I realize that this is well below your specified budget, but you should probably take a good look at the Emotiva XMC-1 for $1999. It is a whale of a good processor with state of the art room correction capability using Dirac RCS.
The 5 year warranty and 30 days in-home trial are very nice, too...
You cant go wrong with the Bryston sp3, outstanding movie track and 2 channel listening, if you have good amplifiers. I was going for a Classe ssp 800 and after research and talking with dealers how carry bot brand I went with the SP3, no regrets. Never herd Krell produck.
The problem I have with expensive processors is that, unlike preamps, they tend to become obsolete as new processing technology is developed. So I use an Oppo 105 for processing, and pass through its front LR stereo to the preamp. Surround channels can be taking directly to the amps. If your preamp does not have a by-pass mode, you can mark the point at the volume control where it achieves unity gain using an SPL meter.
The single-ended output of the Oppo is as good as its balanced output, leaving the balanced inputs of the AR preamp available for the Esoteric and Accuphase. I think DTS HD MA is worth having.
When you highlight "best" in an AV preamp/processor and you then further highlight a select triumvirate of KRELL vs BRYSTON vs CARY in a potential shoot-out, I'm driven to conclude that
- your "best" is primarily kit build quality and resulting performance, but
- independent of of "best" in the context of "bang-fer-yer-buck"
The hurdle is that the ever-changing new CODECS introducing advanced early obsolescence and also the HDMI handshake problems (Google the failures of many brands) and other AV board failures are big.
(1) Your three choices are arguably the three leaders of the precious few exempt from the high levels of catastrophic failures BECAUSE of their exceptional build quality. Build-wise....IMO ... just a "pick 'em" choice governed only by that illusory and variable synergy with the rest of your system
Performance wise - a "pick 'em" best of class ...each and every one. However they still can suffer from early CODEC obsolescence and changing technology adoptions. All three are, simply put, the very top superb performers now and best-in-class leaders.
BUT...they too can become obsolete and depreciate all-to-quickly as a herd mentality persists chasing the latest-and-greatest CODECS and "gizmos". The tension is now about whether the premium build quality and $$ spent on an unavoidable existing fast-depreciating kit is still worth it to the average hobbyist in an rapidly changing CODEC and illusory "whistles-and-bells & flashing lights gizmos" environment
Firmware updates on all consumer AV processor gear is transitory, brief, and iffy at best. Example: ARCAM has stopped all firmware updates for my FMJ BD100 BluRay player, so some BluRays can trigger a questionable and rickety startup now. At least it has a 5 year warranty on the rest of the kit.
(2) "Bang-fer-yer-buck Best" is arguably in the next tier down ..... a distant drop in enduring build quality for sure, but still with all the latest and greatest features ("the gizmos?") and CODECS....but less than $2000 initial outlay so the obsolescence depreciation loss factor is softened.
These can be now be arguably planned as the HT "disposables" portion of your HT gear, and you retain the power amps going forward.
One more example of a standalone "2nd tier disposable" choice that I picked up -- based on reviews and personal experience mirrors the favourable reviews -- is the NU-FORCE AVP-18. Google the reviews - highly recommended
(1) This anecdotal suggestion and its classmates are NOT in the same build quality strata as your initial Big Three..... BUT.....
(2) its capital outlay savings differential permits it to be a "disposable" that ameliorates it against the build quality of its high-end Big Three alternatives.
I own the Classe SSP-800, as a matter of fact I have owned it for quite awhile. Guess what, it's not obsolete! It still sounds great on 2 channel or multi channel. No handshake issues at all. I sold my Audio Research LS25 MKII and have no regrets at all. If I were in the market to buy a processor I would buy either a Bryston or the Classe units.
yes, I think the Bryston SP3 is the best choice. No doubt the Classe SSP 800 is also very good; I have liked Classe gear for years, and still have a Classe SSP 25, which can best the sound of most SS pre-amps.
Also, I made an error; I meant the Cary 12B, not a model 7, which I doubt exists; as a processor, but as an amp; I know there is a model, 6, 8 and a few different model 11. I heard the Cary was very good, and did not command the outlay of cash the Bryston commands.
I saw the Bryston here for $5600 and one went ion ebay for $5200, and being such a high cost, I would rather buy new, as nine grand to a place I can go back to for faults and service is worth the expense when one is laying over 4 grand, give or take, for a private party, or store located miles way leaves me feeling anxious.
Also I have a B&K 50 which used two balance connections, although my ARC has that, there is a big difference in sale value, and my speakers are not what i once had, yet still decent.
I think for now I am goung to keep the Krell.
I agree with you about the more constant changes with digital formats, yet it would not bother me much, since my health is poor and I am now several years past Medicare age.
It would be nice if there where a box one could buy, which had about ten HDMI inputs and had the amount of RCA audio outputs one may need, in my case, eight, which one should connect to a input in processor, and when it was outdated, just buy this, or have it upgraded?
I do agree, the DTS HD master has better sound and use the off my older Denon receiver, with little Acurus 100.3 amplifier on centre and surrounds. The system shows a big difference in sound with exit in analogue in, but it does not have the near big theatre sound I have with the big system.
Thanks for all the response. Right now, i am leaning more towards the krell. I have decided to keep the ARC and do what Dbphd suggested, and run my audio players to the ARC and have one decent fully balanced processor, and the Krell seems to be coming down in price.
If I am correct, if one uses the HDMI from the Oppo to the Krell, all the analogue will be balanced, same as my stereo?
I have considered purchasing an ATI 2005, or if I may find a deal on a used Outlaw 7500.
On codex's, I doubt i will ever use more than one HDMI, or go beyond HD Master, as I am not interested in cable TV, or DVRs. If anything, I might add one device just to stream Netflix if they have good movie selection?
The Krell Foundation is pretty impressive. I've sold several of them.
Great sound on 2 channel as well as HT, which is not always the case with pre/pro's.
**Krell dealer disclaimer**
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Theta Casablanca IV as a contender.
Since my previous post, I added a Cary Cinema 12 to the loop, so now the Oppo 105 connects via HDMI and 7.1 analog to the Cary. Surround from the Cary connects directly to the amps, SW to a Velodyne SMS-1 that provides acoustic room correction for a pair of HGS-15s, and the LR fronts from the Cary pass through a Parasound JC 2 BP. The reason for adding the Cary was to enable surround DSD via HDMI from a Sony XA5400ES, but the Cary does a superb job with surround and bass management. The Cary shares the JC 2 BP with an Ayre C-5xeMP and JC 3 phono stage that are used for stereo.
I've always been into the movie thing..and thus "AV", for my high end systems, needed to be a reality -as opposed to JUST a high end 2 ch system for music. That said though, when it came down to AV Prepro selection for myself, I've always focused on the following priorities when choosing (I like good sound) , and that's whether it can, first and foremost, offer GREAT DYNAMICS (must for movies) offers superb clarity and resolution/detail, has a ROOM EQ of some success built in (yes, must be effective tool, cause rooms typically need lots of acoustics help), must at least pass 1080p video -with no hitches for switching capabilities- and must be reasonably priced -prefer used! ..cause, as an audiophile relative kinda tool, I KNOW If it's not likely gunna be the very last word in refined mid-range, top end air, super deep sound-staging, and other audiophile niceties and comparisons to a very very good high end 2 channel analog preamp, or whatever,anyways ..so I'm not too worried about it. ..cause I can always just loop in some..um...other very good, high end 2 ch analog preamp or whatever instead!! Problem solved, basically. Yup, yup.
That said, of old, I always liked budget "over performers", like the old Acurus Act 3, Yamaha budget AV receivers (as PREPRO'S ONLY), but never more pricey than the otherwise acceptably dynamic -yet delightfully more refined and detailed - Krell AV pre's!!! (don't care so much, though, for the non-audiophile more custom oriented video first processors, like the Lexicons though) Never really wanted to spend a whole lot more, really... used, of course.
Besides all of that, for newer current AV pre's, with all the latest features and processing offerings, may I suggest you consider my check points and requirements, as well as my position on "hiend 2 channel options" for your music needs with the system!
Sure, you could spend a bazillion dollars on some stage 9 Theta Casa-something-er-other..., er a Meridian digital front end contraption, er an otherwise nice Macintosh's, Anthem, Classe, or other top end AV piece, ..and so on. But face it. No matter what you spend on some soon to be obsolete, RAPIDLY DEPRECIATING AV pre anyway...and, an "audiophile aspired" piece, it will never offer the return for your money when it comes to 2 channel, basically, compared to a multitude of used hiend 2 ch preamp offerings you could have chosen instead?!!
So, as with most "trade-able", soon to be relatively obsolete anyway AV gear, ..I say...be prudent, and spend wisely! Then you can trade the stuff a year or two later and get your monies back... WINNING!
..so seeing that I didn't apparently REALLY read through your full post, and thus understanding your needs (my bad), I guess you can basically disregard all of my jibber jabber! -lol!
My recommendation is you go ahead and try audition some of the more expensive pre's out there, and decide, ..apparently paying full price, or close to it, for new?? (eeiiyyikes!!?). If you don't want to stay with used, and can't get dealer demo's at your home/system before buying, I suggest you can still try getting hi end pieces you were considering on the used market, tying them out first, then selling them off for , hopefully, what you paid for them. Then, simply hunt down a new one at a good deal(?), and live with the depreciating new piece- which will end up costing you a couple thousand in downed value in a couple of years (innevitable..cost of doing business?).
Either way, you can still actually buy from whatever dealers are closer to you, and they can prob ship them if you're too far away to drive to a physical location/dealer?
So sad...no used option!!!? WOW.. WHAT AN AWFUL THOUGHT -LOL!!! ..Sacrilege, I say! ..good luck on that though.