TVs & Home Theaters forum


First-Time Surround System

by IzoSama / September 15, 2011 9:26 AM PDT

Hiya. I'm going to lay this out right now, I'm a total nub for home audio and this is really my first system.

My wife and I are in the process of upgrading our living room, which as of right now is really a glorified sitting room, into comfortable and enjoyable media room. We're currently already looking into a new HDTV, but we haven't decided on anything yet so I don't have a specific on that detail if it comes up.

Anyway, my question relates to the Energy Take Classic 5.1 setup, the one reviewed here - (I think I added the link to the post elsewhere, I'm not sure. CNET's forum posting set-up is new to me so I'm experiencing further nub issues.)

This looks pretty ideal for our needs, but I'm not entirely sure what all else I'll need to get. I'm going to assume speaker wire is a given, which is not a big deal. What I do need to know is if I'm going to need to buy a receiver to go with this to hook it up to my TV, or will I be able to connect it directly? In either case, what other cables will I need to get to either directly interface to the TV or to interface to the receiver and from there to the TV?

Any advice you can give me about wiring and cable options that would be both reliable and economical would also be great.

Thanks in advance!

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All Answers

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Some basic Surround info
by Dan Filice / September 15, 2011 2:02 PM PDT

1. A basic explanation of how the typical surround system is connected:
a. Cable or Satellite box connectes to TV, and if you want to hear 5.1 from broadcast, you need to connect the cable box to a receiver.
b. For movies and thrilling surround, buy a BluRay DVD player and connect that to a receiver for audio and to the TV for video, but new receivers allow connection of all devices to it, then it connects to TV for video from whatever device you want.
c. Speakers connect to a receiver. The receiver is needed to encode and amplify a 5.1 signal for surround.

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(NT) Meant to say a receiver decodes, not encodes a 5.1 signal.
by Dan Filice / September 15, 2011 3:32 PM PDT
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Aside from the speakers system you've mentioned,
by ahtoi / September 15, 2011 4:29 PM PDT

You will need a A/V receiver and maybe a BDPlayer. Any idea as to how much you want to spend?

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Good to Know
by IzoSama / September 15, 2011 10:37 PM PDT

I see, good to know ahead of time that I'd need to go ahead and get a receiver. Exactly why I decided to go ahead and ask, before I got in over my head and needed to anyway with equipment lying around the house lol. Gonna go ahead and reply to both of you here, since it doesn't really seem like the forum system would allow me to add a general reply (again, new to this set-up so I'm a little clumsy with it.)

Just to clarify Dan's description real quick so I understand correctly, the newer receivers also act as a sort of AV hub, allowing you to connect multiple devices (BD/DVD player, game console, etc) to one central device (the receiver) that connects to the TV and allows all the connected devices to still function as though they themselves were connected to the TV, while only using a single HDMI port on the TV itself? Kind of like a switchless switcher box that also happens to be the nerve center of the sound system for everything connected to it? Correct me anywhere that I'm wrong, I'm just trying to get a feel for the device's range of functions lol.

As for price range, I'd prefer not to spend much more than $500 for a receiver if I can, as long as it'll work reasonably well enough with the system. I could probably go as high as $600 but that would be the absolute top-end for my budget and I'd definitely prefer to go lower if possible.I also was wondering what the best method for wire management would be, considering at least two of the speakers will be across the room. Would staples (so as not to actually piece the wire) be an all right way to fix the wire to the wall, and do you think having the wires run along base-boards for concealment would be all right?Btw, thanks for all of your really helpful advice so far guys, been a real help! Happy

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Receiver and wires
by Dan Filice / September 15, 2011 11:48 PM PDT
In reply to: Good to Know

$500 - $600 is good for a new receiver budget. Aldo, using staples is fine so long as the staples don't penetrate the wire sheathing and contact the metal wire. I've used a staple gun to connect my rear speaker wire to the baseboard. No issues.

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by 3coursedinner / September 16, 2011 4:51 AM PDT
In reply to: Good to Know

I've run rear speakers under a rug, stuck inside a baseboard, etc., and to come up the wall in a corner ran the wire through tubing (usually used for lamp or other electrical wires) to come up to the level of the speaker. Painted the tubing to match the wall. Use 14 or 16 gauge speaker wire, especially if going under a rug or inside a baeboard -- this gauge is good for audio conveyance but also to protect the wiring.

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Here is what I see in Amazon right now;
by ahtoi / September 16, 2011 6:40 AM PDT
In reply to: Good to Know

Onkyo TX-NR509 cost $270 (5.1 surround), and the Onkyo TX-NR609 for $400 (7.2 surround). The NR509 is good enough for the present speaker system now but you might want NR609 for later in case you want 7.2 surround.

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Good Stuff
by IzoSama / September 16, 2011 7:04 AM PDT

Alright, sounds good all around! I was a little worried my receiver budget might be a little low but glad to see there's a couple of good units that won't break the bank Happy Where can you get the tubing from, it sounds like that would be really good for both concealment and extra protection. Also, I've been looking around and seeing a lot about "banana jacks," which these speakers are supposed to be capable of connecting with. Are they good, and where would be a good place to pick some up? Or should I not worry about those so much?

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by 3coursedinner / September 16, 2011 9:09 AM PDT
In reply to: Good Stuff

Actually, the tubing is called conduits and available either in the electrical or lamp fixture departments at Lowes and Home Deport (I don't remember which).
Personally, I'd opt for the Onkyo TX-609 of the two mentioned previously. Plenty of power, cheap dongle if you want to connect it to the internet, and Marvell Qvideo upscaling and plenty of connectivity options.

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Second vote for the Onkyo w/ Marvell (n/t)
by Pepe7 / September 16, 2011 10:34 AM PDT
In reply to: Tubing


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Quality Diff
by IzoSama / September 16, 2011 12:44 PM PDT
In reply to: Tubing

How much of an appreciable audio/visual quality drop would I see if I went with the TX-NR509 instead of the TX-609? I would assume the upscaling won't be a big deal with BD but some of my older media like older gaming consoles, non-HD satellite TV channels, DVD and so forth would all require good scaling, especially since we're looking into at least a 60" 1080p HDTV.

Not that I don't like the sound of the higher system, I'm just trying to temper my own personal excitement with my budgetary concerns... money saved is money put towards other goodies after all Wink Plus I need to sell the wife on the extra $130 before I can really go ahead and opt for the TX-609 >.>

At the same time, I don't now how soon I'd be able to invest in a 7.2 speaker system and the like in the future, the whole media room conversion is primarily as a result of a one-time financial windfall that's enabling us to enjoy some things we otherwise wouldn't be able to.

As a side question, would there be a way to use the receiver's USB port to interface my laptop (which currently doesn't have HDMI although we're also considering getting a better laptop depending on how things play out) with the sound system and the TV to use the surround for the sound system and the TV for the monitor for watching vids in formats that aren't supported by my other media devices? Or is that a case where I'd do better to just upgrade the laptop and connect to everything via HDMI? My brother-in-law has interfaced his laptop via HDMI directly to his TV, but since I don't have HDMI on this laptop (and want surround for *all* the media I can get it for Wink ) I thought I'd see if it was possible via USB.

Btw I want to apologize for pestering you guys with so many questions, I really appreciate the advice. Happy I'd be lost otherwise lol.

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USB and Video
by Dan Filice / September 16, 2011 2:32 PM PDT
In reply to: Quality Diff

Your PC won't output video into the receiver's USB to see video on the TV. Possibly audio. HDMI is needed to play video from the laptop. USB does not have the fast bandwidth needed to play video without issues.

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by IzoSama / September 16, 2011 3:50 PM PDT
In reply to: USB and Video

Well, good to know then lol. Might see if there's some kind of workaround solution, but if all else fails then we'll just see about upgrading the laptop.

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Banana plugs are nice and convenient to use but...
by ahtoi / September 16, 2011 2:55 PM PDT
In reply to: Good Stuff

I think it is the most expensive component around for their purpose. Personally I just use the speaker wire itself (twisted and soldier into a form of pigtail). I think the cheapest banana plug I've see sells around $1.5-2/ea. I am sure it is being sold all over the place (Radio Shack, Fry's Amazon, Best Buy, it may even be at Home Depot).

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Any other suggestions?
by IzoSama / September 16, 2011 3:55 PM PDT

Do you have any recommendations for someone who not only has no soldering equipment but also no experience soldering? Preferably something where I won't need to solder, if possible.. Not only am I inexperienced, I'm notoriously clumsy Silly

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Any other suggestions?
by 3coursedinner / September 16, 2011 11:47 PM PDT
In reply to: Any other suggestions?

Forget the banana plugs -- just stick the speaker wires in the post.
As for spending $ for a receiver -- as someone said -- this is your hub. You shoould have it for years -- grow into it and not out of it. You need a decent watts per channel just to handle the peak volumes well and decents watts per channel is not available with the less cost receivers.
I've reconsidered the Onkyo models mainly because neither one will upoonvert anything other than HDMI input. Your other components don't have HDMI, probably component video. That;s another consideration -- how many and what type of non HDMI inputs do you need? A receiver that upconverts all video inouts would be ideal but I'm sure that will put you into the $550 or higher range. I donj't know about SAT boxes and if it costs more to swap a non HD box for a HD box (my cable company doesn't charge more for a HD box).
As for connecting a notebook -- unless you have a blu ray player in the notebook I wouldn't worry about that. Most receivers over $300 have the 15 pin computer port that you can connect.

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by IzoSama / September 17, 2011 8:16 AM PDT
In reply to: Any other suggestions?

I won't worry about the plugs, then. As for how many non-HDMI components I'll have, it'll probably total no more than two or three at the very most -- just a Famiclone for retro gaming and a PS2 for not-as retro, and likely little else without HDMI. Would receiver upconversion support be necessary for those or would the TV's scaler be sufficient? If so, do you think the TX-609 has good enough watts per channel for the cost and if not are there any other brand/models you would recommend? I'm also no sure about the cost for swapping the sat box, but we probably will one way or another (unless it's ridiculously expensive) anyway.

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by hyghwayman / September 17, 2011 10:45 PM PDT
In reply to: Alrighty,
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Looks Nice
by IzoSama / September 18, 2011 5:38 AM PDT
In reply to: Pioneer...

What do you fine folks think of the Denon AVR-1912? Looks pretty good too, although on both it and the Pioneer I'm a little sad to see no HDMI on the front... Aside from the GUI issues, the review here on CNET for the Denon makes it sound pretty impressive for the price.

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Denon 1912
by Dan Filice / September 19, 2011 4:32 AM PDT
In reply to: Looks Nice

Do you plan on having an external video device plugged into the front panel of the AVR? If your laptop doesn't have HDMI out, which I think you said your's only had USB, then the fron HDMI may not be important.

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This is true,
by IzoSama / September 19, 2011 12:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Denon 1912

although I'm not sure if I'll be upgrading the laptop or not, in which case I'm going to have HDMI on it anyway. Also not sure if others in the household with HDMI devices might want to plug theirs in at any time either... Either way, it'll really depend on whether I get another laptop or not as to whether the HDMI on the front will be a big issue.

I'd say that the 15-pin PC port on the Onkyo TX-609 would be a plus since this laptop appears to have a similar port, but I think the port on the laptop is just a VGA-out so I'm not so sure about that.

I may look into the Denon or the Pioneer anyway and just run an HDMI cord from one of the rear ports around to the front for as-necessary connecting without downgrading sound. A less elegant solution than I'd prefer, but if it can get the job done and maintain good audio it's all good Grin

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by IzoSama / September 17, 2011 8:19 AM PDT

what a relief. I wasn't sure if I necessarily liked banana plugs or not, just heard they were a good connector solution and wasn't sure if I actually needed them or another connector to hook the speakers up or not. Glad to know about the soldering too, I'm a klutz so odds are I'd be visiting the emergency room sooner or later during the project lol.

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Thanks Guys
by IzoSama / September 21, 2011 11:22 AM PDT

Thanks for all the great information, everybody. I'm going to go talk things over with the wife and work out our surround sound battle plan. I'm still undecided on a receiver, torn between the Onkyo TX-609, the Pioneer VSX-1021-K and the Denon AVR-1912 but after some consideration I've decided that which one I go for will be primarily dependent on what other components I'll end up hooking up to the receiver and what kind of outputs I'll be primarily using. You guys gave me a lot to consider which is going to ultimately help me really find what will hopefully be the best receiver for us.

Cheers, everyone! My first system (and the first movie/game/song play) are dedicated to you! Happy

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