Research Pays off: The Best "Pre/Pro" for the money NAD M15 + DVDO Edge + Sony S550 - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 09:44 AM - Thread Starter
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[edited 4/24] Big thanks to everyone that contributes to the AVS Forums! I just received my dream set-up with every feature I could ever want and I didn't spend a ton of money. I wanted to share my components and I will update everyone with my findings so others can replicate my set-up if it performs as well as it should (it does, read on) - research pays off.

Update 4/27 - Pictures from my cell phone of everything up and running:




The Set-up:

I just purchased a refurbished NAD Masters Series M15 pre/pro with a 2-year NAD warranty from Amazon.com (Spearit Sound - whom I have no affiliation to or relationship with, other than being a very satisfied customer) for $1600, a DVDO Edge for $700 and a BDP-S550 for $379 (I also have a Tivo HD XL and an Emotiva XPA-3 driving KEF IQ30s and a KEF IQ60c center)

The Upside:

All you need is a Sony BDP S-550 Blu-Ray player to decode HBR/MA audio and route the signal directly to the M15 via separate analog inputs plus the DVDO Edge to process video. With this set-up, you have almost all of the functionality of a $3,000+ AV pre/pro but you're going to get much better video processing for SD signals, better sound quality (unless you're in the Anthem+ category and even then, SQ is debatable) and one of the best Blu-Ray players to hit the market. You can use the money that you save to buy a stand-alone active room correction device in the future too (they should be <$1,500 in the next 6 months at this pace)!

The Details:

Threads to pay closer attention to if you

don't want to settle by buying an Integra DHC9.9 or spending more on a "buggy" Cary Cinema 11a or the expensive, but near-flawless, Anthem D2v:

SSPs that will do *everything* digital that you're not looking for :
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=940065
Blu-Ray Players to research for DTS HD-MA capability :
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...8#post14323698
DVDO Edge :
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1051246

The thread that matters to me:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=707173

What are your thoughts? Did I do a good job?

I must say that it sounds amazing and the analog outputs from the Sony player sound better than the optical output.

Phase 2: a HSU Research STF-2 (might order today) and a pair of KEF iQ90s and an Naim NAP 150x amplifier [edited 5/1]

Phase 3: Stand-alone Active Room Correction from either Neptune, Trinnov or Audyssey unless I can sell the M15 and pick-up a M15HD for less than the cost of a separate (and the M15HD matches the ARC performance).

I am also going to do a

Pepsi Challenge between this set-up and my friend's stereo set-up which runs an NAD T175, Paradigm Studio 60s and a B&K Reference 200.2 (and vice versa with his T175 down here). He will have everything ready to go before the end of the week so it's just a matter of me carefully moving the M15 from my apartment up to his.

I'll keep updating this thread with more data points as we test. P.S. if an ambitious mod wants to clean up some of these "along-the-way" posts, I would appreciate it

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post #2 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 09:59 AM
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I thought that the M15 handled no audio via HDMI and that it was only video switching? Are you positive it can handle audio?

I know NAD has new versions on the way that include the new codecs
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post #3 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 10:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by rydenfan View Post

I thought that the M15 handled no audio via HDMI and that it was only video switching? Are you positive it can handle audio?

I know NAD has new versions on the way that include the new codecs

According to the user's manual: [edit: you have to use a separate digital audio input for sound which the DVDO Edge has.]

[replaced my misunderstanding: "all you need is one HDMI connection in for video and sound... -jc]

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post #4 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 10:26 AM
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That is not what I understood from speaking with a few NAD dealers but best of luck.
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post #5 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 10:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by rydenfan View Post

That is not what I understood from speaking with a few NAD dealers but best of luck.

You are correct but I can simply use the optical out on the Edge to output Direct/PCM

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post #6 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 11:08 AM
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Does the Sony S550 have source direct output? From what I have read, that is the best way to take advantage of the Edge.

Bruce
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post #7 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 11:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by BruceOmega View Post

Does the Sony S550 have source direct output? From what I have read, that is the best way to take advantage of the Edge.

Bruce

Can you please elaborate on this? The S550 will output HDMI, Direct over optical and even 7-channel analog audio but people have problems with the 7-channel analog outputs (probably because of DRM).

OR, do you mean that you can have it *not* upscale your old discs?

That isn't much of an issue for be because I only have Blu-Ray discs as I've had a BD-Rom in my computer almost since Blu-Ray's release and got rid of my old DVDs.

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post #8 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 11:30 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm not going to be able to "bypass" the M15 for pre-processed 7.1 from the Sony because I only have an L/C/R + sub, 3.1 set-up right now and will want to use Dolby Prologic. Is that what you mean?

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post #9 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 11:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceOmega View Post

Does the Sony S550 have source direct output?

From what I've read, Sony dropped the direct out feature a generation or two back. But even if their player outputs DVDs at 480p, the EDGE can take apart and re-interlace each frame using DVDO's PReP function. If you really want direct out, then the upcoming Oppo may be the best bet (plus it has the equivalent of EDGE processing built in).

Sanjay
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post #10 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 11:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

From what I've read, Sony dropped the direct out feature a generation or two back. But even if their player outputs DVDs at 480p, the EDGE can take apart and re-interlace each frame using DVDO's PReP function. If you really want direct out, then the upcoming Oppo may be the best bet (plus it has the equivalent of EDGE processing built in).

Are we talking about audio or video? I'm really only concerned with getting clean audio signals from my Tivo XL HD and Sony BDP-s550 (profile 2.0 and can decode all) through the Edge and to the M15 (or direct to the M15 if I have to). I'm not concerned with SD from the Tivo as that can only look better with the Edge and I rarely watch TV and I'm only planning on playing 1080p/24 movies on the Sony and the occasional DVD that a friend brings over, which don't look too shabby without a video processor...

Also, I have a Harmony One remote so I can just script the source switch so I don't need 3 remotes at all times.

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post #11 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 12:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnNY-C View Post

Can you please elaborate on this? The S550 will output HDMI, Direct over optical and even 7-channel analog audio but people have problems with the 7-channel analog outputs (probably because of DRM).

JohnNY-C,

You may want to ask this in the Blu-Ray forum and get feedback from users with hands on experience / more expertise than I. And they can delve into the details.

I mentioned this since you're planning to use the Edge, and source direct will enable you to feed the Edge a "purer" video signal from the player, bypassing most if not all of the player's internal processing. If the processing in the Edge is higher quality than the player, then this is an advantage.

You need to have HDMI for source direct to work, but having HDMI does not mean the player can output source direct.

Regarding your other components, I would be interested in knowing how you like the Nad after some hands on experience. The forthcoming M15HD is on my short list for a new prepro.

Thanks
Bruce
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post #12 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceOmega View Post

JohnNY-C,

You may want to ask this in the Blu-Ray forum and get feedback from users with hands on experience / more expertise than I. And they can delve into the details.

I mentioned this since you're planning to use the Edge, and source direct will enable you to feed the Edge a "purer" video signal from the player, bypassing most if not all of the player's internal processing. If the processing in the Edge is higher quality than the player, then this is an advantage.

You need to have HDMI for source direct to work, but having HDMI does not mean the player can output source direct.

Regarding your other components, I would be interested in knowing how you like the Nad after some hands on experience. The forthcoming M15HD is on my short list for a new prepro.

Thanks
Bruce

I'm seeing conflicting information when I look for "source direct" output and the S550. I'm seeing more which say that it does have that feature than those which say that it doesnt... I'll have more time tonight to make sure as you make a very keen observation as far as the video signal path being "cluttered" with too many VPs (what I want to avoid).

Also, it looks like I'll be better off connecting the M15 via the optical out on the Edge or via the digital coaxial outputs on my two main sources. Either way I should be able to move 7.1 lossless audio around...

My $0.02: What VP chip is going to be in the M15HD? From what I've read, you need some serious $$ to get a better VP than the chip Anchor Bay is using in the Edge... Also, I'm seeing that the M15HD is going to have a $3,999 price tag. I would bet that you could easily pick-up a used/refurb'd M15, S550, Edge AND a used (maybe new) Neptune active room correction separate for under $4k by the time it's released. To me, that's a better set-up than stuffing everything in one box. Food for thought...

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post #13 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnNY-C View Post

You are correct but I can simply use the optical out on the Edge to output Direct/PCM

Not for the new formats, optical doesn't have the bandwidth to handle that (8 channels).

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post #14 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 12:34 PM
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Not for the new formats, optical doesn't have the bandwidth to handle that (8 channels).

Daniel.

Whether optical has or does not have the bandwidth is irrelevant. S/PDIF does not support more than two channels of PCM.

Even if it did, there might be pressure to also add content protection to it. Seems the industry players saw no reason to stick with S/PDIF, and transistioned to HDMI.

On the positive side, S/PDIF suffers from less dropouts*, supports nearly transparent DTS core from Blu-ray, and supports a higher rate Dolby Digital of 640 kbs. In other words, you can easily live without HDMI for audio, IMHO.

* Many people with DVRs or Cable Boxes are reporting annoyance with audio dropouts during FF/REW or channel changing.

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post #15 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

Whether optical has or does not have the bandwidth is irrelevant. S/PDIF does not support more than two channels of PCM.

Even if it did, there might be pressure to also add content protection to it. Seems the industry players saw no reason to stick with S/PDIF, and transistioned to HDMI.

On the positive side, S/PDIF suffers from less dropouts*, supports nearly transparent DTS core from Blu-ray, and supports a higher rate Dolby Digital of 640 kbs. In other words, you can easily live without HDMI for audio, IMHO.

* Many people with DVRs or Cable Boxes are reporting annoyance with audio dropouts during FF/REW or channel changing.

You are correct my goal was just to point out that optical spdif won't solve his problem that he seems to think.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnNY-C View Post

Are we talking about audio or video?

Outputting video as it is natively on the disc (e.g., DVD at 480i/60, BD at 1080p/24 or 1080i/60), so that the EDGE (rather than your player) can handle all the processing to conform/scale the video signal to your display.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnNY-C View Post

Also, it looks like I'll be better off connecting the M15 via the optical out on the Edge or via the digital coaxial outputs on my two main sources. Either way I should be able to move 7.1 lossless audio around...

Not via optical you won't. S/PDIF (optical or coax) will only allow you to hear the legacy DD or DTS tracks, not any of the new lossless or hi-rez lossy codecs. If you do want to hear the lossless tracks, you'll have to connect the 7.1-channel analogue outs from your player to 7.1-channel analogue inputs on the NAD pre-pro.

Sanjay
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post #17 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 01:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnNY-C View Post

My $0.02: What VP chip is going to be in the M15HD? From what I've read, you need some serious $$ to get a better VP than the chip Anchor Bay is using in the Edge... Also, I'm seeing that the M15HD is going to have a $3,999 price tag. I would bet that you could easily pick-up a used/refurb'd M15, S550, Edge AND a used (maybe new) Neptune active room correction separate for under $4k by the time it's released. To me, that's a better set-up than stuffing everything in one box. Food for thought...

You're asking good questions regarding selection of components.

Just my own preferences-

This whole area is still evolving. One of my interests is flexibility. Another is keeping the signal in the digital domain as long as possible and avoiding any unnecessary D/A A/D conversions.

I want a PrePro with HDMI 1.3 and the ability to decode all the new audio formats. That will give me the option of decoding in the PrePro, or decoding in the BR player (don't have one yet) and sending digitally via HDMI.

I want the PrePro to do bass management, and want it to be able to apply surround processing, such as DPLIIx, to any input signal.

I want room correction similar in capability to my former Lexicon MC-12EQ Prepro, which operated in the time domain. Based on reading, not first hand experience, I think Audyssey will fulfill this need, and I have a specific interest in their Dynamic EQ. I am open to other RC systems, but consider Audyssey the baseline for comparison.

I haven't looked at external RC systems, so my current interest is having this done internally in the PrePro as that appears to be a proven capability with Audyssey. I want the PrePro to be able to apply RC to any input signal and in conjunction with surround processing.

I don't know what video chip will be in the M15HD. It's internal video processing capability is less important to me than the features above because there are affordable alternatives- buy an Edge and a Pioneer 51/320 BR player with source direct, or buy the upcoming Oppo BR player and live with the M15HD's video processing for cable SD and HD sources.

One side note, I am a big fan of concerts, and also like nature shows. My understanding is that for a number of these shows, the original source is video based, whether SD-DVD or BR. Given that, I am very interested in the deinterlacing capability of video based source material, independent of which component in the system does that.

Yes, the M15HD will cost me some money, but it has a more affordable MSRP than the Denon or Anthem D2v, and I don't know of any alternatives on the near-term horizon.

Thanks
Bruce
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post #18 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnNY-C View Post

I'm seeing conflicting information when I look for "source direct" output and the S550. I'm seeing more which say that it does have that feature than those which say that it doesnt...

The S550 does not have source direct according to the owners manual you can download at Sony's website. If you are fine with the Sony's built-in VP for DVDs then why bother with the EDGE? If your solely concerned about 1080p/24 then I'd make sure that the M15 can pass it thru to your display and that your display can accept 1080p/24 and it display natively.
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post #19 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 05:05 PM - Thread Starter
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It's a bummer that I can't let the EDGE do the DVD work too: I might look for a different player... I want sound that I can feel and video with overwhelming immersion and digital perfection - more than I can sense. On the other hand, I figured out the audio situation: Digital Coax from the Blu-Ray player to the M15 and bypassing the Edge's audio capabilities for that device.

The Edge is more for the HD Tivo actually because Time Warner sucks. I'm on a mission to convert NYC friends to a Tivo+cable card+[VP/AV Receiver] because I'm really pissed with how TW thought they could add all of these new features to these underpowered boxes and think that customers wouldn't revolt. I don't even watch a lot of TV but I know the chips in those SA boxes and Switched Digital Video is killing HD! ...end rant.

Playing open-handed from here on out

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post #20 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 05:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceOmega View Post

You're asking good questions regarding selection of components.

Just my own preferences-

This whole area is still evolving. One of my interests is flexibility. Another is keeping the signal in the digital domain as long as possible and avoiding any unnecessary D/A A/D conversions.

I want a PrePro with HDMI 1.3 and the ability to decode all the new audio formats. That will give me the option of decoding in the PrePro, or decoding in the BR player (don't have one yet) and sending digitally via HDMI.

I want the PrePro to do bass management, and want it to be able to apply surround processing, such as DPLIIx, to any input signal.

I want room correction similar in capability to my former Lexicon MC-12EQ Prepro, which operated in the time domain. Based on reading, not first hand experience, I think Audyssey will fulfill this need, and I have a specific interest in their Dynamic EQ. I am open to other RC systems, but consider Audyssey the baseline for comparison.

I haven't looked at external RC systems, so my current interest is having this done internally in the PrePro as that appears to be a proven capability with Audyssey. I want the PrePro to be able to apply RC to any input signal and in conjunction with surround processing.

I don't know what video chip will be in the M15HD. It's internal video processing capability is less important to me than the features above because there are affordable alternatives- buy an Edge and a Pioneer 51/320 BR player with source direct, or buy the upcoming Oppo BR player and live with the M15HD's video processing for cable SD and HD sources.

One side note, I am a big fan of concerts, and also like nature shows. My understanding is that for a number of these shows, the original source is video based, whether SD-DVD or BR. Given that, I am very interested in the deinterlacing capability of video based source material, independent of which component in the system does that.

Yes, the M15HD will cost me some money, but it has a more affordable MSRP than the Denon or Anthem D2v, and I don't know of any alternatives on the near-term horizon.

Thanks
Bruce

Thanks for the input: I appreciate it! Graduating from the PC enthusiast world, I too understand the value in keeping signals digital for as long as possible. Furthermore, I too like Planet Earth'esque programming (Disney is releasing their Earth right now) and concerts on DVD/Blu-Ray (Clapton's Crossroads, Incubus, DMB, etc...). If I were you, I would probably go for the Anthem: it's so *right there* for you. Especially when you add-in room correction...

Anyway, I was answering these one-by-one so, that being said: I'm going to check out the Pioneer 51/320. Thank you.

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post #21 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 05:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ron Alcasid View Post

The S550 does not have source direct according to the owners manual you can download at Sony's website. If you are fine with the Sony's built-in VP for DVDs then why bother with the EDGE? If your solely concerned about 1080p/24 then I'd make sure that the M15 can pass it thru to your display and that your display can accept 1080p/24 and it display natively.

Sharp LC-32GP1U does 1080p but I don't think it can handle 24fps. I'm using that now and waiting for some price relief on the 52" LCD-backlit sets...

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Digital Coax from the Blu-Ray player to the M15 and bypassing the Edge's audio capabilities for that device.

Unless you are using post processing for audio in the M15 I would run analog connections from the BD player.
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post #23 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Unless you are using post processing for audio in the M15 I would run analog connections from the BD player.

I will be using post-processing for audio because I only have a 3.1 set-up at the moment. I'm waiting for a good deal on KEF Reference 201/2s and the Reference center. ..

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post #24 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 06:08 PM - Thread Starter
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By the way, I'm watching the NBA playoff game with the Edge hooked-up to my Time Warner Crapbox(R) and I must say that it's a night-and-day difference in terms of PQ and I haven't even calibrated yet. Planet Earth from the DVR makes it look like I got a new TV - night and day.

I love this device.

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I will be using post-processing for audio because I only have a 3.1 set-up at the moment.

If your BD player has the option of turning off speakers I would still use the analog cables over SPDIF, that way you will be getting lossless audio instead of it being downsampled by SPDIF.
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Originally Posted by DougWinsor View Post

If your BD player has the option of turning off speakers I would still use the analog cables over SPDIF, that way you will be getting lossless audio instead of it being downsampled by SPDIF.

Okay, that's the plan then - thanks.

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post #27 of 101 Old 04-22-2009, 06:41 PM
 
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Okay, that's the plan then - thanks.

Try both and see what you think but with the downsampling over SPDIF you might notice a difference with analog connections from the BD player.
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post #28 of 101 Old 04-23-2009, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DougWinsor View Post

Try both and see what you think but with the downsampling over SPDIF you might notice a difference with analog connections from the BD player.

I'll be sure to check them both out but I believe that you will end up being correct: use the single-channel, analog outputs.

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post #29 of 101 Old 04-23-2009, 01:08 PM - Thread Starter
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My buddy just picked-up a NAD T-175 so we can do a M15/T-175 real-world shoot out

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post #30 of 101 Old 04-23-2009, 01:21 PM
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I'll be sure to check them both out but I believe that you will end up being correct: use the single-channel, analog outputs.

Definitely, the analog crowed has a big hard on for believing that digital to analog screws up the sound. Its nice to read more comparisons on it. Im not a 2-ch guy at all myself so I care little about analog.

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