Good question. First out of the gate, the MX136 does not decode the latest high definition surround sound audio formats from Blu-ray such as Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Just so you're aware of that. If that's not a priority, then you're good to go with the McIntosh. But, consider that a brand new surround sound processor in the $2K area (i.e. Rotel) would be an excellent machine for the money. In fact, that's my next upgrade someday when I can swing it.
McIntosh Labs equipment is in another league and is really very high end. Not really apples to apples. Everything about McIntosh is mucho dollars!! My audio store just took on their line and I got the tour of their components and systems recently. All I kept seeing was dollar signs that I know I'd never be able to afford nor would I really want to. I'm very happy with my mid-fi equipment system comprising Rotel, NAD, Marantz and B&W. I think you'd be happy too. What components do you have now in your system? If you buy a processor, you'll need a multi-channel amp to match. Hope this helps guide you. Keep the discussion going.
With a 7.1 analog input and a BluRay player like Oppo BDP-95, you can still enjoy the new Hi-Rez formats, just not decoded in the pre/pro. All you really give up is the room correction, which the Mac doesn't have anyway... The Mac should really be seen as a great preamp that also happen to include processing for HT
If you are planning to use the pre/pro as a multi channel preamp only, rather than getting an older Mcintosh, you are better off scooping up the used Bel Canto MCH pre that is currently listed. What this will not give you is decoding of MCH coming in on your satellite receivers. If this is not a factor to you AND 2 channel analog performance is more important than MCH, the Bel Canto + Oppo is a good option. Keep in mind though that a modern 2K pre/pro has room correction, which may be beneficial for your 2 channel system as well. It will also give you bass management if you have a sub. So you would get an inferior preamp, but with more features. The benefits of room correction, could offset the lower grade preamp. If your soom sucks it probably will. So tough call - many variables.
A variation on Edorr's thoughtful post:
If you are using a (or a pair of) subwoofer(s), this is IMHO a no-brainer: find the best digital bass management/room correction you can afford. If you're not using subwoofer(s), then I'd agree with Edorr - it's a tough call.
If your budget is 2k you have lots of options. You didn't mention your speakers or amp, so I'll assume if 2 channel is your priority then you have full range speakers or great monitors with a sub. In terms of new, you have the Marantz ($1600) and Integra (at just over your budget at $2,600). The benefit of both is that you get 2 channel and room correction that is very good. I personally am not a Rotel fan. Good value overall but I don't like the sound and no room correction. This I feel that the Marantz is the best value in its class.
If you choose to go used, then yes you could get a "higher end" brand but I'm not quite sure what your goals are. What are your sources? If your sources are digital then the DAC in the unit make a difference. If you are using the DACs in the source then that is less of a priority. Example: A Parasound used is fantastic value but also analog only. The Anthem units have great overall quality from the DAC to room correction to output and offer separate settings and cross over for music and movies. You can have one set of settings for your CD player and another for for your BluRay.
There are also some older Lexicon preamps that have hit the market.
I cannot emphasize enough not to buy for brand or price but for your ears. If you can demo units at a dealer then do that. If you can't go new see
What they have used or as demo units. That way you also support your local dealer. Finally, the preamp is part of the sum of your system. I suggest you think about it in light of your speakers and amp and try and match that up with what appeals to your ears. Remember it is all about what your tastes are and what you like.
But before closing I cannot over emphasize the difference quality room correction makes!!!
Thanks for the responses.
My system is currently composed of - an Emotiva XPA 5 amp, Emotiva UMC - 1, as a pre-pro, an oppo 95 and Sonus Faber Cremona M's for the mains and center.
I have the upgrade bug. What is the next step?
A pre-pro? mono blocks for the mains?
Leave the 5 channel alone and doing something to maximize the 2 channel sound?
I have been out of the game so to speak for many years and don't know where to best spend to upgrade my system.
Again thanks for the advise.
Audiojan: Thanks for clarifying that about the decoding of the new high resolution formats. I wasn't 100% sure if both the source and processor had to decode. Question, in addition to the analog inputs as you mentioned, wouldn't it also work using an HDMI cable?
Another option to consider in that price range is the Anthem MRX300 receiver, to use mainly as a pre/pro, you could use some of the amps for extra surrounds or a second zone.
I was looking for pre/pros <5k and ended up with one. It comes with a slightly slimmed down version of ARC that's in their 6k+ pre/pros. Unlike the non-pro versions of Audyssey, it comes with a calibrated mic and uses a laptop for the calculations instead of the DSP in the unit itself.
It digitizes all inputs so ARC can be used, so it wouldn't work well if you want to use the DAC in your Oppo.
Your decision revolves around whether or not you want to go down the room correction path. If so, I would get a decent $2K new SSP with HDMI. This technology progresses fast and the older SSP just don't have the features you need.
The alternative approach is the focus on the 2 channel signal path. The 95 has excellent DACs, so no issue there. A good 2 channel preamp with HT bypass will definitely improve performance. Next you could get a good stereo amp or monoblocks.
Before deciding which way to go I would get a copy of the free REW (Room EQ Wizard), and measure your room. If it appears you have significant room mode issues the room correction path is probably preferable. If not, I would go the 2 channel sans EQ optimization route.
Keep in mind that if you are a savvy audiogon shopper, you can get a used preamp at a good price. If you don't think it does enough for your 2 channel system you just sell it and lose may be $50 worht of shipping and transaction cost. You can do the same with 2 channel poweramp.
If a new SSP does not work out the way you are expecting you end up taking a bit more of a hit.
PDN: yes, HDMI would work as well, but rarely will you get better sound than if you let the Oppo BDP95 do the decoding and output via 7.1 analog instead decode and output via HDMI
And you get the beauty of clutter with 7 cables instead of a single HDMI cable.
Hmmm... At least tome, I'd rather have great sound than a single cable behind a rack that I can't see anyways unless I'm behind it. If it bothers you, then by all means, stick to HDMI. Your choice.