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Which 2 Channel Pre-amp (with Ht Bypass) ?


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#1 Mr C

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 12:49 PM

I currently have an Onkyo 875 as a pre-amp to my Elektra Theatron 7. Very happy with the home theatre sound, but looking to upgrade for improvement in 2 channel music via my Cambridge Azur 640C CD player. I just took delivery of the Paradigm Signature S6 front speakers and the C1 centre ... I have been hit by upgraditis !!

I have done some reading on 2 channel pre-amps (with HT bypass) and have read reviews of the Bel Canto Pre3 preamp. It is around $2500 RRP .... are there any other pre-amps of a similar ilk worth considering ?

Any views would be appreciated.

#2 Chui

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 03:04 PM

Have you looked at Al's FAQ sticky (for want of a better expression) ?
http://www.dtvforum....showtopic=31244

Some additions

Parasound 2100
Cambridge 840e

#3 Drizt

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 03:09 PM

That belcanto pre is a beauty. I have heard it myself a couple times on visits to SGR. If I didn't already have my Stello unit I would be looking into getting one of those pre's + the belcanto dac.

You can get them through Audiomarketplace -> see here

Theres a few guys on SNA that have them and swear by them.


I currently have an Onkyo 875 as a pre-amp to my Elektra Theatron 7. Very happy with the home theatre sound, but looking to upgrade for improvement in 2 channel music via my Cambridge Azur 640C CD player. I just took delivery of the Paradigm Signature S6 front speakers and the C1 centre ... I have been hit by upgraditis !!

I have done some reading on 2 channel pre-amps (with HT bypass) and have read reviews of the Bel Canto Pre3 preamp. It is around $2500 RRP .... are there any other pre-amps of a similar ilk worth considering ?

Any views would be appreciated.



#4 JDH

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 03:20 PM

The Belcanto Pre3 is another good option as a simple 2ch pre-amp with HT bypass feature, I'm currently using a Rotel RSP1068 AV pre/ Benchmark DAC1pre Belcanto Pre3 then Elektra Reference 2ch power amp. You will want to obtain the descrete remote codes as the basic remote supplied doesn't have them, I have them in Pronto ccf format if needed, the Belcanto Pre3 can be purchased new for under $2000 if you look around.


JDH.

That belcanto pre is a beauty. I have heard it myself a couple times on visits to SGR. If I didn't already have my Stello unit I would be looking into getting one of those pre's + the belcanto dac.

You can get them through Audiomarketplace -> see here

Theres a few guys on SNA that have them and swear by them.


Edited by JDH, 05 July 2008 - 03:24 PM.


#5 Mr C

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 03:48 PM

That belcanto pre is a beauty. I have heard it myself a couple times on visits to SGR. If I didn't already have my Stello unit I would be looking into getting one of those pre's + the belcanto dac.

You can get them through Audiomarketplace -> see here

Theres a few guys on SNA that have them and swear by them.


Why would I need the Bel Canto DAC ?

#6 Drizt

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 03:53 PM

Why would I need the Bel Canto DAC ?


Sorry didn't mean that you would.

Was referring to my own setup. My Stello is a DAC/Pre in one unit. If I were to upgrade to the Bel Canto Pre I would need to Buy another DAC.

#7 Mr C

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 03:55 PM

Sorry didn't mean that you would.

Was referring to my own setup. My Stello is a DAC/Pre in one unit. If I were to upgrade to the Bel Canto Pre I would need to Buy another DAC.


Ok ...

It seems that the Bel Canto Pre3 is a good value 2 channel pre-amp. Is there anyone who will argue that there is a better alternative ?

#8 :)

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 11:01 PM

Ok ...

It seems that the Bel Canto Pre3 is a good value 2 channel pre-amp. Is there anyone who will argue that there is a better alternative ?


I'd suggest to try and demo in your system if possible. there are definte charecter differences between pre's in various systems and the importance of pre and power matching is very underestimated I think. best to get some quality time with the device to make sure its what your after and gives you the benefit your looking for given the money outlay :)

good to explore other alternatives too for perspective.

there is also this just released cambridge audio 840e 2ch pre with ht bypass
http://www.cambridge...E pre amplifier

I believe it is priced at the $2k mark and would appear from a look at the specs info and pics a very well engineered product :)

#9 Mr C

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 11:36 PM

I'd suggest to try and demo in your system if possible. there are definte charecter differences between pre's in various systems and the importance of pre and power matching is very underestimated I think. best to get some quality time with the device to make sure its what your after and gives you the benefit your looking for given the money outlay :)

good to explore other alternatives too for perspective.

there is also this just released cambridge audio 840e 2ch pre with ht bypass
http://www.cambridge...E pre amplifier

I believe it is priced at the $2k mark and would appear from a look at the specs info and pics a very well engineered product :)


Thanks Al ...

I don't see any mention of HT bypass with the Azur 840E.

#10 :)

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 11:41 PM

Thanks Al ...

I don't see any mention of HT bypass with the Azur 840E.


hi mrc, most defintely, if you follow the link,

Azur 840E pre amplifier features

Fixed level inputs allow the 840E to provide the front channel amplification when integrated with home cinema systems that use an AV processor



#11 jliang70

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 03:15 AM

I currently have an Onkyo 875 as a pre-amp to my Elektra Theatron 7. Very happy with the home theatre sound, but looking to upgrade for improvement in 2 channel music via my Cambridge Azur 640C CD player. I just took delivery of the Paradigm Signature S6 front speakers and the C1 centre ... I have been hit by upgraditis !!

I have done some reading on 2 channel pre-amps (with HT bypass) and have read reviews of the Bel Canto Pre3 preamp. It is around $2500 RRP .... are there any other pre-amps of a similar ilk worth considering ?

Any views would be appreciated.


I know what I am going to say is going to caused a bit of bother for local retailers. But I am actually looking seriously at the option of importing pre and power amp from China. I know there is certain risk in doing this but the cost and performance on offer with these chinese products are much higher than brands such as CA and Belcanto purchased locally. I am pretty keen in getting Meixing Mingda's MC2A3 pre-amp and some tube monoblocks. I have heard plenty of stories about importing valve amps from China, most of the retailers I have spoke to usually were against the idea and citing warranty issues, voltage issues and lacks of local support. I also spoke to some long time users of these imported Chinese hifis and most of them found no problem in running their imported system in Australia even without the step down transformer.

#12 Azz123

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 09:31 AM

I'd suggest to try and demo in your system if possible. there are definte charecter differences between pre's in various systems and the importance of pre and power matching is very underestimated I think. best to get some quality time with the device to make sure its what your after and gives you the benefit your looking for given the money outlay :)

good to explore other alternatives too for perspective.

there is also this just released cambridge audio 840e 2ch pre with ht bypass
http://www.cambridge...E pre amplifier

I believe it is priced at the $2k mark and would appear from a look at the specs info and pics a very well engineered product :)


I can IMO vouch for the BelCanto (PRe6) sound with the Elektra however you've also go to take into consideration your speakers and room.

When I got the BC, the CA 840e was a mirage - 3 delayed release dates was starting to verge on the ridiculous.

In saying that it was an option that I desperately wanted to audition.

Even if you have to pay in full to take whatever it is that you're auditioning home, once again IMO it's well worth doing so. Do try more than one Pre as you could compare it to speakers. Different Pre's will do different things to the soundstage, location of vocals, and may put their slant on different ends of the sound spectrum. Like your lovely Paradigms, your ears will tell you the Pre that's right for you.

Good luck in your quest!!

Azz

#13 the joz

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 09:38 AM

I'll also give the BelCanto a thumbs up.Although I've never owned on,Bel Canto were one of those sit up a listen type experiences I had a few years back driving some Mezze Utopias.
Also you may want to google Hugh Dean and his Aska amps,another Melbourne based guy who makes a very nice sounding unit.
Then again maybe another used Elektra pre may come one day again??

#14 JDH

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 09:45 AM

If interested I purchased my Bel Canto Pre3 from this HiFi dealer in Sydney (who is also a member on this Forum) for under $2K (cash price). Had the oppertunity to fully demo in my system too and provided the more featured Bel Canto universal remote which had all the discrete codes I was after for the Pre3.

http://www.audiosupe...5baa0731c1a80dc

JDH.



Ok ...

It seems that the Bel Canto Pre3 is a good value 2 channel pre-amp. Is there anyone who will argue that there is a better alternative ?


Edited by JDH, 06 July 2008 - 09:48 AM.


#15 Mr C

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 01:19 PM

If interested I purchased my Bel Canto Pre3 from this HiFi dealer in Sydney (who is also a member on this Forum) for under $2K (cash price). Had the oppertunity to fully demo in my system too and provided the more featured Bel Canto universal remote which had all the discrete codes I was after for the Pre3.

http://www.audiosupe...5baa0731c1a80dc

JDH.


PM sent.

#16 Mr C

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 01:21 PM

I can IMO vouch for the BelCanto (PRe6) sound with the Elektra however you've also go to take into consideration your speakers and room.

When I got the BC, the CA 840e was a mirage - 3 delayed release dates was starting to verge on the ridiculous.

In saying that it was an option that I desperately wanted to audition.

Even if you have to pay in full to take whatever it is that you're auditioning home, once again IMO it's well worth doing so. Do try more than one Pre as you could compare it to speakers. Different Pre's will do different things to the soundstage, location of vocals, and may put their slant on different ends of the sound spectrum. Like your lovely Paradigms, your ears will tell you the Pre that's right for you.

Good luck in your quest!!

Azz


If you pay in full to take it home, is there some iron clad guarantee that if you don't like it that you can get your money back ?

#17 :)

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 04:50 PM

If you pay in full to take it home, is there some iron clad guarantee that if you don't like it that you can get your money back ?


depends on what you have negotiated with the retailer. no retailer is obliged to take anything back if you purchase something and jsut change your mind on a purchase or its not to your liking or something. if they have some return policies thats purely down to their own company policies. however many hifi and specialist retailers realise the dificulty in choosing and buying product and will help by lending you their demo units to try inhome. each will have their own special requirements. len wallis for instance now days will let you buy an item with 30 days evaluation to return if not to your satisfaction to swap with anythign else in thri store or a store credit. other stores will lend you demo units over night or a few days durign the week or over a weekend or more exteneded period depending on what they have instore.

most will usually ask you to pay upfront for the item jsut incase you leg it and many others will either take a credit card scan or photocopy of your driving licence. very rare these days a shop will let you jsut walk out with an item. unless you are a long standing customer well known to the store. some stores even if interstate will hapily make possible a home demo as long as you pay for the cost to transport to you and back.

there is a sticky re demoing at home covers the ins and outs and benefits pretty well.
http://www.dtvforum....showtopic=52805

#18 Dissociative

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 06:45 PM

the primare pre30 is also worth a look

#19 OzMillsy

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 01:09 PM

I don't see any mention of HT bypass with the Azur 840E.

My local hifi store offered me a new 840E for $1500, with minimal haggling. I just posed the question, whats your best price? This should be the price you aim for, or better, if looking at the 840E.

The 840E doesnt just have bypass, it goes further than that, and is actually much more configurable. It maintains memories for every input, which include volume settings.

This allows you to configure any input, to use in bypass mode. You can label that input, and set the volume which is then calibrated in to your HT system mix. This is all then set to memory, whenever you select that input, it is effectively running in bypass mode.

It's a nice unit, that I plan to evaluate when I'm ready, unless I get distracted by other units on the 2nd hand market. The local hifi store I mentioned above, allows me to buy, try and return for an agreed period of time (which isnt all that long).

I would suggest though, that you continue to spend more time with your speakers, elektra amps, and cambridge cdp (running through the onkyo). Understand what aspects of the sound you are looking to improve upon, or reign in, then find a preamp that delivers the sound - that pulls it all together for you.

I've heard the BelCanto, it's very very neutral and transparent. This may, or may not be the ideal match, to everything else already running in your system.

#20 Mr C

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 03:41 PM

My local hifi store offered me a new 840E for $1500, with minimal haggling. I just posed the question, whats your best price? This should be the price you aim for, or better, if looking at the 840E.

The 840E doesnt just have bypass, it goes further than that, and is actually much more configurable. It maintains memories for every input, which include volume settings.

This allows you to configure any input, to use in bypass mode. You can label that input, and set the volume which is then calibrated in to your HT system mix. This is all then set to memory, whenever you select that input, it is effectively running in bypass mode.

It's a nice unit, that I plan to evaluate when I'm ready, unless I get distracted by other units on the 2nd hand market. The local hifi store I mentioned above, allows me to buy, try and return for an agreed period of time (which isnt all that long).

I would suggest though, that you continue to spend more time with your speakers, elektra amps, and cambridge cdp (running through the onkyo). Understand what aspects of the sound you are looking to improve upon, or reign in, then find a preamp that delivers the sound - that pulls it all together for you.

I've heard the BelCanto, it's very very neutral and transparent. This may, or may not be the ideal match, to everything else already running in your system.


Thanks Millsy for your advice.
Clearly it is looking like coming down to a choice between the Bel Canto and the 840E.

#21 OzMillsy

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 04:12 PM

Thanks Millsy for your advice.
Clearly it is looking like coming down to a choice between the Bel Canto and the 840E.

No worries, nice speakers BTW. Those signatures are good down to 40 - 50hz, from what I've read.

Depending on your tastes in music, they may benefit from integration with a sub. This is an important point when looking at 2 channel gear, as bass management doesnt generally exist. The 840E has a sub output, but keep in mind, this is a duplicated output. Your speakers will still be sent full range material to deal with.

If you havent already, play around with the cross overs in your 875, and get a feel for how well your mains deliver music with really deep bass, at different cross over points.

Do this with your cd player, running into the cd analog inputs on the 875, and have the 875 apply bass management, where it diverts away bass at different levels; 40, 60, 80, etc to your sub. Select music material with heavy bass (dance music etc). At each cross over, compare what you hear to using "Pure Direct" on the Onkyo, where it does no bass management at all, and passes the music full range to the speakers (ie: turn "pure direct" off/on a few times, at each cross over point - I did this with the sub both off and on, to get a feel for how much the sub was actually doing).

If in all cases, you prefer "pure direct" and dont care for any bass management/sub integration. Then continue to pursue a 2 channel preamp. If you like bass management, a 2 channel pre is still on the cards, but you need to consider how a sub or 2 can be integrated - so the mains are alleviated from the burden of being asked to go down to levels they cant really handle. Eg: send them a 20hz test tone, with "pure direct" on, and you'll hear what I mean.

Edited by OzMillsy, 07 July 2008 - 04:53 PM.


#22 Mr C

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 08:09 PM

No worries, nice speakers BTW. Those signatures are good down to 40 - 50hz, from what I've read.

Depending on your tastes in music, they may benefit from integration with a sub. This is an important point when looking at 2 channel gear, as bass management doesnt generally exist. The 840E has a sub output, but keep in mind, this is a duplicated output. Your speakers will still be sent full range material to deal with.

If you havent already, play around with the cross overs in your 875, and get a feel for how well your mains deliver music with really deep bass, at different cross over points.

Do this with your cd player, running into the cd analog inputs on the 875, and have the 875 apply bass management, where it diverts away bass at different levels; 40, 60, 80, etc to your sub. Select music material with heavy bass (dance music etc). At each cross over, compare what you hear to using "Pure Direct" on the Onkyo, where it does no bass management at all, and passes the music full range to the speakers (ie: turn "pure direct" off/on a few times, at each cross over point - I did this with the sub both off and on, to get a feel for how much the sub was actually doing).

If in all cases, you prefer "pure direct" and dont care for any bass management/sub integration. Then continue to pursue a 2 channel preamp. If you like bass management, a 2 channel pre is still on the cards, but you need to consider how a sub or 2 can be integrated - so the mains are alleviated from the burden of being asked to go down to levels they cant really handle. Eg: send them a 20hz test tone, with "pure direct" on, and you'll hear what I mean.


Hmmm .... this is something that I hadn't considered. At present I have the B&W 650 sub being output from the Onkyo pre-out, with the crossover set at 80Hz (THX). I like this sound at present i.e. with some bass management. If I use a 2 channel pre-amp, how can I use the base management that I am using at present ?

#23 OzMillsy

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 10:09 AM

Hmmm .... this is something that I hadn't considered. At present I have the B&W 650 sub being output from the Onkyo pre-out, with the crossover set at 80Hz (THX). I like this sound at present i.e. with some bass management. If I use a 2 channel pre-amp, how can I use the base management that I am using at present ?

You cant, in any practical way. That's the problem with 2 channel systems, they dont have any bass management. And you wouldnt try using your AVR to do it, and pass info to the pre. Whats the point, just use the AVR. You have a very fine one in the 875, BTW.

I value bass management greatly, there is heaps of bass info in all kinds of music, and I *know* my speakers are losing that info when used in 2 channel gear. It's worse than that, they dont just lose the info, they try their darndest to reproduce it, drivers flap about trying to go low, fail, and in the process compromise their mid-bass performance. The bottom end , ends up as 1 big balls up - especially at high spl's.

Alot of people work around this limitation, by injecting active cross-over modules into the chain. I have 1 at home I havent really used (added: beyond testing purposes), a Rane AC-22 (google it and read what it does).

You run the L/R pre-outs from your 2 channel preamp into the active cross-over, it has variable cross-over adjustment, and gives you 2 outputs for each channel, a high/low output. The high going to your power amps, and the low going to your powered sub.

I'm planning to buy a 2 channel pre, and am in research mode on options. But I wont take the plunge, until my 2 channel speaker system is a true full range solution that goes down to 20hz (well maybe 25). Until then, I continue to use my AVR for music (a more humble onkyo 705). I digitally bitstream to the AVR and make good use of it's very capable digital processing and bass management features.

With your cambridge cdp, I would recommend you use it's digital out into the 875. If you are not already. By using the analog outputs of the player, into the cd inputs on the 875, and using bass management - you are subjecting the analog signal to a A->D->A conversion inside the 875. Bitstreaming avoids this, as the 875 is then able to digitally process the incoming bitstream before any analog conversion has taken place.

Edited by OzMillsy, 08 July 2008 - 03:09 PM.


#24 Mr C

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 12:05 PM

You cant, in any practical way. That's the problem with 2 channel systems, they dont have any bass management. And you wouldnt try using your AVR to do it, and pass info to the pre. Whats the point, just use the AVR. You have a very fine one in the 875, BTW.

I value bass management greatly, there is heaps of bass info in all kinds of music, and I *know* my speakers are losing that info when used in 2 channel gear. It's worse than that, they dont just lose the info, they try their darndest to reproduce it, drivers flap about trying to go low, fail, and in the process compromise their mid-bass performance. The bottom end , ends up as 1 big balls up - especially at high spl's.

Alot of people work around this limitation, by injecting active cross-over modules into the chain. I have 1 at home I've never used, a Rane AC-22 (google it and read what it does).

You run the L/R pre-outs from your 2 channel preamp into the active cross-over, it has variable cross-over adjustment, and gives you 2 outputs for each channel, a high/low output. The high going to your power amps, and the low going to your powered sub.

I'm planning to buy a 2 channel pre, and am in research mode on options. But I wont take the plunge, until my 2 channel speaker system is a true full range solution that goes down to 20hz (well maybe 25). Until then, I continue to use my AVR for music (a more humble onkyo 705). I digitally bitstream to the AVR and make good use of it's very capable digital processing and bass management features.

With your cambridge cdp, I would recommend you use it's digital out into the 875. If you are not already. By using the analog outputs of the player, into the cd inputs on the 875, and using bass management - you are subjecting the analog signal to a A->D->A conversion inside the 875. Bitstreaming avoids this, as the 875 is then able to digitally process the incoming bitstream before any analog conversion has taken place.


I currently use the digital out from the CD player into the 875 anyway. So from what you are saying, if one uses the active cross over into the sub, as a solution for bass management for 2 channel music, then how am I going to use the sub for HT output from the Onkyo 875 ?

#25 ozcal

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 12:43 PM

I currently use the digital out from the CD player into the 875 anyway. So from what you are saying, if one uses the active cross over into the sub, as a solution for bass management for 2 channel music, then how am I going to use the sub for HT output from the Onkyo 875 ?

Hi Mr C, I Have just been through all this with my own set up.There is no easy answer to the sub issue apart from having two subs , one for ht and one for 2ch however you may be suprised at the quality and quantity of bass without a sub when using a quality 2ch pre .
Why are you using the digital output of your cd player into the Onkyo , you paid a lot of mney for the dacs and ouput stages in the dedicated cd player and chances are they are much better than those in the Onkyo as far as 2ch cd replay goes.
Gordon