Pre-pro Advice for B&W 802d HT System

Hello All,

I am in the market for a pre-pro and wanted your guy’s opinions on my options. I have been reading a lot for about 3 months, but still would like some more opinions. The main things I can looking for in new pre-pro are excellent audio detail and a good wide open soundstage. Also, I would like high quality HD video and good up conversion (although up conversion is less important). The following is my current system:

AVR – Denon 2808ci
Amp – Cinenova Grande 7 x 300
DVD – Panasonic S52
Speakers: All B&W
Center: HTM2D
Fronts: 703s
Sides: DS7
Rears: 602s3
Audioquest interconnects

Future Plans:
Amp - McIntosh MC205 and MC402, might go with Classe, but right now planning on Mac
Blu-Ray – Oppo or Ps3 – Oppo if I need analog outs and PS3 if I don’t.
Fronts - 802Ds – Looking to get them in 6 months or so.
Rears - My 703s or 805s

I am looking to spend between $2000 and $5000 for a new pre-pro. My options can be broken down in to two categories: those with the new HD audio formats and those without.

Those with the new audio codecs:
Rotel 1570 – Rotel is always considered to be a good brand with high quality audio. However, after reading a lot about this pre-pro, it seems to have more problems than it should. Some of those problems include poor remote, poor video quality, and audio drop outs.

Marantz AV8003 – I always think of Marantz audio quality is slightly below Rotel. Video processing is better and a few more features (although not that important to me).

Anthem AVM50v – Anthem makes good pre-pros, however some say they can be bright. They supposedly will have excellent video quality and good soundstage.

Anthem D2v used – I would have to wait a while tell a used one gets on the market maybe a year or year and half. However, this is supposed to be one of the best pre-pro on the market. Great Soundstage, video, and audio detail. Again might be bright.

Those without the new audio codecs:
Classe SSP – 600 maybe used– Classe as a lot of you get to experience first hand make great components. Their sound is very detailed and has a good soundstage. I am not sure about video processing.

Classe SSP – 800 used – Same things as the 600 just with better audio. I heard they were going to make it upgradable for the audio codecs, not when this will happen.

Anthem D2 used – same as above expect no wait and no audio codecs.

McIntosh MX136 used – Known for great sound. Don’t know about video processing.

Rotel – 1069 or similar used – Great deals, would be well below my price range. Good quality sound.

These are main pre-pros I have been considering. Also, remember that if I choose one without the codecs I will have to buy interconnects from the Oppo Blu Ray player to the pre-pro – estimated cost of $300 - $400.

I wished I lived closer to stores were I can audition these, but I do not. Thus I like to have a lot of information before I make the weekend trip to Denver to listen to them. Thanks in advance for all you help.
Nice plans. I upgraded to used B&W N803s upfront in my HT system and it made me make wholesale changes. Mac amps would be great for 802D's, just get PLENTY OF POWER.

However, if you're main concern is 2 channel analogue SQ (redbook CD playback), I have a few other suggestions. I'm not into the new codecs yet, and I believe that any good pre/pro will suffice for HT movie watching (to my taste). For best 2 channel in a pre/pro, certainly a used Classe 600 or BelCanto pre/pro will afford very good 2 channel SQ, as will a used Proceed AVP2+6 or Bryston SP2. Also a new Cary Cinema 11 is supposed to be great in 2 channel. Replacing your avr right now with one of these would probably make a dramatic improvement even with your 703s). However, be careful, some pre/pros only offer "analogue bypass" mode (unprocessed) in a balanced configuration, which means you need a balanced cdp/dvp to maximize SQ. A MUCH bigger issue/upgrade is your dvp. GET a better dvp, or get a separate cdp for two channel SQ. If it were my money, I'd buy a used Arcam or Esoteric dvp, or a modded Denon for ~2500 or less, and use the other 2500 for a used Proceed AVP2+6 or Cary Cinema 11. Another option is to get a good preamp with HT bypass and insert btween your mains and pre/pro. In this budget scenario, get the arcam or a Cambridge Audio cdp or dvp for 1.5-2k, get a Integro or Onkyo prepro for 1k or so for great HT, and a Modwright SWL 9.0 preamp for 1.5-1.7k for great 2 channel. Now for 4.5-5k, you've improved everything and have a killer system compared to where you are now. But whatever you do, upgrade the front end, as you're only as good as your weakest link. Just my thoughts. Have fun. Jeff
Have you considered getting a separate video processor like the DVDO EDGE for your video upconversion and a "music-first" processor for music/movie? I am slightly suspicious of the new generation AV pre/pro that claims to do everything.

I have had several of the anthem D2's, and I can say they are not bright by any means. I don't know who told you that, but go listen to them, they are very smooth and neutral. Also, you can upgrade any D2 to the new specs at any time, so if you want, you could buty one, likely even with ARC for your budget used and send it in for a couple hundred bucks and get it updated to the D2v status (I do not know the actual price of this upgrade, but Anthem has always done thhese upgrades very reasonably in the past)


You obviously haven't heard the new audio codecs or you wouldn't feel the way you do, they are a HUGE leap in performance for HT!
I'm somewhere in the area that you are heading. I have a 5.1 Analog/HT system with 802D's and the HTM2D on the front, 805's on the rear and a Velodyne sub. I'm trying to achieve 85% 2 channel analog and 15% theater.

To achieve your goals, I would consider the Classe. They seem to be joined at the hip with B&W. I listened to them extensively and they sound good together, especially the HT.

After a lot of listening, I didn't like any HT units for my vinyl. I kept my older Aragon processor for HT and bought an ARC tube preamp with a theater pass thru. The 802D's need power (current) to perform. There I went with Class D ICE amps and have them bi-amped. That did more for the system than anything else and they match well with the tube preamp. Throw in some good silver wire balanced interconnects and you're ready to rock.

If you need any specifics, shoot me a note off list.
Kenny, it's a matter of taste and threshold. I've come to the conclusion that for me, HT just isn't that important. Any competent HT system is good enough for me. It's 2 channel analogue that floats my boat. I think I clearly stated that this was "to my taste". So, with all due respect, understand that I wasn't saying the new codecs aren't all that for those to whom it matters, it just matters not to me. To each their own. In MY opinion, I would recommend the OP get any good reasonably priced pre/pro (ie, Integra) that does very good job on HT, and get separate preamp for music. But of course, this is highly dependent on the OP's MUSIC/HT split. Kpubica, for example, is alot like me, 85/15. The OP may be something else.
Thanks a bunch for all your responses. I do like the idea of getting a DVDO Edge or something like it to do the video and just focusing on a good audio processor. I also, understand why it would be great to get a awesome 2 channel pre-pro and an ok HT pre-pro and do it separately. However, I would say my listening is more 40/60 music/ht split than 85/15. Therefore, HT is very important to me. I should have stated that in the first post. I really appreciate everyone advice. Jeff you gave me a lot of good things to think about.

Thanks to everyone who responded and please keep the info. coming.
Jkk, no problem. Since HT is important, definitely follow KennyT's advice, as he is much more the HT afficianado. My question for Kenny is, should he get something less expensive but well regarded (like Integra/Onkyo/etc) on the pre/pro side that HAS the new codecs so he can take advantage of them, and STILL get a good preamp w/HT bypass so he has the best of both worlds? Reason I ask is that many "goldenears" (ie, over at AVS) claim that Anthem is just not as good on 2 channel as say the old Proceed AVP2+6. Since you have the D2, and you've tried many pre/pros, what do you think? Is the D2 so much better on HT and good enough on music to beat (for example) an Integra pro/Modwright or Aesthetix pre combo? I know that many, incl Kal at Stereophile, believe that ARC can make more of an impact than preamp.
FWIW, I use an Anthem D2 with 803D, HTM2D, and c-1066 rears. For amplification I have the Anthem A5. The system is not bright by any means but clean and very transparent. Extremely revealing sytem due to neutrality of poor recordings, but very good with very good recordings. I use a tube phonostage for TT, and the sound is very warm, and revealing. I concur witht those that advise spending on source if you use a similar system, as the Anthem reveals poor sources as well as revealing good sources. I have heard the 802 and 803 demo with both Macs and Classe and they seem a very good fit.

Good luck.

He could do that, but he doesn't have any analog sources, so it might be wasted. I personally like the older Proceed gear for analog, and DD/DTS but as these are now dated, they are almost worthless. This can be good (if you can live with these limitations) or really bad (if you paid the $10K the PAV/PDSD was) so you have to decide on your own.
Agreed. As I advised him in my original response, he's got to get a good front end analog source. Not to get too far OT, but what's the future of redbook CD? I assume it will still be around for some time to come? Also, do you really think that DD/DTS is so dated as to make current equip worthless? I just don't see Bluray and HD taking over so completely so quickly. There are so many titles in DD/DTS, I would think that OP (and me for that matter, lol) would still have years of enjoyment ahead without being forced to switch to new codecs. Anyway, he can still get a relatively inexpensive Integra with arc and new codecs, and IF he gets a good analog source, he can add a good preamp. I know, I'm stubborn....but I can't let go of good 2 channel option here.
Everyone in this thread has made good valid points. From my experience with 2 Channel/HT systems is does seem that changes that bring better 2 Channel have always made the HT better as well. So designing for good 2 channel has been my priority and the HT has never suffered and has always pleased me. Designing for the HT has provided a few disasters on the 2 channel side. One of which was trying to get good 2 channel out of a HT processor. I might have been able to live with the Classe processor doing both, but not now that I have a tube 2 channel preamp in the system.

I am currently running the Krell Evo 707 and can honestly say it does two channel as well as HT! It's pricey, but it is a true one box solution for both worlds!
Kenny, pricey??? Isn't that thing 20k? It damn well better do both well, LOL. Good luck with it and enjoy...I can only dream...

As for the OP, he's got a budget of 2-5k, so back to the real world we go!!!
Kennyt... I didn't investigate the Stratosphere , but in my price range it became obvious that the HT processor performed its function well, and the tube preamp performed its 2 channel function well. Being able to select the best for each function and then have them integrate into a single system worked best for me and gave me the sound I was seeking.

I had not heard your Krell and I'm sure it's very good, but of the 10-15 HT processors that I have heard none came up to the 2 channel quality of the ARC tube preamp... IMHO

I firmly believe that in a combo HT/2 channel system, 2 separate units give you the best bang for the bucks and let you select the best sound for each.


I used to go that route, but I don't need to anymore with the Krell.


Actually it's $30,000! Yeah, Paul is right on the bang for the buck, but to me HT is also very important.

I'm just a poor Engineer.... hey but I have a lot of fun!

Paul, was away on vacation and came back to your reply, which gave me a good laugh. You can't be that poor to have 802D's! My needs are more in line with yours, as I want best 2 channel SQ.

I still think that OP can get great HT SQ WITH new codecs in an Integra 9.8 or 9.9, or the Marantz av8003, or the new soon-to-be-released Outlaw 995? The 9.8 goes for 1k used, a modwright tube preamp goes for 1.5k used, a used Cambridge 840 cdp is 1k, then add the new universal oppo (600?) for dvd, sacd, bluray. In fact, the 840 has a digital input to use it's dac, so it will allow connection of a sonos or slim device wireless network unit to improve SQ there too! So for grand total of 4-4.5k, he's got everything, including the new codecs via hdmi 1.3.