Question: 2 channel vs. 5.1 - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 08:07 AM - Thread Starter
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I am a rookie. you will figure it out by reading my post. :) That is why i need your opinion.

I am trying to build a home theatre myself. I have already got an optoma H31 projector to watch DVD. Now i need audio and i budget about $1000 for it. i plan to use it to watch DVD and listen some pop music. But i am struggling how to spend it wisely.

I have a friend who is a Hifi fan suggests me to spend on two relatively good quality speaker instead of 5.1 to get decent audio quality. His opinion is that good quality audio from two good speaker would be better than noise from 5+1 crappy speakers.

I am not sure if it is correct because i have never get chance to compare those two options. Therefore, i would like to ask your opinion. Does it feel better to watch movie with two good speakers than 5.1?

Plus, regardless which side you stand for, do you have any recommendation for a speaker+receiver combination for my budget? I am open to used too.

Thanks a lot!
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post #2 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 08:22 AM
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Listen around to see what your ears like. It may turn out that $1000 can buy equipment that you would be more then happy with but someone else would not. It all depends on your ears and tastes.

The advantage I see to starting out with a 2 channel setup, if you don't like you can add the rest over time. Personally I do like a stereo setup, but some movies just don't sound as good.

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post #3 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 08:22 AM
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Your friend is correct...

You could go with a integrated amp or stereo receiver and a decent pair of bookshelfs...

...then, down the road, you can upgrade (and sell or recolate the amp to the office/bedroom/etc...); keep the book shelfs up front and add a center (eventually upgrade to bigger bookshelfs or towers and relocate the orginal bookshelfs to the rears).

If you can stretch your budget, you can get a decent $500 receiver (Pioneer 1015 or related) and it will hold you off for a while; and, PM me if you are interested in some decent speakers to start with (5 or 7 speakers).

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post #4 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 08:27 AM
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Your budget is small, but you should be able to find some quality speakers for that price. Ascendacoustics.com comes to mind, but I am not keeping a receiver price in mind; this is strictly speakers. If you can, raise your budget to $1500 and put $1000-$1100 towards the speakers.

If the 5 speakers are just horrible, a decent 2.1 system may sound better. However, you can get a good 5-channel package for $1000, so your friend is off base. Not to mention, the true answer lays in the eye of the beholder, or rather the ear of the listener in this case. For movies, 5.1 trumps 2.1 no question in my opinion. Perhaps your friend was suggesting to start with a strong 2.1 system and then add on to it when your budget allows?

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post #5 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 08:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldschool4life
You could go with a integrated amp or stereo receiver and a decent pair of bookshelfs...
while i do agree that you're better off starting with two speakers than splitting your speaker budget 6 ways, i don't know if an integrated amp or stereo receiver would be the best option...

if you're planning on watching a lot of DVDs, this setup would require you to output a stereo downmix from the DVD player... you wouldn't have the ability to trim the channels before the downmix...

the exagerrated dynamics of movies would probably swallow a lot of the dialogue and make movies less enjoyable, or even unwatchable.

music is the best.
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post #6 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 08:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VicAjax
while i do agree that you're better off starting with two speakers than splitting your speaker budget 6 ways, i don't know if an integrated amp or stereo receiver would be the best option...

if you're planning on watching a lot of DVDs, this setup would require you to output a stereo downmix from the DVD player... you wouldn't have the ability to trim the channels before the downmix...

the exagerrated dynamics of movies would probably swallow a lot of the dialogue and make movies less enjoyable, or even unwatchable.
The original poster should also look at HOW they're upgrading...

...if I had nothing, I would buy the integrated because I would relocate the integrated elsewhere in the home when I upgrade.

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post #7 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 08:40 AM
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Quote:
the exagerrated dynamics of movies would probably swallow a lot of the dialogue and make movies less enjoyable, or even unwatchable.
Actually, it would make the movies boring for the opposite reason... no dynamics. The stereo output of the DVD player will have Dynamic Range Control (midnight mode) enabed on Dolby Digital content. This is fine if in an apartment and you don't want to disturb the neighbours, but otherwise a huge compromise. Also, using a stereo receiver means no LFE sub content.

Actually, it appears that even using 2.1 or even 4.1 downmixed from a proper HT receiver (rather than a stereo receiver) will also engage midnight mode and degrade your dynamics by 10 to 18 dB.

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post #8 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 08:52 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psgcdn
Actually, it would make the movies boring for the opposite reason... no dynamics. The stereo output of the DVD player will have Dynamic Range Control (midnight mode) enabed on Dolby Digital content. This is fine if in an apartment and you don't want to disturb the neighbours, but otherwise a huge compromise. Also, using a stereo receiver means no LFE sub content.

Actually, it appears that even using 2.1 or even 4.1 downmixed from a proper HT receiver (rather than a stereo receiver) will also engage midnight mode and degrade your dynamics by 10 to 18 dB.
My DVD player offers DRC as an option, but I can turn it on or off.
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post #9 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 08:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psgcdn
Actually, it would make the movies boring for the opposite reason... no dynamics. The stereo output of the DVD player will have Dynamic Range Control (midnight mode) enabed on Dolby Digital content. This is fine if in an apartment and you don't want to disturb the neighbours, but otherwise a huge compromise. Also, using a stereo receiver means no LFE sub content.

Actually, it appears that even using 2.1 or even 4.1 downmixed from a proper HT receiver (rather than a stereo receiver) will also engage midnight mode and degrade your dynamics by 10 to 18 dB.
hmmm... interesting. i was unaware of that. when i was running my 6 yr old sony av receiver in 3.1, it did not compress dynamics unless i asked it to (which i did, as i live in an apt).

so... does the dialogue on movies get punched up for the 2-channel analogue outs on DVD players?

music is the best.
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post #10 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 09:42 AM
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Panny XR55 with a AV123 X-cs and 4 X-LS and X sub or dayton sub should about hit that and have a great sounding system.
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post #11 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 09:51 AM
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I am trying to build a fairly good home theater setup as well on a limited budget. My approach has been to buy good speakers (not necessarily expensive) and an older A/V receiver first focusing on a 3.0 system (LCR).

For instance, I have got an old Technics 410 receiver for $35 from a buddy at work. This gives me Dolby Surround in two forms Surround (Left/Center/Right/Mono Surround) and 3 Channel Stereo (Left/Center/Right with the surround shared through the other channels) as well as an LFE output(Subwoofer). Note that this is all ANALOG.

My next step was to buy speakers to replace the crappy Sony bookshelves I had from a minsystem circa mid-1980's. So you see I really had nothing. Of course my wifes budget on this was $0.00. I was going to go with Klipsch RB35's, but after much research I decided on Infinity Primus 150's ($94 for the pair). I did this really because I wanted floorstanders (could not afford them yet) and I could always use the 150's as surrounds or use them in another room. Amazing little speakers.

The next step that I just completed was to get a center channel speaker and/or matching Left and right fronts. Being impressed with the Infiniti's after about a year of use at our usual listening volumes (and higher when the wife and/or kids are out) I looked at them again. Basically I threw out getting any more Primus line, because all I had read was buy the best center channel you can afford and the Primus Center all though good was not good enough and the Primus 360's were OK for floorstanders (and you could have any color as long as it was black). The Infinity Beta C360 Center received awesome reviews by people in the forum and it was a 3 channel speaker (and you could get it in cherry) so I shifted my emphasis to the Infinity Beta line. I really could not find anything bad to be said about them on AVS (or other places) and the price was right. So I just got my cherry Beta C360 ($199) and plan on getting either the Beta 40's or 50's (probably the latter, due to lower bass extension) next year to match them.


So here is my HT audio plan/purchase as it developed:
1) Cheap A/V receiver (mostly due to wanting to wait out technology changes before a big investment);
2) Budget Bookshelves that can be used as surrounds later
3) Best Center you can afford keeping in mind frequency matching current bookshelves and future purchase of floorstanders you can afford;
4) Frequency matched floorstanders to center
5) Subwoofer (SVS or HSU) (depends on how much bass I get from the floorstanders)
6) New Digital Receiver with Dolby True HD and HDMI switching

Currently I have just completed step 3 for a total of $328, Step 4 will probably set me back around $500, and Step 5 and 6 will set me back about $700 each. Step 5 and 6 may switch based upon the Floorstanders performace on the low end.

This is how I have prioritized by spending/purchases. Another option would be to get the sub next and just forget about floorstanders and get more bookshelves. I did seriously consider this route. However, we love music thus the need for floorstanders to really improve listening to music.
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post #12 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 10:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PULLIAMM
My DVD player offers DRC as an option, but I can turn it on or off.
Yes, it's always an option. But apparently Dolby Digital decoders enable it regardless of your chosen setting when you downmix 5.1 DD content to fewer channels. It was discussed in the I like a phantom center better than actual center channel speaker thread, which you participated in.

See posts by J_Palmer_Cass:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...&&#post8466418
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...&&#post8572258
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...&&#post8536567

I think that Dolby Digital is broken to have this feature, but it's reason enough to get a full 5.1 system.

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post #13 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 11:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VicAjax
hmmm... interesting. i was unaware of that. when i was running my 6 yr old sony av receiver in 3.1, it did not compress dynamics unless i asked it to (which i did, as i live in an apt).
Midnight modes has diferrent levels. Downmixing appears to trigger the first.

I was skeptical about this claim and have only done a quick test myself. I listenned to an action scene in 5.1 and then again with a phantom center speaker (4.1) and measured a 10 dB drop in volume. It sounded like 5.1 with DRC (midnight mode) enabled on the first level.

Quote:
so... does the dialogue on movies get punched up for the 2-channel analogue outs on DVD players?
More like extremes are suppresed.

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post #14 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cavalier1
His opinion is that good quality audio from two good speaker would be better than noise from 5+1 crappy speakers.
His opinion would only be valid if you were originally intending on buying "crappy speakers". Is this to be a comparison between a 2-speaker set-up vs a 5.1-speaker set-up or are we comparing good speakers vs crap speakers? If it's the latter, then good speakers will win out every time, irrespective of how many.

However, if we assume 5.1 decent speakers instead of crap, then the decision is not as easy as your friend suggests. It's no secret that dividing your budget by 2 can get you better speakers than dividing that same amount of money by 5. But keep in mind that 2 speakers, no matter how good they are, cannot be in 5 places at once.

Your decision should be based on what your goal is. If you simply want to hear the soundtrack, then 2 speakers will let you do that. If you want to hear surround sound, then you need surround speakers. 2 speakers cannot surround you.
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I am not sure if it is correct because i have never get chance to compare those two options.
Isn't there a store or someplace you can go to hear the difference between the two options? It's OK to ask our opinions, but you're the one who will end up living with the system, not us. You should hear the difference for yourself, and then decide whether you want a 2-speaker of 5.1-speaker set-up.

Also keep in mind the option to start with 2 speakers and gradually build the rest of your system as funds permit. Just because you start with 2 speakers doesn't mean you're stuck there.

Sanjay

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post #15 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 11:41 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psgcdn
Yes, it's always an option. But apparently Dolby Digital decoders enable it regardless of your chosen setting when you downmix 5.1 DD content to fewer channels. It was discussed in the I like a phantom center better than actual center channel speaker thread, which you participated in.

See posts by J_Palmer_Cass:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...&&#post8466418
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...&&#post8572258
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...&&#post8536567

I think that Dolby Digital is broken to have this feature, but it's reason enough to get a full 5.1 system.
You never told us where you got that information. It is very, very far from being "common knowledge", so I would like to see a reliable source cited before I believe it.
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post #16 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 11:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PULLIAMM
My DVD player offers DRC as an option, but I can turn it on or off.


You still drop the LFE signal in the DVD player downmix mode, so that is a big who cares.

My DVD player has a similar feature if I use the analog outputs, but that does not mean the DVD DRC encoding does not override that control.
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post #17 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 11:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PULLIAMM
You never told us where you got that information. It is very, very far from being "common knowledge", so I would like to see a reliable source cited before I believe it.

E-mail Dolby if you are that concerned about the issue. The E-mail address is located on the Dolby web site. I have sent questions to Dolby a few times, and if you can pose a proper question to them you get a proper answer from them.

I would do it for you, but then you would say that I just forged the E-mail. Been through that crap before, and you are exactly the type of person who would pull that crap.

The ball is in your court!
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post #18 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 12:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J_Palmer_Cass
You still drop the LFE signal in the DVD player downmix mode, so that is a big who cares.
I don't use that feature on my DVD player because I let the receiver do the processing. I was pointing out that those who do use 2-channel analog outs don't have to engage DRC (if it were automatic, the option would not be included.)
I don't drop the LFE signal, I send it to the sub (I use 4.1, not 4.0.)
Having tried my system without DRC, my conclusion is that I would choose it even if I didn't have neighbors. The loud passages in a lot of modern movies are way too loud compared to the dialog.
Finally, FWIW, I set up my parent's HT system using the analog outs from the DVD player to a stereo receiver running a pair of full-range towers (no sub) and they are extremely happy with it. (Much more so than the HTiB they had been using.)
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post #19 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 12:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PULLIAMM
You never told us where you got that information. It is very, very far from being "common knowledge", so I would like to see a reliable source cited before I believe it.
The 3rd AVS link I posted refers to:

http://www.hometheatershack.com/foru...html#post11862

and that subject comes up after a few posts.

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post #20 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 12:36 PM
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[quote=PULLIAMM]I don't use that feature on my DVD player because I let the receiver do the processing. I was pointing out that those who do use 2-channel analog outs don't have to engage DRC (if it were automatic, the option would not be included.)
I don't drop the LFE signal, I send it to the sub (I use 4.1, not 4.0.)
Having tried my system without DRC, my conclusion is that I would choose it even if I didn't have neighbors. The loud passages in a lot of modern movies are way too loud compared to the dialog.

QUOTE]


Dropping LFE pertained to downmixing in the DVD player that you were talking about.

Since you do not use a center channel, you do use DRC regardless of the DRC setting in your receiver for all DD source material. You don't have a choice in the matter.

DTS and all analog sources do not use DRC, so they disregard that DRC setting no matter what.

As I recall, you said that you prefer a DTS track over a DD track. Have you ever wondered why? Does no use of DRC during downmixing of DTS ring a bell???
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post #21 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 01:30 PM
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I think you need 5.1 to get the most out of both music and movies these days. But if I were starting out with a limited budget, I would get the best 3 front speakers I could find now (ensuring that the center is either the same exact speaker as the left and right fronts or at least the same brand and timbre-matched to them), then add a sub when I had more money, and then add surrounds when I had more money later (preferably surrounds that are identical to my fronts and center).

But if you are not, and don't think you'll become, a rabid audiophile, something like SVS's 5.1 system may be all you ever need. You'll have to listen to some speakers to find out how much you care.

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post #22 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 01:58 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J_Palmer_Cass
As I recall, you said that you prefer a DTS track over a DD track. Have you ever wondered why? Does no use of DRC during downmixing of DTS ring a bell???
I said that I often prefer the DTS track, not always. Some are worse than DD. My assumption is that I simply prefer whichever one was implemented better.
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post #23 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 02:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tnilsson
I think you need 5.1 to get the most out of both music and movies these days.
Personally, I would not even consider 5.1 for music, as I greatly prefer stereo. It is nice for movies, though. :cool:
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post #24 of 24 Old 10-12-2006, 02:55 PM
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I would get two quality front main speakers and build on them as funds become available. I would rather have a decent set of mains than 5 junk speakers.

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