AV Pre/Processor vs 2 Channel Pre-Amp - Sound Quality


Ok, so let’s say we have the most amazing separate 2 channel amp, and we connect it to an AV Processor, and then to a dedicated 2 channel preamplifier separate specifically for music play. Are we really going to hear a difference at say the $2000 level?
craigert
I don't think it's a matter of money, but I'm not sure what you are asking. 

Are you saying you'd use the 2 channel pre for music? 

And, depends. Some AV pro's I've heard (Onkyo/Emotiva) sound really thin, so I really wouldn't listen to them as music or HT sources.  There are probably much better units. I think generally listeners like Marantz a great deal in that space. 

I've had many recommend the Classe Sigma series to me as an all in one processor that does great with 2 channel. The total price would be under $3k so that may be a great value compared to your suggestion. 

Best,

E
Unless you really care a lot about higher quality surround processing and have very good/expensive surround and center speakers, I'd use a decent AVR for processing and driving those channels.  Buying a prepro that significantly betters a decent AVR for processing along with the added amplification you'd need to buy would be a huge added expense.  But if surround music/movies are that important to you and you have the speakers that can benefit from it, it can be a perfectly justifiable purchase. 
Thanks Eric and Soix.

Soix you were helping me on my other similar thread, but then I got curious how much of a sound difference there would be.

As you know, for my basement theater I just bought a current model Marantz processor and Anthem 7 channel amp. 

For the upstairs TV where I have just a 2.1 system but with my nice Monitor Golds I want to listen to music too. As you may recall I have a Pioneer Elite receiver and am thinking about buying an atoll 2 channel amp. I had gone back and forth between a 2 and 5 channel to biamp remember?

So this thread picks up where the other left off. Do I upgrade my pioneer receiver to another Marantz Processor, or do I keep the pioneer and buy a preamp to o between the Pioneer Elite and 2 channel amp. 

Again, for anybody else reading this, I DO NOT want an integrated amp because I have not found an Integrated Amp with HT Bypass that also has bass control. If I buy a preamp with ht Bypass like the Atoll, I could connect that to my Pioneer Receiver. Then I connect the atoll preamp to my subwoofer and use the dial on it for bass management. Why do I need bass management you may be asking? Because I run a 2.1 system and I don’t want the full signal going to my bookshelves because thy distort. Then I would connect my amp to my subwoofer high level outs, and finall to my bookshelf. 

If the Atoll preamp is not going to sound any better than buying another Marantz AV Processor, then I will simply replace the Pioneer Elite with another Marantz 7704 l. 

I read what your saying about integrated, but I would suggest something like the Anthem integrated with their room correction that will integrated your sub much better then what your proposing. Or their similarly outfitted pre-amp with room correction. there are many other similar pre amp - integrated with built in room correction that would serve you better in a 2.1 system then trying to chain together a preamp- AV pre processor- amps. Lyngdorf TDIA-2170 is another many are raving about. Micro mega m100-150 as well.

These also have digital ins and tuners so your not losing anything but gaining much better control of your 2.1 system IMO.

oh your Marantz in an integrated with av processing that you don't really need in a 2.1 channel system. Why pay for stuff your not using

What subwoofer do you have, and what are your sources for music and movies?
@craigert

For your upstairs tv 2.1 where you only have 2.1 setup, why bother buying an AV receiver or AV pre pro + power amp? Just get a good quality stereo integrated amp with HDMI inputs that can also do bass management. I’m sure you listen to quite a bit of music too in this room.

The Classe Sigma 2200i stereo integrated amp has HDMI inputs and bass management and a subwoofer out. It supports 4k pass through. It has manual PEQ. It sounded really good and has tons of power. But the Classe Sigma 2200i will digitize its analog audio inputs. This is a direct digital amplifier. For your music sources I would highly recommend using its USB DAC input, and for your video or AV sources just use HDMI inputs. 
I'm assuming you have some AV or video sources in this TV room otherwise there's no point of having a TV. 

A comment on your desired configuration.  If you are intending to run RCA/XLR to the subwoofer first, then take the high-pass output and connect it to your amazing 2-channel amp for bookshelves, you will probably not get any benefit from a dedicated preamp.  The analog stages in the subwoofer that crossover and output the high frequencies are not going to be as good as those found in 2-channel preamp, and even some high end HT Processors (such as the Classe SSP or Sigma).  You're pretty much degrading the sound quality by using the sub as a crossover/preamp for the amplifier.

If you really want a subwoofer and a dedicated 2-channel preamp, I would suggest using XLR output to go directly to your amp/bookshelves, then use the RCA output to go to the subwoofer to "support the low octave that bookshelves cannot reproduce".  It's not a perfect solution, but much better than your original thoughts.  The small bookshelves are going to roll off the bass frequencies anyways.

Oh, for integrated amp that has HT bypass.  The idea of an "HT bypass" is to completely bypass anything in the preamp, including any tone management or crossover.  The unit will typically connect the input wiring directly to the output wiring and not even go through the preamp stage, therefore letting the source AVR or HT Processor do the bass management on its own.

However, there is an existing solution that might help you.  The Parasound units, both the integrated and the P5 / P6 / P7 preamps, have a bass management crossover as well as full HT Bypass for left/right and subwoofer channels.  This allows you to still use a AVR or HT Processor and connect the 3 left/right/sub outputs directly to the Parasound unit for straight passthrough.

The Parasound integrated is a combination of the P5/P6 preamp and a version of the A23 amp with a larger transformer.  The Parasound amps have a warm sounding sonic signature (definitely on the warm side of neutral).  For the preamps, the P7 is the best unit due to better analog circuits and better power supply.

When you use the Parasound units for normal 2-channel listening (such as from a DAC or turntable), the Parasound unit will do the bass crossover management and send separate signals on the left/right and subwoofer outputs.  This gives you the best resolution possible.

If you already have an amazing 2 channel amp the parasound halo P6 would do all the rest. 
If you are looking at the Parasound preamps, I did mention that the P7 is the best sound quality.  The P7 only has the ability to set your subwoofer crossover at either 50hz or 80hz in the menu setup (which I think should work just fine for you).  However, if you want a truly variable crossover, you'll need to get the P5 or P6, which allows you to adjust crossover anywhere from 20hz up to 140hz.
The parasound P7 is 7.1 and the P6 is 2.1 the P6 is a newer unit with DSD and  usb inputs if those are needed. 
You might be able to get a P7 a little cheaper though. 
Wow this is some awesome stuff here!  I will address each one as time goes on.

Glen, I see what you are saying. Now will the anthem integrated allow for my Tivo and BD player to connect for cable and movies? This sounds like a sweet option. 

Soix, I have a Monitor Audio 12” Silver Series Sub. I use a Sony BD player for movies right now, soon to be PS4 Slim, and music I have a hard drive with Apple lossless connected to my Netgear Nighthawk router.

Caphill, Great suggestion. I will check this out too and get back to you. 

Auxinput, I’m SO glad you taught me this!




I will dig into the Parasound chat a little more and see what you all are talking about. 

Djones - I don’t have my 2 channel yet. If an integrated amp took the place of my receiver and a preamp, and would still play audio inputs for my movies, then I would go for something like that most likely. 
If you don't have an amp you might consider the Parasound HINT6. 
Post removed 
That Classe Sigma 2200i is exactly what I need, but what are options at half the price? Lol
If I want to hook up something to my current AV receiver it looks like the Parasound Hint6 is the way to go.
"Soix, I have a Monitor Audio 12” Silver Series Sub. I use a Sony BD 
player for movies right now, soon to be PS4 Slim, and music I have a hard drive with Apple lossless connected to my Netgear
Nighthawk router."

So, is there a DAC involved here or are you planning on using the DAC in the prepro or integrated?


@craigert

The Classe Sigma 2200i digital stereo integrated amp currently retails for $5500 brand new or unless if you can find a used one somewhere then can be had for around $3500 or so. Just keep an eye on it here on Audiogon and somewhere else. This will be a perfect choice for you since you only have 2.1 setup in your living room anyway. This Classe Sigma 2200i is a 2.1 unit. It has bass management, subwoofer output, manual PEQ, HDMI inputs for your AV sources, USB input for your digital music files, spdif & Toslink inputs as well as a pair of analog audio inputs (XLR & RCA). I highly recommend using its USB input for your digital music sources cause its USB input will sound the best. And get a high quality USB cable for that and you will be amazed by the sonic result when using its rear USB input. This unit is optimized for use with its USB input for your digital music files playbacks.

However, the Classe Sigma 2200i will digitize its analog audio inputs, so if you have analog sources such as turntable + phonostage pre, well......the Classe Sigma 2200i is not for you. You don’t want your turntable to be digitized.

Its HDMI switch board supports 4k video pass through. But the Sigma 2200i does not decode surround sound formats eg Dolby Digital, Dolby True-HD, Dolby Atmos, DTS, DTS HD-Master Audio, etc. This is a stereo digital integrated amp.

The sound is very resolved, clean, great clarity, details and nuances, great soundstage sizes, stereo imaging, it excels in PRAT (Pace Rhythm And Timing), it has rhythmic drive and speed.
It has plenty of power too. It’s rated at 200 wpc @ 8 ohms and 400 wpc @ 4 ohms with both channels driven. It uses classs D design amplifier. Classe designs its own proprietary class D circuitry.

The Classe Sigma 2200i digital stereo integrated amp is all you need for your 2.1 setup. It has more than enough HDMI inputs that you will ever need for your AV or video sources such as your BD player, cable TV box and other AV or video sources, plus a really well implemented USB input for your digital music files playbacks. And it does bass management crossover and a subwoofer out. And it sounded great and will drive your Monitor Gold speakers with ease.

I think both the Parasound Integrated and the Classe 2200i could be potential solutions. 

The Classe is going to have a superior DAC/preamp stage.  Much more resolution / attack / detail.  However, the amp part is Class D, which does has it's own unique sound.  And, like caphill stated, it does not have a phono preamp input -- and it's not a true analog preamp because it will convert all analog inputs to digital before processing.  All bass management is done in DSP and then sent to the units internal DAC.  Cost is higher, like caphill stated.  It's not a true "HT Bypass" preamp.

The Parasound is a true analog preamp.  Has a true analog crossover.  With phono preamp input.  Pretty much a "jack of all trades" integrated.  However, it is warmer sounding than the Classe with softer high frequency response.  But it's a true Class AB amp instead of Class D.  I suppose it's possible that the Parasound will sound more "analog" than the Classe, but it will be a "softer" analog.  The DAC that is built into the Parasound integrated/preamps is very low quality.  So it's best to use an external DAC for 2-channel audio.

Parasound integrated is much cheaper.  The previous version can be had used for $2k or under.  There's actually one on usaudiomart for $1700 right now.  The new HINT6 has some minor improvements (resistor ladder volume, increase phono gain), but not hugely significant.  HINT6 retail price is at $3k, so I suppose it's all about budget.

But the OP (craigert) needed HDMI inputs for his AV or video sources such as his BD player, cable TV box TiVo, etc. The Parasound integrated lacks HDMI switchings. Only few stereo integrated amps would have HDMI switchings. The Classe Sigma 2200i is one of them. And its HDMI switching equipped with the latest video formats eg 4k pass through, hdcp 2.2. If the OP went with the Classe Sigma 2200i integrated amp he can eliminate his Pioneer av receiver and just use the Classe Sigma 2200i for both his AV or video sources and digital music files sources. In the end, it will simplify his setup for his living room/TV by having just one box that does everything well. 

The Sigma 2200i does not have DAC. The digital signal is kept in digital domain all the way through the amplifier output buffer, which will then be converted to analog for speakers to use. Cause the amplifier section is a digital one and Classe uses DSP to regulate its class D amplifier. That’s why it will digitize its analog audio inputs. Classe claimed that the unique design in the Sigma 2200i integrated is aimed to preserve the digital signal purity throughout its signal paths.

In regards to the Classe’s own proprietary class D amplifier design, the sound is actually pretty analog with smooth highs, very clean very transparent and lots of air and spaces between instruments.
The bass was deep extended, very articulate and very detailed and very well controlled. But IMO it slightly lacks the bass and mid-bass power and mid-range bloom and bottom end grunt.

Not to get into an argument, but I have heard Classe's Class D solutions.  It is very clean/clear.  However, it is so clean that it's too clean.  There is no "life" to the music and it actually leaves me wanting more.

I suppose it's true that the Sigma can replace his receiver, but he needs to go into this with full knowledge.

Your statement that the Sigma does not have a "DAC" may be true in the conventional DAC chip sense, but there is always going to be a circuit that produces pulses based on digital data.  This has to go through some sort of pre-driver circuit for the amplifier.

I try to be very open minded when answering questions and not push one option over the other.  I have read many of your posts here and it seems that you push Classe solutions over every other solution out there, stating that Classe is the absolute best regardless.   I would ask that you try to post based on your direct experience with specific devices instead of "selling" the Classe marketing.  It really sounds like that's what your trying to do.

First of all, I’m in no way or affiliated with Classe Audio. My recommendation was solely based on my own experiences. I do own various Classe Delta series class AB amps in my dedicated HT room with the Lyngdorf MP-50 AV processor, which I’m still awaiting for its arrival and previously been using the SSP 800 for years.
But in my separate dedicated two-channel listening room you won’t find a single Classe gear. But for HT amps Classe are very good especially their Delta series class AB amps, even their Sigma series class D amps are suitable for HT. I guess I would say that in entry level hifi category Classe makes one of the best amps in comparison to Marantz or Rotel or Yamaha or Denon or NAD or Pioneer or Onkyo or Emotiva. I usually associate Classe with entry level hifi, not real high end.

The OP in this thread and few other threads were looking for something quite affordable and so I suggested Classe would be better choice than other entry level gears mentioned above.
If the OP was willing to pay for some serious amount of money then I would have recommended something else such as Pass, Vitus Audio, Naim, Devialet, Soulution, VTL, VAC, BAT, Audio Research, CH Precision, D’Agostino, T&A, Boulder, Esoteric, etc, etc.
These are different leagues than Classe or other entry level brands but are priced much much higher than Classe or Marantz.
But for what it’s worth I think Classe is very good for the money, especially their Delta series class AB amps.

For HT application Classe is one of my favorite amplifiers along with the B&W 800 series D3 speaker system, but not for music.
For music I like Naim, Audio Research, Simaudio, VAC, BAT, VTL, T&A, Dan D’Agostino, Pass, Levinson among others. But these gears are at different price points than Classe.

Perhaps I am wrong not the first time but I assumed the OP was looking for better 2 channel audio for music to use with his 2.1 video system. In this case I would run the video to the TV let the TV do the video not bother with switching through the pre and run the audio to the pre or integrated. You still get good movie sound in that mode and better audio for music which is why I thought Parasound would be a viable option to get better music playback trying to stay close to  his $2000 budget. There are other options besides Parasound I only used it as an example of a way to go about it. 
Correct, I would prefer to replace the receiver with something like the Classe or Parasound Hint6 which have hdmi inputs for video as well. The previous version of the Parasound integrated does not have hdmi inputs, so I would have to use it with my receiver.

From what I have read, Classe is really good at setting up their equipment with 2 channel listeners in mind. They also seem to get it that some people like a 2.1 system. It looks like Parasound is catching on with the HINT.

The only DAC I have right now is in my receiver. 

The only negative I see for me with the Classe is the class D. Don’t they sound a bit closed like my current receiver?

Finally, I think I missed a response, maybe from Soix, about connecting something to my subwoofer. I have ditched the subwoofer as bass management Idea in light of what Aux told me I think. 
@craigert 

The Classe Sigma 2200i class D amp does not sound like your Pioneer receiver at all. They did not sound closed in. In fact it puts out big soundstage with very good separations between instruments and vocals etc. To be honest, I myself not a big fan of class D amp either and this won't be my choice for music. But it will sound much better than any receivers or entry level integrateds or separates. 
Oops I was mixing up the Parasound with the Lyngdorf. It looks like Parasound doesn’t have an HDMI AV solution. 

Thats good to know about the Classe sound character!

They are super hard to locate, especially used.

Maybe I will just have to wait.
@craigert

Sorry I did not realize that the Lyngdorf TDAI 2170 & 3400 stereo integrated amps come equipped with HDMI 4k switchings. Then this will be your perfect solution as the Lyngdorf has superior Room Perfect calibration. You can get rid of your Pioneer receiver and just get either the TDAI 2170 or 3400 since they will switch video as well as audio.

I personally have never heard these TDAI 2170/3400 integrateds but they received glowing reviews from different hifi reviewers from different hifi magazines.

The only Lyngdorf piece that I’ve ever heard was their MP-50 AV surround processor when I demoed it recently and have ordered one for my dedicated HT room to replace my somewhat obsolete Classe SSP 800 AV processor. I was impressed with the Lyngdorf MP-50 performance for surround movies (HT) with the Room Perfect calibration. It is a clear step up from the SSP 800 with its manual PEQ. The Lyngdorf MP-50 takes immersive surround sound from your favorite blockbuster movies to a whole new level with its Room Perfect engaged and when properly calibrated. Not to mention that the MP-50 supports Dolby Atmos & DTS-X which the SSP 800 lacks supports of.
These new surround formats brings a whole new different immersive surround sound experiences for movies.

I’m still waiting for my new MP-50 to arrive and can’t wait for it. That’s the only thing I swapped out in my dedicated HT room and the rest of the equipments remain the same.

So it appears that the hdmi module is an option on the 2170 and is not on all models. 

Also, in reviewing the 2170, I found an even lower cost option that appears to have very good reviews with the same options, the ARCAM SR250!