Sunfire & Anthem are both hard to beat and fairly easy to use. Theater is great, video is great, 2 channel will keep up with any 2 channel units.
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In practical terms, I'll take a Rotel RSP-1098 (Price -- About $3K to about $4K).
In absoulute terms, then I'll have to co-sign with "Kennyt" pick and go with the new Mark Levinson 502 as well. But I will have to hit the "Lotto Millions" before I can nab THIS baby (Price -- $30K and Up Depending On Options???).
The new Mark Lev certainly looks promising, and yes its bloody expensive which is why the thread is about cost no object....Given I already use a good McIntosh, I dont see a major advantage to switch to Rotel, Classe, Integra etc etc...not saying which one is appreciably better but the exact opposite:probably fairly similar in performance so no need to make the switch: I just wanna know what is the stuff one aspires to,,,,and then we can all make personal decisions whether ot save up, or whether we can afford it anyway etc. But the odd thing is apart from ML, the other supposedly super high end pre-pros...well not a whole lot of them and the ones that claim to be seem to have not been updated with the new technologies . Goldmund for example has launched its own blue ray player, rather surprisingly quick, but its pre-pro has no HDMI input...let alone 1.3 Go figure.
The chipsets for decoding the new audio codecs are delayed, few people actually have them, then their is the whole HDMI handshake issue to deal with which has kept many companies at bay from adding these to their units as they just haven't had time to iron out the wrinkles so to speak.
This is why the ML 502 is not HDMI 1.3, and I know from last years CEDIA and this year CES many are trying to make such a pre/pro, but few have succeeded in it yet.
Check out the Lyngdorf (they make TacT's gear) D1, it should be released by now or very soon, I hope to get one shortly for evaluation, to my knowledge it is the only true high end pre/pro that is HDMI 1.3 and decodes all the new codecs. I bought the Denon AVP-A1HDCi but an away from home for a couple weeks so haven;t even unboxed it yet, but this is so far the most feature packed pre/pro made.
FWIW I have been hunting for just the pre/pro you seem to be looking for for over a year, others to watch for are the Meridian 861 v6 which hopefully will have HDMI 1.3 but we'll see as no specs have yet been released (and the v5 was only sort of displayed @ CEDIA, it was @ CES but labeled as v4!)
Sim Audio is trying to make one as well, but@ CES they only had 2:1 HDMI switching, which is useless for a modern system, maybe they'll increase that...
Krell is looking to add HDMI 1.3 to the 1000 pre/pro, when I don't know.
Good luck on your hunt!
Thanks Keenyt. re Meridien the one thing that bothers me is that it redigitizes analogue signals...so if I want my 2 channel SACD player feeding into it, DSD to PCM conversion has to occur at some stage. Its not just the digital processing of the codecs re movies but also something that serves as very good two channel pre-amp that I am looking for. TACT I think is the same.
Thanks Kenny. I was thinking about that and clearly its an option...just wanted to investigate if there is a pre-pro with a great analogue preamp in it so that I can avoid adding yet another box. The McIntosh I use is pretty good but as well all do, I was wondering of there was something appreciably better.