To address both questions above, I decided to review and compare two very good but conceptually dissimilar multichannel “front end” components. I gathered up the Parasound Halo P7 multichannel preamplifier, because Parasound Halo-series components enjoy a great reputation for delivering good sound at reasonable prices ($1999 in this case). I also obtained a Marantz AV8003 multichannel A/V controller because I wanted to see whether a full-on digital processor could play in direct comparison with some serious high-end audio big boys. I chose the Marantz because it pays attention to audio matters yet doesn’t break the bank at $2599.
For comparison purposes I also brought along two very highly regarded, purist two-channel preamps that I own: the mbl 6010D ($23,800) and the Audio Research LS26 ($5999). I conducted most of my listening in two-channel mode because I wanted to understand where, if anywhere, the multichannel gear gave ground to premium two-channel gear.
OVERVIEW, Parasound Halo P 7
Consider this multichannel preamplifier if: you want a multichannel version of a traditional stereo preamplifier (that is, a preamp with an all-analog signal path), and your musical priorities tilt toward delicacy and nuance.
Look elsewhere if: you need full home theater surround sound decoding features, onboard video switching/processing features, etc.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced analog multichannel preamps)
- Treble: 9
- Mids: 9
- Bass: 9.5
- Soundstaging: 9.5
- Dynamics: 9
- Resolution: 8
- Value: 9
OVERVIEW, Marantz AV8003
Consider this A/V Pre-Tuner if: you want a full-function A/V processor whose preamp section easily competes with traditional two-channel audio preamps at or above its price.
Look elsewhere if: the complexities of full-fledged home theater processors and remotes are an annoyance to you.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced multichannel A/V controllers)