welcome to AR

01-09-2010, 08:40 AM
The pre amp is the original Athena and has no bypass features. As far as switching to different speakers, that is not an option either due to it being difficult to get to the rear of them. I may have to purchase a competely new system for the set up, but would much rather utilize what I already have in place.

Thanks for your suggestions though!

Mr Peabody
01-09-2010, 03:34 PM
Well some of the guys are content with just two channel sound for movies. You could try that.

If Von Schweikert offers a matching center you could keep your speakers and add another multichannel amp to the Spectron and just get a A/V preamp processor. I believe Rotel has one in the $1500.00 range, as well as Integra. Emotiva, , is supposed to be offering a preamp processor in the near future for under $1k. They sell direct to customer and from the reports give excellent bang for the buck. My Marantz you can get for $2500.00 or less depending on what deals you find. And, you can go up from there. Going this way at least you might be able to use some of your existing gear. Emo also sells multichannel amps. Several here have their amps and claim they are as good if not better than Adcom or Rotel for less $$.

01-09-2010, 06:01 PM
A long time ago when surround sound was not everywhere I added a Carver Dolby Pro Logic Decoder to a basic two channel setup. It was a complicated mess of equipment and wires and never really worked great. There was no 5 or 7 channel amps back then so I had equipment all over the place. To go from music to movies I was like an old phone operator plugging and unplugging wires. With all the high end gear available to us today for music and movies, it is just so much simpler to get an all in one system. But if you must give it a go you could add a decoder to what you have as long as you have enough channels of power. Mike

JoeE SP9
01-09-2010, 07:23 PM
My ARC SP-9 doesn't have an HT bypass. I just set it for unity gain (I measured voltages and marked the volume setting) and use one of the tape loops connected to the front channel outputs from my processor. This allows me to use my SP-9 and front channel amps and speakers for all two channel sources. In "bypass" mode the levels for all channels are controlled by my Lexicon processor.
If and when I replace my preamp it's replacement will have an HT bypass switch.

01-10-2010, 05:14 AM
You probably don't want to hear this, but the best way to go might be to buy a new surround sound receiver that has pre-outs. You could use your power amp to still power your current speakers, but your pre-amp would have to go by the wayside. You could add a center channel and at least two rear speakers, as well as a subwoofer. This would give you the full modern home theater experience, but you could still retain your main speakers and current amplifier for two channel music listening.

01-10-2010, 05:41 AM
Thanks for all of the feedback, it gives me options to look into.

01-10-2010, 06:55 AM
Invader3k has it right. My second DPL preamp which replaced the Carver was a Adcom GSA-700 (I think). This is a preamp with DPL but also included 3 channels of power for center and rear speakers. This way I was able to use my current amps and front speakers for music and with a touch of the remote I had 5.1 which was the standard then. I really liked this setup since it was so compact and simple, you could configure the system how you liked. You could listen to the stereo from the rear speakers and onboard power when you need a little noise like during the day or a small party and not have your amps cooking for hours. I am not sure if there are any modern day pre/pro that still do this but its worth the look.

01-10-2010, 10:48 AM
Looking further into my preamp, I found this:

Two stereo pairs of audio output jacks are provided for connection to
power amplifiers or electronic crossovers. These jacks are labeled
PRE OUT 1 and 2. They are electrically connected in parallel and can
be used for installations requiring multiple amplifiers or crossovers.

I believe this just created a new option for me. Will I now be able to add a second amp to run center and rears plus utilize my current 2 channel for fronts? (Center is not something too necessary at this point though.)

Based on this, what configuration would be best for achieving surround?

01-10-2010, 11:49 AM
If you have a great audio system, then the best way to go into HT would be with a seperate HT system.
Or you could get a HT receiver with pre outs, and run the front left/right signals through your current system, and use the receiver to run the center and surrounds.
In spite of the hype, watching movies on a HT isnt that critical, you can get a HT setup for
under a grand.
But a reference audio system, even one aproaching reference, is much more
valuable for some reason.
MOVIES have fake sound with foley effects and digital sounds, everything is dubbed in post, just important that it sound neat, but not perfect.
HOWEVER, Miles Davis, or Bethoven, or Ella Fitzgerald, mangled by a audio system is
a tragedy for the ages.:1:

01-10-2010, 11:53 AM
Basically I AM SAYING that you can't "improve" a system to HT, especially a nice system such as yours.
Its already 200 percent of what you need to watch movies.
Just add the amps and proccessing for 5.1.
I'm just saying...:1:

01-10-2010, 01:21 PM
So if I get something like the Emotiva XPA-5 and connect it to the 2nd set of audio out on my preamp, I can get what I'm looking for?

Mr Peabody
01-10-2010, 02:33 PM
Bonzai, no you can not. The dual outputs are for using the second for a sub, for biamping or possibly a second zone/room. A movie has the sound effects and steering of those effects encoded on the DVD or BD. You need a processor some where to decode that information and direct it to each speaker. Just adding another amp will not do this. Adding another amp and speakers will still be 2 channel.

I would not use a receiver in place of your preamp. What many fail to realize is the receiver's preamp section sucks in comparison to a good high quality stereo preamp. You'd be sacrificing good music playback for surround sound and that wasn't your original goal. Adding a receiver for surround and keeping with your current system would be fine. You just have to figure out what you are willing to do.

01-10-2010, 02:51 PM
OK, I wasn't sure. I have no problem with 2 channel but I know nothing about surround and what options other then getting a new system I have.

I'm not willing to sacrifice sound quality by reducing my standards with a lesser system. Thanks all for the suggestions and help. I really appreciate it!

Mr Peabody
01-10-2010, 03:20 PM
If switching cables at the speakers isn't an option and you are still intent on surround sound, go back and read JoeE SP9's post on how he hooks his through the tape loop. You could probably do the same thing with an AUX input. Just set your stereo preamp to the same volume level each time you watch a movie and control the movie volume with the receiver or processor. Let's say you set the stereo pre to "4", then set up your surround sound at that point. Then each time you watch a movie you'll have to set the stereo preamp to "4". You'd be using your stereo to power the front left/right speakers when watching movies. If you buy a receiver it would have the additional amplification for the center and rears.

01-10-2010, 03:35 PM
Thanks, that's the option I plan to pursue. Not that I'm in a rush, I need to pick up additional speakers yet too. This is just a wild hair I got and I have plenty of time to do further research.

JoeE SP9
01-10-2010, 06:11 PM
You probably don't want to hear this, but the best way to go might be to buy a new surround sound receiver that has pre-outs. You could use your power amp to still power your current speakers, but your pre-amp would have to go by the wayside. You could add a center channel and at least two rear speakers, as well as a subwoofer. This would give you the full modern home theater experience, but you could still retain your main speakers and current amplifier for two channel music listening.

The only problem with this method is that the preamp section of most (if not all) HT receivers suck big time. You may not notice it when watching movies but with two channel music the difference is easy to hear. For those who don't believe this a simple comparison will make the difference obvious immediately.

Use the current preamp in some sort of bypass mode or get a decent preamp with an HT bypass switch. Using an HT receiver for two channel reproduction will seriously degrade the sound you currently have. This may not apply if you are using a Krell, Levinson or another high end processor. My Lexicon is demonstrably not as good sounding as my ARC SP-9 even though it sounds better than any HT receiver I've ever heard..

01-10-2010, 08:36 PM
I had a similar problem to yours. My first preference was quality stereo music, and I was unwilling to compromise. Within my meager financial means (hear of Champagne taste but beer pockets?) I put together a system which comprised of a Rotel pre-amp, Musical Fidelity amp and B&W 703 speakers. Eventually I was bitten by the surround sound bug, and purchased a Yamaha RX -V3800 surround sound amp. This is now superceded, but still produces a great sound. Initially, I used the pre-outs and sent the signal through a spare set of inputs on my Rotel pre-amp and used the Yamaha to power the surrounds only. The Musical Fidelity still powererd the front speakers, and the Yamaha was only powered up when needed for DVD viewing.

Now here comes the rub, and I'm sure that plent of people will jump on me and dispute what I'm about to say. I also bought into that often quoted notion that the pre-amp sections of receivers are crap. One day I decide to experiment and took the Rotel pre-amp out and began using the Yamaha as a pre-amp. Now maybe my ears are getting old, but I could not hear any difference in quality. I have retired my Rotel pre-amp and use the Yamaha exclusively for all my DVD and music purposes. The Musical Fidelity still powers the fronts, and I use the Pure Direct mode on the Yamaha for stereo listening. Perhaps this may be a solution for you too. I wouldn't try this with a budget receiver, since to a certain extent, you do get what you pay for. Hope this helps widen your options.

All the best.


JoeE SP9
01-11-2010, 05:26 PM
I don't want to step on anyone's toes but my Lexicon processor sounds better than any HT receiver I've ever heard. Even so, in two channel mode my ARC SP-9 is so much better it's obvious to even those who don't care about sound quality.
I've never heard any HT receiver operating in two channel mode that had sound quality that comes close to any two channel receiver .

01-11-2010, 06:45 PM
No, you're not stepping on my toes. I do admit that my experience is not as great as that of most of the helpful and knowledgeable people on this forum. I have not been posting in recent years due to family, health and job reasons, but I have been a silent, and much appreciative participant.

The collective wisdom and experience of members who are willing to share their knowledge always astounds me and fills me with admiration. We were all newbees once, and not all of us have the finances to explore our passions to the full. I live in Australia, and frankly, our prices are much higher than those in the US, and our wages are a tad lower. In addition, we also do not have access to all the wonderful and exotic equipment that you all seem to be blessed with.

I simply recounted my experience hoping that it may provide the poster with some alternative solutions. I never claimed to have "golden ears", but I have always loved music and once upon a time, a life time ago, I used to play musical instruments in ensembles. The Yamaha as a pre-amp works very well for me, although I know that better quality equipment would add better sound. However, within my means, and until I can afford something better, I am satisfied.

Please keep up the good work - we audio lovers just love to be apart of the community, albeit if only as silent members at time.

A bit late, but I hope all the members of this great Forum have a wonderful 2010.

01-17-2010, 12:18 PM
i believe one can integrate audio and video without compromise to stereo. my dynaquad approach is a shortcut but all formats are in surround this way if not in 5 channel.

another approach is to use an AV processor with your present setup in a tape monitor position, thus a pass-thru. rear and center channels can be handled by powered monitors like audio engine for a fairly affordable outlay.

i dont know the sound of the sumo but if a guy wanted to have a nice tubed preamp like mine, joeESP, or maybe a sp6c, VTL ultimate, or WHATEVER, that sound can be there for the primary music system.

as for an AVP, i had a B&K that was VERY transparent. even when i ran the arc through it, i didnt hear much if any degradation to the arc sound. i have since set it so my nuforce avp runs through the tape monitor of the arc.

JoeE SP9
01-17-2010, 02:54 PM
I agree hifitommy. A decent AVP can sound quite good. It's the preamp section in AV receivers that generally sucks.