Suggestions for an affordable pre/pro

My Adcom GTP-400 stereo preamp finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago and it's time to finally delve into home theater. I don't want and can't afford audiophile components, just something on a quality par with my trusty old Adcom GFA-555 power amp. I'm not willing to completely sacrifice 2-channel listening just to get into HT. I bought a GFA-2535 power amp for the center and rears. I have no need for phono input. I would like to get good, basic 5.1 discrete theater sound for movies, and from what I understand, plain old Dolby Digital and DTS will do that for me.

My thinking was that since I don't want leading-edge surround codecs that I should look at older pre/pros of a quality that I couldn't afford if they were new. I had been using a cheapo 10 year old Pioneer ProLogic receiver for the center and rears for an approximation of surround sound, but that was matrixed and the 70 paper watts it put out was totally out of balance with my GFA-555 and my Sunfire sub. My goal is to have the same kind of sound quality for both 2 channel and 5.1 that I'm used to getting on 2 channel from my old setup. And I have to do it for $300 - $500.

Some ones that I've considered so far are:
- B&K Reference 30 - (known for clicking and popping noises during use, or distorting after getting hot?)
- NAD T 163 (known for hissing problems?)
- Integra DTC-9.4 (possible to find one at this price point?)
- Outlaw 950; 970-(buggy? QC problems?); 990 (price?)
- Rotel RSP 976 (funky remote and bad OSD? Will I regret lack of bass management?)
- Anthem AVM 2 (one for sale here that I can almost afford. Any known issues with them?)
- Marantz AV9000 (opinions?)
I'd suggest considering a Lexicon DC-1 (with version 4.0 firmware). I've seen them for <$500 recently loaded with Dolby Digital and DTS. I'm not familiar with the others but it sounds better than the B&K Ref 30 in both Theater and 2 channel (I had both). I still use mine and am very happy with the surround and 2 channel performance (though I have a separate analog preamp for 2 channel listening). It's been reliable and is easy to set up. I previously had Version 3.1 firmware and it had a little trouble with DTS decoding on some DVD's - so stick with V4.0.
I would reccomend a Marantz or Denon 5.1 reciever. The cheap pre/pro route just isn't worth the hassle of additional power cords, interconnects, heat, space, hum, and etc. Use the surround amps in the reciever and supply your own 2 channell amp for the fronts. 100-120 watts should be good because most of the bass is crossed over to the subs on the surrounds.;
Also check out the Acurus Act 3 pre/pro, I've seen them for about $350-450 here at Agon.
First, your Adcom GFA-555 IS an audiophile component. I've had two for them for 20 years. You'll take them away from me when you pry them out of my cold dead hands.

All of your own ideas, and all of the suggestions offered above, sound reasonable. The question of whether to get a good used receiver (Denon 3805 comes to mind, if you can live with the weird remote) or go with a separate pre-pro is a tossup. The fact that you are on this website tells me that you will probably be happier in the long run with a separate pre-pro such as one of those mentioned above.
Yeah, from what you're saying, I'm gunna agree with the Acurus Act 3 choice. I've owned 4 of these over the years (don't ask why I sold's complicated -lol). I've also had Macintosh pieces, Aragon Soundstage, "updraded" Act 3, Sony's 9ES pre, and the Krell 5.1 HTS. And, even though other more expensive pre's are "quieter" (you mentioned hiss - which the act 3 has a bit higher noise floor than others, but not manageable, IMO - and I've had 'em in small, quite rooms) for the money, the sound is powerful, clear, detailed, dynamic, and pretty musical! There's better, yes. But, for much more. And, for your needs, I think it might be a good fit.
But, you sound like you might be a bit more finnicky than some. In which case, your tastes/priorities will vary.
The Krell HTS, is as clean, detailed (for 20bit), and refined as ANY 5.1 pre'pro you'll ever find, period! Although there's NOTHING more dynamic than the Act 3!!!!
The modified version is a lot more (if you can find one, which I've owned) - which is richer sounding, more detailed, and just as dynamic! But, for like $300 range, you can get very acceptable (MUCH more dynamic, uncolored, nicely detailed digital 20bit sound).
System dependency always matters though. So tastes and systems might vary.
As for NAD, I'd check quality control, otherwise nice sounding, overall. The Rotel is dynamic, slightly recessed on top, a tad bland, but otherwise descent enough sounding.
The Anthem is descent, but I think it sounds a bit like the B&K, kinda warmish, not as dynamic, but fairly good balance, I think. The inteegra? experience.
The marantz AV9000, I've sold and installed before. It's, like the Rotel - descent.
What you won't get with these pre's are the new DSP room correction however. And, knowing nothing of your room, that could be very useful, so consider. In a perfect acoustical space, you wouldn't bother.
Hum. Don't know why the last post posted 2x's. Oh well.
Actually (and I've owned the Act 3,Upgraded Act 3, Aragon Soundstage, Krell HTS 5.1, Macintosh MX130 THX, Classe SSP25, and others), even though I've had and experienced "more refined" pre'pro's than the modest Acurus Act 3, I WOULDN'T HESITATE TO GET ANTHER ONE FOR A SYSTEM (OR FRIENDS) IN A HEART BEAT!!! It's just a darn good, amazing little 5.1 DD/DTS pre/pro! Clean, clear, uncolored, SUPER DYNAMIC, good soundstage, etc!!! (of course, digital connection is the only way to go on that unit, as it's all digital).
Hope that helps. Heck, I'm excited about that little unit right now, just thinking about it! (and that say's something).
(Also, why did I sell them before, if they were so darn good, you ask? Well because I got offered more for them than I paid! -money making comes first, ya know. Also, I had to try others to compare. So I traded)
Used to have an Outlaw Model 990 that I sold and replaced it with a Pioneer Elite VSX-74TXVi receiver that I use as a preamp/processor. Purchased mine a couple of months ago from Hi-Fi Heaven for $500 new. They had quite a few available in stock. You could use the built-in amps (140w/channel) that would have a better chance to keep up with your other components. Good luck with your search.
Thank you all for your responses. There's no substitute for the experience of guys with good ears.

Bdgregory, I wasn't even aware that the Lexicon included a preamp until you suggested it. It's an intriguing possibility if I'm up to the setup and tweaking it would probably require. Lokie & Slbenz, I was starting to lean in the direction of an AVR until I won that eBay auction for the Adcom GFA-2535 power amp... now that I have amplifiers for all channels I think I'll go the pre/pro route. Javachip, thanks for giving props to my GFA-555 two-channel. It certainly is audiophile equipment to me. In fact, it's what introduced me to how good music can sound with adequate headroom. Kkm & Flrnlamb, you suggested the Acurus Act 3, which I hadn't considered because I wasn't aware of it. Based on your descriptions of it, that may be just the piece I'm looking for.
What's the story with Aragon Soundstage? I couldn't find as much information on it as I did on the others. Was it a short-lived product?
what do you mean, what's the question on the Soundstage? It's a nice enough unit. Good resolution and details, good body and refinement (much more detail than the classe SSp25...much less digital sounding than Lexicon stuff) But it was not quite as dynamic as the Act 3! That's why I went with my ACT 3's. The SS was smoother, and a tad more refined mid/high, with much better signal to noise than the act 3, yes (but the act 3 was liveable in the "speaker his" department, that I never noticed it at normal listening distances mostly (basically, my room wasn't DEAD QUIET). But the Act 3 was more neutral in coloration (slightly cool sounding, with a bit of a a dry grain on top, comparatively). But, mated with the right combo, it was simply terrific for the money! (sytem matching is always key with gear! - so remember.
For $300-400 range, you're simply going to be hard pressed to beat the act 3 for DD/DTS digital movie sound for the money, for certain! PCM digital connection is also pretty decent and musical, with excellent dynamics and good clarity. Better dac's are indeed better rez and body on a good speaker system, yes. But it's all tradeoffs. And basically, I just liked the ACT3 as an affordable unit, personally.
The only reason I let the very rare factory upgraded Act 3 go, is I wasn't using a system for a long time. I also wanted to see what newer technology was going to come up with for DSP room correction, DD HD/DTS Master, and such. Otherwise, that unit was simply a world beater for dd/dts, 24 bit music, and direct analog sources!!
Good luck