Best AV processors for under $10K


Looking for AV processor that takes care of best of both worlds (audiophile 2 channel and multichannel for movies). I have used Bryston SP2.0 and loved it's two channel sound but it is outdated for video. Classe SSP800 is one option but would like to hear what other options are out there. Also, internal DAC must be top notch for 2 channel.
urfi
A Theta Casablanca III will give the best of both worlds.
I second the Casablanca III.
Meridian G68 will be in that price range.
metn
You have a number of excellent choices:

Cary Cinema 12 around $5k comes with 32bit dacs and sounds fantastic very musical

Bryston SP 3 around $9.5k is the newer better version of what you have.

Anthem Statment D2V still great sounding, outstanding room correction and video processing, $8.5k
Hate to be contrarian -- and forgive me if you've already considered all of this -- but I might argue that "the best of both worlds" won't be found in a single box. (Actually, may be more than two worlds, two channel preamp, multi-channel preamp, two-channel DAC, multi-channel DACs, AND video switching...).

Rather than sink the whole budget into Classe/Theta/Meridian (or Krell, etc.), you could put < $2k-ish into something like an Integra AVP (which will give you HDMI connectivity and all the latest HT codecs) and then put the remainder into a top-flight two-channel preamp. Or split between a preamp and a stand-alone two-channel DAC. You could also run video straight to your display, rather than paying for broadcast-grade video switching in the AVP. I’ve always assumed that the “best of both worlds” was best achieved by running this type of hybrid system (with the main preouts from the AVP into a HT bypass on the two-channel pre for integration). Certainly more complicated, but coming from a professed gearhead an excuse for more boxes is always welcome….
Best of both can be had in the Marantz 8801 and in conjunction with an Oppo 105 is what i consider an Audiophile and Videophile dream setup! after sufficient burn in of both units one is easily satisfied with the 2/ch and multichannel performance of both they are indeed a killer combo! All inputs are covered xlr and hdmi 32 bit dac's in both units. As a test of the 8801's preamp abilities I ran the Oppo strait to my Parasound A21 which is sheer audio nirvana! and when using the 8801 in the chain the performance was very close indeed and given the fact of Audyssey XT32 multi ch is unlike anything I've heard, sounds glowing? yeah!, but it is what it is. I'll say this the performance in this setup is the current SOTA!
For me, the question is complicated by your preferred source material and whether the subs stay on-line for two channel listening. IME, subs (virtually) always sound better when managed in the digital domain (including room correction). If you keep the subs for music and your sources are all digital, then IMO the "music" side of your system should sit within the digital "cinema" side.

In this case, I'd choose a pre-pro primarily for it's software, the impact of which will IMHO swamp the benefits of purist analog construction. I like Audyssey xt32, but Meridien and Anthem's ARC are highly regarded in many circles. Bottom line: In this case I prefer Onkyo/Integra to Theta (and its software limitations) for music.

But....

If you lose the subs for music and/or prefer analog source material then it's a different kettle of fish. I suspect that you might be best off with Mezmo's suggestion of 2 front ends: $2k worth of Onkyo/Integra for video and the balance for a high end analog 2 channel preamp.

Just MHO.

Marty
Very good points and this is why I consider the 8801/Oppo105 a killer combo , I run my mains fullrange with no sub at times for 2/ch sacd,usb or redbook playback because my room is well treated and the performance is stellar and having said that now that I have a pre/pro with XT32 on board I have the best of both worlds at the touch of a button prior to the addition of the 8801 the 2 box solution did sound best but now unnecessary in my case, it even sounds stellar doing 2/ch mains set to small and using Audyssey with the sub at an 80hz crossover! having this kind of processing power is what its all about!
jdub39,

A bug in the Cary 11a causes it to not distinguish between LPCM and DSD via HDMI, so it provides no bass management with digital input. I presume the 8801 distinguishes the two and does provide bass management with LPCM. Is that correct? Can the 8801 be set to bypass XLR input from the 105, so you can listen to the analog output of the 105 rather than that of the 8801? If so, that does seem like a very nice setup.

db
Dbphd
Yes it does bass management for DSD and LPCM and Audyssey as well for both, For the XLR inputs there is a processed by the 8801 via XLR inputs and a "Direct" and "Pure Direct" on the XLR inputs for the 105's Sabre dac's to be heard with the pure direct disabling the video as well as processing in the 8801 and while of course not fully balanced it gets the job done well.
I have to agree with Mezmo. If you want to have the best of both worlds you really need to get HT equipment with some type of passthrough and use 2 channel equipment for audio. I've never heard any type of theatre equipment that can compete with really good 2 channel gear. I had a Meridian 861 in my system and while it was very good for movies, it was easily bettered buy stereo equipment that cost far less. Also, for 2 channel, if you pick your equipment well and set it up properly, you really don't need any of the room correction features that HT products offer. Doing so compromises the sound quality of your other components.
I have even used an AVR (Denon 4810) to handle HDMI and use the pre outs to a stereo preamp with HT bypass

Am upgrading the Denon to a Marantz 8801 since I am already using external power amps for all channels anyway and this will support 3D HDMI and DTS Neo X on my 11 speakers and 3 subs
JDUB39 - does the Marantz do bass management for DSD by changing it to LPCM? My guess is it converts to LPCM. Most people who use DSD do not want it converted to LPCM.
JDUB39 - does the Marantz do bass management for DSD by changing it to LPCM? My guess is it converts to LPCM. Most people who use DSD do not want it converted to LPCM.

While it will accept a native DSD via hdmi to add bass mngt it will convert the signal, but with Audyssey performing Rc in addition to that bass mngt my classical has taken a substantial increase in fidelity, my room is well treated and speakers well placed and I'm a DSD purist at heart and would primarily listen to the 2/ch sacd for that reason. But the 8801 is a powerful processor and can preserve that signal and produce stellar results in the room and most importantly at your listening position due to the better phase and time domain of the music , its indeed very impressive. I had the opportunity to run my Oppo 105 direct to my Halo A21 using Morrow Audio MA4 balanced cables ( dont do this if you like your preamp!) and while DSD was as analog sounding as I believe digital can get the 8801 in the chain proved its salt as 2/ch preamp not giving up much in SQ compared to the 105 direct to the amp which says alot. Coming from such a comparison to DSD via hdmi multich sacd with Audyssey engaged can produce sonics I never new possible which again says alot of 8801's implementation of Audyssey with no perceived signal alteration with even better harmonic structure and tonality! there are things in a performance of familiar reference sacd's in the mix that become engaging as you hear the hall and the brass and strings are heard from there beginning, middle and ending sounds and when that tympani strike in such performances as Ivan fisher's Mahler's 1st and 2nd sacd's chime in, one could bat the eyes from the increase of dynamics and fidelity, sorry to run long in this reply but this is what this hobby and pursuit is all about and I'm that much closer to the performance than ever before!
As I understand it, DSD does not convey information for bass management; you need to convert to LPCM if you want bass management. The Oppo 105 can use either mode to achieve analog output. I use LPCM so the analog output from the 105 has bass management. The inputs of my Cary 11a are set to bypass, so the Oppo does the processing.

As I read a reply I got from Oppo service, the crossover is not operable with balanced (XLR) stereo output -- full range is sent to the mains. That's what I use for most music. Fortunately, my mains have LF extension to 20 Hz. The crossover is active for unbalanced (RCA) analog 7.1 output.

db
Dbphd wrote:
As I understand it, DSD does not convey information for bass management; you need to convert to LPCM if you want bass management.
No format conveys information about bass management. Some have an LFE channel but that's not bass management.
Kal, what is bass management? Are you saying the sub is only activated by LFE? What's the role of crossover? I thought when you set a crossover frequency in the Oppo menu, frequencies below the crossover would be sent to the SW output with LPCM conversion but not if the signal is maintained as DSD. With digital output, presumably setting a crossover in the processor menu sends frequencies below the crossover to the sub output of the processor. I've seen few 2.1 or 5.1 SACDs with an explicit LF channel. So please inform us. What is bass management?

db
Dbphd - I am no expert, but here goes anyway. Corrections welcome.

Bass management is just what you think it is. It simply separates the frequencies into separate channels, as you describe. If you set your mains to crossover at 80hz, the frequencies below 80 go to the sub and those above 80 go to the mains.

The issue Kal is addressing is where that frequency information is contained in a digital signal. Each digital signal for a given channel is just a single amplitude number (usually a 16 bit number), with 44,100 of these numbers per second for CDs or 48,000 (and some 96,000) for Blu Ray sound tracks. Each individual number does not have a frequency associated with it. The frequency information comes when analyzing a series of these digital numbers. You can mathematically determine the frequency of a set of LCPM numbers by doing a mathematical transformation of the numbers. The digital filter in the receiver/player does these calculations and reconstructs the digital signal in such a way as to remove the low freqencies from the digital signal for the mains and add it to the subwoofer digital signal. All of this is done on the digital data, before it is converted to analog.

There are chips available that do these conversions for LPCM signals. The manufacturer just selects which one to use or has a special one made for them. The different "filters" that are available in some DACS, for example, as just different designs of these digital filters, somewhat like the different analog crossover designs found in speakers.

Similarly,time delays can be added in the digital data to account for the distance of the listener from the speakers and room correction can added.

Similar chips are not generally available for DSD signals, which consist of 1 bit of data, but at 2.8 MHz (2,822,000 samples per second), or 64 times as fast as CD (44.1 KHz) signals. (128 DSD is also becoming available) To do bass management, time delay and room correction on DSD signals they are typically converted to LPCM signals, usually at 88,200 samples per second, and then standard LPCM digital filter chips can be used.

As far as I know, there is no inherit reason, other than maybe computational speed, why a digital filter could not be developed for DSD signals. When SACD was initially designed by Sony they did not develop such a chip and assumed people would just send the full signal to each speaker. Of course, in the mastering, some of the low frequencies were already moved to the subwoofer channel. So, it was up to the mastering engineer to do any bass management.

Many DSD users are purist, who think that changing the signal to LPCM degrades the sound. Jdub39, on the other hand, thinks the 8801 bass management and room correction is a great improvement over the straight DSD sound.

That is a long winded overview. Fortunately, there are lot of very good engineers who can make all this magic happen. The mathematics of it is pretty complicated.

Hope I got most of that correct.
03-09-13: Dbphd
Kal, what is bass management? Are you saying the sub is only activated by LFE? What's the role of crossover? I thought when you set a crossover frequency in the Oppo menu, frequencies below the crossover would be sent to the SW output with LPCM conversion but not if the signal is maintained as DSD. With digital output, presumably setting a crossover in the processor menu sends frequencies below the crossover to the sub output of the processor.
You are confusing the issue. If you set up bass management in the Oppo, you have added it to the PCM signals and the processor cannot distinguish what is LFE and what is rerouted bass.

I've seen few 2.1 or 5.1 SACDs with an explicit LF channel. So please inform us. What is bass management?
The .1 in 5.1/2.1/etc. is LFE. It has nothing to do with bass management. LFE is a distinct channel. Bass management is a process which you describe above and is independent of LFE (although both come out of the subwoofer). Both 5.0 and 5.1 recordings can be bass managed although only the latter has an LFE channel.
Dtc,
Your explanation comports exactly with my understanding, with the one caveat that the essence of DSD, Direct Streamed Digital, is purist, so the digital signal is unlikely to be manipulated.

Kr4 (Kal),
I don't understand your first paragraph; your second paragraph comports with my understanding.

Audiooracle,
I think the Cary Cinema 12 has the same problem as the 11a in that it does not distinguish between DSD and PCM so there is no bass management with digital input even if you select PCM. The 11a, and presumably the 12, is a fine sounding processor that, according to Michael Fremer's review, needs no passthrough to a separate preamp.
Many DSD users are purist, who think that changing the signal to LPCM degrades the sound. Jdub39, on the other hand, thinks the 8801 bass management and room correction is a great improvement over the straight DSD sound.

That is a long winded overview. Fortunately, there are lot of very good engineers who can make all this magic happen. The mathematics of it is pretty complicated.

Just to clarify my stance here, I'm a DSD purist at heart and for 2/ch DSD I use no conversion to PCM, the comparison I was speaking of are on the merits of taking that DSD signal and preserving its sonic merits when its converted to PCM for additional processing by the 8801 with Audyssey in particular for multich playback of the same source. Its the listening experience at the heart of my opinion and the trade off of that conversion to PCM with the additional processing out weighs listening to straight DSD in terms of sonics and sheer "High fidelity" which is our pursuit, this is a first for me and as you say " there are lot of very good engineers who can make all this magic happen. The mathematics of it is pretty complicated".

Its a great time to be an Audiophile !
Jdub39 - Not sure I followed that. Are you saying you listen to 2 channel DSD with no conversion but you also take your 2 channel DSD and convert it to 5.1 and add room correction? And that you prefer the converted 5.1 with room correction? If so, what do you use to get to 5.1 Sorry if I misunderstood.
03-09-13: Dbphd
As I understand it, DSD does not convey information for bass management; you need to convert to LPCM if you want bass management.
It comes down to semantics. It is incorrect to say that DSD does not convey information for bass management since that implies that there are codes in it to guide the application of bass management. That is not true. All that is contained in it is the music information as apportioned by the producer. By the same token, neither do PCM sources convey information for bass management.

Bass management is applied by the user and, in the current state of the art, consumer products are limited to applying bass management to PCM signals (although it is possible to do this in DSD). If you apply bass management to PCM (or to PCM converted from DSD), you are re-allocating the signals to each channel differently than they were and you might say these arrangements are bass-managed but there is still no information for bass management.
Dtc, I was referring to the stereo vs.5.1 the mix of the same disc.For the stereo version on an given sacd I prefer pure DSD but if that same disc has a 5.1 mix I prefer to covert it to PCM with Audyssey!
Got it. That makes sense. Thanks.
If you are just using the SSP for movies as you're suggesting, you are indeed far better off getting a competent SSP in the 2-3K range, and spend the rest on a top notch 2 channel DAC/Preamp (for ease of integration, the DAC/PReamp should have an analog input to be used as HT bypass).

You could acquire something like the Bel Canto 3.5vb DAC (external powersupply optional), which has an analog input. Better still would be to get the MSB analog DAC and get the analog input option and do the same. You'd be a bit over budget, but on 2 channel this would beat the crap out of ANY SSP you can get below 10K (and above 10K as well for that matter), and for movies your 2-3K processor would be good enough.

Another options is to get a SSP+DAC+Preamp with HT bypass, but three boxes my be a bit too much....
Jdub39 wrote, "For the stereo version on an given sacd I prefer pure DSD but if that same disc has a 5.1 mix I prefer to covert it to PCM with Audyssey"

Doesn't that require changing the Oppo menu each time you switch between stereo and 5.1, or can you elect to convert DSD to PCM in the Marantz 8801, assuming you use digital input?

db
I think that is correct. You would need to switch in setup menu.
My Oppo 105 is set to DSD for sacd output (stereo default) as the 8801 can accept a native DSD bitstream over hdmi from there I can leave it un touched or convert it to PCM and apply bass mgnt and Audyssey. I also use the Balanced outs from the Oppo 105 to the 8801's balanced inputs and I use the 8801's Pure Direct mode ( its an assignable to what ever mode you choose I use CD))for 2/ch DSD no need to go back into the menu and switch because I use hdmi for multi/ch and xlr for the analog outs on the 105 for 2/ch, so once setup its done!
You can also toggle between the stereo and 5.1 tracks on an sacd by using the Audio button on the Oppo 105, of course if I want the Oppo 105 to do the conversion I set it to LPCM instead of bitstream for hdmi out and the same applies in the 8801 you can still add Audyssey!
Since you like the SP2, how about Bryston's SP3?
NAD M15
Mcintosh 121

Those will hit the spot.
Thinking that the development of analog stereo preamps is much more stable than that of processors, I opted for Oppo 105 processing with pass-through to a Parasound JC-2 preamp. Stereo from the Oppo, a Sony 5400ES, and JC-3 phono stage go through the JC-2. Surround from the Oppo goes directly to the amps, SW to Velodyne SMS-1 that provides LF acoustic room correction for a pair of HGS-15s. The Oppo is set to output LPCM from SACDS; the Sony can output DSD.

db