Pre/Pros: How different do they sound?

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  • SiliGoose
    Senior Member
    • Aug 2000
    • 942

    Pre/Pros: How different do they sound?

    I'm preparing a jump into separates. I've got an amp and am now just deciding how much I want to spend on a pre/pro.

    I keep reading reviews of pre/pros where the reviewer points out the 'sound' of the pre/pro. How much does your pre/pro really contribute to the sound of your system? I've always been of the opinion that (obviously) the biggest contributor to your system sound is your speakers followed by your amp. Everything after that has a pretty small percentage of the sum total sound of your system.

    I'm about 85% sure I'll pass on the Outlaw 950 (due to convenience issues) as well as the Rotel 1066. The two pre/pros that do everything I want are the B&K Reference 30 and the Anthem AVM-20. Do you think I would be able to hear a difference between any of these four pre/pros? Is it worth the added expense just for features?

    I'm in an odd situation as there are no B&K or Anthem dealers in the St. Louis area right now. I have to base my decision totally upon research and opinions of others. I have heard the Rotel and thought it was very nice but it was hooked up to components I have no experience with.




    -Sili
    www.campmurphy.net
  • Burke Strickland
    Moderator
    • Sep 2001
    • 3161

    #2
    If you were to add the Integra Research RDC-7 http://www.integraresearch.com/products.cfm?id=1 to your short list of pre/pros, there is a dealer in your area:
    The Sound Room Ii, Inc.
    1661 Clarkson Rd.
    Chesterfield, MO 63017 USA
    636-537-0404 (Tel)
    636-537-3259 (Fax)
    TVIEIRA@TETRANET.NET

    Compared to the preamp section of the receiver I was using before, as well as the other pre-pros I auditioned (including a week with the Anthem AVM-2, but not the AVM-20), I find the RDC-7 to be a significant contributer to the overall high sound quality of my system on two channel music (which is a very high priority) as well as the various surround modes for movies (including DPL II), which it executes superbly. It works hand-in-glove with my Magnepan MG 3.6 speakers and the Brown Electronics Lab (BEL) 1001 Mk V power amplifier I use to drive them.

    Good luck!

    Burke

    What you DON'T say may be held against you...

    Comment

    • SiliGoose
      Senior Member
      • Aug 2000
      • 942

      #3
      Thanks Burke.

      Isn't the RDC-7 about $2000 more than the AVM-20? My absolute limit is $2500 (and I don't even want to spend that!).




      -Sili
      www.campmurphy.net

      Comment

      • Ricky
        Senior Member
        • Aug 2000
        • 226

        #4
        Sili,

        The Integra retails at $4k, so you might be able to find for $2800 or so. I used to have the Onkyo 989 (wihch shares the same chassis and menus, no balanced connections though)....great sounding and easy to use receiver, an incredible piece of engineering that has stood the test of time with two significant upgrades.

        Comment

        • Andrew Pratt
          Moderator Emeritus
          • Aug 2000
          • 16507

          #5
          There was a comparison between the Anthem and the Outlaw on HTF and it basically came out that they couldn't really tell them apart. I think once you get to a certian level the differences are fairly small esp for HT use. The DAC's might be significantly different though which should show up in 2 channel modes but most of the newer pre pro's are all using similar chips now anyway so what seperates them are features, build quality and looks. The anthem and the outlaw may sound similar but thats about where it ends as far as build quality, looks and flexibility. If the only thing you are missing the Rotel's etc is digital inputs why not look at something like the digital director as an add on to one of these cheaper pre pro's?




          Comment

          • Lex
            Moderator Emeritus
            • Apr 2001
            • 27461

            #6
            Let me speak to pre-pro differences. I had a Lexicon DC-1 for a year, then upgraded to the MC-1. Let me just say, the quality difference was very audible. Detail, resolution, quiter noise floor, all contributed to a higher quality sound. This was especially apparent on 2 channel. But I did notice resoution differences on matrixxed and 5.1 encoded material as well using the DSP engine.

            Also, look very closely at the menu navigation, ease of setup, and flexible base management. Spending a little more up front, may mean greater satisfaction and flexibility down the road. Generally, the higher priced pre-pros will offer more in this area. I love the menu navigation of the MC-1 and it's sound quality and flexibility. I know I wouldn't be satisfied with less at this point.

            This post is really a club pre-pro post, but for now, we will leave it here for maximum attention. Later I may move to club pre-pro.

            Lex
            Doug
            "I'm out there Jerry, and I'm loving every minute of it!" - Kramer

            Comment

            • Bob
              Senior Member
              • Jul 2000
              • 802

              #7
              Silli,
              There can be very big differences in how different pre/pros sound. You were right that your choice in speakers would be the most noticable contribution to how your system sounds, followed by how you place them and what the room sounds like. After that the DACs in your digital system is the most important contribution to your sound. There is much more to DACs than the chips that are used. As I changed DACs in my pre/pro (I upgraded 3 times) the music and the front three channels for movies improved so much that you would have thought that I bought new speakers. I don't know anything about the pre/pros that you listed. They may all have similar sounds and if so, then features would be the most important thing to look for. While various amps do sound different, sometimes the difference can be so subtle that it hardly matters, and as many times as I have changed amps I never heard the kind of difference I did with moving my speakers and treating my room. That is not true with pre/pros and their DACs.

              Comment

              • Markj
                Senior Member
                • Aug 2000
                • 323

                #8
                I think the pre/pro is an important piece in the system. As mentioned above flexibility is important feature because the pre/pro’s task is to integrate all of the speakers together. I would suggest that if you cannot personally listen to a pre/pro you should be very careful about what others say. Like speakers it’s personal taste.

                Comment

                • SiliGoose
                  Senior Member
                  • Aug 2000
                  • 942

                  #9
                  There was a comparison between the Anthem and the Outlaw on HTF and it basically came out that they couldn't really tell them apart
                  That thread is really what got me thinking. I mean, people involved in that thread couldn't tell a difference yet all the reviews I read mention startling variances in sound.

                  Like Lex said, I tend to sway heavily toward the design convenience (flexible options and menus) of the Anthem. Knowing that flexibility is there is very nice. I'm strongly considering the Rotel despite its lack of inputs (that silver version is very nice ).

                  BTW, Andrew: What's a Digital Director? Do you have a link?




                  -Sili
                  www.campmurphy.net

                  Comment

                  • Bob Santos
                    Senior Member
                    • Mar 2001
                    • 273

                    #10
                    Sili,
                    I have changed Pre/Pro's a few times in the last couple of years. Each one definately sounded different in my system.
                    First was a Yamaha 795 receiver using as a pre/pro with a HK PA5800 amp. Sounded great. A little on the bright side though.
                    The Yamaha was replaced with a Theta Casa Nova. As you can imagine a HUGE improvement. After using the Theta for about a year my favorite HT shop started carrying B&K.
                    While there I listened to the Ref 30 with my speakers. I couldnt believe what I was hearing. I prefered the sound of the B&K over
                    my pride and Joy Theta. Now I am probably the worst person at explaining what I hear, but I'll give it a go. The B&K in my system was warmer, and smoother. Basically a more well rounded sound.
                    The B&K, with the definitives, and the HK amp were a perfect match. Last month those were replaced with a MC-1, and a pair of Citation 7.1 amps. Again a different sound, and a noticable improvement. Although having changed the amp at the same time, it's hard to tell where the improvement was made. My front sound stage is now much wider, and the over all sound is more detailed.
                    You and I both use Definitive speakers, so the your results should be the same. But ofcourse remember our ears are different, and I may have only heard a difference because I wanted to
                    I havent heard the Anthem, but I can tell you after living with the Ref 30 for a year that it's a excellent Preamp. Also It worked very well with my Definitive speakers.

                    Comment

                    • Andrew Pratt
                      Moderator Emeritus
                      • Aug 2000
                      • 16507

                      #11
                      here ya go Silli

                      High-End manufacturer of audio equipment, specializing in Digital to Analog Converters. Crafted in California.


                      This is just one sol'n I'm sure there are other products that will allow you to add more digital inputs.




                      Comment

                      • Ricky
                        Senior Member
                        • Aug 2000
                        • 226

                        #12
                        Sili,

                        I understand you want a prepro, but unless you get Lexicon with the differentiated Logic7 and inherent flexibility (and MC1s are $2k used and dropping), it's very tough to pass up the Pioneer Elite vsx-49tx if you can spend up to $2500 with the splendid room correction feature. On that HTF thread, too many guys are happily switching to the Elite from the Denon 5800 and some prepros for the 49tx to be a fluke. And it has all the connectivity you can ask for; internal amps can drive your rear centers.

                        When I decided to upgrade from my Onkyo 989 5 months ago, my short list was very short: Lexicon or 49tx. I feel the same today; throwing in the tube preamp with HT bypass of course

                        Comment

                        • LarryB
                          Member
                          • Dec 2001
                          • 81

                          #13
                          Andrew:

                          The DAC's might be significantly different though which should show up in 2 channel modes but most of the newer pre pro's are all using similar chips now anyway so what seperates them are features, build quality and looks.
                          You may want to see my post on DC power in the Audio Hideout section. (Though admittedly, this is more important for music than for HT.)

                          Larry

                          Comment

                          • SiliGoose
                            Senior Member
                            • Aug 2000
                            • 942

                            #14
                            Thanks for the link, Andrew.

                            Ricky,

                            The 49tx is an awesome piece. Prior to getting my amp I was leaning heavily toward it. You're absolutely right about it's feature set and connectivity being exactly what I need.

                            It's just not what I want. I'm currently thinking of preamps in this order:

                            1. Anthem AVM-20 - Finding a dealer to sell it to me has been a chore (no dealer in St. Louis). And I'm still not sure I want to spend $2600. If I decide to do it this is a very, very nice processor.

                            2. B&K Reference 30 - Most of the connectivity of the Anthem along with the same impending Motorola upgrade (DPL2, THX Ultra2, etc.) but at a much more palatable $2000

                            3. Rotel RSP-1066 - If I decide to save a lot of money this will be my choice. It's a very distant 3rd though as it is very lacking in inputs (actually has one fewer digital ins than I require). It lacks some convenience and tweaking options but I could live with it. It does sound very good.

                            4. Sunfire Theater Grand II - With the imminent release of version III prices on the II are dropping. I've seen several for $2000. Sounds like upgrading it to the TGIII might be much more expensve than upgrading the B&K or Anthem units to the new Motorola DSP.




                            -Sili
                            www.campmurphy.net

                            Comment

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