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I picked up a Rotel RSP-1066 new for under $1,500, but I doubt that it, or any of the similarly priced products, will make you want to give up your Creek (although it certainly was better for 2-channel than I had expected). I have not heard that many high end pre/pros, but I can tell you that the 2-channel performance of Krells HTS 7.1 was more than enough to convince me that you do not need a dedicated 2-channel preamp. Next time I find myself with $8,000 to drop, I am going to pick up an HTS 7.1! ;^)
I've found the difference in sound quality between mid and high cost pre-pro's to be very small to none as far as movies go. The extra cost of the high-end units does begin to show with music only use and most are very good. Just as you would with a dedicated two channel pre-amp, you need to find one that has the sonic signature that you would like in your system. This is not to say that a dedicated two channel pre will not sound better..but you will need a pretty darn good one to outplay some of these pre-pro's as they can do a fine job with music.
I used to own a Classe ssp25. They go used in your price range. It was great for music, and worked well for HT. I recently downsized to a NAD receiver, which is adequate for film, mediocre(relatively speaking) for 2 channel music.
If I didn't have a nicer separate 2 channel music system, I'd be missing the Classe very much. It sounds like just the type of piece you're looking for. Only 5.1, but to me that's okay. Most filmakers haven't figured out how to use those channels, let alone a couple more! Good luck.
I agree with Sogood, as far as movies there isnt a lot of difference between the usual suspects. But two-channel is a different story. I auditioned a lot of Processors when I was upgrading. The Bryston SP-1.7 was my pick based on 2 channel needs.
Having said that, if I had to do it all over again. I may have gone with a very nice 2 channel preamp with a theatre pass instead. I say this based on a few obvious facts. Preamps can offer more performance for the dollar, and thus be less costly to upgrade in the furure. However the "one-box" solution is nice.
If you need/want a "one-box" processor I have a few suggestions. A used Bryston SP-1 may be within your budget, or a used Classe SSP-25/30, or a used Sunfire Theatregrand (only if you can use balanced output). I havent heard the older Krell HTS's, but if they perform like the newer ones then I would put it on my list as well.
I like what Sbank said! Aragon Soundstage, Classe SSP25 used, Krell HTS used(only digital domain for you here really, but pretty musical that way for CD's and such...but not beatten soniclaly for DD/DTS dubties!), and similar. I think the Classe and Aragon are the great values with their "dirrect analog inputs" for 2 chanel, with 5 channel input with the Aragon! Both units for like $1300-1500 range used. Can't miss there....and all sonically pure and neutral sounding with DD/dTS!
The PS Audio PCA-2 has the theater pass through.
I was also looking for a pre-pro, but decided on this piece, because 2 CH is more important to me. For movies, I use a receiver as a pre-pro and run it through the PCA. For music, CD, SACD, and DVD concerts in PCM, I run straight into the PCA. Hope this helps, Sonny
You can do a search here on the 'Gon for "HT bypass or Theater bypass," and probably come up with quite a bit of reading on 2 channel preamps with bypass. To name few off the top of my head...Audio research, Adcom, and Parasound.
But.....it isnt a must to have theater bypass. You can use any input on your preamp. The bypass is just convenient. Using a "non-bypassed" preamp will mean you have to adjust both volume controls.
You can even keep your Creek. For example, without touching the wiring on your current setup, using a HT Receiver with preouts---connect the front L/R preouts from the Receiver to an input of your Creek---connect the center and surrounds normally to the Receivers internal amplifier---connect your DVD to receiver.
During HT playback your Creek will only perform the duties of front left and right amplifier. The Receiver does all the rest. Decoding and passing the HT signal and amplifying the center and surrounds. You simply adjust the volume on the Creek to obtain "unity gain." Usually this means turing it up to approximately "half way." Once the Creek's volume is in "unity" you use the volume on the receiver.
Excellent question but not a problem. Run the "digital out" from the DVD to the Receiver and the "analog outs" to the Creek, presumably as they are now.
Dolby Digital and DTS are transferred from the DVD player to the decoder (which is integrated into the Receiver) via a single digital cable. Usually a RCA type connector, but some use an optical type as well. If you decide on this interim solution, make sure the Receiver selected can accept your DVDs available output. Most Receivers and DVDs can accept/output both but not all.
The Receiver will decode that digital signal from the DVD and pass the front L/R, via the preouts, on to the Creek and simultaneously feed its (receivers) internal amplifier with the center and surrounds.
This setup is very acceptable if your goal is good 2 channel sound. As a matter of fact, your 2 channel sound will NOT be compromised in any way.
I would like to stress that I am not recomending this setup over another. It is simply an alternative. Especially taking into consideration your priority (2 channel), that you presumably like your current sound, and only need to add HT.
Conversely, you can get very good 2 channel sound from an HT processor but it will cost....Money, system flexibility, and increased complexity. Not just the processor, but also an amplifier/s, powercords all around, a wad of interconnects, etc., etc. Just some things to ponder as you decide the future of your system. If you're like me, its no worries, I love this stuff.