Help me choose amp for 2-channel HT

I've been using a Panasonic XA-45 AV receiver for the past 9 or 10 years in my TV system. HT only and two-channel only. No video goes through the Panasonic, just digital audio from the TiVo via Toslink and the DVD player (Oppo 95) via coax. It's worked fine, but I want to explore making a change in the interests of getting better sound. I was running Rega RS-5 speakers for quite a while but now have Revel M106, though that could change. Let's say a budget of around $1K.

I'm assuming I can get an integrated amp rather than an AV receiver, since it's only two channel. Would like sub out and headphone jack.

Should I get an analog integrated amp and let the TiVo and Oppo do the D2A conversion? How good are their built-in DACs? (I'm thinking NAD 326BEE or 356BEE, for example.)

Or should I get an integrated with DAC built in? Something from Peachtree perhaps.

If I got a new Oppo (103 probably) I could feed the TiVo's HDMI to it and let it handle all the video and audio processing, then feed the Oppo's (analog) audio out to the integrated amp or its (digital) audio out to the integrated if that has a built-in DAC.

I hope this is clear. I'm sure all of these options can work, but I have no feeling for whether there's a clear best path.

Ag insider logo xs@2xdrubin
Buy an Oppo 105. TiVo goes to 105 via HDMI. Use 105 as processor; it has fine DACs and video processing, so all you need in addition is an amp that you might find used from a reliable seller on Audiogon.

AFAIK, there are only two products out there designed specifically for high-end two channel music as well as audio only, high-end 2.1 channel HT use. There may be others available, but I'm not aware of any.

The first is from Nad (sorry - I don't know the model designation) and the other is the HK-990 from Harman Kardan. Both are two channel integrated amps with digital input/internal DACs as well as full bass management/EQ/room correction. Since you mention that your speakers may change, these two models will allow 2.1 channel use for HT with the addition of a subwoofer - should you ever decide to go that way. And, IMHO, you should go that way, and the sooner the better.

I've never heard the NAD, but the HK-990 is a great sounding unit with an excellent 150 wpc Citation style (Matti Otala derived) power amp section.

BTW, the subwoofer/bass management/room correction is IMO essential for good HT. Further, if your experience is anything like mine, you'll end up using the sub/room correction for music listening, too.
I understand. But since this system is used mostly for cable TV and Netflix streaming and some DVD, I'm not sure that better audio is worth the price difference.

As for driving a power amp directly, is the Oppo's volume control up to the task in terms of sound quality and control from a remote?

With the 103, however, I'd be stuck without headphone capability, which is probably a deal breaker.
It's claimed the Oppo 105 has finer volume control because of its superior analog section. It works well in my setup, both for stereo and multichannel. I agree with Marty about the sub, but I'd prefer a simple amplifier to an integrated unit. The Oppo 105 is likely to be up to all the processing you need. If you have multiple analog sources, as I do, then an analog preamp is a good way to go. Analog preamp and amp technology tends to be stable, whereas processor technology is constantly developing. The Oppo 105 provides high quality processor technology at price you can afford to move up when a development comes along that you can't resist.

Marty's comment slipped in. Thanks, very helpful.

I have no analog sources in this setup. I do appreciate the potential of room correction and EQ as well as 2.1, though the Oppo can support subwoofer out with two main channels, I believe. The Oppo 105 with something like a modest Emotiva stereo amp might be a good solution here, though absent the more advanced EQ functions.
I will give a bump to the HK990 recommendation. I used one in my HT when it was 2 channel, and now use it in my bedroom system. It is a fantastic integrated, with a really good DAC, and the room correction is a necessity IMO. I now run it with a pair of Tannoy DB8s, and a Mirage sub. This is a serious amp that will make a big difference in the sound quality of your setup. Highly recommended.

I'm thinking about the HK. It's a bit large (may not fit in my media cabinet) and definitely pricey, but the good reviews are duly noted. Another approach is to get an Oppo 105 and attach a stereo power amp. The Oppo provides some bass management and sub out and has what I suspect is a better DAC and analog section than the HK (though perhaps not), but no EQ.
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