Improving Multi-Channel Playback

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Jan 1, 2005
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When I got into the HT and Multi-Channel Audio, I just purchased one of the main stream HT Receivers - a Yammy RXV-1400 to get me going with the movies. While it has performed flawlessly for movies and MCH music, the audio playback is a little disappointing, compared to my 2 Ch playback.

Looking to make a step up in audio playback for MCH music for SACD & DVD-A but trying to keep it under $1500 total. Will I be able to accomplish this task in this price range? Don't mind buying used, and don't mind buying a Pre/Pro Only as I have plenty of Amps to drive speakers with. In fact right now, my mains and surrounds have their own dedicated amps as the Yammy just powers the Center and Rears in the 7.1 system.

For HT, I need to have DTS and PLIIx processing as I use these the most. For Music need the 5 Ch inputs, processed or pass through.

Here are some of the items I have looked at based on reviews and comments from around the Audio Forums - a mix of HT Receivers and Pre/Pro Units. Any other ideas or suggestions you have are appreciated:

Marantz SR-8400
B&K Ref 30
B&K Ref 50
HK 635
Pioneer 56TXi
Sunfire Theater Grand (2 I believe)
Sherwood 965
Anthem AVM-20
Rotel 1068

B&K and Sherwood have software upgrade abilities.

A lot of good talk recently about the HK and Sherwood over at AVS.

I have seen these new and used for $800 - $1500.

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Denon 2200. I use an external DAC for 2 Channel.

I thought about upgrading to the 2900 since you can get them for a great price now, but not sure if the change would be worth it.
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I sugggest the Rotel RSP 1068 pre-pro in your price range. I'm using this to feed multi-channel through an existing stereo system which consists of Ascent is and a Depth subwoofer. Rears (amplifed with a Bryston 9B) are Frescos and center channel is a Cinema i. I'm quite impressed with the Rotel and the Bryston at their respective price points. The straight stereo amplification is an ARC VT 100 III and the stereo pre-amp is a BAT VK51 SE.

PS - see the latest Absolute Sound for a very good review of the Denon 2900.
My opinion is that you would get a better audio upgrade from a better player such as the denon 3910 ($1500) than from the processor which you say does a good job with movies anyway. I am by no means an expert however,thats just my personal experience.
aliveatfive said:
I sugggest the Rotel RSP 1068 pre-pro in your price range.

PS - see the latest Absolute Sound for a very good review of the Denon 2900.

I forgot to also put down the Rotel as I have seen good things stated about it. I added that to my original message... :D

The 2900 has always received some great reviews. But was not sure how much of a change it would have over the 2200

Thanks for the info...
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Munster said:
My opinion is that you would get a better audio upgrade from a better player such as the denon 3910 ($1500) than from the processor which you say does a good job with movies anyway. I am by no means an expert however,thats just my personal experience.

I thought about that and with the new models out from Denon it was a possiblility. But also thought about the upgrade of the processor. Being it is either source or processor that affects the sound the most.

The Yamaha has been great for Movies, but want to improve the MCH audio playback. If I am not mistaken, isn't the 3910 the 2900 replacement?

You will get the best multichannel play back by selecting the two channel track.
jjqiv said:
You will get the best multichannel play back by selecting the two channel track.

:confused: If you mean 2 Ch SACD track is better sounding than MCH SACD Track, I would agree for the most part, but I do have some SACD's that I like the MCH track better (2200 can do both).

If I am way off base here on what you are implying :) let me know...

I sugggest the Rotel

I second that. I use to run all rotel (DVD,pro,amp) before upgrading to Mcintosh. The rotel has a huge bang for the buck.
B&K Ref 50

Just sold my Rotel for this unit.


I had the almost exact same experience. I was using a B&K pre/pro that I replaced with a Yamaha RVX-1400 as a pre-pro only. It is true that B&K can updgrade the software but you will find it is a very expensive option for certain units. I have a B&K AVP3090 and the software-only upgrade was over $1200. The Yamaha was only $699 and provided more features than the upgraded B&K would and very close to the same sound quaility but not quite as good. I also have the Denon 2200 DVD player which I find to be excellent for video and MCH music. The Yamaha did do a good job for movies and a descent job for MCH and music. I wanted a bit more from my system.

I tried the B&K REF 50, Rotel 1068, and Anthem AVM30. I returned both the B&K and Rotel pieces. I found that the Anthem AM30 blows away both of these units. Anthem has provided me software updates on three different occasions to beta test new features. These are at no cost and provided me with significant new software abilities. They are even working on new hardware upgrade features but these will carry a minor cost associated with them. You will note that B&K still has not offered an upgrade from the REF50 to the new REF50 SeriesII. When I called them, they told me it would six months after the release of the REF50 S2 model and the price was yet to be determined. Since your budget is under $1500, I would try to find a used AVM20 and then upgrade the software via the Anthem website. It will get you very close to the sound of the AVM30. If that is not feasible, I did like the Rotel 1068 over the REF50 because of price, performance, and true software upgradibility.

My system:
Anthem AVM30 pre-pro
McIntosh MC206 Amp
Denon DVD-2200 Universal DVD Player
ML Ascent Main Speakers
ML Cinema-I Center Channel
ML Depth Sub
DefTech Ultimate In-wall Surrounds (6.1 setup)
I have heard the Anthem's and they are nice. I have seen some 20's now and then for under $1500, but they are scooped up rather quickly....

During all this discussions and research into better SACD & DVD-A playback, I have also been looking into upgrading the 2200 to something else. With SACD and DVD-A, the player is performing the D/A conversion, & playback goes out the analog jacks. While thinking about the Pre/Pro decision, I also plan on trying to audition some new SACD/DVD-A players in the $1000 range. I have seen:

Denon 3910
Pioneer DV-59Avi
Marantz 8400
others I cannot remember at this time.... :p

as some of the posssibilities. Very high talk about the Pioneer player having very good audio and video playback. 3910 discussion just seems to be on better video than the 2900 and not much change on audio. Have not read too much on the Marantz video, but audio playback has had good talk.

So many decisions, so little money.... :D

TDUB - B&K offered to update my software when I called to ask them why I was having trouble connecting my laptop to the Ref 50 just to set the thing up. Hell, they even sent me a box and packaging free.

So let me get this straight, B&K were charging to do a software update? Do the units not have a RS232 port?
B&K Upgrade Clarification

I am not trashing B&K. I was a B&K fan for many years. I have owned many different amps, pre-pros, and other pieces of equipment from them. They make very good sounding equipment. I am just stating the facts of my experience.

There are two pieces of software to update when it comes to B&K.

The first is the BKcSuite of software. This software is what you use to setup the B&K product from a PC as described in a posted replay by Muad'Dib. It does not add new processing modes to the pre-pro. It is just configuration software. This is freely available on the B&K website.

The second part, and what I was referring to, is the actual firmware/software that runs in the pre/pro. This is what adds features to the pre/pro like DPLIIx, etc. This is what is charged for.

The upgrade to my unit is over $1200 according to B&K. After being told this, I saw absolutely no reason to pay for an upgrade when a REF50 could be found for $1500 new and had more features than the upgrade to my unit would have which B&K calls a REF 21. So I actually purchased a REF50 in late Sept. 2004. My dealer informed me it did have DPLIIx. I found out it did not after I got it home. I asked my dealer & B&K support if there was a "free" upgrade to the unit's software to add DPLIIx since the REF50 S2 was released just days after I bought my unit and does offer DPLIIx. Both told me the software would be available sometime after the release of the REF50 S2 but did not provide a specific date. I then asked would it be free and the answer was no. Just like the answer was when I asked for a software-only upgrade to the AVP-3090 unit. It costs to upgrade a REF20 to a REF30. It also costs to upgrade a REF30 to a REF50. If the upgrade was "complete" ie. getting all of the software and hardware features of the next product, this would be reasonable. But what you get is an audio section upgrade only. You do not get new inputs for video, etc.

After having this explained to me at length by B&K, I returned the REF50 for a refund.

I realize the manufacturer's must make money. Providing a life-time of free upgrades definitely affects their ability to maintain profitability and new products. B&K does indeed offer upgrades. It just carriers a significant price tag in comparison to other manufactures mentioned to add features to the pre-pro. All the other manufactures mentioned did/does offer their customers a software upgrade at no charge to add the DPLIIx feature and other modes at no cost. Rotel did it with the 1068 pre-pro, Anthem did it with the AVM20,30, & D1, and even Yamaha allowed RXV-1400 customers to return the reciever to them for a DPLIIx upgrade free of charge for units that shipped without the sw code.