General discussion

Looking for advice on home audio system.

I want three main things out of a home audio system:
1. great to superb sound (of course)
2. HD output for CD's
3. satellite speakers

I'd really prefer to spend less the $1K, but would consider it if the system had all 3 of the above at top of the line quality. Also wouldn't mind ability to use my iPod with if that's even an option. Where should I start looking?

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You wont find much stereo only equipment out there example the price between a stereo amp a A/V amp are going to be the same,same thing with a c.d. player. There are hi-end stereo stores out there . I would sugest buying a a/v amp and d.v.d. player which will play your c.d.s and two hi-quality speakers that can be upgraded to 5.1. This set up will allow you to have a nice stereo system and can be upgraded to a nice home theater system at a latter date good luck stewart

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Pop and crackle

Hi Stewart, this is an old school vinyl problem. No CD's involved. The device I am looking for used to be called a pop and crackle machine. It was a dampening filter that dampened instantaneous noise with out the use of a high freq. filter. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

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More Details Please

What exactly do you want? Receiver, speakers and DVD player? Or does your "system" include something else? 5.1 system?


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oops...i meant HD output for DVD's

I'm basically looking for a home system that will play more TV/DVD media, vs. music. I noticed not many 'box' systems included a receiver, but rather a DVD player with various connection choices. Is a receiver just good for listening to the radio, etc.?

The main thing I'm looking for is a system that will support HD DVD's, superb surround sound, and have satellite speakers that will compliment my HD flatscreen wall-mounted TV. I'm not opposed to having floor speakers either if it means better quality sound.


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oops...i meant HD output for DVD's

I'm basically looking for a home system that will play more TV/DVD media, vs. music. I noticed not many 'box' systems included a receiver, but rather a DVD player with various connection choices. Is a receiver just good for listening to the radio, etc.?

The main thing I'm looking for is a system that will support HD DVD's, superb surround sound, and have satellite speakers that will compliment my HD flatscreen wall-mounted TV. I'm not opposed to having floor speakers either if it means better quality sound.


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Speakers, Another Option

The Panny receiver and Pioneer DVD (the only universal player in this price range that is good) are good choices.

Here is an alternative on the speakers. The Energy ACT 6, $600 (discounted) is very flexible and can be wall mounted or put on stands (generally on stands out a foot or two from the wall will give better sound, but many like the on wall mounting to look good with the wall mounted plasma). The next level up would be to match 3 of the Take LCR's and 2 of the Take Sat's and a S8.3 sub for about $1000, comes in either silver or black.

Here is an alternative on the receiver:

Don't go overboard on the cables. Radio Shack or AR performance series at BB are fine.

For far better video performance but with only DVD-Audio and no SACD look here:

I think you might be confused on the terminalogy. You say you are mostly interested in TV and DVD's. Perhaps you mean you want an up-converting DVD (video signal is up-converted) instead of a DVD player that has the upscale DVD audio sound such as DVD-Audio and SACD.


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admittedly a novice...

...but, I'm doing the research. I'm not even sure what the difference is between an 'up-converting' DVD and DVD-audio or SACD. Basically, I know I want the HD quality on the DVD to come through in video as well as getting the clarity through the audio components. Am I basically just looking for a player w/an HDMI outlet?

Just to give you an idea, this system is to go into a 2nd level condo, 12 ft. ceilings, wooden floors, and approx. 400sf. The tv is mounted about 6 ft up, but speakers don't have to be.

I know in a couple other forums I've read that some systems such as Bose and Onkyo are maybe not as good as buying separate components. I've read that for speakers, the Energy ACT 6 and TAKE systems are great, as well as other names like Pro Cinema, Paradigm, Mirage, Athena and Atlantic Technology. Other than design, are there significant differences in quality between any of these speakers? Also, would a 2 or 3-way subwoofer be much of a benefit here?

Again, thanks for your input.

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Ok this forum is a great place to get information. But may I sugest you start reading HOME THEATER MAGAZINES. They are fun reading and will help you understand this whole home theater thing. Thats what I did for 4 months I boned up and by understanding this whole home theater thing I was able to assemble a nice home theater system and saved money at the same time my goal was to have a killer system on a beer budget It has been so much fun. good luck to you and please post more on your set up P.S You will find home theater magazines at usually hi-end vidio stores or Frys may have them

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More Novice Tips....

Hi, Parqmatt!

Two years ago I was in exactly the situation you have described: I wanted to spend maybe $1-2000 and get "top-of-the-line" performance. Well, "the line" goes a LOT higher than I ever realized. The upside to is that quality goes a lot higher, too. It's worth looking into some real high-end gear before you buy since sound quality is one of your top priorities.


Go visit a few local HiFi stores. The may have a lot of gear out of the range of your initial budget, but customer service and the general level of knowledge at these places is usually a whole world better than you'll find in big box stores. Plus you'll find better listening environments where you can explore what "great to superb" sound really means and exactly what sets that apart from the sound quality of cheaper gear.

Bring several CDs that feature detailed music and singers with interesting voices and ask the sales staff to help you audition a few speakers. They should be able to help you pick out some of the differences between different models / brands. With some practice, you'll notice the difference between clear, "open" detailed sound and speakers that sound like you're listening inside a cardboard box. Visit several other stores to experience a wide variety of speakers and to see who is most helpful to you. Then go visit a big box store or two to compare sound quality & customer service experiences.

I can offer from personal experience that great sound actually does more to make home theater enjoyable than a great picture. I just watched 'Aliens' the other night on my setup--so much of the suspense in that film comes from the soundtrack. I got knots in my stomach, even though I've seen that movie probably 100 times. Good sound pulls you into films and makes music sound alive. The trick to being happy with your purchase is not to skimp, but don't spend more than you can afford and don't pay for "quality" if you can't hear the difference.

Finally, I'll second the advice that you don't have to get everything all at once. I started with a receiver and L/R/Center speakers. A good center channel will make movie dialogue sound more natural. Later, I added a quality subwoofer to accurately reproduce bass (not just explosions & such, but deep bass notes in music). I didn't add surround speakers for more than a year after my initial purchase. Most recently, I upgraded my $120 DVD player to a high-end player--by the way, my DVD player doesn't upscale, but my HD monitor accepts a 480p signal and scales it to look just as sharp as signals from upscaling players.

Well, I hope I've helped and not spent too much of your money for you in the process. Have fun learning about A/V gear, and let us know what you end up getting!


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(NT) (NT) Very Articulate Post, Speleo! Great Advice!
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Def tech?

Also read that the Def Tech speakers are great.

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More Info

The normal DVD players in the $60-$100 range discounted are fine for many people. They play back the 5.1 Dobly Digital sound from DVD movies which sounds great as well as great 5.1 sound from some special DVD's like the Eagles ''hell freezes over'' album in DTS. Dolby Digital and DTS are two competing types of 5.1 discrete surround sound. They also play back regular music CD's which can be enhanced to a simulated (not discrete) 5.1 surround sound by your A/V receiver, which will also sound very good.

The upgraded DVD players we mentioned are for two separate purposes.

First for video. This is the up-converting HDMI DVD player used mainly by those with high definition TV's. It scales up the DVD movies from 480 resolution to either 720p or 1080i. Which one of these two resolutions depends on the native resolution of the HDTV TV. It has HDMI digital connection jacks as well as the common component analog jacks. It supposedly gives a better video signal.

The second upgrade is for audio. There are two competing formats, DVD-audio and SACD. These are special music DVD's in discrete 5.1 sound. They are hooked up to the receiver by 6 extra jacks, no problem if you have the receiver and DVD player close together. They are sort of like CD's on steroids. The sound is very impressive but they cost more and there is a limited number of selections. These are usually purchased by the audiophile crowd.

If you do not have a HDTV (and don't desire the up-converting player) and still want the universal type DVD player that will play both DVD-audio and the SACD discs (hence the name universal) then the Pioneer mentioned above is a good choice. There are some players that are either format only.

If you want the up-converting and not the DVD-audio or SACD then there are those player also. However, their performance is not that good.

So your two choices in my opinion is to get a regular enrty level or just above DVD player. Stick with the good brands like Pioneer, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, etc. Or jump up to the upconverting with DVD-audio like the Panasonic DVD-S77S or the OPPO 971. These are both about $200 or a little higher discounted. I think maybe the Panny is more reliable.

The speakers you mentioned above are the cream of the crop in quality (BOSE is not included). The Cinema Pro is one of Definitive Technology's series. The excellent Cinema Pro 60 is $700 but rarely discounted. I think the Energy ACT 6 is a better system even at the $800 list or the price I linked to. The Energy speakers in the ACT and TAKE series are very flexible and can be wall mounted, stand mounted or placed on a flat surface with their built in extras. Stands are extra. For a more traditional box shape see the Energy Take 5.2 in the link above. These speakers will amaze you for the price, guaranteed! That goes for any of the systems in the $600-$1000 range from the brands you mentioned above.

I would not pay more than $200-$300 discounted for the reciever so as not to pinch your budget for the speakers. These sub like the Energy system are powered subs and have an amp in the sub. Don't let the 8'' size fool you. They will go down almost flat to 30Hz! The receiver can loaf along driving the 5 speakers. Don't worry about the power ratings, not important here. 50 watts per channel or more is plenty. Doubling the power only gives a very small increase in perceived loudness (3dB's). Forget the hype about 6.1 and 7.1 even though the receiver have the extra amps. You can add one or two more surround speakers later if you like.

In this price range I would pick from Denon, Pioneer, Onkyo and Yamaha. Yamaha is my choice for the best buy.

Going this way and trying to get in for $1000 you can still get separate components (no HTIB please). Later you can upgrade as you like. You didn't mention what TV you have which certainly would help in giving you advice.


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This information is extremely helpful. Thanks so much again. As for my TV, it's a 42" Panasonic HDTV. I have Dish Network and want to upgrade to the HD box. So I guess that would mean I need an A/V receiver with HDMI connections? I checked out a couple receivers on CNET, and found a couple of interest w/ HDMI...Panasonic XR70S and higher priced Harmon Kardon AVR 335. There don't seem to be that many out there. Would you still go with a Yamaha?

I have also started purchasing more concert CDs, and happens to be a big reason why I want the home theater. I don't need huge booming sound, just clear, clean sound that 'snaps' at a moderate volume. I think you sold me on the Energy Act 6 system. I also wouldn't mind spending another $200-$500 in total on any of the components if it meant significantly increased quality.

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ENERGY ACT-6 .......

ARE a great choice. Rumour has it they are being discontinued. Also look into Polk, Klipsch, Mirage, and JBL systems. If you have any extra money,
personally, I'd sink it into even BETTER speakers.
Remember speakers are only thing you're ACTUALLY listening to. If you insist on spending the money on components, take a look NAD Electronics A/V receivers.

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Ah Great! More Money!

So now you have thrown my suggestions into a twirl. Up to a max of $1500 sure makes more room to work with.

The trick is to pick the improvements that will make the best bang for the buck in both video and audio. Many spend lots on the TV and pinch on the audio (speakers especially). Good sound will really set your home theater system in motion. Wait until you play the Eagles (hell freezes over 5.1 DVD) in DTS on your final system, it will knock your socks off! Also you must get this even if you don't like Motown, it is superb!

You started off right by buying the best HDTV plasma for the money, an excellent choice. That Panasonic gives great video even with component connections. The HDMI might give a slight improvement in picture quality. However, the Panny's seem to have a little more problem with HDMI up-conveted DVD signals with ''macroblocking'' from their own S77S player. This is a digital artifact that usually only bothers videophiles who are looking for it. However, just to let you know about it. I don't think it would be a problem for you and usually crops up on substandard or highly compressed sources.

The Panny XR70S is nice for one feature and that is it has a proprietary HDMI jack that matches the HDMI jack on the Panny DVD-S77S player. This allows a direct digital connection from DVD player to receiver. The only other situation like this I know of is with very expensive Denon components. However, otherwise this receiver is mediocre at the best. Digital amps in low priced receivers are not good yet.

I am not a fan of Harmon Kardon. They are rather esoteric in my opinion. The high current sales pitch sounds good but is not important with satellite/sub systems. I am not aware of a model AVR 335. It is either last years model or a brand new model. Over $500 on the receiver on a $1500 budget is not a good choice in my opinion. I still recommend one of the Yamaha line as best buys. After adding a little of that extra money here is my current choice for you, a $500 list Yamaha receiver for $299 (check with for good prices). The HTR-5860 (available in black or silver, 5860 & 5860S) has lots of clean power, HDTV compatible component video out, 9-band sub crossover (with points at every 10Hz from 80Hz-120Hz...this is very important with a sat/sub system to make sure you crossover from the main speakers to the sub at the correct frequency and do not have a hole in the response), audio delay for lip sync (to cure a common problem), wide video and audio bandwidth, auto room acoustic optimizer, on screen display, and component video up-conversion just to mention a few. Yamaha does it right and puts important features in even their lower priced receivers. you will find very few other receivers that you can buy for $300 that have all these important features.

I would upgrade the speakers to the Energy TAKE LCR for the L, R and C; the TAKE SAT for the two surrounds, (total $824) and upgrade to this Outlaw LFM-2 sub at $299. Go here and read the reviews on the LFM-1. The LFM-2 is a brand new little brother and many of the same performance results. This is a dynamite sub! You simply cannot find anything near this price that looks as good or will sound as good. You will probably crossover from the TAKE speakers at about 90-110Hz. Another choice to save $236 on the 5 speakers would be to buy 3 of the TAKE SAT for the front and 2 of the ACT SAT for the rears. Still excellent sound and an upgrade form the ACT 6. The Energy sub is very good, the Outlaw sub is superb.

I recommend you consider going with all component connections to save money. Most people talking HDMI have considerably more expensive audio sections. All the component connections would be routed thru the receiver.

DVD players: for $69 you can get a Pioneer DV285S with good basic prog. scan performance ... for $99 you can upgrade to a Pioneer DV578A-S with both DVD-Audio and SACD ... and for $215 you can go up to the Panasonic DVD-S77S with DVD-Audio and HDMI up-converting video, you would connect the HDMI video section (DVI) directly to the Panny plasma. (see pricegrabber for prices and only buy from 4 and 5 star dealers with more than 100 ratings, with credit card only).

So you have a range here (not counting shipping) of about $1255 to $1637 depending on your choice of the above.

Feel free to e-mail me (check my profile) and we can e-mail or chat over the phone for more details and/or some set-up recommendations I have. Good viewing and listening with your system.

RR6 (Chuck)

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I Forgot To Mention

.....that the HDMI output on the S77S allows the audio of the DVD-Audio discs to be transfered to the receiver in digital form using only the one cable instead of the 6 cables needed for the 5.1 discrete channels. The receiver then converts the signal to analog and on to the speakers. In most of these DVD-Audio and SACD units the DVD player first converts the audio signal to analog and then sends it to the receiver.

Not a big deal to me if

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Is my current DVD player worthy?

Thanks again for all the advice! I can't tell you how helpful it's been. I take it you are an Eagles fan. I like their music, but I can't say I'm 'fan'. I used to listen to their greatest hits album a lot in high school. My band is U2. My girlfriend just got me the live Vertigo DVD which is a show we caught last Fall. I think that was the final push to get me to start researching a home audio system. The live concerts on HD are incredible.

So anyway, I've got a Sony DVD/VHS combination player about a year ago. I'm thinking that I will probably need to upgrade this in order to get the most out of all the components I'm going to have. I'm thinking I'll spend the extra money on the better Energy speakers, and also going with the Yamaha receiver. With that said, will I also need to upgrade that DVD player? And if so, is the S77S the way to go, or is there another decent option? Based on your comments about it, I wasn't sure if this was the direction I should go.

Thanks again for all your help. I'm starting to get excited about knowing what my system is going to look like, and I can start doing some shopping!

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(NT) (NT) ...btw, it's a Sony SLV--D350P DVD player
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I think your Sony DVD player is just fine to start with. I'm guessing that this combo unit basically has the Sony entry level DVD player similar in performance to the Pioneer I listed. Sony makes very good DVD players. I'm also presuming that maybe you have not had it hooked up to a good audio system to test the sound quality. I think you might find that it is more impressive than you might think.

The video performance you should already have seen thru the Panny plasma. You should have excellent picture quality with a quality DVD movie (not all movies have top video quality and many are overly compressed). Be sure you have the settings correct for progressive scan signals.

After you get your receiver and speakers set up then you can evaluate the Sony. Later as you like then you might upgrade to HDMI/upconverting and DVD-A and SACD.

I'm not a great Eagles fan or Motown fan, although Take It Easy and Peaceful Easy Feeling are two great songs from my time. However, these 2 DVD's are on many of the list of the 10 best music DVD's available. I never liked the song Hotel California until I heard this disc, it is awesome! Both of these discs are simply superb examples of great sound thru 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS DVD's. There are also some superb DVD-Audio and SACD music discs, but they are expensive, have a limited selection and have not caught on that big because of the format war.

There are many good receivers in the $500 range. Yamaha simply is my favorite is this range and is available at big discounts if you decide to go that way. Yamaha has some of the better DSP (digital sound processing) modes in this price range, good for listening to regular CD's using all 5.1 speakers. The Denon is also a geart choice but they keep a tight reign on their dealers who hold the line on the price. If you buy a Denon from an unauthorized dealer then they won't honor the warranty. I own a Sony high priced receiver because of the sophisticated equalization system which I needed due to my room acoustics problems. However, I would definitely not recommend their lower priced models.

Isn't this fun?


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i JUST BOUGHT A denon 3805 without all that extra vidio switching and run all my vidio straight to my t.v. All I have to do is switch inputs on my t.v. I just dont like the idea of all those extra cables. Also I believe running vidio direct will not degrade picture quality + an amp with h.d.m.i. switching is going to cost you extra money good luck stewart

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Universal (SACD and DVD-Audio) Player system

What you need is a surround sound receiver, a universal disc player (one that will play cd, sacd, dvd video and dvd audio) and 5 speakers. Look at PSB Alpha speakers, the panasonic digital surround receiver (xr 55 or xr70 models)(About $230)and a pioneer (model 588)disc player.(About $130). Get some decent cables too.

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Looking for advice on home audio system.

It looks like what you want is a 5.1 HT Music system.
$1000 budget, set a side $400 for the reciver and spend the rest on speakers. Dennon, HarmonKardon, Yahama are very good brands.
Almost all HT recivers have digital audio inputs for DVD players digital audio.
Include some info about your TV!!!
My two favorate speakers are JBL and Polk Audio, both have several 5.1 systems in the $600 range. Since you want music to sound good DON'T get BO$E.
There are a lot of good speaker systems out there, send sometime listing to music on them. John

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Simple question - No

Please gather info. if not hopelessly eager to buy, like at a big box. Yeah, go see and listen back in the systems listening area - just to scope it out. As an old somewhat audiophile I like my 2 channel as well as my newish a/v system. I'm prejudiced towards accurate sound, not boom box type. Sure, surround has an interesting appeal but, bottom line, many channels are like a horsepower race. If 7.1 is good, just wait for 8.1, 9.1, etc.
If stereo (2 ch) is enough I suggest like the NAD C320BEE $399. Man, it's sweet! That's an integrated amp only. No radio tuner. I need broadcast radio to drive; on a good system at home you realize its standard is real crappy. So, you'll probably get an a/v receiver for the extra flexibility. A fine chioce is Denon AVR-1905 $499.You can start with just 2 speakers and add later, when money allows. You see the speakers are such a key part of the purchase. Decent ones you won't need to replace unless you get ambitious. A great start would be Paradigm Atom speakers at just $199. With that brand you can add/upgrade within the same Atom line. Original speakers could wind up as surround later. Those 1st 2 steps put you at 698 bucks. Then lots of good options. Bypass CD players as DVD players are now commonly universal players. Seriously consider like Sony DVP-NC685V $250, NAD T514 $299, Cambridge Azur 540D $349, or Denon DVD-1920 $369. Outfit total is $948-$1069 and these choices stand tall over what the big boxes throw together at that price. Something to take pride in. Add any modern capable TV for nucleus of nice a/v system. Nothing to throw away in a couple years. Do you have the discipline to buy intelligently instead of cracking the credit card at the big box? Hopefully. Actually, as forthrightness is a virtue, rather than dwell on these specific brands/models - go to a well experienced independent dealer who probably has at least one of these brands. If ready, lay your real total budget on the line. A good experienced independent with these type brands has already had to survive the big boxes siphoning off much foot traffic, yet survived. He won't waste your time. He can send you home with what will start you off fine with no waste of your or his time. Price that way only has to be, say 10% over online pricing for actual service. Chances of that happening at a big box is a real long shot. They don't know or care. The independent does. Just look for the best possible brands to point out his quality. Music electronics has been one of those areas benefitting tremendously from increased value from tech gains over time. Enjoy!!!

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Now there are 25 posts. C/NET server problems this week indicated just 3 posts when I started. Now we catch on you're not absolutely poor as you got the nice Panasonic. Money always counts except for those with more of it than brains. I figure you can see satisfaction over some time is more important than pinching a few pennies up front.
To catch up: several speaker recommendations I haven't personally heard. If you live in a metro area, by all means visit to hear the good speakers. My Paradigm option was rather unique in that, as a starting point, add-ons and upgrades can be done within tghe Paradigm Atom line itself. That way, the additions should be balanced without the sound conflicts mixing diferent brands.
The plethora of good posts adds info and yet provides conflict/confusion. My 2 cents worth: SACD not important - it hasn't caught on. Also, HDMI potential is great, current implementation usually means little or nothing. It adds expense. Most equipment bench tested by knowledgable reviewers backs up the lack of HDMI improvement. If you would A/B compare it to component or even S-video, I'd bet you'd see the point.
You could make do with your DVD/VCR for the time being, or convenience sake. However, upgrading to models like I posted will definitely be worthwhile for your eventual viewing goals. Heck, Sony makes maybe 20 models DVD players - all price and quality points. Your combo unit works; an upgrade would be like moving up from a Yugo to something considerably nicer.
The only posted cautions I would urge is like avoid $100-200 receiver to save. That price point just doesn't make it for a big Panny owner. $400-500 point is worth it. DVD players come cheap - $250-400 gets significant quality upgrade. Then the speakers - SO subjective yet SO important. If you don't skimp there, you needn't replace in a couple years. Good venture, enjoy!!!

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Thanks to all...

I just wanted to say thank you to those of you who have given advice, tips, etc. It's a bit overwhelming how much information there is out there and I'm not sure how deep I'd like to get before making a purchase. I think you can invest a great amount of time and attention into researching systems, and your information has been very helpful in deciding which direction to start in.

Keep up the great job...people like me really appreciate it!!

PS. I'll repost when I've purchased my components and give you my early reviews.

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