Surround Sound Processors SSP : I give up

I'm a two channel guy. A purest. My audio system is made up of components of the highest quality, and when I listen to music, the sound is glorious!

Surround sound is a different story... Over the past year or so, I've used a "high end" preamp / processor for movies (only). I took the front left & right outputs of the SSP and connected it to one set of the inputs of my passive attenuator (which I feel sounds much better than any "active" preamp). When I wanted to play movies, all I had to do was select the input for the SSP on the attenuator, set the proper volume level, and then fire up the other amps I use for the center, sub, and rears. Just by chance, I discovered a firmware problem in the SSP that the manufacturer is unable to correct. I happened to find it while trying to shift all of the low end information from the subwoofer to the two front speakers. Anyhow, the manufacturer (which must remain nameless for the time being) has agreed to refund my money, as they cannot correct the problem, and the unit is still under warranty.

Now I find myself back in the market looking for a new SSP / preamp. The "better" units start around $3,000 give or take, and quite frankly, they sound lousy compared to a 2-channel piece at the same price level. This of course, is quite expected, as the manufacturers have to pack over two and a half times the amount of "functions" into the box in order to get 5.1, DTS, THX, etc. Lets be honest, for movies these units will all work fine, but for music, they leave much to be desired. Like the saying goes, "you get what you pay for". So now I have asked myself a question, and I surprised myself with the answer: How good of a SSP do I need to watch a movie and listen to dialogue and bombs exploding? I think you can see where I'm going with this...

When I go to the theater and see a movie, I get envolved with the story. The visual (for me) is much more important than the "quality" of the sound. Heck, half of the sounds you hear are sound effects. What makes them believable is the action you are seeing on the screen. So again, back to the question: How good of a SSP do I need? My conclusion: way less than $3,000 worth!

After spending a great deal of time researching the many posts here on Audiogon, and visiting local dealers, I have decided to forget about replacing my old SSP / preamp with a new one, and this time just get a receiver (oh God it hurts to say it!) with all the bells & whistles and a pre-out so I can use all of my big amps. With the $1,500 - $2,000 that I will save by getting a receiver, I can put it towards a good front projection system.

Alright, now I feel a little better - I said it! I haven't really looked around for a receiver, but a salesman suggested either a Marantz or Dennon. Has anyone gone through the process I have and ended up with the same solution - a receiver. If so, which reciever do you like the best?
Thanks guys!
Ken G.
Ken G, After much thought and lots of listening I came to the same conclusion. But I recommend the Outlaw 950 pre-pro that sells for $900.00 and is quite competitive with processors that sell for up to $3k. Its a steal. As a matter of fact, it will be sold by numerous manufacturers thru retail distribution for up to $2k shorly. Check it out. The website is:

Amazing value for money. Walter
I'm not sure what is causing your problem, but it might be resolved with an external subwoofer crossover. Paradigm makes a neat little one, the X-30, which you can find used for around $120. (I see one just sold on audiogon), which I am using, as the manufacture of my pre/processor, the Anthem AVM-2, recommends. Sonic Frontiers, the maker of Anthem equipment, specifically states in the manual that the external crossover is necessary for just the issue I think you are describing for playing PCM material.
I was also faced with the same dilemma, but there is no need to give up and go to a receiver. On strong recommendations, I bought an Anthem AVM-2, used, for $1400.
The DAC in the Anthem is excellent. My player is the Sony DVP S9000ES DVD/CD/SACD and I'm using no other DAC or digital filtering device. For my turntable, I run a tube pre with phono stage through the auxiliary jacks on the Anthem and it works fine. I even use the external pre line through the Anthem for SACD's. The Anthem also has a built in excellent tuner, and many other features. It is probably the best bang for the buck as a pre/processor.
I'm about to sell the Anthem, only because I'm getting a used Proceed AVP. The new Proceed is out, so you can find a used one for around $2200. The main reason I'm getting the Proceed is because the Anthem digitizes everything that goes in, whereas the Proceed is a pure analog pass through. Digitizing sort of defeats the idea of vinyl. The Proceed also has a DAC that is almost on the level of the Levinson, and I'm looking forward to that as well.
My thoughts (LOOKOUT! Here comes some free advice!). Think about the Paradigm X-30; it may solve your problem. If not that, the Anthem AVM-2 is a great choice (I know one in perfect condition that is for sale soon (LOL)). And if you really want to go for it, the Proceed.
My experiences basically duplicate yours. That is why i said that i would have went with a much smaller / simpler HT system with very efficient speakers if i knew then what i know now. People, PLEASE learn from my mistakes. At least someone may benefit from my "fumbling about" : )

Sound quality on pre-pro's is not that great in most aspects ( haven't tried any processors that retail for more than $3500 though, nor do i want to ), the noise floor and / or gain characteristics are not what one would expect, the programing "features" sometimes detract from performance, bass management is sometimes next to impossible to get something that works right under various conditions, etc... Finding all of this in one package at a reasonable price might take a lifetime.

Having said all of that, the Outlaw processor had drawn my attention several times over. Unfortunately, they took forever in getting it to market. I don't think that it would rank with good two channel gear, but it might be an excellent compromise for a second system given it's very reasonable suggested retail price. Otherwise, the Parasound 1800 is not that bad if you can live with its lack of gain and no phono section. Just don't expect "super-fi" out of it. Sean
I am also a two channel guy and I have tried many surround sound sytems to go with my two channel but they all fall short. Its not that they sound bad as much as they sound so much worse then my two cahnnel and this causes it blend badly with my existing system.

I think adding a receiver is an excellent idea and its one that I have considered many times. I would also add new front speakers so they would be the same all the way around when listing to surround sound.
I would go right to your last question, If your only choices for receivers are Marantz and Denon I would go with the Denon, 2 reasons better internal parts and power supply IMHO, but make sure you get one with the warranty as Denon did have some problems with quality control on some of their units in the past. Now if you would consider other receivers I would go with Integra which is also made by Onkyo. I hope this helps.
Realized I listen to music most of the time so I sold my EAD TM Ovation pre/pro & KAV-500 amp and redistributed the funds into a Kora Eclipse tube preamp with a unity gain processor input and Sonic Frontiers Power 2 for the front two channels. Got a Sony ES reciever for the HT processing and power to the other three channels. The Kora's volume control is by-passed through the unity gain input when using the receiver.

Feel I gained far more in two channel sound quality than I lost in home theater audio quality. For the video, go HDTV and be done with it. For me, listening to fabulous music and watching a fantastic picture...I don't care what they're saying on the screen!
yeah as a two channel guy you really don't need some extavagant bells and whistles pre/pro, with EQ's and sound modes and such. I'm a two channel guy myself, but am also WAY INTO CUSTOM HOME THEATER!
My suggestion is to get a pre/pro that is clean, clear,detailed, dynamic, and fairly musical! The overall impression is one of higher fidelity and refinement.
Really, movie mixes are layers of "re-mix", sound effects, "over-dubbed" dialoge" and music scores, and aren't quite what you get from a live recording of pure music. I mean you're still going to end up with "boxy dialog" (since it's mixed that way), and less than perfect sonics. so what your after is dynamics, clarity, fairly detailed, and uncolored.
Ones on the used market I find with all the audiophile sonic niceties, which won't cost you $3k are Acurus ACT 3(which I have) for about $750+ range used, Classe SSP25(even lower signal to noise, among other strenghts) for about $1300-$1500 used, Aragon soundstage for around $1700 range used(same as Classe sonically), Proceed AVP for around $2500 used.
Really, you would do just super with even a little Acurus or Classe for movies...more than clean sounding!!!!
Trust me..I've been using Ultra high end gear for 2 channel, and just looped in my processor for movies, and these choices sound great on movies!
However, be forewarned....You MUST use and external pre-pro for DD/DTS movies! you can't just get by with simply using your processign in your DVD player out to you 2 channel preamp! The sound is too flat and undynamic, and just never sounds as good for movies! Any seriously quality DVD sounds way better with a dedicated prepro from the digital out of your DVD player or source!
good luck
I'm a two channel guy as well. I fiddled in the high end SSP market for a year or so, but went running back to two channel system. I bought a inexpensive Denon receiver, because you're right, you don't need high quality audio for car crashes and explosions. I run the Denon through my Classe preamps surround inputs, which allows me to use my main speakers and amp to handle the fronts (phantom center). I let the Denon reciever drive the rears, and I have a sub. 80% of my listening is to 2 channel music, the other 20% I'm visually distracted, so the Denon sounds good enough for me for movies. I'm much happier with my system now. High end surround can be done, but it's a much more expensive to get the same level as a good 2 channel system. Figure you can multiply the cost of a stereo system by 2-3 times to get the same level of musicality in a multi-channel system.
It's also easier to keep up with the constant HT format changes this way. You want DPL II? 6.1? 7.1? 8.1? Just go get another $400 receiver. Much less than the $2-3K some SSP manufacturers are charging for upgrades.

Many thanks to all who gave their opinions! I concluded (after much consideration)that purchasing a reciever in the $1000 - $1500 range that had pre-outs so that I could utilize all of my existing "big" amps was really a waste of most of the unit, as the comparitively small internal amplifiers would never be used. Additionally, the front-end & processor portions of a reciever would most likely be inferior to a stand-alone pre/pro priced at the same level. I strongly considered the Outlaw 950 pre/pro which seems to have just about everything and only costs $900! But then (you knew that there was going to be a "but...")I started to think about used gear and how much better quality is available for not that much more money. Since in the forseeable future, it is highly doubtful that I will want more than a 5.1 configuration (6.1, 7.1, or whatever else Tom Hollman and his cronies come up with to snag more of our dollars), I knew that there were a multitude of used units that could easily satisfy my requirements. Certainly most of the units named above would have. My choice; an Aragon Soundstage. From what I have read from others, the quality is excellent, has all the features I anticipate needing, and the used price is right in line (or slightly lower) than competing units. I just made a deal on one and should recieve it within the next few days. Again, thanks to all for the suggestions. Ken G.