Surround Sound Processors SSP : I give up

I'm a two channel guy. A purest. My audio system is made up of components of the highest quality, and when I listen to music, the sound is glorious!

Surround sound is a different story... Over the past year or so, I've used a "high end" preamp / processor for movies (only). I took the front left & right outputs of the SSP and connected it to one set of the inputs of my passive attenuator (which I feel sounds much better than any "active" preamp). When I wanted to play movies, all I had to do was select the input for the SSP on the attenuator, set the proper volume level, and then fire up the other amps I use for the center, sub, and rears. Just by chance, I discovered a firmware problem in the SSP that the manufacturer is unable to correct. I happened to find it while trying to shift all of the low end information from the subwoofer to the two front speakers. Anyhow, the manufacturer (which must remain nameless for the time being) has agreed to refund my money, as they cannot correct the problem, and the unit is still under warranty.

Now I find myself back in the market looking for a new SSP / preamp. The "better" units start around $3,000 give or take, and quite frankly, they sound lousy compared to a 2-channel piece at the same price level. This of course, is quite expected, as the manufacturers have to pack over two and a half times the amount of "functions" into the box in order to get 5.1, DTS, THX, etc. Lets be honest, for movies these units will all work fine, but for music, they leave much to be desired. Like the saying goes, "you get what you pay for". So now I have asked myself a question, and I surprised myself with the answer: How good of a SSP do I need to watch a movie and listen to dialogue and bombs exploding? I think you can see where I'm going with this...

When I go to the theater and see a movie, I get envolved with the story. The visual (for me) is much more important than the "quality" of the sound. Heck, half of the sounds you hear are sound effects. What makes them believable is the action you are seeing on the screen. So again, back to the question: How good of a SSP do I need? My conclusion: way less than $3,000 worth!

After spending a great deal of time researching the many posts here on Audiogon, and visiting local dealers, I have decided to forget about replacing my old SSP / preamp with a new one, and this time just get a receiver (oh God it hurts to say it!) with all the bells & whistles and a pre-out so I can use all of my big amps. With the $1,500 - $2,000 that I will save by getting a receiver, I can put it towards a good front projection system.

Alright, now I feel a little better - I said it! I haven't really looked around for a receiver, but a salesman suggested either a Marantz or Dennon. Has anyone gone through the process I have and ended up with the same solution - a receiver. If so, which reciever do you like the best?
Thanks guys!
Ken G.
My experiences basically duplicate yours. That is why i said that i would have went with a much smaller / simpler HT system with very efficient speakers if i knew then what i know now. People, PLEASE learn from my mistakes. At least someone may benefit from my "fumbling about" : )

Sound quality on pre-pro's is not that great in most aspects ( haven't tried any processors that retail for more than $3500 though, nor do i want to ), the noise floor and / or gain characteristics are not what one would expect, the programing "features" sometimes detract from performance, bass management is sometimes next to impossible to get something that works right under various conditions, etc... Finding all of this in one package at a reasonable price might take a lifetime.

Having said all of that, the Outlaw processor had drawn my attention several times over. Unfortunately, they took forever in getting it to market. I don't think that it would rank with good two channel gear, but it might be an excellent compromise for a second system given it's very reasonable suggested retail price. Otherwise, the Parasound 1800 is not that bad if you can live with its lack of gain and no phono section. Just don't expect "super-fi" out of it. Sean
I am also a two channel guy and I have tried many surround sound sytems to go with my two channel but they all fall short. Its not that they sound bad as much as they sound so much worse then my two cahnnel and this causes it blend badly with my existing system.

I think adding a receiver is an excellent idea and its one that I have considered many times. I would also add new front speakers so they would be the same all the way around when listing to surround sound.
I would go right to your last question, If your only choices for receivers are Marantz and Denon I would go with the Denon, 2 reasons better internal parts and power supply IMHO, but make sure you get one with the warranty as Denon did have some problems with quality control on some of their units in the past. Now if you would consider other receivers I would go with Integra which is also made by Onkyo. I hope this helps.
Realized I listen to music most of the time so I sold my EAD TM Ovation pre/pro & KAV-500 amp and redistributed the funds into a Kora Eclipse tube preamp with a unity gain processor input and Sonic Frontiers Power 2 for the front two channels. Got a Sony ES reciever for the HT processing and power to the other three channels. The Kora's volume control is by-passed through the unity gain input when using the receiver.

Feel I gained far more in two channel sound quality than I lost in home theater audio quality. For the video, go HDTV and be done with it. For me, listening to fabulous music and watching a fantastic picture...I don't care what they're saying on the screen!
yeah as a two channel guy you really don't need some extavagant bells and whistles pre/pro, with EQ's and sound modes and such. I'm a two channel guy myself, but am also WAY INTO CUSTOM HOME THEATER!
My suggestion is to get a pre/pro that is clean, clear,detailed, dynamic, and fairly musical! The overall impression is one of higher fidelity and refinement.
Really, movie mixes are layers of "re-mix", sound effects, "over-dubbed" dialoge" and music scores, and aren't quite what you get from a live recording of pure music. I mean you're still going to end up with "boxy dialog" (since it's mixed that way), and less than perfect sonics. so what your after is dynamics, clarity, fairly detailed, and uncolored.
Ones on the used market I find with all the audiophile sonic niceties, which won't cost you $3k are Acurus ACT 3(which I have) for about $750+ range used, Classe SSP25(even lower signal to noise, among other strenghts) for about $1300-$1500 used, Aragon soundstage for around $1700 range used(same as Classe sonically), Proceed AVP for around $2500 used.
Really, you would do just super with even a little Acurus or Classe for movies...more than clean sounding!!!!
Trust me..I've been using Ultra high end gear for 2 channel, and just looped in my processor for movies, and these choices sound great on movies!
However, be forewarned....You MUST use and external pre-pro for DD/DTS movies! you can't just get by with simply using your processign in your DVD player out to you 2 channel preamp! The sound is too flat and undynamic, and just never sounds as good for movies! Any seriously quality DVD sounds way better with a dedicated prepro from the digital out of your DVD player or source!
good luck