Better 2-channel music


My system consists of the Marantz SR7007, a pair of Emotiva XPA-1 mono blocks, Emotiva XPA-3 for center and surround, Rythmik 15HP sub, Oppo 103, Focal 1000 Be II series front and center, Infinity IL10 surround and back. I listen music from CD and different digital sources and movies from bluray DVD and Netflix, Amazon... My complaint is the Marantz doesn't deliver the quality of 2-channel audio as I expected. My plan is to upgrade either to Emotiva XMC-1 or Marantz AV8802. All suggestions and advices will be greatly appreciated.
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try using your oppo as a preamp (connect your amps to the oppo instead of the marantz) and see if it makes a difference
I would recommend a 2 channel preamp with home theater bypass.

I have a Conrad Johnson ET3se for 2 channel and an Emotiva UMC 1 for home theater.

The 2 channel is awesome.
Just about any quality build high-current 2 channel integrated amp will
handily best virtually any AVR for 2-channel audio performance.
The AVR is a yeoman performer crowded primarily AV unibox with
comparative significant cheap design and cheap parts compromises for 2
channel music performance.

I even had the very top Cambridge AVR (ka-ching!) and even it could not
stand in the shadow of my discrete 2 channel integrated amp and discrete
CDP / DAC system in terms of 2 channel audio performance ..... it was not
even close and the differences are not subtle.

As good as the the AVR can be, you cannot realistically expect it to fully
compete in a 2 channel arena ..... full stop.

Accept it for what it is, what it does well, and just live with and enjoy the
AVR even with compromises for 2 channel audio unless you want to
expand as the prior post highlights ( I did a similar thing .....)

- kept my discrete 2 channel integrated amp with a directpass through from
the AVP below to drive the LF and RF main speakers in a multichannel
mode
- discrete 3 channel power amp to drive the centre channel, RR and LR
speakers
- discrete 2 channel power amp to drive the R and L surrounds
- discrete 7.1 channel AV preamp/processor [NuForce AVP-18] for the
multichannel modes ( movies, BluRay concerts....)
- active subwoofer out from the multichannel AVP immediately above for
movies and multichannel Bluray concert ( a manufactured and artificially
contrived audio format but enjoyable in its arena) added bass slam
- discrete ARCAM Bluray player for multichannel and movies
"06-10-15: Pkelly1504
I would recommend a 2 channel preamp with home theater bypass."

I agree. If you don't have a good preamp, get that first.
Thank you Loomisjohnson, Pkelly1504, Akg_ca, and Zd542. I've got the idea now. Will the Emotiva XSP-1 be a good choice?
I find that the weak point with Emotiva is their remote controls. Keep that one in mind. I'm using the UMC200 with an Oppo 105. I let the Oppo do all of the processing. The only thing the Emotiva does is 7.1 volume control and occasionally radio or other analogue stuff. The sound is great. The one really strong point with the 105 over the 103 is audio. Better processors and dedicated 2 channel out.
You could keep the marantz as your controller. It has a better remote than the emotiva. Upgrading to a 105 should solve the rest of your issues. They do should have a 30 day return policy if the 105 doesn't work out for you.
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Like you, I went from a Pioneer Elite AVR powered by separate amps and had OK 2-channel sound. When I replaced my Pioneer Elite AVR with a Marantz AV7702 home theater preamp, I was shocked at the difference. The sound was much more life-like with a better overall balance from the highs and lows. One thing I always felt I missed with my Pioneer Elite AVR was mid to low bass with my Magnepan IIIa speakers. Once the Marantz AV7702 was put into the chain, it was like my Magnepans were a completely different speaker. More mid and low bass with clearer mids and highs.
"06-11-15: Bob_reynolds
I think the standard advice of replacing an AV type of product with an analog preamp is overly simplistic. Maybe if your music has limited bass, then electronics and such may have a bigger impact on sound.

You need to get some listening experience. I know that you only go by specs to pick equipment. But what you're suggesting will do absolutely nothing to fix the problem. I know you don't like me, so forget what I have to say on the subject. But look at the other comments.

"06-10-15: Loomisjohnson
try using your oppo as a preamp (connect your amps to the oppo instead of the marantz) and see if it makes a difference"

"06-10-15: Pkelly1504
I would recommend a 2 channel preamp with home theater bypass."

"06-10-15: Akg_ca
Just about any quality build high-current 2 channel integrated amp will
handily best virtually any AVR for 2-channel audio performance.

As good as the the AVR can be, you cannot realistically expect it to fully
compete in a 2 channel arena ..... full stop."

"Keep that one in mind. I'm using the UMC200 with an Oppo 105. I let the Oppo do all of the processing. The only thing the Emotiva does is 7.1 volume control and occasionally radio or other analogue stuff. The sound is great. The one really strong point with the 105 over the 103 is audio. Better processors and dedicated 2 channel out."

Every single person who responded to this thread all made similar recommendations. That by itself doesn't make us right, but at some point you may want to look into why we make these types of recommendations in the first place. While there's always some risk when you buy a piece of gear, we're really not guessing. A 2 channel preamp is by far, the most likely solution to this problem.

"But, in general, the several dB variations in the bass region (300 Hz and below) caused by room modes seems to be a more logical cause of sound quality issues. So, I'd consider a Marantz AV8801 while you can save $2100."

There's nothing logical about that statement at all. The OP never said that he had a bass problem. Why single that one issue out, and ignore dozens of other possibilities as to what the problem may be.

I know we've been back and forth on this topic in other threads. Looking back on it all, there is one thing you can fault me on. And that is, I've really never given you the chance to prove me wrong. In all fairness, its something I regret. Why don't we do this. Instead of me just telling you your ideas are no good like I always do, maybe you can better explain the way you do things. If I were to give you specs on something like an amp or preamp, can you tell me what you would expect it to sound like? I'd really like to know if something like that is possible. If I turn out to be wrong, I have no problem admitting it.
If I replace my current Marantz SR7007 by the AV8801, will the AV8801 deliver quality stereo? Should I put a DAC such as the Oppo HA-1 between the AV8801 and a pair Emotiva XPA-1s?
"06-15-15: Philkoan
If I replace my current Marantz SR7007 by the AV8801, will the AV8801 deliver quality stereo? Should I put a DAC such as the Oppo HA-1 between the AV8801 and a pair Emotiva XPA-1s?"

There's too many variables in the equation to give an accurate answer. If I had to guess, I would say it will probably sound the same, or better by a small amount. My position is that if you want good 2 channel, then buy 2 channel equipment. If you read through our posts again, you'll see that we all offer similar advice. (Except for Bob Reynolds. He's a very nice guy that means well, but he just doesn't have the experience to make a recommendation like this.). Also, if you get another receiver, you really need to consider the money you're throwing away. A huge portion of a HT receivers cost goes to multichannel features. If you don't need them, why buy them?

I assume you live in the US. If so, why not give The Cable Company a call. They specialize in lending out high end audio components and accessories. Ask them to send you a couple of 2 channel preamps. The best way to judge any component is to try it your own system.
If I connect Oppo 103D --> Oppo HA-1 --> 2-channel power amp --> front speakers, would the Oppo HA-1 considered as a good 2 channel preamp? I can then bypass the stereo signal from the Marantz AV8801 through the Oppo HA-1 so it doesn't affect the performance of the 2 channel music when the Marantz is off.

As Loomisjohnson said, just use the Oppo 103 direct into the power amps/s, it has all the outputs you need and use it's own volume control.
Forget about buying another preamp just waisting money, the best preamp is no preamp, and you can do it with what you have.

Cheers George
I don't have a chance to try some quality preamps, but I think direct connection from the Oppo 103D to a pair of Emotiva XPA-1 gives the purest sound I have ever heard. Thank you George and Loomisjohnson.
sounds like you're happy--enjoy
"06-17-15: Philkoan
I don't have a chance to try some quality preamps, but I think direct connection from the Oppo 103D to a pair of Emotiva XPA-1 gives the purest sound I have ever heard."

I'm glad you found a solution. The only thing better than getting a really good preamp, is getting a bad one out of your system. Good job.
Post removed 
Bob, what would you suggest?
"It's still a mystery to me how such a perfectionist group is so willing to accept imperfection when it comes to in room frequency response."

But isn't a part of this issue supposedly remediated by the use of an AVR and it's autocalibration/eq for driver distance and in room response?

If the OP has done this with his AVR and finds the experience still lacking - what will additional room treatment provide?

My own experience is much the same of the preponderance of recommendations that an AVR or a pre/pro with ext amp was the 'weak link' - just too many other compromises to fit all those features into a single unit to hit a target price point.

I don't believe, however, that there are generalizations, but rather each situation is dependent on the specific units in question in relation to the budget.

Could you get 'better' sq using an HT-centric AVR or pre-pro? I would say yes - but at what price point in comparision to say what I did - a dedicated audio 2-channel int amp with HT-bypass. For me, a marked step up in sq!

ymmv....
I bet you guys thought I was a little hard on Bob. lol. He does have a way with words. Take these for example.

"A problem with the 2-channel solutions suggested is that they all ignore the speaker/room interaction."

I see a couple of things here I don't quite get. First is the 2 channel solution recommended fixed the OP's problem. Philhoan has declared that he's getting the best sound he's ever heard. I say, we should just het him be so he can enjoy his system, but I guess I'm not the expert that you are. The second thing is that you're factually incorrect when you say that the 2 channel solutions recommended ignore room/speaker interrogation. The real beauty of the traditional 2 channel solution is that it allows you to keep room integration and electronics 2 separate entities. You're statement that we ignore it is just ignorance on your part. You don't need a home theater preamp to get a flat response. People have been doing without them for years.

"It's still a mystery to me how such a perfectionist group is so willing to accept imperfection when it comes to in room frequency response. At least Richard Vandersteen gets it."

I nearly wet my pants I laughed so hard when I read that. You don't even have Vandersteen speakers. I do, however. Several pairs. You could say I'm a big fan. Since you seem to be speaking for Richard when it comes to what he gets, and does not get, you may want to get your facts straight. The main feature that makes Vandersteen speakers special, it that they are time and phase correct. Its the main reason people buy them. If you use a HT preamp, or any type of room correction device, any adjustments you make, digital or analog, alters phase. Simply put, the answer to your mystery question, at least for Vandersteen speakers, is that it destroys what makes them special. And there's no need to take my word for it, call Vandersteen. He'll get on the phone and tell you himself, in a very mild mannered, low key tone of voice that he's famous for. The answer to your mystery question for other speakers, was already dealt with in the beginning of my post. We deal with the room separately. It's not ignored.
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In one ear and out the other. Bob, you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. If I had to explain how clueless you are when it comes to audio, I'd have no choice but to wright a book.

Well Philkoan, you're going to have to start over. We just found out that you really didn't hear the improvements in your system. You're imagining it. From now on, any time you make a change, email Bob with the specs so he can tell you what your system sounds like. You're not to be trusted anymore.
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Yesterday I was at an audio - HT store. The gentlemen tried to sell me the McIntosh TX121 for a pretty good price. His system consists of
CD Player ($3500, forgot the name) --> McIntosh TX121
--> Rotel-RB-1582 --> Focal 1038be.
He set the McIntosh to CD Direct.The sound was much better than mine at home. My question is if the McIntosh stereo circuitry has any thing to do with the signal coming out from the $3500 CD player. He didn't hook up and test the 7.1 surround sound so I didn't know if It's worth for extra cost in the case I decide to choose it instead of the Marantz either AV8801 or AV8802.
Thank you for your inputs. Phil
After I bought a pair of Focal Electra 1038be II then the Focal Electra 1000be center, I gradually added Emo XPA-2, Emo XPA-1s, and the Emo XPA-5 will be delivered today. I chose Emotiva amps because they are good enough but didn't break my bank. Now it's the time to give the Marantz SR7007 a new home (upstars). The Marantz AV8801 is definitely a steal for $1495 although I can get the Marantz AV8802 for $3200, more than twice the AV8801 with just a few atmos movies. Just as Bob recommended, just live with the AV8801 for three years, then move to 8802 or 8803.
My second option is add a good CD player such as Cambridge Audio 851 series and a good stereo preamp or run directly to the Emo XPA-1. What do you think?
I was using an Emotiva UMC-1 for my 2 channel and home theater.

When I added a Conrad Johnson ET3se with home theater bypass it was at the time the biggest improvement ever in my 2 channel sound. I was truly amazed at what a good 2 channel preamp could do. Really night and day when you went back and forth comparing the sound.

The only improvement that could compare was when I went analog and spent $11000 on a turntable, cartridge and phone pre amp.
"The Marantz AV8801 is definitely a steal for $1495 although I can get the Marantz AV8802 for $3200, more than twice the AV8801 with just a few atmos movies. Just as Bob recommended, just live with the AV8801 for three years, then move to 8802 or 8803.
My second option is add a good CD player such as Cambridge Audio 851 series and a good stereo preamp or run directly to the Emo XPA-1. What do you think?
Philkoan (Threads | Answers | This Thread)"

I won't speak for the others, but at this point, I can't help. Now were back to what Bob recommends? Yesterday Bob told you that you were imaging the improvements you heard. In this hobby, the only learning comes from experience. Bob hasn't done that yet. And its not my opinion either. I can quote him where he fully admits he does not listen to a piece of equipment to tell how it sounds. All he needs to do is look at the specs. That's a talent that I don't have, so I'll leave you in his hands.
Come to Pittsburgh and I'll run my 105 direct into Mac amps or monoblock tube amps. Virtually any pre-amp we put into the chain will change the sound, usually for the better. Any quality pre will have a better volume control and add some gain as well. The Oppo has a volume for convenience but isn't touted as a preamp dvd.
The Oppo is phenomenal as an everything player and eliminates a ton of clutter.
Final note: Paul McGowan of PS Audio did a personal study last year and appeared to surprise himself that adding a pre-amp into the mix usually helped the system.
Elevick, I have 2 offers from an audio-HT store: The Mac MX121 for $4800 or the Marantz AV8802 for $3200. I can also upgrage to the Marantz AV8801 and either Conrad Johnson ET3se (pair with my current Oppo 103) or Cambridge- Azur 851C (better CD player, not as good as Conrad Johnson preamp). I watch movies from bluray and Netflix and listen to music from all different sources.
A-What do you feel you are missing with the 7007?
B-What is your tv quality-will you see the difference?
C-Have you compared using the 103 as a transport versus using the 103 to handle all audio/video? What do you like and why?
D-I think that audio, video and features are all a huge upgrade going from the 103 to 105. This is a lot less money of an upgrade than buying a $3500 processor.
You may need to spend so much money. If you feel you are missing something with 2 channel (which may be the case), a nice DAC or the Cambridge 850/1 would be an upgrade. I've played with the 850 a lot and it sounds better than my 105 or Schitt Bifrost in 2 channel. I wouldn't even ad my emotiva into this mix.
Zd542,
I love music with pure sound, yet sound is complicate to me. That why I'm here to take advices and learn especially what high end equipment can improve the quality of sound. Different individuals have different ways of experiencing sound of music. you're right when saying we need to hear to know what we're looking for but not just read the specs of a certain piece of equipment. I think we need both. Learning the spec just like preparing homework, then go to a show room to do the first test, and if impossible, take the piece home and integrate into our own system to see if it fits our need.
I've realized that you and Bob have different views in experiencing the quality of sound, and the differences sometimes go from rich knowledge to subjective emotion that usually influences our judgments as well as reading other's point of view.
Again, I'm here to learn before investing more to improve my system. Therefor, all advices are greatly and truthfully appreciate.
Thank you.
Phil
"I've realized that you and Bob have different views in experiencing the quality of sound, and the differences sometimes go from rich knowledge to subjective emotion that usually influences our judgments as well as reading other's point of view."

I have no problem with specs. My differences with Bob are not that he does things one way, and I do them another way. All of his listening experience comes from reading articles, and he only picks the specs that he likes to talk about. If you like, I can quote him saying that he does not have to listen to a piece of gear in order to know what it sounds like. Those are his words.

And look at what we have here in this thread. If he is so good with specs and how to apply them, then why wouldn't he address any of the technical matters that I brought up? He refused to acknowledge that you still deal with room acoustics with 2 channel. He talks about Vandersteen but refuses to consider the technical matters I brought up regarding keeping the speakers time and phase correct using his methods.

And lets not forget his crowning achievement.

"06-11-15: Bob_reynolds
I think the standard advice of replacing an AV type of product with an analog preamp is overly simplistic."

Yet you did just that and got excellent results. Every single person that responded to your thread, except Bob, all recommended a similar solution involving removing the AV preamp, and going with something 2 channel. So what's his answer for your success? You imagined it. Really? He now brings psychology in to all this?

"So, Phil's response was entirely predictable. No big deal, it's normal. But, drawing any conclusion from it is foolish.
Bob_reynolds (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)"

If that's not arrogance fueled with stupidity, I don't know what is. He's insulting you. Bob just doesn't want to look like a fool so he'll say anything. He could care less about you or your system. What does he know about Psychology? Nothing. Like everything else, he just guesses. I actually have a degree in Psychology, and I could easily make the case that when you made a change in your system, it really did sound different. Is that so hard to believe.

In the end, Philkoan, I can't fault you for anything. I know you are just trying to keep an open mind. And audio is a learning process. Most of us here has suffered, at one time or another, listening to the Bob's of the audio world. I know from experience. I just get a little emotional when I see people making the exact same mistakes that I did. But that's how we learn, so in the end good will come of it.

Elevick,
I can't agree more. I've been thinking of moving from a receiver to a pre/pro. In this case from SR7007 to AV8801, (not AV8802), and use the price difference to buy the Cambridge Azur 851C, CD player, DAC and stereo preamp. I don't have a sound proof movie theatre, and moving into Dolby Atmos involves replacing and adding 6-8 speakers with cutting hole and wiring in wall. My question to you is that how to connect the Oppo, Cambridge, Marantz, and power amps so I don't have to use some types of switch. T
Thank you elevick.
Zd542, I heard you, and thank you.
My question to you is that people talking about using decent stereo preamp and HT surround pre/pro bypass. How can it be done if I have the Oppo 103, Cambridge 851C CD player, DAC and stereo preamp and a set of Emotiva amps then speakers.
I really need help!
Sorry. I didn't realize that was what you were asking. Its not complicated if you think about it. Just visualize the flow of the signal through the different components.

For stereo, start with the 851C CD player. The signal starts there and goes to the 2 channel preamp, and then to the amp that powers your front L and R speakers. Its a traditional 2 channel setup.

For Theater, start with the Oppo. The signal from the Oppo goes to the HT processor. What's different here is that you can't send signal from your processor to the amp that powers your left and right front speakers because your 2 channel preamp is already connected to it. Instead, you take the signal what would normally go to that amp and you plug the IC's into the the HT bypass input on the 2 channel preamp. Doing it this way allows the 2 preamps to "share" the same poweramp. When you want to listen to music, you just select any input on your 2 channel preamp that has a source connected to it. When you want to watch a movie, you select the HT bypass input in the 2 channel preamp, and that allows the signal from the processor to pass through the 2 channel preamp and on to the amp. Its really just a switch that allows 2 preamps to use the same amp.

Also, you don't have to use one of your sources with just 1 of the preamps. You can connect them to both. An example would be that you would like to connect your Oppo to your theater preamp to play movies and your 2 channel stereo preamp to play SACD's. You would simply run cables from your Oppo to a input on the HT processor for movies, and run cables from the Oppo to an input on the 2 channel pre for music. You can connect all of your sources like this, that way everything will be shared and you won't have to compromise anything. You'll be able to use every feature on every product you have.
That's what I need to know before ordering the Cambridge Audio Azur 851C. Thank you Zd542.
Phil,
I'm not sure I would buy an 851 new. A used 850 will sound great. Other things that pop into my head are mainly circling around overkill. If you are doing 2 channel through a Cambridge, an oppo 103 will do just fine for theater and save you a bundle. That's savings #1. Also, if you have a Cambridge and Oppo, there's really not much that you need out of the Marantz, is there? Just 5 channel volume and maybe different modes. The Emotiva mc200 or outlaw will do the same very nicely and do a darn good job of it. Savings #2.
I know that my Emotiva passes a pure audio signal through very clearly without any coloration. (the marantz 7007 may do this too?) So, I'd say both the Cambridge and/or Oppo could run audio direct mode. You won't need a 2 channel pre-amp. Savings #3.
Now that you have saved money, blow the whole load on a really killer multichannel amp. The Emotiva amps are nice and a great value but not in the class of Mac, Classe and some others in the $5k range.

So, where would I start if I were you? Buy a nice 2 channel CD or DAC-Cambridge is awesome. Try this on CD direct on the Marantz. After that, try borrowing pieces. I think you might be surprised where the upgrades will come from after that.

My theater: Emotiva UMC200, Oppo 105, Dishnetwork, Mac 5 channel amp, coincident speakers all around, velodyne sub and a sota table with sumo phono pre for analogue. I also run my laptop with foobar through a music fidelity for streaming. Don't forget nordost cabling and PS Audio conditioners.
Sorry I made you pull teeth to get it.
I will buy the Cambridge 851C now. It's $1800 but I can keep it for a long time. Hold on the Marantz AV8801 or AV8802 now to try the 851 with my SR7007. Do you think Emotiva XMC-1 is worth the price increase? I can buy now for $2000 with summer sale and e-club. Mac amps are nice but cost 10 times. Emotiva XPA-1s and XPA-5 are only $2500. They deliver enough juice and pretty clean. What dpecific model of PS Audio Conditioner do you recommend? I don't think I can afford Nordost cables. :)
The Mac adds a little warmth and perhaps some depth. The XPA is a ton of clean power for the money. In my system I need a warmer sound and really enjoy some serious depth to my music. But yes, it is expensive.
The XMC is a great piece and will do wonders for theater. Is it better than 103 and 7007 combo, I'm not sure? You need to try some borrowed pieces. The other option is to eventually but the xmc knowing that you have 30 days to return it. The return shipping is nothing compared to getting to test it.
Will the xmc beat the 851 for 2 channel? I really doubt it! I think the 851 run in direct mode through the 7007 will sound phenomenal. Great way to start. Take your time and one piece at a time.
Buy the XMC when you get a 4k tv...just my opinion.

I'll post pics of my new listening room later in the week. We just put in a heavily reinforced ceiling, some sound treatment and all new wiring. Painting it on Monday or Tuesday.
Thank you Elevick. I take your advice and hold on the Marantz AV8801 or AV8802 but try the Cambridge 851C first. Crutchfield has 60 days to try.
Zd542 and/or Elevick. How would you compare the quality of movie sound between the Marantz AV8801 and Marantz SR7007 using 7 channel output to a 7 channel power amp? Would the difference be significant?
I have no clue. If I'm using my 105, it would go direct to the pre and direct to the amp. The oppo would do all of the processing. Ideally, the 2 marantz units should sound identical....but we know how those things go.
Elevick, so you said it's unnecessary to upgrade from SR7007 using only 7 channel outputs to AV8801, unless I move to AV8802 for Dolby Atmos. It was my mistake to choose 103 instead of 105, but the Cambridge 851C should be as good as or even better than 105 just the CD player part.
A couple of things. First I did a comparison with two Oppos, the 95 and the 103 both as pre's to a 7 channel Outlaw amp. The 103 was underwhelming, and further research revealed that Oppo does not recommend it be used as a stand alone pre. My results bore this out.

Second, my experience with Emotiva is that their house sound tends to be bright. I note that because the OP mentions wanting some warmth. I actually ended up selling my three Emotiva components. Further to that, XMC owners are reporting occasional pops and clicks with Dirac, several have mentioned this on the AVS thread, and gotten slammed by Emo fanboys. I'd be cautious about that processor for now, and whatever the collective thinks on their forum.

My solution for two channel performance has been a separate system in another room. If that's not possible, 2 channel gear with theater bypass has proven to be a good compromise. You also need top notch speakers for best resolution, though. There is no free lunch.
Runnin, I didn't have a chance to A/B between 103 and 105, but I believe the 105 is far superior to 103 especially the analog stereo. I bought the 103 right after a "test drive" at a local audio HT store, and that was a mistake! I hope that keeping the 103 for movies (mostly from Amazon, Netflix, and Vudu) and investing in the Cambridge Audio Azur 851C for CDs and internet streaming music is the right choice. What do you think?
I have neither a movie theatre nor a separate rom for 2 channel music. My family room is also open to all other rooms on the almost 2000 square feet first floor. And I think that is the trend of future set up for most families for convenience and space limitation.
I understand Emotiva has no way to compare with other legendary brand names such as Mac, Bryston... but those amps cost 5-10 times more. I have 2 XPA-1, XPA-5 and XPA3 about $3200. At least they are pretty clean driving my Focal Electra 1038be II and 1000be center. For surround, I still keep my 20 year old Infinity Interlude IL10. when I'm satisfied with the rest, I'll replace them by Focal Aria SR900 array.
My question: Is the Cambridge Azur 851C today and the Marantz AV8802 6 months from now the right move? I won't touch the Emotiva XMC-1 for too many unpredictable factors.
Thank you.
851C review here.

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/cambridge-audio-azur-851c-cd-playerdac/

Just jump to the section on "Listening" and see what you think.
It was a great review. I think I'll try it. Thank you Twoleftears.