Best 2 channel music quality on a 5.1 home theater AVR


New to this forum.  Building a system over the years and time to upgrade my AVR.

Current gear… Onkyo TXNR 686 - rated at 100 W/CH - 2 channels driven

Front - PSB Image T-5 (Bi-amplified)

Center-PSB Image C-5

Surround - PSB Alpha  LRC

Sub- SVS  SB 2000 Pro

Ive collected everything on a budget, either second hand deals or deep discounts.  Im not too particular when it comes to Cinema sound, the Onkyo is just fine.  Where I do feel like the Onkyo is  lacking is with Music, in particular 2.0 and 2.1 listening both audio quality and power.  I’d like to upgrade my AVR as I feel that the front speakers are much more capable than what the current Onkyo can provide.   I can also see upgrading the speakers at some point.  I have a budget of $2,200 Max, would ideally like to keep it under $2,000.  My goal is high quality 2.0 or 2.1 music listening.  I do like to listen to 4.1 music in all channel stereo and studio mix setting from time to time.


My question is…   What would be the best, an upper tier AVR from Yamaha Aventage, Anthem or marantz? A mid tier AVR with front preout and run a higher power 2 channel or even a 5 channel amp?

I’ve toyed with the idea of middle to lower tier Yamaha AVR  with preouts along with the Peachtree Nova 300 with home theater bypass.  This would be a more complicated system for other people in the house to use.  


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I'm thinking not a bot.  but would love to hear from the OP to defend himself.

there is no reason to compromise.  Buy a high quality 2 channel amp with more than one input.  On input A run the low level input from your 2 channel preamp, this will be your 2 channel sound set up.

On input B run the low level output from the front speaker from your 5 channel receiver.  

this allows you to upgrade your 2 channel system independent of your 5+ channel system.  I have had 5 different 2 channel amps in my system in the past 2 years, all ready to play movies when called upon.

I currently have a 100 wpc Denon surround sound system.  I run pre-out to my current amp which is a 2.3 wpc SET.   2 nights ago I watched Guardians of the Galaxy at theatre volume, shaking the house and the small amp was more than able to drive the front speakers.  

Afterwards I switched back to Input A and played some smooth jazz.


i agree with carlsbad--i'd keep your onkyo (which is just fine  for movies) and add a two-channel amp for your fronts--i like parasound or acurus, but there's lots of choices. buy used and you can spend the savings on upgrading your speakers.

Hello everyone,

Nope - not a bot.   Im just a guy like most where I would love to have a lucid, but own a Nissan leaf.   Thanks for the replies.  I like the idea of keeping my current AVR with a dedicated 2 channel amp. 

I think this is what you are referring too.–%20The%20Difference,-With%20Pre%2DOut&text=We%20can%20say%20that%20outputs,allows%20connecting%20to%20external%20speakers.

Not sure I quite fully understand how it works especially when it comes to adjusting volume.  I do have an integrated amp in  another room and could experiment.  

If only my Onkyo AVR just had 2 front pre-outs, there would not be an issue - I think.

I appreciate the comment about Anthem.  This might really be the most practical since what I really need is for my wife to be able to turn on the TV and everything else just work seamlessly.

The enemy of SQ isn’t a lack of power, it’s a lack of noise. The primary benefit of a receiver in 2 channel music is:

A) Room correction software

B) The ease of integrating a sub for 2.1 system.

If you get the upgraded version of Audyssey ($199) and a calibrated mic you will be surprised how good the Marantz sounds. I own both a dedicated Anthem 2 channel preamp and a Marantz processor. I prefer the Marantz for both movies and music AFTER I got the Audyssey upgrade and treated my room. I don't think you will need to use the preouts and a separate amp, just get the room and the room correction dialed in.

Here ya go…

If your current AVR doesn’t have front preouts just letter go. You don’t wanna use a stereo amp with your AVR because you’re still stuck with your Onkyo’s crap preamp section that will be a huge sonic bottleneck — preamps matter MUCHO. If your Onkyo had front preouts I’d highly recommend adding an integrated amp preferably with an HT bypass, but alas that’s not possible so just go with this Anthem and you’ll be very happy and a huge upgrade.  Plus, it’ll be very easy for your wife to use.

So did you get an Anthem?   It’s the only AVR I would buy.  My Dad has had one since ‘15 and it’s on about 8 hours a day.   

I just integrated his MRX510 iwith a 2 channel Mac MA8950 through its front L and R outs via the Mac’s Passthrough input.   Sounds great even in a $$$ set up.   

Glad the MRX 510 works well.  I have a Pioneer Elite VSX 51 class A/B 90W (since 2011) that I can’t seem to replace on my HT 2nd system.   They now sell for $200 used.  It sounds better in 2 channel Analog Direct mode than several amps and is as enjoyable as my 2 channel system just different.  I tried several more expensive HT 90-120 watt amps from, Marantz, Integra, Anthem MRX510. None sounded as good.  Most lacked low volume bass and sounded too solid state unlike the Pioneer. I even compared it to an LTA Z40 + with nos mullad el34’s an $8000 amp  and low volume bass was much better with the Pioneer.  LTA was better at high volume, soundstage, detail clarity but lacked warmer tones. Sold them all and I keep shaking my head in disbelief and given up replacing it for now.  Crazy how this hobby makes no logical sense at times…🤯

I have an Anthem MRX 520 that have the option to output  L&R channels independently and they are connected to the HT bypass input on an Musical Fidelity M6si. Works great and the interconnect that connects them is the only connection between my home theatre and my two channel systems.

The MF integrated serves as a hub for the cable box, Roku box, Bluray player, etc., but is somewhat of overkill as all it actually powers is my SVS centre channel.

@tksteingraber i had a similar experience--for two channel music, my 15-year old pioneer elite avr is an overacheiver which trumped the denon, integra, etc. i’ve cycled through. its only downside is that it doesn’t have hdmi arc function, so my wife has to use two remotes to watch nature videos on youtube (a true greek tragedy). i just bought an anthem--i’m curious to see how much of an upgrade it is

While I think the OP may have moved on, I'll place another vote for an integrated with HT bypass so future readers can benefit.  @soix nailed it above with the noise comment, and all adding a power amp to a lesser quality preamp will give you is more mediocre sound.