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I'll try and keep this brief, I am setting up my first a/v system for a new house. I have read a lot on AVS and other sites and have learned that is is a far more complex field than I originally imagined. I am hoping to tap into the wealth of knowledge here and get some advice.





1) I am thinking of setting up a 5.1 system now, with the option of upgrading to a 7.1 with two larger front speakers on a second two channel amp. Would I be better served with a high quality stereo system with two tower speakers and a bigger amp for the same cost.


2) Can I run the outputs directly from my HTPC soundcard to a multi channel amp. Like the Emotiva UPA-500  

I am skilled enough with computers and have the time and patience to configure the system correctly, if the hardware permits it.

I really would rather not have a receiver in the mix.


3) How much should I spend on my amp in relation to my speakers? What would you suggest for a 5 channel amp.

The amps I have found so far are the two Emotiva's the  UPA-500  (5x80 Watt $350) and  XPA-5  (5x200 Watt $900)


4) Speaker selection, I am lost in a sea of choices. What speakers will serve my application best. Depending on the answer to the above questions I likely am looking in the $600-$1100 range. What are your recommendation?

So far I have found the following:

Aperion Intimus 4B Harmony SA  $1036

HSU Hybrid 1 Package  $1189

Pioneer SP-PK52FS $549.99

Jamo S 426 HCS 3  $499 (Jamo has a number of packages, more and less costly)



Background info:

I have a $1500 budget, including amp, speakers and sub. If I save for a while I can up that to $2000. Neither my wife or I are audiophiles and the $350 speakers/receiver packages usually sounds fine to us. I am not convinced that spending more than that makes sense for us. Perhaps in time it will.


I am thinking of setting up a 5.1 system now, with the option of upgrading to a 7.1 with two larger front speakers on a second two channel amp.


It will be primarily used for playing music in the house and watching TV and Movies.


The only input to the system is a small linux HTPC. I will be using the 3.5 mm analogue outs.


This setup is going to be installed in a open concept apartment living room and kitchen. Its a 16'x17' room with a very tall 15" ceiling. This is approximately 4000 cu ft. One wall is almost entirely covered with a very large glass window, the floors are hardwood.


It's a duplex with one shared wall to the neighbours unit. It is well insulated for sound, but still a shared wall.



Thank you all for taking the time to read this, I tried to keep it brief.

7,002 Posts
1) 5.1 is a great place to start!

2) Possibly but it all depends on the your HTPC audio card outputs. Does it have analog outs for each channel?

As for using just an amp with no "pre-amp"

Possibly but depends on your sound card. Do you have any need or want to hook more components up to your theater than the HTPC? So you never plan of hooking up a cable box or game system where you would want 5.1 surround sound. Amp's usally are secondary to AVR purchase

Does your sound card support Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio?

Most people who I have seen using amps start off buying a AV-Receiver with pre-outs for the addition of an Amp down the line.

3)Honestly in most situation you will be fine with 80-90 actual watts per channel at 5 channels. I say actual cause alot of receivers claim to have big power but in reality don't come near is they rated their power driving one channel. HomeTheater.com does some great reviews where they bench test receivers and amps to tell you what is the actual power they are outputing.

4) You really have to take your room into account here. 4,000 cu, ft is a large space and will require a beefier subwoofer to fill the room with bass. The HSU Hybrid-1 is only rated for a room up to 3,000 cu.ft simply due to the size of its subwoofer

Subwoofers are for me one of the easier purchases Company's like SVS, Outlaw, HSU, Rhythmic. All make great subwoofers that beat anything you can find in a store for a similar and even higher price.

the other 5 speakers will require you to listen to speakers and find what you like.

With your budget I would look at $400 AVR's and spend 1,100 on speakers. Personally I would probably spend $500 on a subwoofer from that $1100 and then just get quality bookshelves cause with a quality subwoofer you aren't missing much over towers
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