Best AV receiver to use as an AV pre amp


I want to get another AV receiver, but I want one that has a really good pre section in it so I can also use it well for 2 channel music. I have a Bryston 5B ST that I use for the front 3 channels(and for 2 channel music), but I want to use the internal amps in the receiver for the surround channels only (hence why I can't use *just* a preamp).
I am using my Denon AVR 2808 as the pre now with the Bryston and it is OK, but I feel is really holding it back.
Any suggestions on what would be a go AV receiver that has a great preamp section in it ?
dallyd31
I wouldn't do it. You need a really good preamp for stereo. There's no way around it. Not only would I not use the preamp section of a receiver, I wouldn't use a HT preamp as well. I've tried it before and they just don't sound that good for music. My advice would be to work around it or build a 2nd system.
I agree with Zd too. Sadly, the 2 channel preamp sections in most AVR's are an afterthought - they were designed for multi channel use with their room correction facilities. Not stereo music. I have yet to hear an AVR in "pure direct" mode that I was impressed with.

Consider a separate 2 channel preamp with a Home Theater Bypass feature. This will allow seamless integration with an AVR and your power amp all in one system. I use a Parasound 2100 preamp in my configuration. Relatively inexpensive and brings my 2 channel listening up to a whole new level. There are many manufacturers offereing HT Bypass preamps all the way up to five figures. If you can fit another box in your installation, check them out. Could be the solution to your problem.
I assume your question is budget driven at least to some extent. If so, "get separates" isn't a helpful suggestion. I'd take a look at reviews of some Marantz mid to upper mid priced AVRs. Marantz generally does a better job on music quality than most and the reviews seem to bear that out. Good luck.
Don't listen to the 2-channel bigots, they'll tell you that all multi-channel receivers are no good. Nonsense.

Most of the better-quality Denons, Marantzs, Onkyos, Arcams and such are really quite good. And when you factor in the fact that they will also provide you with bass management and room correction capabilities (Audyssey, ARC, etc.), you can obtain very good sound indeed with an AVR...

-RW-
How about a 2 channel pre-amp with home theater bypass? I think that would be a better investment that another receiver. Changing between Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo is probably not going to make much difference. Many think Marantz receivers are a step up for 2 channel. I like NAD, but to get room correction and the other bells and whistles runs the price up quickly. You should consider keeping the Denon for theater and a getting good quality 2 channel pre.
If recommending a 2 channel preamp for 2 channel stereo makes me a bigot, I'm completely fine with it. People that don't have any clue as to what they are talking about always get mad or become nasty when they see or hear something they don't understand. Had someone shown the OP enough respect to, at least, READ his post, they would find that he already has a pretty good Denon HT receiver and is not happy with it. Heaven forbid!

I won't apologize for giving an honest answer. I give recommendations based on real experience; not guesses and magazine reviews. Two of the better processors I've had over the years was a Classe SSP75 and a Meridian 861. Most people wound agree that both of those aren't too bad, as far as HT preamps go. For 2 channel stereo, neither one could come close to my Ayre 5 preamp. For music, it beat the processors in every single area I could come up with. Better yet, its a fraction of the price.

Dallyd31,

Sorry to be going off like this, but its becoming very common to see people that have certain "issues", posting irresponsibly. The worst part of it is, they sometimes actually talk people into buying equipment based on their, less than adequate, understanding of audio equipment.

One last thing that I should have put in my original post. Don't take my word, or anyone else's, for what you should or shouldn't buy. Listen to what everyone has to say and then go listen to some equipment. You'll find out really quick who knows what they are talking about. More importantly, though, you will too. With enough hard work and experience, you can elevate yourself to bigot status, as well. I bet you can't wait.
>> The worst part of it is, they sometimes actually talk people into buying equipment based on their, less than adequate, understanding of audio equipment. <<

If you are referring to me, you do not know what you are talking about. I have had very good 2-channel systems for over 40 years, and some very good surround-sound systems for the past 10 years. And, I sold hi-end hi-fi for 3-4 years. So, I kinda know this stuff.

Secondly, YOU did not read his post correctly. Or you have trouble with reading comprehension.

The OP actually posted "I want to get another AV receiver, but I want one that has a really good pre section in it so I can also use it well for 2 channel music. "

The latest crop of good-quality AVRs satisifes his needs quite well. And he could do this for about $900 - 3,000 - no budget was stated. If he wants an AVR, the ones I suggested are quite good...

-RW-
"If you are referring to me, you do not know what you are talking about. I have had very good 2-channel systems for over 40 years, and some very good surround-sound systems for the past 10 years. And, I sold hi-end hi-fi for 3-4 years. So, I kinda know this stuff."

I know for certain that you never worked in my store. I've fired people with a lot more experience than you.

"Secondly, YOU did not read his post correctly. Or you have trouble with reading comprehension.

The OP actually posted "I want to get another AV receiver, but I want one that has a really good pre section in it so I can also use it well for 2 channel music. "

Actually I did. Thats why I recommended a 2 channel preamp instead of another receiver.

"The latest crop of good-quality AVRs satisifes his needs quite well. And he could do this for about $900 - 3,000 - no budget was stated. If he wants an AVR, the ones I suggested are quite good..."

Thats just plain arrogant. Satisfies his needs quite well? Maybe you should let him make up his own mind. Not only that, how much experience do you have with this stuff that you can look at his $800 Denon receiver and then tell him to get something from $900 to 3000? The analog preamp sections of these products don't change much as the price goes up; if at all. He could go out and buy another Denon for $1500 or more and have very little to no change, whatsoever, to the line stage portion of the receiver. I don't see that as very good advice when someone is looking to better his 2 channel sound and is happy with his theatre setup. Not only that, this is not just a complete waste of money on the preamp section, but the amp as well. In spending more money on a better receiver, a huge portion of the increase in cost goes to the amp section. How well will the amp section of a high end Chinese receiver compare to the OP's Bryston amp? Do I really even have to answer that one? It will be a toy compared to the Bryston.

As I said before, I think its a complete waste of money to get a better receiver. The things that will make the receiver better will be of little to no benefit in improving 2 channel sound. Sorry Rlwainwright, but I see now why you only worked in the industry for 3-4 years. I can't wait to hear you invent for a reply, though.
If the OP still wants suggestions for an AVR with a great(open to interpretation) 2-channel preamp section,I would highly suggest an NAD T775HD, or the T785HD. The T775HD would probably be the better choice because with the Bryston amp driving the LCR, the more powerful T785HD's amp section might be redundant for just the surrounds. Therefore, the T775HD might be a great fit. He could go for the T765HD also if somewhat budget conscience.

Bill
Thanks folks. Space and budget contraints(mostly space) dictate that I really don't have the option of running a separate 2 channel system..I need to use a system that will work for HT and 2 channel. I listen to music a home theatre in the same room and there just isn't enough space to have two setups. I have upgraded my components to high quality peices (using a Bryston amp for the front left, right and center instead of using the receivers internal amps as an example)to try and maximize the sound quality for all purposes. Just wondering if there is a better option than the Denon 2808ci that I am currently using...that is reasonably prices.
The NAD is one I have thought of. What about the Anthem ?
"The NAD is one I have thought of. What about the Anthem ?"

I have heard really good things about the Anthem MRX receivers, both from users and reviewers. Their ARC auto EQ is where it's at(as well as Audyssey MultEQ XT and XT32). I have no personal experience with Anthem so I can't completely endorse them but I can with NAD receivers and their pre/pros.

There are some pretty good deals on a couple of the NAD receivers here on Audiogon.

http://app.audiogon.com/listings/receivers-nad-t765hd-home-theater-receiver-with-manufacturer-s-warranty-free-shipping-2013-01-02-miscellaneous-01060-florence-ma

http://app.audiogon.com/listings/receivers-nad-t775-hd-home-theater-receiver-with-manufacturer-s-warranty-2013-01-02-miscellaneous-01060-florence-ma

Also a couple of the Anthem MRX-500's are here for sale but they are in Canada with no implied warranty.

Bill
Reading comprehension capabaility seems to be at a minimum here, with the 2 channel bigots more than a little unsmart.

Let's start with the title: "Best AV receiver to use as an AV preamp" Well duh, where's the 2 channel (or stereo) bit?

He wants to use the outboard amp for front three channels and the internal amps for the rear. Again, you snooty schumks, where's the 2 channe; bit coming from.

Maybe time to actually READ and UNDERSTEND the question before you let your bias and bigotry show through.

Anyway, to the OP - sorry for the nitwit crowd, and there's plenty of Integra's and higher end pieces that should serve you well.
A 2 channel pre-amo is just one extra component not a separate system but if you do not have room it for then I would consider Marantz and NAD. Even the NAD 748 would probably sound better than the Denon, altgough it does not have room correction.
Frankly, I don't understand the personal, ego driven attacks which too often surface on this forum. Like everyone, I have opinions, but the value of a forum, for me, is to learn, gather information and share, not to step on other people. Speaking only for myself, this is why I share very little on Audiogon and prefer more collegial venues. This particular thread should NOT have been controversial or an "outlet" for disagreeable personalities. Knock it off. Cheers.
Thanks all. But, the point of this thread was to try ands get some ideas on what people thought was a better AV receiver than my current Denon to use in my situation described above....or will they all sound about the same ans stick with the Denon.
The NAD was mentioned...as was the Marantz in passing. Are these truly better options than my Denon 2808 ? Any other suggestion that folks have had success with that can offer any feedbacl. ?
Daalyd31,

I agree with some of the other posters that, if you really want better 2-channel sound, you're going to be disappointed by just switching to another AVR. You may get marginally better,or atleast different, sound from a different avr. But, to acheive your goal of a significant improvement in 2-channel performance, it will require a good dedicated 2-channel preamp with ht passthru.
Your Bryston amp, paired with a nice ss or tubed preamp with ht passthru, is your best chance at acheiving very good 2 channel performance. I would recommend asking a local high-end retailer if you could home test a couple prior to purchasing to see if they meet your needs. Ideally, you'd want to try out a ss and a tubed version.
BTW, I don't consider myself a 2-channel snob, I just know through experience that this solution worked for me when searching for a similar solution. Good luck.
I've been pretty impressed with the sound quality I am getting from my Onkyo TX-NR809 as pre-pro to my McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe RevA power amp. I get a really nice, defined soundstage on both music and movies. I run a 4.0 system, and I use the Onkyo internal amps for the surrounds. It also sounds pretty darn awesome on SACD and DVD-Audio via HDMI.

As to comparing to different receivers, my 809 replaced a Yamaha RX-V1800 in the system, and I immediately noted better clarity and dynamics with the Onkyo. The newest receivers do have the latest DACs, which I do think makes a difference.
Folks

I really appreciate all of the input..really I do. I value others opinions and take others advice as very valuable. But I need to re-iterate, once again, that for various reasons (several in fact) separate 2 channel gear is NOT an option, as mentioned a few times in previous posts. I don't mean to sound unappreciative, but I as mentioned twice...it just won't work for several reasons and is not an option at this point.
If you have some input on an upgrade to my HT receiver, please, let me know, I want to hear it. Heck, if you think that my Denon will provide me with about as good as it will get in my scenario, please let me know that as well. But I am looking for options with an HT receiver. I do appreciate and value the input.
Sorry to sound frustrated, but...
The Onkyo PR-SC5509 is a bargain. Wenn you use it with Audessey pro there is nothing to beat. Denon, Nad, Marantz and even Bryston are all 2-dimensional brands. These Brands are not capable of depth, only a little max. This means almost all instruments and voices are on one line. I call this standard audio. Depth is the most exiting part in highend audio. I have an extreme 3d holographic image. Now voices are even more open then wenn I used and owned the Pass labs XP-20.
Dallyd, sorry for your frustration but I believe there is a misconnect in this thread. It of course started by you asking for an AVR with a preamp section for 2 CHANNEL MUSIC. So, some of us suggested that you consider a 2 channel PREAMP with HT Bypass; only ONE component. You will still use your Denon, Bryston, et al. However, twice you came back and said separate 2 channel GEAR is not an option. I think some of us are construing the word GEAR as plural. Our mistake and we come back again with the same suggestion. We just want to be sure you do not think we are talking about a separate 2 channel system.

I am going to assume that what you mean is that you cannot even add another component so using an AVR as your preamp is the only viable option. Therefore to address your specific question about what AVR's perform best for 2 channel only, I would agree with others who suggested NAD and would add that the ARCAM's I have heard may even better, especially the AV400 on up. Finally you can consider auditioning Cambridge Audio AVR's too. You now have three brands to listen to with, in my opinion ARCAM being the best.

To consider the mainstream AVRs, Pioneer, Yamaha, Onkyo, etc , you might as well keep your Denon. I not believe this these will give you what you are looking for. I hope this helps and provides you exactly what you need.

Really - READ HIS REQUEST.

Noble100, what's not to understand? HE ISN'T INTERESTED IN 2 CHANNEL!!!! GAWD. Really, how thick can this forum get?

Sorry Dallyd31, usually this crowd is quite self-impressed but rarely this thick.

So, trying to help a bit, the Integra receivers, a bunch of the Yammi's, Denon. Try AVforum.com - they might have a chance of understanding your question.
Anybody spent any time with the new Anthem receivers ?
Post removed 
"The Onkyo PR-SC5509 is a bargain."

That I agree with totally.

"Wenn you use it with Audessey pro there is nothing to beat."

I agree with mostly but would use "difficult to beat".

"Denon, Nad, Marantz and even Bryston are all 2-dimensional brands. These Brands are not capable of depth, only a little max. This means almost all instruments and voices are on one line."

I have not used Bryston but disagree that NAD is 2 dimensional. My experience with my NAD pre-pro/Acurus amps combination is a huge deep and wide soundstage with great seperation and yes a lot of max.

Bill
I also experienced the same thing with my NAD T773 receiver since OP wants another receiver.

Bill
Snofun3, maybe you are the one who should read the OP's original request. Very first sentence. I have cut and pasted as follows:

"I want to get another AV receiver, but I want one that has a really good pre section in it so I can also use it well for 2 channel music."

His exact words; not ours. This is why most of us are talking about 2 channel and how to improve his listening.
Hope this helps and best regards.
The new series of NAD or not the best in sound anymore. I bought in 2008 the whole series what they had to offer were I worked at that moment. It was the wordt thing I ever did in audio. It lost all the battles with Primare, cambrigde and arcam. I was dissapointed in the harsh sound, poor focus and many amp's, surround amp's and cd player were broke within a few weeks. There was no brand with so many problems. I always give clients a few different brand to listen at. Nad was by far the worst brand we had. Wenn I did a comparisson witht the people of NAD they did not know what to say. I said: the peolple of NAD have to work harder to compeet again.
I've been using an Anthem MRX300 as a pre/pro for the last year. I've been happy with it, but I'm not super picky. For the main outs, everything is digitalized so room correction can be applied, so if you want a true direct pass-through, you have to use the second zone outputs. For $1k, I think I made a good choice.
"I want to get another AV receiver, but I want one that has a really good pre section in it so I can also use it well for 2 channel music."

Yes..I "want to get another AV rceiver with a good pre section"....so it also works "well for 2 channel music" Sorry for the confusion, but that seems pretty straight up. "another AV receiver".
I also mentioned twice that a separate 2 channel setup/preamp etc is not an option.

Sorry folks, but I though I was pretty clear. Sorry if somehow I wasn't. I do appreciate all of the help and suggestions though.
Dallyd31 - do you really understand that you can have a single 'setup' that does both HT and 2-channel?

This type of configuration does NOT mean having seperate rooms or separate speakers - it means a single 'setup' that does BOTH multi-channel music and 2-channel music with your existing AVR and speakers. It means adding a single component in your CURRENT system - it does NOT mean another 'setup'.
"Yes..I "want to get another AV rceiver with a good pre section"....so it also works "well for 2 channel music" Sorry for the confusion, but that seems pretty straight up. "another AV receiver".
I also mentioned twice that a separate 2 channel setup/preamp etc is not an option."

He wants another AVR that also does well with music. How much clearer does the OP have to be?

Bill
Yes Erik, I realize this. I realize it is not another setup. This is getting silly. I want another HT receiver, I have made this glaringly clear. Sorry to sound annoyed, but I am not sure how many times I have to try and clarify this. I have no room, nor no desire to add another peice of gear. They way my setup and my room and my space (and my wife) are...not that I need to explain...all dictate I have to use one HT RECEIVER.
All I am asking for is some suggestions on an HT receiver that may be a little better for the 2 channel music portion of my listening experience than the one I currently have.
I really didn't think that asking for some suggestions on receivers would be this difficult.
I used to have a pre-owned Cambridge Audio (CA) 540 v.1 AVR. I LOVED IT!

Broke due to issues with switching from stereo to DTS, could have something to do with the liar that sold it to me, but I still used it for 3 yrs, so I feel I got my $500 worth out of it.

I have the Denon 2805, a few years old but sounds pretty good. Nothing compared to the CA though.

Your quandry is very similiar to mine, don't worry, be happy, or search for that elusive increase in all things sonic. Mind you I ended up buying a Yaqin tube amp for my two channel listening, but this was well afer the CA went heaven

I am seriouly considering getting a new Cambridge AVR, I just loved the sound, very detailed, but not harsh. Could hear everything on Movies and SACD, much more so than my present 2805. Stereo sound was understandibly quite superior as well, gevin what CA is all about

There is a Cambridge Audio AVR on this site for sale for around $550, if this fellow was willing to ship to Canada I would buy it, but his ad says USA only.

Have not heard the Arcams, but they are very popular with the crowd that has money (which ain't me, which ain't me, I ain't no fortune son)
Here is a link to the 'gon listing.

I made him an offer just now, but no idea if he will ship to Canada, my loss could be your gain

Frankly, why am I even sending you this link, you will end up buying it, and I will be back to square one. But it sounds to me like you need some friends that actually listens to what you want...so here it is

http://app.audiogon.com/listings/processors-cambridge-audio-azur-640r-2013-02-01-home-theater-33407-west-palm-beach-fl
Hello Dallyd31,

For what it's worth, here's my humble opinion... Bear with me.

I compared a 17 yrs old Yamaha receiver (Y's top dog at the time) to Marantz 6006 driving 2 old KEF Reference model, biwired, 4 ohm speakers in a 16x21x8 room early in '12. I noticed a slight difference, I preferred the Marantz just a shade, but not enough to justify the $1100 price tag. I returned it. Both receivers weren't rated for 4 ohms. I felt something was missing. Next...

I'll skip the details... I ended up with running 2-ch USP-1 and XPA-3 from Emotiva with Oppo 95, to this day. I heard a difference and prefer this setup.

Given the brief and limited experience, I believe main stream receivers may not make a big difference on difficult speakers. My 4-ohms, 87 dB KEF's are difficult. I've searched the internet (stereophile, home theater, avsforum, home theater shack, audiogon, etc), I've decided I'll try Anthem and/or NAD the next time I'm looking for receivers or separates. I'll consider Marantz only for the pre/pro AV7005 or newer 7701.

BTW, try hometheatershack forum, I haven't come across nasty comments like on this forum. Keep it nice people.

Good luck.
If you must integrate, probably the best of both worlds is as hinted above, and that is use a high quality 2 channel preamp, using it's auxillary or bypass input to loop the L/R outs from a high quality n much more budget friendly AV receiver or pre/pro for the HT swiching dubties. This allows you to connecdt high quality CD player or pure sources to the 2 channel preamp, and shuts out the AV for 2 channel dubties all together. Then, your AV sources simply connect to the AV pre/receiver, and the L/R are simply passed through the 2ch pre's pass-through during multi/movies and such. (Even $200 HK AVR 354 on used market with EQ and latest DD/DTS HD Master audio will thrill your for HT dubties, fed to more powerful amps certainly!
If you simply strive for a higher end AV receiver to handle both music and movies, and you are after the purest 2 channel dubties possible from that, you'll typically find a bit of a compromise (if you can find one with dirrect bypass, you'll have some advantages with purity of sound), at least through the analog inputs.
That said, doing the latter route here, your best bet is typically a digital connection ,using the othewise very good quality dac's in the AV receivers these days! (all the digital processin the AV receiver/pre!) Another benefit here, especially wiht multi-ch dubties, is that you can get the EQ circuit involved in teh digital domain on many offerings these days! And believe me, most rooms need this assistance, badly! -and considering most don't know how to optimmally place the speakers, seating, and acoustic treatments, to compound things! - EQ's help!
If you're leaning to simplify, and simply want the best AV receiver with great 2 channel analog connectivity, digital processing, etc, and overall great 2 channel purity, ya might check into the Arcam's, Anthem's, and anything from some high end essoteric company out there (i.e, Krell, Macintosh, Theta, and similar), to see what they're offering in the AV receiver route???
On the budget, I always was pleased with what I got from the Harman Kardon line! I used to run the HK AVR354 to a Parasound HCA1205a, and it was VERY NICE! - at least for mid/hi-fi budget gear! Movies and music were just terrific on this setup on the cheap! ($250 for the receiver and $400 for the amp, great deal!)
Dalyd31,

After just rereading this entire thread, I've come to the conclusion that:
1. I will be giving Snofun3 an actual or atleast a verbal atomic wedgie. This will necessitate me pulling Snofu's underpants waist band firmly upwards from the back side until it is pulled completely over his head ending loudly with a painful 'snap' as I release the waistband underneath his chin, and
2. If you continue to refuse to go the separates route, then you will continue to be unsatisfied with your system's performance in some area with no clear cut solution.

However, I would still like to help you find a solution and have some ideas. But, if you're serious about better sound, you need to be flexible,keep an open mind and overcome any space constraints or other obstacles. Here's one solution:

Sell your Denon avr.
Keep your 3 channel Bryston (this is a very good amp that should provide the basis for both a very good 2-channel and ht system).
Buy a surround processor (prepro) either new or used
Buy a high quality ss or tube preamp with HT Pass Through, either new or used (the better the preamp, the better the 2-channel sound).
Buy a small stereo amp to power your surrounds, either new or used(doesn't need to match Bryston quality or expense).

I know you have objections that I'm still not exactly clear on. But the easy solution, of just getting a better avr with very good 2-channel performance, may not even be attainable at any price. You have reached a fork in the road on your audio quest. Either keep chasing an unattainable goal with an avr based system or make a bold and decisive move in a separates based system direction that will almost certainly result in very good to excellent 2-channel performance).

I would be willing to assist you if you choose the separates route. If you're looking for the easy avr solution, I'm sorry but you're on your own. Let me know if you want my guidance on choosing components or setup. Or, let me know I should stop beating this dead horse. Thanks

Tim
I Come in Peace . . . I recently changed over to av receiver from separates although I thought there would be a downgrade in 2 channel sound. So I went from the Integra Research RDC-7.1 pre-processor (struck by lightning) to Pioneer Elite SC-68 using same front amplifiers. So far, I am satisfied with the quality of the two channel sound (actually pleasantly surprised). However, as most of us suffer from 'there has to be something better out there' fever, I am entertaining the thought of inserting a stand alone 2 channel pre amp with bypass. But I could be happy sticking with Pioneer as it does have superior dacs and is well engineered, not to mention the best internal surround amps
Is there a slimline receiver that would free up the space needed for a two channel preamplifier?
i have a mcintosh mx132 h/t pre-amp tuner for 2 chanell listening paired with a mcintosh amp. is this ok?? i like it.