Search the forums that mention HT/Bypass and this will give you some ideas as to what you can do.
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If you plan to have a combo 2-channel/HT system and demand good 2-channel sound (I think you do since you are investing in the N803s), the first step is ALWAYS build a great 2-channel system first. That said, you can get a high quality integrated amp, preferrably with an HT Bypass/Processor Loop, and add on HT easily, even using your existing HT receiver.
I've done this many times. You simply connect your 2 channel system in the usual way, i.e. music source->integrated amp->L&R front speakers. For the HT portion you connect your HT sources->HT receiver inputs and then connect the L&R front pre-outs fron the receiver to the HT bypass/processor loop of the 2-channel integrated amp. You would then connect the center, L&R (and rear) surrounds and the subwoofer to the HT receiver.
This way, when you play 2-channel music, the HT receiver is completely out of the path and can even be turned off. For HT playback, you turn on the integrated amp and the HT receiver, select the HT bypass/processor loop button on the integrated amp and play. Don't forget, you will need to recalibrate your HT system after you initially install the integrated amp into the system to account for the difference in power/gain/sensitivity, etc.
As Reiley pointed out, search the archives. This type of setup has been posted many, many times (including 10 or more times by me alone!).
Thanks soooo much. I will search the archives. Now I have to decide if I want to go the simple route (just adding a great 2 chnl amp) or get into the more elaborate set-up. I had mentioned the integrateds because I also didn't want to have to rely on the Pioneer receiver's pre-amp. They are one-box solutions and there are some great ones now. I've heard the Mac6500 as well as the Cayin H80 (with 803s) and they were both amazing. I run old matrix 803s2 in my living room via an old Acurus DIA integrated and it sounds great. Thanks again....Jeff
I would highly recommend either the Cary SLP2002, which is a tubed preamp with HT bypass or to use a BAT unit such as the VK300X integrated, or one of their preamps that can set unity gain. I currently use the VK50SE and set one input to have a fixed volume. I run the two front outputs from the HT preamp into this input. This allows me to use the volume of the HT preamp for movies, then I just change to the CD player input on the BAT and I can listen to high end 2 channel playback. I love this setup as I can often be listening to a cd while watching tv.
HT bypass is not required, it is just a bit more convenient. You can do the same thing using an integrated without HT bypass. You simply use an unused set of inputs, i.e. AUX, tuner, etc. and connect the L&R front pre-outs from the receiver to this unused input on the integrated amp. When you want to play HT, you will need to select this input on the integrated and set the volume control on the integrated to a pre-defined value (like top dead center, 5, etc.) When you calibrate the HT you will need to set the integrated's selector switch to this input, and set the integrated's volume control to this pre-defined value. Then everytime you play HT you will also need to set the volume on the integrated to this pre-defined value.
Once you do it a couple of times it will become second nature.
Don't give up on trying to find an integrated with the HT bypass. However, if you find one you love that doesn't have it, it's still workable.
Reubent: can I just hire you as my audio consultant and you can come over and fix everything for me, lol!?!?! I can't thank you (and everyone else of course) enough for all the invaluable information. I just got my Nautilus 803's and HTM1 and they sound great even through the 130wpc Pioneer VSX 49tx, but not as good as what I heard through the Cayin at a dealer recently (although through the newer 803S). So I'm really excited to move to the next phase of this project, which is to get that better amp (and maybe a really good outboard dac, oh, and that Cullen Sonos mod, oops, and I forgot about those new B&W DS7 surrounds, and.....the list goes on!!! (oh yeah, maybe I need to try some new cables too, hehehe)
Thanks again everyone...Jeff
Reubent, sorry, but another dumb question. If I use the pre-outs to an unused input in the integrated, am I not (for lack of a better phrase) "double preamping" the signal? Wouldn't that possibly color/alter the sound somewhat, both in two channel mode (signal runs through the rcvr's preamp then to the integrated's preamp then on to the integrated's amp)? Same for movie mode (same scenario) whereby the blending of the HT speakers, especially the front 3, might be affected since there are two different signal paths? I assume this is why they created HT bypass in the first place, no? Thanks again. Jeff
Yes, you will be sending the signal for the L&R front channels through 2 pre-amp/volume controls when playing HT sources. It is not the optimum setup, however it will not cause any problems. Considering both pre-amps/volume controls are only in the circuit during HT playback, it may not be noticable at all. Most front channel output comes from the center channel during HT playback, so the L&R channels aren't as noticable. Also, because HT is primarily a video sensory experience, where audio is additive to the experience, having absolute sound quality is less important.
Now, if you plan to do a lot of multi-channel music playback, you might want to consider only units with an HT bypass since audio fidelity would be more important.
Of course, this is all just my opinion based on my experience and my tolerances regarding HT sound. Some folks that are more critical of HT sound may have the opposite opinion.
OK, I get it regarding HT, and I'm sure I can live with the compromise, but I still need clarification on 2 channel. If I'm using pre-outs to integrated for 2 channel music, then I'm double processing. Will this have a significant negative impact, or just a minor impact? What I'm getting at here is am I negating the full effect of a great integrated? If yes, am I better off simply putting my money into the best amp within this budget?
It all depends on how you have it connected. If you connect your CD source and any other 2-channel music sources, directly to the integrated amp, and not through the HT receiver, then the HT reciever doesn't even need to be turned on when listening to 2-channel music.
You would only need to turn on the HT receiver when listening to multi-channel or HT sources so when listening to 2-channel music, the fact that you have an add-on HT setup would not have any affect on the sonics of the 2-channel portion of the setup.