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Audio Newbie II: Attack of the Help-Seeking Newbies

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hey all, just found this forum and it's very addicting to read. I just ordered a budget 55" Sony LCD and am so excited that I've decided to start shopping for a new receiver to go with it. Have some ideas, but hoping your feedback will give me better ones.

Price range: I don't want to spend much more than $300 (preferably closer to $200), but it can all go into the receiver.

Speakers: I have an old pair of bookshelf speakers, JBL CM62's, and will probably dust those off for now although I would want the option of adding a subwoofer or even buying all new speakers in the future. I believe they're rated for about 150 watts total.

Features I don't need:
I do not need surround -- love watching movies with powerful vivid sound but don't care about 5.1 or 7.1. (For me more than two channels might even be distracting and take me out of the experience.)
Also don't think I need HDMI -- I'm pretty sure the new TV will have optical and analog outputs.
Don't need AirPlay or an iPod port or anything like that.
Don't need a turntable input.

Features I do need/want:
A radio tuner.
Some control over loudness, so that I can still have natural bass when wifey's sleeping.
I'd ideally like wireless network capability, as this is for the living room and it'd be nice to be able to stream Pandora to it.
I'd like a reasonable number of analog and optical inputs, even though I might not ever use them. I expect to have just one connection, the TV, with the VCR and PS3 plugged into that. But who knows, I may add a dedicated CD player (do people do that anymore?) or even a prehistoric tape deck if I can figure out a good space-saving arrangement.
I'd also like a headphone jack but I assume that's standard?

So one unit I'm considering that has network cape is the Onkyo TX-8050 but that brings me to my first question. I remember someone mentioning that Onkyo's have problems with HDMI boards. I have no idea what that means and I probably won't be using HDMI for audio but I'm worried that might not bode well for the reliability of the other parts.

A second question is, are there other features / criteria you think are important that I haven't mentioned above? Haven't bought a new stereo since the early 90's, so I don't really know what to look out for.

A third question: I've read different things about THD, not all of it tailored to casual consumers. I might not be able to hear the difference anyway, but since I do like watching movies with a wide dynamic range I assume that the occasional bursts of loud sound have a higher chance of sounding distorted with a budget receiver. I have a fond memory of watching The Empire Strikes Back on Hifi VHS with my dad's old Pioneer rack system and the explosive sounds of the Imperial probe droids tearing into Hoth's atmosphere and the Walker crashing and exploding with the sound of parts raining down all over the place. (Thank heavens for Ben Burtt.) I might not be able to reproduce that experience with the speakers I have now, but I would like to know what you think I should look for as a maximum acceptable THD in case I invest in new speakers later.

Question 4: optical or analog connections? I've always used analog but read conflicting opinions about whether optical is better.

Question 5: (in case I didn't make it clear above) Can you recommend a receiver that would match my needs?

That's it for now. Thank you for any insight you can provide!

PS: I forgot to mention, my living room is about 10x20, in an apartment building, wood floors.
post #2 of 14
The Harman Kardon HK-3490 may fill the bill for you perfectly!

I am a two channel guy and I use an older (1985) Yamaha A-1000 integrated amp with a newer Samsung 40" LCD and love it! I once had an awesome surround system...I do not miss it, two good speakers sound much better than a room full of mediocre ones!

BTW, think about some more modern speakers, the adavances in speaker technology have been prodigious in the past 20+ years!
post #3 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by necrosorrow View Post

Hey all, just found this forum and it's very addicting to read. I just ordered a budget 55" Sony LCD and am so excited that I've decided to start shopping for a new receiver to go with it. Have some ideas, but hoping your feedback will give me better ones.

Price range: I don't want to spend much more than $300 (preferably closer to $200), but it can all go into the receiver.

Speakers: I have an old pair of bookshelf speakers, JBL CM62's, and will probably dust those off for now although I would want the option of adding a subwoofer or even buying all new speakers in the future. I believe they're rated for about 150 watts total.

Features I don't need:
I do not need surround -- love watching movies with powerful vivid sound but don't care about 5.1 or 7.1. (For me more than two channels might even be distracting and take me out of the experience.)
Also don't think I need HDMI -- I'm pretty sure the new TV will have optical and analog outputs.
Don't need AirPlay or an iPod port or anything like that.
Don't need a turntable input.

Features I do need/want:
A radio tuner.
Some control over loudness, so that I can still have natural bass when wifey's sleeping.
I'd ideally like wireless network capability, as this is for the living room and it'd be nice to be able to stream Pandora to it.
I'd like a reasonable number of analog and optical inputs, even though I might not ever use them. I expect to have just one connection, the TV, with the VCR and PS3 plugged into that. But who knows, I may add a dedicated CD player (do people do that anymore?) or even a prehistoric tape deck if I can figure out a good space-saving arrangement.
I'd also like a headphone jack but I assume that's standard?

All of this is very easily address, sans the wireless concern - not all receivers in general have such features, and you're probably better off finding a Blu-ray player, web device, or TV that does what you want here (or a combination of devices) - you mentioned a PS3, and that will probably address every need here.

Quote:


So one unit I'm considering that has network cape is the Onkyo TX-8050 but that brings me to my first question. I remember someone mentioning that Onkyo's have problems with HDMI boards. I have no idea what that means and I probably won't be using HDMI for audio but I'm worried that might not bode well for the reliability of the other parts.

When they say HDMI board, they mean HDMI board - it's a number of their surround sound receivers that have had issues over the years with overheating and otherwise dying; and it's probably a small minority of all users that ever experience it (it's amplified by Onkyo's awful customer service though). I wouldn't be too worried about something like the TX-8050, but I wouldn't write off "dumber" receivers with the knowledge that the PS3 will be a better web/network device than most other CE boxes in your price range. Yamaha, Sony, and Harman/Kardon are all viable here.

Quote:


A second question is, are there other features / criteria you think are important that I haven't mentioned above? Haven't bought a new stereo since the early 90's, so I don't really know what to look out for.

If your budget was higher, I would suggest you to get a surround sound receiver with room correction and auto calibration; yes I know you want stereo only. The advantage here is that the receiver will be "smarter" and this may improve the overall experience (it'll do things like time alignment and, if you add a subwoofer, bass management).

Quote:


A third question: I've read different things about THD, not all of it tailored to casual consumers. I might not be able to hear the difference anyway, but since I do like watching movies with a wide dynamic range I assume that the occasional bursts of loud sound have a higher chance of sounding distorted with a budget receiver. I have a fond memory of watching The Empire Strikes Back on Hifi VHS with my dad's old Pioneer rack system and the explosive sounds of the Imperial probe droids tearing into Hoth's atmosphere and the Walker crashing and exploding with the sound of parts raining down all over the place. (Thank heavens for Ben Burtt.) I might not be able to reproduce that experience with the speakers I have now, but I would like to know what you think I should look for as a maximum acceptable THD in case I invest in new speakers later.

Don't even worry about it.

Quote:


Question 4: optical or analog connections? I've always used analog but read conflicting opinions about whether optical is better.

Don't even worry about "better" - if you need digital inputs (I'm aware of no device that's exclusively digital), I'd buy a unit that has them. If you have a stereo only model this matters even less, because you aren't giving up discrete surround sound by dropping digital.

Quote:


Question 5: (in case I didn't make it clear above) Can you recommend a receiver that would match my needs?

Harman Kardon HK3490
Yamaha RS-A700
Sony STR-DH100
Yamaha AX-492 (lacks a tuner)

Would add Yamaha RX-A700 (which is a 7.1 model), if you can find one within your budget. Adding YPAO and lots of other decoding features will be huge, even though you're only using it in stereo (and you can expand later - a properly (or even half-properly) done 5.1 or 7.1 system should not at all be distracting; once you get everything leveled and time aligned you'll probably have trouble picking individual speakers out).
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much Walbert and math-geek for your helpful thoughts. I will consider your advice to start looking into more modern speakers and also to think about getting a 5.1 capable receiver for its "smart" features. The PS3 browser can get on YouTube but I don't think there's a way for it to use Pandora, though that might not be so important, just icing...
post #5 of 14
I own the TX-8050 and love it. There is no need to stream Pandora to it, it's built in.

There are no HDMI inputs, but there are two coax and two toslink digital connections.

If sticking with 2 channel audio and no regrets later I don't think you can go wrong with this receiver. One tip - download (via internet) the firmware upgrade before you do anything else, there are some pretty major improvements.

Good luck!
post #6 of 14
Just FYI

Get the HK 3490 right now at JR's! $279
http://www.jr.com/harman-kardon/pe/HK_3490/
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks Nethawk -- it's always good to hear that a company is continuing support via firmware updates. And thanks for the tip on the HK 06S -- do you think it's risky to use such a powerful amp (120 watts per ch) with my speakers which I believe are rated for about 150 watts total (which I assume means 75 watts per ch)? I've read confusingly differing opinions online about whether a too powerful amp can damage weaker speakers or might actually protect them.
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by necrosorrow View Post

Thanks Nethawk -- it's always good to hear that a company is continuing support via firmware updates. And thanks for the tip on the HK 06S -- do you think it's risky to use such a powerful amp (120 watts per ch) with my speakers which I believe are rated for about 150 watts total (which I assume means 75 watts per ch)? I've read confusingly differing opinions online about whether a too powerful amp can damage weaker speakers or might actually protect them.

You will have no problems whatsoever. Enjoy your new receiver.
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info and perspective everybody. After reading your replies and other posts on this forum I went ahead and ordered the HK. It's on backorder so I don't know when it'll come in and I'm trying not to check my email constantly to see if it shipped! For the time being, I'll hook it up to my old JBL bookshelf speakers, though after going to a concert at Carnegie Hall last week and being utterly amazed by the acoustics and sound quality, I have completely rethought my priorities in life and decided to buy a new set of speakers later this year.
post #10 of 14
Congrats on your purchase. Both the HK and the Onkyo are widely recommended, either is a great choice.

Report back a bit later if you care to, it might help someone else down the line.

As for rethinking priorities, even more congratulations are in order. I have recently done the same (which led to the Onkyo TX-8050 purchase), and outside of it being waaaay expensive I couldn't be happier. Virtually every speaker in my home, my primary HT display, my AVR, even my blu-ray player are all either replaced or soon to be. I'm doing the best for me and that's all that counts.
post #11 of 14
Ps3 has a pandora app if I remember correctly...
post #12 of 14
No it doesn't.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I just looked it up today and no dice. But apparently there's a way to set it up as a favorite in the web browser -- that thing is not easy to use so I haven't tried it yet.
post #14 of 14
Then it must be the web browser, I know i have this setup on my ps3.
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