Why I gave up on high end Home Theater. Long

I had a Proceed PAV pre/pro, I bought it a year ago when I first decided to try home theater, because I felt it did 2 channel better than any pre/pro I'd heard for under $1500. When Sony came out with their new line of DVD players that also do multi-channel SACD, I decided it was time to give them a try. I tried to decide between going to an Anthem AVM-2 or sending my PAV to MSB Technologies to add a 5.1 analog input. I choose the latter after listening to the Anthem, I felt the PAV was still better in 2 channel. 80% of my listening is still 2 channel. BIG MISTAKE!
MSB charges $385 to add a DB-25 5.1 analog input, plus $95 for the cable. They had my unit for 3 weeks. The first thing I noticed was that the DB-25 connector on the cable wouldn't line up with the input connector on the back of the unit. It was obvious the cutout was too small, and the backplate was bending one of the pegs, so the thumbscrews wouldn't line up. Upon listening, I noticed that there was no subwoofer signal. I had a 5.0 upgrade, not a 5.1 upgrade. I bought a different cable (Monster), because I didn't want to ship it back if it was just a bad cable. No luck. After several e-mails and phone calls, I paid again to ship the unit to MSB. They sat on it for 5 weeks until I got it back, they claimed they found nothing wrong. They claimed 4 people checked it out and found nothing wrong.
So they shipped it back, saying it must be a setup problem.
This time, upon receipt, the first thing I noticed were 2 screws laying in the bottom of the box. Upon turning the unit over, I saw 2 more screws hanging from a thread on the bottom plate. I tightened up the 2 screws, put the 2 from the box back in, and noticed 3 more screws were missing. I hooked it up, same results, no sub signal.
I called MSB 3 times and spent 45 minutes troubleshooting over the phone. They convinced me the problem was the sub output of my new Sony DVP-NS900V. I was bummed thinking now I had to get my DVD player fixed. The next day, I decided to call my friend, who had a Sony 650 hooked up through the DB-25 input on his Aragon Soundstage. I tried his, same problem, no sub signal. Now I'm ticked! I e-mailed MSB, they want me to either pay to send the unit back again, or pay to make more phone calls to them, so they can play some more. They proceeded to promise that no one at their facility took the cover off. They told me of 9 tests that they ran, none of which used a DB-25 connector, or they would have had to notice the connectors wouldn't mate. Even though I told them about this in an e-mail, before I shipped it back for the second (5 week ) stay.
At this point, I have no confidence in their ability to troubleshoot or fix the problem. The can't make the DB-25 connector work, even with being told to look for it. After 4 people looked at it for 5 weeks, I was told that no one 'noticed' it. So it's obvious that even though they install a DB-25 connector, they don't use one to test the unit. Their denying taking the plate off really bothered me, it showed me that MSB has no idea what goes on under their roof.
I asked for my money back, they told me they would only consider it if I sent it back for them to look at again. After spending the better part of 3 months with no pre/pro, and paying for the upgrade, phone calls and shipping (twice), I thought it best to cut my losses and trade the unit in for a stereo preamp. I really didn't see the point of paying to send the unit out for them to 'play' with for another month or two. They had it for 8 weeks, didn't notice the bent peg, didn't notice the cover being taken off, what a waste.
I've heard people claim that MSB processors are good, but I would highly recommend against anyone wasting money on their 'upgrade' projects. Their customer service was exceptionally poor. The worst I've seen in my 25 years in this hobby.
Thanks for reading my rant. I give up on HT, back to stereo.

So, the reason you gave up on HT theater is because of a bad experience with MSB?
Thanks for the tip! Because of your post I will never buy an MSB product! Customer service is SO important.
Hmmm, I had great help from MSB. I had bought some of their stuff through Audio Advisor. Some of the parts were missing and I'll bet from other evidence Audio Advisor personnel probably took them out. No matter; I send an E-Mail to MSB instead of Audio Advisor, and the same day I sent the E-Mail MSB shipped the missing parts to me free of charge overnight Fedex.

But anyway, I never considered high-end HT. A decent Onkyo receiver, B&W speakers and REL sub sounds great without all the mess. And it is easy enough for the rest of the household to use.

John, you are having one hell of a bad week! I noticed in another thread that a Linn TT you were all set to audition and buy got sold out from under you this week too. I sympathize and agree with your ultimate decision to cut your losses. When you are not able to bring your unit in in person, and have to keep carrying it to FedEX or UPS and paying shipping yourself, only to have to deal w/idiots who also don't seem very honest (why were there loose screws all over the unit if no one took it apart?? guess they came off in the mail, huh?), you seem to have no choice. I only wish you much better luck in the future--and besides, 2 channel is so much better than HT!!
Seasoned, it was 3 months of no music, I got tired of scrolling through menus and listening to test tones on the rare occasions I had the unit. Stereo is so much easier, especially when 80% of my listening is 2 channel. I had to ask myself, why am I pulling my hair out for that 20%? I may get a cheap receiver from Best Buy or something in the future. I did hold onto my sub, and I don't use it when playing music. I can't see investing more money, and losing touch with the music, which is my main goal.
Sarah, you are so right, this last week is enough to make me think of switching hobbies. Maybe I should sell it all and take up gardening or woodworking. It's been a bad, bad, week. Like my kids say, "It sucks to be me."
Sugarbrie, maybe you bought one of their processors, I never owned or complained about the units they built from scratch. It's their modification services that I'm calling on the carpet here.

After reading this I would never buy ANY of their products.Sorry about your nightmare.Parasound fixed a [AVC 1800 pre processer] I bought on Agon used and fixed solder connections that broke during shipping to me and upgraded to latest chip[without me asking].They ship back to you at their expense also.I told Parasound folks I bought used from this site also and didn't have orginal receipt.Parasound customer support is outstanding to say the very least!
There are always two sides to a story. This looks like typical upset customer "I'm gonna tell on you" flame!
Sorry if I come off like a typical upset customer, I really wish I was wealthy enough to throw away $600 and 3 months time without a care. Must be nice to be well off. I tell, because it's my only recourse. I cannot get my money back for very poor service. I'm simply trying to warn others, so they don't fall into the same trap. Anyone can learn from their own mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others, grasshopper. Be forewarned, MSB Technologies modifications and customer service are poor performers.

Hey John- sorry you had such a bad week. I agree with Sarah and Sugar. Just get an inexpensive Yammie/NAD/whatever HT rcvr, add 5 used NHT Superzeros, patch in your sub and away you go. Lots of fun, no muss, no fuss, fits anywhere. Movies are NOT a high end source nor do they require high end processing, IMO. Thats not to say that i wasn't floored watching a megabuch HT recently, but the software was on HD tape (nothing commercial available, as far as I know), and so its mostly eye candy. Most of the info in DD is on the center channel. Just have fun with it and reserve your frustration co-efficient for the 2 channel.
Thanks for the cautionary tale. I have been enjoying home theater since the mid-eighties, starting with stereo, then pro logic, then 5.1, and progressing from VHS to laser disc to DVD. I just took delivery of my second front projector, a Sharp XV-Z9000U yesterday, and was planning on upgrading to higher end electronics and speakers. But, you know what? Your article cautioned me not to go too high end. Technology impoves so fast in ht, and lowers prices so quickly, it doesn't pay to spend too much. And I'll especially never buy a Proceed product.
I am real sorry to hear of your bad experience John and thanks for warning others of the possibilities with MSB. I would not let that or anything else in life stop me of my dream (HT system) and encourage you to persevere and go with what "Swampwalker" suggests or just some other proven brands. There is enough feedback on this site alone to find a reliable and enjoyable system with good service if it requires. I had a long and rough road when I first got into vinyl and bought my first high end set up (TNT III, Wheaton tri-planar). I bought a Monster Genesis for $500 just to get me started. I would then be listening ever so peaceful and POP.....POP...POP. Wow, what was that, I was at a loss as to what the problem was. I spent the next few weeks on the phone to Audio Advisor for the Genesis and VPI for the TNT and Wheaton for the arm. Try this and try that and nothing different. I had never heard of the potential problem and tried everything from grounding the arm to changing the flywheel bands. AudioAdvisor ended up sending me 2 more cartridges before the spuratic popping stopped. My point is I persevered and ended up with not only enjoying the Genesis, but then upgrading to a Benz Ruby 2 and that was worth everything.I know it seems that for some the the dues are not as great but my family and I love our home theater. I put alot of sweat and time into it without knowing how it would end up. Either put up with the crap at the theaters or do it yourself and wait for the Rentals. I wouldn't have it any other way and neither should you. Good luck this time!
Sorry to hear about your trials and tribulations having MSB upgrade your Proceed PAV.

It is a problem with HT, as previously stated, that standards change so fast that one is continually upgrading. I have been on the Lexicon train myself: bought DC1, skipped DC2, bought MC1, skipped 4 upgrades, not yet purchased MC12 v1 or v2. That is at least 8 versions (there are more, because my DC1 also had a number of upgrades) in 5 - 6 years.

But, here is the important point, all these changes are a sure sign of a technology revolution. Think 'PC's circa 1985. The future will look different from today, but HT *is* the future. It is where all the innovations are going to be because it is where the so much of the MONEY is. It is just the way capitalism works.

Innovations will come from competition. Competition will be in the areas that are important to consumers and reviewers. I just hope that some of the reviewers appreciate the emotional and intimate nature of sound - all sound - more so than some of the 2-channel-only crowd.

Because there really should be no difference in quality between a sigh by Debbie Harry and a sigh by Carrie Ann Moss - or between Debbie Harry 2-channel and Debbie Harry music-video - just because one is visible and one is not.
I second Buckingham. Customer service is important to me. I too will never purchase a MSB product. I was going too, but they are impossible to deal with here in Canada. There are many fine products waiting for us to purchase, why waste our hard earned coin with companies that have no real concern once the sale is made.
On the positive side, due recognition is due to a couple of companies that have been terrific:
Paul at Aragon (Mondial), AudioQuest, Frank at Assemblage (Parts Connection) and of course the FINEST: Victor of B.A.T.
Cyclemart, the Proceed was not the problem. In fact I have nothing but praise for Madrigal products and especially customer service. I wish more companies had as good of customer service depatments as Madrigal. MSB Technology is the shady company here, I'd like to make that perfectly clear. MSB took the cover off the unit and didn't put it back together correctly, yet steadfastly refused to admit it. MSB installed the DB-25 connector wrong, yet didn't realize, even after having being told, what was wrong with it (bent post). They 'forgot' to even check it, they only had it for 5 weeks.
Swampwalker and Krell1, thanks for your responses. I tried to blend audio and video for my wife. She didn't want the 'fuss' of 2 seperate systems. I got into HT for my boys (ages 17,14,11). They won't listen to music with me, but they'll come running to watch a movie. They especially love the subwoofer. I held onto the sub and the DVD player, so I probably will get a cheap receiver in the future.
For all those who remember when I got into this experiment about 15 months ago, you can tell me you told me so. Many back then told me to just get a receiver and stay stereo. To them I say, "You were right."

I understand about the WAF thing. My biggest problem getting a "universal remote" that is easy to use, easy to program and really universal. Since I switch video inputs at the TV (Loewe Planus 16:9) and switch audio at the receiver, and the Loewe uses non-standard codes, its really a pain. I'm lucky enough to keep the 2 channel in the LR and the HT in the den. I must admit I'm tempted to integrate, but if I do, I will keep everyone's sad tales in mind. I'm thinking that I would do something with an HT pass-thru to an DD/DTS integrated amp, and use a high quality CD/DVD as a source, with the digital out on the DVD end going to the HT unit, and the digital out on the audio end to my DAC (if such an animal exists). Otherwise, I would probably just keep my changer/DAC combo and use a separate DVD). I know what its like with the kids; my son is happy as a clam listening to a boom box, but is always interested in a slam bam movie.
Yes, I guess that is why in my family room I have a Yamaha A1/Boston and that suits the kids when we aren't really watching. My main home theater/audio room is all Krell/B&W and there is a sequence in turning things on. Once you are past that everything is more than I could ever want. I have had many compliments on the perfomance of the theater/audio. I think you could still bring it all together.
I have to stand up for MSB here! This company is one that has gone out of their way to help me on many instances. I too have a PAV upgraded by MSB with a 5.1 inputs, I have a Denon AVP8000 that they added DTS decoding to, I have a Pioneer LX 900U that they added a RF output and a Digital AES/EBU output to!. Not to mentions two of their D-A converters. I have had 0 problems with my PAV, subs and all. I did at one point have a big problem. I was sure MSB was to blame too with my AVP8000 that they added dts to. After many phone calls to sort the problem It was sent to them for inspection. It was there for a few weeks if I remember correctly. They sent it back with no problem found. I was quite upset at this time but I called them again to tell them that the DTS decoding does NOT work still! Then one of MSB's Employees actually drove to my house to see it by him self. I live about 1 hour away from MSB and about 2 hours away from the fellows house who came to my house after work one day. He came in and looked at my system. After a moment, he put his dts cd in ( the same blue on that they send me with the upgrade) and no sound. He asked for the remote for the dvd player and with in a minute he set up the dvd player to output the dts signal to the digital. He had told me to / check do this before and I thought I did. I even remember being hostile on the phone and demanding that I know how to "use" my dvd player! It turnes out that I was exiting the menu in the dvd player the wrong way so that it would not save the change that I made. Oooops embarrassssssinnnggg! He sat with us and watched a bit of a movie for a while. I asked him, how much do I owe you, he said nothing, so I handed him a $ 50.00 tip. He declined to take it, twice. While he was not looking I slipped the $ into his cd bag and said thank you. Its been almost three years now, and it still works perfectly. The fellow who helped me who's card I still have in my wallet is J Scott Rust.
I very familiar with Scott Rust (and David and Larry Gullman). He is the one that steadfastly denied taking the cover off, even with screws missing, screws laying in the bootom of the box, and screws hanging on by a thread. I'd be more than happy if they drove to my house, but I live several thousand miles away, and they didn't offer to do this. I'm an electrician by trade, and very familiar with programming PLC's etc.. That being said, I still had friends come over (With over 20 years audio experience, like myself), with their equipment, and their knowledge. No-one could figure out why it wasn't working. Even the boys at MSB, after 45 minutes on 3 different occasions, couldn't figure it out. When I placed a Harmon Kardon Signature Series 2.0 pre/pro in it's place, no problems.
Let's review, MSB upgrade, does not work. Changing cables, DVD players, subs, does not work. Change pre/pro, problem solved. The only thing is that the H/K sounded grainy and veiled in 2 channel, which was unacceptable to me.
Maybe if Scott came to my house, my problems would have be solved. But I think he'd need to bring a few tools.
I guess what we've learned from all this is, if you live nearby, MSB Technology may be a viable option. If you have to ship, you're better off going another direction.

I to am thinking of giving up on HT. Let me tell you of my travels. Waited a few years to buy new equipment only to find my taste high so I settled to buy used. Denon AVP-8000 w/the matching amps. I received the components after sending a check for a good sum of money and was told that they were excellent. Yes they were and still are except for the pre/pro and still is not working after 4 months and with only using it for around 30 minutes in those 4 months because Denon can't get there head out of their A%* and find the problem. I also have sent it to them 3 diferent times. The 1st time they tell me they heard buzzing out of the center channel only,like I did, and they were going to replace boards and all is fine and is ready to be shipped back in working condition. Plugged it in and it still buzzed. 2nd time same as the 1st.( don't make me type more than I have to). 3rd time ....Well they have had it now since June 7th and called yesterday to tell me they hear nothing inside and they are going to send it back because as far as they are concerned theres nothing wrong."It's quite as can be" Keep in mind now that while they had it the 1st time I went out and purchased all new cables,interconnects Klipsch surrounds and sub to match up with my horned vintage JBL's etc. so when it comes back I'm ready to go. I know it will still buzz in the center channel only again and the Klipsch and cables and everything else is still sitting where they were 3 1/2 months ago. When I owned 2 ch. with a older Denon amp/pre with a set of Magnepan's I would find myself getting up to answer the phone only to later find out it was in the movie. Music was great and my family did have ease of use. Perhaps I'm bitter at the person who burnt me on E-Bay or Denon or maybe both, but someone can't tell me they hear noise twice send it back to me for me to hear it again and then to have them tell me now they hear nothing. Life was so easy before Home Theater I'm ready to go back to good 'ole stereo..... who knows.
I am thinking of never getting into HT in the first place. I haven't even turned my TV on in the last 7 months. All the programming is crap. For 2 years before that, I only turned it on to get the weather report from the local news. Now I use my computer for that, and the TV never goes on. As far as movies go, the VERY few that I think are worth watching, I can watch on my, or my friends, TV, without having to feel like the helicopter is flying right over my head. I really have no interest in HT, and find the entire matter to be distracting from an edifying and enjoyable pastime of music listening. To be blunt, I think HT is a mid-fi haven for video junkies. However, to be fair, I do give the benefit of the doubt to our Audiogon members who may feel it is useful for entertaining guests. I would only suggest putting a good album on the turntable, instead of subjecting your guests to the 15th sequel to Star Trek, or the 20th sequel to Rocky. There is precious little out of Hollywood that I would see fit to present to my guests.
Skin_54, I wound up doing what many here have suggested and seperated my HT from my stereo. I finally learned, and I'm very happy now. I have a inexpensive Denon AVR-1802 for HT and it performs fine. I have the main pre-outs feeding the SSP loop in on my Classe CP-60, so I can still use my mains in HT. Since 80% of my listening is stereo, I'm able to focus on just 2 channels instead of trying to match 5 (speakers, amps, etc). Bottom line, my system sounds better with music now, and if new HT formats come out (DD, DTS, DP II.....), I only need to swap out a $500 receiver to keep up with the latest formats. That beats the h@ll out of trying to keep up with the latest, greatest mega-buck processors, which need to be upgraded once a year. Even though my Proceed PAV was very good with music (for a SSP), it's still was no match for my Classe CP-60.
I'm sorry to hear of your woes, and I know where you're coming from. If music is a priority to you, seperate it from the HT. You'll find that you're usually visually distracted during a movie, so a inexpensive receiver will do just fine, and it won't contaminate your stereo system.

No response from MSB to an e-mail sent asking a question about a brand new product purchased from MSB really put me off. After a week with no answer I resent the email. No answer. Screw'em.
Little things like that bother me and is enough that I will use a competitor for any future purchases.
Back to the original post... certainly there are other ways to go after a reasonably high-end HT that are less hassle. I just plunked down near-retail-$ and bought a projector, screen, Classe SSP75 pre/pro, an additional 3 channels of power, and surround speakers that match my mains, all from my local dealers. I get great support, and as the equipment is all from historically reliable vendors, I have had ZERO problems in the three years since I upgraded from 2 to 5 channels. The only reason I know about support is that the manuals to the prepros (both the original B&K Ref20 and the current Classe) are either bad or terrible, and my dealers have both had to go pry information out of the vendors.
Blw, you're right, there are ways to go to reasonably high-end HT. Unfortunately, it involves money. I dipped my toes in the high end market, buying a Proceed PAV for $1100. It sounded better in 2 channel (80% of my listening) than any other pre/pro for $1100. When I bought my multi-channel SACD player, I wanted to try a 5.1 input on my pre/pro to take advantage of it. My options were to try to have MSB install a 5.1 input on my PAV (which I preferred on 2 channel) for about $400, or sell the PAV and buy a pre/pro that also has a 5.1 input and sounds as good in 2 channel. The closest I found was the Aragon Soundstage, which would hav cost me another $1K on top of selling my Proceed. I'd love to have your Classe SSP75, however I didn't see any for sale for less than $1.5K about 8 months ago.
Bottom line, I've found a Denon receiver does fine for the 20% time I use HT. My stereo system sounds much better using a dedicated 2 channel preamp (Classe CP-60) than any SSP I've tried. It all depends on what you want, and how much you're willing to pay.
I'm glad you're happy, but high end HT didn't work out for me, on my budget. MSB had a good sales pitch, but they couldn't implement it properly. Their modification program is a huge joke, end of story.