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Pre/pro vs preamp for music

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by Daneel, Apr 3, 2004.

  1. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Have many people done demos of a pre/pro such as the Tag AV32, Arcam AV8, Meridian 568.2 and Lexicon MC1 vs mid-range preamps like the MF A3.2 through Bryston SP25 up to say a MF A308CR (I'm just plucking models at the right price point from respected manufacturers)? I'm wondering how they compare.

    Once my finances recover from recent expenditure a pre/pro is high on the list. An improvement in sound for movies would be nice but what I'm really after is a substantial upgrade in 2 channel music from my Pioneer 2011. I'm intending to go 2nd hand and would like to keep it at £1500 but would be willing to stretch to £2000 if there was a noticable improvement by doing so.

    If anyone can give me a rough guide to price (and also feature differences but that could be quite a task) on the main contenders that would be very useful.

    I'm guessing:

    AV32 with 192 upgrade and 5.1 pass-thorough - £1600?
    MC1 - £1250?
    AV8 - £2000?
    568.2 - ??

    Are there any others I should consider? There seems to be some Proceeds floating around for about £2k. How does the Parasound C2 do on music (i heard it briefly at rags' but his system is so different to mine I can't really work out how the C2 contributed to the sound)? There is a Linn 5103 in classifieds for £1000.

    One thing I would like, as I have found it very useful on my Pioneer, is EQ for each channel. I believe only the Tag has such a feature. Having said that I have found that since my speaker upgrade I find that choosing between direct mode and EQed for music varies from track to track where as previously EQ almost always won.

    I was warned that the 926s would be very revealing of flaws in my system and that has proved correct.

    I started another thread asking if it was possible to use a 2 channel preamp and my 2011 within the same system. Jeff suggested an Arcam unit at £1500 but for that price I could get one of the above. Are there any other solutions?

    Thanks!
     
  2. dts_boy

    dts_boy
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    c2 is awesome on musci, i would put it above a lexicon mc8 which i dem'd it against. the linn for £1k is a bargain, much better at the 2ch stuff, but a bit lacking in the av department. still, at a grand it still makes a great 2ch pre-amp - even if it never sees light as an av processor!
     
  3. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Thanks for the reply, perhaps i can talk rags into bringing round his C2 :)

    There is a very interesting thread here which suggests I could use something like an ATC CA2 preamp within my system allowing me to use it for CD playback and the Pioneer for music without swaping cables. I'm not sure exactly how that works. Can anyone elaborate?

    As I mentioned in the first post most of this is about getting better 2 channel music. If this CA2 preamp from ATC really is that good then for £750 new I can have the problem solved! (the link on the ATC page for the brochure of the CA2 is down, I was hoping to grab the spec).

    Can I really just feed the front two preouts from my Pioneer into the stereo preamp and have it pass it through? If it was that simple I thought someone would have suggested it in my previous thread!
     
  4. MarkE19

    MarkE19
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    Yes, that is exactly what I do with my Arcam 8r from the 3802. Just connect the 3802's preouts via phono cables to an input on the 8r. Connect L & R speakers to the Arcam along with CDP etc. resulting in far better stereo replay, and no loss in quality or functionality for movies.

    I too am looking into the processor upgrade at around £2000 so will be interested to see what is advised here. Would love the Arcam AV8, but I think £3k on the processor alone is pushing my budget that bit too far. Oh well, lets see what comes up.

    Mark.
     
  5. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Thanks Mark. I can see how it would work but aren't there any volume problems? I would think you would have to work out what volume setting to use on the preamp and everytime you wanted to watch a film you would have to make sure it was set there, or am I missing something? Also are there likely to be any problems with input/ouput voltages? (these seem to range between 1 and 2V)

    I am looking at used pre/pros, I think the AV8 is £3k new so £2k 2nd hand isn't unfeasible.
     
  6. Daneel

    Daneel
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    I got access to the spec for the CA2 (the link on the ATC site is messed up but if you try you can find the file).

    It looks a little strange....

    Main Output Level Amplitude: 7.5V into 600ohms !!??
    Output Impedance: 10 ohms !!???
    Input Impedance: 20K ohms
    Input Sensitivity: 150mV for 1V out at full gain

    Can someone a little more tech savy than me tell if this will even take an input from my Pioneer and if its output will work with my Parasound?

    Mark, do I use the tape output by any chance when using my receiver? That seems to be a bypass.

    Oh and a preamp with two sets of outputs could prove useful, if such a thing exists.
     
  7. MarkE19

    MarkE19
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    Volume can be a bit of a problem. You either need to calibrate the stereo volume to a set point to match with the other surround speakers or get an amp with a processor mode that fixes the stereo amps gain when used for AV. The Arcam has this feature so is no problem for me.
    I've never seen any reports of problems with the voltages.

    Yeh £2k s/h for an AV8 sounds about the right level, but when did you last see an AV8 up for sale. People tend to buy and then hold onto them. Well at least that gives you some confidence in the product, but getting one cheap would be so nice, especially once I've got my active speakers :D

    Mark.
     
  8. buns

    buns
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    I've done dems on high end pre/pro against preamps. Primary pre/pro being a bryston sp1.7 (which everyone agrees is a sublime stereo performer) and my own exotic brand stereo pre which weighs in at about the bryston sp25 level. Now although the 2 bryston products will perform very similarly, ive always considered my pre to be one step ahead. Consider again how much better the bryston is thought to be that competion (lex/tag) in 2 channel mode and then you will see that up in the £1500 pre amp range, you have plenty of scope to beat pre/pros of the mid to high range.

    I dont know this helps any to your considerations though!

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  9. Peter Baker

    Peter Baker
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    I've gone through this process recently, looking to improve music and HT from my Arcam 10/Dave.
    For me the AV8/P7 didn't really give me the musicality I was looking for, whilst the TAG sounded far too lean.
    The Proceed, which I bought, gave me exactly what I wanted on music, a real high end audiophile sound. On HT it is limited by only having DD/DTS/Prologic, but these are beautifully rendered, particularly music tracks ( as one might expect). I a;so got the AMP5, which is awesome!
    The bryston also sounded pretty good, whilst at a more affordable level the Naim AV5 was really musical and vivid (if a little lacking in soundsatge depth on HT)
    Peter
     
  10. Daneel

    Daneel
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    ad, thx, exactly the info I needed. I had a feeling that even at the high end things might be lacking. The sp1.7 is out of my price range.

    Peter, I have seen massive discounts off the proceeds due to them being discontinued. I will give them a try if I get the chance.

    Any suggestions on other stereo preamps? I'm considering the possibility of valves :) Does it make any sense at all to use a valve preamp with a ss power amp?

    Also the CA2 doesn't have a function for use with the Pioneer to give a fixed gain. (anyone know what this is called?) Anyone know which preamps have such a feature?
     
  11. buns

    buns
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    Daneel,

    My preamp is a valve design which runs with big SS class A biased power..... it works a real treat!

    Could you get the parasound processor? Didnt rags get a very special deal on it?

    If it were me, I would go for the meridian 568.2. I have a 565 which I love for cinema (and its good enough in stereo too), the only thing I would change it for is the 568.2 purely on the basis of PL2 for sky.

    all the best

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  12. gizlaroc

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    If you want it for music I would also consider listening to a 568.2, prices were falling before the G series was released but now it is out they seem to be getting a little more again.
    568's are getting around £1700 and the 568.2's around £2k, you could ring a couple of dealers and see about getting a deal on a new one.
     
  13. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Can anyone give me a run-down of the Meridian pre/pro models and what they are capable of? It is somewhat confusing. There are two problems with Meridian. 1st, they are ugly and cheap looking IMO. 2nd they seem to have limited connectivity.

    I believe rags got a pretty good deal on the C2, but it's still a bit above my price range. A C2 retails at £3.5k here.

    I just went and had a listen to some music on my system. Instumental and live stuff is good, but studio recorded music, and vocals in general are lacking something. It just doesn't bring a smile to my face, I get no emotion from it. It's very hard to describe what is wrong.
     
  14. buns

    buns
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    Meridian:

    565 older high end model, very limited connectivity since it was designed to work in combination with external meridian switchers and suchlikes. Alternatively, in a simple system you dont need the additional devices, such as my own where I only have dvd and sky. It is fairly recent in its software with the latest and greatest being the Z3 which will do DD/DTS/7.1/etc. The only thing it lacks is PL2. It can do 7.1 as standard. Its setup is by an extremely extensive front panel display, it can be a bit awkward.

    561 is perhaps a fraction newer than 565, im not sure if it was intended to be just as high end (someone else would need to confirm). If I recall, it retailed about the same as the 565 but included the connectivity the 565 didnt, so that it could be used all on its own. Apart from connectivity, major differences from the 565 are that the 561 has slightly more recent software (so I think will do PL2), setup I believe is simpler through a PC setup program and (important for many) it CANNOT do 7.1 unless you are using meridian digital actives. I suspect many people dont appreciate this final point.

    Price wise, 565 and 561 not go for similar amounts, 561 possibly a bit more with value probably about £850-900 and 565 at £750-850.

    Then the more recent ones i lose a bit on..... 568 is basically a new 561 I think but i believe i able to do the 7.1 with standard amp/speakers. The .2 version I dont know its advantage, but it is newer! Then there is the MM version..... i think this is for a link to certain meridian dvd players. Actually, I think there is also a 561M which may have the same linking ability.

    ive probably confused you more now! My view is that 568.2 is the best to go for now probably in and about £2k, or if you want to spend less, the 565 if you have a small system and want 7.1 or the 561 is you have a larger system and only want 5.1.

    all the best

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  15. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Thanks ad.

    I'm confused by one thing though. Even though you felt a stereo preamp was better than the pre/pros I'm considering, and my Pioneer supports everything i need for films, you still recommend that I go for the 568.2? Either I missed the rational or you didn't explain! :)

    I just had a fiddle with MCACC custom settings and have managed to improve things a bit. With only 5 bands to play with though it's a very crude tool for what I'm attempting. The gap between 250Hz and 4kHz is a killer.

    I can see myself ending up with a transparent preamp and an EQ in the middle of it (the Parasound P3 is built to allow that).
     
  16. buns

    buns
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    Oh ok..... sorry! I was taking a different approach, i forgot about you already having something! I was comparing the machines you had mentioned that you might upgrade to.

    It is a fair approach to spend on a preamp and stick with what you have, if you are happy with the cinema performance. That would give you the strongest in stereo. But one of these mentioned pocessors will give you greatly enhanced stereo (maybe competing with good <£1k preamps) and also cinema which should rock beyond the pioneer :D

    Unfortunately, I dont know the pioneer and havent heard of it, so its hard to say how much better it would be. I was just saying, that if you were definitely wanting an upgrade, the meridian 568.2 would be the one id be most keen to look at.

    all the best

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  17. Jeff

    Jeff
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    You really shouldn't be EQ'ing anything above 250ishHz anyway. I think Meridians limit is 250 or maybe 300Hz.
     
  18. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Why not?

    Which Meridian? I thought only the new G series had EQ.
     
  19. Jeff

    Jeff
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  20. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Nice link Jeff, thanks. I have not seen the 861 even mentioned on here let alone seen it for sale. How much £££ we talking about?
     
  21. Jeff

    Jeff
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    Not sure, I think they are about £6000
     
  22. dts_boy

    dts_boy
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    that link was excellent, i have learnt a lot and it wasn't quite as scary as it looked!
     
  23. Ettepet

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    Owning the more expensive AX10, I read that most integrated amps aren't ideal as a pre/pro. For the AX10 there is a fix, at www.alexhardware.com, not sure where the 2011 stands in this.

    If you need to compensate a lot between 250Hz and 4kHz speaker-placement might be the cause. Moving speakers further away from walls, furniture or other blocking objects always changes these callibration values too.

    You have chosen pretty dificult-to-drive speakers to match with the Pioneer, so using a load-stable amp will definitely improve your sound-quality.
     
  24. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Ettepet,

    Thanks for the link. Have you made use of the service from that site? It appears to be US based which makes things a little more difficult.

    Hard to drive speakers? They are 91 dB/w/m senstivity with nominal 8 Ohms! Yes they do drop to 3.6 Ohm but I still wouldn't call them hard to drive. When you say load-stable amp, what do you mean? I'm using the Parasound 1205A to drive them, you don't feel it has the nessesary power?

    Speaker placement is a huge factor, I think it affects the lower freqencies more than that range but once I have the space they will be moved into better positions. Currently they are too close to the rear wall.

    I played around with MCACC a bit more last night. I've definitely managed to improve vocals but the bass is still a bit uneven. Maybe I won't need to go the stereo preamp route after all. I'm going to get a home demo of a decent one to see though. :)
     
  25. Ettepet

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    True, and it voids my (still) 4 years garantuee. I wish someone close-by could make these adjustments, as I would gladly have them performed.

    And I meant "Hard to drive speakers" for the Pioneer 2011 (or even mine), lol. :D

    You do that! :) And try to find some (online) review that shows at what frequency your speakers have low impedance (usually you can find some at the manufacturers site). I wouldn't be surprised if your distortion is a direct result of that.
     
  26. Ettepet

    Ettepet
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    Owning an expensive Pioneer with room-correction, today I found some spare time to delve into this "mystery":

    This article is about room-correction and nothing else, using audio-equipment (speakers, etc.) that is supposedly of superior quality.

    M.C.A.C.C. isn't only used to do room-correction, but also to adjust for speaker-deficiencies, and for this it works very well. For for the intended market (non-high-end) this is an 'ideal' sollution (at least with the AX10(i)).
     

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