2-channel pre-amp and dedicated processor?

My small home does not allow me to keep my 2-channel analog system physically separate from "HT" digital needs. So, I want your opinion on a configuration:

use existing 2-channel system (separate pre-amp and amp)for analog sources, but connect the pre-amp's tape or aux to a surround sound processor, This will be for the left and right fronts for HT. From the processor, connect to a 3-channel amp for the left & right rears and center: for HT.

2 issues:

1. I have an excellent Class A 1980s pre-amp with a phono stage, but without unity gain or pass-through. I don't know if the tape or aux loop will work in the way I want it to

2. is there a dedicated surround processor out there? I don't need a pre-amp built in (if issue #1 becomes a non-issue)

I think my configuration idea will work, but I need your advice, and suggestions for a processor.


You should hook up the surround processor's main speaker pre-outs to an input on your 2 channel pre not the other way around. This is the best way if you need to combine 2 channel with ht.
Take a look at some other threads, as this has been discussed numerous times.
If you would like to use your 1980's pre in your system you can. You will only need to insert it between your pre-pro and your front channel amp. L+R pre-out from prepro (or receiver) will connect to aux or another input on your two channel pre-amp. For hometheater use, you would need to set the volume control on the two channel pre to the equivalent of pass through mode (unity gain), this is usually 12:00 O'clock. This is the position you will need to return the volume control to each time you watch a movie as this is the point you will have set over-all volume balance from in the pre-pro setup of all channels. Of course all two channel source will only connect to your two channel pre-amp.

In a stand-alone processor the 'fronts-out' goes to your aux input. This is actually just 'piggy-backing' the processors 'fronts-out' back to your 2ch. pre.(If this input allows for playing a cd it is just fine.)
Thanks to everyone! I know this is an issue discussed on the forum and trust me I have done searches for threads on it.

Jdodmead: I think I understand what you are saying. I want the surround processor to just decode the digital signals, provide no ampification, and not be a replacement for a pre-amp. In DVD playback, the '80s pre-amp will "talk" to the surround processor and pass the "results" to the amp driving the front left and right speakers.

Sogood51: I think we are agreeing on the config. I just don't know if the two-channel pre will actually work in the "unity gain" -- hope so. One other question: if I'm in a DVD playback situation, and need volume controlled by the the surround processor, can I:

-buy a really inexpensive "a/v receiver"?
-not use any of its amp. functions (since I will have a separate 3-channel amp for L&R rears, and center)?
- just use it for its decoding ability?

Thanks to all of you for your patience, as I absorb this. My config, if it works, will allow me to have the best of analog and digital, and keep the digital side turned off when I'm just listening to 2-channel audio.

Jpaik- The preamp's volume control does NOT have to be set to the unity gain position. It has to be set (each time your using the input from your HT processor) to the SAME position it was set to when you "balanced" your five HT channels during initial setup. PS- Dump the center channel; it's not needed. Good luck.

Unity gain is only the point were the volume control is neutral..it does not have to be at 12 O'clock but may be on most pre's. You can really set the volume control at any point. You can use a cheap receiver as pre-pro but you will need pre-outs for all channels..Outlaw audio comes to mind but there are many.

What type of HT processor are you looking for? i.e., DD,DTS,Pro-logic - some, all, etc.. The suggestions above may work (most will) but it will be dependent on the processor you go with, which is dependent upon what you want in a processor. I had similar issues of integration in the past and I may be able to help. Can you shed some light on what you want the processor to do?
Treyhoss, I want to route the typical digital signals: DD, DTS, Pro-logic. A Processor won't provide high-end audio performance: it can't be a substitute for a good pre-amp, and I don't expect it to be. I would like it to be outside the music signal path, in an ideal setup. I just want it to decode. Does this help? I'm on a learning-curve, so my reply may not be sufficiently technical.

Thanks for your help.

Typically receivers don't have "fronts-out". But fear not there are plenty 'stand-alone prcessors' on the used market that do. AND, typically 'both' the 2ch pre and the ht processor control the volume. You can turn either up or down. This is in the 'piggy-back'--'no pass thru' set up. ----So this is the hook-up: Fronts out into an unused input on the 2ch pre. Lets call that aux. 2nd cable/ics form your cd player goes into your 'cd' input. So for ht you switch to the aux input. For cd listening go to your cd input. For 'cd' you ain't using your ht processor. Clear as mud;right?
Very clear! Need to decide whether this plan, while good in theory, may be a big pain in the a**, in terms of timbre matching, volume control, etc. There will also be more hands on the wheel than mine in the room, when it comes to HT.

Hmmmm... You have a similar set-up to one I had several years ago with the exception that I had pre-outs and main-ins on my preamp. With your current preamp you have no pass through which pretty much means you have to put the procesor in the loop prior to routing to the preamp. This shouldn't be an issue as almost all stand-alone processors I am aware of have a bypass mode which shouldn't degrade your signal going to the preamp. In this configuration you'd have all channels route to the processor from your DVD player and the the main L&R going from the processor to your preamp. The only problem with this, which others have mentioned, is having to keep your volume control on your preamp turned up when doing HT to match the other channels (the master volume at this point being controlled by the processor).
A second option would be to get an input selector box and put it between the DVD player and the processor (I believe Niles audio makes one of these). It would require 2 sets of IC's for the main channels, one routed directly to the processor and the other routed directly to your preamp. In this configuration you would have the normal pair of IC's from the main L&R channels of the DVD player to the Niles box which would have two sets of L&R outs. One set goes directly to the processor and the other to the preamp. When you want HT, select "Output 1" on the Niles box and when you want music (controlled by you preamp), use "Output 2". You will have to look harder for one of these as a device like this is more commonly found where you have multiple inputs with one output than the other way around as I am proposing. That said, it should work, be fairly inexpensive and provide a clean signal path.
A third option, which I'm not sure you want to consider, is to get a DVD player with internal processing. This would be easier to wire as all of your IC's would route directly to amplifiers with the exception of the mail L&R's which would go to the preamp. The problem here would be to find a DVD player with a variable level output for all the channels - in effect using the DVD player as the processor AND preamp. This would be a pain however and you'd probably have to tweak those variable outputs all the time!
All in all, I would recommend the 2nd option I presented. You may want to check out this link for Niles Audio. If they don't make it, there should be some manufacturer that does. This may do the trick for you. http://www.nilesaudio.com/products/source_switching.html
Good luck no matter what you decide! - Tony
Radio Shack makes an Audio Selector box model # 42-2112, 1/5 the price of a Niles' box. It has 3 ins and 1 out, but because it is passive, you can also use it backwards.
Did you solve this problem? I just upgraded to a very good integrated and also have a small room. I also bought a Pioneer DV-47Ai, which a universal player incl. SACD and DVD-A. I want to sample these media, esp. for music (over 80%). I have old speakers which would work well as rear channels and a new 10" sub.

I am considering purchasing a unit on audiogon @ http://rgonshow.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/shm.pl?vantas&1061395057&item&Artech. (www.artech-electronics.com/)

The only issue for me is that I don't need the amps contained therein, since I have several working mid/hi end old amps, although the unit may sound better since it's newer. My older amps are halfler xl 280 stock, gas son of ampzilla basic mod by gasworks, citation 12 stock and old dyna st 70, needs work probably.

Hope this helps. Any suggestions for me. I don't want to spend over $500 to 600, used is OK.
Additional comment and correction...could the Vantas solve the problem? If so, is there something like it without the amplifiers? Or am I better off selling the old amps and using the 3 in the Vantas? Any advice?

The cleanest and cheapest solution to your set-up is to get a line level A/B switch-although that adds another thing in your signal chain. Not ideal but it will solve your problem. Get a high quality line-level A/B switch.

Your pre-amp goes to input A of the A/B switch and your HT pre/processor would go to Input B of the same A/B switch. The output of the switch then goes to your power amps.

When listening to Stereo, you are in Input A. Home Theater you would use Input B.

That means you maintain the crucial channel balancing between all your Home Theater channels.

You know what they say: In Stereo, we have two problems. In Home Theater, we have 5.1/6.1/7.1 problems.

Hope you solve your dilemna.

Enjoy your music!