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post #1 of 10 Old 11-09-2013, 06:40 PM - Thread Starter
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I used to own a 5.1 system and although I loved it but my fiancee hated speakers on the walls therefore I had to sell the system and have to make the switch to a sound bar system. I am looking for something that is as close to real surround sound as possible. I do not really have a budget although I do not want to spend more than 1500. I would also prefer something that can at least decode hd audio with HDMI but it is not a deal breaker. Some of the sound bars I have looked at include:

- Sanos playbar (have read it does not decode DTS)
- Sony HTCT660
- Martin Logan (but does not include a sub)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. It does not have to have bluetooth I am just looking for something to sound great with movies/tv. Thanks in advance everyone!!!
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-10-2013, 06:04 AM
 
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You have some decisions to make. You can search my name and see that I was looking for a sound bar but ended up with a 2.1 system. I couldn't find any sound bars with the quality of sound as a good 2.1 system. What you trade off up with a 2.1 system is surround sound. If you prefer to have surround effects the Yamaha sound projectors did the best. The 5100 was the best IMHO and was still OK for sound quality. It would be over your budget even at street price as you need to add a sub too. Part of getting good surround effects from a sound bar is your room layout. Big open areas do not work as well as areas that have side walls. The surround bars need somewhere to bounce the sound of. The sound bars that tried to use phase tricks to create surround sound were gimmicky at best.

It seemed to me with many of the sound bars you also trade off sound quality for surround effects. The sound bars that I though sounded OK didn't have as good of a surround effect and vice versa. Remember NONE of the sound bars sounded as good as a decent 2.1 system. Some of my findings in no particular order.

Yamaha sound projectors (2200, 4300, 4100, 5100) - good for surround sound, sound quality lacking except on the 5100. The 4100 seems good too but if I'm spending that much I might as well go a little extra street price and get the 5100.
Yamha Sound Bars (YHT-S401, YAS 101 and 201) - So so sound, gimmicky surround effects.
JVC TH-BC3 - Better sound than the Yamaha sound bars not good surround effects. In the under $300 range this would probably be my top pick but I'd have to listen again. I tried to start cheap like many of us do, but soon realized you get big gains in performance when you spend more. I'm not sure where the point of diminishing return starts in this category as there are so many trade offs. Although below $300 is slim pickings IMHO.
Sony (260, 550, 660) - Some of the worst audio equipment I have ever heard. The 550 in my room was I think the worst. I love Sony but quickly came to the conclusion that they are better at video than audio.
Pioneer sound bar SP-SB23W - Decent sound especially for the price. My top pick until you get to about $800.
Atlantic Technology (PB235, FS-5000 LCR, FS-7.1) - Good sound but not great surround effects. Better than Pioneer.
Paradigm Soundtrack - Good sound but not great surround effects. Better than Pioneer.
B&W Panorama 2 - Good sound but not great surround effects. Better than Pioneer but I actually liked Atlantic Technology and Paradigm a little better.
Martin Logan Motion Vision - On Par with the Panorama
Sonos Playbar - I wanted to love this one as I already have a Sonos system in the rest of the house. It did sound decent and had some decent surround effects if you have side walls, not as good as the Yamaha sound projectors but better than the others. With the sub I'd take it over the Pioneer but it is a lot more $. I'd have to listen again but I'd probably give sound quality to the Pioneer but when you add the sub the Sonos was better.
Vizio, Samsung, LG and probably a few other cheapies I can't think of. - They are on par with the sony. Some better some worse but none great. In a nutshell skip them, the JVC I thought best in this range but if you can spend more go with the Pioneer.
Zvox Soundbase 555 - OK sound but almost sounded like a mono speaker. Forget surround effects.
Speakercraft CS3 - Better sound than Zvox but with little separation like the zvox. again forget surround effects.
Bose 1 SR - Surround effects gimmicky, sound is not very good. Don't disconnect the sub it definitely sounds like crap then. I was comparing this to some klipsch Icon book shelves without a sub. The bookshelves had a 5" woofer and the book shelves were giving the Bose a run for its money with bass. So I unplugged the Bose sub to compare the bar and the speakers alone. OMG did this sound bar sound really tinny and lifeless without the sub. You wouldn't run it that way but it did give an idea of the quality of the speaker system.

I also listened to a lot of passive sound bars and speakers as well but decided I didn't want to add a receiver to the mix. But that does open up a lot more sound bar and speaker choices.

I looked at a lot of sound bars and speakers and in the process and found out a lot about the design of these and why they work. I wouldn't focus on the features of these as much, like DTS as I would the sound quality. Playing DTS or one of the lossless formats through HDMI is not going to make these sound better if it is not a good sounding speaker to begin with.
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post #3 of 10 Old 11-14-2013, 11:22 AM
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shoulda kept the speakers and ditched the fiancee! It's not too late
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post #4 of 10 Old 11-22-2013, 07:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ttlnb View Post

You have some decisions to make. You can search my name and see that I was looking for a sound bar but ended up with a 2.1 system. I couldn't find any sound bars with the quality of sound as a good 2.1 system. What you trade off up with a 2.1 system is surround sound. If you prefer to have surround effects the Yamaha sound projectors did the best. The 5100 was the best IMHO and was still OK for sound quality. It would be over your budget even at street price as you need to add a sub too. Part of getting good surround effects from a sound bar is your room layout. Big open areas do not work as well as areas that have side walls. The surround bars need somewhere to bounce the sound of. The sound bars that tried to use phase tricks to create surround sound were gimmicky at best.

It seemed to me with many of the sound bars you also trade off sound quality for surround effects. The sound bars that I though sounded OK didn't have as good of a surround effect and vice versa. Remember NONE of the sound bars sounded as good as a decent 2.1 system. Some of my findings in no particular order.

Yamaha sound projectors (2200, 4300, 4100, 5100) - good for surround sound, sound quality lacking except on the 5100. The 4100 seems good too but if I'm spending that much I might as well go a little extra street price and get the 5100.
Yamha Sound Bars (YHT-S401, YAS 101 and 201) - So so sound, gimmicky surround effects.
JVC TH-BC3 - Better sound than the Yamaha sound bars not good surround effects. In the under $300 range this would probably be my top pick but I'd have to listen again. I tried to start cheap like many of us do, but soon realized you get big gains in performance when you spend more. I'm not sure where the point of diminishing return starts in this category as there are so many trade offs. Although below $300 is slim pickings IMHO.
Sony (260, 550, 660) - Some of the worst audio equipment I have ever heard. The 550 in my room was I think the worst. I love Sony but quickly came to the conclusion that they are better at video than audio.
Pioneer sound bar SP-SB23W - Decent sound especially for the price. My top pick until you get to about $800.
Atlantic Technology (PB235, FS-5000 LCR, FS-7.1) - Good sound but not great surround effects. Better than Pioneer.
Paradigm Soundtrack - Good sound but not great surround effects. Better than Pioneer.
B&W Panorama 2 - Good sound but not great surround effects. Better than Pioneer but I actually liked Atlantic Technology and Paradigm a little better.
Martin Logan Motion Vision - On Par with the Panorama
Sonos Playbar - I wanted to love this one as I already have a Sonos system in the rest of the house. It did sound decent and had some decent surround effects if you have side walls, not as good as the Yamaha sound projectors but better than the others. With the sub I'd take it over the Pioneer but it is a lot more $. I'd have to listen again but I'd probably give sound quality to the Pioneer but when you add the sub the Sonos was better.
Vizio, Samsung, LG and probably a few other cheapies I can't think of. - They are on par with the sony. Some better some worse but none great. In a nutshell skip them, the JVC I thought best in this range but if you can spend more go with the Pioneer.
Zvox Soundbase 555 - OK sound but almost sounded like a mono speaker. Forget surround effects.
Speakercraft CS3 - Better sound than Zvox but with little separation like the zvox. again forget surround effects.
Bose 1 SR - Surround effects gimmicky, sound is not very good. Don't disconnect the sub it definitely sounds like crap then. I was comparing this to some klipsch Icon book shelves without a sub. The bookshelves had a 5" woofer and the book shelves were giving the Bose a run for its money with bass. So I unplugged the Bose sub to compare the bar and the speakers alone. OMG did this sound bar sound really tinny and lifeless without the sub. You wouldn't run it that way but it did give an idea of the quality of the speaker system.

I also listened to a lot of passive sound bars and speakers as well but decided I didn't want to add a receiver to the mix. But that does open up a lot more sound bar and speaker choices.

I looked at a lot of sound bars and speakers and in the process and found out a lot about the design of these and why they work. I wouldn't focus on the features of these as much, like DTS as I would the sound quality. Playing DTS or one of the lossless formats through HDMI is not going to make these sound better if it is not a good sounding speaker to begin with.


Which soundbar would you say has the best mix of sound quality and surround effects?

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post #5 of 10 Old 11-22-2013, 07:36 AM
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So currently, I have a Panasonic 50 inch VT30 plasma, DirecTV HD DVR box, XBox, and 3D BD player. The room this is all in is only 15 ft X 15 ft. Any suggestions for sound bar or even 2.1 system under $400?

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post #6 of 10 Old 11-22-2013, 12:44 PM
 
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For a sound bar I'd get the Pioneer. Connect all your components to the TV and use the optical out to the sound bar. This might only give stereo sound but it would be better quality sound than many of the others. I found out the hard way that going after features like lossless sound, surround sound capability or HDMI connectivity does not make crappy speakers sound better.

I think 2.1 systems kill sound bars for sound quality and stereo separation but for your TV it might be harder to set up since your TV doesn't have an analog or headphone audio output. To go with powered/ active speakers you would need an optical to analog converter and there would be no easy way to control the volume except going up to the speakers and turning the knob. There are very few 2.1 systems with an optical input. Paradigm makes a nice one but it is $700. You can use passive speakers with a receiver or mini system but your budget will be eaten up quick unless you find some closeout or used stuff.
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post #7 of 10 Old 11-22-2013, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ttlnb View Post

For a sound bar I'd get the Pioneer. Connect all your components to the TV and use the optical out to the sound bar. This might only give stereo sound but it would be better quality sound than many of the others. I found out the hard way that going after features like lossless sound, surround sound capability or HDMI connectivity does not make crappy speakers sound better.

I think 2.1 systems kill sound bars for sound quality and stereo separation but for your TV it might be harder to set up since your TV doesn't have an analog or headphone audio output. To go with powered/ active speakers you would need an optical to analog converter and there would be no easy way to control the volume except going up to the speakers and turning the knob. There are very few 2.1 systems with an optical input. Paradigm makes a nice one but it is $700. You can use passive speakers with a receiver or mini system but your budget will be eaten up quick unless you find some closeout or used stuff.

So in regards to the lossless sound decoding features, if the BD player can decode those formats, and I connect that to the TV and then use the optical out to the soundbar, will the soundbar be able to project the lossless sound or will it not matter too much because those advanced audio formats are 5.1 and the soundbar is only 2.1?

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post #8 of 10 Old 11-22-2013, 01:31 PM
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Has anybody tested the Panasonic SC-HTB770? Any decent sound quality from that? I've read a bunch of reviews all giving it decent ratings. Thoughts?

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post #9 of 10 Old 11-22-2013, 02:32 PM
 
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It depends on how things are connected and how your equipment interacts. If you connect your TVs optical to a sound bar or 2.1 system you will only get stereo sound because that is all that the optical output allows from a Panasonic TV unless it is coming from its own sources like the antenna. HDMI works likes this. The source (Blu-ray, cable, etc.) talks to the TV about its capabilities. I hope I explain this right. The TV answers I'm a stereo device, so the source only sends a stereo signal to the TV. So the TV via ARC or optical only sends the stereo signal passed from its sources. So a surround bar or 5.1 system will only get a stereo signal even if they are capable of more. This is a function of the TV and how it interacts with the sources. Some TVs tell the source go ahead and send a 5.1 signal. This model Panasonic does not do that. If the source decodes the lossless formats and converts them to lossless PCM then you will get lossless sound although it may only be stereo depending on the capabilities of the system. Optical connections (and I think ARC too) are only capable of lossy 5.1 and lossless stereo from my understanding.

In the end it is the sound that matters though. If the sound bar or speaker system has HDMI and decodes lossless sound it won't matter if it is mated to cheap speakers. One thing that I found in a LOT of research is there are few things people agree on but one that seems universal is out of all the components speakers are going to make the biggest difference in sound. OK maybe the room but most of us aren't going to be adding acoustic treatments all over the room. So if you can have lossless sound with lousy speakers or dolby digital, DTS or 2 channel PCM with great speakers which is going to sound better? The great speakers will sound better even with a lossy source.

In the ideal world we would have a lossless source with great speakers and that is what you get with a receiver and speaker system. For these systems there are tradeoffs and that's what I meant by do not go by the specs or features. I haven't listened to the Panasonic but except for better separation by being able to place the speakers further apart, its 2" woofers are not going to compete with the 4" woofers of the Pioneer. I'd put money on that the Pioneer will have better quality sound.

If you are willing to add a component then you could go with a pair of book shelf speakers (~$100) an inexpensive sub (~$100) and then get a receiver that either has HDMI or maybe an older receiver with optical you will have a pretty killer system. If you check craigslist or some close out sites like accessories 4 less you might be able to do something with great sound within your budget, Even a stereo receiver would be fine but you would need the optical to analog converter.
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post #10 of 10 Old 11-22-2013, 02:55 PM
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Thanks for the response. That helps a lot!!

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