Combining home theater with two channel


I have a 7 channel home theater system. In my system, I have Marantz 7706pre amp, Emotiva XPA-Differential 3 channel(450 wpc) driving my golden ear R1s and center channel, XPA-4 (275 wpc) driving surround speakers. When I switch to 2 channel to play music, I’m just not impressed with the emotiva.
My dealer suggested that I add an integrated amp to the system to play music.  The krell K-300i. I just have a hard time understanding how can a 150 wpc amp pack more of a punch than a 450watt amp. 
3095ab2e 2e5d 4c74 b776 7ba8e00d938fpeytoni
Does the Emo/450w have RCAs for the L/R fronts?
  • If so you might try running those into the integrated…
  • It may be the preamp section of the Emo more than the amplifier section. 
  •     So a way to figure that out could be worthwhile.
  • Confirming that those two channels of speakers sound OK on the Marantz would also be worthwhile. (It could be that the speakers need to move around a bit.)
It isn't about watts, it is about your Marantz pre/processor being your two channel pre. As nice as the unit is (I'm sure) for HT, it is not a dedicated 2 channel pre for music. That is your problem. There is a still a lot of processing hardware it is 'shared with'.

I've been there/done that. And not until I separated my AVR (in my case) from my/a seperate two channel rig for music only, did I hear a significant increase in 2 channel sound quality. In my case, I did that with a dedicated 2 channel preamp that has HT bypass! via the AVR 'front' preouts, and then connected to a separate 2 channel amp. My music sound quality was greatly increased by getting the AVR/processor out of the signal path for 2 channel. And with the bypass, I simply switch that on when using my AVR for HT. The center and surrounds are then driven by the AVR. All of my 2 channel equipment is connected to the dedicated 2 channel preamp (turntable, tape deck, DAC, etc.), so the processor is not in the signal path at all.

Issue I see is you have a fairly expensive dedicated 3 channel amp and HT processor/pre. I'm not sure adding the Krell to this makes a lot of sense quite honestly as I don't see it has an HT bypass option.

What you might want to consider is selling both the Marantz and Emotiva, and getting a high end AVR with front preouts just for HT where the center/surround sound quality is not as critical as 2 channel music. Then, as was suggested, get an integrated 2 channel amp....*but with HT bypass*. in that way, your front channel will simply be powered by the integrated in 2 channel, but the front, center, and surrounds processed by the AVR/processor in HT bypass mode. 
+1 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

What he said is spot on
Do NOT combine unless marginal results please you.
@bkeske summed it up nicely.  I have the Marantz AV7705 that I use for HT.  I have a Herron VTSP-360 Reference preamp that has home theater bypass feature.  My amps for the front two speakers are Herron M1 monoblocks (150 WPC).  While these amps aren't pushing a lot of watts, they have huge transformers and can deliver a lot of current.

I am not one to say Emotiva is junk (I have an XPA-5 in my bedroom system), but the quality of the watts matters more than how many there are.  Your speakers appear to be fairly efficient.  You shouldn't need a huge amount of power for them.

A good integrated will have a much cleaner preamp and amp than the Emotiva/Marantz combo.

Think of music this way... it's ALL there, but when you have inferior components you're only letting part of it through.  The better your components, the closer you get to what's really there in the music. 

I am not "critically listening" when I'm watching a movie and I want the surround sound experience provided by the Marantz, but when I'm listening to two-channel music, I want as little as possible coming between me and the music. 

If I had the space, I'd have a dedicated system for music and another for home theater, but an integrated or pre-amp/amp setup with HTBP is a good compromise.
My dealer suggested that I add an integrated amp to the system to play music.
BINGO! Your dealer nailed it (along with everyone above). The cheapest option to dramatically improve your 2-channel performance is to incorporate a good stereo integrated (w/HT Bypass if possible but not absolutely necessary, which opens up more possibilities).

I'd try to work with your dealer to demo a good integrated — that being one that has the same characteristics you’re looking to improve upon — and see how that goes. Your speakers are revealing enough that I think you’ll hear quite a big improvement, and if they’re the model I think you have 150Wpc may well be plenty. Anyway, best of luck in your quest.

OP might look for a high quality used processor to use with his amp rather than an integrated.  I use a pricy Bryston SP3, but I think a Cary Cinema 12 would be fine.  My setup is similar to that described by bkeske.  The SP3 sends balanced front LR analog to an Ayre KX-5 Twenty preamp bypass and center channel directly to a Parasound JC 1 amp.  A good processor direct to his amp should be fine for stereo and HT without a separate preamp. 
i have a marantz 7011 for home theatre running into a vitus intergrated with home theatre bypass. i use an ayon s10 sig streamer dac into the vitus for music.

its the best way for both worlds. i believe the vitus also helps with its pre for hometheatre. i dont use a centre as my two fronts are good enough. wilson benesch precision p3.0.


Get 2 monoblock amps for your R1's and a mono amp for your center speaker.

That is what I'm doing. Model 12's monoblocks for my floor standers and a model 201 for my center speaker. All through a Classe SSP-800. 
Gave away multi channel altogether and have never missed it. The same money spent on 2 channel yields much better results.
Yes. But you can have both. 

Buy a great preamp and use 2 balanced interconnects to connect it to your processors front XLR's.

Then use the preamp for 2 channel or pass through from your processor for 5.1 surround. Win!
I know it sounds like hokum but it is not.  For me, full HT is less important than sound quality.  So I am going the two channel route for TV and movie streaming.   I find that it is more than adequate for HT duties. But now music streaming is so much better.   

I have a NAD C368 and Bluesound node 2i streaming Tidal MQA. I have a PS Audio S300 power amplifier that had been in use with the AVR. Speakers are Revel Performa F206.

The TV source is Apple 4k via HDMI and then audio out to the NAD via optical out.  It works very well in my small listening room.  The room is filled with the HT sound. 
It took me the best part of Covid to come to the realization that I needed to shift my point of view. I am sure you can work something out with your deal so that you can demo the preamp/integrated in your house. 

And while you are laying around you can always have some fun and try switching to a two channel set up. You would have everything you would need.

It is a paradigm shift but is well worth trying out to see if it might be an option. 

Have fun!!
I just purchased the parasound JC 5 stereo amplifier and the JC 2Bp pre amp to add to my HT. I hope it’s worth the money I spent . In the beginning, one can waste a lot of money on this hobby because of plain old ignorance ,but im learning. thanks to site like this one im getting a better understanding. Thank you all for your help.
Oh! by the way, what is everyone thoughts about my purchase?
Always keep it separate...two different animals. You are compromising two channel by combining out of convenience. Great sound is not always convenient or easy, but worth the effort. Don’t ask what I think about adding a sub to a two channel set up....🙄 it’s "2" channel, not "2.1"...buy speakers that do bass...you do not need to get all the way down to 20 hz to be satisfied..at minimum 35 to 40 hz will be fine. 
Hello,
I have been where you are. I dont mind your purchase. But I feel like you wasted money that you did not have to. Your not buying more speakers so you are combining HT and 2ch together. Emotiva makes a fully differential linear balanced 2 channel preamp. XSP-1. It has HT pass through, subwoofer management, and even matches your amps. It sells for $800 used. It does not have a DAC. I bought a used XDS-2 DAC to go with it for $300 used.  I own this and is very good for the money. But. As long as the Parasound has HT bypass, which I believe they do you did solve your problem very well. HT processors have so much DSP sound manipulation you won’t even notice the front two amps are different. Now that you have two extra amps I think you should add some height speakers. In fact you might get two more of the model you have and do a 5.4.1 system. Or keep the original 7.1 layabout and go 7.2.1. If you don’t have two rows of seating I would go 5.4.2. Yes, get another sub if you don’t have two. I am doing the same you are doing but with the 7704 model. I hope this helped. 
@peytoni

I just purchased the parasound JC 5 stereo amplifier and the JC 2Bp pre amp to add to my HT. I hope it’s worth the money I spent

A good start in separating the two. The JC2 has bypass. Also, I think the Parasound equipment is pretty neutral, very good quality, and in general, pretty good ‘bang for the buck’. When I was going through this, (after getting more and more into vinyl), I purchased a very inexpensive Parasound ZPre3, with bypass, and am pretty amazed by that little pre. Transformed my system in getting the HT ring out of my 2 channel listening. I would imagine the JC2 will be a big step up. I’m actually awaiting a new Belles Aria Signature preamp to replace my ZPre3 right now.

I really do think you may consider condensing your current HT pre and amp at some point, as your JC 5 will be driving your GoldenEar even in HT mode.
Oh! by the way, what is everyone thoughts about my purchase?
You’ve certainly chosen some nice components and I think you’ll hear a big improvement as long as the sound qualities of the Parasounds are inline with your tastes and match well with your other components.  Congrats!  And by all means let us know how it works out if you would. 

@ peytoni, what percentage of the time are you listening to your system in "home theater mode" versus "2 channel music" mode? I think the answer to that question will help you focus on a solution. So, good luck on that elusive search to have your cake and eat it too!
So, good luck on that elusive search to have your cake and eat it too!

No luck needed. It is extremely possible to separate and also utilize both in a high quality way, I know, I do it.

When they are broadcast live, I have a subscription to the Berlin Philharmonic via the Digital Concert Hall. When I do so, I watch and listen to the performances in HT mode. Why? It sounds better. I know, I’ve tried both. Their production seems engineered for HT, and is very enjoyable.

But, when playing The Berlin Philharmonic via one of my LP’s, CD’s, or streaming, it sounds better via my 2 channel system….by far. 

There is no magic here. Once you understand how to implement both in the same room, the advantages are clear. I have my cake and eat it too.
OP, you are in for a treat with the JC5. The Emotiva switch mode power supply just cannot compete with a monster toroidal transformer. The JC5 has quality power for days. Im using a JC5 with an Arcam sr250 currently in a system that pulls double duty for movies and music. One day I might swap out the Arcam for a JC2 BP or a tube pre from Prima Luna or Cary Audio, but I am pretty content right now.
Yup! your in for a treat with the Jc5 is just a special amp indeed!
As for those who tend to down play "good sound " with a pre/processor it’s not as black and white as they say, pro’s and con’s are prevalent with both depending on listening habits. Few years back in simplifying my setup using a Marantz 8802 and now 8805 with an Halo A21 for my mains the 2/ch playback is was nothing to sneeze at via XLR’s using Pure Direct mode. Most of my listening is 2/ch 80% percent, before adding a dedicated preamp with Bypass I thought I’d try to eek the last bit of performance out of the Marantz setup by adding an external dac in this case a Gustard dac A18 and few months later stepping up to the Jc5 and also adding a GIK ceiling cloud overhead to finish off my room’s acoustic treatments. The biggest pro for this setup and for me is the Marantz prowess to decode a "Native DSD" signal ! I have a ton of Sacd’s and while now using the Gustard’s AKM 4499 dac’s to handle redbook and soon my Hi Res streaming I’m in 2/ch bliss as the sound is just flat out good ! I have 2 dedicated lines terminated with Furutech Ncf and AQ edison outlets and good cabling through out as a supporting cast.
The JC2 bypass can wait a bit as what is said to be not good is well? Good!
It was just more enjoyable and less fussy for me to separate the music system from the HT system.

Even then, the HT eventually went 2ch. Always felt the sound antics got in the way...was too conspicuous...for me. 




In Parasound's terminology JC used to indicate that John Curl was involved in the design of a component.  Wonder if that's true of the JC 5.  I have 3 JC 1 monoblocks (400 watts @ 8Ω, 800 watts @ 4Ω) and a JC 2.
I did the same. I just purchased a Townshend Allegri Reference preamp which should arrive soon. I'll hook my turntables phono preamp and my Model 12 monoblocks interconnects to it for 2 channel analog.

Until I by a separate DAC, I'll use the DAC in my Classe SSP-800 processor. It supports 24/192 but down samples the signal to 24/96. It is a 2009 DAC but it still is very good. 

I have the Node 2i streamer for Qobuz but don't use its DAC(so I can't get above 24/96).  Yes, the Node is a 24/192 DAC but I suspect it isn't as good of a DAC as the SSP-800's Burr Brown 24/96 DAC chips.  So i may just pass through the signal through the Classe to the Allegri pre and out. 

I've read many posters who did not think highly of the Node 2i's DAC and bought a
Benchmark DAC 3B or the like. That may be in my future. 

If the Node 2i's DAC WAS better than the Classe's, I'd hook my Node 2i straight to the Allegri.
I may experiment with both connections. The President of Classe, Dave Nauber, opined that he thought the SSP's DAC was better than the Node 2i's DAC. 

My Marantz BD8002 BR/CD player brings up a question: Do I go directly to the Allegri preamp with analog cables for 2 channel and use the Marantz's 24/192 DAC?

Or go SPDIF(or HDMI) to the Classe and pass through to the Allegri
and use the Classe's 24/96 DAC. 

I would think that the Classe's 24/96 DAC would be superior to the Marantz player 24/192 DAC but I don't know. They are both using 2008 DAC technology. 

@dbphd  The JC5 has John Curl's signature on the front front face plate.
I used to have my 2 channel integrated along with the HT stuff. I just switched cables at the speaker. A PITA but it worked well.
Thanks for the information, jdub39. The JC5 must be a really nice 5 channel amp. I use five pieces of equipment, an Ayre VX-5 Twenty for stereo, JC 1 for center, and a pair of NAD 268 stereo amps for side and back surround. The preamp, streamer, disc player, and phono stage are Ayre. Before Ayre it was all Parasound, JC 3 phono stage, JC 2 preamp, 3 JC 1s for LCR, and a pair of A 23s for side and rear surround. A Bryston SP3 does surround processing for Ayre as it did for Parasound.
@dbphd 
The JC5 is a stereo amp , its in essence the stereo version of the JC 1 mono blocks . 
I know it sounds like hokum but it is not.  For me, full HT is less important than sound quality.  So I am going the two channel route for TV and movie streaming.   I find that it is more than adequate for HT duties. But now music streaming is so much better.
I am running the TV with a 2.1 stereo set up… and I am wondering why I even ordered a center channel. I might try 4.1 for a while if the surrounds arrive before the center channel (then decide on 5.1).

And also have an AV processor “soon to arrive”, so this is sounding like we are along somewhat similar paths.


This is my regular dealer response when I told him that I am interested in parasound JC 5 and JC2.
“The Parasound products would retail for 10,800 dollars plus a DAC and streamer you don’t need spend that much money, would not go over 8k with your speakers the Krell units I have retail for 18,200 I I could do 25 percent discount which would be about 4600 off and you don’t need to spend that kind of money unless you’re going to upgrade your speakers “

“A great sounding system requires a balanced system.”

“Yes it would be perfect with your speakers and a one box solution, that won’t break the bank,and it will do justice to far more expensive speakers.”


After these responses, I purchased the parasound equipment from another dealer. I spoke to my regular dealer today and after speaking with him I decided to return the parasound equipment and get the Krell K300i integrated amp.
jdub39, a stereo version of the JC 1 makes much more sense. I don’t know what I was thinking. The number after JC has had nothing to do with the number channels. JC 2 is a preamp, JC 3 a phono stage. At 85 I may have been exhibiting a senior moment.

My setup is similar to that described by bkeske. For surround, a Bryston SP3 processor sends balanced front LR to an Ayre preamp by-pass, balanced center to the JC 1, and balanced surround to pair of NAD 268s. For stereo it’s just Ayre preamp & amp. Speakers are KEF Reference 1s, 204/2C, 4 LS50s, and a pair of Velodyne HGS-15s with bass management.
@dbphd 
That is one impressive setup and the perfect way to have the best of both worlds. Sounds to me the Ayre and the JC1's are a good match? I'm still largely undecided when I add a 2/ch preamp, if I remember correctly didn't you once use the Jc2?
jdub39,

It's hard to tell how well the JC 1 matches the Ayre KV-5 Twenty, because the speakers they drive are so different.  The KEF Reference 204/2C the JC 1 drives is a five speaker array, with a center uni-Q, and was designed to match the big 207/2s.  The KEF Reference 1s the KV-5 drives are 3-way stand-mounts.  What I can say is that the sound of the complex blends seamlessly. 

I used a JC 2 with three JC 1s and a JC 3 the same way I do the Ayre gear, using JC 2 by-pass for surround. The main speakers were KEF Reference 107/2s. The setup sounded great, but I got hooked on the sound of an Ayre C-5xeMP disc player and I like to keep components in the same family, thus the shift to Ayre. The C-5xeMP has been replaced by a DX-5 DSD; two of the JC 1s, the JC 2, and JC 3 are in boxes waiting for me to list them for sale.
I have been on this same journey. In fact, with Covid etc it has truly saved my life to have something that brings joy.   I switched from a HT mindset to a 2 channel mindset and it has made all the difference in the world.   The two mindsets are totally different. 
My only advice it to get as musical and revealing main speakers as you can afford.  And get a good pre-amp with home theater bypass. 
If you can get the stereo sound you want passing through your Marantz, then use identical amplification and the same brand of speakers for all channels. Certainly don't mix and match. The best test is to select stereo through all speakers. The least variation between channels the better. Levels and speaker distances must be set accurately. Room correction takes reflections into account, so these settings should be ignored. Rather than use a tape measure, get a laser measurement for each speaker from the primary listening position.

When doing room correction, cover your seating with wool blankets to stop measuring reflections from the seats.
Hi Peytoni,

I had the same experience as you while back and went the HT Bypass route.  Here are a couple of my discussion threads for reference:
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/optimizing-ht-setup-for-analog-where-to-begin
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/best-integrated-for-my-purposes-help-me-choose-1-of-3

I wanted to retain the mostly good HT performance, but didn't want to compromise any 2-channel listening.  I realized early on that my setup just wasn't optimum for the LS50s.  In the end, I went with a Parasound Hint6 - I couldn't be happier.  I was even able to sell my phono pre as the hint6 was better all around.  Just awesome.  There is a bit of inconvenience (for the family... not me :) when having to switch the hint6 into 'bypass' mode, but other than that, just a great setup.  Can also be solved with a smart remote.  

Anyway, no matter which way you go, a fully dedicated analog signal chain is where it's at! 
I prefer two separate systems.  The only commonality between my AV and audio systems are the main speakers,

When I want to switch from one to the other, I just take the speaker wires out of one amp and insert them in the other - I have a tube audio set up and a solid state video set up.

I have played music through the video sources but the sound from a mass market AV preamp, while quite decent (I also use a Marantz) is inferior to the stand alone audio set up.
You can’t get around the two system part. toasted my 25 year old Bose Lifestyle HT system. I’m about to go with a Nad t778 and pass through the additional back surround channels. I don’t really need the video switching though as the TV handles that fine. Started wondering about a tube amp as an old Sansui (smoked it) was so smooth. The money to power dual 15 JBLs with tubes is too much so I’m sticking with a Crown for the stereo. I personally just love the club sound levels and the JBL bass. I’m also getting addicted to the MQA (albeit less pure than analog , but convenient). Any insights into a sound only system that will process MQA and provide for HT pass through without the video? The Nad seems like one of few choices. MQA/ HT pass through and atmos are my hot points.
I also just purchased an NAD T778 and Monolith x5, with the intention of adding a Holo Spring 3 DAC KTE, and switch between them with a Goldpoint SA2 https://www.goldpt.com/sa2.html

The Spring 3 KTE can be ordered with a discreet, hardware Class A preamp module and I think that will be a wonderful setup.

This will allow me to hookup a REL T/7x subwoofer using both the LFE to the NAD, and the high level speakon connector directly to the Monolith.

Just got the nad t778 out if the box. The

JBL SR4732 don't even need the Crown when hooked

up directly to stereo. Normally I'd have configured this six ways to Sunday by now but I'm paralyzed with the excellent sound. When I get better configuration experimentation I'll post back. BUT this Nad has the power solo if I do choose. So HAPPY 😎

I'm totally late in the discussion here, but I've got comments.  I am thinking your Emotiva XPA-3 differential is the latest "Gen 3" series of Emotiva amps here.  Sure, the specs say they can output 450 watts per channel, but you take a big hit because of the switching power supply.  The Gen 3 just does not have enough current to give you full deep bass punch.  That's a major problem.  I have two Gen 3 amps that i had to add 120,000uf in capacitors to the main power supply output to give it enough oomph for decent bass.  Even then, the switching power supply is not going to be as good as a big linear power supply.  If you want a multi-channel like this, you're better off looking at the Monoprice Monolith.  Or step up to a better amp with ATI AT4003 or AT6003 series (much more expensive).

 

That being said, the Parasound amps have incredibly clean midrange, decent bass, but the high frequencies are somewhat dry and not super high resolution.  The Parasound is voiced slightly in the warm side of neutral with a slightly warm/tangy type of texture.  The Krell K300i integrated is colored in a different way.  The new Krell sound is a very smoothed over, almost lush, type of sound and it is not a super high frequency resolution amp, but it is cleaner sounding than the Parasound.  I think it may have cleaner deeper bass as well (compared to Parasound).

Oh, I would not discount the Marantz 7706 processor as being bad.  It has excellent power supplies, excellent bass response and a full sound in midbass and midrange.  The high frequencies are softened and rolled off (the Marantz sound).  If you want that high frequency resolution, a better option would be the Anthem processors.

I wasted a good two years of my life trying to do this. That is how long it took me to face reality: sound quality standards of what is "good" for HT are nowhere near as good as stereo. What really is the point of HT? To enjoy a compelling motion picture experience? Or to have lots of speakers and amps and stuff? 

It seems to me the definition of HT has been twisted from Home Theater being a cinema quality experience at home to HT being 7.2 channels. 

Don't make this harder than it is. Give up on the multi-channel part, watch movies in stereo. All problems disappear.

 

+1 millerC, I wasted 10 years. Some take longer to realize what's in front of their noses. If you want possible success in both systems, check out Trinnov. 

I don’t understand Millercarbon’s point unless he means a preamp with by-pass capabillity is inadequate for stereo, or speakers used for stereo are inadequate for the front LR of an HT setup. I use an Ayre KX-5 Twenty preamp and KEF Reference 1s augmented with a pair of Velodyne HGS-15s for stereo. The only change is the Ayre DX-5 DSD sends digital HDMI to a Bryston SP3 for surround instead of balanced analog to the Ayre preamp for stereo; the SP3 sends balanced front LR to the preamp by-pass. The same Ayre VX-5 Twenty is the amp for stereo or front LR. Where’s the harm?

 

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