Oops, forgot to add, if theres another you think more favorably in the same price point, I am open- but preference is geared toward high audio (second, home theatre) but both are important.
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I would agree with Definitive. Proceed AVP is hard to beat. It is excellent on 2 channel not just movies like the Lexicon. However, I sold mine and purchased a California Audio Labs unit, the CL-2500-SSp which is better in most respects than the AVP. The AVP has more inputs and the inputs can be programmed with titles. Some of the CAL units presets can be labled, others are fixed. The Cal unit has is more advanced with newer and more powerful motorola chips and new higher bit dac. It has Burr Brown 1704 dacs on all channels which are 96/24 bit dacs. Also the Cal unit is hardware upgradable and the Proceed is only software upgradeable. The dacs can not be upgraded which in one of the reasons I sold my unit. On 2 channel, the Cal unit is very clean and as good as a lot of hi-end 2 channel preamps but it is not as good as the better ones. The Proceed pre-amp was a Stereophile class B preamp , but the Cal unit is better than it so that should tell you that it's 2 channel performance is not shabby. Audition 1 if you can. It is a new unit and hard to find. I was able to purchase from a dealer who gave me a very competitive price. For video switching you have to buy a separate swithcer which adds another 2000.00 to the cost. The video switcher can switch HDTV signals and will include a line doubler in the near future. As I said the AVP is not hardward upgradeable and thus can not be upgraded to process component video signals or any other new formats that may appear. After comparing them all, including the Lexicon, I settled on the Cal unit because, it sounds better on 2 channel than any that ss processor that I have heard and I have heard most, it has the most advance motorala and Burr Brown chips than any other on the market, and both video and audio capabilities can be upgraded via hardware and software upgrades.
I agree the AVP is a good product, but the Meridian gear is in another league. The 565 (older model) has been the best sounding processor for the past 5 years, the only problem was it was impossible to setup. Now the 561 and 568 have PC setup software that works really well. The AVP is user friendly, the MC-1 has a lot of effects, but the 568 is the audiophile choice.
I think the Meridian clearly beats the Lexicon in sonics (I havn't heard the MC-1 but I have heard the MC-2 which is supposed to be better). If sonic purity is what your looking for then I would wait to get your hands on the new Bryston Sp-1. It doesn't offer as many features as either the Lexicon or the Meridian (nor is it nearly as complicated to setup), but it does have all the important THX features,and I have yet to hear as home theater pre/pro that sounds as pure to the source. (I,ve heard alot of high end pre/pros) Shannon
Thanks for your responses so far guys, throwing a NEW unit in the Mix- HAS ANYONE HEARD OF THE OVATION ? I forget who makes it. It is a sleek looking silvery unit and supposedly upgradable. I have decidedly placed LEXICON on the bookshelf with my unwanted books. Heard today that Meridian offers a much warmer sound than Lexicon. Never heard of rhw CAL, Bulldogger, but I will look into it. Anyone heard of OVATION ?
You mentioned in your original post that high-end audio was your first priority. If this is true, then you won't get it with a home theater processor. Even the best processors, costing 2 and 3 times the units you are looking at, can't compete with a dedicated 2-channel preamp for high-end sound. If you're truely serious about 2-channel audio, then save some money on the processor and buy a decent preamp as well. Both can be integrated into the same system. There's all this talk about the sound of one processor versus another, but one comparison of any processor to a decent preamp will yield obvious results.
Check out Widescreen Review issue 38. Widescreen has reviewed everyone of the processor you are considering and the editor feels that the California Audio Labs units outperforms all of the others by a substantial margin and sets new standards for a surround processor. But of course you need to listen for yourself. Listen to the other and then listen to it and see what you think. The issues 35-38 cover most of the top processor. Widescreen was doing a review of processor. But one source is not the last word on anything and your opinion is what matters.
A good friend of mine wrestled with the exact same question a few months ago. He decided on the Classe, primarily because it did 2 channel SO much better. His explanation of why contained a detailed description of how the Classe is the only one with direct 2 channel analog throughput. I belive this means the other do a A-D, then a D-A conversion whenever a signal is run through it. Apparently, this process was detrimental to the sound, but removed when using the 2 channel throughput option. Perhaps this sis something you could look into. I know there are many dealers who will let you try it at home if you have the inclination.
Another possibility. I use a Krell KRC-3 preamp which has one input as a "pass-through." So for pure audio, I go source to Krell to amp. (And Krell makes wonderful preamps). I hook my Lexicon to the pass-through input so home theater goes from Lexicon to Krell pass-through to amp. DON'T use Lexicon for direct audio since, as mentioned by others, it does A-D then D-A and the signal suffers audibly, even to my less than golden ears.
is it over the top to get a separate pre-amp for the 2 channel audio and then get a separate digital processor when using home theatre. This way, you do not have to compromise on the audio side when purchasing the right pre-amp (for an audio research DC-300). Then, also, one can focus on the technology when looking into the processor.
The Cal Audio Labs unit has gotten better and better with break-in. I have my cake and am eating it too, love the unit. Great,though not as good as the very best, two channel performance. But certainly, certainly, performance on two channel that is hi-end and better than a lot of strictly two channel pre-amps that I have heard. Out of the box, the soundstage was not as wide as my old Proceed AVP but after about 50 hours of break-in, it has really begin to shine. Seems like many people have not heard the unit and do not know how good it is and think "oh another surround processer claiming to be high-end." This one really is.