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  1. #1
    Owner-Publisher Jerry Del Colliano's Avatar
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    Jan 2010
    West Los Angeles, California

    Article: Reinventing The Two Channel Preamp

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    Here is an EXCELLENT article by Andrew Robinson at about reinventing the two channel preamp. Benchmark Media started the trend with their DAC1 products (which I now have two of and love) but others are bringing high end DACs, HDMI switching, room EQ and more to your stereo preamp.

    This trend comes from brands like: Classe, NAD, McIntosh, Wyred 4 Sound and others.

    Where do you stand on the topic of reinventing the stereo preamp?

    Historically "less is more" was the way of the preamp but today 2.1 audio systems with high end components and a big, flat HDTV is a very hot setup. You get so much good sound from your Blu-ray, media server (even re-clocked MP3s and other low-res files), CDs, analog and more. Room EQ helps a ton. Subwoofers make audiophile speaker's jobs easier (MUCH easier) when setup correctly. HDMI switching removes the need for extra little boxes in the system.

    Personally, I see a lot of upside. Where do you stand on this new movement?

    ------ From -----

    Ah preamplifiers, for better or for worse, are an integral part of any two-channel or home theater system. In the home theater realm, the preamp has evolved into a sort of super computer, full of ins and outs, as well as processing power and software. The two-channel preamp, on the other hand, has historically been a far simpler affair -less Prius and more small-block V8. Hell, many two-channel preamps still use tubes with excellent results; the same can't be said for AV preamps.

    But are two-channel preamps due for a renaissance?

    If the latest crop of preamplifiers from the likes of Classe, McIntosh and NAD are any indication, it would seem that the renaissance is already well underway. Case in point: Classe's new CP-800 two-channel preamp, with its built-in DACs, USB connectivity, onboard bass management and parametric EQ. Classe feels so strongly that the CP-800 is a departure from the norm that they bill the 800 not as a two-channel preamp, but instead as a stereo preamp processor. McIntosh is no different, for their two newest preamps, the C50 and C48, both feature built-in DACs and USB connectivity, as well as multi-band tone controls. As for the upcoming NAD, it features many if not all of the above-mentioned features found in both the Classe and McIntosh pieces, while adding HDMI audio and video to the mix. And this is only the beginning.

    But why change the two-channel preamp now?

    It is my belief that the two-channel preamp is evolving because it, along with those who make them, must remain current in order to stay relevant. Gone, or at least fading, are the days of enthusiasts waving their banners for "purity" and "one component, one job"; nowadays, products have to multitask. This includes two-channel products, for in order for the next generation of audiophiles to care about this hobby, the products must speak to their interests, and their interests rest squarely in the digital realm. Built-in DACs make connecting to and/or streaming from one's digital music collection easier. Wireless connectivity allows today's active youth to remain active while still enjoying their favorite tracks. Bass management and HDMI compatibility ensures that the new two-channel preamp won't be left out in the cold when it comes to movie night. That's right, I said movie night.

    Home theater was great (and still is) when we all had what we thought was equity in our homes and could get loans on a whim for seemingly anything and everything, but those days are long gone. In today's new economy, one has to be realistic, and the idea of being able to afford multiple speakers and the electronics to accommodate them (not to mention the space) may be too high a price to pay for some -hence the growing popularity behind the 2.1 or two-channel home theater movement. While none of the before-mentioned preamps will decode today's high-resolution or uncompressed multi-channel audio formats, I assure you it won't be long before they do. Then again, they may not have to, for a number of Blu-ray discs and DVDs already have high-res stereo tracks as standard in their audio option menus. I'm not suggesting that home theaters are about to go the way of the dinosaur, but there will definitely be some overlap - overlap that would've killed previous generations of audiophiles.

    Read more and or post below

  2. #2

    I love the idea of a dedicated 2 or 2.1 Channel Preamp. As good as my current home theater preamp is for movies, it is not super impressive for 2 Channel Audio. My issue with the current crop of 2 Channel offerings is the price point. Surely someone out there makes a quality 2 Channel preamp for under a grand.

  3. #3

    I see the upside too. I just pulled the trigger on a NAD C 390DD. It's not a $1k solution but it does come with amps, sub out, eq, and could be be the center piece
    of a very minimalist system. C 390DD, stereo speakers, (sub if desired) and usb jump drive or external hard drive.

  4. #4
    Owner-Publisher Jerry Del Colliano's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    West Los Angeles, California


    Give us a report on that NAD system. I am curious as how much you like it

  5. #5

    These units are starting to sound like computers. My system with EMU 1212 and ADAT is extremely flexible in the I/O department and easily will let me integrate subs and the like.


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