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Old 08-19-2008   #97
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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Originally Posted by deacongreg View Post
If you want the new processing now, if you are buying your Blu-Ray player right now, I think you have to move towards the Integra, Denon arena. They have the products and codecs today, so, you will get the best that is currently available. And kenny, your reviews bear this out.

So, until, as you said this all does stabilize, that is what you do. Of course, if you want to sit back and wait, that is on you. Or as I like to say, that sounds like a personal issue!!!

But, also as you pointed out in your review of the Denon`s, is there ANY pre/pro out there to date, that has all the current processing and connections, and also sounds great for audio as well???
You know me well from this forum by now, and you already know what I think. But, I'll say it again anyway. I absolutely do not see how anyone can go wrong with the Integra. It's what I have been using since last November. Excuse me if I gloat about having all the lastest essential features, while the hi-hi enders do not. But, coming from, once again, a reference grade 2-channel system costing 8 x as much, I am not wanting for sound quality at all. In fact, in multichannel, it's the best sound I have ever heard by a whole lot. Perhaps not for CD or vinyl. On vinyl, I would not consider using the Integra built-in phono stage. With an external phono stage, it's not the greatest 2-channel line stage in the world, but it's more than adequate. With h-rez multichannel, it's simply fabuloso.

Is the Denon significantly better? Dunno, I' ve never heard it. Nor have I seen a review of the 2 units side-by-side. But, how much better can it be? How much better must it be to justify 4-5 times the price? Excuse me if I do not get the point about all the extra channels it has pushing up the cost. Do I see a need to bi-amp my main channels when I already have a sub? No, I can't see that it's worth it to me. Is there a major advantage to multiple sub-outs when a Y-cable would suffice? If there is, I am not seeing it.

Kenny likes the Anthem with ARO EQ, though it lacks HDMI 1.3. I have seen other reviews of the Anthem (without ARO) side-by side against the Integra, and the Integra was slightly preferred. The point is for $1,600, the Integra seems arguably to be competitive with some of the best. It has got to go down as one of the greatest steals in all of audio history.

It's still in huge demand, so resale is not going to be an issue. The new DTC 9.9, when it appears, seems to be an incremental upgrade adding a few non-essential bells and whistles. But, I could be wrong about that.

Plus, you can upgrade it to Audyssey PRO and really make it sing. To me, it's a no-brainer. I do not have a millisecond's regret for having bought it.
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Old 08-20-2008   #98
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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?
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Old 08-20-2008   #99
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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Originally Posted by DerekR View Post
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.
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Old 08-20-2008   #100
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

Yes, point taken re the Integra's analog line stage.

Following the 'many ways to skin a cat' approach, ways of getting around the Integra's analog stage had crossed my mind while reading the thread and one solution that occurred was to use an external DAC with a built-in preamp (the flavour of the times seems to be the Benchmark or Bel Canto, both with analog volume control) and run the DAC's balanced outputs to the power amp. You could then run the Integra's unbalanced Front outputs to the unbalanced inputs of the power amp and thereby not have to swap cables when you wanted 'pure stereo' - in effect, switch off the Integra. Should work so long as you're not playing the DAC and Integra simultaneously. You could even run the unbalanced DAC outputs to the Integra to allow Audyssey and bass-management processing of the DAC. With a little care you could swap between the two for comparison.

At this point I must confess that I am an 'old' (sub-50) high-ender who has been moved to upgrade from an old Casablanca. And so I'm looking to have a modern, solid DAC for my stereo collection while being able to watch musical concerts in multichannel. And, by the way, the multichannel source is a PS3. I confess I even spend the odd hour or so in the driver's seat of Grand Turismo 5 Prologue - a far cry from the real thing but my 16-year old son is amused.... and much, much quicker!
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Old 08-20-2008   #101
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

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Originally Posted by DerekR View Post
Yes, point taken re the Integra's analog line stage.

Following the 'many ways to skin a cat' approach, ways of getting around the Integra's analog stage had crossed my mind while reading the thread and one solution that occurred was to use an external DAC with a built-in preamp (the flavour of the times seems to be the Benchmark or Bel Canto, both with analog volume control) and run the DAC's balanced outputs to the power amp. You could then run the Integra's unbalanced Front outputs to the unbalanced inputs of the power amp and thereby not have to swap cables when you wanted 'pure stereo' - in effect, switch off the Integra. Should work so long as you're not playing the DAC and Integra simultaneously. You could even run the unbalanced DAC outputs to the Integra to allow Audyssey and bass-management processing of the DAC. With a little care you could swap between the two for comparison.

At this point I must confess that I am an 'old' (sub-50) high-ender who has been moved to upgrade from an old Casablanca. And so I'm looking to have a modern, solid DAC for my stereo collection while being able to watch musical concerts in multichannel. And, by the way, the multichannel source is a PS3. I confess I even spend the odd hour or so in the driver's seat of Grand Turismo 5 Prologue - a far cry from the real thing but my 16-year old son is amused.... and much, much quicker!
I think you may be overblowing the deficiencies of the Integra with 2-channel digital in. I did not feel a need to keep my Theta Gen Va for CD's. The Integra is perhaps not quite as good, but I am satisfied with it. Besides, neither the Benchmark nor the Bel Canto have analog inputs, as far as I know. So, under your plan, you would have to reconnect to the amps depending on which source you are playing. The only way to avoid this smoothly is via an analog line-stage with Home Theater pass-through controlled via a remote. I do not see the Integra's minor deficiencies being worth all this expense. If you are a heavy vinyl junkie who demands the ultimate, then you probably already have a preamp/line stage that can be used. Home Theater pass-through is just the ultimate solution, because it gets the line stage's analog volume control out of the signal path for home theater. Any analog line stage can work, as long as the volume is reset to the same level for home theater.

You could also seek a better pre/pro, but I have not much personal experience. The Denon has all the Integra's features plus a few more, including many IMHO useless ones that merely drive up the price. So, we are talking a whole lot more money. If it sounds better at all, which I do not know, I doubt it is by enough to justify the price tag.

The Marantz, Anthem or the Classe might be alternatives, but lack of features and price might be the killers here. That, and how much better are they actually going to sound?

Of course, if you are anything like me, once you get hi-rez multichannel going through an Integra, you will get hooked on it and lose interest in 2-channel. I just cannot see spending a lot of money on stereo-only items anymore.
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Old 08-20-2008   #102
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Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

fitzcaraldo215,
I just got the Onkyo PR-SC885P, which is the same thing as your Integra 9.8. Until I get a dedicated 2 channel preamp with home theater pass through (most likely the Audio Research Ref 3) I'm using my Krell HTS 7.1 as a temporary preamp. I'm using a PS3 as a blu ray player so I output Dolby True HD and DTS HD as PCM. What listening mode do you use for watching Blu Ray? My choices with the Onkyo are Pure Audio, Direct, and Multichannel PCM. I believe the Pure Audio mode turns off the Audyssey correction while Multichannel leaves it on.

I'm still not quite sure how I feel about the Audyssey. I like some aspects of Pure Audio, but the Audyssey definitely improves the bass response. Any tips for the Audyssey?

A couple of first impressions with the Onkyo: Good build quality, good menus, Analog not close to my Krell HTS 7.1, digital is great.
Thanks
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