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post #1 of 14 Old 07-20-2014, 12:03 PM - Thread Starter
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NEWB home theater question

I feel awkward asking since you folks are so knowledgeable but please bear with me.

I am beginning my search for a decent home theater (probably in a box) system. By decent I don't mean audiophile or complicated. Time to move on from the TV squeakers. My ideal system would be as follows
1. Simple to use. Wife is not a techno geek and wants easy to use and I am getting too old to constantly tweak settings.
2. Small as possible. As much as I wouldn't mind a rack of gear I have to live with the wife so as unobtrusive as possible.
3. Under $1000
4. A single remote control for directTV box, LG TV and receiver.
5. If rear speakers they need to be wireless signal
6. Volume equalization. Hate it when I can't hear one line then the next blows my ears out.

Doesn't have to have foundation shaking bass but be nice to hear something under 100Hz.

Thanks for your help in advance
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post #2 of 14 Old 07-20-2014, 05:22 PM
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Yamaha, Onkyo, and Denon all make very decent entry level systems but if $1000 is your max, then you could probably put together nice separates (which is always preferable) as opposed to a HTiB.

When you say rear speakers are you referring to a 7.1 system (which has side speakers as well as rear speakers) or a 5.1 system with just the extra speakers on the side of the listening area?

What ever you get, don't get one with an integrated blu-ray player (built-in) because that usually means you have a passive sub-woofer which derives its power from the receiver/blu-ray and is not by its own amplifier. You'll find the bass response is much better with an active sub-woofer (has its own amplifier) even with the smaller sub-woofers that can come with a HTiB.

Having one remote to control the whole system can be tricky. CEC is the protocol that allows you to control all of your HDMI connected devices with a single remote. However, the protocols are not standardized which means that the mfrs can pick and choose which ones to implement which can lead to incompatibilities between various mfrs and even within the same mfr. It can and does work for some but it's not guaranteed. The only workaround at present is to get a programmable remote like a Harmony.
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post #3 of 14 Old 07-21-2014, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Otto Pylot View Post
Yamaha, Onkyo, and Denon all make very decent entry level systems but if $1000 is your max, then you could probably put together nice separates (which is always preferable) as opposed to a HTiB.

When you say rear speakers are you referring to a 7.1 system (which has side speakers as well as rear speakers) or a 5.1 system with just the extra speakers on the side of the listening area?

What ever you get, don't get one with an integrated blu-ray player (built-in) because that usually means you have a passive sub-woofer which derives its power from the receiver/blu-ray and is not by its own amplifier. You'll find the bass response is much better with an active sub-woofer (has its own amplifier) even with the smaller sub-woofers that can come with a HTiB.

Having one remote to control the whole system can be tricky. CEC is the protocol that allows you to control all of your HDMI connected devices with a single remote. However, the protocols are not standardized which means that the mfrs can pick and choose which ones to implement which can lead to incompatibilities between various mfrs and even within the same mfr. It can and does work for some but it's not guaranteed. The only workaround at present is to get a programmable remote like a Harmony.
Thanks for the reply. My crude searches so far was showing some of the same manufacturers popping up.

$1000 is not a hard number. All those items I listed were a wish list. I realize I would have to move from my ideal to real world specs and tradeoffs.

I am a bit surprised you said separates might be cheaper. I always assumed a packaged system would be less cost. A boxed set is probably desirable just to avoid reading specs amd matching multiple parts vs just the highlights of a system.

Be rear I mean even in a 5.1 system two of the speakers are far away from the receiver and wireless signal would be much preferrable over running wires, even at the cost of some audio quality.

I don't many sources to control. Direct TV now (may go back to Dish?). I never had a blu ray and not in the plans since I can get all I need from DTV, netflix etc

That brings up another question- My TV is internet connected and that's how I get VUDU and Netflix. This TV has a digital audio only output. Will most decent receivers be able to use that output? Since the net is connected dire3ctly to the TV it's something I cannot route THROUGH the receiver. Closer to what I might call a parallel path.

Thanks again
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post #4 of 14 Old 07-21-2014, 12:04 PM
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If you shop around and look for sales, or even refurbs (for the receiver) you could probably put together a nice system (receiver and 5 speakers) for maybe around $500 - $600. Wireless for the sides may be a bit more difficult. Keep in mind that wireless usually means that there aren't any wires going across the room from the sides to the receiver. But, the sides (or rears however you want to call them) still need to be wired to each other and in turn need to be plugged into a outlet to power the receiver for the signal.

If you are going to use the SmartApps on your tv exclusively for net content then you will probably have to use an optical cable from your tv to the receiver so that you can experience true 5.1 audio when the program is encoded for that. You could use ARC (Audio Return Channel) instead of optical if the tv and receiver are both ARC capable but the only advantage of that is the elimination of the optical cable. Both methods are limited to 5.1 audio. Some have issues with ARC so I would recommend the use of optical but that's up to you.
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post #5 of 14 Old 07-21-2014, 01:03 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Otto Pylot View Post
If you shop around and look for sales, or even refurbs (for the receiver) you could probably put together a nice system (receiver and 5 speakers) for maybe around $500 - $600. Wireless for the sides may be a bit more difficult. Keep in mind that wireless usually means that there aren't any wires going across the room from the sides to the receiver. But, the sides (or rears however you want to call them) still need to be wired to each other and in turn need to be plugged into a outlet to power the receiver for the signal.

If you are going to use the SmartApps on your tv exclusively for net content then you will probably have to use an optical cable from your tv to the receiver so that you can experience true 5.1 audio when the program is encoded for that. You could use ARC (Audio Return Channel) instead of optical if the tv and receiver are both ARC capable but the only advantage of that is the elimination of the optical cable. Both methods are limited to 5.1 audio. Some have issues with ARC so I would recommend the use of optical but that's up to you.
I don't understand the ARC but I can look that up. Why would I NOT want to use an optical cable? Cost? I just wasn't sure I could use the TV app and audio through the receiver. Sounds like a YES.

Any other words of advice?
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post #6 of 14 Old 07-21-2014, 01:56 PM
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ARC is Audio Return Channel and it is bi-directional audio. IOW, a single HDMI cable will allow you to send and receive audio. It's a nice feature if you want to reduce cable clutter. Most of the time optical cables are used for exactly the way you are describing. In fact, my tv reception is OTA only (antenna) so I use an optical cable to take the audio from the built-in ATSC tuner and send that to my receiver for discrete 5.1 audio when watching television.
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post #7 of 14 Old 07-21-2014, 03:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you Mr Pylot or Mrs. I dunno..lol You are quite helpful splainin to this poo country boy in plain language.

I was looking at a few receivers today at the B&H site. I didn't see any that had wireless to rear speaker connections built in using under $500 as my main search criteria. Probably some third party stuff to do wireless but not sure I wanna get into that. KISS principle, Keep It Simple Stupid...

What would typically happen if I got a 5.1 or 7.1receiver and only used 3.1 or 3.0 (center and two front or near the TV) and a powered sub just not connecting the two or 4 others? I wouldn't get an unbalanced condition and distortion or damage would I?
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post #8 of 14 Old 07-21-2014, 05:59 PM
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You can't damage anything if you get a 5.1 or 7.1 capable receiver and only run your front sound stage (R/L/C and sub). Your receiver can be setup for just as you described and you will still get very nice, discrete sound. The sides and rear speakers are mostly for "atmosphere" so while you may lose the immersive aspect of surround sound you will still be able to enjoy and listen to your source material. I only ran 3.1 for awhile with no issues at all until I figured out how I wanted to wire the sides. However, once you go to 5.1, there's no turning back

And it's Mr. Pylot, but you can call me Otto
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post #9 of 14 Old 07-21-2014, 06:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Otto Pylot View Post
You can't damage anything if you get a 5.1 or 7.1 capable receiver and only run your front sound stage (R/L/C and sub). Your receiver can be setup for just as you described and you will still get very nice, discrete sound. The sides and rear speakers are mostly for "atmosphere" so while you may lose the immersive aspect of surround sound you will still be able to enjoy and listen to your source material. I only ran 3.1 for awhile with no issues at all until I figured out how I wanted to wire the sides. However, once you go to 5.1, there's no turning back

And it's Mr. Pylot, but you can call me Otto
I guess Otto not call you a Mrs. then...lol

Thanks again for your help, it was what I expected but the only really stupid question is the one un-asked.

I will some research and maybe get back to this knowledgeable group for opinions. I am not finding many 3.1 ready to go speaker systems, a few. Thinking I might be better off getting a 5.1 and having a few spares or future upgrades since there are so many more choices in 5.1
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post #10 of 14 Old 07-21-2014, 09:34 PM
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Most often, people will keep their receivers and upgrade the speakers. A really good set of speakers can make a mediocre receiver sound great. But a bad set of speakers can make a great receiver sound bad. If you find a receiver that will meet your current and future needs, the nspend any extra money on the speakers. For the front sound stage (R/L/C) it's always best to buy from the same mfr because of timbre. That's not a hard fast rule but if you buy speakers as a set or separates (R/L and then C) chances are they are made out of the same materials and design so they will resonate very similar so the sound is much more balanced. The sub-woofer can be made by anyone. The sides/rears don't have to be the same as the fronts because 80%-90% (my estimates) of the sound comes from the fronts and the rest are just effects and atmosphere as I've mentioned. You could buy a 5.1 set of speakers and only use the fronts. Then, if you decide to upgrade the fronts down the road, you can always use the extra side speakers if you go 5.1 or even use the front R/L and rear speakers if you go 7.1. You didn't say what kind of speakers you want. Floor standing or bookshelf. There are many more options for floor standing but the prices can go up very rapidly.

I'd decide what you want in a receiver and then once you pick a receiver, that will give you an idea of how much you can spend for speakers. Or, look at the HTiB's from the three mfrs I suggested and pick up one that you can reasonably afford. The receiver will be nice and the speakers should be good enough to get you by until you can upgrade. I would stay away from HTiB's by Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, etc because quite often the speakers have proprietary connections which makes it difficult to upgrade because of the way they connect to the receiver. They can make nice systems just be wary of the receiver speaker connectors. You want to look for 5-way binding posts because those can take any type of speaker connection like bare wire, banana plug, etc.
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post #11 of 14 Old 07-23-2014, 04:05 PM - Thread Starter
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System I seem to be honing in on

Quote:
Originally Posted by Otto Pylot View Post
Most often, people will keep their receivers and upgrade the speakers. A really good set of speakers can make a mediocre receiver sound great. But a bad set of speakers can make a great receiver sound bad. If you find a receiver that will meet your current and future needs, the nspend any extra money on the speakers. For the front sound stage (R/L/C) it's always best to buy from the same mfr because of timbre. That's not a hard fast rule but if you buy speakers as a set or separates (R/L and then C) chances are they are made out of the same materials and design so they will resonate very similar so the sound is much more balanced. The sub-woofer can be made by anyone. The sides/rears don't have to be the same as the fronts because 80%-90% (my estimates) of the sound comes from the fronts and the rest are just effects and atmosphere as I've mentioned. You could buy a 5.1 set of speakers and only use the fronts. Then, if you decide to upgrade the fronts down the road, you can always use the extra side speakers if you go 5.1 or even use the front R/L and rear speakers if you go 7.1. You didn't say what kind of speakers you want. Floor standing or bookshelf. There are many more options for floor standing but the prices can go up very rapidly.

I'd decide what you want in a receiver and then once you pick a receiver, that will give you an idea of how much you can spend for speakers. Or, look at the HTiB's from the three mfrs I suggested and pick up one that you can reasonably afford. The receiver will be nice and the speakers should be good enough to get you by until you can upgrade. I would stay away from HTiB's by Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, etc because quite often the speakers have proprietary connections which makes it difficult to upgrade because of the way they connect to the receiver. They can make nice systems just be wary of the receiver speaker connectors. You want to look for 5-way binding posts because those can take any type of speaker connection like bare wire, banana plug, etc.
I think I have narrowed my AVR search down to the Denon AVR-E300 where I can get it factory refurbed at accessories4less for only $190

I liked the feel for the Pioneer by A Jones floor standing ($254/pair from Amazon) and either the matching Pioneer sub or the Dayton audio 12" sub for $129. Total cost about $573.

Add center channel later maybe because the way the TV and furniture are arranged no good place for a center right now. Surrounds later too if I feel a need to.

This is by no means a final decision either but feels right.

See any holes?
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post #12 of 14 Old 07-23-2014, 06:04 PM
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Not a bad matchup but without a Center channel, you're going to be missing a lot. Dialog will be relegated to the R/L and possible the sub (depending on where you set the x-over). I didn't look at the specs of the Pioneers so I don't know what size of drivers they have. Pushing the dialog to the fronts will take away some of the response because the drivers will have to "share" the lower frequencies which are typical for the center channel.
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post #13 of 14 Old 07-23-2014, 06:19 PM - Thread Starter
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You're probably right but once I get this in place I'll see how obtrusive a center speaker will be.

In another thread here on AVS quite a few folks we very high on the Pioneer even written up in a audiophile website as being tremendous for the cost.
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post #14 of 14 Old 07-23-2014, 09:54 PM
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I have not heard the Pioneer's so I can't comment on them. I'd listen to them first if possible. Specs are one thing but your ears are what count. Regardless of the speakers, the better you can separate the frequencies and response, the more "complete" your sound will be.
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