Secrets Q & A

Integrating High-End Two-Channel Audio into Home Theater without Compromise

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Being able to bypass the processor (processors and some preamplifiers have "pass-through" connections for using them in one system) made a big difference in the sound. I simply selected Balanced 1 as the input to the CP-800, and this produced the circuit consisting of the universal player, the CP-800 preamplifier, and two channels of the CA-5200 power amplifier, driving the front two electrostatic speakers, for stereo listening. All of the fine detail, rich, low-distortion music came through clearly.

Note that you don't have to use subwoofers connected to the CP-800 if you don't want to. In this case, you would disable the bass management menu, and you would get the entire signal going to the output jacks, with no DSP involved. This would be the two-channel audio "purist" setup, but your speakers should be full range if you want to set the system up this way.

If one uses a pass-through connection, an extra set of input and output jacks, as well as the interconnects required to connect them, are added to the circuit, and this definitely causes some signal degradation. It may not be much, but it does degrade, and it's unavoidable. If you don't want to deal with having two volume controls for surround sound (the SSP-800 and CP-800), you can engage the CP-800's pass-through in the menu. Also, the CP-800 offers an unusual bass management feature, which lets you run an analog signal through the CP-800 to the main left and right outputs while also having one or two subwoofer outputs. In this case, there is no high-pass filter, so the natural roll-off of the mains would occur, but the benefit is that there is no DSP involved in the CP-800 if you set it up this way.

I also used this setup with my iPod by selecting USB F as the input. I have hours of Baroque chamber music stored there, which I play on the system all day long while I work.

For surround sound, I put an SACD or DVD-A in the player, select Line 1 on the CP-800, turn on the SSP-800 and select the DVD player input, and I have 5.1 music. The signal path is via HDMI to the SSP, and the front left/right pre-outs from the SSP-800 to the Line 1 input on the CP-800. So, I have to adjust the volume control on both the SSP-800 and the CP-800 to get the proper volume in the front left/right channels. Actually, this turned out to be serendipity, because surround sound music, as well as movies, tend to have varied balance between the center channel and the front left and right channels, and in order to adjust the volume of any channel, you have to scroll through a menu and adjust each channel one at a time. With the combination of the SSP-800 and CP-800, balancing the front left and right channel volume to match the center is a simple press of the volume control button on the CP-800 remote control.

Of course, surround sound and movies go through the SSP-800, and although it is a very good one, the front left and right channels have a bit more distortion than when just using the CP-800. However, being enveloped in discrete multi-channel sound makes up for any - possibly inaudible - increase in distortion in two of the channels.