Originally Posted by rdgrimes
Your zone-2 outs can certainly be used in that way. However they will not benefit from any internal processing like EQ, distances, etc. They may also not be in time synch with the speaker outputs. But as a "analog direct" output for a stereo amp they will be fine. Just remember these are line-level outs with no volume control. They also have the added benefit of being controlled separately, and it may be possible to have the main zone in standby while using them. Consult your manual for specifics.
I realized that zone 2 only uses analog inputs and I only do HDMI via my gpu and Jriver. I had to make a decision, either get another avr with pre-outs and a power amp (Im done playing the avr wattage games) or use my computer as a preamp and get an internal / external DAC, then go right to a series of power amps.
After looking at a bunch of different options, the one thing that was clear was that avr's are the cheapest source of multi-channel power for less than full range surrounds on the market, including pro-amps. So I reluctantly decided I'll purchase an AVR with pre-outs to power the surrounds. I looked at power amps and after going back and forth on it and looking at the $$ / per amp channel, I ordered an Emotiva XPA-3 today. Between the cost of the pro-amp, the fact that I wouldnt have been happy without a decent bump box (even though I probably wouldnt have needed one) and knowing I'd end up doing the fan mod, I just didnt want to deal with it and the cost was within $100.00 - $150.00 of a 2 channel Emotiva. I figured that a consumer amp may not be any better than a pro-amp, but I doubt it would be any worse, plus no fan noise and a longer warranty.
I'll probably go with an Onkyo TX NR709 for the AVR since I get can get it new for 530 shipped. I'll still let my computer do any digital audio & video processing and use the AVR as a DAC and as close to a dumb amp as possible.
Kind of amusing, but when I was talking to the Emotiva representative, he was pretty shocked that the HK didnt have preouts and even went so far as to go onto the HK website and look at the back plane himself. Although, I've noticed that in 2011 / 2012 offerings, more and more AVRs in the sub $1,000 MSRP range are going that route.
I am doing my best not to drink the Emotiva Kool-Aid, especially before I even get the amp, but I was pretty impressed with my experience. I was deciding between 2 x UPA-1, XPA-2 and XPA-3 and after finding out my speaker models for the system and my priorities, they recommended the XPA-3. I inquired about the XPA-5 and since it was only $200.00 more, but stated that I was already on a really tight budget and spending more than I had hoped too. They didnt even try to up-sell me. They said that the XPA-5 was a great value for the price, but for what I want the XPA-3 is more than adequate. Had this been any other industry, I would have just thought of it as good service for a company that depends on repeat business, but in the audio industry, i cant remember the last time someone didnt try to appeal more to my credit card than my good sense. Anyway, it was a refreshing experience, regardless of how the product turns out to be.
Now, I just have to go try and sell my HK AVR-3650. Luckily, I got it cheap and will let it go cheap, so I should be able to afford the Onkyo without too much trouble.
Thanks for the help. I'll report back in a few weeks with an update.