This page is dedicated to teaching how to integrate your high-end two-channel system with your home theater
Home Theater and Two-Channel
HOW TO COMBINE YOUR HOME THEATER TWO CHANNEL STEREO INTO ONE SYSTEM?
I have noticed over the years that there is very little practical advice on combining your home theater and stereo system into one usable system. When I first got into this hobby, I was always trying to save a little money and yet still get excellent performance from both my home theater and stereo system in the same room. This led me to begin experimenting with combing my stereo system with my home theater setup. That was over twenty years ago and I haven’t stopped learning.
Luckily, I can tell you from first hand experience that it is 100% possible to pull this off. It just takes a little thought and planning to do it right. I can also tell you that it is so much easier today, than it was 20 years ago. Most preamplifiers and integrated amps today offer a Home Theater By-pass input, this wasn’t the case 20 years ago.
Subwoofers have come along way as well. The one company that has figured this out better than anyone else is REL. The REL subwoofers with their dual LFE and High Level inputs are now perfect for this application, because you can dial the sub in for home theater LFE volumes and with the high-level input, dial in your two-channel levels and crossovers. REL does a beatiful job in this sense and they are my number once choice in this application.
Below is list of questions that you should consider before going down the path of combining your home theater and stereo system. The questions are asked from the perspective of a person who currently owns a home theater receiver and is considering improving the music listening experience by adding an integrated amp or amp/preamp combo.
Things to think about before creating a combined HT and two-channel system:
How good are my front speakers? Are they good enough to resolve improvements that new electronics would provide?
If I upgrade my front speakers, will they still match my surround and center channel speakers?
Can I place my speakers correctly into the room?
What source equipment i.e. (CD Player, DAC, Music Streamer (Innuos), Streamer DAC, Turntable, Phono Preamp, SACD Player) will I be using?
Can I afford to purchase a preamp or integrated amplifier that performs better than the one in my home theater receiver?
Can I afford to purchase an amplifier that performs better than the amplifier in my home theater receiver?
Do I have rack or shelf space for the extra equipment?
How good is my current home theater receiver?
Would a better HT Preamp/Processer solve my problem?
What is Home Theater (HT) By-pass Preamplifier?
A home theater bypass is used to connect an external two-channel stereo system with a surround sound home theater system. Basically, home theater-bypass is a stereo RCA jack input on an integrated amp or preamp that hooks up with the main left/right outputs on your A/V receiver. When you select this input, the signal will bypass the preamp’s gain controls, letting you use your integrated amp purely as a stereo amplifier without having to worry about adjusting volume. When watching movies—the receiver’s own volume control takes over that function.
It works by skipping the volume controls of the preamp so you can use it with your home theater receiver without having to worry about the volume setting.
Why would a dedicated preamp or integrated amp sound better than my HT Receiver?
A home theater receiver has a lot of stuff in one box. There are multiple amplifiers, a preamp section, a tuner, a digital processing section for processing the video and audio feeds. Many of these functions share power supplies. All of these “functions” of a home theater receiver give off a significant amount of noise. Also, because there is not a lot of room in the one box, the size of the amplifier and the reserve power it can have is also limited.
By going to separate a preamp/amp combo or an integrated amplifier, you will greatly reduce your noise floor and also increase the power of your amplifiers for your right and left speaker.
Adding an external amp for your front speakers will also take some load off of your HT receiver, so it will be happier as well.
All of the above questions are important. If your speakers are not very good for stereo listening it may not make sense to spend the money on a preamp, amp or integrated amp.
You should also own or consider purchasing a good 2-channel source like a quality DAC or Music Streamer/DAC combo, or a Turntable with quality phono preamp. It is really a necessity to have a good source to take advantage of your new integrated amplifier or preamp
WHAT IF I HAVE A GOOD STEREO TWO-CHANNEL SYSTEM AND WANT TO ADD A HOME THEATER RECEIVER?
If you already have a decent two channel system, then it is pretty easy to add a home theater receiver to your rig. You could just add a moderately price receiver and some surround speakers that somewhat match your main front speakers and you would be good to go. Honestly, you wouldn’t even have to add a center channel if your front two speakers are really good.
HOW TO HOOK THEM UP?
The diagrams below are very crude and a little outdated. These were done before Atmos, etc. Despite that, they should help you to connect your preamp/amp to the home theater receiver or processor. If you were using a HT Receiver, in most cases you would probably just have one 2-channel amplifier.
See our list of quality preamps below with HT Bypass as well.
Home Theater Mode
Home Theater / Two Channel System
This shows the signal path of the system while listening to Home Theater
Two Channel / Home Theater
This diagram shows the signal path while only listening to two-channel stereo. The HT receiver or processor is totally out of the system, allowing you to have an amazing two channel music listening experience.
Two Channel Preamplifiers with Home Theater Bypass