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Need suggestions/help with home A/V set up

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by 6jase5, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. 6jase5

    6jase5 Mammogram is down but I'm working manually Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2007
    San Diego/LA
    Ok, cyber monday plasma on it's way and I need to upgrade my sound. I don't need thunderous volume by any stretch and my house has a ton of tile so sound carries at super high volumes as the living room ceiling is 10-12ft.

    HTIB (home theater in a box) seems like a bad word, so I'll skip that.

    Would like to spend around $1K, nothing too big, 5.1 is fine as 7.1 is lost on me. No gaming, blu-ray player for sure and wireless rear speakers would be great but not required (I can get power to them easily). I see receivers that stream pandora which would be cool and an easy front link to an ipod.

    Any personal suggestions before I grab whatever people on Amazon and CNET review highly? I'm far from an audiophile which should be mentioned (or I'd probably need to spend $5K+)
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Intergalactic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon sofware
    Not much help on which equipment to buy. I need to upgrade mine so I'd be interested in this topic as well. I do have some experience in setting up a few systems (not that I'm pro or anything, just detail minded and have a good ear).

    IME, too much echo can ruin the 5.1-7.1(just add a couple of speakers mid way to the rear speakers). Maybe adding some rugs and decorative sound baffles may help?

    I'm curious on how you're going to get speaker cables to the all the speakers, components without them being able to be seen or at least be run so they won't ruin the aesthetics of the room? Maybe wireless or something like Bose that creates the far fields by electronic manipulation instead of adding more speakers?

    Please update the thread when you buy.

    Happy post-Black Friday/Cyber Monday hunting.
  3. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I've been a radio & TV guy specializing in audio for 30+ years. I have nothing against home theater in a box. With your price point, that's EXACTLY what I'd do...but you ought to be able to find a pretty decent one.

    Small speakers are plenty capable of handling treble and midrange - and those are the directional frequencies. Low end is non-directional and can be handled by a decent subwoofer...although it certainly doesn't hurt to have enough size in your front speakers to carry some low frequencies.

    My main audio system is all bought on Ebay after hearing stuff live - but I'm just not one who spends thousands on stereo or surround systems. I don't think I have ever spent over $1200 on a receiver and five speakers, combined...and that was for my "primo" system.

    But like anything else in audio, HTIB isn't all created equal. DO read reviews, check sites for information, and see what you can learn. Your ears aren't anyone else's ears.

    As for the install - depends on how your room is set up. The room I listen in most often is over an unfinished basement storage room, so I just popped off the baseboards below the surround speakers, used a 3-foot 3/8" drill bit (used for cable installation) to drill holes through the floor into the basement, , and pulled wires through the basement to the stereo. To cover the wiring on the walls, I ran it down to the floor through self-adhesive plastic channel that can be painted to match the wall.

    I took the baseboard molding off the wall behind the stereo. By cutting a hole in the sheetrock behind the stereo and inserting a plastic outlet box, I could drill holes up through the floor and pull the wires up through the wall to the outlet I installed. Kind of a pain but it worked. The key is - you have to have access under any floor penetrations.

    If not, you can always run wiring around baseboards or the edge of the ceiling.
  4. 6jase5

    6jase5 Mammogram is down but I'm working manually Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2007
    San Diego/LA
    Front speakers are easy, right by the TV with a cabinet and the sub right next to it or behind. Rear speakers as you said, wired by the baseboards. I also put cables in the walls when I re-did the room, but of course I ended up changing the config completely.

    I'm surprised that you recommend the HTIB, but good to know from experience.

    I almost bought that Energy Take 5.1 speaker set up and still might, then just receiver/blu ray hunting.
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I'm not big on brand names, but I usually like the sound of nearly anything Klipsch makes. I see that they have some package systems which might be worth looking at. Check reviews, because I'm only going by brand name - not by direct experience with the systems.

    Here's one system I found with a quick search that serves as an example. I think you should HEAR any system before buying...reviews at Best Buy are positive.

  6. If you can find an AV reciever in your budget that has the Audessey MultEQ system, I highly recommend that. It's basically an automatic room EQ. The reciever comes with a calibrated mic and generates test tones to calibrate the system. I use it with a 2-channel system and it's fantatstic; I would think in a multi channel system with subwoofers it would make even more of a difference (vs setting it up by trial and error).
  7. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    Honestly, if surround isn't a big priority, don't bother with 5.1 or 7.1 speakers. Find a good pair of speakers that you really like and maybe a subwoofer. Cheap surround speakers are a waste of time and money. They DON'T sound good, CAN'T sound good and if you want the most impact from the system, good sound is important. Most of the surround systems I have heard but that I didn't set up remind me of Quad systems from the '70s- annoying.

    I sell Denon but can get Yamaha, Pioneer, Onkyo and others but I like the sound of Denon more than the rest. The lowest Denon with streaming (AVR-1713) requires an ethernet connection to the network router, will stream Pandora and it also has AirPlay, which means you can stream from a computer with iTunes or an i-Phone, iPad or iPod Touch. It MSRP is $349. The AVR-1913 does more that you may want- google the model numbers and use the Denon.com links to see them. A BluRay player can also stream and a decent one sells for less than $100, so don't worry about that in a receiver if you decide to go with a 2 channel system. If you want NetFlix, Hulu, etc in addition to Pandora, look at Roku- they do all of these and more. If you put money into the speakers, you'll definitely like the system more than if it sounds like a cell phone left on a table.
  8. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Terrific Twister

    Apr 12, 2001
    Lacey, WA
    Hopefully Brad Johnson sees this thread and provides some guidance. He is the Yoda of home theater and audio.

  9. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    My "primo" surround system has Paradigm Titan speakers both front and back, plus a sub and center channel. The Titans are in the bookshelf category, but they're big enough to have a lot of sound, and with the sub, the sound is great to my ears.


    I bought every one of those Titan speakers on Ebay ...in fact I got the center channel speaker with two Titans as a package.

    This is just to say that there are some mid-range bookshelf speakers you can use to make your own system and it will have good punch, better than the mini-speaker systems. (Boston Acoustics also comes to mind.) If you don't want to play mix & match to create your own system, then you can look at a packaged set.
  10. 6jase5

    6jase5 Mammogram is down but I'm working manually Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2007
    San Diego/LA
    Thanks everyone for chiming in!! Taking all advice and I've thought about getting some better speakers. I used to love bose 901's for music, but don't think that that's my best option for this set up!
  11. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    The only way 901s ever sounded really good was A) by accident or B) by taking the time to set them up to sound really good. In either case, the Bose equalizer is mandatory because a graphic EQ's bands don't coincide with the Bose EQ's adjustments.

    That said, if you like them, you like them and nobody can just haul off and tell you that you're wrong. However, speaker technology has progressed light years since the 901.

    As far as listening tests, I would recommend NOT listening to more than three different speakers in one session because, unless you take detailed notes and use the same system/environment for all listening tests, it's easy to attribute certain characteristics to the wrong speaker and for your ears to become fatigued. This leads me to another major point- if the speakers make your ears feel anything- stuffy, weird pressure differences like going up/down a large hill or mountain, painful, irritated- stop listening and pass on those models. You should be able to listen to speakers and feel no physical sensations, other than bass when it's strong. The other things I mentioned are usually from bad speaker system or crossover design, room flaws or something else that causes phase issues. Sometimes, it's just a matter of speaker placement, so that may be a solution but some will need a lot more than that to get the best sound. I have heard some speakers that needed to be tilted back in order to sound good- prior to tilting, they were harsh, annoying and the bass was very uneven.
  12. OldDog52

    OldDog52 Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2011
  13. 6jase5

    6jase5 Mammogram is down but I'm working manually Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2007
    San Diego/LA
    Wow, great reviews on the pioneer gear from Amazon and other sights...might have to call it a winner. I did find some cheap Paradigms though but I'll need some rear channel speakers.
  14. It usually comes down to opinion. For me, I love Denon stuff. My receiver is a Denon AVR-2809CI. I think it's great. My front and center channels are Polk Audio. I can't think of the models, but they are matching. My rears are also Polk, but admittedly they don't match. My sub is a BIC Acoustech PL-200. Excellent subwoofer for the price!
  15. Tituscrow

    Tituscrow Banned

    Feb 14, 2011
    NW England
    Bose every time. :)

    Seriously though, different folk will make different recommendations based on their own experiences with their own gear. You'll be happy with whatever you end up with.

    The thing I would highly recommend is spending the time investigating optimum speaker placement. Play a DVD with plenty of crash, bang , wallop and keep rearranging the speakers then sitting in your viewing spot to suss out the different levels coming from different parts of the room. Ideally, have a partner do the speaker-moving whilst you remain seated....then out of nowhere, you'll think "THAT'S IT!".

    Wireless speakers are great, but pricey. Cables can be tacked under carpet around your skirting boards, but be careful lifting up said carpet. A proper bolster chisel is needed to jam the carpet back down under the gripper rods. Most kits come with about two miles of cable :)

    Good luck.
  16. mkandolf


    Nov 21, 2007
    Saint Clair, MI
    UGH! I hate Bose. Awful mush sound is my personal opinion. JBL is my preference. Their stuff covers a wider range of music listening preferences and they can be had on deals. The Harman Kardon line of home theater equipment (sister company) makes some great A/V receivers.
  17. Bose is an amazing example of how a marketing strategy can blind (and deafen) people.
  18. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I did a sound bar under my TV and its nice. Not fantastic, but nice. It has a sub so that helps. No rear speakers, but I don''t miss them.
  19. Tituscrow

    Tituscrow Banned

    Feb 14, 2011
    NW England
    You've been a real grouch lately :)

    Yeah, of course there is plenty of stuff better than Bose. But within that price range, I'm happy with what I've got.

    To each, his own!
  20. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Too kind you are, Michael.

    Good suggestions already here in the thread. A HTIB is cool if it meets the listener's needs, particularly if there's a time constraint for getting everything in place. I'm on the other side of that situation, I actually like to find well above average pieces without spending a lot of money. And as with basses, I've found a number of ridiculous deals just by being informed and patient.

    The details are what matters so...

    Is the system going to be HT only or is music going to be listened to? IME the mains (front left and right) matter alot more if you're going to be listening to music along with HT use.

    Either way a good center channel is probably the most important HT speaker IMO. That's where a lot of the "five identical speakers and a sub" setups fall short. You want to get a CC that has depth and can handle any human voice for example with ease. I prefer this over letting the sub handle too much of that. YMMV

    A good sub is next in importance. There are lots of unobtrusive models out there that don't cost a ton... you don't have to blow a lot of money but get one that can handle your regular listening with ease. The size of the room and the volume you'll need are key factors.

    If music listening is important get a nice front pair for two channel listening. That's where they really matter.

    Should be able to find a nice 5.1 to 7.1 channel receiver for around $200. hint: you don't have to buy the latest model... last year's work just fine. A 7.1 will work in 5.1 mode so don't rule them out if you're looking for a 5.1. Look for an adequate number of inputs in case you're going to do your source switching at the receiver vs. the TV. If you need ipod, ipad or iwhatever connectivity, consider that when looking. I'm running Harman Kardon and Yamaha receivers, just my personal preference. Denon is good too, some other name brands are iffy.

    You'll need to put it somewhere so keep a stand or whatever in mind. With inexpensive infrared repeaters you can hide your electronics and only have the speakers and TV visible. It's easy but if you're going to keep them in an enclosed space consider what cooling needs there will be.

    In my family room I ran wired in-wall speakers for the rear surrounds. I had access through my basement. If running wires is difficult you can do a set of wireless in which case you'll need AC power nearby.

    Most decent Blurays have streaming built-in so if you want Netflix, Pandora, etc. you can get access with a Bluray player for $100 or less. This typically requires a network connection so you can either go wired or get a player with wifi. If it has wifi make sure it has a built-in adaptor or you'll need to add an adaptor to the cost.

    Cabling of any sort: www.monoprice.com. Can't say enough good things about them. Quality stuff at a very low price. I've used their in-wall speakers too, very affordable and they work well.

    You can go the quick and dirty route (and be happy), you can go this route, either can work. Most of my home setups would've cost me at least triple what I have into them just because I saved so much by buying at a discount, refurbished and used. Mainly through ebay, blinq.com, newegg.com, slickdeals.net, etc. Lots of places to find out about bargains. In my 10x11 home office I have an 84" Elite fixed screen, a 1080p Sanyo projector, a set of Celestion SL6 mains that sold for about $1,000 new, Canton flat surrounds, a JBL center, a Panasonic bluray, Tivo HD, Harman Kardon 7.1 receiver. I didn't buy them all at once but this setup would fit within your budget.