Universal player - Multi-channel HDMI question?

I am reaching out here because I am inexperienced in this matter and am hoping for a lesson. I have a Denon Universal 3900 and an Anthem Statement D1 preamp AND the upgrade bug.

I want to replace these two pieces with a high end processor and a universal player that can do all the multichannel formats without the old 6 analog cable connection. In other words - HDMI probably.

I have a pretty decent budget up to about $15,000 for the two pieces and I don't mind buying clean used pieces here on A-Gon so there should be quite a few good choices.

I don't know how to get started with this research. Multiple searches turn up one solution or another but without any baseline for comparison and without my understanding of the pros and cons.

I also don't know how to get really good D/A conversion accomplished. Do I just rely on the D/A convertors in the preamp? Do I run HDMI into an HDMI capable D/A convertor (if such a thing even exists)??

I am really confused on this whole mess of how to do multi channel digital well. Can I get some help here please?

Welcome to the confusing world of multichannel. Here's what I believe to be true as of now>

If you want to play SACD's or DVD-A's in multichannel you're going to be stuck with analogue connections. I don't know of a player that sends the DSD bitstream out, or a preamp/pro that decodes SACD's or DVD-A's.

The good news is that the high res wars have ended and Blu-Ray offers both DTS-HD Master and Dolby True HD. Both formats are awesome, and well worth investing in. We are at the very beginning of people offering quality music in those formats, but there are some great examples (Legends of Jazz, Dave Matthews, Chris Botti) of the quality of the format. Hopefully, some labels will start to release audio only blu-ray disks.

I'd go for the best D/A conversion you can get in a pre/pro and also get one that has something like the Audissey MultiEQ capability. The Anthem D2 seems to be one of the best out there now for both the analogue and digital.

Good luck!
A HDMI DAC might be coming down the pike, but I know of none currently.

The 1.3A HDMI interface allows for both HD video & AUDIO. Getting components which have the HDMI 1.3 interface will provide a single wire connection and some very good degree of audio quality reproduction. In a few of the owner manuals which I have gone through lately, ALL have said, "...the use of analog connections for multi ch audio is preffered."

I believe this note depends on the level of the interconnects being used, more so than analog over HDMI interfaces in general. I also know from exp. you gotta move up more than a fair bit to out run HDMI by using analog ICs. The source unit you choose, will determine which path is requred, HDMI or analog for HD audio... or both.

AS I understand HDMI levels, initially, it was only video, (1.0), next came SD audio (PCM) accompnaying the video, (1.2), now there is the 1.3a series which allows (depending upon the two devices being used, source & proc) to transmit HD video and audio, including DSD audio. Some processors still however choose the analog route for DSD output.

Make sure to see who's doing what and where in that respect, prior to.

I always see a lot of buzz about Theta products when multi ch processing is involved. Meridian too posts some lofty price tags and accolades.

With $15K worth of ammo on hand, I'd spend a little bit of it to go hear/see that which I could of those better product lines... Of course if you keep digging you'll likely come up with some other brands that might suit.

Check out the AV mags and you should be able to develop some sort of a short list of items to investigate.

Thanks for the responses so far guys. I know that the Anthem Statement has a lot of support here on the forums but I have owned a D1 for a few years now and I must say that I feel its D/A conversion is pretty lackluster. It is, all-in-all a very functional processor but it is a bit hard on the ears when it comes to reproducing music. Perhaps the upgrade to D2 status would allow it to run with the pack to a greater degree but with the cost and the HDMI 1.2 instead of 1.3 implimentation I'm holding off.

I guess I have heard quite a lot over time about the EMM/Meitner, Theta and even Denon with it's proprietary "Denon-link" and I just assumed that many more multi-channel solutions with reasonable sound quality had made an appearance by now.

Maybe I need to pop my head back under the sand for a few more years :-(
I am by no means an expert on multi-channel anything,and I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn express- sorry little joke there-- However
I just bought a Cambridge Audio DVD99 universal DVD player it does have HDMI out, it plays SACD's and it also plays DVD Audio. The book says it plays them multi channel as well. I think there are some caveat's in there, but that (multi-channel)wasn't my concern. I was more interested in the USB connection, hoping it would play my music from my external hard drive, it doesn't. But the unit is not too expensive, under $350. Check out the Cambridge Audio web page, you can browse the user manual online there and see if it meets your needs.