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post #1 of 14 Old 07-16-2012, 04:59 PM - Thread Starter
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I have a rather old surround sound setup. The "heart" of which is a Pioneer VSX-462S. The front channel is a pair of Technic tower speakers (SBA-28) rated at 240W @ 8ohms each. Rear speakers are Kenwood's (CRS-300) at 40W each @ 8 ohms, and the center channel (yes, glorious 4.1? surround, from a Dolby Pro-logic I capable receiver) is a Kenwood (CRS-300) at 100W @ 8 ohms.

I realize that my setup is fairly ancient. I've been planning on replacing it for quite some time. What I'd like to do is keep the speakers if at all possible. But from the (somewhat limited) research I've done so far tells me that most affordable receivers these days will only put out half, or just over half the power these speakers are rated for, and that its better to have an over powered amp, rather than an underpowered amp. What gets me is that the prices for receivers that can go anywhere near 240W per channel starts getting pretty (imo) ridiculous. I don't actually know how much this receiver was brand new, but I can't imagine it was anywhere near what a 240W/channel capable receiver is these days (of course I could be wrong, I really don't know).

I really do like the volume this system can push out without any really noticeable artifacts. Its also rather clear at any normal volume level. I've yet to experience this setup with the volume knob turned much past half way (At least while I'm inside the building).

To me, clarity at any volume level is pretty important. I can not stand clipping. I also don't much like too much bass or treble. I might just be an audio snob, but not to such a degree that I'll spend $10k or more on an entire system wink.gif (5k /maybe/, and that includes a TV).

Basically this new system I want to put together would be my first. I inherited this old stuff from a family member when he moved.

I guess my basic requirements in a receiver are:

1. It has to sound clear and crisp (I know this is a subjective description, but I can't think of an objective way to explain it), clipping, too much bass, or other artifacts annoy the crap out of me.
2. It needs to be able to get loud for movies and such, BUT and its a big but, vocals and music still needs to be audible over bass. and at lower volumes, it can't sound too trebley (is that even a word?).
3. I would very much like good analog to digital video up-scaling, composite or component video input is a must.
4. At least 3-4 HDMI inputs.
5. lots of building shaking bass is nice, but as per above, I'd still like to be able to hear the rest of the audio over it.
6. It should sound better than what I have, especially the surround sound. I imagine this isn't too hard to manage, ProLogic is pretty crap.

TL;DR:

1. Should I keep or replace my old speakers.
1 a. If I keep them, is there a reasonably priced receiver that can drive them properly?
1 b. if I should get new speakers, what's good yet not wallet killing?
2. What is a good, yet reasonably priced ($1-2k?) receiver with (GOOD) analog->digital upscaling is good?

Please keep in mind I'm rather stingy. So plopping $5k or more (I'd prefer to stick to $2k or less tbh) on just the receiver and speakers is likely a no-go for me.

I'm open to (almost any) suggestions smile.gif


append: I apologize if this is the wrong forum section. I think I had intended to have more info/questions about my entire setup, rather than just my receiver and speakers. If it does belong in the receiver section, I'd like to ask a mod to move this thread. If that doesn't happen on this forum, I can repost to the receiver section, but I don't think its a great idea to double post like that.
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post #2 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 07:31 AM
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Power with regard to speakers and amplifiers is a very slippery concept. Is the rating for peak, RMS, dynamic, or MyBluePlateSpecial power:?

I think you will find that the speakers will handle less power than the amp. In general, it is usually better to have spare amplifier power. As an amplifier approaches its limits, it starts distorting the signal by clipping or compressing the peaks. The clipping produces some nasty transients and these are very hard on tweeters. This is what causes most speaker failures.

That said, a $2k budget will buy a pretty good upgrade to a 5.1 system. I would budget as follows:
receiver $500 (Denon 1912/1913 or your favorite brand)
Subwoofer $500 (Hsu, Velodyne, Klipsch)
Mains $400 (Your choice of many brands)
Center $300 (Match mains, as good as you can afford)
Surrounds $300 (same thing)

I don't recommend brands on speakers because they are such a personal choice. I am partial to better Klipsch, but others hate them. I am also becomming the minority, but I suggest going for a better 5.1 system for now and save up for the other two surrounds later. The $300 will be better spent on upgrading your LCR speakers than on adding rear surrounds that stay mostly silent.
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post #3 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 10:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Power with regard to speakers and amplifiers is a very slippery concept. Is the rating for peak, RMS, dynamic, or MyBluePlateSpecial power:?
I believe all the speakers I have now say "MAX INPUT POWER" so that is probably peak. The towers both have two numbers, "MUSIC" and "DIN". For the former its the 240W rating, and the latter its 120W.
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I think you will find that the speakers will handle less power than the amp. In general, it is usually better to have spare amplifier power. As an amplifier approaches its limits, it starts distorting the signal by clipping or compressing the peaks. The clipping produces some nasty transients and these are very hard on tweeters. This is what causes most speaker failures.
This is the conclusion I came to when doing a little research, which is what prompted the post in the first place. A receiver that can actually have spare amplifier power when using the speakers I currently have would seem to be a very expensive high end unit. Everything I hear about receivers these days is they just can't get as loud as they could ten or so years ago. About half is what I consistently hear, and that's about where I like the level on my receiver when watching some movies, which is hardly pushing it at all, but with a new receiver that would probably push it into its upper range, possibly leading to noise frown.gif I hope I'm wrong about that.
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That said, a $2k budget will buy a pretty good upgrade to a 5.1 system. I would budget as follows:
receiver $500 (Denon 1912/1913 or your favorite brand)
I was looking earlier, and It doesn't seem a $500 receiver would actually get me decent analog->digital upscaling.

And last but not least, I don't think my current room can utilize a full 7.1 setup, it would probably be a waste of money to bother with it till I moved. Right now my couch is right against the back wall, with a 10-12' space between it and the TV (I will be getting a nice 42 or 52" screen, so the distance will likely be required).

Thanks for the tips, I appreciate it smile.gif
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post #4 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 02:30 PM
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Analog upconversion was a big selling point several years ago, but has kind of died down in the level of promotion. However, the mid-level receivers still support analog upconversion. In that $500 price range you can find the feature in the Denon 1913 and the Onkyo 616 and 515. I didn't bother to research the Yamaha or Pioneer lines, but I would expect similar features in a $500 receiver.

Try CNET for more detailed reviews.

Edit: Let me also add that most receivers will allow you to drive them into clipping. You are looking for clean audio on transients, and that is actually why you want more power. A signal that averages 5 watts will work well with an efficient speaker, but music can have 100 watt transients in the 5 watt signal. Nobody listens to a sine wave.

I also mentioned speaker efficiency. Some speakers will put out more clean sound at a lower input power level. Klipsch is noted for its efficiency, and there are other brands that are quite efficient as well. In my setup, I run Klipsch KG4s as mains and center and seldom run my THX amp at a level above -16 dBm. That coupled with a good sub does a good job of filling my 13x20 ft theater.
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post #5 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 03:14 PM - Thread Starter
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I was looking at some Onkyos online, and the 616 and 515 seemed to be the only ones in the x1x (313, 414, 515, 616) range that really seemed to have the features and price range I was looking for (based on the comparison data table here) Though the 616 is a bit above $500, heck at the online store I normally deal with, the 515 is over $500. The 616 atm is on special for $600, while the 515 is $550, so if I were to get one asap, it'd probably be the 616, cause whats an extra $50?

But I will be putting in some more research.
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Let me also add that most receivers will allow you to drive them into clipping.
I'll bet I can drive my old one into clipping, but I've never attempted it. I can't without permanently damaging my ears. The room the system is sitting in is 14 feet (couch wall to tv wall), by say 15 feet, not including the kitchen area that isn't separated from the main living room space at all ("open concept"). Essentially the two rooms make up 1/3 or a bit more of the entire square footage of my house (700sqf total). Going much past half volume on properly mixed/encoded audio gets rather tough to deal with. 3/4 and I can't stand to be in the living room at all. And even then its still not clipping.
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I also mentioned speaker efficiency. Some speakers will put out more clean sound at a lower input power level. Klipsch is noted for its efficiency, and there are other brands that are quite efficient as well. In my setup, I run Klipsch KG4s as mains and center and seldom run my THX amp at a level above -16 dBm. That coupled with a good sub does a good job of filling my 13x20 ft theater.
I'll definitely have to look into that.
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post #6 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Tomasu View Post

I have a rather old surround sound setup. The "heart" of which is a Pioneer VSX-462S. The front channel is a pair of Technic tower speakers (SBA-28) rated at 240W @ 8ohms each. Rear speakers are Kenwood's (CRS-300) at 40W each @ 8 ohms, and the center channel (yes, glorious 4.1? surround, from a Dolby Pro-logic I capable receiver) is a Kenwood (CRS-300) at 100W @ 8 ohms.
I realize that my setup is fairly ancient. I've been planning on replacing it for quite some time. What I'd like to do is keep the speakers if at all possible. But from the (somewhat limited) research I've done so far tells me that most affordable receivers these days will only put out half, or just over half the power these speakers are rated for, and that its better to have an over powered amp, rather than an underpowered amp. What gets me is that the prices for receivers that can go anywhere near 240W per channel starts getting pretty (imo) ridiculous. I don't actually know how much this receiver was brand new, but I can't imagine it was anywhere near what a 240W/channel capable receiver is these days (of course I could be wrong, I really don't know).

First, the "ratings" on speakers are just "maximum" values. That receiver is probably "rated" at 100W/ch, but how much clean power it actually delivered is another story. Regardless, a modern receiver of 100W/ch or something in that range will produce ample power - certainly the same if not more than what you're getting currently...
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To me, clarity at any volume level is pretty important. I can not stand clipping. I also don't much like too much bass or treble. I might just be an audio snob, but not to such a degree that I'll spend $10k or more on an entire system wink.gif (5k /maybe/, and that includes a TV).

You should never be driving an amp into clipping, and you won't unless you're, well, "doing it on purpose"... wink.gif
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1. It has to sound clear and crisp (I know this is a subjective description, but I can't think of an objective way to explain it), clipping, too much bass, or other artifacts annoy the crap out of me.
2. It needs to be able to get loud for movies and such, BUT and its a big but, vocals and music still needs to be audible over bass. and at lower volumes, it can't sound too trebley (is that even a word?).
3. I would very much like good analog to digital video up-scaling, composite or component video input is a must.
4. At least 3-4 HDMI inputs.
5. lots of building shaking bass is nice, but as per above, I'd still like to be able to hear the rest of the audio over it.
6. It should sound better than what I have, especially the surround sound. I imagine this isn't too hard to manage, ProLogic is pretty crap.

Any modern receiver will do all of these... Even an entry-level $150 model from a reputable maker... Step up, though, to get more features and more power (for headroom).
Quote:
1. Should I keep or replace my old speakers.
1 a. If I keep them, is there a reasonably priced receiver that can drive them properly?
1 b. if I should get new speakers, what's good yet not wallet killing?

Well, taking an educated guess this system is from the early 90's. My Kenwood speakers of that era (mid-80's) fell apart after ~18 years. But no reason to do everything at once. Get yourself a new receiver, perhaps one with Internet support so you can gain some cool sources like Pandora, etc. Then think about replacing the L/C/R speakers, with a matching set from the same maker. After that, add a subwoofer. The surrounds from that era are, putting it kindly, quite poor, but should be the last of the batch to be replaced (priority-wise).
Quote:
2. What is a good, yet reasonably priced ($1-2k?) receiver with (GOOD) analog->digital upscaling is good?
Please keep in mind I'm rather stingy. So plopping $5k or more (I'd prefer to stick to $2k or less tbh) on just the receiver and speakers is likely a no-go for me.
I'm open to (almost any) suggestions smile.gif

I wouldn't call a $2k receiver/speaker budget stingy... I agree with the breakdown others have posted, with ~$500 towards the receiver. However, I'd push a lot more of the rest of the budget to the L/C/R speakers, as they're much more important for overall music performance and movies, too (center channel for that, especially). Spend more on the mains, less on the sub/surrounds. Lots of decent subs in the $200-300 range, and possible to get by easily with $100 surrounds depending on what's left over.

And yes, speakers are a very personal choice, and can also depend on the types of music you listen to. I'm a big Martin-Logan fan, and their Motion series are quite good and in your price range. But just please go listen for yourself to any of the major brands and pick from there. Take your own music with you (best to burn a CD with some favorite tracks).

On the video upconverting question - it's a common feature now, and they'll all do it more than adequately. But what are source are you using it for these days? DVD's play in a BD player which will have scaling, true analog sources like VHS - yikes! - there's only so much you can do... biggrin.gif

Jeff

EDIT: Missed the center channel mentioned in the post...

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post #7 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 05:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Any modern receiver will do all of these... Even an entry-level $150 model from a reputable maker...
Based on prior history with "entry level" equipment, I doubt that statement. Maybe its different in the audio space, but generally I've found entry level anything to be rather poor.
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I wouldn't call a $2k receiver/speaker budget stingy...
To be honest, I don't really want to go over $1k. I still want to get a decent TV. (and couch, and recliner, and and and... trying very hard not to spend too much)
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On the video upconverting question - it's a common feature now, and they'll all do it more than adequately. But what are source are you using it for these days? DVD's play in a BD player which will have scaling, true analog sources like VHS - yikes! - there's only so much you can do...
Heh, no. I got rid of my last vcr a year ago I think. Main reason for upconverting is for my Wii. I currently don't have a screen I can actually play it on, without passing it through a video capture card (PVR150 if you're curious, have three of them that really aren't any use to me anymore), after I got rid of my 80s era floor mount wooden cabinet TV, and a bunch of other misc CRTs (didn't have the room anymore). I may also want to connect my NES, SNES, and N64 at some point for nostalgia's sake.
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post #8 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Tomasu View Post

Based on prior history with "entry level" equipment, I doubt that statement. Maybe its different in the audio space, but generally I've found entry level anything to be rather poor.

From a major receiver manufacturer like Onkyo, Denon, etc., even their entry models are better than fine. The "junk" in the audio world (which used to be the "trimodes" back in the 80's) is now in the "Home Theater in a Box (HTiB)" category (not all are junk, but a lot are). Anyone buying a standalone receiver is already committing to a mid-level system (in the broad market sense). A lot has changed in audio over the years - producing a decent receiver is much easier today. Will you get better for more money, yes. But from a sound quality difference, not going to hear much better. Put it this way - an extra $200 put into speakers will get you a lot more bang for your buck. All that said, receivers in the ~$300-500 (talking street price, not MSRP) range add all the Internet/networking support, and increase the power per channel, and move to 7.1 support along with multiple zone options...
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To be honest, I don't really want to go over $1k.

Ok, now you're just being stingy... biggrin.gifbiggrin.gifbiggrin.gif
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Main reason for upconverting is for my Wii. I currently don't have a screen I can actually play it on.

Really? You sure? Wii will hook up to just about anything - its got composite video output! And it's not even an HD product. Are you out of inputs on your TV or something? You using a computer monitor?

If you must upconvert a Wii - there are "Wii HDMI adapters" that can do that for you...

Jeff

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post #9 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 07:58 PM - Thread Starter
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From a major receiver manufacturer like Onkyo, Denon, etc., even their entry models are better than fine. The "junk" in the audio world (which used to be the "trimodes" back in the 80's) is now in the "Home Theater in a Box (HTiB)" category (not all are junk, but a lot are). Anyone buying a standalone receiver is already committing to a mid-level system (in the broad market sense). A lot has changed in audio over the years - producing a decent receiver is much easier today. Will you get better for more money, yes. But from a sound quality difference, not going to hear much better. Put it this way - an extra $200 put into speakers will get you a lot more bang for your buck. All that said, receivers in the ~$300-500 (talking street price, not MSRP) range add all the Internet/networking support, and increase the power per channel, and move to 7.1 support along with multiple zone options...
I hope you're right.
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Ok, now you're just being stingy...
wink.gif Lets put it this way, up till recently I've been uber broke all my life. Old habits die hard. Any time I see numbers in the high three digits or 4 digits my brain gives me a slap. "No! Bad Human."
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Really? You sure? Wii will hook up to just about anything - its got composite video output! And it's not even an HD product. Are you out of inputs on your TV or something? You using a computer monitor?
Maybe its just me, but I'd like things to hook up to the same place. Probably not required. But since the Wii only outputs analog, and all modern displays are digital, you need /something/ converting the composite or component signal up to digital. I figured it was best to get a receiver that could do it all. Especially considering a lot of displays like to suck at the conversion. Or so I've read anyhow. Either the de-interlacing is wrong, or the scaling is wrong, or who knows what else.
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You using a computer monitor?
Currently yes (21" 1080p). I do intend to get a large (42-52"+) TV in the future, but the screen is not quite as important to me as sound and comfort is. Right now I have to use a cheap hdmi switch to flip back and forth between the hd cable box and my htpc, and the bluray player that I haven't even used yet :-x. And I'll need to get a new couch sooner rather than later. Ugh.
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post #10 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 09:14 PM
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http://www.amazon.com/Video-Audio-Converter-1080P-Output/dp/B0057UNPQO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1342584770&sr=8-3&keywords=HdmI+wii

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post #11 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 09:24 PM - Thread Starter
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What is the point of that if I have a decent receiver that can do the upconverting better than that little dongle? Then of course theres the older consoles I might like to plug in.
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post #12 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Tomasu View Post

What is the point of that if I have a decent receiver that can do the upconverting better than that little dongle? Then of course theres the older consoles I might like to plug in.

It's an option for now, depending on when you're planning on an AVR... You didn't mention the other consoles.

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post #13 of 14 Old 07-17-2012, 11:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jautor View Post

It's an option for now, depending on when you're planning on an AVR... You didn't mention the other consoles.
Indeed. I appreciate the tip, I wasn't really aware they made those. The price isn't too awful. Last time I looked for a good ADC device, it was over $100, and some still didn't do upscaling. I did mention the other consoles, up in message #7. But maybe I hid that a little too well.
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post #14 of 14 Old 07-18-2012, 08:19 AM
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This has moved on quite a bit since I last posted yesterday. I disagree with jautor on entry level receivers all doing upconversion. The lowest level models do not do this and the point where the feature is added varies. For example Onkyo adds upconversion at the 515 receiver which sells for under $400, while Denon first offers it at the 1913 which generally sells around $500.

I have a Wii connected to an older Onkyo (605) and the upconversion works great. I recommend this feature simply because it is in your budget and it greatly adds to the convenience factor. Unless you have upconversion, you need to switch inputs at both the receiver and the TV and that is not family friendly. Also, in addition to analog upconversion, these receivers will also convert digital to a fixed resolution (say 1080P) which helps if your TV can't display all resolutions, or has problems with lower quality at different resolutions.

In addition to the Wii, I also have an old laserdisk player connected because I have a large library that is going to take time to replace. Some titles will likely never be available on newer media. But that is just me, and probably doesn't affect many others.
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