What needs to go?

I am happy with the sound of my system for home theater use but not in two channel. I do not have the room to have two separate systems so I am looking for the best two/five channel combination. Time spent is 50% music and 50% HT. My room is 17' X 13' with the speakers and TV on the short wall. Here is my system:

Sunfire Signature Grand Amplifier
B&K Ref 30 Processor
Sonus Faber Grand Piano Homes,Solo with dipole rears.
Highly modified Pioneer Dv 444 DVD player
Velodyne Sub
MAS cables throughout

My main complaint in two channel is that the sounds is fatiguing.I have moved the GP Homes around and the sound has improved a little but still do not sound as good as my previous Audio Physic Virgo II"s with a Clayton amp. Very few room treatments (foam on wall behind speakers. Oriental rug is in front of the speakers on the floor. Room is open on two sides (behind seating area and right side of room). Sliding glass doors are on the left of the room. I have set up the speakers using the CARA method.

What component or components need to go? Should I add a seperate pre for two channel listening or upgrade the B&K?

Any and all help will be appreciated.

I would add a dedicated two channel pre, the B&K is only fair-poor as a two channel pre in my opinion. I had to do the same thing with my setup. First I had a passive pre between my pre-pro and amp with great results..but, a speaker change led to the need for an active pre so now I have a tube pre in that slot. All is well again!


How do you like your AudioPrism Mantissa? The only tubed pre's that I have owned are Audible Illusions L1 and Melos Sha Gold.

Would probably want to spend about 1K for a preamp that I can use with my system.
Hiflyer, although I've never listened to the Ref. 30 pre/pro, I've read several reviews on this unit and all were negative when it came to sonics. Therefore, it should go. I've been using a Primare P30 pre/pro off and on over the last few years and it can hold it's own with any solid state preamp I've listened to, demo'ed, or owned from $8500 down. It's an excellent 2-channel preamplifier that retails for around $3700.

In addition, you've replaced an excellent Clayton amplifier with a Bob Carver Sunfire amp. At least one or more of the Claytons ranks among the very best solid state amps. The Sunfire amps never do.

I hate to say it, but t would almost seem as though you're moving in the wrong direction.

I don't know what you mean by a highly modified CD unit. But there are certainly some excellent alternatives out there if this one is not sufficient.

Lastly, I've not heard of 'MAS' cables. Perhaps, you might consider auditioning (before buying) some other cables. I've thoroughly enjoyed the Audience AU24 speaker cables and interconnects and you should notice that some others around here have as well.

I would focus on putting together the finest 2- or 2.1- channel system you can mustar.

If you focus your attention and your monies on vibration control(coupling or decoupling) i.e. racking systems, points, etc.room acoustics, line conditioners, dedicated lines, etc., for a 2 channel system, you should notice that if it sounds wonderful for music, the exact same system can and most likely will sound just as wonderful for movies.


I use the B&K 50 in my HT system and it does mighty well. It does not have the magical 3-dimensioanlity of my BAT 31SE, but then again, what SS preamp does? The 50 is not at all fatiguing, but has a subtractive nature to it which is very clear compared to using truly high end line stages. But it is NOT an additive product which would bring on brightness and fatigue. So the 30 I suspect is not the reason for system fatigue. But a more refined 2-channel line stage would no doubt bring on a greater musicality.

I agree that for a system to handle music and movies, the focus should be all about music. If you really get it right for music, the movies reproduction will naturally fall right into place. The only exception I find here is optimizing speakers for each application but some out there work so incredibly well for both. Then add the preamp / processor, additional amps and speakers when good deals on such products come along.

It appears that CD is your primary source of music. I have to believe that adding a more refined redbook CD player or transport/dac would be as big an improvement as a 2-channel line stage.

The Sunfire might not be the best dog in the fight, but it shouldn't cause fatigue. If anything, it may be a bit warm. If memory serves, the amp has two speaker outputs: Current and Voltage?? You may want to switch outputs as a first step. If that doesn't help, the next logical step might be the B&K. Good luck.
You could test the CD player directly into the amp. Play something very soft that builds up slowly - like your best CD of "Bolero" - and get ready with the stop button. At least you will get an idea of what the preamp is doing, plus you are omitting one set of interconnects. My thoughts are you'll find pretty much the same sound - and you'll realise that the source is the weak point.

It's your pre-amp. None of the pre/pros can beat a good two channel analog pre. It's almost impossible to keep all of the digital noise out of the signal when everything is in one box. Your speakers, sub and amp are certainly up to the task of reproducing great sound so you can be certain they are not the problem. Why don't you check www.audioclassics.com and see if they have any used stuff that you like? They have a 11 day trial period so you can try some stuff and return it if you don't like it. I'm certain that a good analog pre will solve your problem.
Seems like you need to give special attention to your source as most people have suggested. Although all components are equally important, the primary data of the music which comes from CD's are extracted from the source and hence no good player no go although most of your other equipment are quite impressive in their own accounts. From that point only then you start to realize your weak components one by one.
Bulldogger I beg to differ . Both Classe and Theta to name two offer two in one isolated analog and digital combined pre amps that will wet your panties. They can provide audiophile analog and at the flip of a switch top quality full blown digital home theater. The isolation between the two within one unit is quite remarkable engineering. And although it is possible, it is never the less chaotic to combine two preamps , into one amplification base, especially if you want to maintain total balance.
Hiflyer, bulldogger may be correct on two counts: 1. It may very well be your preamp. And 2. that a good analog pre will solve your problem.

I think I understand where bulldog is coming from, but it would appear that he is not correct when he states "None of the pre/pros can beat a good 2-channel analog pre."

For the record, the Primare P30 pre/pro I mentioned previously provides 100% TRUE analog when in 2-channel by-pass mode. And just so there is no confusion toward the sonic capabilities of this pre/pro, I've also owned or own a Pass Labs X2.5, X-1, Placette Active Linestage, and Chapter Audio Preface preamps. As well as demo'ed in my home an Ayre K3-x, a Conrad Johnson Premier 14, and an Electrocompaniet preamp.

Except for the CJ and Electrocompaniet, all the other pre-amps are more expensive and are all Class A rated 2-channel analog pre's.

Speaking from experience, I can assure you that you'd be hard pressed to find a better pre-amp or pre-pro than the Primare P30 or their later model anywhere near it's price range.

It's the pre. I auditioned the 30 and thought it was the brightest sounding pro/pro that I had heard up to that point. How about an Anthem AVM2?
Thanks to everyone for their comments. Stehno, I do agree that I have taken a step back from my all two channel system to a five channel system in sonics. I will look at the Primare P30 as an option. The modified Pioneer DVD player was used to great effect in my two channel system so I know that is not the problem. The problem is the synergy or lack thereof between the B&K Ref 30 and Sunfire Sig amp. The cables are MAS grey cables built by Stu Wein. The cables between the pre and DVD player are silver. I might try replacing these with copper to see the change.

I want to work on system changes slowly to acheive my goal of two channel/five channel bliss. Looks like I need to look at either replacing the B&K or adding a tube pre first.Then work on a change in amplification.

Thanks again.

Sorry for the slow response, the Mantissa is one of those components you hear or read little about, maybe very few were made before Red Rose bought the company...I don't know.

I would rate it C+ for looks and A for sound in my system. It is without a doubt one of the best buys I have made, the other being my Apogee Duetta Signatures.

With out'a doubt. I'd drop the B&K Pre Pro. I owned one for a while and couldn't find an amp- tube or sould state that could soften the ear bleading top end. Had to repaint the room. Tube amps were better but it was never natural or easy to listen to. I've been much happer with the now out of date- Proceed PAV-PDSD Combo. If / WHEN I decide to upgrade, The new Primare SP31 Pre Pro will be at the top of the list with the Bel Canto Pre 6 as my second choice. My .02