Preamp or Processor???

I am looking to get a preamp or processor, I am but not sure what to get. I listen to music 80% of the time and 20% movies. Right now I am using a Yamaha receiver as my processor and I want to upgrade badly. But I can't decide if I just want a two channels preamp or get a processor and dump the Yamaha. I also do listen to SACD so I need 5.1 inputs if I get a processor. Anyone have any suggestion for something used under $1500. I myself is leaning toward getting preamp and keep the Yamaha for processor since its pretty new and I don't watch movies that much, nor care about the sound that much in HT. But I want something that does sound really good for music. So far I been looking into some older models from Audio Research (I might want to try tubes). I also looked into the Audio Refinement since some of them offer 5.1 inputs on the preamp, but I am not sure how they sound. Lastly I heard great thing about Mccormack, it is really as good as they say they are? There are so many choices out there, I am not sure where to start.

Thanks for the help.
I would sink the majority into a 2 channel preamp. Then sink the rest into a less expensive surround processor. I have a Rotel RSX-1055 integrated 5 channel driving my system. I recently borrowed a Sim Audio Moon P-5 preamp. The difference was stunning. Those a/v processors do way to much internally to provide excellent 2 channel. You can use a 2 channel preamp with your a/v processor as long as it (the a/v) has pre-outs. It helps if your preamp has a home theater bypass.
I had a high quality passive between my pre-pro and front channel amp for a while, this sounded very good and took the pre-pro out of the picture for two channel music.

Sold the passive and am now going to try a tube pre I bought the other day. I would expect this will sound very good also but am waiting for UPS.

As Electric monk stated, your Yamaha must have pre-outs for it's front channels.

Use the pre-outs on your receiver right now to a nice tube amp. This will give you a taste of quality sound. If you really like that improvement, then go to a nicer pre/pro or a seperate stereo preamp.
Keep in mind that even though many tube amps are rated at lower power, they will have considerable headroom and clean sound, ie I would rather have a nice 40 tube amp than listen to 100 watts from the yamaha.
Finally, if you use the receiver for the center and rears only, it should sound better due to less strain on the power supply.
Definitely give the used ARC a try, the LS1 cost between 5-600 and you can tube roll for your preference. I was amazed at the sound quality and build of teh unit that I also purchase their SS preamp LS3, both stunning in their performance.

You mention HT bypass. I know the Mccormack RLD-1 has that feature. Do you know if any other offer that on their preamp? My Yamaha does have preouts, so how would you hook that up?


I am not using the Yamaha to drive the speaker, I am just using the processor part. I got an ATI 2505 amp to drive my speakers. Also I what I meant by tubes is to have a tube preamp. Sorry for the confusion.
VTL, Audible Illusions preamps have home theater bypass....not sure if all models do however. There have to be others. You can also just mark a point on the volume control that is on the low side of moderate (vague I know) and then calibrate the surround processor based on that setting. A SPL meter is needed for this and your surround processor has to have the ability to adjust the levels of individual speakers. Then all you have to do is set the 2 channel preamp volume control to this pre-marked postition and fire up the multi-channel.

As far as integrating the 2 channel you have to take the pre-outs on the processor and run them to an unused input on the 2 channel preamp. That input becomes your "home theater signal" input into your 2 channel system. Sorry if this is a bit rambling, I have yet to do this myself but have researched it a bit. If you have a home theater bypass it essentially shunts the signal from the home theater processor on a short signal path to the amp outputs of the (2 channel) preamp. Basically you end up bypassing the volume controls, gain stage, etc. in the preamp. Doing this also means you don't have to have that "marked" spot on the volume control to return to. Less fuss overall.

Any veterans that care to amend, correct or add to this please feel free.
I was thinking about doing just that as I expand my system. Right now I have a Receiver with pre-outs - I am using the R and L pre outs to go through a stereo amp to my main speakers for 2 Channel. Since the Receiver has a limited number of ins and outs, too, having a preamp with a few more 2 channel inputs owuld help out a lot (I currently have a Sony PS2, Minidisc, CD player, DVD Player, Cable TV box plugged in - and all the inputs are used up except the analog 5.1 channel direct input) - for instance when I get back into vinyl. :-)