Best All time 5.1 Pre/Pro

I’m working on upgrading my Linn AV5103 Pre/Pro, and am considering several units available. First, let me say I don’t need HDTV Switching, that is already taken care of. Second, I only want 5.1 surround, no need for more advanced formats other than DTS. The speakers/amps are all Linn, 7xAV5105’s, all active to 4xAV5140’s and one AV5120 as a center channel, AV5150 sub. I love the amp/speakers, but would like to change out the pre/pro, for several reasons, the second delay locking on to digital signals is annoying. Love the sound, but it has no multichannel inputs.

I’ve got several units I’m considering, and would love more input as to recommended units…

Several things I’ve considered are;

1) Cal Audio SSP 2500
2) Theta Casablanca I/II with superior DAC’s
3) Meridian 8 series…though probably out of my price point..
4) Proceed PAV/PDSD…still love the classics..
5) EAD theater Master 8000
6) Chiro 800/5.1
7) Classe SSP-75

I don’t particularly like Lexicon…to digital for me, and don’t like the harshness of Bryston/ B&K (probably annoyed several folks putting these two together but…)

I’m curious what else you all would recommend…….5.1 channel inputs are a big plus….though this system is mostly used for HT.

Well, I've heard a number of high-end 5.1 pre/pros, and I think the Bryston SP-1 compares very well to the best. Is it the best? I really can't answer that question, but it certainly has met all of my expectations for a top-notch pre/pro (with analog bypass, 20-year warranty, etc.).
what about all of linn's new gear? the kinos etc just released at ces?
you can check it out on linn's site under press releases or here

but from what you have listed the theta is the only choice.
I have had at one time or another # 1 , 2, 7 and three versions of the Lexicon processors and when I put the meridian 861 in the system , I never looked back. If you do not like the " digital " character of the Lex then the Meridian is about as opposite in tonal color as you can get. Natural and non - fatiguing . I rant on and on about this processor in many posts but it is something that I can not stop praising as it is simply that good. IMO of course.
so you need multi channel intputs?...just want to make sure.
By the way, as someone who's personally worked for 5 high end audio stores over the past 15 years, I mostly whole-hartedly agree with your assesment of Lexicon and Bryston! my they always sounded synthesized, digital, and processed...and rather non-musical basically. I've much prefered the sonics overall of the likes of the Krell, Aragon, EAD, Classe, amd similar AV pre/pro's!. The Meridian I always thought was a pinch bellow some of the best digital AV pre/pro's for some reason. While I loved most all of Meridians amp's, preamps, CD player's and such, I never cared for their speakers or pre/pro's!..maybe it's just me. But then all the people I knew personally who sold the stuff, felt about the same way, and really didn't own any of their stuff.
As far as used processors go for 5.1, if you're after audiphle grade sonics from the pre/pro, I think you could also consider the excellent Aragon Soundstage if you need multi channel in's! I owned that piece, and it was superb overall from the digital connection! also had dirrect analog pass throughs for more sonic purity from analog sources/connections...very nice. Also, the Classe SSP60/75 are excellent, and might be your ticket. The Soundstage can be had at around $1000=1200 used I think.
If you need sometihng like the newer Dolby Pro II, Neo 6, and junk, you need newer..but personally I'd just assume playback in 2 channel for basic stereo movies and I value sonics over multiple speakers if it's a sonic sacrifice. And it's hard to baat the overall sonic ability of the unit's I mentioned above, including your sellections mostly.
Anway, thought my input might help. Good luck
You might want to add the Anthem AVM20 to your list. Very musical on both 2ch and surround.

Good luck,
I'm with Exertfluffer in recommending the Aragon Soundstage. I love its sound, user-friendliness, and excellent value at today's used prices ($1400 or less).
Of the units on your list... I've only had experience with the EAD TM8000 and TM8800 (Pro versions).
These are extremely smooth sounding units.
They are not as detailed as the Krell HTS 7.1 that I used to own, but sound more natural/organic if that makes any sense. I feel the EAD is excellent with movies; smooths out harsh soundtracks, excellent steering of surround effects, and natural sounding voices. With music... it's a toss up. I miss some of the detail the Krell provided, but I also feel again the EAD is smoother. Instruments and voices sound more full-bodied and natural (IMHO).
If "warm" and "full-bodied" sound is your cup of tea... try the EAD. If a more cool and analytical approach is your choice.. I'd look elsewhere.
Good Luck
I THIRD the Aragon Soundstage. Inside the Soundstage sits Aragon's top-of-the-line Aurum 2 channel preamp...which still goes for $750 used on ebay even though it doesn't have a remote, but did retail 1900 in 1993 dollars.

I have used over 20 5.1 capable processors before trying a stock Aragon Soundstage and new Aragon Stage One about a year ago. I ended up getting the $800 digital upgrade to the Soundstage and have been very happy with my movies and music.
The Integra Research RDC-7. At a list of $4500.00, it is pound for pound the undisputed, undefeated , Heavyweight champion of the World. Regards, Michael Buffer.
The Cal Labs CL-2500 SSP is one fine sounding processor but it doesn't have a 5.1 input. You might check into the Fosgate FAP-T1 or T1+.
How does Meridian G 68 stack up?
I have owned four of the above mentioned processors, and found each to have their own personalities. Please bear in mind that I used the processors purely for movies, as I have a large Cello system for music. The Cal SSP-2500 is a VERY nice sounding unit: very natural and not at all "digital" sounding. My primary reason for parting with the unit was that Cal was bought up by Sonic Blue, and the few guys left at the company didn't know anything about the product - too bad, it was a great machine (it ran very hot). The Aragon Soundstage has a wonderful reputation, but I was never impressed with it. I felt it lacked dynamics, and always sounded "mushy". The Theta Casa Nova seemed to be a fairly decent machine, but suffers from sounding a bit "over-processed" and digital, and it is definately the most difficult machine to operate thats out there. My "current" processor is the Integra Research RDC-7. This is surprisingly a very nice sounding unit. Very dynamic and natural, not at all a "digital" sound. For the money (used about $2400) it's a steal. My only fault with it is that the buttons on the front panel are impossible to read in dim lighting (they should have put LED's in the display above the buttons), and the lights around the buttons are too bright when watching movies. Having said that, when you consider all the bells & whistles you do get with the unit (including a lip-sync adjustment that very few other processors have, but should...), the RDC-7 is my current favorate. Ken G.
YOu know in thinking about it, considering "Kgproperties" assesment of the Soundstage (Aragon), I do seem to remember that it was indeed a bit soft on dyamics compared to others. Infact, I remember that I ended up keeping my Acurus Act 3 for that very reason! The Act 3 was more dynamic than the soundstage, if a bit noiser with noise floor. HOwever in my room/set up, it was not an issue, and I chose the sonics of the ACT3. Yes, the Aragon was slighly wamish sounding, and a bit slow compared to some others, esecailly the sonically gorgeous Krell digitally!
I've also heard the Proceed AVP was more dynamic, if a little dry sounding. Also, assesments of the CAL are about right as well. Infact, the more pre'pro's I listen to (haven't heard the Integra), the more I like the Krell pieces for pre/pro's!..very detailed, clear, and dynamic!!!!!...very much so.
Thank you all for the input!!! I'm still shopping around, and trying to decide if I really want to go with multichannel music...I've been very happy with my current system (Linn 5103, 4x5140's, 5120 and 5150, all powered actively by 7x 5105's).....don't even remind me about setting this system up, or like last weekend moving it around! It's an all day affair... I do miss the Ikemi I had, but sold it for various reasons I now regret.

As for the recommendations....

1) I've had Aragon equipment before (24K pre/4004MkII) was a little bright for my liking, that may have improved, but I found such an improvement in my system when I went to Linn amps and then pre/pro (had various speakers before but ended up with the 5140's as I already had the 5120 and loved the center, that started the Linn pursuit that led me to where I am now)

2) I'm somewhat interested in the Cal as it sounds from all my reading to have a sound that is what I like. I'm slightly concerned buying a pre/pro that may be difficult to repair, should anything happen to it, and it doesn’t have 5.1 inputs….which after reconsidering, I think I would just keep my 5103 if I’m not going to go multichannel and buy a better source. Besides I still have 3.5 years of warranty on the 5103.

3) I'm surprised no one had anything good to say about the Theta...

4) The EAD and Classe’ are still high on the list, having listened to the Classe’ SSP 75, might go that's really a nice piece.

5) I haven’t heard the Integra…I’ll need to go look for that one.

I’ll keep looking and see where it goes from here……..

No , No, No after all of this , you are definetly going multi channel. We know where you live and you better start getting those 6 extra quality cables ready or you will get a visit from the Agon police.
I've have a Lexicon MC-1 in my downstairs system and a EAD TM-8800 in my upstairs system. Not really fair to compare the two...because the MC-1 is an old product...and the TM8800pro is brand new with the latest dacs etc. The sonics of the EAD products, in my view, are hard to beat. Workmanship is amazing.
The only mistake made in my setup is the black B&K ref.30 sandwiched between my EAD powermaster1000 and TheatervisionP. I still may find the cash go with the wall of silver. EAD for me.
I've had a chance now to put the TM8800pro through some paces...and now that EAD has worked out some of the expectable initial "bugs"....I can tell you that this piece is simply amazing in terms of sonics. For the first time ever...i'm considering breaking down my preserved 2 channel path (Wadia 270se modified by Great Northern Sound -> Genesis Digital Lens -> Apogee Big Ben -> TacT RCS 2.0s -> Apogee Big Ben -> dCS Purcell -> dCS Delius -> Placette dual mono preamp -> Innersound 800W monoblocks). The TM8800pro sounds great.
check ou Arcam! very good value, great sound
ead 8800pro.
Finest processor Ive owned.
I'e heard the Theta's and EAD. Theta's sounded as having more air at the treble and a greater soundstage though EAD was no slouch, either

Specifically, which models did you compare? The reason I ask is that there has been tangible evolution in the sound of the Thetas and the EADs. For example, the EAD Theatermaster 8800pro sounds SIGNIFICANTLY better than the 8000pro. Similarly, while I haven't heard it yet....i would wager that the Casablanca III sounds much better than the Casablanca II. So it is very hard to compare processors at this level unless you are comparing apples to apples.

I would LOVE to see a review of the 8800pro to the Casablanca III. Of course, there price points are different too.

Having owned one, the Classe SSP75 is a *VERY* good sounding piece. However, I don't think I could recommend it, as it proved to be quite unreliable. I thought I just had an early unit that was an outlier, but when I sold mine I got several notes from other owners asking to compare experiences...

Somehow I had the nerve (foolishness?) to replace the SSP75 with an SSP60. I've now had it for about 9 months, and it has been bulletproof, so it seems that they've got it sorted now. The SSP60 is *almost* as good as the 75 - the main difference in my room is a slightly less silky smooth treble.

I have only heard the previous generation Theta, and I preferred the SSP75 to the Theta for a better soundstage.
I just got a Classe SSP-60 and love the analog pass through via the XlR inputs on two channel. Impressive.
Personally I could not live with the SSP75 because it has no pro logic II . I would not have believed this to be an inportant feature until I heard it on my previous Integra Research and cannot live w/o it when digital Movie channel flipping. I love Classe as a company, sometimes the first 100 or so releases of a product have a future fix {ususally for the power supply}. They are very upfront when you call them. So anyone buying new or used always get the serial number and check it out with Classe. I got a "steal price" on a new SSP-60, found out it was a unit prior to the power supply upgrade and the dealer shipped it to Classe and Classe upgraded the power supply at no additional charge.

Theta was Casbalanca III. EAD Theatremaster 8000 pro, unforuntately not the 8800 pro.
Never cared much for Meridian sound fields. It was far too BOSE-an for my particular tastes. It suceeded in blowing away the walls. It was big, bold & expansive to be sure. It just didn't "sound" convincing to me. I never managed to "suspend my disbelief".

However, I do agree that the Meridian "sound" doesn't suffer from digitalis, nor does it exhibit "pumping".

I was looking for steering stereographic rock solid imaging around the room as well to engulf the entire room. A more "there" there if you will. An elusive goal to be sure, but an enjoyably honorable quest.

I second your vote for a shootout between the Theta CasablancaIII and EAD Theatermaster 8800 Pro. However, I would like the throw the Krell HTS 7.1 into the mix as well. These three may be my short list once financing allows me to look into a pre/pro upgrade.
Henryhk: Thanks for clarifying that it was the 8000pro and not the 8800pro. I recently upgraded from the 8000pro to the 8800pro and found that the new dacs and circuit architecture of the 8800pro are far superior.

Tombowlus: I was deciding between the Theta, Krell, Bryston, and EAD. These are all quite excellent, but I decided on the EAD and am glad I did. I, too, would love to audition each of these in my current system for a direct a/b/c comparison. Maybe we can get Krell and Theta to send me reviewer samples of their processors for a blind shootout!!!!! :-)

I actually own the EAD:Standing Ovation. I probably won't upgrade until I find it necessary. Right now that's iff SACD catalog expands more to warrant an analog bypass, or if the industry creates HDVDs to make me upgrade from my LDs.
Well, after much consideration, I'm heading towards the EAD 8800 Pro, if all goes well, it will be here in a few months...... just can't get away with too many upgrades too fast without the wife getting some furniture or something!

Great'll love it. If I can help with setup or questions do not hesitate to contact me at

Welcome to the club. You wont be sorry.
I'm never sorry about upgrading! I just seem to skip a vacation......wait a minute, I'm off this week and home!

Oh yeah, that's what paid for the DV-50!

Guess I'll need to work for a few weeks again....

Thanks for all the help!
Well, some time later and I finally ended up with what I hope will be my long term pre/pro..

I bought a Meridian 861 v4.2.... This thing is amazing!!! Love the detail and smoothness, especially when mated to the Meridian G98 DH I got as well..

I guess I'll see if it stays my 'best' after some time...
Well, some time later...

Indeed. So why not give some details? Why not the EAD and why the Meridian...
I guess you are right... It has been a while!
Well, I was ready to take the plunge and buy the EAD, which interesting
enough I could have gotten new for less than some are trying to sell it for
now, then some other expenses came up, one thing led to another, and then
came the rumors, and eventual truth to the demise of EAD... Add to this my
frustration of having to buy a new pre/pro everytime formats change, and the
resulting loss in resale, I started to think it might be better in the long run to
buy something future proof. This left basically Meridian, Theta, and Tag
McLaren. The Theta sounds great, but they where nowhere near having the
six shooter out yet, and I couldn't get anywhere to hear the Tag stuff.

A nice raise came at the same time I found a sweet deal on the 861 v4 set up
as I'd like it.... Well, I took it figuring at least I would only have to pay for
updates, which at this level might be the same as the cost other pre/pro's,
but I was willing to take the plunge, and the wife OK'd it, so I did it. FWIW to
best utilize Meridian's digital link, I went ahead and bought a G98DH player
as well, I must say for now I am very happy with the combo, and the pre/pro
is so uber flexible that I doubt I will outgrow it any time soon, the room
correction is a plus as well.
BTW I also changed out the rest of the system to Proceed HPA 2 and 3 amps, and Canton Vento speakers, selling off the Linn gear.
Mr. Kennyt, I was browsing your previous threads and thought this amusing as it sounds eerily familiar. Thought you might enjoy it as well. Oh the good old single days :) Sooner or later we all fall.


07-12-01: Kennyt
OK, I'vve already got clothes there, don't worry, I'm not the marrying type (don't want kids so why would you?).

08-12-06: Kennyt
...Which at this level might be the same as the cost other pre/pro's,
but I was willing to take the plunge, and the wife OK'd it, so I did it.
Thanks for the reality check Snipes!

I got a good one though!