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Lamenting the lack of good quality budget A/V Preamplifier/Processors

Xulonn

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I use - and like - my $900 IOTAVX AVX1 7.1 4K "Home Theater AV Processor" with room correction (image #3 below), although I only use it for my 3.0 system (L-C-R, no subwoofer).

My preference for music is still 2.0 stereo, but for movies with multichannel audio, a proper center channel anchors the dialog, by doubling woofer area, it increases bass response, and adds a "fullness" of volume in my very tiny room. I have no intention of replacing the IOTAVX, but the company appears to be a very small marketing company in the U.K. that contracts the assembly out to Chinese manufacturing, and has no presence elsewhere. The design is an update to an older Nakamichi AV Pre/Pro, and I have no idea who designed it. Comments abound the internet suggest that support is o.k. at times, but not always there when you might need it. So with IOTAVX in the U.K., and me in Panama, my expectations for service and support are minimal.

I watch the market out of curiosity. Audio has been a life-long hobby for me, and video in the past 20 years or so. I have looked at possible replacements in case the IOTAVX dies some day. Although I haven't been a McIntosh fan-boi since the 1970's, their current MX100 is my dream A/V pre-pro, although it has more channels (11.2) than I would need. At $5,000USD, it is far too expensive for me, but I like that it skips the legacy video I/O and other connections for which I would have no use. (And of course, the $17,000 Trinnov Altitude 16 appears to be the best of the best, but it is far too expensive for most of us.)

Unfortunately, the mid-range brand-name market segment apparently has no "basic" A/V Pre/Pro products available - I can find no equivalent to the IOTAVX anywhere. The only true budget A/V processors I came up with are generic units. Amir and others recommend good-measuring A/V receivers like the Denon AVR-X3700H with all-channel pre-outs, but they are big monsters with many, many connections on the back, and start at about $1,200-1,500.

In line with my interest in a budget replacement should the need arise, I would like to hear comments from anyone who has tried the inexpensive generic A/V processors like the first two below.

1. Generic $63 unit from Amazon:
Generic 7.1 Decoder.jpg


2. "Daok" unit from Amazon - $180
Daok AV Pre-Processor.jpg



3. IOTAVX AVX1 from IOTAVX direct - $950 (The only one I could find with just the features I need, including balanced XLR outputs.)
IOTAVX 71 Rear.jpg




4. Denon AVR-3700H from Amazon - $1,500
Denon AVR-X3700H.jpg


5. McIntosh MX100 - $5,000
McIntosh MX100 Back.jpg


6. Trinnov Altitude 16 - $17,000
Trinnov Altitude 16.jpg
 

Spkrdctr

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Maybe check the newest Yamaha surround receivers. I don't know which models have pre-outs on which channels but that info is online. The only thing you have to change is no XLRs. XLRs are not usually important at all in home audio. Some people might have "special case" use, but normally RCA jacks do a fantastic job. That is about all I can think of in reasonable priced equipment. Denon, Yamaha and wait, maybe that is all! 2 manufacturers.
 

Sancus

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There is this HDMI multichannel DAC from Essence. No XLR or room correction, but it's fairly cheap and another of their products got a good review from Amir.

I should point out that if you don't need to decode the formats with height channels(Atmos, DTS-X), then you don't actually need any particular piece of hardware. A mini-PC with a standard multi-channel DAC can do the same job, and possibly even better because you can use more powerful room correction software like Audiolense.
 

abdo123

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I should point out that if you don't need to decode the formats with height channels(Atmos, DTS-X), then you don't actually need any particular piece of hardware. A mini-PC with a standard multi-channel DAC can do the same job, and possibly even better because you can use more powerful room correction software like Audiolense.
How can you setup a PC to decode HDMI audio and pass through the video?
 
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Xulonn

Xulonn

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There is this HDMI multichannel DAC from Essence. No XLR or room correction, but it's fairly cheap and another of their products got a good review from Amir.

I should point out that if you don't need to decode the formats with height channels(Atmos, DTS-X), then you don't actually need any particular piece of hardware. A mini-PC with a standard multi-channel DAC can do the same job, and possibly even better because you can use more powerful room correction software like Audiolense.
Essence-Evolve-II-4K.jpg

Duh! I forgot all about the $300 Essence Evolve unit. I had considered it two years ago when I finally decided on the IOTAVX, but for some silly unknown reason, I wanted XLR interconnects,which are unnecessary for short run when you don't have hum and noise problems. The Essense company seems to hide from Google searches rather than optimize for it, because it did not pop up in the many, many search variants I used in my current quest for information.

It could be an good solution, but the form factor and layout lead me to believe that it is a different enclosure containing one of the generic Chinese decoders similar to the #1 unit in my original post. And it is 2-3 times more expensive than the very similar generics.
 

Chrispy

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It's a small market segment. Too bad the Outlaw Audio 975/976 are gone now, was a decent alternative. I'd just get a Denon 3700 these days for such...
 
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Xulonn

Xulonn

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How can you setup a PC to decode HDMI audio and pass through the video?
You don't - you use an external multichannel DAC like the #1 in my list. The fancy A/V Pre/Pros and receivers just tack on more and more features and connections. I've counted more than 100 connections on the back of an A/V receiver!

My system includes an Intel NUC mini-PC set up as an HTPC running LibreElec (a Linux-based stand-alone version of Kodi). It reads the video files from my NAS or internet stream, does all of the digital signal manipulation and control, and the IOTAVX Pre/Pro simple converts HDMI audio to analog lines out to my power amps, controls source selection (Amazon Firestick or Kodi HTPC in my case), provides a redundant volume control, and applies room correction.

Sancus was pointing out that the many audio different functions for video can be controlled by either your HTPC/set-top box or your AVR or AVP.
 
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Xulonn

Xulonn

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It's a small market segment. Too bad the Outlaw Audio 975/976 are gone now, was a decent alternative. I'd just get a Denon 3700 these days for such...
Indeed - the Outlaw unit was a great one, but apparently the market was not big enough. It was from the days when 3-RCA component video was still being used a bit as HDMI was taking over.

Outlaw 975.jpg
 

Sancus

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How can you setup a PC to decode HDMI audio and pass through the video?

That wasn't what I was suggesting, what I was suggesting was using the PC as playback device and then just connecting a multi-channel USB DAC to it, and doing the room correction digitally on the PC. Playback software(Kodi or whatever) can set different display and audio outputs and perform the decoding. The limitations of this are no Atmos and you can't use other playback sources like consoles or whatever.

Using a PC as a literal AVP is probably possible with certain capture cards but I doubt it's easy to set up and I haven't looked into it because Atmos is a requirement for me anyways. Also potential HDCP issues.
 

Sancus

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Does Netflix and Disney plus get their audio decoded? Plex media server? What's your experience?

Plex does multi-channel output on a PC, yes. Netflix does 5.1 if you're using their Win10 app. I don't know anything about Disney+. In general, if it would work on a regular PC, it would work this way. You'll want to do your own research though. I don't use this solution these days because I consider Atmos a minimum requirement.
 

DjBonoBobo

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Plex does multi-channel output on a PC, yes. Netflix does 5.1 if you're using their Win10 app. I don't know anything about Disney+. In general, if it would work on a regular PC, it would work this way. You'll want to do your own research though. I don't use this solution these days because I consider Atmos a minimum requirement.

Disney+ has released an app for Win 10 a month ago or so. The current version puts out 5.1 to my RME UCX II.
 

ernestcarl

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Disney+ has released an app for Win 10 a month ago or so. The current version puts out 5.1 to my RME UCX II.

Finally!

1638079116693.png


I tested it now and the mch stream is indeed working.

Also checked amazon prime video again and... argh! still not working. Too bad :( as I was really hoping I could watch the upcoming season 6 of The Expanse with the proper mch stream instead of just upmixing regular stereo to "surround". How many more years do I have to wait Amazon!?
 

Sancus

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Also checked amazon prime video again and... argh! still not working. Too bad :( as I was really hoping I could watch the upcoming season 6 of The Expanse with the proper mch stream instead of just upmixing regular stereo to "surround". How many more years do I have to wait Amazon!?
Amazon audio support is janky as heck even on actual TV devices. It falls back to stereo instead of Atmos all the time on my Shield TV and I have to completely kill and restart the app and show to fix it :/
 

TonioRoffo

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View attachment 168428
Duh! I forgot all about the $300 Essence Evolve unit. I had considered it two years ago when I finally decided on the IOTAVX, but for some silly unknown reason, I wanted XLR interconnects,which are unnecessary for short run when you don't have hum and noise problems. The Essense company seems to hide from Google searches rather than optimize for it, because it did not pop up in the many, many search variants I used in my current quest for information.

It could be an good solution, but the form factor and layout lead me to believe that it is a different enclosure containing one of the generic Chinese decoders similar to the #1 unit in my original post. And it is 2-3 times more expensive than the very similar generics.
Give me this, but with optical outputs. :)
 

TonioRoffo

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I'm starting to think that a niche market presents itself where...

  • You take a half decent receiver (on the digital audio side)
  • Route the I2S or whatever signals to digital outputs
  • add a nice multichannel DAC with volume control
  • profit.
 

SpaceMonkey

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Finally!

View attachment 168531

I tested it now and the mch stream is indeed working.

Also checked amazon prime video again and... argh! still not working. Too bad :( as I was really hoping I could watch the upcoming season 6 of The Expanse with the proper mch stream instead of just upmixing regular stereo to "surround". How many more years do I have to wait Amazon!?
Maybe, just maybe, you could use Kodi on windows with plugin for Amazon Prime. Just an idea, haven't tested it.
 

ernestcarl

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Maybe, just maybe, you could use Kodi on windows with plugin for Amazon Prime. Just an idea, haven't tested it.

Seems like a rather roundabout way when they already have a dedicated Windows app. For what it's worth, I did download Kodi to test but couldn't figure out where to download/install the said "plugin".
 
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