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putting together a new audio/video set up..need input

by EsmeH / March 14, 2008 12:40 PM PDT

I am looking to upgrade to a plasma TV with HD. I am told I should also upgrade my tivo, audio amp and CD player, dvd player , speaker set up and satellite to go with the new tv tehnology. We are not huge video watchers, but do like to listen to music. I wouldn't mind avoiding the surround sound system in full, as I don't care for the 'behind the head' speakers. I am not really looking for a theater atmosphere...

So.............I am thinking a 50-52" plasma (am told a Panasonic 58"/$4,500, but I feel that is too big & expensive-even though my room is large enough to accommodate it)... what are the good (and at good prices) plasmas out there? Also the speaker set up...I don't want to have that large speaker look...can I get by with the front speakers and a sub woofer? Would I just need basically a monitor if I get new speakers?

Also do I really need a $1,600 Denon amp.......? And can these new speakers hook up to my music too.

Lots to know, but want more input as the media tech's quote is $11,000 and it sounds like overkill!

thanks for any help
Susan

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Value is a very subjective thing
by jostenmeat / March 14, 2008 1:08 PM PDT

I blew by the $11k just last year. But my friends simply cant believe the theater I made for the money. even the cheapskates that cannot handle spending $500 on speakers or $2k on a projector.

do you need a $1,600 Denon amp? What does need mean? Does Denon cost more than some others. yes. It also has better QC. The weak point in most receivers is the amp section. Do you need a great amp section? Depends on volumes obtained, listener distance from speaker, speaker efficiency, speaker loads, room volume.

The best value in plasmas are Panasonic. The new line is supposed to look real good. the best plasmas that most consumers ever see are Pioneer Kuros. Then there are Runcos, which Ive never had the pleasure of seeing in action.

There's nothing wrong with going "small" as long as you are fully aware of the performance compromises you will probably make. For instance, even at 58", THX would recommend that you sit only 6.5 ft away. So you can guess that most people are buying smaller screens that the "ideal", and of course this has to do with real estate and any existing aesthetic values.

You can get away with many different speaker setup variations. I use a 7.1 and I firmly believe its best. The following all can work however: 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, 3.1, 4.0, 4.1, etc. These are misnomers as "x.x" actually means # of discrete channels of recorded audio, but we use this terminology for speaker setups because it happens to be easy.

You have $11k to spend? I can help you. I feel that I am a really really really good shopper for audio/video. At least when Im motivated. OTOH, I buy a lot of blemished, refurbished, open-box and demo. Haven't done used yet, could be a matter of time.

so for HT, order of importance:
DISPLAY DISPLAY DISPLAY
Room Acoustics
Speakers that can crank
Amps that can crank
sources, pre, etc

for music:
SPEAKERS SPEAKERS SPEAKERS
ROOM ACOUSTICS ROOM ACOUSTICS
amps, sources, pre, etc

If $11k was for me, HT only, Id do front projection $3k , $2k on sub, $2k on speakers, $1k on room treatments, $2k on pre/pro+amp, $1k for various electronics, Bluray player, UPS, audio rack, cables, etc. Something like that.

Music only, Id do:
$2k on room treatments, $7k on speakers, $1k on an integrated amp, $1k on cdp, audio rack, power center, cables, etc.

Here is a recent post of mine concerning bookshelf speakers that prioritize good looks first. But performance is still excellent:
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-7596_102-0.html?forumID=60&threadID=284347&messageID=2708137#2708137

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overkill with the hometheater
by EsmeH / March 15, 2008 1:20 PM PDT

I really have no desire to spend 11K.....I am sure i can get a great TV and al that it needs for less.......

we don't really want a theater feel, just a really good tv and stereo set up......

good to know panasonic is good, can't I get a great amp for less than $1600?

s

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Susan
by jostenmeat / March 15, 2008 2:14 PM PDT

Your question is a bit amorphous, at least with some missing information. Anyways, yes, you can get a great amp for less than $1600. That Denon is not called an amp, but a receiver. A receiver comprises of a processor, preamplifier, and amplifier. An amp is just an amp.

How much would you like to spend on a pair of speakers? Is there a finish you prefer? Do you prefer bookshelves or towers? Would you rather that they sounded smooth in the midrange, or that bass is more defined and ample, if you were forced to make a choice? Are there limits in dimensions? Forced with a choice, would you choose a very wide sweet-spot in dispersion, or great imaging? For they are design opposites.

Now to the sub. Do you want one? If no, are you sure you never do? Because I can find you a few different integrated amps that have internal BM (bass mgmt) if you choose. Well, you can always use the sub's own BM, but that means two sets of speaker wires to the sub, and then two pairs of speaker out from the sub to main speakers. With this 2.1 system, given a choice of integrated, you will not ever be able to have a center channel, let alone surrounds.

So then, if you want the possibility of surround, you can do the HT receiver, like a Denon or otherwise, use bi-amp capabilities (hey might as well use as much of the channels given to you), and have only 3 left remaining as unused. In general, if there are differences, the integrateds will sound better. But these choices truly are truly small ones when compared to the choice of speaker.

I have an integrated amp, but I will not recommend this model to you at this time. I think the Outlaw rr150 is a cool buy, with internal BM, USB input, tuner, with 5 year transferrable warranty. $649. 30 day trial if you don't like it.

One pair of good looking speakers? Did you read the attached link I posted above? Some ideas worth looking into. If you have more to spend on speakers than a grand, I can help you there as well. I

Subwoofer is tricky. This truly depends on the volume of the room. I know its not always an obvious concept to many, but its absolutely true. If size of the cabinet is not an issue, you can really maximize your dollar to performance ratio. If small size IS a factor, you want a sealed sub. Would you please define a budget for the subwoofer as well? as well as size limitations please?

I just asked you a dozen questions. Answer what you can, and if you don't care about any particular one, do say so.

Heck, some more questions.

-how far will you sit from speakers?
-what's the volume of your room?
-what are the acoustics like? Very reflective with tiling, etc, or decently damped with carpet and curtains?

Of all the questions above, I am most interested, in order
-budget for two speakers
-budget for sub
-totally sure about stereo, or 2.1 vs future HT possibility
-then the questions regarding the "quality" of audio you are seeking


meat-man.

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it appears that I am incorrect about
by jostenmeat / March 15, 2008 2:30 PM PDT
In reply to: Susan

design opposites with imaging vs wide sweetspot. gets complicated though. my stereo speakers totally favor imaging and throw sweetspot out the window. maybe big enough for the space of one to two persons.

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In my opinion,
by jay412 / March 14, 2008 11:03 PM PDT

from what it sounds like you are interested in, that is overkill. but, ultimately, you have to make up your own mind. If you want the best of the best in sound quality and video quality, then that might not be overpriced or too much.
as far as the tv is concerned, the panasonic is a good tv and if the 58 inch will fit nicely in the room, that might still be a good choice, though you could cut the price in half by stepping down to a 50 inch. For myself, you can never go too big. But for you, it doesn't sound like you are sure you want that big.
The main recommendations made (I think) are to get the most out of your new digital hdtv with surround sound and all that. If you aren't really interested in that, then I would reasses the recommendations. And if you really don't care about surround sound, then maybe your old receiver would do well enough for you. You just won't be taking advantage of the most up to date sound quality available. It all depends on what you are wanting.
hope some of this helps.

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Music on Surround System
by Dan Filice / March 15, 2008 4:25 AM PDT

Susan,

Don't skip over a "surround" audio setup just because, as you said "I am not really looking for a theater atmosphere." Listening to music on a decent surround system can be, and my opinion is, better than using a simple 2-speaker stereo setup. Most receivers can process stereo music into "6-Channel Stereo" , which means that the music will get full function from the subwoofer (for bass) as well as the center channel speaker, AND you will get immersive music from all corners of your room and you will hear bass that you never ever dreamed possible. To me, this is better than a simple left-right stereo sound. If you are really planning on spending $4500 on a 58" plasma, why short-change your audio experience? Take a look at Axiom Speakers (http://www.axiomaudio.com/epicgrandmaster_main.html). For about $1700 you can get a full surround system that has received rave reviews from audiophiles. One of the great functions of using matched surround speakers is that each speaker is designed to handle a specific frequency, thus passing such things as low-frequency bass off to the subwoofer. Most old-style stereo speakers are designed as full-range units, thus they try to handle every frequency from 20HZ to 20,000kHZ. This is a pretty optimistic expectation. When you hear a proper speaker setup, it will blow your socks off. And once you hear the audio from a good setup, you will forget the fact that you have rear speakers. My wife hates rear speakers too, but I made a couple of nice rear redwood speaker stands that allow me to hide the speakers behind chairs, yet elevate the speakers above the chairs.

You don't need to spend $1600 on a receiver. The more expensive receivers will give you more audio options and they will also process or pass-through video from your DVD player, but for around $500 you can buy a really decent receiver (Denon, Yamaha, etc.) that will serve your needs just fine. Forget having someone else setup your system. Follow the instruction manuals and follow the wiring diagrams. You can do it.

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And speaking of receivers...
by Dan Filice / March 15, 2008 4:41 AM PDT

Take a look at this Sherwood receiver, for example, as listed on the same Axiom speaker site: http://www.axiomaudio.com/sherwood_r771.html. It's $599. You won't find this at most or any of the big-box schlock stores. Most anything they sell for $599 won't come close to this receiver. It would be nice to buy a Blu-Ray DVD unit, and the Panasonic BD-30 is the best one available right now, which costs about $500 (less on sale). So let's see: Plasma: $4500. Axion speakers: $1700. Sherwood Receiver: $599. Panasonic BD player: $500. Total is about $7100.00. If I were you, I'd look for last years Panasonic Plasmas which are on sale for about $2800.

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...need input
by TheTechSource / March 15, 2008 5:25 AM PDT

Susan,

For your referrence, I am a custom installer. Which means I design, sell, install and maintain electronics of all kinds. It has been my experience that most consumers do not want to spend time working on their electronics. The reason I bring this up is because in order to answer you questions, I want to first bring up the following:

1) Define a budget.
2) Write down what is important to you in how you want to use the system (sounds like you've done this with your post already, but look it over and see if you think it covers the priorities).
3) Search in your area for a low voltage contractor and/or custom installer. Setup appointments to interview 3 of them. Pick the one that you are most comfortable with, if you don't find one - call 3 more.

So, my answer to you is this: you could go nuts trying to dig through the options for prices, technology, manufacturers, etc. In the end, I believe you will be best served by hiring someone you feel you can trust and let them design a system with equipment they know. Then, when you have questions, you have someone you can call that will be there. You could put together something yourself for less, but you'll spend considerable time doing it.

I would recommend you also let them talk to you about providing a universal remote control of some type to make using the system easier. Lastly, expect to spend some money annually to have them come and help you with your setup. Figure something in the range of 4-5 hours a year. They should provide support for no charge for a period after the install, 30-90 days.

I hope this helps, if you don't know where to start in looking for help, try http://www.cedia.net and use the search feature on the main page.

My best to you on your adventure,

Morgan Harman
The Tech Source
Home Theaters and more... in Southern California
http://www.TheTechSource.net
Lic.#849004

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.
by jostenmeat / March 15, 2008 6:41 AM PDT
In reply to: ...need input
For your referrence, I am a custom installer. Which means I design, sell, install and maintain electronics of all kinds. It has been my experience that most consumers do not want to spend time working on their electronics. The reason I bring this up is because in order to answer you questions, I want to first bring up the following:

Dear Mr. Harman. I am sure you must already have plenty of knowledgethat I probably will never obtain. You are right that people hate working on their electronics. For some people I daresay it could be their greatest hate of all!

1) Define a budget.
2) Write down what is important to you in how you want to use the system (sounds like you've done this with your post already, but look it over and see if you think it covers the priorities).
3) Search in your area for a low voltage contractor and/or custom installer. Setup appointments to interview 3 of them. Pick the one that you are most comfortable with, if you don't find one - call 3 more.


I heartily agree with the first two. But, the 3rd... I know that there is a need for custom installers, and wish your business well. However, its amazing how much some of these guys charge. They are indeed salesmen looking to make a buck, just like any of us. However, IMO, for any set-up that I could figure out for myself will cost anywhere from 2x to 5x as much with a CI guy. Maybe more. I have three friends who are CI guys, two share one business, and another has his own. They've done plenty of 50k jobs. However, I probably know more about consumer electronics than any of them, and only due to stuff I've gleaned from incessant forum mongering in the last year or so. Of course I don't have their experience with in-wall wiring or power tools to install in-ceiling speakers. That would be the only reason I would hire one. Even then, a lot of money could be saved by hiring an electrician and/or some other contractor. AV guys are pricey.

So, my answer to you is this: you could go nuts trying to dig through the options for prices, technology, manufacturers, etc. In the end, I believe you will be best served by hiring someone you feel you can trust and let them design a system with equipment they know. Then, when you have questions, you have someone you can call that will be there. You could put together something yourself for less, but you'll spend considerable time doing it.

On one hand, they will know how to put together the equipment they are familiar with. On the other, you can only select from the equipment they sell. I know that this would be a serious issue for me. Many of the brands I have bought are not carried by any of the three friends aforementioned. Actually, probably none of the brands, and I think I have double-digit brands. If you one has the time to type away and read, he/she can be amazed what can be gleaned from AV forums. God bless AV forums.

I would recommend you also let them talk to you about providing a universal remote control of some type to make using the system easier. Lastly, expect to spend some money annually to have them come and help you with your setup. Figure something in the range of 4-5 hours a year. They should provide support for no charge for a period after the install, 30-90 days.

A nice universal costs, what, about $1,000? My friends charge roughly $500 to program one. My $80 Harmony won't be anywhere as nice, but it does get the job done. None of the three friends do any serious audio set-up, no laptop with RTA, at least nothing outside of what the receiver comes with by itself. They charge full-price, convince you that you need something that you don't, unless you are a great customer of theirs. Its making a living.

In the end... if you want the BEST system possible, yes you need to hire pro's. But Im talking six figure digits. Dennis Erskine charges what, $2.5k just to draw you up a DIY plan of attack. Just the blue-print, and you have to do the work. One must also hire a pro if they want the best looking system, which is typically inversely proportional to the quality acheived. Ok, at least with audio. In any case, whether audio or video, a lot of the money can be going to things that have nothing to do with the quality of reproduction, just "beautiful install". My friend's just got a quote for a muti-room "ambient music" install. $50k was the quote, and they would use POS speakers.

In conclusion to my rant, I fully appreciate that most consumers need a "beautiful custom install". But its not hard to put together an audio rack, or stuff some electronics into a credenza. A couple of speakers and a sub. Voila. I dunno... I would rather see the money spent on the actual "goods".

I look forward to your rebuttal! please enlighten me on any topic I may not appreciate enough ... such as stupid customers, hehe Mischief
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Installing AV equipment
by Dan Filice / March 15, 2008 7:59 AM PDT
In reply to: .

Josten,

I agree with your evaluation. One thing that no one has touched upon is that generally anyone who has any technical ability of putting nuts and bolts together can successfully purchase and assemble a TV with a surround system. I might also add that for some of us (me included) there is great satisfaction in doing this yourself and learning a lot about AV in the process. These forums become part of the learning process. Tell me one thing: Aside from needing a "Pro" to custom install wires in a wall or speakers in the ceiling, why hire the "Pro" to simply connect what is essentially a couple dozen color-coded wires to the TV/Receiver/DVD Player/Speakers? The most difficult thing to do after this would be to adjust the parameters of the receiver for the best surround experience or to go through the many setup options in the TV for best picture, and I'd bet that many "Pros" don't do this. From my perspective, doing this stuff is why owning Home Theater gear is fun and exciting. We don't know if Susan has a husband or boyfriend who could help her, so if connecting wires isn't something she wants to do, most guys would relish the opportunity to do it.

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I am the example that proves Dan's point.
by RustyDallas / March 15, 2008 8:11 AM PDT

The only correction I could make is that while I cannot always put nuts and bolts together successfully, I did get my home theater together. So, to the person who started this thread, it's so easy even a Rusty can do it.

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(NT) Does that mean: Rusty=caveman?
by NM_Bill / March 15, 2008 9:41 AM PDT
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Hey Rusty, I found a picture of you on the web!
by jostenmeat / March 15, 2008 12:38 PM PDT
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Dang it...
by RustyDallas / March 16, 2008 12:12 AM PDT

You guys figured me out. I've been trying to go incognito.

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WOW...this is some great info...now to digest!
by EsmeH / March 16, 2008 2:42 AM PDT

OK, first off, My husband doesn't do electronics hence the call to the pro to begin with. After getting the $11k est. I did some investigating on the web and found the same tv for $1,500 less than the quote. That is what made me wonder if I was really getting a good deal from the pro (who I have used before and passed on his name) or now that he is no longer just an installer, getting rushed into alot of expensive equipment that I might or might not need at high retail numbers.

That is why I came to this forum......I also went to my neighbor who is an audiophile and has offered to help me buy and install everything but the satellite set up. But again he loves this stuff and pushes for the big tv and big speaker set up. This is why I love this forum...I get different input.

I will measure my space-which is large and jot down some of the questions you guys have asked and get back to you. But, am I right in thinking that just because I have the room doesn't mean I have to have the largest and strongest system.....? Also I am a decorator, so the thought of speakers everywhere makes me cringe! I have cypress wall paneling, so cut-ins are not an option. It is a huge step for me that I have agreed not to cry about having a visible tv screen in my beautiful room!

But, really isn't a 50" tv a really good size screen?

thanks to all
Susan

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Help define your needs & budget
by NM_Bill / March 16, 2008 12:01 AM PDT

We could go on for some time about glorious this or that possibilities. As well intended friends who have been down this route, we would really value knowing your real world budget, first & foremost, as well as other factors that can be very telling like do you require a certain look or nearly unsurmountable obstacles to running speaker wires.

As a good friend would, we can sort of go shopping with you - suggesting several vsarious possibilities without hard selling any one idea. The new world of HDTV is the first step. A lot of people think that is all there is to it. Why improve video 100% without regarding audio needs at all? Yes, there are such things as a tin ear, but built-in speakers are relatively speaking, tinny afterthoughts.

Becoming a discriminating listener is a whole new world. Truly good sound is like discovering an entire new dimension. It is a process variable among people. One persons budget can be several times as much as another, yet both can get their individual version of worthwhile enjoyment for many years to come.

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OK...budget I can answer
by EsmeH / March 16, 2008 2:48 AM PDT

In my mind I wuld like to keep my budget at 5-6K max.....I was originally thinking less, but I do want a good system as we have been in the dark ages for the past few years! And the point of upgrading the video and audio together to get the best out of the new technology makes a lot of sense.

As far as running wires that is a bit of a problem......I have visible wiring. and was hoping to have all the speakers up front with the tv. Isn't there a surround sound unit or surround sound-ish type speaker set up that can sit up front with the screen?

S

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S
by jostenmeat / March 16, 2008 5:43 AM PDT

6k, got it.

Cypress, very nice! You know they used to make all of the guitars built in Spain, say a hundred years ago, out of cypress. Then they stopped because they pretty much deforested their country of all the cypress they had!

First of all, the size of TV. Dimensions w/ viewing distance is a strange concept. For instance, with a 50" (16:9 hdtv), THX would recommend that you sit only 5.6 ft away from the screen. If you increase that viewing distance by only one foot to 6.7 feet, they would now already recommend a 60" TV. Can you imagine what they recommend at 12 ft? Bigger is almost always better. I daresay always. Ive never, ever, ever seen someone regret going too big. I've seen the opposite though. Remember black bars will be the norm with dvd's or blu-ray, and that a considerable portion of the screen will be black.

Alright. Let's build a 3.1 system. Are you ok with a vertically oriented bookshelf for you center channel? Does that pass the test for your decorator's aesthetics, as the front three speakers would look identical? Believe it or not a vertically oriented tweet-mid is much superior in design compared to the typical horizontally configured speaker with M-T-M. 99.99% of consumers do not know this. And a lot of times, these design-compromised speakers actually cost more, because we the uneducated public think because its a "center-specific designed" speaker, that its actually better. Guess what, its not.

The TV. I am going to totally ASSume you sit farther than "recommended". At which point, 1080p becomes totally useless. The difference in tech will save you a lot. About a $1,000 difference for something you will probably not even notice. OTOH, if you do sit close, then we go for 1080p. I am assuming you do not.

My ideas for you. I hope others give you theirs:

TV = Panasonic TH-50PX75U = $1,622 free shipping.
http://www.plasmaconcepts.com/plasma-tv-store/panasonic-th50px75u/PD719.html

BluRay player = Panasonic BD-50 = about $500 to be released next month. It upscales DVDs, so you only need this. Final profile 2.0. Full hi-def audio support.
http://www.engadget.com/2008/01/06/specs-from-panasonics-new-dmp-bd50/

Receiver = Yamaha 663 = $500-$600 releasing next month. J&R will get them on March 20th. They are getting 200 units, and have 159 on backorder as of yesterday. BB will eventually carry them too.
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=995796

Subwoofer = JL Audio F110 = msrp $2,100 in gloss, or $100 less in satin. Real world prices can and should be less. (My F113 was discounted a grand).I know the price sounds absurd, but its sexiest looking sub ever built. Does not release till June. The only other less expensive servo-controlled sealed sub I can think of is the Martin Logan Grotto at about half the price. Otherwise, even the much older Velodyne DD series cost more yes do not look as good or sound as good, IMO. If you are ok with a larger subwoofer (ported) for the performance acheived, you can save a lot, anywhere from $1,000 to $1,400. I'll leave this to you.
http://home.jlaudio.com/products_subs.php?prod_id=374

Cables = Monoprice for everything you need. My guess is less than $40 total for all of your cabling needs.
http://www.monoprice.com/home/index.asp

Speakers, the tough part, how much budget do I have left? after quick and unreliable math, remaining = $1.3k.
My hare-brained idea is to get 3 of these:
http://www.theaudioinsider.com/product_info.php?products_id=69
call the #, or email, and ask to split up a pair so that you can get 3. If the price is the same individually, total will be $1,350. Gloss black is same price as wood.

If you want just a 2.1 instead of a 3.1, change the Yamaha to an "integrated amplifier" or "stereo receiver". I like the Outlaw as a good candidate that Ive mentined before. Price will be similar. Then save about $350 since no center channel. If you do this, please have the speakers equidistant from listener position. You need to place more carefully to get a believable soundstage and coherent dialog.

How's that for 6k? With your 6k budget, if you chose a custom installer instead, you would get a less performing, larger, uglier subwoofer. You would get inferior speakers, most likely. You would get inferior performance from your center channel, most definitely. You would get an inferior bluray player, if not a Panasonic dealer, for the same money. You would unnecessarily pay out your nose for cables. And you would not have the gained pride in learning about this stuff by coming to forums and finding out for yourself.

Cheers!

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I found you a more affordable sub choice
by jostenmeat / March 16, 2008 6:04 AM PDT
In reply to: S
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startng to understand it all,.here is my info...
by EsmeH / March 16, 2008 1:04 PM PDT

-2 viewing areas 14' and 9' (we use both)
-universal remote was mentioned to me, but heard it is compex and teeny tiny buttons
-really hate the back speaker idea--but for music I already have 2 speakers in the kitchen which is an open floor plan behind the family room,
-will have a cabinet (vertical under the TV) for center speaker
-does the sub woofer really need to be that expensive??

Saw a really nice set up whre thre were two slim (same hgt. as tv) speakers on the wall on each side of the monitor and the same size directly under it. Relatively unobtrusive.

I want a really good tv/audioset-up, not the 'best' but good. What about the 'all in one' center speaker that gives the surround sound sound without the extra 2 back speakers?

Now I know the room is big, but I really think a 50" would be plenty (good heavens we have been watching a 36" sony for the past 8 years quite happily)and, we watch at most 1 movie a week and certainly do not ever have the set on when we entertain Also we don't watch big, loud action movies (hubby was a former movie critic for 15 years and is over loud, bombastic flicks). We also watch a couple tv shows several nights a week............ Really not huge watchers. Don't even allow the kids to watch the tube on week nights!

I do listen to music a lot (everything from classical to contemporary) so the upgraded audio will probably be more appreciated for that than the television.

Hope this gives enough info for good ideas,
thanks so much,
Susan

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reviews haven't been bad for "soundbars" that use
by NM_Bill / March 16, 2008 3:00 PM PDT

electronics to project sound to simulate actual surround sound, but I would be hard to convince.

New widescreen TVs actually view smaller than you'd imagine due to shortening the vertical aspect of the picture. That is why bigger is better with them. Yes, 50" is big but you get used to its size after the shock effect.

Now you reveal your love of music. A Hah! You deserve to emphasize the audio. Though many options, my brainstorm is to recommend keeping it very simple but oh so sweet with just a 2.1 speaker setup.

For plenty of power & confidence in sterling reliability, $1425 will get a refurb NAD new T765 receiver from Spearit Sound. It is up to date with HDMI connectivity. NAD is a "step up" brand known for near high end performance without bells & whistles.

I certainly defer to jostenmeat for subwoofer recommendations. He has & favors world class ones. I feel his rocommendations for one less than a grand would suffice very nicely.

That leaves enough budget to have drop dead gorgeous sound. A nice article from The Perfect Vision in thier Feb 2008 Playback online magazine has a core of fabulous speakers which will provide much head start on what brands to look for. http://magazine.playbackmag.net/playback/200802/?u1=texterity

Not perhaps the exact model as the article focused on unimpeachible bookshelf speakers under $1000. This core group of brands are among those most often reviewed as top picks. Sure, there are so many speakers available, but these cut through much clutter.

I'll even depart from my usual neutral position & say to make sure you audition B&W (Bowers & Wilkens) model 804 before deciding. B&W is the largest high end speaker maker. They sell more $3000/pr &+ than all others combined. Their devotion to high tech research along with their sales volume produces substantial valuable trickle down over time to their more affordable models. List price for 804s is 3 grand, but a modest 10% discount is usually offered. Their dealers often have some lightly used ones from their trade up policy to customers.

I can not argue that jostenmeats big electrostatic speakers are anything less than dreamy, but of a different, higher price bracket. B&W 804s have awesome mid-range clarity stemming effortlessly from pure silence. I got my pair at nearly 25% discount due to the 1st buyer trading up to much more expensive ones. (Yes, even better, but considerably more dough.)

Read the Playback article to zero in on fantastic brands such as Dynaudio, Paradigm, Usher, Aperion, Energy, Infinity, JBL, Klipsch, Polk, PSB, B&W, Focal, & NHT. You will be glad you did. But it is all about you, Susan, not anyone else. My listening choice is only mine alone.

I hope my posting has focus & can help cut through much potential clutter. Devote some effort to this project & be rewarded accordingly.

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S
by jostenmeat / March 16, 2008 4:40 PM PDT
viewing areas 14' and 9' (we use both)

I don't understand this. Ok maybe I do. Like either sitting from a kitchen nook vs the couch?

-universal remote was mentioned to me, but heard it is compex and teeny tiny buttons

The nice ones are very complex. Logitech Harmony will be much easier, and if you have patience, they will help you solve any problem over the phone. The tiny buttons are the problem, but I get by. They all do the same thing essentially, so just play with a couple in the hand.

-really hate the back speaker idea--but for music I already have 2 speakers in the kitchen which is an open floor plan behind the family room,

Then don't do it. I was already trying to see if you are ok with either 3.1 or 2.1.

-will have a cabinet (vertical under the TV) for center speaker

If you can swing it, I highly recommend putting the speaker on top of the cabinet rather than in it. Not just for on-axis listening, but trying for better dispersion and less unwanted distorting reflections.

-does the sub woofer really need to be that expensive??

Didn't I already say value is subjective? Anyways, IMO, a home theater w/o an excellent sub is just not quite a home theater. As for music, the great majority of sub auditioning I did was with music only. Realize that its essentially responsible for a couple of octaves. That range is about the extent you could do with your voice, whether trained or untrained. In other words, quite a bit. An excellent sub is as impressive as an excellent speaker, imo. Then again, its technically a speaker, right?

Saw a really nice set up whre thre were two slim (same hgt. as tv) speakers on the wall on each side of the monitor and the same size directly under it. Relatively unobtrusive.

They sure are. I think they can be a decent compromise for HT purposes. I couldn't, outside of the chance of being able to place them much wider apart than typical, and even then... If you do take excellent audio as a serious thing, you will want to start with speaker positioning to make an equilateral triangle with your head. Have the tweeters fire just to the outsides of your ears. From here, you tweak, and when you find the perfect positioning, you might swear there was a live orchestra in your room. And that you could point where the trombonist in the back row is sitting, and the cellist in the right fore-front.

If excellent audio to you means walking around with background material, then yes please please do not spend anymore than you have to. My best friend just asked me tonight if I would help him audition speakers. Of course I agreed. He is an amazing musician and composer of both classical and rock music. I myself have three degrees in classical music, and have taught it on the west coast, east coast, and Europe. I was offered 5 digit scholarships to top-notch conservatories. I never said this online before that I remember, but wthell, I'll brag. And my friend, imo, is more talented than I. And guess what.... I told him I thought he should get $100 Boston Acoustic bookshelves since he wanted to mount them up high. Firstly, he's not going to care nearly as much as you do about looks. Yes, he has a newborn daughter with his pediatrician wife, but interior decorators they are not. I believe the compromise in speaker positioning essentially negates the choice of hi-end speaker. He thinks *whatever* and is still leaning towards a $500 budget, more or less. Why do I share this now? Because I think with on-wall speakers, put close together, should not have a great deal invested in them due to "speaker positioning" issue. On one hand, you will enjoy certain improvements with a good speaker, linearity, less resonance from cabinet or cone, but you won't get to enjoy good off-axis respone, wide soundstage, excellent imaging. Different placement in this case, but still an issue.

Then again... here's the thing. I would spend a lot on the center channel in this case, still, just for dialogue without sibilance. However with someone like you who puts aesthetics first (like most normal people) you are probably going to want the side speakers to look the same. That's where the money-spending could be tough in this wall-mounting scenario.

I want a really good tv/audioset-up, not the 'best' but good. What about the 'all in one' center speaker that gives the surround sound sound without the extra 2 back speakers?

The all-in-one speaker works best in a symmetrical room, with symmetrical placement of speakers and listeners. The whole surround thing is for Home Theater, which you say is of low priority. These things are not designed for excellent music stereo playback. Are you against even just one pair of speakers??? Im a bit confused, and I don't know if your ceilings have cypress paneling, but you could do in-ceiling speakers. Which brings us back to the whole CI thing.

Now I know the room is big, but I really think a 50" would be plenty (good heavens we have been watching a 36" sony for the past 8 years quite happily)and, we watch at most 1 movie a week and certainly do not ever have the set on when we entertain Also we don't watch big, loud action movies (hubby was a former movie critic for 15 years and is over loud, bombastic flicks). We also watch a couple tv shows several nights a week............ Really not huge watchers. Don't even allow the kids to watch the tube on week nights!

I don't have the formulae in front of me, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if a 36" 4:3 tv had the same viewing area as a 50" 16:9 tv when playing a movie in the typical 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Then if you take some other movies like 3:10 to Yuma, or LOTR, then you are talking even smaller at a 2.35:1, if not even slightly smaller than that.

I do listen to music a lot (everything from classical to contemporary) so the upgraded audio will probably be more appreciated for that than the television.

I am second guessing myself about the CI thing, in your case. Someone like you could probably use one. I help as best as I can, but its not very easy to intermittently type such posts, sometimes. You want to have your cake and eat it, and its not very easy. No "easy" button. Silly

Hope this gives enough info for good ideas,

My updated idea is one pair of speakers for you, coupled with one integrated amplifier. Again I will state that having them equidistant is key. But, again, if music listening is just background stuff when walking around, its all a moot point.

If you like a very smooth, phase-coherent, typical-nice-looking speaker, Id like to submit one recommendation of many possible: Dynaudio. and the best you can afford. Contour can be stretching it, Focus should fit, and Audience definitely will.

If having a very wide soundstage is more important, I would look at Vandersteen.

If you are like me (in other words, completely insane) and don't mind having your head locked in a vise for a puny sweet-spot, yes you can try electrostats. Voice never, ever sounded so good. Heck, I also have a long piece of masking tape on the carpet presently, marking the 38% mark from the rear wall for best listener positioning in regards to avoiding unwanted nulls/modes/peaks.

thanks so much,
Susan


You're welcome.
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writing down all this info...
by EsmeH / March 27, 2008 12:45 PM PDT
In reply to: S

OK I am baaaaaaack! Was away for spring holiday, and now I am ready to try to make some decisions.

I am leaning towards the panasonic 50" plasma.
You all gave me a few choices for receiver...so I need to research those
Blu ray DVD that was suggested
one of the sub woofers discussed

so it looks like the big decisions are the speakers...

My audiophile neighbor brought me his 'Home Theater' magazine for 4/08. He wanted me to see the article on the all-in-one soundbar and the reviews. I love the idea (aesthetically speaking-to avoid the extra 2 back speakers!). But, does this mean I need the 2 speakers on each side of the tv, the sub-woofer and this soundbar??? Man, that is alot of sound sources!!

Any input on these soundbars?

I must say that I am a bit confused by the lingo (i.e. 2.1, 5.1, etc). what does this mean?

thanks,
Susan

ps
my husband is so impressed by my new found 'knowledge' of all things home theater-ish! It is all quite complicted, but interesting! Had no idea I even needed a sub-woofer, much less noticed I was missing one!
S

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Maybe I'm a stick in the mud, but I can not warm up to the
by NM_Bill / March 27, 2008 1:43 PM PDT

idea of using a soundbar to serve as higher grade sound quality. Price vaires widely & reviewers have said decentg things about some & have mentioned things like a makers subsequent new model being an improvement over their first try.

Soundbars have a group of small speakers fed supposedly sophisticated info by electronics to supposedly project sound from the bar out to corners which then is supposed to be sufficient to sound like rather fine ambiance with qualities like enough reverb/echo to enhance & increase the soundstage.

The idea of many small speakers in unison to sound like a big better speaker has been bantied around for many years. I've never been overly impressed. To consider such a soundbar, for heavens sake go listen critically, not briefly, to decide. How could the relatively inexpensive ones pretend to do anywhere the job of those costing substantially more.

Speaker lingo: for instance 2.1 is front L&R + a sub (the point one.) 3.1 adds a center channel. 5.1 is 3.1 plus side or rear surround speakers.

Approaching the idea of speaker selection is daunting. I have been posting this link to a speaker article for bookshelf speakers under a grand in the free online Feb 2008 issue of Playback, from The Perfect Vision/Sound folks.

http://magazine.playbackmag.net/playback/200802/?u1=texterity

The massive amount of speaker brands is huge & information overload. There is no one absolutely definitive short of speakers; however, I have not seen a better tight group of brands than these. Take a look then seek out what are available in your area to audition. Receivers tend to try to sound similiarly neutral. Speaker brands have their own particular sound character. None are perfect. They make the most personal part of your A/V system decisions.

Start with the idea you get what you pay for & don't expect otherwise. Listen until more money doesn't bring better performance to your ears. Everyone's ears are different.l This quest deserves a commitment to some serious work. Upfront price initially seems high, but the set most suitable for you will provide a pleasent listening environment for many years as they pretty much don't just wear out. Their technology does not change anywhere as rapidly as the electronics which you will replace considerable more frequently.

Take at least a CD you are intimately familiar with, which has considerable vocal content, preferably female as well as male - because voice is mid-range but surprisingly difficult to reproduce well. The most common sound fault is in this mid-range vocal area & is called sibilence. It means making the voice sound like the person has a lisp or even goes on to stress areas of the sound dissolving into out & out distortion.

Trust your instincts. If you feel you heard distortion - you did. Audition a maximum of three speakers or at least three brands a day & take notes as memory of fleeting sound comes oh so easily. A few decisions come easy, then a couple others lead to you going back for another serious listening to.

Happy hunting.

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hello again
by jostenmeat / March 28, 2008 6:43 AM PDT
But, does this mean I need the 2 speakers on each side of the tv, the sub-woofer and this soundbar???

No, you don't "need them". There is DSP, or at least should be, in those soundbars. They rely on literally reflecting the audio off your walls. Hence, my statement that best usage would be in a symmetrical room with symmetrical listening position. Can it compete with a full surround system? of course not, but it might do well enough for you to make that compromise in an aesthetic living room.

Any input on these soundbars?

see above

I must say that I am a bit confused by the lingo (i.e. 2.1, 5.1, etc). what does this mean?

What those terms truly mean are the number of discrete channels of audio you are receiving from the audio track itself. The .1 is also its own channel, referring to the LFE of a movie track.

Ok, this is where it can a bit confusing. We use 2.1, 5.1, etc, to refer to the # of speakers in our setup as well. Its perhaps an "incorrect" usage, but I can't think of an easier way for now.

For instance, you can play a "2.0" cd on a "7.1" surround system. Even if you use one of the DSP modes of any receiver, so that all 8 speakers (including sub) are playing the music, you are still only truly getting 2.0 channels. We call it a 7.1 system... but...ok I think you can get my drift...
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More feedback...
by TheTechSource / March 29, 2008 1:30 PM PDT
In reply to: hello again

Susan,

I have installed sound bars. They are great and work as they are described. They are the perfect solution for getting surround sound in many circumstances. They are one physical box and provide up to 5 channels of audio.

Your persuit for answers has you finding out quite a lot of good information. I understand from subsequent posts you had a custom installer give you an estimate which is what has you researching. I think that is commendable. Some of the other forum visitors seemed to jump at the chance to share similar apprehensions about people in this trade.

Frankly, I find it to be disturbingly true of most people - they are typically selfish. But then, this changes to a discussion better suited for a religious or philosophy forum. While I do find that God plays a part in everything I do, I'll get back to your TV setup.

50" is plenty big - but for people who are visual, try this: get a big cardboard box from somewhere. Find the specs on a 50" TV. Measure and cut the cardboard this same size and use painters tape to fix it to the wall in your room. Now leave it there and move around the room and look at it. While this isn't the same as a TV, I think you will find the excersize valuable.

Don't give up hope that there are people with integrity doing good work - in every trade. And certainly stay alert enough to try to sniff out the ones who aren't and avoid doing business with them.

God bless you and be with you, through this and everything in life.

Morgan Harman
The Tech Source
Home Theaters and more... in Southern California
http://www.TheTechSource.net
Lic.#849004

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Sound bar
by TheTechSource / March 29, 2008 1:35 PM PDT
In reply to: More feedback...
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good...I like the idea of the 'soundbar'...
by EsmeH / March 30, 2008 12:23 PM PDT
In reply to: Sound bar

yes, I am a researcher...probably a bit too much, but I am interested in options and the where, how and whys of situations.

I totally think the home theater guy was a good guy, but he just got carried away. I think 50" is the way to go, with a good receiver , dvd, and dvr (I think I got some good input on specifics re: this stuff from the boys on this forum!).

As to the speakers, (sorry if I am a bit obtuse, but this is sooo much info) do I still need a sub-woofer (I haven't had one of those in the house since my college boyfriend built his own!), 2 side speakers plus the soundbar......am I right in thinking that the sound bar takes the place of the center speaker and the surround sound (overhead or rear speakers)?

thanks to all of you guys out there!!
susan

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Speakers
by TheTechSource / April 3, 2008 12:31 AM PDT

Specifically the Yamaha YSP would replace all 5; front left, center, front right, rear right and rear left - but not the sub. For a more complete and full spectrum of sound reproduction a sub-woofer is required (for untimate room acoustic tuning two subs is ideal) but by no means a requirement for your system to work. It will work without a sub - you just wont have a rich bass experience. I recommend one though.

Sincerely,

Morgan

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