My suggestion to you would be to purchase used, and skew the cost heavily in favour of the pre/pro. A good amplifier is a good amplifier, but lower end pre/pro's with all of their processing and extra connectors,and such, have to be compromised somewhere, and that somewhere is usually the two channel performance. A good, well designed analogue output stage is expensive to implement, and most lower cost pre/pro's will skimp here. I have not heard the Emotiva specifically but I have also never heard a stand alone two channel pre in the Emotiva's price range that was capable of really good sound,so just think of all the extra expense that went into the DAC's and multi-channel outputs and everything else and think how much more compromised the two channel performance must be now. There are a plethora of very high quality pre/pro's on the used market from well respected high-end companies that are capable of good two channel performance, although many still feel that no multi-channel pre/pro can offer state of the art two channel analogue sound. I disagree. It will be rather expensive to do but it can be done, especially when these older pre/pro's are now available used for pennies on the dollar in comparison to their original selling prices. No, you won't get the ability to decode the latest hi-rez surrouind codecs, or the ability to switch video via HDMI, but so what? I would never switch video through an audio component anyway, and as long as the source component can decode and output the surround codecs internally all you will need is the analogue pass-through inputs to enjoy these formats. I would look for pre/pro's from the likes of Krell, Parasound Halo, EAD, Classe, Cary, NAD Masters Series, and so on and so on. Pre/pro's from these trusted high-end companies, and others, are more carefully thought out as far as two channel performance goes and can come very close to, if not equal, the performance of current new two channel pre-amps in the same price range as the current used prices for the pre/pro's.
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