Looking for Pre/Pro with great 2 ch sound

I'm looking for advice on pre-pro's with emphasis on 2-channel and multi-channel music performance. The budget is around 1500 for a used unit, or maybe up to about 3000 for a new one.

The leading candidate so far is a used Anthem AVM-20/30. I've read great reviews on their sound quality and the older ones seem like a good bang for the buck. I'm not concerned with HDMI or every last surround sound mode. My other candidate (if I can swing it) is a Linn Unidisk SC. If I go that route than it obviously combines a great disk player with the pre-pro. Any other ideas and/or opinions?

#1 vote - Proceed AVP. Great HT decoders built in, but this unit alone is worth the $'s for it's 2-channel performance alone! Awesome, awesome, awesome. No longer in business, but Madrigal will still service the unit if need be, the best performer for the $'s, bar none.
Used - less than $800.

#2 vote - Theta CasaNova. This unit is a fabulous performer for 2-channel that decodes most any surround modes too. Obviously a surround processor first, with strong 2-channel sonics.
Used - less than $800.

Funny, $1,500 is a tough price as I think the $800 price used pieces compete (or better) the $1,500 units and in my experiences - my ears - my rooms - one would need to spend substantially more to get 'improvements' (again, to my ears, my room) getting into the likes of the Meridian 568.2/861.

Don't get me wrong, there are alot of wonderful processors out there that do fine decoding HT and have a solid musical presence - AND everyone will give you a list of their top 5 - for which NO ONE will have the same top 5.

I use a Levinson #40 in our large room and a JBL SDP-40HD (Lexicon MC12B) in our smaller room. I have had the Meridian 861v.4 before that, of course every incarnation of the Lexicon products, Theta, EAD, California Audio Labs, Golden Theaters, Chord, Anthem, McIntosh, and the lovely Proceeds.

Hope this helps and doesn't confuse.
Anthem is Awesome. I also love the Sunfire IV or Sherbourn 7010/A (same thing)
I'd second the CasaNova vote. Then the AVP. The CasaNova has greater flexibility, and will really allow you to dial in your speakers. Very good depth and sound on 2 channel for a processor. I've listened to it recently against the NAD master series, and Arcam AV9, and thought it beat both of them. Didn't stomp them, but was more dynamic and brought out details better. To me both the CasaNova and AVP beat out the Anthem or Linn for sound quality. I've owned the AVP and AVP2, and the AVP will give you more bang for the buck.
Thanks to all for the great feedback.

I'll have to do some research on the products mentioned. I'm surpised to hear the Theta mentioned as in my price range. In my reading they seem to be very expensive and have a lot of options/variants. Can anyone add any detail on the Casanova's options, what variants to look for, etc?

Thanks again!
Anthem, Parasound and Cary Audio
Lexicon MC-8
After doing some research of the Proceeds, it seems that the AVP is available used for around 800-1000 and the AVP for around 2000. The AVP2+6 is around 2500. Any opinions on the differences and whether the newer versions are worth the extra money?

I read that Proceed was absorbed into Mark Levinson a few years back. Have they always been related to Levinson or where they previously independent? I ask because people describe the Proceeds as Levinson technology at a non-Levinson price. Any interesting details on the company history?

I have an AVM 30 with a PVA 7 amp. It is nice with two channel. If you don't mind some of the dsp's then the anthem has a nice mode which accents the front 2.1 channels but fills in the rear two channels with ambient sounds. It doesn't sound quite so hoaky as other surround formats. I use it often when i listen too two channel music on my HT setup.

Proceed has always been associated with Levinson through Madrigal as far as I know.

I bought my first Proceed products, a PAV and Amp 2, in the early to mid '90 period, and still have those units, as well as a PAV/PDSD pre/pro pair, a second Amp 2, and an Amp 3. The Proceed stuff has been reliable and sounds fine to me. The PAV/PDSD pair was replaced in the Proceed line by the more practical and cost effective single chassis AVP, AVP 2, and AVP 2-6 series. The PDSD was essentially a card cage with great upgrade flexibility potential, but the idea seemed to have been dropped at some point; the PAV/PDSD was a pricey pair.

I was very pleased with the 2 channel (direct) capabilities of my old factory upgraded Acurus Act 3 (upgraded to Aragon Stage 1 status), as well as the unbeatablely dynamic, clear, and detailed PCM/24bit/DD/DTS playback! This piece is very very rare, as they only moded a few of these units. But, I've never found a better DD/DTS pre/pro for movies, PCM, or direct analog through all input on the unit! Much more refined and balanced than the old Act 3. Worth a peak around (no HDMI switching, or anything. But otherwise, superb! - can be had around $1200 range used. Which is a steal, since the factory upgrade alone was $1100!
I have the Anthem AVM50 and Anthem Statement P5. Love them both! Video is great and 2CH is very good. Not as good as the Statement D2, but still sweet!
I would not buy a pre/pro based on video capability. I use a 3-in 2-out Octava HDMI switcher with my Proceed PAV/PDSD with excellent results. The PAV was said to be SOTA for S video, but who cares about S video now? Before HDMI, I took component video from my Direct TV HD-DVR and Sony 9100ES DVD directly to my Sony 36 XBR. Now I take HDMI from the HD-DVR and a Sony PS3-80 and to a Sony LCD monitor (that I plan to replace with a Sony VPL 50 or 60 front projector). My Sony 9000ES, back from Sony Laredo, provides stereo CD and SACD. Not sure what they did, but it sounds great now.

The constant is the excellent stereo I enjoy. At one time I thought to simplify and bought a penultimate Sony receiver. Much to my surprise, the spacious transparency I so enjoyed collapsed, much like a souffle that fell. Needless to say, I reinstalled the Proceed stuff. I gave the Sony receiver to a friend; it was a big step up from the Sony receiver he had.

that has a 5.1 input and great 2 channel. Video isn't a requirement.
I'm thinking Aragon Soundstage...I have a Rotel amp.
Any other opinions?
How about a processor, used, under $1000...that has a 5.1 input and great 2 channel. Video isn't a requirement.
I'm thinking Aragon Soundstage...I have a Rotel amp.
Any other opinions?
If you get a CasaNova, make sure it has DD, DTS, and most people prefer Circle Surround. Balanced outputs for L-R-C, is a very nice option too.
I think the Casanova is the way to go. 2 channel listening is awesome, although I think the processing for home theater lacks a little. For the price you can pick them up for, I do not think there is a better product for the money.
I agree 100% with friz1313 with the Theta Casa Nova recommendation; System did not loose much when it went from a Klyne front end to the casa nova; probally due to the ability to have so much speaker adjustments (phase,crossover type,crossover freq and slope) having these selections resulted being able to custom taylor your system for its listening enviroment.
Having the circle surround option is very well worth it,very enjoyable.
A little more background on this question: I have Linn Ninka speakers and I'm considering going to Linn amplifiers (Linn 5125 multichannel amp) to actively power the speakers. On other threads everyone says to pair Linn amps and speakers with Linn preamps. The problem is the Linn multichannel controllers are either really expensive or out of date (like the 5103).

Would the Theta or Proceed pair well with Linn amps? The other option is to use a pre-pro for multichannel listening and a Linn preamp for two channel with pass through for multichannel. This just seems needlessly complex. Any further thoughts?
A Meridian 568 or 568.2 would be an excellent used processor to get.

Good Luck
I currently own Linn Unidisk SC. I have previously owned Meridian G68 and Proceed AVP2+6. They are all very musical. You should be able to put together musically satisfying system with any of these.

I like Unidisk simply because of its superb SACD performance. When playing SACD the background noise is so low you can hear and feel the recorded ambiance on many of the recordings. The redbook CD performance is also pretty good. Meridian was probably a touch more smooth and airy in redbook CD and DVD Audio, but the difference was small enough. Proceed sounds fuller and more authoritative compared to both Meridian and Linn. Proceed, while it was a very good processor, was tad dark sounding, and ultimately I preferred more lively and airy sound of Meridian and Linn.
Cary cinema 11 should fit the bill. Balanced in and outs and rave reviews but it is audio only.