Adding 2 channel to HT setup - Preamp, Dac Or Integrated? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 03:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Adding 2 channel to HT setup - Preamp, Dac Or Integrated?

I live in an apartment so I can only have one system, and I’m looking to bypass my AVR for music listening. My current 5.1.2 setup is Denon 4200 -> Linn AV5125 (class D) -> Salk BeAT (for the fronts) + Rythmik L12 sub. My source is Tidal hifi or Flacs streaming through a Sonos Connect using Optical to the Denon. I may upgrade to a Bluesound Node 2i, but likely not add a turntable, so Phono is not important.

For 2(.1) channel, I am wondering if I should get a preamp with HT bypass input (pre outs from the Denon). If I have 2-3k to spend, what would be the best option here - Get a good Integrated amp and skip the Linn? get a Dac (hard to find HT bypass), or a good preamp to feed the Linn?

I have always loved the warm sound of tubes, but having no experience with them and with limited space - I’m not sure what the best options are.

Bass management is nice to have but not critical, the Salk’s play well to 34 Hz, and my music tastes are jazz, classic rock, vocals etc. so I don’t think I’ll miss much below that.


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post #2 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 04:31 AM
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A good preamp with HT bypass and using the Linn amp would probably be what you want. There are many options but not many with subwoofer management and sub bypass.
I use a similar setup, marantz av8805, PS Audio Stellar GCD, parasound a31. The PS audio GCD(dac/pre) doesnt have sub bypass or management so i use without subs when listening to music in 2ch through that one.


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post #3 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 04:35 AM
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...or if you want more power then the Linn an integrated with a beefy amp section and HT bypass and bass management.

It all depends on what you are looking for in addition to better 2ch sound quality.


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post #4 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 05:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Leeliemix View Post
...or if you want more power then the Linn an integrated with a beefy amp section and HT bypass and bass management.

It all depends on what you are looking for in addition to better 2ch sound quality.


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I don’t need more power - the Salk’s are reasonably efficient, and I don’t listen terribly loud. Also for bass management, my sub has an L/R line level input and crossover (in addition to LFE) so all I really need is preouts.

I’m really looking for a warm/mellow 2 channel experience without giving up anything for HT. I’ve heard these speakers with a McGary tube amp at an audio show and they sounded sublime. I’m trying to recreate some of that experience.

That said, I’m new to tubes, and probably don’t have the space/heat tolerance for it. So maybe something SS or hybrid?


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post #5 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 06:04 AM
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How about an integrated w/HT bypass like a Peachtree nova150 or Music Fidelity M2si? I just did this with the nova150.
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post #6 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 06:46 AM
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I would check out the new Primaluna EVO 200. Auto bias for easy tube rolling, HT pass through. Excellent build and very reliable. Nice warm sound but gives you plenty of detail. Can compete w/many higher end brands. It's in your 2-3K price range.
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post #7 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 07:47 AM
 
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Sell all your home theater stuff and build a clean 2 channel system. You won’t miss it.
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post #8 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 07:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thebrieze01 View Post
I live in an apartment so I can only have one system, and I’m looking to bypass my AVR for music listening. My current 5.1.2 setup is Denon 4200 -> Linn AV5125 (class D) -> Salk BeAT (for the fronts) + Rythmik L12 sub. My source is Tidal hifi or Flacs streaming through a Sonos Connect using Optical to the Denon. I may upgrade to a Bluesound Node 2i, but likely not add a turntable, so Phono is not important.

For 2(.1) channel, I am wondering if I should get a preamp with HT bypass input (pre outs from the Denon). If I have 2-3k to spend, what would be the best option here - Get a good Integrated amp and skip the Linn? get a Dac (hard to find HT bypass), or a good preamp to feed the Linn?

I have always loved the warm sound of tubes, but having no experience with them and with limited space - I’m not sure what the best options are.

Bass management is nice to have but not critical, the Salk’s play well to 34 Hz, and my music tastes are jazz, classic rock, vocals etc. so I don’t think I’ll miss much below that.


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Keep everything you currently have and just enjoy it. Musically, you're already there. Don't spend more money building a 2-channel system, you'll just regret it later on.
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Save your money.
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post #9 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Out-Of-Phase View Post
Keep everything you currently have and just enjoy it. Musically, you're already there. Don't spend more money building a 2-channel system, you'll just regret it later on.


I think a lot of people enjoy their HT with something extra for 2ch like a 2ch HT bypass dac/pre, i know i do, and while its not very common its a good and cost and/or space effective alternative to 2 completly separate systems.


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post #10 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 10:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Sell all your home theater stuff and build a clean 2 channel system. You won’t miss it.


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Originally Posted by Out-Of-Phase View Post
Keep everything you currently have and just enjoy it. Musically, you're already there. Don't spend more money building a 2-channel system, you'll just regret it later on.


Ha ha.. that’s what I love about this hobby!


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post #11 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 01:19 PM
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If you wish to try a tube preamp to be used with your Linn, consider the Rogue RP-1 ($1795). It automatically goes into HT bypass mode when it is turned off, which is very convenient. It uses a pair of 12AU7 tubes that are easy to change (they should last years) if you want to try different tubes. I recommend new old stock tubes (NOS), such as inexpensive, warmish, and typically wonderful sounding RCAs. The Rogue is manufactured in the U.S.

Needle Doctor has the RP-1 and, should you not like the preamp, a generous refund policy, which I have utilized without any problem. Also, note that Rogue's customer service, like Needle Doctor's, is first class and ready to help.

Here are links:

http://www.rogueaudio.com/Products_RP1.htm

http://www.rogueaudio.com/manuals/RP-1%20Manual.pdf

https://www.needledoctor.com/Rogue-A...1&custcol121=2

My favorite NOS tube shop--a vast selection and low prices (Brent is very helpful via telephone or email):

http://www.audiotubes.com/12au7.htm

Music room: Cary SLI-80 tube integrated amplifier, McIntosh MA6500 integrated amplifier, Quad 99 preamp, Quad 909 power amp, Acoustic Research AR9 loudspeakers, Yamaha CD-N500 CD player, Teac UD-503 DSD DAC, Phase Linear 8000II linear-tracking turntable.
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post #12 of 30 Old 08-17-2019, 07:52 PM
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So I used a Naim Uniti Star this way with a Marantz AVR, but since we i now have 2 separate systems. However the Naim Star did everything great and plenty of power. It does have preputs to connect a sub, which I have done also, but currently feel I don’t need the sub. If you don’t want a streamer/integrated/dac/cd player all-in-one kinda unit the new SuperNait 3 is priced really well and has the ability to power anything.

A nice tube amp with HTBP would be an Octave V40SE. This unit has balls! Only reason I’ve never bought a tube amp... don’t need little kids touching hot glass.

Dynaudio Contour 20, Focus 210C, DM 2/6, Hsu VTF3 MK5 HP, Oppo BDP-103, Naim Uniti Star, Marantz SR5010, 60" 4K Samsung LED LCD, XBOX ONE S
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post #13 of 30 Old 08-18-2019, 08:10 AM
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post #14 of 30 Old 08-18-2019, 02:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for some great suggestions here. I have been looking into PrimaLuna, and Rogue Audio RP1 as well as the others mentioned. There are even some PrimaLuna’s on A’gon which are very tempting.

Given that majority of my usage (80%) will be TV and movies, will a tube preamp + my Linn class D make more sense than an all tube integrated? What about the sound quality?


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post #15 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 12:12 AM
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Why are you not happy with the receiver? What is it you try to achieve? What you actually hear is 90+% of your speakers and room, there is very little one can expect from replacing perfectly functioning electronics, especially DACs and Pre-Amps despite what the audiophool press and their disciples will let you believe. If you not happy with the sound of your system, it is mostly the fault of the speakers and or your room and you should concentrate on that. Audio reproduction is born out of and rely on science, not on magic, random chance or myths.
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post #16 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 02:15 AM
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Why are you not happy with the receiver? What is it you try to achieve? What you actually hear is 90+% of your speakers and room, there is very little one can expect from replacing perfectly functioning electronics, especially DACs and Pre-Amps despite what the audiophool press and their disciples will let you believe. If you not happy with the sound of your system, it is mostly the fault of the speakers and or your room and you should concentrate on that. Audio reproduction is born out of and rely on science, not on magic, random chance or myths.


Even if electronics would be just 1% that would be a big difference. I wonder if my mother who is not far from 70yo is an audiophool or a disciple, she doesnt care and doesnt know if i use the processor(on direct) or my 2ch dac/pre but she can hear which even before she comes into the livingroom.
Consider how much a fraction of a % of spice can change a dish, or how much different milk with 0.1% and 1% fat tastes. No audio isnt the same as taste but there are many similarities.


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post #17 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 02:33 AM
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Ha ha.. that’s what I love about this hobby!
By love you really mean hate, don't you?

Carve your own path. Try demoing stuff. Schiit Audio has a good return policy on their gear and provides a nice entry point in getting (mostly) nicely built components with tube options. Just go in with realistic expectations.
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post #18 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 04:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thebrieze01 View Post
Thanks for some great suggestions here. I have been looking into PrimaLuna, and Rogue Audio RP1 as well as the others mentioned. There are even some PrimaLuna’s on A’gon which are very tempting.

Given that majority of my usage (80%) will be TV and movies, will a tube preamp + my Linn class D make more sense than an all tube integrated? What about the sound quality?


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As someone who lives in a apartment, I've had a combo system for many years. Mixing Solid State amps w/tube preamps is an excellent combo. Years ago I had a Pimaluna Dialogue preamp and the music was much better than the music through my Krell Showcase. Currently I'm using a Luxman Tube Preamp w/a Bryston amp. The Linn amp you have should make a nice partner w/any tube preamp you choose.
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post #19 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 09:05 AM
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Even if electronics would be just 1% that would be a big difference. I wonder if my mother who is not far from 70yo is an audiophool or a disciple, she doesnt care and doesnt know if i use the processor(on direct) or my 2ch dac/pre but she can hear which even before she comes into the livingroom.
Consider how much a fraction of a % of spice can change a dish, or how much different milk with 0.1% and 1% fat tastes. No audio isnt the same as taste but there are many similarities.


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LOL we could easily analyze the ingredients of any dish down to the milligram scientifically and see the differences , can you do the same with electronics DAcs Pre amps? Sure , but other then some distortion components which is often a sign of poor engineering, not a whole lot rises above audible threshold at least by design. The real differences lies with the listener and their endless imaginations and biases. Regarding mom: I'm sure I never heard that before. Should have used that before to make my case in the classroom or writing a thesis.

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post #20 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 10:12 AM
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LOL we could easily analyze the ingredients of any dish down to the milligram scientifically and see the differences , can you do the same with electronics DAcs Pre amps? Sure , but other then some distortion components which is often a sign of poor engineering, not a whole lot rises above audible threshold at least by design. The real differences lies with the listener and their endless imaginations and biases. Regarding mom: I'm sure I never heard that before. Should have used that before to make my case in the classroom or writing a thesis.


The point was that its often easy to hear differences, not what those differences are the result of. What each individual listener enjoys/prefers differ immensly so why assume someone wont be happier with a separate stereo pre(/dac).


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post #21 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 11:37 AM
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Thanks for some great suggestions here. I have been looking into PrimaLuna, and Rogue Audio RP1 as well as the others mentioned. There are even some PrimaLuna’s on A’gon which are very tempting.

Given that majority of my usage (80%) will be TV and movies, will a tube preamp + my Linn class D make more sense than an all tube integrated? What about the sound quality?
Preamp tubes typically last far longer than power tubes, so I would avoid a setup where you would be using power tubes for TV and movie use.

As for sound quality, only you can decide what components most please your ears. Like different brands and models of solid-state preamps, power amps, and integrated amps, tube components each offer their own unique sonic characteristics as chosen by their designers. You get to select from the many choices available. Thus, I strongly recommend that if you buy new components, do so from dealers that have excellent refund policies.


(Edit: typo fix)
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Music room: Cary SLI-80 tube integrated amplifier, McIntosh MA6500 integrated amplifier, Quad 99 preamp, Quad 909 power amp, Acoustic Research AR9 loudspeakers, Yamaha CD-N500 CD player, Teac UD-503 DSD DAC, Phase Linear 8000II linear-tracking turntable.
Theater room: Panasonic 65S60 plasma television; Yamaha RX-A2020 (preamp section); Adcom GFA-5503 and GFA-5400 amplifiers; Polk LSi25, LSiC, and LSiF/X loudspeaker system; Velodyne FSR-18 servo-subwoofer.

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post #22 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 04:20 PM
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The point was that its often easy to hear differences,
or at least one believes that, without a proper DBT however ...


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not what those differences are the result of.
Depends who you ask which leads to this of course below..

Quote:
What each individual listener enjoys/prefers differ immensly
agreed and even said as much already

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so why assume someone wont be happier with a separate stereo pre(/dac).
The only person here who assumes is you, basically I asked 3 question of the OP [not you] in order for him to better spend his money, but as always, it's his money his room his preference/bias.
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post #23 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 08:18 PM
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I live in an apartment so I can only have one system,
Then you should have only one system, not two. The notion that a Denon AVR's sound is "bad" when used in stereo, Pure Direct mode [usually a setting which can be memorized so simply selecting the appropriate input source pre-configures the AVR to work this way. A convenient feature I believe called "Quick Selects" on your unit] is a marketing ploy designed to make consumers buy twice as many preamps as they actually need, hence my name for it, "bi-preamping", or more commonly called "HT bypass":
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Have you heard of bi-wiring? or bi-amping? Well guess what? "HT bypass" is acually "bi-preamping"... It is following a belief (I do not support) which claims using 2 ch. sources into your Marantz and turning off all signal processing will, um, "still compromise" the music. I think this is hogwash. Sure, if you want to use your outboard amps connected to your SR 5011's preouts, go for it! But there's nothing fundamentally "junky" about your existing preamp in the Marantz. If you want to turn off Audyssey, room correction, DSP , etc. that can all be done already by buttons in a flash. "Pure Direct" I believe would get you there for your two channel analog inputs with a single keystroke!

People often aren't told what HT bypass really is, so I made a diagram for it so they will more easily understand that it's really not much more than an A/B switch:

Position A: lets the new stereo preamp's input selector source travel to the outboard power amp
Position B: lets the incoming AVR front L and front R preamp level connections go out to the outboard power amp instead, they "pass through" the new stereo preamp but there's no valid reason they needed to go in, in the first place.



Make sense? OK, once you get that it is nothing other than an A/B analog stereo signal selection switch, you then need to make a tiny leap to understand "Hey, there's no reason this needs to be built into the new "HT bypass preamp": I could do exactly the same thing with any outboard secondary preamp by adding my own outboard switch and that's why in my diagram below above I show the A/B switch in a dotted box. The switch could be built-in or outboard. Doesn't matter.

Bi-amping is an attempt to sell the customer two amps.
Bi-wiring is an attempt to sell the customer two sets of speaker wires.
and
Bi-preamping, aka HT bypass, is an attempt to sell the customer two preamps [or an extra one beyond what's built into their AVR]

All these things double the salesperson's profit and all are unnecessary.

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post #24 of 30 Old 08-19-2019, 09:33 PM
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What you actually hear is 90+% of your speakers and room, there is very little one can expect from replacing perfectly functioning electronics, especially DACs and Pre-Amps despite what the audiophool press and their disciples will let you believe. If you not happy with the sound of your system, it is mostly the fault of the speakers and or your room and you should concentrate on that.
You are 100% correct, but the easy profits for high end dealers are to be had by claiming just the opposite: "Your problem is your AVR's DAC isn't good enough" [paraphrased, not a real quote].
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post #25 of 30 Old 08-21-2019, 06:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Then you should have only one system, not two. The notion that a Denon AVR's sound is "bad" when used in stereo, Pure Direct mode [usually a setting which can be memorized so simply selecting the appropriate input source pre-configures the AVR to work this way. A convenient feature I believe called "Quick Selects" on your unit] is a marketing ploy designed to make consumers buy twice as many preamps as they actually need, hence my name for it, "bi-preamping", or more commonly called "HT bypass":


Thanks for the explanation. What I’m taking away is that, if I use an external Dac and Pure Direct, the Denon should, for the most part be only acting as little more than a switch, and there really isn’t a point in adding another high end “switch”.

In essence, the only reason to consider adding in a preamp for 2 channel is if it can significantly alter/color the sound in a way that’s desirable.

This then begs the question - would adding a tube based preamp make a significant difference? If the difference will be minimal, it might make sense to stick with what I have


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post #26 of 30 Old 08-21-2019, 08:21 AM
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This then begs the question - would adding a tube based preamp make a significant difference? If the difference will be minimal, it might make sense to stick with what I have
Nobody can answer that definitively for your specific case other than yourself. Products that add relatively significant distortion can provide a noticeable difference. If really curious, I suggest trying a tube preamp from a company with a good return policy as mentioned before. If it is simply a passing interest and mostly a result of hobbyist boredom, then perhaps try to fully enjoy what you've already got.

On the Schiit side, there's the Freya + which seems to get fairly glowing reviews.

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post #27 of 30 Old 08-21-2019, 09:47 AM
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Thanks for the explanation. What I’m taking away is that, if I use an external Dac and Pure Direct, the Denon should, for the most part be only acting as little more than a switch, and there really isn’t a point in adding another high end “switch”.
Yes, essentially correct. An AVR like your Denon is the following components in one box:

A. An input selector switch [CD, Aux, Video 1, Phono, etc.]
B. One of the sources is built in, "FM", or "free music" [joke, its "frequency modulation" actually]. This is called a tuner.
C. A very capable internal DAC to convert incoming sources which arrive on digital ports
D. A master volume control
E. A surround sound processor [Dolby Digital, DTS, Auro, etc.] which can be totally bypassed for incoming stereo analog RCA sources by pressing "Pure Direct" [although this may kill the processed out to a sub if you use it and it probably negates any "room correction" such as Audacity]
F. A multi channel amplifier for connecting anywhere from 2 to even 7 speakers

The notion the internal DAC is a "big weakness" is a scaremongering technique used by the high end audio industry, including high end audio dealers [I was one for 20+ years] to influence people to buy additional gear they don't need and may actually inadvertently degrade the overall sound.

Do you care about sound and wish to upgrade? Consider you room acoustics including treatments, your speakers/(and sub), their exact placement and aiming, and of course your source recordings. All those things matter tremendously whereas the DAC in an upscale Denon AVR hardly matters at all.

Last edited by m. zillch; 08-21-2019 at 11:36 AM.
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post #28 of 30 Old 08-21-2019, 12:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thebrieze01 View Post
In essence, the only reason to consider adding in a preamp for 2 channel is if it can significantly alter/color the sound in a way that’s desirable.
When you buy a color copier, a camera, or a DVR, tell me, do you seek out ones that haphazardly alter/color the image in a way that is "desirable"? I don't and I'm looking for the exact same thing in my preamps. [I may tweak, EQ, or adjust these things on occasions to fix problems in the current source selected or song, or fix issues with my current playback room, for example, but then I want variable alterations, not fixed and completely arbitrary ones that have nothing to do with the inaccuracy I am addressing. Otherwise I'm seeking "perfect" replication devices in all these things.]

There is a name for this pursuit: high fidelity, aka high truthfulness, aka high accuracy. The very highest level for those of us seeking high fidelity is called "transparency". Just like a perfect sheet of glass [if it exists] does not alter light to the ability of a human eye to detect, a transparent preamp does not alter/color the sound to the ear.

If some people don't seek high fidelity, that's perfectly fine, however I'll tell you what is not fine: people who attempt to alter the definition of the term high fidelity. Here's how it is correctly defined:

" the reproduction of an effect (such as sound or an image) that is very faithful to the original."

" 2) The pursuit of perfection in sound reproduction, as a hobby or a religion. "

high fidelity

n.
The electronic reproduction of sound, especially from broadcast or recorded sources, with minimal distortion.
n.
An electronic system that reproduces a given sound or image with relatively high accuracy.



There are indeed many transparent preamps and don't fall for the lie: "They all suck so we are merely seeking what distortions are acceptable to the particular individual". That's hogwash.
[see my signature for more]

In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

Last edited by m. zillch; 08-21-2019 at 12:24 PM.
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post #29 of 30 Old 08-22-2019, 03:58 AM
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I have a Marantz AV-8802 for home theater and a Balanced Audio Technology VK-33 tube pre for 2 channel in what I call a manual ht bypass. I simply move the XLR cables between the two units depending on what I'm using my system for which is probably 75/25 music to ht.
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post #30 of 30 Old 08-22-2019, 11:40 AM
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I have dedicated HT & music systems, but I run a Parasound Halo P5 pre in my music setup which has a HT bypass circuit. I've never used it but maybe picking up the newer P6 and matching A23+ amp would give you what you are looking for?

HT - 5.2.2 ATMOS With: Klipsch DS Series In-wall/In-ceiling Speakers|2x Rythmik LV12F|Denon AVR-X3300W|Sony UBP-X800|Sony XBR-85X900F|AppleTV 4K
Music - 2.1: Ascend Acoustics Sierra-2|Rythmik 12" Sealed Direct Servo Sub|Adcom GFA-5500 With LX-Elite mod by Musical Concepts|Parasound Halo P5|Cambridge Audio ID100 Digital Dock|Audio by Van Alstine Humdinger
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