Best multi channel amp and processor good for 2 channel listening.


Hi All,

I am new to this forum and have a few questions in reference to HT processors.  I am starting from scratch and switching from a Krell S-1000 and S-1500.  I sold the processor a few months back and I going to list here the amp.

I am currently considering the new Bryston 9B3 and the SP4 and decision was based on upgrade ability and warranty. The speakers for HT will be Sonus Faber Grand Piano Home and for 2 channel Verity Otello’s.  My second choice was Classe but I was informed that they have all sales on hold, this is concerning.  I have not listened to either, my choice is based on reviews and the Bryston dealer.  My decision was also based they are both good for two channel, I am not set on this but it will help the budget and space.  I am looking for a warm and good over all sound; some might say 3 dimensional sound, clarity is also a factor.  Actually, all I’ve read in reference to Classe fits the bill.  I would like a couple of other choices to include in my short list and opinions are welcome. The budget for the processor and amp is approx. 22k.  

Thanks to all.....
maguiar
That SP4 doesn’t even support Dolby Vision so I wouldn’t wanna buy a product that costs that much and is already outdated; also, $14K to just be a DAC and amplify the line-level connection(s) is a bit much, adding some high end subs (dual Rythmik G25HP for instance, AVS Forums “Top Pick” for 2018) and room treatment if you don’t already have would be far more worth your money.

You also want room correction, so I would consider:

* Marantz 8805, ~$4500 MSRP, would recommend the $20 app to edit the Audyssey curve, as it employs something similar to the BBC Dip. Super high quality analog outputs and equally high end AKM DACs.

* Anthem AV60, $3000 MSRP, it’s room correction is said to be better than Audyssey. The Marantz is more for a few reason, one is 13ch processing, which is the cheapest 13ch professor on the market (the Bryston is 15ch, so you are paying probably an $8000 premium just for that), but since you aren’t doing that, the Anthem may be better, except I don’t know the quality of the DAC (and it’s internal analog section may not be clean enough to allow an external DAC to be better).

* Arcam AV860, ~$5500 MSRP, it has Dirac which is said to be top tier in room correction (which is what the Bryston has as well). It’s DAC section is also pretty good.

For amplification, how many channels, and do you want a single unit?


Hi mzk,

I am thankful for your imput and this is exactly why I started this topic.  I am older and not technical at all but really love and appreciate good sound, so please bare with me.  

Originally, I was considering going with a good sounding quality amp maybe the Bryston 9B3 and the Anthem AVM 60, but would still need to add a 2 channel for music.  I’ve read the SP4 is good for 2 channel and considering Bryston’s future upgrades, this was considered.  Any suggestions on a good two channel amp for my Verity’s? I will also look into the Arcam you suggested. 

Any news on Classe? I spoke to one of their only dealer I found in my state and they are being kept in the dark, plus all orders were stopped for now.

To answer your question I am looking in having set up a 7.1 system. 

Thanks again,

Marilyn
Sorry, just realized I misspelled input....
used Oppo 95,105,205 + used  Bryston 9B-ST. use Oppo build in volume control and directly link to Bryston.
Just thinking maybe should have gone with the 205 instead of the 203..
The Bryston Cubed "B3" series is a very fast amp.  Don't get me wrong, It is very high resolution and an excellent performer, but it will sound bright and lean on the bass/midbass if you pair it with a very fast preamp/processor, such as the Anthem.  The Bryston SP3 processor has their fully discrete Class A analog stages and it is very warm and full - I have tested this processor.  It was just too warm/full/slow for my system, but it may work great with the ultra-fast 9B3 amp.  The SP4 processor is just overkill and I don't think you are looking for a 16 channel Dolby Atmos solution.   The new SP4 processor is basically the Storm Audio processor with a "Bryston" faceplate and software.  I don't know if they even have the "Bryston" discrete Class A analog stages developed for this yet.  I think I read that Bryston would upgrade them for free if you bough the processor now.  Timing could be in the next 6 months or so.  Oh, another thing, the new SP4 internal DAC will do everything at 48khz, so the hi-res audio such as 24/96 or 24/192 will automatically be down-converted to 24/48.    This is not a problem with the previous SP3 processor (which is still available as a current product).  The digital architecture between SP3 and SP4 are completely different.

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Other processors that would mate well with the 9B3 amp are Marantz AV8805.  This is a very excellent processor.  It has a very large power supply and it also has a lot of bass/midbass power and slam/excitement.  It is voiced warm, so the high frequencies are slightly rolled off, but it would be an excellent pairing with the 9B3 amp, especially since you are looking for a "warm' type signature.  Another possibility is a McIntosh processor (such as MX122 or MX160).  The SP3 does not have the "rolled off highs" that the Marantz does, but it is a slower responding sound then the Maratnz, so it might still be a good mate with 9B3 amp.  Be aware that the Marantz and/or McIntosh processors will likely also be limited to 48Khz on the internal DAC/DSP, even though you are sending higher sampling rates to the device.

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Just for comparison, the Krell S1000 and S-1500 combination is NOT a warm sounding system.  The Krell devices are very high resolution and fast responding.  They will come across somewhat bright/thin sounding at time, especially since the power supply in their processors are undersized (in my testing and opinion).
Hi auxinput,

WOW, thanks a bunch for all this info., I sure can use it.  

Actually, I heard the Anthem AVM 60 a bit this pass weekend with some B&W’s in a HT setup and found it to be a bit bright. I don’t recall which model since I was not really there for that at the time.  I also heard a McIntosh MC452 since he did not have the 8207 in his showroom.  This amp was paired with Sonus Faber Olympica's which was my second choice for speakers, but left a bit disappointed since I found them to be lifeless, monotone, too laid back with the 452. I still love those Verity’s my God the sound, I have no words.  

On the bright side I have the opportunity to audition the Bryston gear at home which is helpful, but I was informed the 9B3 that will replace the 9bsst2 will not be available till April sometime.  I just added the SP3 to my short list,  I heard the SP3 will still be available along with the SP4.

Auxinput, what do you think about the Arcam AV860? MZK recommended it via this thread but did not find much on it. Does anyone have info. on this processor? 

Thanks again...

@maguiar

All modern B&W speakers are bright (their 10000Hz peaks are well known and documented), so it was the speakers not the processor.

Bryston and Benchmark make excellent 2ch amps, being “fast” has nothing to do with sound quality being bright or warm, they are both neutral (John Atkinson of Stereophile had to call up for help in order to accurately measure the Benchmark, as his test equipment couldn’t keep up).  
  
Still excellent, but cheaper, are the ATI amps utilizing Hypex. ATI is a very well respected American amplifier company, they are not as popular though, but they are so good that other brands actually have ATI design the amps for them, like the Monolith amps (which are excellent for the relatively cheap price) is designed by ATI.
auxinput,

As I mentioned in this thread I am technically chalenged, when you mention fast, will this imply this amp can run quite a bit hot as well? I really would like to stay away from something that would run really hot. Also, what do you mean by 48khz for dac and high resolution at 24/96 etc.?
mzk,

I can audition Marantz and research the Benchmark and Ati.
I'm confused.  How can you use two sets of speakers (SF GPs and Otellos) in the same system?  Are you physically going to swap them them out for HT and 2-channel listening?
soix,

Sorry if I did not make myself clear.  I currently have the Sonus Faber’s for HT and will be buying the Verity’s for music only.  I would get a 7 channel system use 5 channels for HT and the other 2 channels for music listening. I will be connecting my Verity’s to the 2 extra channels. I believe if I invest in a good quality processor and amp I can pull this off and save space not having another unit. If I can’t find something that really captures the sound I am looking for then I would have to go a bit cheaper on HT and get an intergrated for 2 channel listening. Hope this clarifies things and of course your input will be welcomed.

I have tested several amps, one of them being Bryston 7B3 monoblocks.  They are very nice amps, but they are definitely faster and brighter/thinner then some other amps.  They are also just about as close to "Class B" amps as you can get.  The Bryston amps are very efficient and do not really get hot at all. 

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The fast amps vs. warm/slow amps really has to do with how the input stage and output power stage are biased.  Some are biased heavily into Class A and these will generally be warmer sounding and fuller sounding.  They will also get hot in temperature more so than the more efficient Class AB amps.
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older B&W speakers are described as very bright sounding because they had two issues:  1. metal dome tweeter that caused resonance/breakup and , 2. woven kevlar midrange that had breakup as well.  These "breakup" modes caused the sound to be on the bright/harsh side.  The later diamond tweeters are not bright at all, and the newest D3 series resolved the issue with kevlar breakup modes.

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I do not have any experience with the Aracam processor.  It may be a good choice, but I tend to lean towards processors that have a fully discrete analog section.  These include the Marantz AV880x processors, the Bryston SP3, Krell S1200U.  I have even tested Theta Casablanca, but I did not feel that it sounded that good.   The Bryston SP3 was very warm and laid back sound, but it had just about the best and strongest bass I have heard out of a processor.  I think the "laid back" sound would mate well with the fast responding Bryston amps. 


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The McIntosh amplifiers and electronics can sometimes be too laid back and soft.  They often come across as boring and dull to my ears.  Sometimes they are okay, but leave me wanting more.  I heard a McIntosh integrated paired with the new Sonus Faber bookshelf speakers and the sound was very excellent.  But it just did not have that excitement that I was looking for.
auxinput,

I was left feeling the same way about McIntosh.  Sonus Faber was always a favorite of mine after years of auditioning but the McIntosh did them no justice.
My SF Homes which are at entry level sounded superior to the Olympica’s at 13k.
Actually, when I first heard the Olympica’s they were connected to a McIntosh and they sounded phenomenal to me, but probably Magnolia (Best Buy) hires a good set of hands to setup their gear.  I am not sure what happened but I could not believe what I was hearing, maybe I’ve come accustomed to the punch of the Krell..lol.

As previously mentioned the Bryston is at the top of the list plus I can get a very good discount on it. The only concern I have if it’s too thin it will cause listening fatigue but as you mentioned pairing it with the SP3 might do the trick.  I am taking my time and researching to avoid a mistake since this will probably be my last purchase. I am having health issues and I don’t have the funds to maintain this hobby. I want to get good pieces that can carry me for the next 10 years if possible.

Thanks again,

Marilyn

I'm going to be blunt here.  I wouldn't even consider driving the $19k Otellos with two channels of a seven channel amp or a prepro in the name of saving space, or anything else for that matter.  To me, speakers of that caliber deserve their own good stereo amp and preamp (or at least a very good integrated).  Buy a decent 3-channel amp and prepro to drive the HT, but I'd put as much as possible of the electronics budget toward the stereo components that get the most out of the Otellos.  You can easily integrate the HT and stereo electronics into one seamless system, so operationally this setup works well and also allows you to spend more of your budget on the more critical stereo components. 

Also, I'm still not clear.  Are you considering having both the Otellos and Grand Pianos set up side by side at the same time?  If so, that's an imaging nightmare and a big no no in my book.  Personally I'd sell the Grand Pianos and just use the Otellos as front L/R speakers for both stereo and HT, or sell your rear speakers and put the GPs back there.  Having heard both the Grand Pianos and various Verity models (awesome speakers BTW), my take is they're voiced similarly so this might work out well.  Just my $0.02 FWIW, and best of luck in whatever you decide. 
Hi Soix,

I totally understand what you are saying but at this time they will be in the same area. This scenario might change in the future because I am thinking of relocating next year.

I also understand mixing my Verity’s with my stereo gear may not be wise and this is why I started this thread for suggestions and help. As I mentioned I love good sounding music but I am not technical at all and don’t want to be at the mercy of a hungry salesperson.  Don’t get me wrong I have some knowledge plus I am going crossed eye on reading so much material on this stuff.  Actually, someone just suggested the Luxman L 509X intergrated amp for the Verity’s of which I just started to read on.  I may consider buying something used for HT and put most of my money on the the stereo side.

Reference the SF GP, I thought about selling them and just keeping the Verity’s but I do not see a center for the Verity’s which is important to me.  If I can match a center channel that is considerably close in sound I will consider selling the GP.
Once I get the Verity’s home I will listen to the tonality of both and if they are close I can keep my SF center channel with Verity’s and sell the GP.  Just one step at a time...lol...baby steps.....

Any suggestions on any the Luxman or any other intergrated?

Thanks a bunch...

@maguir 
 
Don’t worry a single second about using something like the Marantz as your processor, it’s DAC is high quality and it’s pre-outs are high voltage and low distortion. Not really gonna gain any real benefit from using an audiophile grade stereo pre-amp/DAC. 
 
Since you seem to want a 2ch setup plus your surround setup, the way you would have this wired is having the 2ch setup as Zone 2 (you lose any room correction though). I would test out the speakers as the main left/right for the surround sound as well, as that would simplify things, and even though the center may not be timbre matched, it’s not as big of a deal as people make it out to be, I’ve seen many people’s setups where they use a different brand for the center as their main speakers don’t have a matching one, and they can’t tell there is any mismatch.
To all,

I am more into sound quality, 3 dimensional surrounding sound and clarity, tube like quality.  If anyone here had 23k for a HT and something for music listening what would be your choices? I am opened on all choices including used gear.

I really rather spend most of my money on the music side of things like the Luxman L509x and something reasonable but good for home theater, please elaborate in simple terms how this all will come together.  So far Bryston, Krell, Marantz, Arcam and Nad seem to be good choices for HT, but what amps? 
I really need help from all since you have a lot more experience and knowledge on this stuff.  I would really be gratefull for all the I can get.....
the Luxman is voiced on the warm side, so if you wanted to pair an HT amp with that, I would go for the Parasound A31 3-channel.  The Bryston is going to be too bright/thin in comparison to the Luxman.
auxinput,

Sorry but I am lost here...  The Luxman I listed is an intergrated amp not a processor and the Parasound is a 3 channel amp.  I mentioned the Luxman for 2 channel stereo listening, so what processor would I be using here? What about the other 4 channel amp? 
I’m also confused on how you plan to use the two sets of speakers. I had a similar dilemma and originally had to swap speaker cables from my two channel tube amp and preamp and put them on the ht speakers. I solved the problem by getting a JL Audio CR-1 and buying a set of ATC active speakers (amp park on speaker). Using the cr-1 allowed me to connect everything to my preamp with ht bypass (ps audio bhk). Now I have a separate two channel preamp and ht processor(marantz) . When using two channel, I just switch input on preamp to whatever my source is( digital or turntable) . When using ht, I put preamp in ht bypass and use Marantz prepro that handles tv/ theater viewing. The ATC ACTIVE 50 is incredible in system. I also use an atc active for center channel.
In reality it’s two separate systems, the two channel will be via an intergrated amp.
I assumed you would use the Luxman integrated as part of a "hybrid" system.  This means that you setup a normal HT processor and connect the left/right output to a left/right "theater bypass" input on the Luxman integrated.  Alternatively, if the Luxman does not have a bypass mode, you can use any input and then have to set the volume to 100%.
I believe that is what the dealer mentioned. Keep in mind they are doing all the setup and calibrations. The Luxman was his idea but I will looking into others.
I would suggest you get the top of the line Marantz.
I am using separates, an Anthem AVM60 and an Anthem P5 Statement for an amp. The processor has several memory configurations. I have the 2 channel set up for stereo memorized. You can use or eliminate the subwoofer if you want. Sound is fine. I suggested the Marantz because it might be cheaper and take up less space. Sound will be just as fine, and it will come with Auro 3D as well as Atmos and DTS X. Can be upgraded to HDMI 2.2. Room correction won't be as strong, but you stated that you are not a technical fanatic so small problems might not bother you. I literally had to build my own center channel cabinet because the factory is out of business. I copied the plans from a website owned by one of the original workers from the old factory. He repairs and sells original parts for my speakers. You could have the custom installation guys do some room treatment for you if they are trained in that area. How big is the room you are going to use? That would help us as far as power suggestions go.
@maguiar

What integrated amp are you talking about? The setup is simple, surround sound is Zone 1 from the processor and 2ch setup is Zone 2, this is a super simple feature something like the Marantz has.

Power the surround sound speakers with anything you like, not sure how many channels you have, but the Monolith amps I mentioned is only $1600 for 7ch.

For the 2ch speakers, again use whatever amps you want; measurements of a Bryston amp, I would like @auxinput to state where exactly it is thin/bright, as you can see it is a completely accurate amp.

Bryston, Benchmark, ATI, PS Audio and Arcam all offer stereo amps that perform excellently but aren’t ridiculously overpriced (like Boulder amps, good performance but stupidly marked up).
Room is not an easy one since my living room area runs openly to the dining and foyer.  The system is going in my 19.5 x 21 living area and the dining is 19.5 x 14, all this is wide open and runs into each other.  Almost forget to mention the ceiling is a little over 9ft.
Mzk,

I was just reading about the Benchmark. What do you think about the Belles, Simaudio and McCormack?
Belles: Never heard of them, but quick research shows good performance at reasonable prices.

Sim/Moon: Good performance but overpriced, same category as Boulder. Also, they focus on the wrong things, selling a >800W power amp for $42K is just dumb, there are hardly any speakers that don’t distort/clip when fed 200W (some speakers claim they can, but it’s just marketing unless DSP is in the picture).

McCormack: Decent performance at reasonable prices.
Pretty much all amps will measure flat and accurate.  However, I stopped focusing on "measurements" a long time ago.  Some measurements will help, but they will never tell you how an amp sounds.  Much of how an amp sounds is how the input stage and output stage circuits are put together as well as how the amp is biased (Class A, Class AB, Class B).  Also, how the Class A bias is engineered to initially slew.  High bias Class A amps and warmer amps will start slewing gradually and then rise up with their normal "slew rate".  These amps will sound more full and have more overall volume, but they will tend to have slightly rolled off high frequency resolution.  On the other hand, lightning fast amps, such as Bryston, will have excellent high resolution response, but the bass/midbass/midrange may be light.  That is because the slew is so fast, that it is not letting the amp continue to translate the DAC square step waveforms into true analog waveforms.  It's all relative, though, and system synergy has a lot to do with it.  That's why I thought that pairing the somewhat laid back Class A Bryston SP3 processor/preamp with the very fast Bryston B3 amps would be a good match.  They would compensate for eachother's sonic signature.
auxinput,

I can see that and I also understand not everyone will interpret or hear the same way.  I am still going to audition the Bryston, as I stated originally a 20 year warranty is not to be taken lightly....


@auxinput

That is because the slew is so fast, that it is not letting the amp continue to translate the DAC square step waveforms into true analog waveforms

Squarewave measurements are common in tests, this is done for every Stereophile amp measurement for instance.

I get what you are saying, and since the room is an unknown factor I always recommend home trials (meaning being able to return the product for free or just return shipping, no $50 restocking fee or any of that nonsense).

There are more to DAC measurements than just a flat frequency response. There is THD, IMD, noise floor, volume linearity (if it has volume controls), channel mismatch, channel crosstalk, etc.
THD, IMD, noise floor are all technical measurements that help engineer a good product.  However, all electronics will sound different and after 20 years of listening, I really don't pay attention to these measurements.  I have tested Bryston 7B3, Parasound JC1, Classe CT-M300, and all sorts of Emotiva amps in my system.  All sound radically different and everyone has a different tastes on what they want.
I was offered a 3 year old demo Plinius Odeon multi channel amp at $9.8 and a Audio Control Maestro 9 at $8.9 but not convinced on the Audio Control.  So far the Plinius has very good reviews but not sure about the asking price.  

Also, would like to thank you all for all the input you have provided.....

There was some discussion upthread about Anthem and B&W speakers.  I have B&W 803 D in my two channel system and yep, they are bright.  I just added an Anthem 520 receiver in a Surround Sound System last week, with Speakers from Silverline Audio, and not bright at all.  The Anthem replaced a 10 year old Onkyo AVR that retailed for roughly the same and boy, what an upgrade.  I don’t know much to credit the room calibration vs The I moved DACs but the improvement is not subtle, and interesting, I perceive the improvement more in 2 channel than in Multichannel.
That’s “improved DACs”...
Onkyo and Emotiva processors suck in exactly the same way. Clinical, slightly hard, and completely thin.


Op the Audio Control is one fantastic processor, it is built for sound quality and uses all  independent burr brown dac’s per channel, vs most of the world's processors which use a single dac chip for all channels, the processor uses a massive power supply it weighs 40 lbs most processor barely weigh 15 lbs, and the Maestro uses Dirac which along with Anthem and Trinov are the best room correction software.

The Mastro is very very good souding for music and theater, perfect it isn’t but for its price point of $8,900.00 it is fantastic.

As per the Odeon it is one of the best sounding multi channel amplifiers ever made, if the price seems a bit high make an counteroffer.

Other than the Thetas Cassablancas which are very expensive and not sure of the room correction, the Maestro series from Audio Control has been getting rave reviews for years based on their musicality, superb service made in America, and reliablity and excellent service.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Hi Audiotroy,

Thanks for the info., I will dig I little more on the maestro.  I have done so much reading that it’s overwhelming.  I really would like something that is also good for 2 channel listening, otherwise I would have to get a separate intergrated amp.  If I have to go this route I would have to go with something more economical for HT.
The maestro is deslgned for sound quality for music and theater and is not built like a traditional processor
It is something I would need to hear before buying.  Also, will need to know if this is something I can pair with the Verity Otello number one and Sonus Faber Grand Piano Home’s in case I decide to keep the SF without problems.  I will check if I can audition these in my area..

Thanks again


Maguiar, if sound quality for surround sound and music is your passion and you are concerend with the sound quality of the processor preamp then here is how to get around that one

1: Purchase a good 2 channel preamplifier with a hone theather bypass function, you can then route your high end 2 channel sources through the 2 channel preamp and then to your high end multi channel amplfier. 

This way you have a separate 2 channel music pathway that is intergrated with your surround sound gear, and you get the best of both worlds.

We are using our Maestro with $14k Kef Ref 3, a Lumin  music streamer and the sound for music even through the Maestro is is really something. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
I have owned high end audio but I am not technical at all plus I do not experiment with audio. I usually have my systems installed by professionals.  I do understand about the 2 channel preamp with bypass based on your explanation but lost on the other channels needed for 5 or seven channel HT.  What are you trying to state with the last paragraph? Are you saying it will sound just as good with my speakers?  I am talking about ohms, dB and wattage to be compatible with my speakers.
Dave I just gave you a call and your mail box is ful.  My number is 813-651-2527

@audiotroy
Which Lumin model are you using?