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Replacing HTIB with entry-level receiver

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Two years ago, on a strict budget, I bought a cheap HTIB system that the discount stores sell: RCA RT2770. I immediately replaced the front speakers with vintage Infinity bookshelfs, and soon afterward upgraded the rest of the speakers including the subwoofer. Each speaker upgrade brought a big improvement in sound quality.
Now I am ready to replace the receiver unit with a budget-level 5.1 receiver. I have looked at the models selling for $200 to $250 at the big box stores: SONY, yamaha, pioneer, etc. I'm also looking at Sherwood receivers in the same price range. Do you think a receiver in this class will give improved sound quality over the RCA unit? The RCA receiver has "real" output of 50 watts RMS x 5, but is very light weight. So probably has puny capacitors inside.
Features that the RCA lacks:
1)video I/O jacks, especially HDMI
2) support for DTS audio
Every budget receiver I have seen has these. What the RCA does have is a USB port for direct playback from flash drives and flash-based MP3 players. Looks like no budget-level receivers have this feature. I guess I can live without it.
post #2 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by yumagah99 View Post

Two years ago, on a strict budget, I bought a cheap HTIB system that the discount stores sell: RCA RT2770. I immediately replaced the front speakers with vintage Infinity bookshelfs, and soon afterward upgraded the rest of the speakers including the subwoofer. Each speaker upgrade brought a big improvement in sound quality.
Now I am ready to replace the receiver unit with a budget-level 5.1 receiver. I have looked at the models selling for $200 to $250 at the big box stores: SONY, yamaha, pioneer, etc. I'm also looking at Sherwood receivers in the same price range. Do you think a receiver in this class will give improved sound quality over the RCA unit? The RCA receiver has "real" output of 50 watts RMS x 5, but is very light weight. So probably has puny capacitors inside.
Features that the RCA lacks:
1)video I/O jacks, especially HDMI
2) support for DTS audio
Every budget receiver I have seen has these. What the RCA does have is a USB port for direct playback from flash drives and flash-based MP3 players. Looks like no budget-level receivers have this feature. I guess I can live without it.


I would suggets for you to get a used Denon. Any model from 2008/2009 which has what you want and within your price range will yield very good results in relation to what you have.

all the best,

Michael
post #3 of 18
used onkyos could work as well. xx6 and xx7 models
post #4 of 18
Also consider the great value of Harman Kardon receivers in refurb form direct from H/K with full 2 year warranties. That would be my first choice. You can get them at the H/K eBay store (avoid other eBay vendors). Look for the models with full preouts which will allow you to add a separate power amp if you decide to do so.
post #5 of 18
Quite frankly any receiver will be better than that garbarge. Look for close outs and open box receivers in town at electronic departments and you should find some good deals. i bought my Denon 1910 last week for $250 out the door and loving it.
post #6 of 18
The lower end Sony's are atrocious. Don't be tempted by the zillions of features, bloated power ratings, and somewhat attractive appearance for a low price. They sound terrible.

The refurbished H/K's will give you entry level audiophile sound quality for a low price.

Quote:
Originally Posted by yumagah99 View Post

What the RCA does have is a USB port for direct playback from flash drives and flash-based MP3 players. Looks like no budget-level receivers have this feature. I guess I can live without it.

You can still hook an mp3 player up to any receiver.
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilmer007 View Post

Quite frankly any receiver will be better than that garbarge. Look for close outs and open box receivers in town at electronic departments and you should find some good deals. i bought my Denon 1910 last week for $250 out the door and loving it.

Where did you get that deal?

-mx
post #8 of 18
I believe I read in another thread he got that by chance as an Open Box model at Best Buy.
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for the input. I decided to order the SONY STR-DH800 as a major web retailer is clearing it out right now at a great price. The reviews on this unit are pretty good overall: has more features than I expected for the price. Not too thrilled with the proprietary SONY features built in, but even if I never use them it still looks loaded with options.

I wish there was a way to use the SONY DMport with Zune or generic MP3 players with mini USB. But SONY has a history of fighting emerging technologies. I think their DVD players were among the last to support MP3 (if they even do). Anyone remember ATRAC compression, Minidiscs or going waaaay back, the "Elcassette"?
post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by yumagah99 View Post

has more features than I expected for the price.

Sigh, Sony's always have a ton of features for a small price, and the trade off is that they sound bad. They can't push speakers, in my experience. No highs, no lows, the sound is sterile/digital, very harsh and distorted turned up, fatiguing to the ear.

Well maybe it will still be a step up from RCA, but I know that I've owned two receivers for around the same price, a Sony, and an entry level Harman Kardon that I got for a bargain online, and the H/K easily sounds 50 times better. The Sony is barely above my alarm clock.
post #11 of 18
Sigh...LOL

yumagah99, enjoy your new receiver.
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
I am generally skeptical when people tell me they can hear differences in sound quality between brands of electronics, but I am open to being proven wrong. Speakers, yes, anyone can hear the difference between price levels. And its possible that cheap units like the RCA RT2770/2870, which is all IC chips inside, may sound inferior to "big iron" amps & receivers with discrete components & bigger capacitors. The RCA replaced a JVC stereo receiver from the mid 90's, back when 50 watts RMS/channel was typical component output.
The JVC weighed over twice as much as the newer RCA. There might be a subtle difference in sound quality, but since I never did A/B testing with the two amps, I cannot tell. For a budget-level system, I think money spent on better loudspeakers is the best return on the dollar.
post #13 of 18
I'm not trying to buzz kill your purchase, but there's really a large difference between the sound of entry level receivers of Sony and brands like Harman Kardon. It's not a subtle, subjective hint of difference, it's a drastic and painfully obvious difference also evident in the specifications.
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
The STR-DH800 arrived yesterday, and took me a few hours to set up. No real problems, but this was the first time I had wired a full AV receiver. And my equipment space is cramped! I will still need to do a little more tweaking, but it's basically working ok now.

The biggest disappointment: the FM tuner. The stereo quieting is no better than the RCA cheapie it replaced, maybe a bit worse! It's possible that the RCA had some high-frequency rolloff. But still, what about SONY's reputation for super tuners? The area where I live is having some serious humidity and summer tropo issues right now, so I'll give it some more time. I have a JVC KT-HDP1 tuner plugged in that is MUCH better anyway.

The pro's: Sound is a big step up from the RCA, mostly because of improved bass. The RCA was setup for 3" full-range speakers, so the bass rolled off quick. That meant the 6.5" woofers on my Infinity front speakers were mostly wasted. But now, they carry some of the upper bass, so the subwoofer sounds clearer and more solid.

A question: I had some mis-information about what HDMI pass-thru means. I was surprised that the audio going in thru HDMI can be played back thru the system. I thought pass-thru meant only the tv got the sound. And I thought somebody said the receiver did not have to be turned on to pass through video to the tv. So far it looks like it does.
post #15 of 18
Only a very few avr's pass HDMI when in stand by. I am not sure what the feature is called.

They warned you about the Sony. FM tuners across the board are not what they used to be as their use has delined so much in recent years.
post #16 of 18
More than a few pass HDMI in standbye I think.

Yamaha tuners seem pretty good in receivers I have owned.
post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

More than a few pass HDMI in standbye I think.

+1

Many of the entry-level ($250 - $400) AVR's I've looked at recently have HDMI pass-through when the receiver is in stand-by mode.
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
Some random observations after messing with the DH800 for a few days:
Overall I am very satisfied with it. I can shake the walls with it, if I wanted to.

- The lack of pass-thru in standby mode is not a problem, because I can simply bypass the whole receiver if I don't want it. I wanted a good number of HDMI inputs because my TV only has one. But I can send HD from my Satellite tuner thru component to the TV. Which made me wonder why would I want the receiver to pass-thru anything if it is off? (Other than the geek factor I guess).

- I can waste lots of time trying out all the many different sound modes. I can hear no difference at all between Dolby PLII and Neural-THX with stereo input. Likewise on DVD's that have DTS and DD tracks, I notice very little difference. But there's always somebody in forums who says "Gotta go with .... because .... sounds like crap"

- I always knew that some MP3's give a slushy sound on the surround channels, it is even more noticeable with this receiver. I'm going to try a player that supports .ogg files, which sound better to me. But for best sound, nothing beats the original cd.

- SONY's Enhanced Sound "Portable" mode eliminates the slush on MP3's by reducing the sound to 2 channel stereo, AFAIC. Is this SONY's idea of an enhancement?

- I did not find the manual as hard to understand as many of the reviewers on Amazon. The large number of setup choices could be confusing, but just following the steps worked for me. Maybe I am just above average

- Nice feature is setting a sound enhancement for each individual FM station. Now if only the reception wasn't so noisy....having lots of storms here now, maybe better in the fall.
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