$2500 amp and pre/pro

Ok, my receiver just died. The good news I can now move on to separates and finally hear the full(er) potential in the rest of my equipment. The bad news is I'm off to medschool and, for the next several years, will redefine poor. I will be buying used off A'gon--if at all possible, I'd really like to stay under $2500 for the pair. Here's the rest of my system.

4 Vienna Acoustic Bach's
Rel Storm III sub
Pioneer 47a player
some crappy cambridge soundworks center speaker

Multichannel amps that seem to be in my price range are sunfire cinema grand, B&K, Outlaw I guess--though I don't like that option much--not really sure what else. Vienna Acoustics are warm speakers and I'm concerned that warm sounding amps might make them sound dark.

I'm really stuck when it comes to a pre/pro. They all seem to break the bank. Video switching is not crucial, SACD + DVD-A input is however. I'm also leary of processors that disable the sub in two channel mode. The Bach's are only rated to 38Hz (which I think is a stretch) and I really like to be able to use the REL to fill out the sound while in stereo.

Although I'm looking for a multichannel setup, this system will be used 90%+ for music. I enjoy two channel and multichannel alike. Movies come a distant second.

Any ideas are welcome. Thanks
How about the Anthem AVM2 pro/pro. I owned one for 28 months and loved it. Made a lateral move to the AVM20. There's one on Agon now for $1299OBO.

Match it with an Anthem MCA5 (200x5) and you should have a sweet setup. Again, there's one here on Agon for $975OBO.

So, of you get the sellers to pay the freight, that leaves you with $225 for cables. Pick up some balanced(XLR) cables from signalcable.com and your right at the limit of your budget.

Good luck,
Since you mentioned sunfire, you may want to consider the Ultimate Receiver, it is the TGIII pre/pro w/ 7 200W amps (7.1 or multi-room option). It is very nice and if you look hard, I bet you could grab one for $3K. It gives you the option to go seperates down the road. In 8 channel mode, I don't think you can cross over to the sub (call sunfire, they are very helpful). I have used the extra front output of my SACD/DVD to go to the inputs of the CD, that way I have the option to use the crossover or the other features that are not available in the 8 channel mode. Good luck.
Thank you for your responses. PrPixel, I've heard very good things about the sound of the AVM2, do you know if it has multichannel input for SACD? I'd never even considered the MCA5 and know nothing about it. I'll start researching it. Could you charactarize the sound of anthem compared to B&K, sunfire or other options?

Maineiac (I'm a Maineiac too, currently living in Boston), I'd considered the sunfire ultimate, but it is at the extreme of my range (funny how that always seems to happen in audio...) and I only need 5 channels. My speakers can't be biamped so I'd be paying for two channels and never use them. Still, if I opt for sunfire equipment, it seems the cheapest way to get it is that receiver instead of separates.
B&K does not go well with Vienna Acoustics.
Yes, the AMV2 does have a 6 channel input, with bass management, for SACD and DVD-A input.

I purchased a Sunfire Theater Grand III while I was waiting for the AVM20. It had some operating quirks and the sound was flat. Also, the soundstage wasn't great. I only let it burn in for about 200 hours before boxing it up and selling it here on Agon. I ended up taking an $800 loose on it.

I've auditioned the B&K ref30 processor a few years ago and thought it was the most brittle and harsh processor I have ever heard. I have not heard the new ref50 processor.

As far as the MCA5 amp goes, it's 5 channels rated at 200 watts. It has both balanced(xlr) and single ended inputs. Inside there are 2 big toroidail transformers. I heard it at a local dealer, with an AVM2, and it sounded good; a lot of bang for the buck.


Good luck,
Great responses, I've been doing a lot of reading and I've now ruled out B&K as an option. I did some reading on the MCA5 and did not like what I read. It did not seem to strike reviewers as a musical amplifier at all. The AVM-2 is a possibility I'm considering for a processor. However, Prpixel, I just uncovered an old thread of yours here what ever happened with this situation? I must say, that goes a long ways toward scaring me off from Anthem products.

Two more questions...I understand that one person at least preferred anthem to sunfire processors, but what about sunfire amps (specifically the cinema grand)? I also keep hearing good things about Classe processors (ssp25, 30 and 50) but can't determine if they have 5.1 analogue inputs. Any comments on these components? Thanks again.
Yes, Anthem customer support can leave a little to be desired. Lately, in the high-end industry, customer service is a forgotten art. I've been trying for two weeks to buy speakers for a friend and nobody wants to take the money. I'm sitting here with $8K in cash and can not get any dealers to return my calls.

Good luck,

I like the Anthem suggestion as well. If I were to upgrade my HT, I'd definitely look into them. One thing though. I'd consider adding a Vienna Acoustics Maestro or Theatro center channel to your system. I think it would improve everything along the front wall.

Prpixel, hopefully if some dealers are browsing these forums they'll take heed and be nicer to you. Are the dealers you've contacted local to you or were they accessed through Audiogon?

They are local. Looks like they are more interested in custom install work.
Well, I'm about to commit the cardinal audio sin--buy without hearing first. I figure I'm buying used and could resell without too much of a hit. It looks like the avm2 is what I'll try.

However, I'm still looking for a 5 channel amp. The Powermaster 1000 is my top choice, but rarely seen on the used market and a little too pricey. I keep coming back to a used sunfire cinema grand which runs...about a grand used. Anyone tried the anthem/sunfire combo? Or the Vienna/sunfire combo? Or any other thoughts as to musical amps in the sub $1500 used price range?
Ultraviolet, buying without hearing first is a virtue! You'll never know for sure until it's in your listening room, and as you said, you can always resell it.

Prpixel, yeah it seems more and more places are concentrating on AV sales and installs. You'd hope they would be smart enough to treat all their prospective customers with respect, especially the ones with serious intent to buy and 8 grand burning a hole in their pocket.
I currently have the Sherbourn PT-7000 preamp/processor and the Sherbourn 5/1500A 5-channel amp. You can do both of these items used for under $2500.

The combo produces excellent sound in my home theater system. The dynamics are terrific, as is the overall clarity. I can recommend this combo without hesitation.

I auditioned the Rotel RMB-1075, and then I heard the Sherbourn amp and there was no comparison; the Rotel is very good for the price, but for a couple hundred extra the Sherbourn just blew it away in every respect.

Good luck in your search.

Your could go with Outlaw's Pre-Pro the 950
http://www.outlawaudio.com/products/950.html for $799. It is a rebranded Sherbourn. and match with their equally well regarded Amplifier the 755 for 1299. http://www.outlawaudio.com/products/755.html.
I never considered the sherbourn, thanks, I'll check that out.

I kept reading about processors and now I'm considering the Aragon Soundstage. It seems to get incredible reviews for it's two channel sound in particular and it has 5.1 analogue inputs (thought I think this is through a DB-25 connector?). Has anyone compared this to the Anthem avm2? How do you think it would sound paired with a Sunfire amplifier (although I'm not totally sold on the Sufire yet) through Vienna Acoustic speakers? It does seem to be somewhat dated, but if it sounds good, and it has DTS, Dolby Digital etc. for movies and 5.1 analogue inputs, I don't really know what else I need. Also, I think there was an upgrade for this too, but I'm not sure, I emailed Aragon, but haven't heard back yet.
I have an Aragon Soundstage with the upgrade. The upgrade was to 7.1 (with the Aragon Stage One's digital section minus the THX); however, Aragon is out of upgrade kits, so you can't upgrade at this time.

However, the stock Soundstage is fantastic! The 2 channel section is basically Aragon's top of the line Aurum preamp (retail $2k in 1990 dollars). The 5.1 inputs is through the DB-25 pin. Onkyo sells a DB-25 to 6 RCA female connector for $13 (just add 6 RCA cables).

IMO, you should get a Soundstage used for $1000, used Aragon 8008x3 200x3 amp for $1150, and used Aragon 2004 125x2 for $350. Then get a matching center speaker!
The Sherbourn and the Outlaw are the same processor. They are made by Eastek in china. I have a friend that has the outlaw. It can get a little bright and edgy at times. It's ok for movies but not a good choice for music. The good thing is it retails for $800. The bad thing is you get what you pay for.

Good luck,

The Sherbourn and Outlaw are very similar, but Sherbourn makes some further modifications (I'm not sure of the specifics). In addition, it's in a much nicer chassis that goes well with their amps.

I strongly disagree with your statement that "It's ok for movies but not a good choice for music". In fact, the Sherbourn PT-7000 with the 5/1500A amp in stereo mode gives my excellent tube monoblocks a run for their money. Indeed, I find the stereo performance on the PT-7000 to be very impressive, even edging my NAD T760 receiver (which is itself extraordinarily good at stereo sound for a HT receiver).

I have no reservations recommending the Sherbourn for music as well.

Thank you all for your responses. This is where I stand right now: It's still between the AVM-2 and the Soundstage for the processor. I'm leaning toward the AVM-2 because, while the reviews are glowing for thw Soundstage, I've run across the occasional comment about a lack of dynamics and my speakers need all the punch they can get.

I really like what I read about Aragon amps. They seem to be the poor man's Krell. The first time I heard Krell was in a shop on B&W speakers and the sound made me cringe. Later I heard them on Vienna Acoustics and it was the best I've ever heard these speakers sound. I can not afford a Krell, but I am looking for an amp that has these characteristics. The problem is the Aragon is really stretching the budget. Ender, you seem to have a good suggestion, but I listen to a lot of multichannel SACD and DVD-A--I also have the same speakers in the rear as my fronts and for this reason would really like to have equal amplification for all channels. The 8008X5 Aragon is just more money than I'm willing to spend though. Do you know anything about the 2005? It's a bit less money, just wondering what the tradeoffs are. I'm still seriously considering picking up a Sunfire Cinema Grand. I haven't heard a thing about this amp paired with my speakers, but as far as wattage and current go, I can't find anything that can beat this for near the price (~$1000). I guess If the sound isn't to my liking I could always resell...
Aragon Soundstage lacking in dynamics? That's something new for me and four others who have owned it (between us, we have owned 60+ 5.1 capable components). We all bought the Soundstage for dynamics, clarity/detail, and soundstage.

If the 8008x5 is too much money, then get the 8008x3 for ~ 1200 and the smaller/older 2004 125x2 for your rears. You can always upgrade the 2004 to an 8002, 8008st, or 8008bb in the future.

The 2005, as all new Aragon 200x series amps, is a rebadged Acurus amp, in this case, the Acurus 200x5. Not in the same league as classic Aragon amps.

So the sherbourn pre/pro and 5/1500A combo edges out your $999 NAD receiver. I would hope that it did. I'm not saying the Outlaw processor is a bad product. In fact, it's a bargain at $800. What I'm saying is that the Anthem AVM2 is in a differnt league. I've had both the Anthem and the Outlaw (borrowed from a friend) in my system and the Anthem is better. It should be at 4 times the price.

I called Sherbourn and ask them what the difference was between the outlaw and the sherbourn processor and the said that they used some different caps and other things but would not go into detail. The dealer were I purchased my Sherbourn 7/2100A let me pop the top on the Sherbourn processor. I sat the outlaw right beside it and the two of use could not find any differences. They even operate the same way.

I like my sherbourn 7/2100a a lot. I consolidated by HT rig, which consisted of a pair of Aragon Palladium 1K's, and aragon 8008BB(pre-klipsch), a sars MOS400 and a pair of NAD A1 mono's down to just the Sherbourn 7/2100A. Think of all the money I saved on powercords!
used McIntosh home theatre receiver is close to your budget..
Ok, I'm still mulling this decision. I had pretty much decided on picking up an AVM 2 and then I came upon this page here which compares the avm 2 to the avm 20 v1 and v2. I've heard from some who moved from the avm2 to the avm 20 that, sonically, it was a lateral move. How about all of those soundfield modes--do you avm 20 users use them? Basically, is the avm 20 worth the extra $700-800 over the avm 2?

Things that look useful to me in the avm 20 are the soundfield modes, and the bass management for multichannel analogue inputs and separate x-over settings. I have no need for more/better video switching. I'm not trying to keep up with the Joneses, I'm just worried about buying something that's obsolete before I even hook it up...
Yes, the AVM20 gives you more control over certain settings, but sonically they are real close. I don't use any of the soundfield modes.

Good luck,
Have you thought about the proceed amps, i heard them a while back and thought they were great, should be cheap here on the gon or on audioweb.com
The Proceeds are out of my price range. I actually just purchased a sunfire cinema grand at a price that was too good to pass up. I imagine this will be so far ahead of the Onkyo that died that I will love it. If not, however, I can always resell it at minimal loss. I am still looking for a processor. I was literally minutes too late in making an offer on the anthem avm20 v2 for $1650 that sold here. In looking at all the specs, I would really prefer the avm20 to the avm2 if for no other reason than bass management. I'm still looking around however and considering other options than anthem.