Theta Casablanca is your best bet for both HT and 2 Channel stereo.
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I would go Meridian, I have had mine for years. The only issue I have is they now require you to bring it to a dealer of software updates, I used to be able to upgrade it myself. If you want analog 2 channel you will have to purchase an analog preamp that has a pass through. Meridian converts all analog input to digital then back to analog if the unit is an analog out to your amps.
That Theta looks like a beast...interesting that it's designed to be upgraded indefinitely, and configurable according to the level of quality I want in the DACs'.
I've heard good about Meridian as well. Analog 2 channel isn't critical, all my sources are digital. (which to many people may mean that 'good 2 channel' is defacto impossible, I realize, but humor me ;) )
I'd noticed the Emotiva before, and they have a good bang-for-buck rep. I'm not in a rush, just looking ahead, and garnering info/opinions on those who've been there/ done that, as opposed to reviewers who love everything. Did I read they are already overdue to release this piece?
I had wondered if a separate, higher quality pre amp might be necessary. From what I've read, many think it is. Curious about how an integrated would work - I could use that as the main 2 channel amp whether I was using the pre (in 2 channel), or the outboard processor (in HT)?
Thanks all! Keep the info coming...I far prefer real-world feedback to magazine hype. A 'goner recommended my 2 channel amp in a thread like this, a name I'd never heard of (Odyssey), and I found one from a different 'goner for sale, a Stratos, and it's been wonderful, a real revelation, so I'm looking for more real users to help me past the hype and (to me) confusing specs and feature lists.
Relatively speaking there are few prepros that are at the level of a good stereo preamp. While those few are no doubt very good, what are the odds that it would be best for you and your system/tastes? And, IMO, the preamp is one of the most critical components to get right. It just seems very limiting when you could have the whole world of stereo preamps to choose from. And although HT bypass is a nice feature, it is not necessary so your choices in stereo preamps needn't be limited by that either. Maybe you'll get lucky and one of the better prepros may also be right for you, but the odds seem much better going the other route.
The other consideration is you'll likely pay up big for one of the better prepros, and a lot of that expense goes for handling the center/surround channels. Personally, I'd rather put more money into a stereo pre (and amp) and use a decent AVR or prepro to handle surround/processing duties. Not familiar with Yamaha's processing, but the Audessey and Pioneer systems seem to get good feedback. But my priority is 2-channel so YMMV. Hope this helps and best of luck.
You'll likely have to look to the higher end AV pre-pro's for better quality 2 channel stereo, analog bypass, and general preamplification sections and such, If you're looking for all in one processor for you movie/music needs. That said, I think it's a widely agreed position here that you'll still be likely looking at some compromises, in ultimate terms, going that route. And, in fact, you can probably end up getting better quality 2 channel premplification performance from a stand-alone preamp, perhaps looping in an dedicated separate AV processor into it for movie duties ..leaving the stereo for the better dediated 2 ch preamp.
Then, I would then simply look for a quality, clear sounding, up to date AV pre/pro that's detailed and clear sounding, that offers super dynamics (and of course, has all the latest decoding, video pass and scaling, and connections you need) for movie and bluray decoding, and you should be getting best of both worlds, for the best budget considerations! Spending hard on the most expensive Theta, Krell, Meridian, etc for your AV/music needs, and you'll still easily get arguments from audiophile purists about how your stereo music is likely bettered by doing 2 separate systems, with a quality digital or analog source, instead.
I vote find the preamp that floats your boat, and then use some Emotiva 7.1 channel AV prepro to loop in for movies...then forget all about finding that $12000 AV processor just to wow your friends with glowing blue lights and a huge sticker price! ((not to mention what if the next new processing format comes along, and you already spent a fortune to "have it all in one expensive box" approach?!!))
That's my position anyway..
Yeah, I'm liking that idea more and more. I was in fact looking at Emotiva and Outlaw processors last night. Basic, which is good, but apparently up to the sound quality of the majority of processors out there. I'm also wondering with the esoteric units if I'd have the speakers and room to realize their superiority.
Anything I need to look for specifically in a good pre' to accommodate the processor hook up? Or will they all hook up? My only sources so far are DirecTV and my Oppo, although a computer will be in the future once I learn more about the best way to implement that.
In the past I have used the SONY ES line and Marantz AVRs. I am currently using the Pioneer Elite AVR with Class D3 amps, and couldn't imagine going with anything else. I had the unit modified by Stereo Dave's and it sounds absolutely wonderful for both HT and 2 channel. Clear, detailed sound, with tremendously tight bass. Well worth looking into.
Ok, more good options. Thanks. I am thinking of having all separate amplification (either one 7 channel, or adding a 5 channel to my current 2), so an avr with amps would be redundant - I just can't help thinking outboard amps are a better way to go, given my past experiences. My Yamaha AVR held it's own well in comparison to the outboard Yamaha amp I was using, but switching that for a higher quality outboard made a huge difference.
Once did a comprehensive AB comparison between a then flagship Yamaha DSP-A1 and Denon AVR5600, back in the day. The speakers I used to compare were little bookshelf B&W DM601's and also full range Mirage M5i tower speakers, as driven by the two afore mentioned AV receivers. I did movie and movie demo's with the speakers, and compared. Then, we switched in a separates Denon DA-8200 power amp for stereo 2 channel music duties. IT WASN'T EVEN A FAIR FIGHT! The performance of either the Denon or Yamaha's could not compete with the power and refinement of the better amplifier, regardless of the configuration (small vs large setting cross, etc) we ran!
What I learned? The amp's in these AV receivers leaves quite a bit on the table, and are not so special.
DO look to get quality amplification in the system, regardless.
Yeah, I've been made a believer there, at least for mains. I had my mains on the AVR and then added my Yamaha amp back in, and didn't hear much difference, but on the advice from another thread, I got an Odyssey amp of the same power rating, and it was night and day!! The receiver is running the surrounds still though.