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Bang for the Buck processor - Newcastle, Integra, NAD, Adcom, Outlaw?

2672 Views 26 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  Rich Wenzel
I am looking to upgrade my preamp/processor and am looking for the best bang for the buck, not necessarily the least expensive, but the best sound and features for the $.

Likes and dislikes based on previously owned equipment (Features only not sound quality)

Onkyo - I liked the way Onkyo receivers (696, 777) were easy to setup, very easy to interface with, locked onto a digital signal very quickly and no audio dropouts. Love the remote.

Sony ES - (777ES) built heavy, locks onto a digital signal quickly and no audio dropouts, Very flexible audio setup, flexible bass management, flexible speaker position options, and a couple of their cinema settings were not bad. The remotes SUCKED!!! I have owned 2 different ES products and had to sell them both because I could not stand the interface with them.

Harman Kardon - (AVR325, 525) good sound quality. Ugly gaudey front panel more lights and junk on the front (fixed with electrical tape). Hate the remote, used the onkyo remote instead. Hate the delay in detecting the digital audio signal, hate missing the beginning of the THX trailer. Hate the audio drop outs. Complicated to setup but fine once you get there. I like the sound quality used as a preamp but cannot live with the dropouts and delays anymore.

Outlaw - Model950 best sound I have had in my system but had all of the same problems as the HK. I could not live with it, tried 2 units sent them both back. The remote was good in 1999 but there are much better designs out there today. I believe the delay and drop outs are due to the use of the crystal/cirrus processor. Used in the 950, HK's, Rotel?, Newcastle?

New processor choices:

Newcastle P-965 (I think) - The specs look great, the dac's look good. I wonder about the crystal/cirrus processor will it have the same problems as the HK's and 950. The remote looks good, and the features look great.

Integra DTR-9.4 - Looks great, the specs seem strong, a chad remote. DAC's same as used in Proceed. Higher priced than others.

Adcom - 860 & 880 dont know anything about these except the 860 is cheaper than the Necastle and the 880 is a little more than the Integra.

NAD - T163 dont know anything about this either.

B&K - Ref50 just lowered the price. Older than the others in the list. Heard some bad things about noise floor, but I dont know.

What would be your choice and why.

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I'd add in the Rotel 1068 into the comparison. Latest technology and under 2K.

Sorry, don't have a suggestion. Out of my price range.
Newcastle P-965 (I think) - I started to look at this one and then found out it only comes in silver/titanium color and moved on. I want black, sorry. I'm just not going to spend this kind of money and hate the looks of the gear in my rack, sorry I know it's all about the sound, but I can't get past this one. If silver is OK with you, it does look like a fine unit. Has DPLIIx

Integra DTR-9.4 - Does look good, has balanced outs and NetTunes (heard good and bad about the feature) along with a phono input, but is NOT upgradable. I know, none are in this price range. Lacks DPLIIx and no way to upgrade to it. Still on my list, but wonder if I should step up to an Anthem to get an upgradable Pre. I also currently own an Onkyo 898 AVR, so I'm guessing the config/learning curve would be small for me if it's anything like my Onk.

Adcom - 860 & 880 dont know anything about these - me either. Sorry nothing to add. Only to note that they don't have much resale value/interest on Audiogon, if you care.

NAD - T163 dont know anything about this either. me either.

B&K - Ref50 - I can't get past the no mute circuit/clicking issue, this is a show stopper for me, although I've heard they may add a mute circuit in the next upgrade (I think?). They are slow to offer upgrades and they are over priced IMO. Firmware upgrades are done by a dealer, not the user (ala Anthem). Price drop is nice, but puts it closer to the real value of the unit IMO. and lastly (won't affect you).... my local B&K dealer is a D*ckwad and I refuse to do business with him.

Rotel 1068 - Not that much of a change from the 1066. Some improvments yes, but nothing really big. Adds DPLIIx. No balanced outputs (show stopper for me). The 1066 had a BM flaw and I wonder if the 1068 corrected this. And once again, same dealer as B&K above.

Hope I helped, sorry if I bashed anyone's favorite products.
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Sorry you don't like the looks of the Newcastle P-965. However, it is upgradeable via RS-232 or USB. Please see details here: http://www.sherwoodusa.com/prod_p965.html

Jeff Hipps

Thanks for the response.

The Integra has me interested, but my Integra dealer is like your B&K dealer.

I saw the Adcom 880 it really seams to be built well, good quality feel, was not able to audition it. The one I saw was black with a silver face, dont know if they make all black.

What is the BM problem with the Rotel? Does the Rotel exibit any of the problems found in the Model 950?


I have seen your posts another thread, can you give some specifics on the P-965 operation. Does the processor quickly recognize a digital signal or is there a delay in locking on like the 950 and the HK receivers.

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Can't resist adding Pioneer 49txi. Gives room correction, i link, extra amps for bi-amp / back channels, etc. Price will continue to fall as new models get closer...

I'll chime in on the NAD T163 which I own.

high bandwidth component switching, adjustable crossover, dual sub output, 7.1 analog input, assignable audio/video input, 5 preset audio/video configurations to store in non-volitale memory, RS232 controls and firmware upgradeable, 12V triggers, 24/196 DACS on all channels and adjustments can be made to parameters without having to go thru complex menus.
I also love the NAD T163. I own it, and it's made me extremely happy. NAD has committed to offering RS-232 firmware upgrades to the user directly. I think their HTR-2 remote is fantastic.

However: NAD, Rotel, Outlaw, and HK all use Cirrus processors. The dropouts you describe depend both on firmware and source unit. For instance, the T163 has no drop-out issues with my crappy Panasonic A100 DVD, bought for just $99 four years ago. Likewise, the Rotel units don't ever seem to have drop-outs when paired with other Rotel equipment. I'd test any of these units with the source you expect to use.
I'm not familiar with all the models but I suggest that you look at used gear to get the most bang for the buck. This often allows you to step up a notch in performance.
Jeff, no prob. on the 965, I'll just look elsewhere. I hope you hit it out of the park with the 965. Personally , it's just not for me with the current one color choice.

I recall you mentioned in another thread that 80% (I think) of buyers want silver, hence the decision on the P965. I can certainly understand that from a business/manufacturing cost perspective.

With the exception of my HDVR2/DirecTivo (which is a cheap $100 unit), I just refuse to buy Silver components as long as I have a choice to buy something else that is black and of similar quality/value. It's just a small personal stand I'm willing to make to manufacturers. I know it won't make any difference in sales, but what the heck. I figure if Denon, B&K, Anthem, Rotel and others can make components in Black or Silver, why not others.....

atillo, the BM issue on the 1066 was that when using the 5.1 anlog inputs for MC music, the 1066 would double the bass (yuk). A simple user or dealer mod was proposed to open up the box and clip an internal electronic part (cap, resistor ??) to elimiante this issue. Hopfully this is something the fixed in the 1068.
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Originally posted by DaveN
I'm not familiar with all the models but I suggest that you look at used gear to get the most bang for the buck. This often allows you to step up a notch in performance.
I'm a big fan of buying quality used gear online for usually half off. I think buyinging used amps is a great way to save some money, but for a Pre/pro, you are buying old technology, with no promise of upgrading it. I keep looking at the used pre market and am not convinced I'd be happy with a 2 year old feature set, even with the savings. Other people may be fine with this, that's fine too. YMMV
Anyone know if the NAD and new Rotel pre/pros have a single global crossover, or "individual" settjngs for different (sets of) speakers (like the 950) ?
What are your thoughts on Anthem?

Isn't it about $2,500?
Originally posted by Pocatello
What are your thoughts on Anthem?

Isn't it about $2,500?
Anthem AVM 20 is $3500 list. Most dealers will discount to below $3K

From my research, it's practically the only pre out there (
Not having problems is certainly a great selling point.

$3k is lots of money, however.

Other than AVS forums, is there a site that has lots of info about Anthem? I've read a fair amount about it here, and it seems quite nice.
Anyone know if the NAD and new Rotel pre/pros have a single global crossover, or "individual" settjngs for different (sets of) speakers (like the 950) ?
Don't know the answer to that, but read (somewhere) that Cirrus has a quadruple crossover which if true, one-ups the Cirrus triple crossover in the Outlaw 950, which I've owned now for almost two years.
Will- Yes, but not all makers implement it. For example, the Rotel 1066 used a Cirrus DSP engine, but only had the single global setting.

I think I have figured out that the Arcam and Integra units are also all just a single global setting. Just trying to keep my mental database up to date! :)
While it is nice to have the latest features (real 7.1 analog bass management, effective room correction, DPLIIx for example) at some point it becomes a money pit. Whatever you buy today will be at least somewhat obsolete within 6-12 months, so unless you plan to buy a new receiver/pre/pro every year then face the facts of audio life. Software upgradeability is a nice feature we can hope to see more and more of, but for me it still comes down to how my system sounds. And for those of us on a budget, buying used, or OB, demo, etc. can get you high end sound at a real world price (sometimes). And I think in most cases, a used Aragon Soundstage, Classe SSP-30 MkII, or EAD 8000 will sound gobs better than the latest mid-priced separates with all the latest bells and whistles, for the same or even less dollars.

Anthem is the only model with no significant problems??? Suggest you wade through the looooooong Anthem thread which covers in detail the many software flaws/problems with this unit.
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