Originally Posted by DerekR
Interesting thread. While I agree that the Integra may not be the last word in audio processing I can quite see the viewpoint that it is a significant improvement over even high-end 2-channel gear having been recently introduced to SACD and Dolby TrueHD BluRay music concerts.
Would it be advisable to consider a good 2-channel DAC run through the Integra (does it have a 'Direct Analog' input?) to play stereo music stored on a NAS and delivered via the digital output of a Sonos system?
Seems to me this would give me the best of both worlds - the ability to hear my lossless files at the best quality I can afford (without the Integra's DAC) as well as the ability to hear concerts in the high-res formats. For now, my priority is the music so I'm willing to 'suffer' whatever 'sonic disadvantages' the Integra has when using it's DACs for the SACD and BluRay discs.
And, as the concensus seems to be that the 'perfect' pre/pro in terms of audio and video performance (not to mention affordability) is still on the drawing boards, would not this be the best way to go at the moment given my stated preferences?
I do not think you will ever see the perfect pre/pro, much as you will never see the perfect anything. The question of how inferior the Integra's DACS are is a good one. I think they are pretty good. I suspect it's not really the DAC's. I think it's more the analog stages - input or output or both, I am not sure. If this is true, then there would not be much advantage to using an external DAC for stereo, because it would have analog out and use the Integra as the analog line stage anyway.
The other disadvantage of using an external DAC is it would not be EQ'd by the Integra's Audyssey processor, which works even in stereo with digital in. Audyssey is very potent in improving the sound of your system in the room.
I think the only case where I recommend external anything would be for the very, very best in vinyl or, possibly, for the very best in video processing. I think any pre/pro will degrade analog input to a certain degree, so the pre/pro should be bypassed via an external analog line stage with HT bypass for the ultimate in analog. Many people will find the Integra quite adequate with vinyl, however, if they use an external phono preamp feeding the Integra, avoiding the built-in one. I do.
As to video processing, I am out of my league. The Reon processor in the Integra is plenty good enough for me. How much better can an external scaler/processor be? Since video processing is really just for less than 1080p signals, how important will this continue to be in the Blu-Ray era?
The only way to really be sure of any of this is to try it, difficult though that may be. Theoretical considerations sometimes disappear under actual listening/viewing conditions.