Multichannel Preamp

I had a thread some time ago (see end of post) asking about this subject. At the time many of the good (or only) multichannel preamps available at a bargain were older processors made for home theater that no one wanted because the technology was outdated. Now, you have Bel Canto, McIntosh, McCormack, Audio Refinement (to name the ones Stereophile "Music In the Round" has reviewed) and some others who have made simple multichannel preamps for multichannel DVD-A, SACD, or connection to a DVD player with its own decoding.
Now that this much time has past, can anyone compare these units as well as any new ones? Dare I ask which is the best?
Way to go, Jimmy--you're one of the few who knows how to (not) punctuate 'multichannel'. Most of us get it wrong!

I can't compare my Audio Refinements Pre 5 6-channel preamp with anything but its predecessor, a Marantz pre/pro/tuner, the AV9000. Generally, the Pre 5 is less gritty, has a slightly bigger soundstage, and MAY retain more subtle spacial info. But I'm no GEA, so maybe I shouldn't opine.

I've modified mine; see .
Meitner/Emmlabs Switchman Mk3.

you won't find a better multichannel preamp.
Like Jeffreybehr, I haven't compared my Audio Refinement Pre 5 to any of the other 6 channel preamps out there, but I have been completely satisfied with it. It is a piece I truly would not hesitate to recommend.
I find my Aragon Stageone to be a fine piece of equipment both for digital movies and analoge music(2 channel and multi) prior pre/pro B&K ref 30 nice but not in the same league.
I have the Audio Refinement Pre-5 and it very fine. It is basically a 2 channel preamp that has 5.1 anologue follow thru using the volume control as a master volume. When I swithed frome a tube pre to it I noticed a loss in air but gained bass extension, pace and timing, as well as detail.

Your source will have to have 5.1 anologue outputs because you will not be using the digital out but your sources processing. It will also have to have bass management to adjust the gain to your speakers to balance the surround sound.

Stereophile claimed that the Macintosh anologue 5.1 preamp was awesome and would be my choice if budget allowed, but the AR pre-5 is good. Definitely better than a pre/pro.
I have McIntosh C-45, that replaced Bryston SP-1.7. It is a much better preamp. I understand it's the same preamp, as highly regarded 2-channel C-46, with extra 4 channels.
After I having it for a while in my system, I can't really understand an argument,that way too many people here are ready to make, in favor of "purist" 2-channel preamp (and everything else 2-channel) vs. " oh, blasphemy" multichannel.
The only other multichannel "preamp" I have compared it with, was Linn Unidisk SC player, that does have a preamp section. McIntosh is a better preamp (in my system).
You will want to add the Tube Research Labs Multi-channel preamp to the short list (very) of the "best" multi channel preamps out there.

Best wishes,
I wish some manufacturers would make more affordable multichannel anologue preamps. With the high calibre universal sources (having processing, bass management, and anologue output) it seems like tube multichannel would be the perfect senerio for a multichannel audio/video system. Tubes would add that extra dimension and largeness.

What do you guys think of NOT using the center channel. If your system images well and has a good soundstage you could tell your souces' menu not to use the center channel. It will then send the center channel info to your R&L channels. I never had a problem positioning voices and sound panning effects in my 2 channel HT. The rear speakers will handle your effects for anologue HT.
Mjcmt's wish for more-affordable multichannel preamps certainly won't be met with Jack's recommendation of the Golden Triode Multichannel--$25K!!!!!!!!!!! I imagine they'll sell 2 or 3 this year. :-)

And, Jack, it's 'multichannel', not multi channel or multi-channel. :-)

Mjcmt: "I have the Audio Refinement Pre-5 and it very fine. It is basically a 2 channel preamp that has 5.1 anologue follow thru using the volume control as a master volume." Absolutely wrong in spite of the 'information' published in a couple reviews. The Pre 5 is a 6-channel preamp conceived and built as such. There's no 'pass thru'; the 6 channels are actively amplified. If anything's added on, it's the 2-channel stuff.
Jeffreybehr wrote: "Absolutely wrong in spite of the 'information' published in a couple reviews. The Pre 5 is a 6-channel preamp conceived and built as such."

That may be but it's hard to believe if you use it.

"'s hard to believe if you use it"? I use it every day and I've had my fingers and soldering iron in mine MANY times. It's a 6-channel preamp, Kal. It has six channels of circuit traces, six channels of input- and output-coupling caps, six channels of gain modules, etc.

Why do you say that?
Well, I can only remember one point and that vaguely. It had to do with the tape monitor switch only handling 2 channels so that, when set on monitor with the input selector on the 6channel input, the other 4 channels leaked through. Also, only one 6channel input.

Overall, it was just fine but little things suggest that the MCH input was grafted on although, I admit, I do not know what was in the mind of the designer.

I'll answer my own thread here for the sake of posterity since I now have had some experience on the subject.

When I wrote this thread I was just getting into MCh operations. I had had a main system with a Sony 777ES, Mac MA6900 integrated amp, and Tyler Linbrook system (full) speakers. My "home theater" which I thought I could live with was polk speakers all around with an Adcom PrePro (GTP 830 - a great way to get in cheap to MCh by the way buying used) and Acurus amps (2 and 3 channel). Source was a Phillips 962 (predecessor to the 963) DVD/SACD player.

Ultimately, I could not live with the two systems, as the surround system was so inferior to the other. So I bought three Tyler Linbrook monitors to go with my other Tyler speakers and began searching for a good 5 channel amp and preamp. For an amp I bought the Cary Cinema 5 (which is really nice, as the reviews state) and a Marantz SA8260 for the source. I then tried this combination for a time with the adcom PrePro. I then bought the AR Pre5 to replace the Adcom, thinking the Adcom was inferior to the rest of the system. For the next month or so I switched between the Adcom and the AR, trying to decide which I liked better, but overall something was wrong. The Adcom was too dry, and the AR was good at first glance, but over time seemed strained in the upper mid-band with many recordings, and perhaps not as revealing as I was used to with my old McIntosh Integrated in stereo recordings. Believe it or not, for extended listening I preferred the Adcom to the AR.
So I decided I needed a better preamp (I could not know at the time with the preamps I had, but I gambled that the Cary Amp was not the problem).

In search of other preamp options, I borrowed the McCormack MCh preamp from a great local dealer - and sure enough, things started to sound much better indeed. Bass was fuller, highs know the drill, but overall I got all the detail I had been missing and eliminated the fatigue - a breath of fresh air so to speak. But upon continued research online (reading only) it seemed to me that the Bel Canto had more technology in it (and extremely flexible) so I auditioned that too.
Needless to say, I now own the Bel Canto. It is an excellent preamp. I won't go into the "audio terms," I'll just say that in my system it is not fatiguing and an absolute pleasure to listen to. Plus the stereo balanced inputs and 5 channel balanced outputs are a big plus, not to mention other flexibility options. Its sound has no noticeable aural crappiness (my contribution to the list of audio terms), a joy to listen to, and a step above the McCormack in transparency, though I could probably live with the McCormack. I never did get to audition the Mac C45, but don't feel the need to after owning the C15 some years ago and then the MA6900 - the Bel Canto is in my system for a long time.
So, for those in a similar situation, I would recommend either an old prepro (like the adcom) with multichannel capability or the AR if you have a less revealing system - either will do the trick, or if you have a better system the McCormack or the Bel Canto (the best in my experience).
CJ has a new MC preamp.
Why not match the Cary pre with its amp ?