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?

Thanks!
bmdduck
#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