HELP : Best pre and power amps for B&W804 and HTM2

To All Audio Experts,

CURRENT SPECS: I own B&W 804 front speakers and a HTM2 center speaker. I had them powered by Denon AVC-A11SR which is now completely broken beyond repair. I was not all too satisfied with the power provided by the integrated amp to my 804 speakers. I also have a run-of-the-mill progressive DVD player which also doubled for a CD player.

CURRENT USE: I mostly use my system for movies/music in the following allocation: 50%/50%.

NEED: I have between US$5,000 to US$7500 to spend on either (i) an integrated amp that is powerful enough to truly enjoy my 804 speakers or (ii) pre/power amp combination. The total cost should also take into consideration of the relevant cables needed (I think I should upgrade the cables as well).

I might spend another US$1000 on a very good DVD/CD combo player to upgrade such component from the existing equipment.

What is the best match for my current speakers (I want to be able to continue to use my HTM2 speakers in a 3 channel format)?

I don't think I will likely upgrade my speakers in the future (unless they break) nor will I spend more money to upgrade the amplifier once they are purchased (unless again they break).

Although, down the road in a few years, I may consider purchasing rear speakers/sub woofer but am not firm on this.

Lastly, I was recommended to go with Rotel RSP 1570 and RMB 1575 for pre/power amp combo but I understand this is a class D amp (which may be inferior, etc).

QUESTION: What is the best route to complement my current speakers under the proposed budget? I am NOT an audiophile but I also want to have the best components that I can be proud of and enjoy for many years to come without ever considering an upgrade.

I have heard/auditioned extensively the Classe CA-2200 (2-channel), CA-3200 (3-channel) and CA-5200 (5-channel) amps with the B&W 804, 803,and 802 (D Series) and the HTM2 center channel that you have. They work very well together and sound very good together.

You are asking about an integrated amp or pre-amp/amp combination. They will only allow you to listen to Left & Right speakers; there is no 3-channel format per se. Do you mean to ask for recommendations for a good surround pre-processor that will decode the various multi-channel digital formats? You did not mention rear/other surround channels; do you have a 3-channel only setup?

In any case, if you wish to utilize a 3-ch or more setup, you'll need a multi-channel surround pre-processor to extract and route the center channel (and surrounds if you have them) information correctly.

If I understand your post above, what you are really in need of is that. Based upon this, I'd suggest a Classe SSP-300 (identical to the SSP-600 but only RCA connections) and a CA-3200 3-channel power amp. You can find an SSP-300 on Audiogon right now for a reasonable price from at least one other Audiogon user. For a player, you may wish to consider the latest Oppo Special Edition Universal Player. You should be able to fit all that into your 7K+1K budget picking appropriate cables along the way.

Please let me know if I've misunderstood your posting and questions...B&W and Classe are tested together but more importantly sound very good when used together.
Dear Zephyr,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my thread and I apologize to you and others about the confusion (since I didn't know better).

Yes I would like to purchase a system that can utilize all three of my speakers (804 and HTM2 with no rear speakers).

In terms of a multi-channel surround pre-processor, does McIntosh MX-134 qualify (I saw a couple of them on Ebay and Audiogon for a very good price). If so, then would you recommend it given it doesn't have HDMI for HD video?

Thank you.
No worries! The MX134 and MX135 are fine-sounding surround pre-processors however if memory serves from when I auditioned them, you may find that they don't provide all the surround post-processing formats (Thx Ultra and Ultra2) that you may want for future upgradeability. I would suggest you also listen to the Classe SSP-300 as well as the MX134, MX135 and new MX136 (have not heard this one).
If the surround pre-processor doesn't support such formats, then does it mean that the sounds don't come out at all (or does it mean that it will come out in the next best format such as Dolby, etc)?

Also, if the processor doesn't have HDMI, then does it mean that the pictures don't come out when playing HDMI format?

Should I go with one of the Denon surround pre-processor and McIntosh MC 205? Looks like Denon packs a whole lot into their processors and I can pick-up one up along with MC205 (used) to get a good combo. I will definitely have a listen to Classe as suggested. Thank you.
There are two sides to understand; pre-processing/decoding, i.e. taking the Dolby Digital (various) or DTS encodings off the DVD (or the new HD formats for BluRay) and transforming them to multi-channel analog and "post-processing" where various steps towards timbre matching, etc....are taken by the algorithms in the processor. THX Ultra, and THX Ultra2 are examples of things that are post-processed. I'm no expert,...I'm giving you the layman's interpretation of all the various materials I've read and the equipment I've used over the years. In a nutshell, if you don't have the post-processing options, you can still decode and play Dolby Digital, DTS and other newer standards (according to what your processor will support) in their native formats and be very happy. I happen to have liked THX Ultra2 post-processing for my 7.1 system but that was largely a personal preference.

All of this is a lot more readily explained via phone/email so drop me an email and we can hook up so I can explain all the background behind this and answer any questions that you might have additionally.

I do not have experience with the Denon or McIntosh pieces you list immediately above; perhaps others can help you there. They do have good reputations...

If the processor does not have HDMI inputs, that does imply that video will not come out (and you cannot input HDMI audio either). For those processors with HDMI support these days, you should also pay attention to the version of HDMI that is supported so that you get the most out of your HDMI audio and video both now and in the future. Again, this is another topic where I'd be glad to explain in detail what I'm talking about...

I also have 804S, but only do stereo, so I can't comment on processors or multi-channel amps, but can give some input.

I use a McIntosh MC275. It's 2x 75 Watts, tubed amp. I LOVE it.

Amp brands that are generally regarded as good matches with B&W 800-series are Classe, McIntosh, Rowland (have not heard), Levinson (have not heard). Bewtween Classe and solid state McIntosh with 804S is a matter of taste. Both are good, in my view. Mc tubes are also a matter of taste.

I tried MC252 (250 W per channel, solid state) and MC275 and preferred the latter. Some prefer the 252.

Now, I did have a Rotel RB1080 (200 per channel), and while good for the money, they are on a different, lower, league than McIntosh or Classe. I actually switched over because the trebble was overbearing for my taste. The aluminum tweeters in the 804S are to be dealt with, with their pros and cons.
Please note the RB1080 is 200W while the 275 is 75W, yet to my ears the 275 had nicer bass coupled with the 804 and in my room. Someone over at AAsylum explained this was because the 804S is an overdamped design and the 275 has low damping factor, so they even up. Can't tell if this is so, but it sounds good to my ears.

I hope this helps!
Thank you all.

I am seriously considering McIntosh MX-134 and MC205 given I can pick them up used on Audigon for a deep discount to their original retail price. The concern I have is if I purchase a HDTV that has HDMI connection but since MX-134 doesn't have a HDMI input, then should I assume that I cannot enjoy HDTV in HD?

I can live without THX Ultra, etc but would prefer to watch movies, etc in HD format on my HDTV.

How important is HDMI audio?

Lastly, I live in Asia and the voltage/hertz are different from the U.S. How easy is it to convert the voltage/hertz to 230w/60hertz (and what is the cost and where do I take the equipment to make such conversion)?

Thank you again.

I got my 275 in the US and then moved to Latin America, and switching voltages was almost a non issue: the tech rep at the shop where I bought it had some internal wiring moved to one place to the next in the existing transformer and that was it. Frequency change was a non issue.

yet I'm not familiar with the 205. FWIW, I did the same with my Rotel amp. It's no big deal, as long as someone knowledgeable is willing to help.

You can still enjoy HDMI video by running an HDMI cable directly from your video player to your HDTV and using another input on the HDTV. The minor inconvenience is that you have to switch both your processor as well as your HDTV to the respective inputs to watch HDMI video and hear the soundtrack decoded through the processor. For surround sound processing, you would utilize TOS Link or S/PDIF (Coax digital) from your player to the processor. Make sure you get a player that will allow for multiple simultaneous outputs....
Than you.

What is the recommended surround processor in $2K to $2.5K range (used)?
Having heard the Classe SSP-300 and SSP-600 with with Classe amps and B&W speakers (including he 804's and HTM2), I'd suggest looking at the SSP-300. One caveat is that the SSP-300 does not give you balanced inputs or outputs.

Another fantastic family of processors I forgot to mention which I've heard is the Anthem Statement D1 and later D2 and D2v versions as well as the Anthem AVM40 and AVM50. The latter versions of the D2 and AVM50 have HDMI capabilities as well as ability to decode the latest HD formats. There are numerous new versions for the sale on the market as well as numerous used versions on Audiogon and other markets. Make sure you ascertain which version of the unit you are looking at, what inputs it supports and what version of the Anthem ARC firmware software the unit is running.