surround sound options for 2 channel guys? - AVS Forum
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:05 AM - Thread Starter
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This always seems like such an obvious thing to me I can't understand why no one makes a product that fills this niche... If they do, I haven't seen it but would love to.

If you're like me, you enjoy TV but you LOVE music. I have a 2 channel system that I like just fine. But it would be nice to have a little surround sound in my life from time to time. But I can't justify the expense of replacing my existing system. I just want to hear the bugs flying around me when I someday watch Avatar at home or the bullets ricochet around the room. But I don't think it's worth the money it would cost to replace my receiver and speakers.

It seems like it would be so easy to make an add on component that did the following. Provide 5.1 decoding and then amplification for the additional speakers only. So you'd connect it between the HD source and the stereo. The L&R mains feed into your existing stereo. But center and rear channels would have power and drive some smallish speakers. A sub out might be nice but probably not even necessary as if you have a good 2 channel system you either already have a sub or your speakers already have enough low end. I personally believe I'd get adequate center and rear channel sound from very inexpensive speakers for those moments.

The net net is I'd still have the music system I enjoy but a little surround spice now and then for movies, football, some games, and that's about it. If the speakers are modest the thing shouldn't even cost much.

Anyone agree? Ever see such a thing?
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfereeno View Post

Ever see such a thing?


sort of. but you wouldnt be able to do it without (possibly) replacing equipment.

some 2ch pre-amps (Emotiva's USP-1 and Parasound's 2100 come to mind), will let you bypass the pre-amp for an HT source; meaning you could use a low to mid quality HT receiver (like a Yamaha or some other common brand), and use that for all HT purposes, and then use your Emotiva, Parasound, or any other properly featured equipment for 2ch. the idea is that you'll use a big beefy 2ch amp, like Emo's XPA-2 or Para's 2250, which would cost $1000's to have a HT setup of that quality.

the way i mentioned would give you the inputs and electronic goodies of an HT receiver. the advantage to doing this, over creating a component like you mentioned is, should you choose to do this and later dismantle the setup, you can still have two independent amplification sources, the HT receiver and your (implied to be existing) 2ch gear.

so, you can KIND OF do that, but just not in the way you mentioned. i should also mention that i am not 100% sure that all my info is correct; i have never done this, and have not researched it much beyond what i just explained. so forgive me if im ill-informed.

also, i have no bias to Parasound or Emotiva, those are jsut two pre-amps that come to mind that have the HT bypass

2.0 > 7.1
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks! But that sounds expensive.

I think I'd be happy with rear / center speaker quality similar to an < $200 pair of PC speakers. Pretty much just home theater in a box quality.

I've toyed with the idea of looking for one of those cheap HTIAB setups and just not using the front left and right speakers.
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:46 AM
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What is your current 2 ch setup? Integrated or separates?

You could get an inexpensive AVR (like this refurbed Marantz sr4002 for $300 and send the L/R pre-outs to your stereo amp for movies and have your CD go straight to your current setup for music.

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Old 02-17-2010, 10:48 AM
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unfortunately, it is somewhat expensive.

what you could do, is whenever it becomes time to upgrade your receiver/amp, get a nice high-current HT receiver, and just use lower quality surrounds if that is not your priority

2.0 > 7.1
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:50 AM - Thread Starter
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my current setup is nothing super fancy but works great for me.

NAD 712 receiver
sound dynamic 300 ti speakers
rega planer 3 tt.
NAD cd player
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Old 02-17-2010, 11:10 AM
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For me it's all about 2 channel too but I recently went the other way and separated my 2 channel stuff from all things video.

I added what amounts to a simple "home theater in a box" system to my TV and am in the process of upgrading my 2 channel stuff back into something more serious again.

Hopefully, my old clunky 5.1 receiver will find itself powering garage speakers by this summer never to return into the house again!
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Old 02-17-2010, 11:17 AM
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How much are you willing to spend (sub + centre = rears + electronics)?

In the centre, could you place another bookshelf or will you need a "standard" compromise centre design? You really want this speaker to timbre match your L/R mains.

How many people will watch movies at once? If the sweet spot is small you may get away with a phantom centre.

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Old 02-17-2010, 11:23 AM - Thread Starter
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< $1K. (maybe even much less)

Above that it would be easier to replace the reciever with a video model.
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Old 02-17-2010, 11:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfereeno View Post

So you'd connect it between the HD source and the stereo. The L&R mains feed into your existing stereo. But center and rear channels would have power and drive some smallish speakers.

The problem with this idea is you'll have major timbre mismatch issues between your nice 2 channel speakers and your inexpensive center. Considering the center speaker is the most important in a multi-channel set-up, it could be very annoying when the center is not up to snuff, particularly for movies, but even for sports with the majority of the commentary coming from the sub-par center.

Having said that, if that doesn't bother you, you could look into an inexpensive 3.1 speaker system designed for a PC. Ideally you would then hook them up to the RCA jacks of your DVD player or set-top box for the center and surround channels, and use your existing stereo mains for the front channels. Only problem is I'm not sure what kind of connections these 3.1 speakers usually offer, so it may involve using some adapters. But it should solve your problem and you wouldn't have to buy another receiver as these PC speaker usually have their own power source.
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Old 02-17-2010, 11:41 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm not too worried about timbre matching with the speakers.

Unfortunately none of my existing equipment has center or rear outputs. The TV is a pio kuro monitor and just has lr front outputs.
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Old 02-17-2010, 11:47 AM
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What will you be playing the movies on? Is buying a Blu-ray player part of that $1000?

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Old 02-17-2010, 11:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Already have a PS3 for blue ray. Otherwise I just watch my time warner dvr.

Thanks!
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Old 02-17-2010, 12:19 PM
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Here's some options:

- Marantz sr4002 $300 (assumes you are happy with the surround audio the PS3 can send via PCM on HDMI)

- Russound AB-3.2, this allows the Marantz and NAD to both be connected to the mains, $90

- eD A2-300 sub, $350

- phantom centre, $0

- side surrounds, $250 or less

Gives you a 4.1 for movies and your current 2.0 setup for music (although I'm a fan of subs for music so I might be inclined to look at an HSU STF-2, not as good for HT but better for music).

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Old 02-17-2010, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfereeno View Post

I'm not too worried about timbre matching with the speakers.

Unfortunately none of my existing equipment has center or rear outputs. The TV is a pio kuro monitor and just has lr front outputs.

What about your DVD player? If it has analog outs, then you can use those.

Your "dilemma" reminds me of a similar situation I was in once. Probably around 15 years ago I had a JVC CD changer/receiver combo. This was before DVDs, 5.1, and HTiB. The combo actually had Dolby Pro-logic and had channels for the surrounds, but strangely did not provide power for them. So basically I had to find a pair of speakers with its own amp to use as surrounds. What I settled with was these cheap Bose sub/sat knock-off PC speakers that cost less than $50. At the time, they were amazing as PC speakers, providing real volume and bass when most other PC speakers were tiny AM sounding atrocities that could barely outperform laptop speakers. You were lucky if they required a power source which meant they were slightly better, but not much. As "real" speakers, though, they were total crap. Anyway, I bought a pair of these and hooked them up to my JVC receiver as the surrounds.

It was great as it gave me "surround" for both listening to CDs and also watching TV as I had that hooked up as well. The only problem was that these Bose knockoffs were even worse than these JVC CD changer/receiver combo speakers, which surprisingly weren't too bad for a smaller space and had great bass for it's size. Even as surrounds, the timbre mismatch was completely noticeable. Later on, when DVDs rolled around, I hooked them up directly into the DVD player to the surround outputs. That way, they were totally discrete surround speakers and not matrixed when it was playing through my JVC receiver using Dolby Pro-logic. I remember one scene watching "Being John Malkovich" where they were inside his head and you could hear his voice as coming from the rear speakers. I remember clearly because the timbre mismatch was so disconcerting, and it was the first time I realized how important timbre matching was.

Anyway, it was a fun way to get "surround" back then, even it was a bit of a ghetto set-up. I think in your situation, I would recommend doing something similar, thought probably with nicer, more expensive PC speakers, which abound a plenty these days. Make sure they have their own power source, and probably volume control if you need to hook it up directly to the DVD player.

I would forget the center and just use a "phantom" center though. You'd get much better results using your nice stereo speakers to do center duties than buying a cheap center speaker. That way, you avoid timbre mismatch where it matters most, and you'll save $$$ to boot.
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:00 PM
 
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Not super difficult to do. All you really need is a decent line-level audio switcher, assuming you have separate amplifiers. You can just get any surround receiver with pre-outs, and connect that and the existin preamp outputs to your audio switcher, which then goes to your existing amp for the front two channels. Add other channels off the new receiver as needed for 5.1 or 7.1 whatever.

Or if you have a pre-amp with an HT passthrough or digital volume or some kind of volume control so you can set it to the same level each time so you can maintain calibration in the receiver, then that accomplishes the same thing.
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfereeno View Post

This always seems like such an obvious thing to me I can't understand why no one makes a product that fills this niche...

It wouldn't cost appreciably less to build than a full 5.1 receiver and the significantly smaller market size would mean that it would need to cost more to amortize development and marketting costs.

It's been done (the Adcom GSA 700 combined a Dolby Prologic surround pre-amp plus three channels of amplification along with a DB25 pin input for the GDD-1 outboard Dolby Digital decoder) but isn't a very good idea.

Quote:


If you're like me, you enjoy TV but you LOVE music. I have a 2 channel system that I like just fine. But it would be nice to have a little surround sound in my life from time to time. But I can't justify the expense of replacing my existing system. I just want to hear the bugs flying around me when I someday watch Avatar at home or the bullets ricochet around the room. But I don't think it's worth the money it would cost to replace my receiver and speakers.

You don't have to replace your speakers. Skipping the center channel will work better than a small one with potentially poor placement. Just add a pair of surrounds.

Quote:


A sub out might be nice but probably not even necessary as if you have a good 2 channel system you either already have a sub or your speakers already have enough low end.

Unless your speakers are bigger than a grown man and you're pushing 1000 Watts a side you won't have the bass headroom you can get with a sub-woofer.

Quote:


Anyone agree? Ever see such a thing?

Buying a new receiver will probably be least expensive. Whether or not to retain your current receiver for front channel amplification is a separate issue.
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Old 02-17-2010, 04:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone for your help and advice.

Odds are I'll replace the NAD someday. And then gradually add rear speakers.

Now, as to how to decide on speakers that voice well with my SD 300's I have no idea.

I thought about replacing them too but the reviews still rock for them. I think I got lucky when I picked them up.

So why's the Adcom GSA 700 a bad idea?
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Old 02-18-2010, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfereeno View Post

So why's the Adcom GSA 700 a bad idea?

There's a huge market that wants everything in one box. Large volumes means such products can be sold inexpensively. Fierce competition means they are sold for little money. You can actually buy a new surround receiver with 5 channels of amplification for under $200.

There's a small market that wants their amplifiers separate. Small volumes means that development and marketing cost are high on a per-unit basis. Parts cost is higher due to low quantities. They have to cost more. They're premium products that their markets will pay more for. $1000 seems to be a current entry point for preamp/processors and multi-channel amplifiers for a $2000 package price.

There probably aren't very many people who are willing to pay for a premium product which also has only three channels of amplification in the same box.

People who just want to use their existing (more powerful, better, shinier, etc) two-channel amplifier but not buy a multi-channel amp can get one of the mass-market receivers and just not use the front channel amplifiers via either pre-outs or a speaker to line level converter.

As far as the old Adcom, it's pro-logic only. You need another box do decode Dolby Digital and aren't going to get the new surround formats (maybe even DTS). The combination will probably cost more used than an entry level receiver (which might take speaker to line level adapters to use with your existing amplification, or a speaker level switch if you just want it to co-exist).
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