you should get a pre amp like a audio reasearch sp16 or similar with a HT bypass. When running 2ch you just use the pre and main amps whe doing HT up put the pre on bypass and use the receiver.
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I'm in the same situation as Oakiris and my thought was to run a tube preamp to my front SS amp (Levinson 23.5) and front speakers. I will hook a high end transport and DAC to that 2 channel system as well as a turntable (eventually). I will feed the rest of the HT system through the AUX input of the 2 channel system.
When I switch the 2 channel to AUX the fronts come on as well as the rest of the 7.1 system and I'm ready for movies or 5.1 audio via my HT processor. I realize I will add signal path to the HT system but I'm not going to be as worried about it when I'm watching movies. I doubt it would cause much degradation at all.
I see several of the tubed pre's have the aforementioned HT bypass which is even better - I assume that will illiminate the added signal path entirely. We can have the best of both worlds and only ONE rack!
It brings up the following questions:
Is it a bad practice to add the signal path? What problems if any might I encounter? Should I stick "strictly" with a tubed pre with HT bypass? If I dont ... it sure opens up a lot more possibilities. I am going to test this tomorrow night with the Modwright pre I posted a question about a few days back. It does have the bypass but I also VERY interested in a Cary preamp that does NOT have the bypass. I think I might add an ARC pre amp to the "test" list. Keep your eyes peeled as I will post my impressions in a few days. If you want you can email me as well.
As for my two cents on the tube/ss setup. I see a lot written about the advantages of a tubed preamp and a SS amp. I can tell you I heard a small tubed integraded amp hooked to a pair of speakers very similar to mine ... I cant get tubes out of my mind. It was nothing short of amazing! The integraded was a Jolida and the speakers were Paradigm studio 20 v2's.
It was pure heaven and I think it's the tubes that did it
Man, have I got it bad for that sound - maybe all you need is the pre and a good SS amp for the front speakers, run the rest of the HT system through the receiver. Movies seem to require a whole lot less than critical 2 channel audio. I feel like I personally went a bit too far with the HT setup (3 separate amps and a processor) I think a better approach would have been a Denon 3805 for the HT side and every other dime pushed in the 2 channel system. I'm in it at least $20G and my 2 channel audio sound leaves a lot to be desired. I think I'm almost there. I think you can have one hell of a system by investing the lions share into the front end of the HT system and bring in a tubed pre. The center, sub and rears are probably already more that sufficient for movie watching.
Horseface - You do indeed have a lot invested in your set up! I am not quite able to invest that much, but also want the sound of tubes for my 2-channel. I was considering the Mod-Wright 9.0 SE for my system; I would be interested in your impressions.
I would also like impressions of the Anthem D1 receiver & Audio Research tube pre-amp, if anyone has heard this combination.
Thats the exact pre I am taking home tonight to try out - I will keep you posted (no pun intended) ... Much of that 20G was speakers - I'm not sure I needed to match ALL 6 pieces but what the hell ... I did and I probably happiest with that purchase. I'm a computer technician so I have invested quite a bit getting the home network tied into the HT system and setting up an extensive music library. It seems like a lot ... but it sure adds up fast. Then again ... some might have that much invested in a single component.
My friends at work think I'm crazy but I have to point out the 4 quads one of them has parked in front of his house along with the trailer and accessories or the hotrod the other one is building ... 20 grand over the course of 10 years to keep me out of trouble is probably a pretty sound investment. I sure enjoy it! If someone offered me 30 grand to take it away - and get out of this hobby for good I'd tell them to forget it!
Lets face it ... I'm hooked
I know - a lot of people seem to think that only their hobby is worth the money! Most people think I'm nuts (and maybe I am!) for not making do with a $500 HT set up from Circuit City and a boom box, and wonder why I have at least 6 pairs of relatively high-end headphones, when the earbuds that come with the Sony Walkman would surely do!
Have fun with the Mod-Wright, and definitely let us know what you think of it.
You know, tonight I tried just using my front speakers for HT (O.K., it was just for watching/listening to the Tv) and I didn't really like it. I changed back to 5.1 and it sounded "right." 2-channel, on the other hand, sounded great for CD play back. I so wanted to like 2-channel for everything - mind you, this is with my current Rotel/B&W system. Perhaps tube amps and the Abbys will make all the difference in the world.
Why not scrap your phono in favor of a tube pre with phono built in? No wires or power supply to deal with is a big bonus, and you have alot of money to spend, I think if you spend wisely you wont need near your budget and will be able to get alot of music or movies....good luck!
PS I added a tube pre to my Rotel Pro (I run it thru the multi channel bypass) I use it for 2 channel only and although there is always better I am really happy with what I have, it really sounds alot better than the Rotel did on its own....and the Rotel trounced my Onkyo reciever.
Very helpful, Flrnlamb....You buy all the Bose stuff you want! :-)
Chadnliz - If I happen to get a tube pre with a phono stage superior to my stand alone Holfi, I will indeed remove the Hofi. What I would really like to do is get a stand alone tube phone stage at some point, but right now I am concentrating on just getting a better front end for all of my 2 channel and HT needs. What tube pre did you end up buying?
I am hoping to spend quite a bit less than $10K on my front end; I'll put the rest in savings for my next bout of upgraditis! I may actually try some new power cords,too, just to see what all the fuss is about (all my power cords are stock at this point.)
My system is designed around 2-channel first, then HT, altho it started the other way around. Tube pre and SS amp is definitely the way to go, IMO. Also, contrary to some of the posts above, a HT bypass isn't necessary on the pre, especially if you have a good pre and want to hear its contribution to movies.
I have a Sunfire TG4 which now is my HT processor, driving a Sunfire amp which feeds center and rear channels. Front end is an APL modded Denon 3910 into a VAC pre driven by a McCormack DNA-500 amp. I have great 2 channel as well as great HT. Yes, it cost lots more than $10K, but the point is, it can just as easily be done with more modest components.
And yes, power cords DO make a difference - the more revealing your system, the greater the difference, IMO.
Hope this helps.
IF you were talking to me, that NOT how I do it. The Denon 2 front channels feed the preamp; the remaining 4 channels feed the processor (2 rears, center and sub). For movies, just adjust the volume controls on the pre and processor so they match, and you're done. That way the pre still controls the left and right speakers, which was my goal (big price and quality difference between my Preamp and the movie Processor).
Hope that helps - there are obviously several ways to achieve multichannel from a 2 channel system.
Decisions, decisions, decisions. I guess I can't make any until I have a chance to actually audition some of the components recommended here.
Fplanner - you appear to have a really nice system, though too rich for my blood! I was considering the Simaudio Stargate receiver/processor. Is this comparable to the Sunfire? The difference for me being that there is a local Sunfire dealer, but no Simaudio dealer in the state, so I could actually hear and see the Sunfire components. I thought I could pair the processor with some sort of tube pre-amp and end up with very nice 2-channel system and decent HT in addition.
Time to make a list of places to visit for auditions!
Thank you again to everyone for your responses and recommendations.
Sounds like you have the right idea. I would recommend a VAC Standard LE preamp(about $2K- used w/o a phono stage) if you decide to get a separate tube preamp. I had one and got hooked on the VAC sound, plus the build quality and support (Kevin Hayes) are unbeatable. 90% of the time when you call VAC, Kevin will answer the phone and try to help if he can, with no pressure at all. Truly a class act. If you ask, he will also try to help you locate what you're seeking from one of his dealers, sometimes on a demo basis (what he did with me)
I would also listen to the Sunfire products and see what you think. While there, try the Sunfire Cinema Grand amp if you get the chance - it has both current and voltage outputs for the front channels, which lend an almost tube-like character to the sound in a bi-wire situation. Apparently not many people know about this feature.
If you aren't satisfied with the Sunfire, at that point I would pursue Simaudio, etc. In my opinion, most Sunfire products offer excellent value for the money, and I still have 2, in limited roles, in my system.
I haven't tried it myself but u may want to check out McCormak gear: their mutli-channel pre is analogue: no digital processing and price is well within your price range if memory serves me correctly, The digital process for 5.1 channel you can rely on your DVD player: what does mean though you need lots of cable but if sound quality is not the utmost priority for your 5 channel set up, this should not be expensive either. It ain't tubes as u seem to be interested in, but very neat solution: sound quality I can't say as I have not tried it myself but I think I recall John Marks of Stereophile giving it a good review, for what its worth. Check it out...and if you let me know what you think!
More ideas to pursue! This weekend I am indeed going to make a list of all the recommended components - unless I am too busy listening to my new speakers! - and try to narrow it down to a reasonable number. Then next weekend I am going to start audtioning everything on my list that is locally available. :-D
I'm using a McCormack DNA-500 for 2 channel. You might find 1 used for $4-5K and the sound is quite unbelievable. There are many glowing reviews out there on this piece, which made me very leery at first. After having this in my system for about 6 months, I have to concur with the reviews - may never be replaced! Thought I'd get this in since you're making a list.
I brought my Abbys home this weekend - along with a Sophia Electric El34 tube amp. They sound wonderful together and will only get better with burn in. So much for the list I was going to make. :-~
I guess my path now is to find a better receiver/processor for my HT. Wish there were tube processors!!
Thank you all for your suggestions and enthusiasm. My system will continue to evolve and get better, thanks to all of the fine folks here and on Audio Asylum.