Building HT, 2 channel audio guy needs help

I’m an old audio geek – vinyl and R2R are still my preferred sources. Always had my system for music only in its own room and a separate (decent, but consumer-brand) “theater-like setup” with a 52” flat screen. Well, just moved to a new house and lo and behold, the house has a real theater room (also ideal sonically) with 100” screen and ceiling mounted (obsolete) front projector.

So now, it looks like my audio system will have to do double duty – switching back and forth between audio and theater modes as needed. Need some help on a new preamp or processor for the audio system to serve the theater needs. Here’s my audio system at present:
Oracle Mk I TT (upgraded to Mk II suspension) w/ SME arm and Benz Micro cartridge
Revox A-77 R2R
Conrad Johnson 2200 power amp
Conrad Johnson PV5 tube pre
Magneplanar 1.7 Speakers
Infinity powered subwoofer
McIntosh MI-3 maximum performance indicator

My inclination is to get new/used preamp or processor capable of handling the theater needs –
- (HDMI or RCA) input from cable box for audio
- Center speaker and surround speaker output (powered or otherwise) – I have an old Threshold CAS2 power amp that could be used for the rear speakers
For the video, I plan to use the cable box directly into the projector in order to make it possible to stay with a more audiophile friendly preamp.

Of course, I am not looking to break the bank given that I have been happy with what I have (sonically speaking) – maybe $2k-$3k (new or used) – or perhaps that much plus whatever I would get selling my PV5. Then I can still buy a projector to replace the out of date one that came with the house as well as a center speaker and surround speakers for the theater.

First things first – can I humbly ask the community for some ideas on the pre/processor for this system?

Thanks – Jim
If you are looking for a preamp for hometheater only and not so much two channel i would get a mid of the line used receiver and just use it as preamp using its pre outs to your amps. get something with one of the more updated room correction systems. same the money.

if you are looking for a preamp for the home theater and use it for two channel as well... well then opinions will vary... some good reviews for the new marantz av8801.... people say does well for both... you can pick up a new one for a little over 2k if you shop around.

I doubt you will easily find a 5.1 receiver that you would like as well as your PV5, especially given that you like tube equipment.

You could keep your PV5 and simply add a 5 channel 5.1 receiver or pre-amp, although it is a little inconvenient. A typical configuration is to have a 2 channel pre-amp that has home theater bypass inputs, which simply passes the L/R channel line level signals through to the amp, bypassing the volume control. That allows you to keep you 2 channel system in place and add a HT receiver. Since you do not have a HT bypass, you can emulate one. You can just put the HT L/R line level outputs into an unused input on the PV5 and then figure out the volume level on the PV5 that amounts to unity gain. Then each time you want to use the HT you just set the PV5 to that volume setting and run the 5.1 receiver as normal. That will allow to get a mid-level 5.1 receiver without compromising your 2 channel setup.

If you get a receiver you can use its amps to drive the backs and maybe use the receiver or your Threshold for the center.

If you want to simplify into just a 5.1 receiver or pre then finding one you like as much as the PV5 may be difficult. Marantz, Arcam, Anthem, Integra are certainly possible.

The real issue is how important it is 2 keep your 2 channel sound intact.
Thank you both. That Marantz may be the way to go though as Dc says, it will be a sacrifice giving up the tube preamp. Here's hoping my aging ears will be none the wiser. Thanks again.
My advice would be to keep them PV5 until you try a SS receiver or pre-amp/processor. If you keep the 2200 that will help keep the tube sound.

I would also consider NAD (like the 757, 775 or 787). It does not have the bells and whistles of the Asian brands, but it is more musical than many of them. Spearit Sound has good deals on NAD. With the receiver, you can use the pre-outs for the L/R and use the internal amps for the center and surround. Interestingly, since receivers have much higher volumes than pre-amp/processors, the full receivers are less expensive that a comparable pre-amp for similar quality. Then you can use the amps as needed. You also have a wider selection of receivers to choose from.

To get an AV8801 for around $2K you probably need to go the ebay route.

Good luck.

Man you guys are clueless! There is no preamp/processor new or used that will sound as good as a tube preamp.

The solution is so obvious, upgrade to a new or demo CJ preamp which has a home theater bybass and then you can add any surround sound device you like and in addition a newer CJ preamp will be far superior and this gentleman can gain the newer features of remote control for input and volume selection.

CJ preamp demo $2k add good surround sound receiver demo $1000 and there you go.
Audiooracle - please, stop the insults. I discussed HT bypass and gave him an alternative using his existing pre-amp. I also pointed out that the SS pre-amp or receiver probably may not be an acceptable alternative to a tube pre. Your suggestion is a good one, consistent with my comments. Let the OP decide, but please try to keep this discussion civil.
Yeah,I'm with the others who said it's highly unlikely you'll find a prepro that will not be a letdown from your CJ preamp, and any one that might will likely be on the expensive side. Sounds like 2-channel is your greater priority, so why sink $$$ into processing center/surround channels just to get decent stereo performance out of a prepro?

I'd explore a decent AVR (Onkyo/Integra, Marantz, NAD, etc.) and let that do the HT processing and power the center/rear channels (or maybe use the Threshold for the center channel) while keeping your PV5 in service for stereo listening. You could get a good AVR for under $1000 and have money left over to put into other the other things you need. As stated earlier, you just hook the front L/R outputs of the AVR to unused inputs on the CJ, set a reference volume level on the CJ (I used 12:00 because it's easy) that you set it to for home theater duty and you're done. Best of luck in whatever route you choose.
Notwithstanding Audiooracle's opinion to the contrary, IME, if you're using a subwoofer (or subwoofers) when you listen to music, you are FAR better off ditching any tube pre-amp (specifically including your CJ) for a pre-pro. Seamless subwoofer to main speaker integration is a snap with the modern bass management software found in any good pre-pro and (again IME) next to impossible without it. This delta will - as far as I'm concerned - swamp any other benefits of a good tube pre vs a good pre-pro. OTOH....

Your particular circumstance is complicated by your (apparently) exclusive use of analog source material (which would see both ADC and DAC in the pre-pro), as you have no CD player listed in your system. Also, while your 1.7s provide good bass performance without a sub, you already have a subwoofer. Given that fact, I gather that you prefer to use a sub with your 1.7s for music. If true, I suspect that you'll be happily surprised by how much better the system sounds when you switch out the CJ for a pre-pro, even for 2 channel listening.

In any case, you've assembled a quirky hybrid arrangement - an all analog rig that begs for audiophile style treatment (including tubes) and a multi-channel rig (including a subwoofer) that begs for a more high tech pre-pro with bass management. Personally, I'd use a pre-pro every time were I in your shoes, but I also understand how weird that might seem with for a vinyl centric listener.

Wow – thanks for all the responses and I must admit to being very happy to read that opinions about the best set-up are just as varied now as they were when I was in my prime audiophile days – spending virtually every waking moment researching and listening in a never-ending attempt to find the ultimate system.

That said, correct me if I have missed something, but opinions here seem to fall into three basic camps:
1) Keep the PV5, add a home theater processor (pre/pro, receiver or equal) to service video-driven needs. This lets me retain my current audio system in its entirety while allowing me to use the room, my speakers and my power amp as the foundation for a decent theater system.

2) Upgrade to a newer CJ preamp (remote and HT bypass required) and add an inexpensive HT receiver for video. Frankly had not given this much thought and as I have (obviously) been out of the market for some time, have not kept up with the more recent CJ preamp options. Though I do know the preamps that immediately succeeded the PV5 were said to be sub-par. Is there a consensus choice of a recent model for me to pick up (as a demo or used) were I to go this route? I would think that staying within my overall budget would mean a preamp upgrade to be $2k-$2.5k (net of the resale value of my unmodified PV5) with the remaining $500-$1,000 to spend on a decent used HT receiver or pre/pro.

3) Ditch the PV5 and go entirely to the pre/pro option (e.g. Marantz 8801 or similar). This stays within the budget, but requires the leap to pure SS, which entails overcoming the emotional resistance to giving up tubes entirely. Is my hearing still good enough to know the difference? Who knows, but there is no denying my brain believing I still can colors my point of view.

For the record, while I know there are better examples of great tube preamps, I have always enjoyed the sound of the PV5-2200 combination. Tube preamp and SS amp (but “tube sounding” according to many) just seem perfect to me. While I do have a CD player in my system, my default preference is analog. As for the comments about my use of a sub in an audio-only system, my personal belief is that the low- to mid-base of the Maggies is lacking. I love their product and still pine for the Tympani 1Ds I owned in my younger years. Even then, I used a sub - owing to a prior attachment to a pair of Klipsch Cornwalls that forever shaped my sense of what a good low-end sounded like.

Again, I appreciate the suggestions and opinions and apologize if this discussion is taking more space than the situation warrants. I may just have to get back into my old shopping mode again and audition a few different set ups.

Any of you have any experience with the Met-1? Could be perfect for me - don't need anything more than 5.1 HT. Would I still need a HT processor? If so, how would I go about wiring this up in my system?
I have no experience with the Met-1 but, from what I know, it is a multichannel analog preamp, similar to the Audio Research MP1 that I have. They cannot do bass management, processing or decoding. You will need to have sources that can do all that before D/A conversion and analog output to the Met-1.
No direct experience with the MET-1. I looked at it when it came out, but it had some limitations that made me pass. I went with a hybrid solution with a high quality tube preamp and SS AVR.

It only has analog inputs, which means it does not do things like bass management and room correction. Any of that needs to be down in the source. A Blu-Ray player like the Oppo 103 or 105 can do bass management (crossovers) and set speaker distances but it does not have the equalizers to adjust the frequency spectrum for room acoustics. This is a standard feature of most SS AVRs.

In addition, if you want to do 5.1 for your cable signal, most cable boxes only output 2 channel analog, so you lose the 5.1 for movies and TV shows. You also then rely on the DACs in the cable box, which are usually not very good.

If you do any streaming of video, like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, from a smart TV, you would also be limited to 2 channel audio, using the DACs in the TV.

Depending on your fetish for cables, it does take 6 cables to hook up the Blu-Ray player. For some, that would cost as much as the digital setup :)

It also does not have any video processing, which means you need to hook each video source to the TV directly and change TV inputs as needed. That is easy with a programmable remote, but can be an issue for some using standard remotes.

If you are looking at Conrad Johnson pre-amps, you might check out Spearit Sound. They are a dealer and have used and demo equipment available.
I keep coming back to the fact that you really like the sound of your current pre and amp, so it seems a shame to let that go. There is an option between 1 and 2 you stated above, which would be to keep your pre and add an AVR for processing/center and surround amplification. In option 1 as far as I can tell you'd have no amp to power the center channel, which would be ameliorated by adding an AVR to your current setup (and you may be able to sell the Threshold to bring down the net overall cost further if you want). It would also probably be somewhat cheaper than option 2, and by the way you do not need a HT bypass to make this work (although it is a nice convenience if that's a concern).

Not that you shouldn't explore other options, but it sure would be a bummer to take a step backwards sonically in your 2-channel system you seem to like so much now. So many of our kind flail around incessantly to achieve that level of satisfaction. Again, best of luck.
Soix - pretty much what HT installer told me when he came by today to assess the re-wiring and updating needed to the theater room we inherited in our new home.

So, looks like I will be putting in a modest HT system - new projector, screen upgrade, Klipsch in-wall speakers, separate SW, basic HT receiver - and leave my audio system untouched.

Took me some time and a lot of inputs and coaching on this forum to bring me around to where I should have likely started - "do what you want to the theater - but leave my 2 channel audio alone!" Thanks again all.