Given what you already have, and having regard to used prices, I would go for the Linn 5103, which as you say is old, but good. I would also consider the Meridian. This presumes that you don't mind forgoing HDMI.
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Since you say you will be using this system half of the time for music you may want to give more serious consideration to PLII as it is actually quite good and a huge step up from the older PL.
Just because you have a Linn amp and speakers I do not feel that the older Linn processor makes any more sense than your other options. I'm not familar with the Linn, but if it is as old as you imply I would not consider it as it will be difficult to sell should you not be happy with it. Most people buying surround processors want the newer technology at least up to a point.
After taking a very long look at many options I decided on the Rotel 1066, which I got virtually unused for $800. I could not be happier and recommend it highly. Don't be misled by the low price these go for. Rotel makes exceptional equipment for very reasonable prices and has been doing so for a very long time. I use mine with Classe amps and Aerial loudspeakers on the front end and a Rotel amp and Von Schweikert TS-150's for the rear. I use a Hsu VFT3 for a sub. In the past I used an older Meridian and a Proceed PAV. The Rotel was a big improvement and of course it could handle the newer surround formats.
You did not mention the rest of your system, but you might be able to put that extra $800 to good use if you went for the Rotel. What are you using for a DVD player?
You may want to read Robert Deutsch's review of the 1066 in the January '03 issue of Stereophile Guide to Home Theater if you have not done so already.
Although the Outlaw is a good bang for the buck I do not believe it can compete with your other choices, which have been designed by companies with far greater experience in both 2 channel and multi-channel audio.
Hope this helps...
I've had a Meridian 565 in my HT setup for the last seven years, and it's one of the few items that I have zero desire to change. It's a pain to setup, but so very worth it. As close to natural sound as I can imagine from a processor. Way cheap on the used market too, but make sure you get the one with the Z4 chip which does dts, etc.
Hands down...Meridian. Granted the 568 is a older model, but the competition is no match for even the older Meridian. Trifield is still an eye opener, even compared to the newer formats that are coming out. Plus...play your cards right, you can find a 568 that can handle DD and DTS.
Of course, you're not gonna get the added features that the others are offering. IMO, the tradeoff of performance/reliability vs. features is something I wouldn't think twice about considering.
FWIW, I home demo'd a Rotel 1068 and the Sherwood/Newcastle P-965 at the same time about two years ago. Although a close call, the Sherwood, which should sound much like the Outlaw (they are both produced by Sherwood) bested the 1068, especially in terms of soundstage dimensionality, top-end extension and feature-set. Since the 1068 probably is an improvement over the 1066, between the Rotel and the Outlaw, I'd go for the Outlaw (which is a no-risk purchase, since they have a 30-day return option).
Linn is pretty practical given your othre Linn components. However, the Meridian 568 is a wonderful piece. I've owned both and the meridian is hands down a better unit, IMHO and others per previous threads. Narrow to these two and forget the others. It will simplify your search through the audiogon and other threads.
Rotel for movies holds it own any day of the week against the overpriced gear mentioned above, to say Rotel gets eaten for lunch is just silly...music is a diffrent story but for movies it is an excellent value, if you want bragging rights then spend more, but if you want real world performance at a very reasonable price get Rotel, if you want to look at better then Rotel Lexicon would have to make you audition list.
"Rotel for movies holds it own any day of the week against the overpriced gear mentioned above"
Chad...No doubt Rotel can hold its own. However, calling the other pieces overpriced...thats a fairly subjective statement. More expensive...OK. Overpriced leads me to believe the performance is not worth the money. This is unfortunately not true. When you move from Rotel to Outlaw, for example, you've pretty much taken a side step. Rotel to Linn...now you've moved forward some. Rotel to Merdian...you need to be in Olympics doing the long jump!
For the price of a new 1066 vs. a used 568.2, thats about a $600 to $700 dollar difference, if you play your cards right. But when you consider performance, the extra money in comparison to the competition brings things back into perspective.
"to say Rotel gets eaten for lunch is just silly."
OK...maybe as a full course meal. It takes a little longer to eat the Rotel. :) Just joking! Silly but otherwise true.
"music is a diffrent story but for movies it is an excellent value, if you want bragging rights then spend more"
This is unequivically one of the main reasons MC music listening has not received the respect it has so long earned. Because too many limit MC to movies. When kept in perspective, media is media, information is information, and processing is processing...be it 2ch or MC. Movies, music... its all media. Can the equipment process and handle the media properly and accurately, as close to the original or intended "blueprint" for a lack of better terms; ie recording or score or soundtrack....thats the question. Its all about accurate reproduction of the original. That canvasses movies, music and all else.
Oh...and speaking of bragging rights. Bragging rights would be configuring the Rotel to outperform a Meridian. Thats bragging rights. Won't ever happen, but thats what I call bragging rights. Bragging about price only magnifies how much you spent and how far your performance has to grow to catch up with the price tag. If the overall performance still sucks, your just bragging about how much money you just wasted.
"but if you want real world performance at a very reasonable price get Rotel, if you want to look at better then Rotel Lexicon would have to make you audition list."
I will agree Rotel is truely reasonable. Plus, the performance outranks the price. This is very true. Lexicon wouldn't be a far reach to consider adding to the group either. But when you start pricing Lexicon thats on the remote level of the 568 or Linn, you'll more than likely be spending just as much for the used 568.2. Now your choosing between apples and oranges.
To make a long story even shorter, a properly configured Merdian 568.2 in trifield will have a tough time finding legitimate competition.
But hey...its not my system!
I don't understand why people buy processors instead of a really good MCh preamp combined with the digital player of your choice which will have all the processing in it. It saves you the digital cables, and more importantly you can buy a preamp that is high quality and will not loose value, whereas processors are like computers in that regard. When you feel the digital source is obsolete then upgrade that, instead of both every couple of years. That said, I do realize that some people like the flexibility of a processor that has multiple switching/input capability with various formats and possibly FM/AM. But if music is a priority, I would argue that most processors try to fit too much in to that box whereas high quality MCh preamps are built with the music lover in mind and leave the video and digital processing to the source...
"I don't understand why people buy processors instead of a really good MCh preamp combined with the digital player of your choice which will have all the processing in it."
Because it doesn't have half the processing in it, players have exceptionally crude processing in them and in my experience you cannot setup a player with any level of accuracy for your setup.
There's a great deal more to a prepro than you are aware of. People over look the software in these processors and how software is more important than hardware. What's a computer without software, did you ever consider looking ast it that way?
Simply put the BEST Mch pre with the BEST multi format player is going to vastly inferior to a good prepro. If you can prove otherwise I'd like to hear how you pulled it off.
I'm a bit at a loss here. Can anyone objectively explain how they came to the conclusion how the Linn, Rotel Outlaw, or the Casablanca outperforms the Meridian? This goes without saying, but the Meridian requires the one has some pre-learned knowledge of surround sound to properly set it up; all as be willing to navigate a little.
But shouldn't this be a prerequisite for any who wants to properly setup and calibrate a MC system?
Or is it more that people haven't heard the "competition" and only made thier choices on what they have heard, or what someone told them or read; not what they researched?
Not saying the 568 is the best out there, but in this price bracket, where is the competition?
Just wondering gentlemen. Anyone care to explain?