Audio Video Revolution Forum  

Go Back   Audio Video Revolution Forum > Audio-Video Electronics > Preamps (Audio & Video)

Preamps (Audio & Video) From tubes to solid state, discuss all topics related to audio & video preamps here.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-20-2008   #103
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Caribbean
Posts: 5
Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

Quote:
Originally Posted by fitzcaraldo215 View Post
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.
You may well be right re not seeing the point of spending lots of money on stereo-only items - I guess I want the comfort of a 'recognised' DAC for my old music. And I certainly do not want to spend more than $1800 for a pre/pro given everything I've read to date.

I'll probably suck it and see for myself - I can always part company with the stereo DAC if it's not worth it. Though I readily accept your position that one would move away from stereo after hearing good multichannel, there's not nearly the catalog of multichannel available yet to stop me listening to my collection of stereo music - hence my (perhaps old-fashioned) desire to cling to a 'good' stereo DAC as a primary listening source.

Not sure I folow your reference to the Benchmark and Bel Canto having analog inputs?? My thought was to use one of them as the DAC for my digital files (only) and my thought was to send the analog outputs of the Benchmark or Bel Canto (they both have balanced as well as single-ended outputs) to a) the balanced input of my power amp as well as b) a stereo input of the Integra to allow, mainly, the playback of the stereo files from the DAC into the same power amp the Integra would be connected to via its single-ended outputs. Just a thought, if it would work, to allow me the luxury of listening to the Benchmark or Bel Canto without the intervention of the Integra - the Bel Canto has a remote controlled preamp.

I totally concur that it's too early in the game to spring lots of dollars for a compromised pre/pro - to me it's a no-brainer to acquire a relatively affordable Integra (even the 9.9 at $1800 is 'affordable' compared to the other supposedly 'high-end' offerings that reportedly have better sound) that 'does it all' and enjoy the software until a clear 'champion' emerges and then (perhaps) upgrade. At least the Integra will be saleable!!

And, as a once-confirmed audiophile, I find it ironic that the high-end offerings are being compared to the mid-fi names of the Audiophile Era and found wanting - at least in terms of functionality. It used to be the other way round, back in the day. For now, and until the high-end gets its act together, I guess the gap is narrow. I presume lots of high-end manufacturers waited for the dust to settle in the format war, the HDMI issues and the BluRay profiles so as to commence hostilities. At least I hope so. And I wonder if the likes of Denon and Integra haven't stolen a chunk of audiophiles like yourself away in the interim. Interesting times.
DerekR is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-20-2008   #104
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 68
Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

Quote:
Originally Posted by spearl8 View Post
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
There is no Pure Audio mode on the Integra. That's the only difference I am aware of, aside from the faceplate. I think Pure Audio is just Direct mode with the video processor turned off. I just have not liked the Direct mode on my Integra. For all 2-channel sources, I prefer plain Stereo, but I have not done a lot of comparative listening to all modes. It's been awhile since I listened to vinyl, for example. In the little time I have with my system, I want to listen to multichannel music, not fiddle with the technology. That's the luxury I have by not being a reviewer.

I do not have a BR player yet. I am waiting for the technology to get sorted out a bit. I do not watch a ton of videos. I am 85% music and 15% DVD or TV. When more BR music appears, I will make my move into BR. As to multichannel sources, I listen to SACD's in DSD, DVD-A's in Multichannel, and video in whatever pops up, usually Dolby something II, whatever it is. You can get a sense from this where my priorities are.

I am a real Audyssey fan. I think it's very powerful. Yes, it definitely smooths the bass, but I find considerable improvement in the mid's and highs, as well. I find that without Audyssey the system sounds somewhat lifeless, unsmooth and non-coherent. With it the system comes to life and sings. So, I always want it on, except for analog inputs - vinyl, specifically - that it does not act on. People assume Audyssey is just frequency domain EQ, which is the way EQ always was in the past. But, it is time domain EQ, as well. It time aligns your system as a function of frequency. This might be what I am hearing, particularly in the mids/highs. The time domain thing is also where traditional EQ always left some negative side effects. Audyssey has eliminated that.

The thing about it is that it's easy to do, but easy to screw up a little or a lot. I have been through most of the AVS Forum Official Audyssey Thread. It's one of the most active audio sites on the web and huge, but very repetitive. I have learned quite a few things from it and repeated my calibration about 6 times over 9 months, applying new techniques I learned. The improvement was noticeable. To save you the time, all major calibration do's and don'ts are summarized at this link:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...5#post14456895

Possibly, your Audyssey calibration could use an upgrade using these tips and techniques. Don't ask me why Audyssey has not posted this on their own website. They said they were gonna.

If you feel comfortable with Audyssey, the creme-de-la-creme is the Audyssey Pro upgrade, which I have done. My understanding is that they will sell the kit to audiophiles for $600. It's better, and I believe worth it. Going from Audyssey off to stock MultEQ XT is a "wow" experience on my system. From there to PRO is subtler, yielding a greater sense of musical delicacy and a greater sense of depth and continuous space. But, be warned, my last calibration took an hour for 15 mike positions covering a 3-seat sofa.

Last edited by fitzcaraldo215; 08-20-2008 at 07:59 PM..
fitzcaraldo215 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2008   #105
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 68
Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

Quote:
Originally Posted by DerekR View Post

Not sure I folow your reference to the Benchmark and Bel Canto having analog inputs?? My thought was to use one of them as the DAC for my digital files (only) and my thought was to send the analog outputs of the Benchmark or Bel Canto (they both have balanced as well as single-ended outputs) to a) the balanced input of my power amp as well as b) a stereo input of the Integra to allow, mainly, the playback of the stereo files from the DAC into the same power amp the Integra would be connected to via its single-ended outputs. Just a thought, if it would work, to allow me the luxury of listening to the Benchmark or Bel Canto without the intervention of the Integra - the Bel Canto has a remote controlled preamp.

I totally concur that it's too early in the game to spring lots of dollars for a compromised pre/pro - to me it's a no-brainer to acquire a relatively affordable Integra (even the 9.9 at $1800 is 'affordable' compared to the other supposedly 'high-end' offerings that reportedly have better sound) that 'does it all' and enjoy the software until a clear 'champion' emerges and then (perhaps) upgrade. At least the Integra will be saleable!!

And, as a once-confirmed audiophile, I find it ironic that the high-end offerings are being compared to the mid-fi names of the Audiophile Era and found wanting - at least in terms of functionality. It used to be the other way round, back in the day. For now, and until the high-end gets its act together, I guess the gap is narrow. I presume lots of high-end manufacturers waited for the dust to settle in the format war, the HDMI issues and the BluRay profiles so as to commence hostilities. At least I hope so. And I wonder if the likes of Denon and Integra haven't stolen a chunk of audiophiles like yourself away in the interim. Interesting times.
I see now how you intend to do the hook up to your amp. I'm not sure if it's going to work. Almost all amps with balanced/unbalanced inputs have a little switch to toggle between them. If that's true, it'll be a pain to flip the switch on the back of the amps. You might as well just change the connections, doing balanced on both sources, which is optimal. I love XLR connectors anyway.

I once had an old Krell that did not have the switch, but there might be some issues with an amp of this type being disturbed, maybe only subtly, by seeing a load on both the balanced and unbalanced connections. It might do so even if one of the units is off or in standby. I am not at all sure about this, of course. You would have to try it and see.

Yes, I have learned it's a new ball game. Home theater, which we all used to sneer at and look down on sonically, has made huge gains so rapidly that high end audio appears to be standing still. I have begun to question the whole paradigm of the analog-centric high end. With a few exceptions, we do not seem to have made much sonic progress one expensive new phono cartridge clad in exotic metals or woods at a time. Or, one exotic power cord at a time. Or, one behemouth, power eating, Class A amplifier at a time. It's been about guilding the lily. It's been focused too much on voicing equipment euphonically, and not cutting through the basic barriers of the recorded media that have been limiting us from getting closer to the sound of live music. That, and high end prices have simply been in an uncontrolled upward spiral with generally only subtle listening gains, if they were true gains at all. Maybe they were just mostly euphonic voicing differences.

Advanced new DSP-based EQ, like Audyssey, tends to wipe a lot of those differences out anyway. With digital sources, it EQ's for everything after the DSP chips in the pre/pro. This includes the room, the speakers, the amps, the cables and the pre/pro DACís and output stages. That's because the calibration mike hears the net result of all of these. Small differences between expensive components like speakers, amplifiers or cables that high-end reviewers would wax rhapsodic about for page after page now tend to be simply replaced by the Audyssey target curve in both the frequency and time domains.

Home theater has really begun to put new digital technology to work, especially the Asian mid-fi guys. And, I think this is only the beginning. High end home theater will get there eventually, but at a very high price. Perhaps, the high end home theater makers can teach the Asians a thing or two about analog stages, which is where the high enders hearts and minds really are. But, what else might the Asians be cooking up in the mean time? Whatever it is, I hope it might include really good ADC stages, so that analog sources can enjoy the benefits of DSP, including Audyssey EQ. This then opens the gateway for all source material Ė digital or analog Ė to be distributed digitally, possibly wirelessly, to the speakers. Meridian has already done this with wires, but if the Asians want to, they could do it really well much less expensively. While analog technology moves ahead very slowly and at increasing cost, digital technology moves fast and gets cheaper every day.

If I have not put you to sleep yet, here is a slice of history. There once was a time when all cameras were analog and made by many companies in Europe or the US. Along came Japan, Inc., first making lower quality cameras but at much lower prices. Their quality steadily improved, rivaling and sometimes exceeding traditional standards, but always at a more favorable price. They also offered enhanced features, which non-Japanese makers could not keep up with. Many American and European makers disappeared. Then came digital photography, an American invention, which Japan Inc. embraced and started producing a wide array of cameras using this technology. For awhile, they were not considered nearly as good as analog cameras. But, they continued to improve year after year. The switch to digital completely killed almost all remaining traditional non-Japanese makers. Today, digital photography totally dominates main-stream photography and achieves quality rivaling the best analog, and at low prices. By itís nature, it is tremendously more convenient than analog photography. It needs no chemical developing. Images can be easily resized and retouched. Images can easily be stored digitally and emailed. Etc., etc. A really small group of high-brows still think nothing is better than analog photography, which exists as a really tiny, very expensive niche. There is also still some low quality, cheap analog, but not in major markets. A miniscule fraction of the original makers still exist. They make only specialty cameras for very narrow markets or else they survive by making lenses for the now totally dominant Japanese companies. Do we see any parallels here?
fitzcaraldo215 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2008   #106
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Caribbean
Posts: 5
Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

Quote:
Originally Posted by fitzcaraldo215 View Post
I see now how you intend to do the hook up to your amp. I'm not sure if it's going to work. Almost all amps with balanced/unbalanced inputs have a little switch to toggle between them. If that's true, it'll be a pain to flip the switch on the back of the amps. You might as well just change the connections, doing balanced on both sources, which is optimal. I love XLR connectors anyway.

I once had an old Krell that did not have the switch, but there might be some issues with an amp of this type being disturbed, maybe only subtly, by seeing a load on both the balanced and unbalanced connections. It might do so even if one of the units is off or in standby. I am not at all sure about this, of course. You would have to try it and see.

Yes, I have learned it's a new ball game. Home theater, which we all used to sneer at and look down on sonically, has made huge gains so rapidly that high end audio appears to be standing still. I have begun to question the whole paradigm of the analog-centric high end. With a few exceptions, we do not seem to have made much sonic progress one expensive new phono cartridge clad in exotic metals or woods at a time. Or, one exotic power cord at a time. Or, one behemouth, power eating, Class A amplifier at a time. It's been about guilding the lily. It's been focused too much on voicing equipment euphonically, and not cutting through the basic barriers of the recorded media that have been limiting us from getting closer to the sound of live music. That, and high end prices have simply been in an uncontrolled upward spiral with generally only subtle listening gains, if they were true gains at all. Maybe they were just mostly euphonic voicing differences.

Advanced new DSP-based EQ, like Audyssey, tends to wipe a lot of those differences out anyway. With digital sources, it EQ's for everything after the DSP chips in the pre/pro. This includes the room, the speakers, the amps, the cables and the pre/pro DACís and output stages. That's because the calibration mike hears the net result of all of these. Small differences between expensive components like speakers, amplifiers or cables that high-end reviewers would wax rhapsodic about for page after page now tend to be simply replaced by the Audyssey target curve in both the frequency and time domains.

Home theater has really begun to put new digital technology to work, especially the Asian mid-fi guys. And, I think this is only the beginning. High end home theater will get there eventually, but at a very high price. Perhaps, the high end home theater makers can teach the Asians a thing or two about analog stages, which is where the high enders hearts and minds really are. But, what else might the Asians be cooking up in the mean time? Whatever it is, I hope it might include really good ADC stages, so that analog sources can enjoy the benefits of DSP, including Audyssey EQ. This then opens the gateway for all source material Ė digital or analog Ė to be distributed digitally, possibly wirelessly, to the speakers. Meridian has already done this with wires, but if the Asians want to, they could do it really well much less expensively. While analog technology moves ahead very slowly and at increasing cost, digital technology moves fast and gets cheaper every day.

If I have not put you to sleep yet, here is a slice of history. There once was a time when all cameras were analog and made by many companies in Europe or the US. Along came Japan, Inc., first making lower quality cameras but at much lower prices. Their quality steadily improved, rivaling and sometimes exceeding traditional standards, but always at a more favorable price. They also offered enhanced features, which non-Japanese makers could not keep up with. Many American and European makers disappeared. Then came digital photography, an American invention, which Japan Inc. embraced and started producing a wide array of cameras using this technology. For awhile, they were not considered nearly as good as analog cameras. But, they continued to improve year after year. The switch to digital completely killed almost all remaining traditional non-Japanese makers. Today, digital photography totally dominates main-stream photography and achieves quality rivaling the best analog, and at low prices. By itís nature, it is tremendously more convenient than analog photography. It needs no chemical developing. Images can be easily resized and retouched. Images can easily be stored digitally and emailed. Etc., etc. A really small group of high-brows still think nothing is better than analog photography, which exists as a really tiny, very expensive niche. There is also still some low quality, cheap analog, but not in major markets. A miniscule fraction of the original makers still exist. They make only specialty cameras for very narrow markets or else they survive by making lenses for the now totally dominant Japanese companies. Do we see any parallels here?
Well put analogy. Photography has been a (another) hobby of mine for 35 years and you are right on the money. I was an early adopter of digital photography (an early Kodak somewhere around '96) but I was driven mainly by the "Wow, I can shoot 100 pictures and chuck 98" in the beginning and did not ditch my film gear for several years afterwards. However, from that first digital point-and-shoot I could see that the writing was on the wall and digital would eventually replace film as mainstream. So it's an apt postulate when applied to audio.

Likewise, my journey through audio was littered with upgrades and wheeling-and-dealing to get the latest flavour-of-the-month. Then, in 1996, I took a step back and assessed my position. I realised I wanted a high-end audio system but also spent a lot of time in front of the TV and wanted to rationalise the two. So I bought a Casablanca and a pair of small Wilson Audio speakers and settled down for the next 10 or so years to enjoy the music and movies. Which I did, very happy with the sound and vision of my slowly aging system.

But, being in the building automation trade, I was able to keep track of the emergence of digital as a really interesting possibility. Having to do it professionally kept me in touch with the latest trends (we represent Crestron, AMX and Kaleidescape) and a few years ago I got hooked on having all my music readily available via iTunes. Cut a long story short I decided to simplify my (musical) life and, having been lucky enough to convert ALL my music to lossless files over the last few years, I opted for a Network-Attached Storage drive (a 500Gb RAID) feeding a Sonos system. The digital out of the Sonos feeds the Casablanca's DAC. Some might call it heresy but I, for one, was hard put to hear the difference between the NAS-fed Sonos and the CD it had been ripped from. That was step 1.

Then, like you, I got introduced to lossless multichannel sound. Very impressive. As 99% of my DVD collection is musical concerts I figured Step 2 had to accomodate those music DVDs as well as lossless multichannel. And the Casablanca did not cut it - simply can't do the decoding. And will take too long to get there (for me, at least). So I decided to wait out the 'format war' and it now appears that the dust is settling sufficiently to allow manufacturers to offer a pre/pro that is somewhat 'future proof'. So, as stated before, I figure I'll opt for the most comprehensive of the affordable units (probably the DTC 9.9) and see how things develop while starting a BluRay music disc collection. I do agree that the Asian bloc has a bit to learn about analog but I do believe, like the cameras, they will get there - or change our perception of where 'there' is. Hopefully (and this is the fun part) the 'high-end' will respond. Affordably. I suspect that the 'gap' will be far harder to hear, given the state of the art, but it will be there. I hope this will cause the 'high-end price' to be more realistic than in the halcyon years of The High End.

I'm curious to see how a 'modern' DAC stacks up against the Casablanca and even curiouser about how I react to Audyssey. The little exposure I've had to it has been inconclusive. But I am certainly a believer in the potential of lossless multichannel audio. As I was a believer in 1996 that digital photography was undoubtedly going to replace film.
DerekR is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2008   #107
Super Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 118
Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

Quote:
Originally Posted by DerekR View Post
Well put analogy. Photography has been a (another) hobby of mine for 35 years and you are right on the money.
Yep. My OM-1N/OM-4T and a bag full of Zuiko lenses finally gave way to a Canon SD850IS, and I have been eyeing the Canon G9. Fortunately I moved to digital audio a decade ago entering the Meridian realm and haven't looked back. Here's to silver halide!
faberryman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-21-2008   #108
Super Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Texas
Posts: 938
Default Re: High end pre/pro's. Are they worth it???

The real question here is what will we be getting with the new Pre-Pros?

Will there be a noticable sound difference between a high end unit and a low end with the new lossless audio formats?

More than likely that will be hard to discern. So we will likely be gauging it on antiquated codecs and products. Certainly a high end processor will do a much better job (when hooked up to an equally high quality player) with old stereo and 5.1 codecs. Is that worth the cost difference?

I suppose that is exactly what you're asking.

Historically the answer is: NO.

They generally are not worth what they cost. However some people will pay that much for them because to them they are worth it. I currently am using an Arcam AV9 in my set up. It has HDMI and handles the PCM lossless just fine from my latest BD player. The sound is stunning in my theater as is the video. I'm pretty damn happy when I'm at home watching a movie. Is it better than what I'd hear from a Denon setup? Sure, but I don't even use the setup for stereo playback (that is done in another room in the house). So how much better would it be over the Denon with the same codecs being played? Hard to say, but I'm willing to bet miniscule. I'm still happy with my choice because 98% of my library isn't BD. So for now my Arcam is the answer.

I recently had Trinnov technology shown to me and compared side by side with Denon's top of the line unit using Audyssey. The Trinnov tech totally smoked the Denon. Of course the Trinnov eq was valued at around $15,000. Then I was shown a less expensive unit using the same tech (this is a receiver from a well known company that hasn't announced the unit yet). The receiver should street for around $3500 to $3000. It was amazing just what the Trinnov in it was capable of doing.

So we're going to see techs improve in areas of setting your sound up correctly for your room, speakers, etc. The higher end companies will likely be going with Trinnov while the mass production companies will likely stick with what they have.

As long as the high end manufacturers are going out and providing us audiophiles with reasons to invest in their products we will continue to do so. If the day comes when there is no difference besides cost we're not idiots and we'll abandon them fast just as the projector market is seeing high end units being abandoned for mass production units.
Lotus is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Reply

Tags
audyssey, cost, doesnt, fortune, good, hdmi, pav, pdsd, pre, preamp, prepro, prepros, pro, proceed, sound, trinnov

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
HIGH END PHONES deacongreg Loudspeakers 10 07-23-2009 06:55 PM
Ultra High-End BD Player? rlpiii Blu-ray Players 8 12-23-2008 02:12 PM
Is Sunfire TGP5 worth it, or should I get better pre/pro? jeffkad Preamps (Audio & Video) 23 07-07-2008 05:57 AM
New high-end Denon processors oddiophile Preamps (Audio & Video) 81 06-18-2008 01:12 AM
High end preamp with passthrough HT Junky Preamps (Audio & Video) 4 05-08-2008 05:26 PM




SEO by vBSEO 3.6.1