The preamp IS the most colored and dynamic piece you can add. Get the "right combination" and you get goose bumps! Having said that you can pull your hair out trying to find this. I cant stand to listen to digital unless its through a good TUBE based preamp, some people swear by Solid state. Ayre makes a great solid state product. For tubes you could try Modwright or Primaluna, Manley Labs, Dehavilland,Doge, the list is really endless and it begins with you listening to different ones until you find the "right" one for you.
I have Aerial 7Ts with a Parasound A21 amp and Parasound P5 preamp. Is there better/different, yes, but I submit you will have to spend significantly more money to get slightly better sound.
Mattmiller, I agree, the possibilities are almost endless, and the synergy issues impossible to predict wihout some trial and error, which I'm prepared to try, just throwing it out to see what direction I can get. My Odyssey I bought from here on a recommendation, and it did wonders for my old speakers. It does well on Aerials too, which is why I'm thinking it will stay for now, and the pre- should be my next step. I like the Aerials' imaging and their top to bottom frequency response in my room seems to linear and 'complete'...I don't feel I'm missing highs, lows, or midrange, but can't help thinking the AVR is the weak link.
Ricred1, thanks for the input, Parasound was on the shortlist for power amps when I got the Odyssey, and I've heard good things about the P5 and P7. Do they have HT bypass?
I have Aerial 7Ts with a Parasound A21 amp and Parasound P5 preamp. Is there better/different, yes, but I submit you will have to spend significantly more money to get slightly better sound."
I don't know how you came up with that. How do you define slightly better? Also, you're assuming that everyone will have the same opinion as you.
I'm not here to argue with you, I stated "MY OPINION" based on my experiences.
It's seems more and more people like to argue on Audiogon...been there done it and won't anymore. Audio is subjective and there are no absolutes!
I came up with it based on my experience.
From my reading so far, a separate pre- with HT bypass is likely to provide the best improvement in 2 channel SQ(?)
Absolutely! Putting a stereo pre-amp in the mix will definitely improve your 2 channel listening. It has been my experience that the 2 channel pre-amp sections in most AVR's are merely an afterthought. And this is where the refinement will come from - the pre-amp.
Since Ricred1 has the same speakers you have, it would be wise to listen to him. I think his Parasound separates are a terrific choice and offer a lot of performance for the money. The P5 pre-amp may be a good place to start and it also has HT Bypass.
Don't forget that there are many high quality integrateds with HT Bypass too. This is the route I took in order to reduce the amount of components in my installation. And I really couldn't be happier. Good luck!
Your best improvement will come from separating two channel from surround. Not only will no multi channel processor ever give you great stereo performance, when you have your speaker placement optimized for movies, then two channel sound suffers. And vice versa.
If two channel music is indeed as important as you say, set your system up accordingly and live with whatever sound you get for movies. That also means a good two channel preamp. Yeah, you might lose the surround effect, but what you gain for stereo performance will make up for it. Or go whole hog multichannel and take what you get for music.
The choice is yours. Either make them separate (different rooms), or make compromises.
I should add that I have Wireworld Silver Electra Powercords, Wireworld Silver Eclipse interconnect, Wireworld Gold Starlight 7 digital cable, GIK room treatment, and a PS Audio Dectet Power conditioner. My point, is not just about the amp and preamp, but the room and every component having synergy.
I have no illusions about 'if I get the right preamp, all will be perfect' :) I know better than that!! I have an ordinary HDMI from the Oppo to the Yamaha, and a $60 Audioquest RCA from the Yamaha to the amp, then sold old....and I mean OLD Monster to the speakers. Although the guy here that I got the amp from said it was as good or better than some of the newer speaker cables. The room needs treatment, but I'll be limited in what I can do since it's also the family room. I'm not aiming for perfection, just a progression to improve where I can. Cables I'm almost scared of since although I've heard differences with hardware, I havent (yet?) with cables/wires
Pre-amp, pre-amp, pre-amp!!! But you gotta give us a budget to get any useable suggestions.
At the risk of opening the field too wide, budget isn't as important as getting what will work best. I'd rather buy once than buy something knowing it's an intermediate step.... The speakers I'd pretty decided on almost 2 years ago, but due to price had held off til I could afford them, and I see this the same way. Value is still important however :)
My mains are positioned for 2channel. That's the part I'm most critical about. What about as I expand my digital knowledge, and have all my music on NAS, and run that into a prospective preamp? My current setup is using the Odyssey to power them anyway.
I'm not here to argue with you, I stated "MY OPINION" based on my experiences.
It's seems more and more people like to argue on Audiogon...been there done it and won't anymore. Audio is subjective and there are no absolutes!"
It would have been helpful if you included the above info in your post. The way you word it sounds like a statement of fact, and not opinion. If someone new to audio read that and missed your point, it could lead to a bad purchase. Also, I don't see why you would think we are arguing. The whole point of these discussions are to exchange different ideas and opinions. Its a given that we don't always agree on various issues. This type of back and forth is part of the selection process.
I have no illusions about 'if I get the right preamp, all will be perfect' :) I know better than that!!"
I agree. But I would add that its extremely important to get a preamp that works well for you. If you don't, you're in for a very difficult time. A bad or poorly matched preamp will make your system sound awful.
"Cables I'm almost scared of since although I've heard differences with hardware, I havent (yet?) with cables/wires"
Hearing differences in cables will come in time. But once you hear them for the first time, it gets easier as you gain experience. Also, I would recommend that you don't buy any cables until you're sure that you can properly judge them.
I concede that I could have made it clear that I was stating my opinion. I agree that this forum is to exchange information and I wanted to share my experience with the OP since we have the same speakers.
So any other suggestions? I wouldn't believe the Parasound is the only option, especially after the last few posts:)
I'm sure this is probably a stupid question, but do I need to concern myself with impedance specs on a prospective new pre-amp? My power amp has a specification of 22kOhms input impedance....what does that mean, and does it matter
Some tube preamps won't like that, for example ARC. But some tube preamps are fine with that. So you do have to look into it when you look at preamps.
10X rule is the MINIMUM for impedance matching.
Most power amps designed to work well with tube pre-amps in general have input impedance of 60Kohm or higher, to be safe.
That is an insurance policy for good results with most any tube preamp. PRe-amp output impedance can vary widely with frequency and generalized specs may not indicate actual output impedance at particular frequencies.
So my rule of thumb for a good insurance policy is to avoid using a tube pre-amp with power amps with input impedance specs less than 60000Kohm.
That's not to say there will not be cases that might still work well and sound fine, but it can be hard to determine for certain, so better to just play it safe.
In general I would hesitate to use a tube preamp with an amp rated 22kohms input impedance, unless known for certain to have particularly low output impedance at all frequencies for a tube preamp. Less than optimal impedance matching will limit dynamics and add distortion. Might still sound OK, just not optimal.
Ok thanks. So for now I shoulld limit my looking to SS, which is fine, and Parasound is my only recommendation so far from here. Given that I won't be able to duplicate my home setup at any store, I'm likely to buy based on recommendations and research rather than auitions, and hope for a good match or good return policy.
Are there any guidelines for ghow long a new SS piece might take to burn in, assuming that would be a factor for a pre-amp?
You don't have to limit yourself to solid state.
In the face of Mapman's rule of thumb, all of our preamps work fine with 10K amplifier inputs no worries.
The MP-1 and MP-3 can both drive 600 ohms which is a lot lower than 10K! They have direct-coupled outputs and so there is no loss of bass with lower impedances.
There are plenty of other tube preamps that can drive 10K. A good example is the old Dynaco PAS-3X, which was quite inexpensive.
"In the face of Mapman's rule of thumb, all of our preamps work fine with 10K amplifier inputs no worries."
Fine is fine, but not necessarily best.
"Best" is even a subjective judgement. May or may not be based on anything quantitative.
Just saying. Its all good. Just a matter of how good. Personal preferences mostly determine that in the end.
Let's put it this way: 10K is simply not an issue for our preamps. If you have 100K or 10K and switch between them, you can't hear any difference.
That certainly helps the buyer in the case of your stuff.
The rule I specified is designed as a general insurance policy in cases where it may not be clear based on specs or any other published info. As the amp input impedance goes up, within reason I suppose, the chances of hearing a difference goes down. 60Kohm input impedance spec seems to be a safe lowest common denominator based on teh specs I see published for products explicitly designed to work well with tube pre-amps in general.
I had an Anthem AVM 30 in my two channel system for bass management. When i changed my speakers to Def Tech BP8080s with built in subs i no longer needed bass management, but i kept the Anthem in my system. Among HT procssors it has a reputation for excellence in two channel. I saw AudioAdvisor had the NuForce mcp 18 preamp for sale really cheaply, so i bought one, intending to put it in my office system. Instead, i replaced the AVM in my main system and wow,what a difference. Much lower noise level, much higher resolution; for $600 you're getting a very well designed SS preamp--two channels have a sophisticated volume control and you have additional channels should you ever want to buy amp. Im very happy with it.