Renovating our basement for a new medium budget media room. Previously had a Denon HTIB from 2000. S-video era. It was a nice setup at the time complete with a nice 27" flat Sony CRT the Denon AVR-682 receiver complete with 4 satellites and a powered sub. Toshiba DVD player and Tivo too.
Fast forward to the present, we're Directv fans now and have an LG 40" LCD upstairs and the Directv HD DVR. So now its time to reno the basement.
Trying to stay reasonable as lots of dollars go to making a change to the stairs, new sheet rock, tile drain system, new flooring and electrical. And then there is the furniture. So, when it came to the flat screen I elected to go with a plasma as the way the room is configured the walkout is far to the left and around a small corner. So daylight is completely managed. Chose the Panasonic ST50 ! Really excited about it.
Did I mentioned I'm married :-). Lovely wife has always challenged me to keep the floor clear of speaker wire, speaker stands, etc. Course given we're replacing sheet rock we can wire away behind the walls. But even with that freedom comes the question of how much to invest and in ceiling vs. mounted satellites on the rear wall, do I want the front speakers and center in wall or resting on cabinet,. etc.. When investigation AV receivers I'm finding it is real easy to get to $ 700. The HTIB these days in my opinion are of the same quality and in some cases maybe lower. Such as Denon, for example. The present Denon HTIB uses the AVR-1513 which is a nice receiver, I like it plenty, but they bundle now with Boston Acoustics and I don't find the weight of those speakers to match the OEM Denon that 10 years ago they were including in HTIB. And regardless, unlike last time, she doesn't want speaker stands. You know where I'm going.
So I set out to investigate alternatives, namely sound bars. Much of the products in the $250 - $399 range are largely plastic and either don't include powered subs or aren't HDMI based. HDMI switching is a requirement.
Then I found the JBL. Read what I could find and today went and saw one at the KC area's big box retailer, Nebraska Furniture Mart. Within they have what you could equate to BB's Magnolia center, Walmart, and everything in between. Sure enough, as new as the SB 400 is they have them in the aisle along with all the other sound bars AND they have one showcased at the end of an aisle ! Sat down and was quite impressed.
Our basement is not finished yet but when complete I'll take some pics and give a full report.
What made the decision easy, beyond having the ability to sit and listen to it, was the physical construction. Compare the sub with that of other sound bars and they are either less than 8", not powered, plastic or all of the above. I also really like the idea of having the ability to experiment with placement of the sub. Each wall of course has outlets so now I'll be able to experiment with each end of the sofa, behind recliner, under end table, etc .. Love that freedom. I had thought the sub needed to be paired and sound was managed by a Bluetooth connection, didn't realize it was RF. I expect RF is more reliable for this application and then still having ability to stream from iPhone or iPad to the system over Bluetooth pairing is just gravy. I saw enough and jumped.
Looking forward to confirming my happiness with decision and any other findings. I'm pretty confident I'm going to have the following.
Obviously greater picture, that is a given. Blue-ray coupled with super nice 50" plasma.
Very decent simulated surround with powered sub
Simpler operation as the AVR-682 was from that era when there were half a dozen buttons and switches for selection of surround mode, channel, source, etc ..
+ Plus convenient Bluetooth streaming from the chair for playback of iTunes library.
So I had to drop $1500 for plasma, Blu-ray and JBL SB 400 but I think I'm going to be happy.
Will be back to confirm in 4 weeks when construction wraps up.