At anywhere from $1k-$1200, the Ref 20 is the best deal going. Excellent performance, upgradeable, features most of what's even available in todays processing. You can't beat the performance for the price!
Interconnects. Buy yourself some used AudioQuests and be done with it.
You are better off buying a Sonic Frontiers Line 1 with processor with pass feature-$1500 and a HT reciever; I got a Denon 3300 from an internet seller for $565. Your two channel sound will be far better than any prepro.
I agree with Jsbail, The two channel performance from a pre/pro in this price range will not measure up. My husband and I use the Adcom 750/5802 combo with a Yamaha HT rec. with far better results when compared to sending our Sonic Frontiers digital front end through the reciever.
I wouldnt buy any of those suggestions if i had 1500.00 for a preamp/pro i would most likley buy the sunfire theater grand I ... $1500.00 used. and as soon as you can afford it replace your gfa-6000 with a better amp. I replaced my gfa-7500 with a used proceed amp-3 ($1500.00) best decesion i ever made .. took a bright fatiuging grainy system and showed it how to make music.... hey jmo Thanks Lee
Here are some other options. For around $1,500-$2,000 used, you should look into the Classe SSP-25 or EAD TheaterMaster Encore. Both are realtively bare-bone units but have excellent reputation for 2 channel stereo. The TheaterMaster Encore is upgradable to their top of the line pre/pro the Signature which retails for $6,500 or so. Another option is the Aragon Soundstage (the higher-end line of the manufacturers of the Acurus.) One of the best things about the Soundstage is that it is as upgradeable as currently possible for both software and hardware. That's the main reason I purchased it. As far as two channel sound,it's very good. However, I prefer to connect my CD player directly into the amp. The Soundstage can be had for $2,500 used. These units do not show up for sale very often on Audiogon and when they do they seem to sell quickly. I think they are all two-channel wise a step above the pre/pro's you mentioned. Hope that helps.
I support Coltrane's suggestion about the B&K Ref units. For the money, they are quite good, even with audio only applications. Then if you have some money left over, you could consider upgrading the amplifier. Just my .02
I have a acurus act3. I have had a lexicon dc1, sony 9000, denon decoder and a couple others. The act 3 (without the hum) is by far the best the runner up was the lexicon. Class A outputs on the Act3 along with bass management brings this unit over the top. The D/A converter I prefer to even Krell.
I think you should also investigate Adcom's new GTP-760. Adcom has long since corrected the problems it had with the "740", and the "760" will accept 24-bit / 96Khz audio inputs. The GTP-760 can be acquired new for around $1300 - send me an E-mail if you are interested in more info. (SDCamp1113@cs.com)
Herb14, I run an B&K and it doesn't disappoint. It was a HUGE step over my Denon 3300. I use my system 50/50 music/movie and would buy B&K Pre/Pro again. Music sounds awesome. I have heard Krell, Lexicon, Proceed, Acurus, Meridian, Rotel and for the money I felt B&K was the pick. Would suggest Ref 30 for Video switching. Cables I use AudioTruth Opals which have been discontinued. They can be had for a fair price($70-90). AQ Quartz are cheaper and also a good value. Home Grown Audio cables have been talked about a bunch and seem to be a good value. Depending on what you are running, cable can make a big difference. I was using Monster. They are great business men apparently, but the AQ kills what I had. Hope this helps....Happy Listening.......LR
Herb14, I owned a Classe ssp25, which is one of the better sounding processors for two channel. When I bought it I compared it to B&K ref 20. Classe was much better. As good as the Classe is it does not even come close to the sound of a good line stage preamp for two channel. Several companys have units with a processor by-pass loops , Sonic Frontiers, Audio research, Vac, VTL, C&J, and others.
Hi.. just ordered a B&K 30. Below is a link to a pretty thorough review. I would guess that if music is as important as DSP modes then the ref 30 should be near the top at its price point. Especially since it has 5.1 inputs and analog bypass on most of its other inputs. http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_7_4/b&k-ref-30-preamp-processor-12-2000.html
I was in the same boat you are in ten days ago. From a Yamaha DSP A 3090 I went to the B&K ref.30. The difference is amazing. Go with B&K, you won't regret it. Helier