Top two channel pre w/HT passthrough XLR best


I have been through the HT and multichannel thing for years, and while I will not give up my surround system for movies and the occasional DVD-A or SACD, I have come to realize that maybe I am fighting a futile battle looking for great two channel performance and the HT thing in one box.

I do not have space for a separate two channel system, so am leaning towards a hybrid system, with an excellent two channel preamp with HT pass through, preferably in XLR, but if it could be both RCA or XLR, that would be even better. I would also like the preamp to have balanced outputs (a MUST) and one or better yet two inputs, though I can live without these if need be.

Remote control is also key as it needs to be integrated into a system the wife and kids use for TV and movies, so I have to be able to set the preamp via IR or RF control..... I have seen some that will default to the passthrough (I think it was Cary or CJ) when the pre is powered off, and this would be a perk as well for me, as it would make the system even easier, but I am pretty good with remote controls and can likely work around if this doesn't happen.

OK, this brings me to the next aspect of this dilemma, I plan to add a TT too, I am thinking of an Avid either Sequel, Volvere, who knows depending on how some investments come out I might even consider the Acutus, likely with SME IV arm and Dynavector XX MkII cart and Sim Audio LP5.3 phono preamp.

The rest of my system is an ML 433 for fronts and currently the Escalante Fremont's for speakers all wired in Transparent Reference, soon to go to MM2 spec.

Sorry to be so long winded, but I think this all will help......

Preamps I have found that will likely fit the bill aren't cheap, surprise surprise, but the ones I've found I'm interested in are;

Conrad Johnson ACT 2
Cary SLP 05 (does all I want)
Hovland HP200
Aesthetix
?????

Help me out guys! Let me know what experience you have with any of these and if any of you can offer further suggestions to consider, I am wide open right now! I want a rich sound with solid bass control and smooth top end. Separation and air are also prime things to me.

What do you say???
kennyt
VAC Ren Mk2 should be on your list. I think it meets all of your criteria.
I have the Krell Evo222 in a primary 2 channel setup but with secondary HT duties, just as you do. It works great and sounds even better, it is a fantastic pre. Give it a demo if possible...
Looks like you favor tubes, but the Pass Labs X1 is worth considering I think.
PS Audio GCP is a differentially balanced design with full-function remote
Ayre or Levinson
Ken -

What you are asking is like asking what speakers should you buy. You need to start listening to some pre's and determine the sound you are after.

Nearly all of them offer the functionality you want - the question is do they offer the sound as well.

Good luck - I'd say the preamp search is one of the toughest since it such an integral piece in determining the sound of the system.

I'd add the ARC REF3 to your list too.
Mcintosh
McIntosh 2300 is perfect for your needs.
I am in the very same process and have condidered the Mcintosh C2300 and if $$ permitted the C500 and also the Audio Research LS26 and if money is there the Ref 3. I have a McIntosh Pre/Pro and Amps now but have all but decided on the LS26 as soon as the budget permits. I recently did a A-B at the dealer between the REF3 and Ayre K1xe and no contest. I will definitely go tube and most likely ARC. I haven't tried the Mc but I want to add a different sound than I think I would get from McIntosh. I think I would have more of the same sound as I have now and
I want to try something new.
I have the very same demands as you - 2 channel preference in a multi-channel/HT set up that the wife/kids need to operate easily without my guidance.

I went through many pre-amps and settled on a Gill Audio Alana (a tube unit). It just blew me away in how it made my set-up sound so natural.

David Gill (and Joe Fratus @ Art Audio) then did some extra work on it at my request, including an HT bypass that works as a pass-through on one input while the Alana is not powered on. So my family has no reason to touch my prized pre-amp. :-) They also did some work inside to better match my amps and the results are even more amazing.

Although is it single ended in design, they can add balanced inputs and outputs and I think there are different remote options as well. I do know they use some high end transformers inside to do the balanced conversions, so it is not a simple jumper in the XLR Jack, or a change in wiring. They actually put real effort into making it right.

Getting to demo one might be tough though. I do see there are some for sale here though. That doesn’t happen too often.
I have the very same demands as you - 2 channel preference in a multi-channel/HT set up that the wife/kids need to operate easily without my guidance.

I went through many pre-amps and settled on a Gill Audio Alana (a tube unit). It just blew me away in how it made my set-up sound so natural.

David Gill (and Joe Fratus @ Art Audio) then did some extra work on it at my request, including an HT bypass that works as a pass-through on one input while the Alana is not powered on. So my family has no reason to touch my prized pre-amp. :-) They also added a time-delayed 12v trigger to automatically turn on my amps after the Alana is finished powering-up as well as doing some work inside to better match my amps and the results are even more amazing.

Although is it single ended in design, they can add balanced inputs and outputs and I think there are different remote options as well. I do know they use some high end transformers inside to do the balanced conversions, so it is not a simple jumper in the XLR Jack, or a change in wiring. They actually put real effort into making it right.

Getting to demo one might be tough though. I do see there are some for sale here though. That doesn’t happen too often.
Sorry - double-post while editing due to computer glitch...somehow...kinda scratching my head how it happened.
Thanks for all the input guys!!!

I am really trying to decide if I want to pull what when all is said and done with a TT and additions to my rack likely a $15K purchase...... Especially when I really can't demo much if any of the gear I am interested in now.

Maybe I'll go shopping @ RMAF or CES this year....
Not a bad idea Kennyt. It might save you money by making rational decision and careful auditions. Also addressing your needs to designers of gear that caught your attention will help you answer your questions and decide on the design that works for you best. Don't be affraid to ask questions like:: can you build it to meet my needs and within my budget? Most of the good guys will try to work with you and do their best to make you a happy customer/audiophile.

Cheers

Mariusz
I agree with Mariusz - that might be time well spent that would keep you from second guessing your decisions.
I have continued to look and realize I need the HT passthrough to either be directly accessible from the remote or to automatically take over when the preamp is off.....
Aesthetix Janus (w/ phono) or Calypso (w/o phono) meet your requirements and very nicely I might add. HT bypass is switchable from the remote and it is programmable. In bypass mode, the preamp can actually be completely turned off. Some on this and other forums complain of noise, but I've had no noise issues at all. A great preamp in either form!