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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a really old Sony One-Box system (around 15 years old). My basement (20' x 40') is wired for satellite speakers. My biggest complaint with this system from day one is the center channel speaker. It doesn't send out the spoken voice well, therefore it's necessary to turn up the tuner volume and then turn it down again during an action scene. I have been eying the Bose Cinemate 120 system for a few months now, but I'm afraid my basement is too long the 120. I spoke to a rep at Bose who feels the 130 would be a better choice, however, the 120 itself is getting beyond my budget. First, if I were to spring for the 120 or 130, would either be a good upgrade from the old Sony system based on it not having satellites? The sound from the satellites in the Sony system has never been very impressive. I really have no need for a tuner, therefore the Bose systems are very intriguing, but my heart isn't set on Bose (especially if there is a more affordable system that sounds good and could maybe even integrate the satellites). Any and all advice is appreciated.
 

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IMO, Bose makes some pretty good noise-canceling headphones and that's about it. Everything else is overpriced and underperforming. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information on your Sony One-Box setup, so I would need some more information on how the satellite speakers are powered to be able to determine if they could be integrated with a different processor/amp and center channel/sound bar. Are they connected to the Sony One-Box unit with standard 2-conductor speaker wire? Any idea what impedance they use or what their maximum power rating is?

Given these unknowns and the fact that you weren't particularly impressed with the satellites as surround channels, it might be best to start from scratch. $999 could get you a pretty decent surround sound setup...much better than the Bose Cinemate systems.

I would suggest one of two different options...

1) full blown surround sound setup with a separate AVR, a pair of bookshelf/floor standing speakers, and a center channel to start with. If the satellites you already have accept standard 2-conductor speaker wire and if they can handle at least 50 watts per channel then you could use them as temporary (or even permanent) surround speakers to go with your new Left, Right, and Center speakers. If your existing satellites will not work with a normal AVR then you could go without surrounds until you've saved up enough to replace them. Eventually, you will also want to add a subwoofer as well. A good entry-level AVR (which has more features, flexibility, and potentially better sound quality than the Bose system, when paired with the appropriate speakers) should run you about $350. The front left and right speakers should run you about $300 for the pair. That leaves you with ~$350 for the center channel, speaker wire, and any cables you may need to buy, which is very doable.

2) If the idea of a full blown surround setup with separate AVR and individually purchased speakers doesn't sound appealing to you then I might suggest a wireless WHA (whole home audio) capable system such as Sonos or Denon Heos. The Sonos Playbar and Sub would be a good start. At $700 a piece ($1400 for both), they are not cheap. However, the sound quality is quite good, the interface is top notch, and the modular capabilities are worth it, IMO. You could eventually add a pair of Play1's as rear surrounds, which (combined with the Playbar and Sub) would surpass the quality of the Bose Cinemate systems. But, what makes them most appealing is the ability to use the speakers (minus the sub, which would always need to be paired with another Sonos speaker) individually in different rooms. So, if you ever need to upgrade the "processor" part of your surround sound setup (in this case the Playbar) to work with some new format, you can do so without it meaning that your entire system is now useless. Each speaker can simply be moved to another room and used to play whatever audio you want and the only physical connection required is the power cord. If you go the Bose Cinemate route and a new format comes out that it doesn't support, your only options are to do without that new format or to replace your entire surround sound setup. And, unlike the Sonos or Heos systems, it is unlikely that you will want to move the Cinemate system to another room in the house. To do so would mean having to provide additional wiring or purchasing additional source devices to provide audio to it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
IMO, Bose makes some pretty good noise-canceling headphones and that's about it. Everything else is overpriced and underperforming. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information on your Sony One-Box setup, so I would need some more information on how the satellite speakers are powered to be able to determine if they could be integrated with a different processor/amp and center channel/sound bar. Are they connected to the Sony One-Box unit with standard 2-conductor speaker wire? Any idea what impedance they use or what their maximum power rating is?

Given these unknowns and the fact that you weren't particularly impressed with the satellites as surround channels, it might be best to start from scratch. $999 could get you a pretty decent surround sound setup...much better than the Bose Cinemate systems.

I would suggest one of two different options...

1) full blown surround sound setup with a separate AVR, a pair of bookshelf/floor standing speakers, and a center channel to start with. If the satellites you already have accept standard 2-conductor speaker wire and if they can handle at least 50 watts per channel then you could use them as temporary (or even permanent) surround speakers to go with your new Left, Right, and Center speakers. If your existing satellites will not work with a normal AVR then you could go without surrounds until you've saved up enough to replace them. Eventually, you will also want to add a subwoofer as well. A good entry-level AVR (which has more features, flexibility, and potentially better sound quality than the Bose system, when paired with the appropriate speakers) should run you about $350. The front left and right speakers should run you about $300 for the pair. That leaves you with ~$350 for the center channel, speaker wire, and any cables you may need to buy, which is very doable.

2) If the idea of a full blown surround setup with separate AVR and individually purchased speakers doesn't sound appealing to you then I might suggest a wireless WHA (whole home audio) capable system such as Sonos or Denon Heos. The Sonos Playbar and Sub would be a good start. At $700 a piece ($1400 for both), they are not cheap. However, the sound quality is quite good, the interface is top notch, and the modular capabilities are worth it, IMO. You could eventually add a pair of Play1's as rear surrounds, which (combined with the Playbar and Sub) would surpass the quality of the Bose Cinemate systems. But, what makes them most appealing is the ability to use the speakers (minus the sub, which would always need to be paired with another Sonos speaker) individually in different rooms. So, if you ever need to upgrade the "processor" part of your surround sound setup (in this case the Playbar) to work with some new format, you can do so without it meaning that your entire system is now useless. Each speaker can simply be moved to another room and used to play whatever audio you want and the only physical connection required is the power cord. If you go the Bose Cinemate route and a new format comes out that it doesn't support, your only options are to do without that new format or to replace your entire surround sound setup. And, unlike the Sonos or Heos systems, it is unlikely that you will want to move the Cinemate system to another room in the house. To do so would mean having to provide additional wiring or purchasing additional source devices to provide audio to it.
HockeyoAJB,

Thanks much for your response. I don't have the number of the whole one-box system, but here are the individual component model numbers:

Receiver - STR-SE501
Sub - SA-WMS230
Center - SS-CN230
Sats - V230

I have been eying the Cinemate 520 system since it is on sale for $1300 (more than I'd like to spend, but the sale has my attention). I now have second thoughts based on your opinion of Bose. I like the look and reviews of the Sonos equipment, but above my budget (way above when you add in the satellites). Rear sound or true SS is not critical for me, but is nice. Is there anything similar to the Sonos system but more affordable?
 

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To find out why voice is not sounding good out of your current system we need to know a little more about your current system. It is probably one of three reasons.


1. Poor quality speaker - This has good probability as these inexpensive speakers are not very good.


2.Improper setup - Your sources or your receiver are not set to give surround sound properly.


3. Poor speaker placement / rooms acoustics - A picture or diagram would help to determine if this is your problem and what would be a good solution. Many people place speakers where convenient but it isn't the best for acoustics.


No sound bar regardless of price is going to sound as good as a well set up surround system. But not everybody's room can accommodate the proper speaker placements and a sound bar can be a good compromise depending on the situation. You will get many recommendations but without knowing your room and set up it is difficult to give anything specific.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ellebob,

Thanks for the help. I know it's a lot to ask, but what exactly do you need me to provide (pics, descriptions, etc.) in order to help? I know very little about this stuff, but want to improve the sound quality. I think a big part of the problem is the quality of the speakers (and probably the tuner as well). When I bought this system over 15 years ago, it was entry level then. Thanks.

- Jon
 

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The problem with sound bars in general is the speakers are only a few feet apart. It is difficult to get a good soundstage and panning effects with the front three channels being so close together. Sound bars use some audio trickery to try and simulate a wider soundstage. They play with the phase (timing) of sounds to trick our ears or they try to bounce sound off the walls. Neither method is as good as surround sound system where the speakers are properly placed. The other problem with some sound bars and small speakers is their small speakers are not big enough to play the whole frequency range.


You would generally want speakers with 4" or larger midrange drivers and a tweeter. The tiny speakers that come with many of these Home theater in box systems use what they call "full range" (cough, cough, laugh) drivers simply will not sound that good. Your Sony speakers fall into this category as well as Bose cubes and the speakers used in their sound bars. If you were looking for a Home Theater in a Box you could go with something like this.
http://www.onkyousa.com/Products/model.php?m=HT-S9700THX&class=Systems&source=prodClass


This is a decent sounding system and can be found for less. The speakers are larger than most HTiB systems and will have better sound. You don't have to use all 7 speakers if you don't have a god layout for back speakers You can also buy a separate speaker system and receiver and there are many combinations that would be reasonably priced and sound great. The problem with using a speaker system over a sound bar has to do with speaker placement. Some people try to place speakers where they are not in good acoustic locations like corners, cubicles, near the floor or ceiling, etc. That's why knowing a little more about your room's layout would help. A sound bar might be a better solution if it is not possible to put your speakers in good locations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Ellebob,

The S9700THX looks very nice, however, I'm only wired for 5.1. What do you think of the 7700 and 5700 models? I see the 7700 features Dolby Atmos (ready?), but I'm unfamiliar with Dolby Atmos.
 

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Dolby Atmos has speakers above you. So if you have a 5.1.4 system it has 5 speakers, 1 subwoofer and 4 ceiling speakers or speakers that are bounced off the ceiling. It is probably of no use for your situation unless you plan to upgrade in the feature. Because a system is 7.1 does not mean you have to use all the speakers. You can certainly use the 9700 system as a 5.1 system and just not use 2 speakers. The 7700 doesn't look bad, I would skip the 5700. The 7700's surround speakers are the small "full range" type but if there is anywhere to trade off on quality of speakers the surrounds would be the place to do it. The other difference is the 9700 has a bigger subwoofer which will play deeper bass and play louder if desired and the front speakers are larger with 2 woofers. It will play louder and have a fuller sound. The 7700 is certainly decent for a HTiB and if it fits your budget better it will be fine. I'd go with the 9700 if possible but either would be good if you can place your speakers well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Can you tell if these brackets will work with the Onkyos? Also, I included some pics of my basement so you can see how things are laid out. Also, I've seen a special can light fixture on the market that's a speaker (the bulb screws into the speaker fixture). Are you familiar with these? Would they work with Dolby Atmos? Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I'm not sure if I'm going to get these questions answered by Onkyo. I just got off the phone with Onkyo and the girl who attempted to help me had no clue how to respond to my questions. I also asked her a question about the Bluetooth to which she clearly was reading from a script. In their defense, this is what customer service has come to in the 21st century almost everywhere. I will say that when I was considering a Bose Cinemate system, I called to ask some questions. The guy I got on the phone seemed very well-versed in his product or was a great BSer. I was almost sold on the 7700 because I can get it at a great price from an eBay merchant, but I'm afraid I will have no way to connect the fronts without some remodeling.
 

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Thanks for the pictures it really helps a lot. You could probably modify the wall mounts towork but I wouldn’t recommend it. Yourspeakers are placed in poor locations and I wouldn’t use those locations. After seeing the pictures I have somedifferent suggestions. I didn’t see thecenter channel in the pictures, did I miss it?
For the front left and right speakers I would use speakerstands or tower speakers on the left and right of the TV, I would raise the TV on a stand and put thecenter channeled on top of that equipment cabinet with the front of the centerspeaker flush to the front of the cabinet. You can use your current surroundlocation but I might change the speaker bracket to one that can aim the speakermore towards the main seating.
If that does not meet the Spouse Acceptance Factor (SAF) thena sound bar might be a good solution for you. There are two types of sound bars I would consider. The first and in my opinion the best for yoursituation is to use a passive sound bar. These are like having the front three speakers but they are in one soundbar enclosure. You still use a receiver,subwoofer and your surround speakers. There are many companies that make these. I would look for one with 4” midrange driversand a tweeter. The ones with very smallspeakers will not give as good of sound.
The other option is a powered sound bar like the Bose. Again, look for ones with bigger speakers forbetter sound quality. It would alsodepend on what equipment you have on which ones I would recommend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
One thing I failed to mention is that I will be having cabinets and bookshelves built into the entire wall the TV stand is against. The TV will be mounted on the wall. The cabinets/shelves will come up to the ledge. There will be slots for my components. Because of this remodel I will be able to run connections to the corners of the room for speakers to set on the ledge. I will also run the center connection to the ledge as well. I guess that's my best bet since re routing the current satellite locations is not an option. Looks like the 9700 it is.
 

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I'm not sure if I'm going to get these questions answered by Onkyo. I just got off the phone with Onkyo and the girl who attempted to help me had no clue how to respond to my questions. I also asked her a question about the Bluetooth to which she clearly was reading from a script. In their defense, this is what customer service has come to in the 21st century almost everywhere. I will say that when I was considering a Bose Cinemate system, I called to ask some questions. The guy I got on the phone seemed very well-versed in his product or was a great BSer. I was almost sold on the 7700 because I can get it at a great price from an eBay merchant, but I'm afraid I will have no way to connect the fronts without some remodeling.

Bose spends most resources on advertising, having someone answer your questions (IE sell you their products) and very little on R/D/making a good product.


Their gear is pretty much garbage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'm pretty much out on Bose (I've heard enough negative that I don't want to risk $1000+ on a system that won't sound as good as it should.

Because I didn't do my homework before pulling the wire when my home was built, I now need to figure out the best way to rectify the situation (especially with the rear satellites). I'm hoping there's a good, affordable system out there that incorporates wireless rears/sides, otherwise I'll need to make due.
 
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