Why don't you check out Yamaha's DSP-A1 Integrated amp? It's a few years old, has fantastic sound, and will do everything you need. Believe me, I have 2 of them, and they are ever bit the equal of my McIntosh separates. I've tried the route you want to go, and it is a pain! You can pick up mint DSP-A1's for around $650-700. Original cost when new was $2700 in black, $2850 in gold with rosewood side panels, so they are quite a bargain now.
You have to use pre-amp outs from the surround processor, as that is where volume control must lie. If not, while listening to surround material, you will be separately controlling L/R volume on your integrated amp, and the remaining volumes (center/surrounds) from the surround processor.
You cannot take L/R volume control away from the surround processor, that is what it does. The purpose of the separate 2-channel system is for 2-channel only listening.
The issue you may have is how to set the volume to the same place on the 2-channel system so that when you play surround material thru it you maintain the balance of L/R to center/surrounds.
To do this, normally some type of "pass thru" or "processor loop" is employed which bypasses the volume controls of your 2-channel system so that the proper balance is maintained. Lacking this, you will need to have a volume position on your 2-channel that is repeatable and always used when in surround mode.
Hope this helps ...
I just did this for my brother's proceed/logan system. Get a decent receiver like a denon 2804 and use the center & rear amps as normal. For R&L, use the pre-amp outs from the receiver to any inputs in the integrated. Hook up the dvd to the receiver only for 5.1. If you use the dvd for stereo also, use it's rca outs to the integrated as a cd.
When watching movies, find a place to pre-set the volume on the integrated (75%?) and never move it. You will use the level adjustments on the receiver to match the center and rears to the front level of the integrated. After this, the volume on the receiver will control all 5 channels the same. Keep in mind that due to different amps, the volume may increase slightly differently but still can be adjusted by the level controls on the receiver.
A company named Vantas used to make exactly what you are looking for (if dolby digital and prologic is all you need + amps for center and rears), but unfortuantely went belly up. Their stuff was really high end at the time (1998-2000), and is occasionally here on Audiogon or eBay for about $200-300. Check it out. http://www.audioreview.com/A-V+Preamplifier/Vantas/PRD_118434_2719crx.aspx
Elevick is correct! Adding a good receiver that has pre-amp outs is the most cost effective and easiest way to do this. He is also correct that you actually DO want to use the pre-amp in the receiver, not the integrated amp, when using HT. This will allow all channels of volume control to be performed by the reciever (which is the processor for HT).
Adding an HT reciever to power the center and surround, control subwoofer LFE signal and process the digital signal is GREAT because when you listen to music using the integrated, the receiver is not even in the chain. It can be turned off completely so you know it is not "mucking up" you 2-channel music system.
You can easily buy a good HT receiver with pre-outs for $500. If you go used, you can even get an EXCELLENT 5.1 channel HT receiver.
Personally, I like the Sony STR-DB "bridge line" receivers for less than $500, or the Sony STR-ES line for a little more. They are very easy to use compared to some of the Denon, Pioneer and Panasonic receivers that I have also owned. For a killer HT receiver, the B&K AVR-202 can be had for about $750 used. However, I prefer the easy ergonomics of the Sony.
I appreciate the suggestion of using the pre-amp outs on an HT receiver for the front channels. Unfortunately, using the pre-amp inputs on my integrated amp will bypass the integrated amp for HT AND for music. Since a receiver won't have as good a preamp as my integrated amp, the sound quality will by compromised. It's not possible to connect the HT receiver's pre-amp outs to a line-level input on my integrated amp, is it?
"It's not possible to connect the HT receiver's pre-amp outs to a line-level input on my integrated amp, is it?"
Sure is, and this is what is being suggested above. Once you have it hooked up, set your integrated's volume to an easy to remember volume, I use 12 oclock. Now calibrate your HT reciever/processor's levels. Whenever you watch a movie, set your integrated to the same position, and it will be balanced where you set it earlier. Works great.
Re: connecting pre-amp outs to line ins: This won't hurt the amp? Pre-amp outs are higher level than line outs.
It has worked for many of us. Like I said, I use 12 oclock on the integrated. And it is still a low-level signal. Even with active preamps, they act as more of an attenuator rather than increasing the signal.
In addition to Jdcrox: most processors/receivers incorporate some kind testlevel-noise. Hook the gear up, turn the integrated stereo-amp to 12'o-clock, sit in your listening/viewing place, and adjust the noise so all speakers give the same output. Then put in a DVD and enjoy! By the way: I just bought a secondhand Yamaha DSP-E800, a processor with built-inn power amps for centre and rear speakers, leaving the fronts to your stereo-amp. It cost me around 130 dollars (100 euro's), so maybe that's a suggestion?
I just want to reiterate what I said earlier and what everyone else is telling you. Based on our knowledge AND personal experience (many times over) You DO want to run the L&R front pre-outs from the receiver to an unused line-level input on the integrated amp. You MUST use the receiver (or some other kind of external box) to perform the pre-amp and volume control function because you need ALL channels to track the same volume level.
I (and the other posters) have used this type of setup and it works flawlessly. It is also the simplest and least expensive option.
Simply connect your dedicated music sources to the integrated anp. When you want two channel music, play it as you do new.
Hook up HT sources (DVD, VCR, TV, Cable-box) to the HT receiver. When you want to watch HT, Turn on the receiver in addition to the integrated. Select the apporpriate input on the integrated amp, set the volume to your "pre-defined level" on the integrated and now your HT receiver controls everything. Once you have selected the correct input on the integrated and have set the volume to the :pre-defined level", your integrated simply acts as an external amp running off of the receivers front L&R pre-outs.
Thanks a lot for all your help, guys. I knew it wasn't as complicated as others were making it out to be. You've saved me a lot of trouble and money. I appreciate it!
I use the Yamaha DSP-E492 unit bought used and it is just great. It has 3 channel amplification of 60 watts each an uses your existing receiver for the rest. It does everything you want in one box at a low price. You can buy them used from $75-150 range. Check out the Yamaha website for details.
Ehmmmm Isopod, I might be wrong here, but I thought the 492 doesn't offer Dolby Digital or DTS?
Ddoneff, Enjoy it!
FWIW, I have a Cayin TA-30 tube integrated feeding GMA Europas for my music enjoyment. For home theater, I run an Outlaw 950 pre/pro, the lt/rt fronts go to an input on the Cayin, with the volume set to, you guessed it, 12 o'clock! The center and surrounds are handled by an ADCOM 2535 amp, feeding NHT super ones.
Best of both worlds.
I too am thinking of doing this, however I do not have another spare input on my integrated.
Could I use the pre outs for my Left and Right fronts and send them through my proccessor loop and then use the other 3 channels off my reciever.
My only conern is match the gain level, so the volume will go up at equal levels on all speaker.
Yes, the processor loop is probably a better solution. If it is a modern integrated amp, the processor loop/HT bypass is designed especially to support this type of setup.
Simply run the R&L pre-outs from the receiver to the processor loop inputs.
When you calibrate the cannel volumes for the "HT setup" (receiver powering center, surround, etc-Integrated amp powing L&R front speakers), simply turn on the Integrated amp and Receiver, select the processor loop input selector on the integrated amp and calibrate all channel volumes using the HT receiver for volume control of all channels.
The processor loop/HT bypass simply sends the inputs directly to the power amp section of your integrated amp. It causes the integrated amp to bypass all pre-amp functions, therefore, your integrated amp works as if it were simply an add on power amp.
This setup works well and is a very inexpensive alternative if you already have a good 2-channel music system.
BTW, the only functional difference between using the processor loop inputs or using an unused line-level input is the fact that you do not have to remember to set the volume control of the integrated amp to a "pre-defined" level each time you want to use HT.
You are correct. The Yamaha E-492 decodes any Dolby Pro-Logic signal using its internal processor but does not decode Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS internally. I currently decode these other formats using an external processor within my NAD DVD player connected to the 6 channel input of the Yamaha. Yamaha also made the DDP-1 processor which handles Dolby Digital externally but not DTS. Also a good processor if you have laser discs since it is also capable of handling their RF based outputs. Cheers.
I've been looking into this as well, to move into HT with my Arcam Delta 290 integrated and was wondering any sort of models folks might suggest in the painfully modest price range of a newlywed buying a new house (~$250 or less for something used). The Yamaha model i've read most about (DSP-E800) seems to be relatively unavailable here in the US. Thanks in advance.
Look for a TECHNICS SH-AC500 DD/DTS DECODER, they can be had for around $200 or less, pretty highly-rated unit when it came out.