You'd be smart to consider a Theta Casablanca II or III.
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When looking for processor, nothing can beat Theta Casablanca III also great with 2ch music. It's has the most detail setup and future proof and can accommodate up to 12 channels. To me, it's the best looking processor. Theta just come out with the hdmi card that u can upgrade for the CB3 with all the latest surround.
Loren, if you are a music guy and SQ for movies is a seondary concern, in my opinion getting the best SSP you can afford is not the best way to spend your money. You are better of with a two box approach.
So first you get a very competent SSP in the 2K pricerange (Marantz, Onkyo) for multi channel duties. You could even keeep the Sunfire for a while. Then, you get a very good 2 channel DAC with volume control and analog input(s). You use the analog input on the DAC as a HT bypass for your SSP. You run the Oppo 95 digital into the DAC for 2 channel. Depending on how much you want to spend you can get the Wyred4Sound, the Bel Canto 3.5, the Zodiac Antilope Gold, Aesthetix or any of a bunch of others very good DACs with volume control and additional inputs that are now hitting the market. This approach will give you MUCH more bang for the 2 channel buck than going the SSP upgrade route. On two channel, a top notch DAC/Preamp will trounce the Integra and the Classe for that matter. Additional advantage is most of said DACs will have an asynchronous USB input.
Thank you for the input. I would love to have the Bryston. But it would be in the $11,000 range which is not over the rainbow, it is the rainbow...cant wrap my head around that much for a pre/processor.
I will look into the Theta product as recommended. It is a wonderful piece to see and hear, maybe a contender. I would want to incorporate the HDMI board as i am looking for a complete solution.
Edorr...Thank you too, i have even considered this route. Considering the W4S as the DAC with analog, could run a good deal through it.
Audiojan, thank you, i will seek out the Mcintosh and take a look. I have not considered McIntosh until now, and will see how it would fit. Need to find a dealer. Krell will be investigated too.
Thank you to all who responded. I am trying to keep it under $7000 and would consider lightly used.
We live in rural area of Ventura county here in Calif. It is difficult to even find a dealer, let alone not have to drive 100+ miles round trip. I have written to two dealers listed on the Classe web site in Santa Barbara, but have not heard back from either.
Wishing you all well and to have fun with the hobby!
Looking at the McIntosh, Theta, Krell...All around $12,000. Yikes! makes the Classe 800 reasonable at only $8,000. How i wish price were not a topic!
Additionally, the Krell pictures i saw had only one HDMI output, i really need two so i am not adding a switcher (have one already, want to lose it).
For that kind of dough, i would be all over the Bryston as this may be the last of its ilk i purchase, the warranty they offer is vastly superior!
Still in the hunt!
Loren, if you insist on a one box solution, want to keep this below 10k and don't mind a few trips to the Fedex office, you could get the Theta CBIII with 2 x extreme cards this is listed for 6K and get it upgraded to HDMI (street price for the upgrade is below 4K).
I used a CBIII with Xtreme cards for 2 channel myself for a while and it is very good (bested my audio note DAC). You could even recoup $1,500 by offering to trade your 2nd Xtreme card (which you really don't need for subs / surround) for a premium with $1,500 in cash. This would get you very close to your $7,000 budget.
I have swapped 4 Theta DAC cards in and out of my CBIII and it works just fine, and there will be happy takers for your XTreme cards.
I have not heard many SSPs myself, but the Theta loyalist keep telling spreading the word there is nothing better for 2 channel music through a SSP.
Loren, I recommend you try Evolution Audio & Video in Agoura Hills. Also there's a well known dealer off Topanga Canyon Road just north of 101, but I can't recall the name. If you cal E A&V, I'm sure they'll tell you the name.
I think Kal has recommended the preamp with processor passthrough route in the past, because processor technology changes frequently whereas preamp design is pretty stable. Something like an Integra 80.3 with a good preamp might be a smart, if more complicated, choice. I didn't go there because of the complication, and instead went with the buggy Cary 11a because I got such a good deal from a private source on a great sounding processor.
Seems like you're gonna pay a lot to equal or better the Pass preamp for 2-channel duties with an HT processor. Maybe I'm missing something, but why not just route the front L/R pre outs from the Sunfire processor to another input on the Pass (or to its HT passthru if it has it) and you're done. It's not a one-box solution, but if you have a universal remote all you need to do is switch inputs on the Pass for HT/surround music (and possibly adjust the volume control if no HT passthru) and you're good to go. Again, maybe I'm missing the point, but seems like you're gonna have to pay a pretty big premium just to get rid of one box that really doesn't take up that much space to begin with. If I'm missing the boat on this please just disregard.
I suspect the NAD T175HD is quite a bit better and at that price you could go with a M15 and come out money ahead. It seems that the NAD stuff does not get much popular interest but those who have had the opportunity to compare them always choose the NAD for sound quality. The early T175 did have some problems but they seem to be pretty well ironed out now. I bought mine used and once I updated it to the current firmware it has worked fine and I am very happy with the way it sounds and the video performance.
Edorr, KR4, and Soix
I'm thinking of the solution suggested by Edorr and Soix, and from time to time by Kal. If the XLR output of a SACD player were passed through a preamp and input via analog XLR to an Integra would the sound I hear be that of the preamp or the Integra? That is, would the Integra simply act as a cable to get the analog signal to the amp? I assume, but am not sure, that the Integra has such pass through capability via its XLR inputs and outputs.
In my case, I already know I like the stereo sound of my Sony XA5400ES passed through a Proceed PAV to Proceed amps via XLR, but I also want to be able to process multichannel surround and lossless codecs via HDMI. Given that I have a PAV sitting in my closet, replacing my Cary 11a with an Integra 80.2/3 would be a cost effective solution. I might also replace my Oppo 93 with an Oppo 95, so I could continue to use the XA5400ES in the living room. Both the HT and living room systems are controlled by Logitech Harmony Ones.
I'm thinking of the solution suggested by Edorr and Soix, and from time to time by Kal. If the XLR output of a SACD player were passed through a preamp and input via analog XLR to an Integra would the sound I hear be that of the preamp or the Integra? That is, would the Integra simply act as a cable to get the analog signal to the amp? I assume, but am not sure, that the Integra has such pass through capability via its XLR inputs and outputs.No. It must pass through the analog input/output stages and volume control of the Integra. Besides, HTBypass works the other way. You feed the L/R output of the Integra into the analog preamp.
Dbphd - the dealer on Topanga is Shelley's Stereo. They carry Anthem, McIntosh, Arcam, Linn and others.
Loren - if you're still looking for a 1-box solution under $8k, there aren't tons of options. Most obvious ones I can think of are
Cary Cinema 12 (if they have worked out the bugs from the 11a)
Anthem Statement D2
Not sure how big a drop in sound these are, if any, from the McIntosh, Theta and Classe mentioned above, but they are worth looking into.
I couldn't recall the name Shelley, but I recall it as a major dealer of hi-fi gear in western LA in the 50s.
As far as I know, the Cary Cinema 12 treats 88.2 LPCM as DSD, and thus with no bass management. That's the only bug in my 11a that really bothers me. I can live with the occasional clicks and pops that never occurred with the Proceed PAV/PDSD. OTOH, surround sound with the 11a can be enthralling.
additional benefit of the casablanca route is you can upgrade to an external DAC (GenVIII) using a digital output card with the CBIII HD. The CBIII controls volume on the DAC, which is also used for mains in multi channel application. Not cheap, but probably by far the best solution available for seamlessy integrated 2 channel and multi channel.