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post #1 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 05:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Hey everyone,

I'm posting on this forum in hope that I'll at least be a little less confused. Let me explain my situation....

This past christmas I bought a 55 inch LCD TV, and I've been meaning to buy a sound system for it but I dont know where to start. Theres all of these "home theatre in a box" systems and I dont know if I could trust them, and which ones are good/bad.

For example, I have an X-Box and a PS3, which means I could play both DVDs and blu-rays on my TV. When I was shopping for a system it was either a Blu-Ray system or a DVD System... I have both... why would I need to buy one with one of those built in?

Also... What about specs, what is better... 5.1? 7.1? whats the difference...

I'm just so confused on what I should be buying and what I should be looking for.

I'm also looking to install a home-theatre projection system downstairs in the basement but thats another story, I just want a decent sound system that can play on both the projector and the TV (I might buy two of them if the deal is good enough).

Any recommendations on where I can start? Any recommendations on specific products?

Thanks so much!
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post #2 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 05:54 AM
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Some information we need:
1. Budget
2. Music/Movie ratio for usage of system
3. How is your room setup with respect to placement of walls within the room, chairs, couches, furniture, TV, etc.
4. What are the room dimensions and overall shape w/r to where the TV and couch is?
5. What speakers do you have experience with


Notes: I always advise people not to do surround sound unless they can set it up like Dolby suggests http://www.dolby.com/consumer/setup/...ide/index.html

If you cannot abide by those strict guidelines, then surround sound will be a waste of money compared to spending all the money into the front speakers and subwoofer(s).
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post #3 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 07:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply

Budget: 200-400$ Obviously the cheaper the better.
Music/Movie Ratio: It will be hooked up to the TV and hardly ever used to play music. Maybe once a month for a get-together or something, but mainly TV/Movie.
Room Setup:

The room is set up in this fashion:

---------PANORAMIC WINDOW--------------------------------|
|
|...CHAIR ................TABLE .........................LOVESEAT
| ............................................................ ..................KITCHEN
TV/FIREPLACE
|
|....CHAIR............................ COUCH............................
|------WINDOW/WINDOW/WINDOW (INTO OFFICE)------

All of the furniture is directed towards the tv/fireplace at an angle (aside from chairs)... the room is open to the kitchen, running along the width of the house.

And ZERO experience.

Thanks so much.
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post #4 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 07:19 AM
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please upload pictures. I have no clue how your space looks like.

Also, room dimensions, and I need more details. Is main listening position up against a wall, etc.

It seems like your layout might the stereotypical modern "open" floorplan family room which can make any sort of setup difficult.

Setting up surround sound is not a trivial task. The quality you get is proportional to the amount of wave physics you understand and luck. We can help with the wave physics, but that requires numbers. We need dimensions, pictures, capability to move furniture, etc.

200-400$ budget includes what? just speakers? everything including wires and stands? If you want to do everything in 200$, I'm gonna have to advise you to save up more funds.

What features do you want in your receiver. Is Audyssey room correction or the like important? Dynamic EQ? This hobby isn't plug and play. If you want to get any sort of serious system, you gonna have to read a lot to find out what you want. If you don't know what you want, there is no way we can advise properly. IF you find you dont want anything special, we might advise to buy a simple system. If you find you do want certain features, we might advice to piece together a portion of a system to get started, then save up. Or we might advise to save save save.
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post #5 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 07:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolkien View Post

For example, I have an X-Box and a PS3, which means I could play both DVDs and blu-rays on my TV. When I was shopping for a system it was either a Blu-Ray system or a DVD System... I have both... why would I need to buy one with one of those built in?

You don't. In fact, you're better off with a system without one.

The built in players are for people who want a cheap one-box solution. But they have compromises.

Quote:


Also... What about specs, what is better... 5.1? 7.1? whats the difference...

Well, 7.1 adds two rear speakers to the surround speaker array (the speakers to your side and behind you.)

But it depends on your room and if you can place the speakers behind you. If you can't mount speakers a good distance behind you, you shouldn't do 7.1.

Quote:


Any recommendations on where I can start? Any recommendations on specific products?

Look at the brands Onkyo, Yamaha, and Denon. Might hit or stretch your $400 budget, but they're well worth it.

Don't believe everything on the Interwebz! A duck's quack DOES echo!
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post #6 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 08:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Hey,

Thank you so much for the replies, and I'm extremely sorry if I seem ignorant or anything of the like.

In terms of the sound system. I dont need anything too complicated. I was sort of hoping for plug and play (w/ quality). I'm not a sound expert and I dont want to have to keep tweaking the system every time I want to play a movie, or listen to music, or anything. I just need a sound system that has exceptional quality for a minimal price. If it's just installation tweaking you're talking about then I have no problem spending 10+ hours adjusting the system. It's just that once it's all set up and finished I want to be able to enjoy it without having to touch the system except to turn it on!

I've attached my floor plan to this post, I hope it helps. The TV is mounted ontop of the fireplace, and the couches are against the wall tilted towards the TV.

As for the price, I was looking at total setup price, is 200-400$ too low? If you want, you could suggest specific models and leave the shopping to me; I have what some might call a talent with finding good deals. The only problem is that I have no idea what I'm shopping for.

Thank you!
LL
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post #7 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 08:53 AM
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Don't get a system with a built-in disc player. You already have two better players.

7.1 adds two more speakers in the back. But, you need to right kind of room and it doesn't look like you have such a room. Besides, you also have a limited budget.

While it's usually better to buy the pieces (receiver, speakers, subwoofer) separately instead of getting an HTIB, that approach also costs more. If you are patient, you could start slowly with a receiver and stereo speakers and then add the other speakers and the sub as you can afford them. Or, get an HTIB built around a real receiver. Try Onkyo and Denon, which have entry level 5.1 packages near the top of your budget range. Many other HTIBs only work with their original speakers and sub. They can't be upgraded. With those kinds of systems, you simply have to get rid of them entirely and start over again.

The selection process may seem a bit daunting at first. But, it's really not that difficult. It can be quite fun, actually. I suggest visiting an AV shop with a listening room, preferably not a big box store like Best Buy. Bring along a few test discs (familiar movies and music) and audition some inexpensive systems. Your ears will be your guide. Then, take an inventory of all your playback equipment - TV set top box, disc player(s), game console(s). Make sure the receiver has enough of the right kinds of video and audio inputs to hook up all of your gear. That's another reason to get a system with a real receiver as the core. The HDMI inputs on the AVR need to be able to process audio. Avoid systems that only do "HDMI switching", which is a fairly common limitation with cheaper receivers.
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post #8 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 08:56 AM
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Thanks for the floorplan, it helps quite a bit.

Everyone starts not knowing

Plug and play w/ quality depends on how much quality you are looking for. The windows, the walls, furniture all interact with sound waves. So, setup isn't trivial for any type of setup. It all depends how much you want to compromise your sound.

Based on the floor plan, I think it would be relatively effortless to setup a 5.1 system. 7.1 may or may not be awkward because of the dining room.

Try placing your main listening position in front and center of the TV 14.5' away from the fireplace. This will allow you to put your side-surround speakers roughly in front of the optional columns and angled towards the center seat. This will be similar to what Dolby suggests.

I'll let others chime in on equipment choices, while I direct my advise towards placement and setup. Placement and setup are far more important to sound quality than the equipment you choose.


Do you want this all said and done at once, or are you amenable to starting with a couple pieces, and then expanding? What I mean by the latter is, do you mind starting with front Left and Right speakers and receiver; and then adding a subwoofer later, then adding a center later, then adding surrounds later? Or do you prefer to just throw everything together "now".

Throwing everything together now will cause you to inherently get lower quality equipment because your budget is divided that many more times as compared to the situation where you spend all your budget on 2 speakers and receiver.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolkien View Post

Hey,

Thank you so much for the replies, and I'm extremely sorry if I seem ignorant or anything of the like.

In terms of the sound system. I dont need anything too complicated. I was sort of hoping for plug and play (w/ quality). I'm not a sound expert and I dont want to have to keep tweaking the system every time I want to play a movie, or listen to music, or anything. I just need a sound system that has exceptional quality for a minimal price. If it's just installation tweaking you're talking about then I have no problem spending 10+ hours adjusting the system. It's just that once it's all set up and finished I want to be able to enjoy it without having to touch the system except to turn it on!

I've attached my floor plan to this post, I hope it helps. The TV is mounted ontop of the fireplace, and the couches are against the wall tilted towards the TV.

As for the price, I was looking at total setup price, is 200-400$ too low? If you want, you could suggest specific models and leave the shopping to me; I have what some might call a talent with finding good deals. The only problem is that I have no idea what I'm shopping for.

Thank you!

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post #9 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 09:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolkien View Post

In terms of the sound system. I dont need anything too complicated. I was sort of hoping for plug and play (w/ quality). I'm not a sound expert and I dont want to have to keep tweaking the system every time I want to play a movie, or listen to music, or anything. I just need a sound system that has exceptional quality for a minimal price. If it's just installation tweaking you're talking about then I have no problem spending 10+ hours adjusting the system. It's just that once it's all set up and finished I want to be able to enjoy it without having to touch the system except to turn it on!

Don't worry. While exceptional sound for $200-400 is not likely in the cards, you can get an excellent, inexpensive system that will work just fine in your room and doesn't require constant tweaking.
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post #10 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 09:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Wow, everyone responds here so quickly!

So what I'm understanding here is that, in order to get better quality, I need to buy the Receiver, Speakers, and Subs separately. At the same time, however, it will most likely result in a larger wallet hit.

So lets start with the Receiver. Whats a good receiver? Some of you mentioned a "real" receiver, what does that mean? From my understanding (albeit minimal), the receiver is what connects my TV to my speakers. My PS3 (HDMI), Xbox (HDMI), HD Receiver (HDMI), and Satellite Receiver (AVI Components) are all connected to my TV. Do those need to connect to the Receiver as well? Or do those components connect to the TV and then the TV connects to the receiver though one wire?

Speakers: What's better? Tall speakers or those new compact ones? I was at Bose the other day and the guy was trying to sell me a surround sound system with just three speakers... looked kind of fishy so I stayed away. When you buy speakers, do you buy the 5 at once, or do you buy each individually?

Subwoofer: Pretty simple concept right? Does the quality of the sub-woofer really matter in this case? I thought all it does is just produce "thump". Isn't the real issue here just wattage?

Thank you, as always
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post #11 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 09:22 AM
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An AV receiver, not the TV, is the center of the system. When the AVR has the right connections and capabilities, you attach all of your gear to receiver. It processes the audio and passes the video out to the TV over a single HDMI connection.

As for building a system, it is better to buy the AVR, speakers, and subwoofer separately. But, companies like Denon and Onkyo have perfectly fine HTIBs that can be upgraded later on. So, you can go either way.

Receivers: you want enough power to crank it up loud without distortion. It needs to be able to process audio over HDMI. It needs enough connections to handle all of your equipment with some room for growth. An auto calibration feature such as Audyssey is also quite helpful. You plug in a mic and the receiver pretty much configures itself, compensating for problems in the room.

Speakers: this is really personal. It helps to listen to them. Bigger is better.

Subwoofer: the smaller your main speakers, the more important the sub. The .1 track on movies provides LFE (low frequency effects), which are the big bangs designed to be really loud. But, with "small" speakers, the receiver will reroute some of the deep bass from the main speakers to the sub. Most home theater speakers can't handle low frequencies very well. So, bass management is used to shift them to the sub. It's pretty important to overall sound quality.
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post #12 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 09:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone,

With regards to placement of the speakers, I cannot put my main viewing right infront of the TV as it will block access to the breakfast area/kitchen. I have attached another screenshot with all of the furniture as it is. You can differentiate between the loveseat and the couch through colours. The chairs are infact tilted AWAY from the TV.

I dont know how correct this is but I was hoping to install a tower speaker at every corner of the room, with a main speaker underneath the TV. How would that work out?

We could work on placement using the floorplans first. We've decided on a 5.1 Surround Sound system and thats fine by me.

In terms of budget, if a great sound system can't be had for less than 400$ then I guess I'm going to have to increase my budget. Just please, keep in mind that I'm not that much of an audiophile, I just want something thats reliable and sounds nice.

Thank you.
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post #13 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 09:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolkien View Post

Wow, everyone responds here so quickly!



Speakers: What's better? Tall speakers or those new compact ones? I was at Bose the other day and the guy was trying to sell me a surround sound system with just three speakers... looked kind of fishy so I stayed away. When you buy speakers, do you buy the 5 at once, or do you buy each individually?

Subwoofer: Pretty simple concept right? Does the quality of the sub-woofer really matter in this case? I thought all it does is just produce "thump". Isn't the real issue here just wattage?

Thank you, as always


Subwoofer is much more than just wattage. There is the size/quality of driver, the quality of the amplifier, and the implementation of proper subwoofer design. Since your room is very open, you will need a more powerful subwoofer to get certain level of bass that you prefer than if your room was completely sealed. I generally spend 1$ per cubic foot of the room in order to ensure appropriate bass headroom down to 20Hz. However, this formula is way beyond your budget. Some companies to look at in your price range that make excellent subwoofers are all online: HSU, SVS, EPIK, eD. I would not spend less than 400$ on a subwoofer for a room as huge as yours. This, you will have to save up for. Otherwise, the bass quality is just going to be lacking. Subwoofer placement is also important, but we will cross that bridge when you arrive to it.

Speaker: This is a personal thing. You really should listen to them. They all sound quite different. Some of which you will not like the sound quality of, others which you will. Buy the most expensive ones you can afford and that offer an upgrade path for surround sound. What I mean by the latter, is that since you have your eyes set on surround, be sure to select speakers that have a purpose made center speaker of good design. Good design centers have a tweeter mounted above the midrange both of which are flanked by bass drivers. This design allows the center speaker to provide a good center image for multiple viewers as opposed to the more compromised mid-tweeter-mid design which usually has a lot of lobbing problems (person sitting off-center gets crap sound quality from center).
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post #14 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 09:50 AM
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I don't quite understand the colors in the diagram. But, for audio, the main listening position needs to be centered. The Dolby link posted earlier in this thread shows the basic positioning. If you have all of your seats on the edges of the room, it will be very difficult to get good surround sound. I have a great room similar to yours. We use the couch as a room separator between the TV area and the kitchen.
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post #15 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 09:52 AM
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The setup you put above doesn't seem amenable to any sort of surround setup. With no chief listening position, there is no point of reference for which you can mold a surround sound system about. There is absolutely no way you can setup surround sound with respect to every seating location you indicated above in your figure.

Since you are not amenable to setting up the system as suggested by Dolby, I cannot recommend any kind of surround sound setup, as instead of surround sound, it would simply be a bunch of confused sound where nobody gets a decent sound field.

For a room set up as such, it would seem you would just have a couple in-ceiling speakers for background music, and that is about it. At most, I would flank the TV with front left and front right speakers.

Like the poster above me, I also use the main couch as a divider between the family room and the dinette where there are two aisles on the sides of the couch to get access.
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post #16 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 12:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for your responses -

I cant move the couch to separate the rooms. My wife is very adamant about this whole open concept business and she spent alot of time furnishing the great room as it is now, using ambient lighting and what not. I can't ask her to change all of that for our sound system.

So I guess we'll have to make do with what we got... would that be possible? Given the current seating arrangements?

Thanks.
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post #17 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 01:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolkien View Post

Thank you for your responses -

I cant move the couch to separate the rooms. My wife is very adamant about this whole open concept business and she spent alot of time furnishing the great room as it is now, using ambient lighting and what not. I can't ask her to change all of that for our sound system.

So I guess we'll have to make do with what we got... would that be possible? Given the current seating arrangements?

Thanks.

At best, flank the TV with front left and front right speakers and keep it simple.
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post #18 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
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And what about subwoofer and receiver?
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post #19 of 58 Old 07-24-2010, 10:29 PM
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I know that I'm not the most knowledgeable guru on AVS, but I do have some actual recommendations for you. This is basically the system I put together for a friend who had a similar room & WAF considerations.

Now this system will cause many audiophiles to laugh at you. It is not perfect and won't sound GREAT to anybody who is familiar with high end equipment, room treatments, etc. BUT, it will sound awesome compared to listening to your TV speakers and it will elicit a "wow" from family & friends who haven't listened to a really superior home theater. It slightly exceeds your budget, but I think it would do nicely for your situation.

Receiver: Yamaha HTR-6240BL http://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-HTR-624...d_i=B0038W0IZO - plenty of connections for your PS3, X-Box, cable/satellite box, etc. It also has the virtue of having a "pass through" feature if your family has members with the need/desire to "just watch TV" without firing up the whole system. Approximate price: $250

Speakers: Fluance SXHTB+ 5 Speaker Surround Sound Home Theater System http://www.fluance.com/fluan5speaks.html A great sounding (and not bad looking - available in beech or black) set of speakers that won't break the bank. They will sound very good in your room, and the tone & timbre will be well matched all the way around. Bonus, they will do O.K. without a subwoofer and will sound even better if/when you add a sub in the future. Approximate price: $300

Subwoofer: Hsu STF-1 Subwoofer http://www.hsuresearch.com/products/stf-1.html or Fluance DB150 http://www.fluance.com/fldbposu.html Neither of these will rattle the walls, but they will enhance the bottom end and allow you to "feel" the explosions in an action movie. You won't get amazing deep bass at this price range, but either of these would be a nice addition to the Fluance speakers. Approximate price: $300

Remote: Harmony Logitech One http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Harmo.../dp/B00119T6NQ I highly recommend a universal remote. It makes system operation easier, allows for icons for your favorite TV channels, and can help ease the WAF. The One is easy to set-up, you run the software and answer the questions it asks. Approximate price: $175

Other stuff: If long runs of speaker wire to your surround speakers would cause WAF issues, then the Rocketfish - Universal Wireless Rear Speaker Kit http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Rocketfi...ract_desc=null can be a lifesaver. True audiophiles will laugh, as this will ONLY give you "CD quality" sound from your surrounds. But in many applications that beats not having surrounds. Approximate price: $150

Total price (with sub & remote) approximately $1,175

You'll still need speaker wire, but a spool of cheap speaker wire (or lamp cord) won't set you back much.

I hope this has been helpful, but fair warning - once you hear a system like this you'll be amazed at what you've got and hooked on the endless cycle of upgraditis that marks this hobby.

Have fun!

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post #20 of 58 Old 07-25-2010, 12:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you so much! Thats exactly what I was looking for jehignr. I'm not a true audiophile as most on this forum are, I was just looking for a budget system that will give me great sound!

I had a couple of questions about that setup though. The first of which being that those speakers look HUGE. Is that really the best speaker system for that price?

Also, I was looking at the Onkyo HTIB systems and this one caught my eye as well: HTS3300, its 400$ for the whole system.

Thanks so much!
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post #21 of 58 Old 07-25-2010, 06:17 AM
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^^^

the other suggestions were better...

sadly, you are never going to have "great sound" with your room configuration, as others have been gently pointing out to you... even if you had a budget 10 (or 100) times larger, you couldn't do it... all the money in the world will not change basic acoustics (that hasn't stopped people from trying though... )...

jono's suggestion of sticking a pair of speakers next to the tv is pretty much your best option... as noted by someone else, attempting surround in your configuration is going to do nothing except cause a sonic mess... it will "sound" horrible, in every seating position... that has nothing to do with being a "true audiophile", fwiw... unless you are completely deaf, you'll recognize how horrible it sounds...

surround sound only works when it can, well, "surround" the listener...

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post #22 of 58 Old 07-25-2010, 06:31 AM
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and that doesn't even address all the other issues that space has, even if you did get your listening position centered... these might not be "showstoppers" for you at first, since it would be your first surround system and you wouldn't "know" any better (all of us have been there, nobody was born with experience... )... but trust me... within 6 months of you putting a surround system in (assuming moving a couch or two), two things would become VERY apparent to you...

because even though you say you aren't a "true audiophile", this hobby is a disease, and you WILL start to want things to "sound better"...

#1, you are gonna need a GOOD sub to even think about filling that area... likely more than one... keep in mind the sub "sees" the entire space that is open to it... it doesn't know that you are only sitting in the "front" room (nor does it care)...

#2, all those hard surfaces in there are going to be very difficult to deal with... especially given the locations of the windows... and all that tile... and so on...

- chris

 

my build thread - updated 8-20-12 - new seating installed and projector isolation solution

 


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post #23 of 58 Old 07-25-2010, 07:20 AM - Thread Starter
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So I should pretty much shoot my builder for designing my great room the way it is, and my wife, for furnishing it the way she did... because no matter what system I buy, it will sounds like horse ****.

Good to know.

Now, moving on to my basement, which will have the dolby suggested set up. My basement is unfinished right now so seating adjustments are VERY flexible. Is there a sound setup that you can recommend in the price range of 400$?

Thanks!
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post #24 of 58 Old 07-25-2010, 07:55 AM
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^^^

LOL! well, at least you have a sense of humor about it...

you didn't tell us you had a basement we could play with...

i would imagine you can find something for 400 that will give you "believable" surround... will it be good? no. but again, it'll be your "first one", so it's gonna "sound good" to you (at least until the "i want better part kicks in" )...

if it was me, here is what i would do in your basement...

- spend almost all my money on a pair of speakers for the left and right...
- look on craigslist, and buy whatever pair of speakers you can find for 25 bucks, maximum...

run a 4.0 system starting with that... the phantom center will be fine for the time being... the cheapo speakers will be MORE than fine for surround usage in this case... all they need to do is make sound...

then save for a subwoofer... trust me on this one... buying a cheap subwoofer is waste of money, because you WILL want a better one...

lather, rinse, repeat... it can be a never ending cycle...

- chris

 

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Are the above stated speakers good enough:

Fluance SXHTB+ 5 Speaker Surround

The price is not bad AT ALL for 300$..

Also the Yamaha Receiver at 250$ is not bad at all either...

I'm thinking of just going ahead with these two for the time being, and then getting a sub-woofer later on.

This is going to be for my projector set up in the basement....

That sound ok? Best bang-for-the-buck in this case?

Thanks.
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^^^

nope, i think the best "bang for the buck" is the solution i proposed in my last post... add in whatever avr you can find on craig's for a franklin or so...

imo, 2 "better speakers" + 2 "yard sale surrounds" > 5 "lesser speakers"... but that's me...

however, since you seem to be hot for a setup in a box, what you propose will more than likely make you happy...

- chris

 

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Haha but that sound system setup proposed above is all individual components and individual brands, are they not of good quality?
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to give a concrete example...

a pair of these plus a 25 buck pair of surrounds and a $100 used avr will destroy the solution you propose, and be cheaper to boot... for $500, nothing in one box will touch that...

and it would give you a good upgrade path for a center speaker when you want to buy yourself a present someday...

there's plenty of other examples... i picked the ascend speaker because i have had very good experience with them (have owned all of them except for one model)...

ymmv...

- chris

 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolkien View Post

Haha but that sound system setup proposed above is all individual components and individual brands, are they not of good quality?

i wouldn't bother proposing a system that was junk...

- chris

 

my build thread - updated 8-20-12 - new seating installed and projector isolation solution

 


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post #30 of 58 Old 07-25-2010, 10:12 AM - Thread Starter
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So those two speakers, with a used AVR and two random surround sound speakers will be better quality than the yamaha receiver and fluance speaker set? - noticeably better?
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