9 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Preamp/Processor - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 28 Old 12-22-2016, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
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9 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Preamp/Processor

A preamp/processor offers the same functionality as an AVR without the power amps, often with better audio quality. Here are some things to consider when shopping for one.

http://www.avsforum.com/9-things-to-...amp-processor/
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post #2 of 28 Old 12-22-2016, 07:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
A preamp/processor offers the same functionality as an AVR without the power amps, often with better audio quality. Here are some things to consider when shopping for one.

http://www.avsforum.com/9-things-to-...amp-processor/
Nice write up, especially for people new to A/V or people just starting to look at the Pre/Pro market. Thanks for the link!
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post #3 of 28 Old 12-22-2016, 07:37 PM
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[quote=Scott Wilkinson;49220065]A preamp/processor offers the same functionality as an AVR without the power amps, often with better audio quality. Here are some things to consider when shopping for one.


Hmm. Section 4 includes two bullets touting Audyssey MultEQ XT32 and Dirac Live. No mention of the worthy YPAO.


Section 9 , in my opinion could and should include the worthy CX-A5100. Curious why it was not worth a mention.
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post #4 of 28 Old 12-22-2016, 07:40 PM
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Yamaha must really need some business....
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post #5 of 28 Old 12-22-2016, 07:51 PM
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hmm...

I'm shopping for a pre-pro right now. While it doesn't suit my needs I was dumbstruck that the Anthem AVM 60 didn't make your list. Part of the war on NAFTA?
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post #6 of 28 Old 12-22-2016, 07:59 PM
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Good timing on this, I've been browsing through various receivers and pre/pro/amp combos and I was a bit perplexed that pre/pros, which seem to essentially be receivers missing the amp section, are often more expensive than full-on receivers. If they actually use higher quality parts I suppose that's a reasonable explanation, though with almost all sources being digital these days, can there be that much of a difference? I know some DACs have a better reputation than others, but do pre/pros from one brand generally use better DACs than the receivers from that same brand?
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post #7 of 28 Old 12-22-2016, 08:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Pearce View Post
I'm shopping for a pre-pro right now. While it doesn't suit my needs I was dumbstruck that the Anthem AVM 60 didn't make your list. Part of the war on NAFTA?
To be honest, this is the reason i came here to post. Especially on the subject of room correction, i'm surprised that ARC did not make the list. The AVM60, in my view, is far superior to Marantz. I struggled with harsh frequencies when using the Marantz with paradigm speakers. No such problem with the Anthem.
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7.1 Setup | Display: Screen Innovations 7 Series Zero Edge - Black Diamond 1.4 gain + Sony VPL-VW600ES | Processor: Anthem AVM60 | Amps: McIntosh MC8207 | Speakers: Paradigm Signature S8 V1 (2), C5 V1, (2) S2 V1, (2) Triad onwall gold surrounds | Subs: (1) SVS Ultra SB13
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post #8 of 28 Old 12-22-2016, 09:23 PM
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Nice timing!

I've been looking at pre/pros for the first time in 20 years. If in remember right the last preamp I owned was a Rotel, I also took home an Arcam for a few weeks to listen to if I remember right. I've been making due with my OPPO 93 and a pro audio mixer with powered studio speakers (Dynaudio). I'm actually fairly happy with the sound but with the recent release of the OPPO 203 I'm considering new/cleaner (fewer analogue gain stages) options and I'm considering a OPPO 203 with a pre/pro or a 205 depending on the features it has. My viewing and listening needs are very simple. Presently I have 2 video inputs, the OPPO 93 and my computer. I'd like to experiment with room correction and Atmos and I want some great DACs. I've run the OPPO directly into the Dynaudios (bypassing the pro mixer) and I can hear the difference, it is a cleaner sound, but I need to do some channel balancing and the OPPO doesn't have a proper gain stage on it's outputs to balance 2 subs and 2 surrounds with the mains. A pre-pro with XLR outputs and great DACs seems like a the way to go, I'd likely still plug the OPPO directly into the TV and it's audio only HDMI into the pre/pro, I don't know how a pre-pro would help me in the video area with so few video inputs I could simply use the OPPO 203/205 input and be happy, I'm more interested in audio capabilities and don't need much in the way of lots of inputs and outputs.

Of the suggestions here the, Emotiva XMC-1, Integra DHC-60.7 and Marantz AV7703 seem pretty compelling. Does spending another $500 or $1000 get me better DACs? Does spending another $500 to $1000 get me better room correction?

Any pointers or links would be great!

Cheers,

OPPO BDP-93, Pioneer Kuro Pro-150FD, Dynaudio 2x BM-12a Mk III Mains, 2x BM 6a Mk II surround, 2x BM 14s Subs, Allan and Heath MixWizard, room is 11'7"x 16'6"x 8" dedicated and treated.
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post #9 of 28 Old 12-22-2016, 09:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidylan View Post
To be honest, this is the reason i came here to post. Especially on the subject of room correction, i'm surprised that ARC did not make the list. The AVM60, in my view, is far superior to Marantz. I struggled with harsh frequencies when using the Marantz with paradigm speakers. No such problem with the Anthem.

I'm completely be-fuddled as to why there's no mention of the excellent CXA5100 from Yamaha too (listening to one right now...).
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post #10 of 28 Old 12-23-2016, 12:15 AM
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I'm almost positive that the list was not meant to be a definitive list but rather just naming few in all price brackets. It's not a buying guide of products, but rather an article which is clearly written in the tittle of this thread of what it aims to achieve.

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post #11 of 28 Old 12-23-2016, 12:56 AM
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Point 10, with the room correction disable you can't hear a difference between cheap and expensive pre/pros: Marantz AV7703 vs. AV7702 vs. AV7005 ?? 2ch stereo critical listening

Just get whatever has the right number of channels/inputs/HDCP version with the room correction you prefer.
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post #12 of 28 Old 12-23-2016, 04:37 AM
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I would also consider each SSP's upgrade path. Scott touched on this with added codecs, but there are some SSPs that promise breaking the 11 CH. DSP barrier, which may be of interest for some. Just because an SSP lists 16 fully routable channels, does not mean that SSP will someday support that high of a channel count via an immersive format (Atmos/DTSX/Auro3D).

Some of these upgrades can be accomplished by firmware and others via hardware changes, creating downtime. The Trinnov can/does many upgrades via software pushes which would be a nice trend if others manufacturers did this as well. If considering an SSP based on a promised upgrade, I would research that company's track record for keeping their previous upgrade promises.

I also really wish there were more options with all channel digital outputs. There are some very well regarded speakers companies that are using DSP based amps that have loadable filters for each speaker/driver. Using an analog connection to these amps creates additional DAC/ADC in the signal chain. Of course, I would also want to see more amps/active speakers with digital inputs.

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post #13 of 28 Old 12-23-2016, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dnoonie View Post

Of the suggestions here the, Emotiva XMC-1, Integra DHC-60.7 and Marantz AV7703 seem pretty compelling. Does spending another $500 or $1000 get me better DACs? Does spending another $500 to $1000 get me better room correction?

Any pointers or links would be great!

Cheers,

Or you can do what I did and pick up last year's Marantz AV7702 MKii and save ~$1000 from the 7703. Other than dual band Wi-Fi (the 7702 Mkii does only 2.4ghz, which I stream FLAC files effortlessly over) and a new control app, my understanding is that the two units are identical...same DAC's, same 4k/UHD capabilities, same number of zones and channels etc.


For what it's worth, ALL DAC's in these boxes are pretty good nowadays, but yes, there is typically a difference in transparency as the price goes up (perhaps not ONLY because of the DAC's, but they are part of the equation).


I understand that the OP wasn't intending this to be a buying guide, but the inclusion of some pretty exotic stuff and exclusion of very popular and consumer gear from firms like Yamaha and Pioneer is curious, especially since both of them have proprietary room correction systems which are quite good.
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post #14 of 28 Old 12-23-2016, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by thehun View Post
I'm almost positive that the list was not meant to be a definitive list but rather just naming few in all price brackets. It's not a buying guide of products, but rather an article which is clearly written in the tittle of this thread of what it aims to achieve.
Exactly so! However, I'll add the Yamaha and Anthem...why not?
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post #15 of 28 Old 12-23-2016, 03:11 PM
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Thanks for the write up and for adding the extra units. It helps me a lot.
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post #16 of 28 Old 12-24-2016, 03:27 AM
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Originally Posted by adrummingdude View Post
Or you can do what I did and pick up last year's Marantz AV7702 MKii and save ~$1000 from the 7703. Other than dual band Wi-Fi (the 7702 Mkii does only 2.4ghz, which I stream FLAC files effortlessly over) and a new control app, my understanding is that the two units are identical...same DAC's, same 4k/UHD capabilities, same number of zones and channels etc.


For what it's worth, ALL DAC's in these boxes are pretty good nowadays, but yes, there is typically a difference in transparency as the price goes up (perhaps not ONLY because of the DAC's, but they are part of the equation).


I understand that the OP wasn't intending this to be a buying guide, but the inclusion of some pretty exotic stuff and exclusion of very popular and consumer gear from firms like Yamaha and Pioneer is curious, especially since both of them have proprietary room correction systems which are quite good.
The AV7703 also features a built-in HEOS module which currently allows streaming of a dozen music listening service to the AVP using the HEOS iOS/Android app. Also not a new "control app", rather a new "Audyssey app" ($20) which will allow tweaking of the Audyssey curve to enable you to create your own custom Audyssey curves (only possible on the AV7702MKII using the Audyssey Pro Kit @$700) and save them to the phone/tablet and send them to the AVP when desired.
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post #17 of 28 Old 12-24-2016, 03:52 AM
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Originally Posted by jdsmoothie View Post
The AV7703 also features a built-in HEOS module which currently allows streaming of a dozen music listening service to the AVP using the HEOS iOS/Android app. Also not a new "control app", rather a new "Audyssey app" ($20) which will allow tweaking of the Audyssey curve to enable you to create your own custom Audyssey curves (only possible on the AV7702MKII using the Audyssey Pro Kit @$700) and save them to the phone/tablet and send them to the AVP when desired.
This comes at the cost of no front wide speaker support.
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post #18 of 28 Old 12-24-2016, 08:26 AM
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thanks for that...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
Exactly so! However, I'll add the Yamaha and Anthem...why not?

It is interesting how much Canadian prices differ from the U.S. prices when you take exchange into account. For instance:


Emotiva XMC-1: $1999 , $2999 in Canada
Anthem AVM 60: $2999, $3299 in Canada
Marantz AV8802a: $3999, $4799 in Canada


Too bad the Anthem neither has 5.1 analog inputs nor can it handle DSD: otherwise it would be a clear choice for me to replace my old Anthem AVM 20. But I understand why high resolution 5.1 audio didn't make it as a consideration: except for classical music it is pretty much in the "legacy" category now.
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post #19 of 28 Old 12-24-2016, 09:39 PM
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This comes at the cost of no front wide speaker support.
Nor web-based control interface or ability to save/load configuration files (I think the ability to do the latter via USB is coming, though).
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post #20 of 28 Old 12-27-2016, 10:36 PM
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After auditioning many pre/pros, the Theta Casablanca was the only standout performer. Most preamps sounded the same and when playing music through them they sounded dull and flat when compared to my 2-channel setup. I'm sure many of their innards are similar. The Theta was the only one that sounded musical and wow does it ever make films sound better! (I started with a CBII and upgraded it to a Casablanca IV). I now use the Casablanca IV as my front end and no longer use a two-channel preamp on unity gain pass through.

The design and build is top-notch and the it's card architecture so the unit can always be upgraded as technology evolves, including DAC choices. No more pre-amp paperweights for me any more (my last one was an outdated Integra). After spending several thousand dollars changing out outdated processors over a few years, the choice became clear: pay ONCE for a top-end processor that I can keep forever and swap out the cards that need to be updated. Oh, and did I say that the sound cannot be beat? Nothing comes close!!

If you haven't checked the unit out yet, or haven't heard of it, I highly recommend you do! I'm surprise it never made it on the list of this article.
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post #21 of 28 Old 04-01-2017, 02:48 PM
 
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Exactly so! However, I'll add the Yamaha and Anthem...why not?
Yamaha's the only company AFAIK whose pre-pros actually render 3D audio correctly to your actual speaker positions as layed out in your room (YPAO 3D).

Another option for those not interested in Atmos is this (350 bucks retail):

https://www.minidsp.com/products/ht-series/nanoavr-hda

Even better, this is 300 USD retail and claims to decode Atmos! Presumably only at 5.1.2 levels, but might be worth trying:

http://www.essenceelectrostatic.com/.../evolve-ii-4k/

I might even pick one up. I've emailed them to ask about Atmos decoding feature. No room correction though, but that could be added later via MiniDSP.

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post #22 of 28 Old 04-02-2017, 05:09 AM
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Originally Posted by RLBURNSIDE View Post
Yamaha's the only company AFAIK whose pre-pros actually render 3D audio correctly to your actual speaker positions as layed out in your room (YPAO 3D).

Another option for those not interested in Atmos is this (350 bucks retail):

https://www.minidsp.com/products/ht-series/nanoavr-hda

There's also an HDMI DAC out there too, for like 200 but it's hard to find.

Plus cheap chinese items which don't offer much and should probably be avoided (although are likely better than 40 dollar USB 5.1 sound cards)

AFAIK, no major brand AVR can do this, rather YPAO 3D simply measures the angle of the speakers, however, rendering is no different than any other major brand.
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post #23 of 28 Old 04-02-2017, 11:25 AM
 
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Once you know each speaker's zenith, azimuth angles, plus their distance, you know their positions in 3D space relative to the main listener position. It boggles the mind why they would do this and not apply it during rendering, that would be fraudulent. They say they do this in their own manual, so if it's a lie, then that's actionable.

Of course, I haven't seen independent verification at how good their Atmos rendering truly is, compared to a baseline with only speaker distances relative to fixed speaker layouts, but that shouldn't be too hard to test scientifically. It's just that AVR reviewers don't have the will nor the means to.

Ambisonic rendering has been done with knowing speaker positions (measured by hand or by triangulation) since the 70s when they would put 8 speakers at the corners of a square room and pan sounds around in 3D with a joystick. Without knowing the actual XYZ distances between speakers in a home theater the 3D sound cannot be accurately rendered. And before anyone chimes in, XYZ <-> Zenith, Azimuth, Distance is just a change of basis, i.e. 100% equivalent mathematically.

Here's a description of YPAO 3D from a review:

"For the Atmos channels, Atlantic Technology was kind enough to provide two pairs of the 44-DA Atmos-enabled speaker modules (review coming soon) to complete a 5.1.4 Atmos configuration. Since Atmos capability was not enabled out of the box, I downloaded the new firmware to get it. Next, I set up my speakers using Yamaha's proprietary YPAO. The version of YPAO included with the RX-A3040 uniquely includes 3D and Angle measurement, which is not an advancement to be taken lightly. Our Yamaha rep describes these options like this: "The Angle measurement is used to correct for speaker placement that deviates from the commonly used ITU-r placement. Furniture, windows and room layout can prevent many people from placing speakers in the proper location. By knowing where all speakers are placed in relation to the prime listening spot, the DSP processing can image the signal to more closely match ITU suggestions. Meanwhile, the Height Angle measurement is used, among other things, to give the Atmos decoder more accurate data on how to map the individual sound objects within the listening room. If the receiver knows that the front right overhead speaker is 45 degrees to the front instead of 60 degrees, the decoder can more accurately place the sound of a mosquito, for instance, in the three-dimensional confines of the room."

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^^
I should have been more specific .... although the Yamaha DSP modes can take advantage of this information, neither the Atmos nor DTS:X decoders do which is the part that I meant no other major brand AVR can do either.
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post #25 of 28 Old 04-02-2017, 01:08 PM
 
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We know Atmos by default assumes fixed layouts, like 5.1.2 or 7.1.4, but it does take into account variable speaker distances, so the input to the Atmos decoder must already be 3D speaker positions, since speaker distance along a fixed vector would result in changes to arbitrary 3D positions just the same as azimuth and zenith angles would. Ergo, the Atmos chips (and definitely the DTS:X chips) probably do the final rasterization step internally based on speaker positions in 3D space. It's just a question of how that's computed.

Even changing a single speaker's distance would result in the final sound output coming out of all channels to be different. Speaker channels present in 5.1.2 that are missing from 7.1.4 would have their sound energy redistributed amongst the other channels.

YPAO 3D must be compensating for speaker offsets in 3D space, from the defaults, prior to Atmos rasterization. Otherwise they would need to re-rasterize! Is this what's happening? Logically, if YPAO 3D actually does what it says it does, but Atmos is a "black box" where the inputs are layout + distances rather than final speaker positions, then YPAO is essentially re-rendering Atmos (because, as I mentioned before, logically, the sound coming out of all channels changes with even a slight change to the desired 3D position of a single channel). In which case, why wouldn't need an Atmos decoder chip.

This does not compute to me. Either the feature works by changing the speaker positions in 3D prior to Atmos decoding, or Atmos decoding chips are redundant because Yamaha would by necessity need to discard and re-render all the object audio which would be invalidated. I work in 3D programming, and trust me, changing one of your basis vectors requires you to start over from stratch. You can't just compensate for one speaker's position in isolation, post Atmos decode, it doesn't work that way, and cannot work, mathematically, unless Yamaha has 100% ability to re-rasterize Atmos objects outside the Atmos decoder chip, in order to apply this angle correction.

Think about it...
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post #26 of 28 Old 06-22-2017, 01:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Pearce View Post
I'm shopping for a pre-pro right now. While it doesn't suit my needs I was dumbstruck that the Anthem AVM 60 didn't make your list. Part of the war on NAFTA?
It is on the list now...

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post #27 of 28 Old 06-22-2017, 01:23 PM
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Anthem MRX 720, works for me. Parasound 3 channel amp for the front 3.

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post #28 of 28 Old 06-22-2017, 02:21 PM
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^Scott, I like your list. Mind if I add a couple of other considerations for people in the market?

a) Check the inputs / outputs carefully for your gear. Need balanced inputs? Better verify they are there. Want to cut back on legacy connections so that you aren't paying for what you don't use?
b) Tuner. Rob Sabin declared radio pretty much over, as I recall, but lots of people still use it. Is there a tuner? Is it FM only and you also need AM?
c) Ease of use. If you have to write a crib sheet for your spouse, it might be worth rethinking that for a higher SAF.
d) Tweakability. Do you like to tinker with settings endlessly? Do you set things once and step away from the tweak zone? Look for something with enough knobs to meet your needs.
e) Vendor support. How much do you need? Is the vendor responsive to questions? Do they prove that with regular firmware updates?
f) Reliability and Warranty. What's the product reputation beyond the fan-boys? Is the warranty short, or does the manufacturer believe in this product enough to protect your investment?
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