Need advice on pre/pro - Rotel1098/Outlaw990/???

Hello, I need some input on selecting a preamp/processor for my home theater system. I have a merged 2-channel/home theater setup right now. Here is my current gear:
- HK AVR430
- PS3 80GB, Comcast HD Cable, Yamaha DVD player
- Proceed PRE, PDP and CDD, AMP2
- B&W 640's, LCR3 center and JBL rears.
- Sony 42" 1080i LCD

I'm adding a Proceed AMP3 to the mix which will allow me to move up from the HK into a Pre/Pro. My budget for the processor is $1000.

Since my only hi-res input device right now is the PS/3, the capability for the processor to decode TrueHD and Master Audio are not necessary. I have no problem being a bit behind the curve. In fact, I would rather have a higher end/higher performance unit with lesser capabilities.

Audio performance of first and foremost with me. If a processor had outstanding 2-channel audio performance that met or exceeded my Proceed PRE, then I'd consider selling the PRE. I have read in many forums of people suggesting for the best 2-channel performance, to keep your stereo pre-amp in the picture, and I'm very happy with my Proceed preamp.

Right now, the HK is doing component switching between DVD and HD cable. The PS3 runs HDMI into the TV for video and Toslink to the HK for audio. If I got a better picture from cable over HDMI and did all video switching in the receiver, I'd consider this, but this not a priority.

Models I'm considering (in no particular order):
Outlaw 990
- Likes: balanced outputs, 30-day in home no-risk trial, new equipment warranty, price
- dislikes: DVI instead of HDMI, but I probably won't use these.

Rotel 1098
- My B&W dealer is also a Rotel dealer and he says this is an excellent match for my equipment. He has a 1098 demo unit 1098 available with the full Rotel warranty, but this is way out of my budget.
- There appears to be a good supply of 1098's in the used market place ~$1000 price point. I'm concerned about the fact that the warranty is non-transferrable and I have read in some forums of people voicing concerns with failures.

Integra 9.8
- likes: balanced, latest codecs, lot's of favorable comments in online forums on this model
- dislikes: over budget

I appreciate your input and recommendations.
Tim, Have you considered the Anthem AVM-20/30? I'm in almost the exact same position. I posted a very similar thread and believe that it falls in the same category/price range as your other selections and seems to get very favorable feedback. If you have considered it and it didn't make your list I would be interested in knowing why.

Hi Lodi/Dave,

I'm just starting my research project and I'm not familiar with the Anthem products at all. I'll take a look. Thank you for the feedback.

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Hey Tim, if you're interested in the Integras, check out the Onkyo PR-SC885P. Apparently it's part of Onkyo's Pro Line and is identical to the Integra 9.8, sans the three year warranty. Ths unit is a few features light of the 9.9, but supports all of the latest formats and has HDMI 1.3 switching. And, most importantly, it gets rave reviews. Like you, I'm not overly interested in the HDMI switching just yet, but its nice to have it for future equipment and resale.

Anyone else have thoughts here?

Hi Dave,

That Onkyo Pro model looks to have all the bells and whistles like the 9.8 and 9.9. I'll check out some reviews on it. I like the fact that it has balanced out. Although I wonder about that - does it make it better to just have balanced or do you need internal design to be able to make them superior.

I briefly looked into the Anthem 20 and 30. I wasn't a fan of the way it looks. I know that should be really low on the list, but I have an open rack just left of the left floor speaker and it would drive me nuts if I didn't like the way it looks.

I have been thinking about the Rotel RSP-1069 some more as well. The nice thing about this unit is that it does have HDMI 1.1. That would allow me to utilize the PS3 to decode the latest codecs. That is something that I would not be able to do with the Rotel 1098 or the Outlaw 990.

And the more I think about it, the more I'm settled on the idea that I'll be keeping my Proceed preamp in the mix for 2-channel listening. By deciding this, it takes pressure off trying to find an ultimate performance pre/pro and now I can concentrate on improving upon the what the HK is giving me now.

Thanks Dave,

Hi Tim,

I used to own the Rotel 1068 and was happy with it but Switched to the Onkyo 905 because of the HDMI switching capabilities. Its Very convenient as a HT hub, I use it with my PS3 for movies and games and have the Pre out on the Onkyo to my dedicated amp for the front speakers. This way the only connection to my more serious 2ch rig is from the Preout of the Onkyo.

I feel like I'm pirating your thread...i've been checking out some reviews on the 9.8/885 (thanks bob_reynolds). Every review I have seen is glowing! As I mentioned before, I really like the fact that the unit is current in both architecture and the formats it is able to decode. The consensus seems to be that its the best 'bang for the buck' processor in the $2K range, and possibly higher. Maybe the unit is slightly biased towards HT/video, but certainly not without pretty good musical abilities too.

Most reviewers tend to do an A-B comparison with gear that is far more expensive, so I'm guessing my ears will be very happy. With the 885 available at for $799, I'm really leaning in this direction.

Here are a couple of reviews if interested:


Hi Tim,

This is one of those cosmic questions about finding the Swiss Army knife of pre-pros. I have tried the Outlaw 950 & 990, the Rotel 1068, HK AVR-745 (receiver), EAD Ovation-8, Pioneer 1014 (receiver), and Onkyo 885.

The EAD is easuily the best sounding unit. It is the only one that I liked for 2-channel and surround. But, the SRC remote should only be used for setup and then tossed in a corner. I used a Logitech with great results. The real reason for me to move on was when I added a turntable. The Ovation just couldn't match a good 2-channel (tube) pre for analog sources.

So, now I'm using a 2-channel tube pre into the RCAs on my amp and the Onkyo 885 into the XLRs. I just have 2 switches on the back of the amp to switch and I'm ready for stereo/analog nirvana.

Notice I said XLRs and not balanced. While many pre-pros sport XLR connections, I'd be surprised if many are true-differential preamps (aka Balanced). In other words, lots of equipment sports XLRs, but that doesn't mean it is truly Balanced. So, the XLRs may not afford any better sound (and it may be worse). You should research the pre-pros you're interested in further (here and in other forums) to get the truth.

My answer to you is that, for your system, I think you can find a pre-pro within your budget that can displace your pre. But, it ain't easy!

Dave - no worries - you are not hijacking the thread, I enjoy hearing different opinions/options. I totally missed the Onkyo gear on accessories4less - thanks for the tip. An 885 for $799 with a one-year warranty (refurb), I do not know how I can pass this up! Plus they have the 30-day return policy.

Are you like me - a bit consumed by trying to find the right thing for me to buy that you are doing a bit too much review and forums reading at work? And thanks for the additional reviews.

Jeff - Hi! Thanks for info. I never though of running both a 2-channel and HT into the amp and throw that switch to change between systems - very crafty!

And that is an excellent point on XLR vs Balanced! I'll be digging into that regarding the 885.

As you can probably tell, I'm really leaning toward the 885 at this point due to the refurbs available on-line. Did you have any particular reservations about the 885 other than the fact that you found the O-8 better sounding?

It's not my goal to get rid of the Proceed Pre, I'm totally happy keeping it as I like it very much. IF the HT ssp exceeds the performance of the Proceed, then I'll sell it and gain the $$ and rack space. But at the $1000 threshold, I'm not expecting that.

Thanks guys!

Yeah, I tend to completely over analyze! At the end of the day, I need to replace a ailing Sony ES that's about 10 years old. I could probably get a brick and be sufficiently pleased, but I like the hunt. ;-)

My speakers are Nautilus 805s and DM6s. Sub is an ASW-3000 and my amp is a Rotel-985. So, despite age, the rest of my core gear is decent. Once I get a good pre/pro I will add a Blue Ray and sit tight until I see fit to upgrade the amp.

While I like the idea of the higher end gear, I'm swayed by the fact that the 885 is somewhat current and receives such positive reviews. I don't pay attention to this stuff everyday like some of the gurus, but it seems like pre/pros are in a bit of a transition with the onset of HDMI and newer formats. So, a relatively good performing and inexpensive pre/pro that will serve me well for a couple of years is looking like a no brainer. Might order one tonight, but I would also like to hear Jeff's thoughts regarding your questions.


I hear you with regard to getting something current and then enjoying it. I don't need the latest and greatest each year - heck my main speakers turned 18 years old this year!

My only beef right now with the 885 is the logo-fest on the face of it! Thankfully the Onkyo Pro has that door to hide a bunch of the buttons as opposed to the Integra 9.8 - that face is soooo busy.

I'm tempted to order ASAP as well, but I'm going out of town for 6 days so it will need to wait. My first day back at work my Proceed AMP-3 will be arriving so I'll probably want to get that into the mix first anyway. You know, just change one thing at a time.

If you do purchase one, I look forward to hearing your experience with it and how good the refurbished unit is.


No problems/issues with the 885 so far. The HDMI switching and Reon video processing are nice additions.

But, for me, it is audibly inferior to the EAD, especially in Stereo. It was not subtle to me, but I've lived with the EAD for over 2 years. The EAD is more transparent, detailed, and accurate. The big thing for me is that the EAD is more musical. But, this shouldn't be a huge surprise since the EAD is really based on a DAC and sold for $4500.

And please don't get the impression that the 885 doesn't sound good. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that it is not the equal of an audiphile DAC/preamp. Just as the EAD was not the analog equivalent of a tube preamp.

Anyway, I'm starting to get used to the Onkyo's sound, whether it is break-in or my ears adjusting. Since it is a refurb, I'd say it is my ears.

It should be a nice upgrade over the HK and shouldn't be disappointing.

Let me add a few caveats on my impressions...I've only had the 885 for a week (refurb from Accessories4less) and I haven't setup audyssey yet. I've tried other EQ systems and haven't been happy with the results, but I will get there eventually. Others have generally liked the results from MCACC, etc, but I haven't and I'm definitely in the minority in that case. In theory, Audyssey should be better.

As far as your system, I'd probably start by using the unbalanced outputs to the Proceed PRE's SSP input. That will allow you to swap to 2-channel via the remote. You can also experiment with the extra balanced input on your PRE to see which you prefer.

BTW, my refurb has worked flawlessly and I cannot find a single mark on it. So, I would definitely recommend the Accessories4less route.

Let me know if you have any other questions.


I have a Proceed PAV/PDSD pair that I use with a Proceed Amp 2 and an Amp 3. I am attracted to the idea of replacing the PDSD with an Integra 9.8 for its HDMI and Audessey, if I can bypass the Integra's processing for analog as the PSDS permits you to do, but I'm not sure the Integra has that capability. Do you know, and how would you accomplish it? There appears to be no Integra dealer in Santa Barbara, so I've never actually seen a 9.8.


That is great feedback. I like the comment about burning in/training your ears - ain't that the truth! I'm glad to hear your positive experience with the refurb from Acc4less - that puts me at ease. I believe that the Proceed only has rca inputs for the SSP, so that settles that.


Take a look at the review links that Dave (lodi) posted earlier in this thread. I know at least one of them explains the different bypass modes in detail. There are three modes on the 885. Actually, that is one of the few items where the 9.8 and 885 differ. I believe the 885 has one additional bypass mode.

I've never seen either of these units in action, I'm just going to buy and try. The nice thing about going with the 885 refurb, is that you have a 30 day return policy with no restocking fee.

After more thinking about this, I think I am going to go the route of the Rotel RSP-1069. This will meet all my needs and my dealer will sell me new A-stock of this for $899. I read a few reviews were for my equipment Proceed AMPs and B&W, the Rotel is better match. I am going to sleep on this and order in the morning.

Thank you everyone for your input!

Both are outdated but I would pick the Rotel between the two.

The Integra stuff is on display at Evolution AV in Agoura Hills. Should be less than an hour from you. Still a "schlep", but these are good, helpful folks and it might be worth your time.

BTW, I'm pretty sure that there's a "Direct" input on the Integra that bypasses the internal processing. I had the Evolution guys demo the Integra's Audyssey feature for me and, if I remember correctly, that's how they did the A/B.

Good Luck


PS I ended up with an Integra AVR for my HT room and am very pleased with it.
Thanks Marty,

I was heading to Evolution AV Sunday afternoon, but have decided to go another day -- my Proceed PAV/PDSD sounds fine, and my Velodyne SMS-1 probably does the heavy lifting on room equalization below 80 Hz. I've always found EAV to be helpful and a great place to see, hear, and buy stuff.


I use the SMS-1 in my 2 channel system. It's the least expensive piece of the system by a fair margin, but probably the biggest contributor to the excellent results I'm getting. The SMS is quite possibly the single best value component I've ever purchased.