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Surround system for mainly music under $800

by Bronyraur / March 30, 2009 11:03 AM PDT

Looking to put together a good sounding home stereo for playing CDs/MP3s(iPOD touch)/DVDs. Would like it to be able to handle more volume than those traditional HTIB with the smaller satellite speakers. Budget doesn't need to include the TV, DVD player or rear speakers. I would even consider bypassing the sub for now (I'd love not to need one at all). I'd prefer bookshelf speakers rather than anything overly large.

Just want full quality sound that doesn't fall apart or distort when pushed a bit. TV will be mostly tuned to sports when the stereo isn't playing rock & blues music.

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Yours is an HTIB budget.
by NM_Bill / March 31, 2009 12:30 AM PDT

And, in my mind, $800 is stretching it a bit too thin. Carefully chosen $1500 or so equipment can be permanently high quality.

Either patience, which does not come easily, or lacking will to take time to save up, an HTIB is in your future. General consensus here is that we often regard Onkyo HTIBs to be best bang for the buck.

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Definitely not going the HTIB route...
by Bronyraur / March 31, 2009 6:44 AM PDT
In reply to: Try this one
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...
by jostenmeat / March 31, 2009 7:56 AM PDT

you could get a stereo receiver instead of a mch HT receiver. The most affordable will be a Sherwood at about $100. Nicer would be an Onkyo a9555 or Outlaw RR2150, around the $600 mark.

however, you simply can't have anything close to full range audio reproduction, especially if you like it loud, with a pair of bookshelves.

but, if you really only want a pair of bookshelves, with decent extension (by no means full range; even truly full range towers are extremely rare), I'd look at the Ascend 340SE at $568, or subtract about a $100 if willing to go used.


the benefit of a 2ch stereo receiver is that your money will be focused on two channels of amplification, rather than 7 ch, processing, matrixing, hdmi inputs, decoders, etc.


IMO, the biggest benefit of receivers is the room correction they employ, and I am big fan of Audyssey Mult EQ XT. If you go with Pio, make sure it has their proprietary MCAAC. I'd personally want XT, but there is good chance I'd be happy with MCAAC, even if the resolution and technology are surely not on par.

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Thanks for the reply...
by Bronyraur / March 31, 2009 8:09 AM PDT
In reply to: ...

...not sure what you mean by:

"you simply can't have anything close to full range audio reproduction, especially if you like it loud, with a pair of bookshelves"

Do you mean for television/movies? I realized after I posted this that I never should have used the word "surround" in the subject because that really isn't what I am looking for. The TV in this room will ONLY have sports--no movies EVER. I've decided to even skip a center speaker for right now--just want 2 speakers and a receiver. Will be playing CDs, the occasional (music) DVD, and probably my iPOD (touch). I could give a flip about movie surround sound, "floor shaking" explosions or "fly by" multi channel effects. I just want my rock and jazz music to sound good even when I am playing my Les Paul through my Marshall in the same room.

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Is this what you mean by a stereo receiver?
by Bronyraur / March 31, 2009 8:16 AM PDT
In reply to: ...
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=7897001&type=product&id=1192232615058

The problem I have with some of the brands you suggest is that I can't buy them at my local "humongo-box" store and get 48 months no interest LOL.

And for those who want to tell me about mom and pop stores and the advantage of buying from them, please understand that I have spent $18,250 so far this year in small stores for my other hobby--playing guitar. According to my wife I can have nice things, but I'm only allowed to be "snooty" with my guitar gear.
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uh
by jostenmeat / March 31, 2009 8:54 AM PDT

no one told you to go to a mom pop store. not that means you would spend more anyways. huh

great, so you spent on guitar. irrelevant, since you've already stated your budget.

Im just giving you what i believe to be value propositions.

yes that link is a stereo receiver. however, it's not going to have an Outlaw type of amplifier section. SO: I would pony up a bit to get the best version of RC you can.

I will not repeat that again.

for full range reproduction, im talking about freq response. If I took your les paul, and took off your 6th/E string, well, you wouldn't really have full range anymore, outside of implementing scordatura, or electronic devices.

Capiche?

Now, I think many, many people could be happy with just a set of bookshelves. However, since you mentioned higher volumes, this limitation arises much more quickly. YMMV.

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Yeah, the Denon would be a fine choice.
by NM_Bill / March 31, 2009 11:45 AM PDT

I have to fess up that I have been using two Denons receivers for several years. I also like their disk players quite well.

I don't understand why you might consider a center channel a must addition in the future. Good, old fashioned two channel sound has been lusted after for about three generations & still has its followers who want to maximize their speaker budget by sticking to the best two for the front L&R that they can afford.

The purpose of a center channel is to firmly anchor the dialog close by the screen in a surround sound setup. That situation then substantially demotes the importance & use of the front L&R, which you tried to buy your best at that stage of the game. A center channel typically is getting, oh, 65% of all the audio energy. It goes back to the original, monaural speaker sound coming from the movie theater screen for normal dialog direction. A step of introducing a center channel would be, perhaps unwittingly, a move to then embracing a surround setup.

I hold no affiliation to my nearest big box store, like BB, because 48 or however months no interest is not how a form my decisions as to what A/V equipment to purchase. The long term satisfaction quality of the desired experience, is.

To logically move beyond that is the natural progression to consider the speakers the most important part of the scheme. That is where most all the practical level sound difference comes from. Receivers have become much better than the old days & excellent values to boot. They get the advertising focus as they have annual model changes. They are made with a goal to not color the sound reproduction &, for the most part, they have succeeded.

Buyers tend to perhaps overbuy their receiver needs. Others may disagree with me, but I don't regard a need for, say, more than 100 watts per channel to be necessary. Many factors come into play, of course, including efficiency level of the speakers & speakers whose impedance falls to low levels rather than a typical 8 ohm level create difficult loads which may require more sophisticated power source.

Yes, early rock 'n roll was my enthusiastic source of hearing loss. Nowadays I only find those who somehow feel an obligation to broadcast to the neighborhood, annoying. The volume knob on my receiver never goes beyond half way. And that ain't parlor music, dude. I have fairly wide musical tastes.

So I present the proposition you cannot buy a pig in a poke, but get out to give a serious listen to possible speaker selections. No speaker is perfect & each brand has their own sound character. It is worth a quest to find which, within your budget, will be overall most satisfying in the long run. Speaker cost may seem high up front, but they don't just easily wear out, but give pleasure or many years. A bit of confusion is normal, but it's worthwhile to decide which seems best to your own ears, no one else.

I shop for information & price levels online, but want to see if I can deal with experienced, independent A/V dealers. They have already survived the invasion of the big boxes. They are generally more knowledgeable than personnel in the big boxes. They don't attempt to carry dozens of brands on the shelves, but probably have something which is a good match for you. There are occasional very snooty stores, but most of these, who carry somewhat higher end goods, are very happy to assist a small budget customer who might be an even better customer in the future.

Weren't the mom & pop store posts in another thread? Fine that you are really deeply into guitar, but that is not the thread topic. You could do some fast remedial speaker education with an article from the Feb 2008 free, online mag, Playback. It'd actual topic is bookshelf speakers under $1K. I won't get into whether bookshelf size speakers can create a nicely, quite loud sound.

Check out the article @: http;//magazine.playbackmag.net/playback/200802/?u1=texterity

No list can be all knowing or comprehensive, but this one is a nice as I've seen. Survey what brands may be accessible in your area, then get out to hear some seriously. Take at least one CD which you are intimately familiar with & that has substantial vocals. Vocals are mid-range frequencies, but are surprisingly difficult to reproduce well. That is before even considering bass or treble.

Trust your instincts. If you think you may have just heard distortion, you have. Take simple notes as confusion comes oh so easily. Maximize the proportion of budget for those most important speakers which seem more overall pleasing to your ears, & your only. In contrast to you, my "snooty" gear is my sound equipment; a guilty vice.

For a possible real find in huge value speakers, if in California, where they are made, Ascend speakers may be a value benchmark. Hear them if you get a chance.

Keep in mind the goal here is your pleasurable experience. Enjoy.

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Thanks so much for the very informative reply!
by Bronyraur / March 31, 2009 12:31 PM PDT

After re-evaluating what this system will be used for, I have come to the realization that I really DON'T want (need?) any more than the 2.1 setup. Unfortunately, I haven't come across many 2.1 receivers so I might have to consider some 5.1 choices also if I can get a great deal. It's the receiver that confuses me to no end--is there that big of a difference? The first I posted was 120w x 5, yet apparently the 80 x 2 Denon is more...efficient? Confusing stuff indeed...

Good to hear that a widely stocked brand like Denon has some informed fans such as yourself. Years of assault on my eardrums due to my other hobby have probably precluded any ambitions of me becoming a genuine "audiophile" LOL, but that doesn't mean that I want to invest in equipment that is considered a waste of time by those "in the know".

Of course I agree with your, "listen to as many as you can" suggestion for speakers--I did just that today for awhile and came away with the above speakers that quite impressed me. Again, I post them not as much for reinforcement of my opinion as much as because I want to know of any horror stories that any of you here might have experienced with this product/brand.

Anyway, thanks again for the time & knowledge.

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An important jist of my about writing included my opinion
by NM_Bill / March 31, 2009 12:54 PM PDT

that I DO NOT recommend going 2.1 in general. The center channel is part & parcel of a surround setup, which is not what you want. Concentrate on quality of the front L&R.

If you were to expand from there, I would urge getting a good quality sub woofer before a center or any surrounds.

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Not saying you recommended it but...
by Bronyraur / March 31, 2009 1:46 PM PDT

I really think that I would like to concentrate on getting the best L&R speakers that I can afford after I get a receiver that will be enough to drive them properly. In the future, I can see me adding a sub.

Like I said, I'm not saying you recommended going 2.1, but I think you agree that it will be the best solution (under budget) for what I want to use this setup for: enjoying music at volumes outside the range of the typical HTIB or shelf system. I guess my real question for you (and anyone else) is how big of a risk am I taking if I buy a well known brand receiver in the $400-500 range without hearing it first? Sony, Denon, Pioneer--whichever has the most power that I get the best deal on? Speakers I should be able to compare, but the receiver I might not. Dangerous?

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Not much risk among competent receivers.
by NM_Bill / April 1, 2009 1:08 AM PDT

I still say I recommend adding a sub woofer trumps the idea of a center channel. Lots of people have severe speaker placement problems & may have to make compromises. The sub woofers' bass sound is not relatively as direction oriented as treble is. So you have more placement flexibility with the sub woofer.

I applaud your opinion that you knew enough that you don't want to go the HTIB route.

This all about your enjoyment. And again, I have no particular nervousness about a receiver selection. I happen to favor Denon for top reliability ratings. It usually sells at a premium over often said value leader, Onkyo.

I've had several brands of audio equipment over time & most have been just fine. I've had Onkyo & never had any issues. Likewise with NAD. I once chose Polk speakers over Bose. ANd then I chose Mission over Polk. Ultimately, I chose B&W over Mission. That was my own ascendency in the quest for the best speakers I could ever own. When getting the first big screen & surround system I have been happy to have chosen Paradigm speakers there.

Just my experience, but I once felt dealt crappy performance by Yamaha. Probably just an accident of fate.

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When I say 2.1...
by Bronyraur / April 1, 2009 12:13 PM PDT

...I am thinking that means right front, left front and sub--am I mistaken?

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Not mistaken. After the dot refers to sub woofer.
by NM_Bill / April 1, 2009 11:06 PM PDT
In reply to: When I say 2.1...

In fact, some who want to keep state of the art are being urged to have 10.2 which is maybe more easily understood when you think of it as two 5.1 setups used at once. Yes, in that case there are two sub woofers.

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*somewhat* mistaken
by jostenmeat / April 2, 2009 7:42 AM PDT

you still have a 2.0 setup, technically speaking, even with subwoofer. The 2.0 refers to the number of discrete channels. You only, *technically* achieve the .1 if you had a discrete subwoofer channel.

If you have two subs with your typical receiver, you still are getting 7.1. Because that single discrete .1 LFE channel is simply being routed to multiple subs.

To get something like 10.2, there must be DSP applied that actually *creates* TWO subwoofer channels.

That all said, yes we often use the misnomers to describe our setups.

You would be using a subwoofer to help out with the freq response of your 2.0 playback. After all, if I used 3way towers for stereo music, I don't call it 3.0, or 6.0, just because passive overs are directing certain passband to any particular driver.

Now, believe it or not, we have something like 348.8 available today, IIRC. The Mann theater in LA might be the only that has it. The technology is called Iosono. According to the venerable poster at AVS, FilmMixer, he says that even the forest demo with rain doesn't just sound like rain hitting everywhere, you actually hear it hitting your shoulders. Anyhoo, his words, not mine.

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I'd be the first to admit amplification is hard to understan
by jostenmeat / April 1, 2009 6:43 AM PDT

unfortunately, at least according to some experts, amp sections have been downgraded to cut costs, and add more features.

IF you bought a ss receiver, obviously there would be 5 ch unused. In such a case, and I'm not saying I know which would fit at the price, you'd rather have it so that it is more power supply limited than amplifier limited. You could have a good power supply, but if each channel was designed in a certain way, you wouldn't get to benefit from the full strength of the power supply. Anyhoo...

there are stereo receivers that apply bass mgmt. Just like the Outlaw above, which is selectable. Arcam makes one Im pretty sure. What you could do instead is when you choose a sub, make sure it has its own BM. Better would be continuously variable xover point and phase, and perhaps choice of slopes as well. However, I believe this will only be applied as lowpass (IOW, sats still getting full range, or something like that), and you will have to run speaker wires from receiver to sub, then more wires from sub to sats.

Again, I vote for stereo receiver if you never go center speaker or surrounds. The only way I vote for AV receiver, and it's an enormous value-laden prospect, is for room correction. IMO, the economies of scale in the world of HT shows its real strength here. I've even thought about using an HT receiver as a prepro for my stereo, just for this feature.

People have no idea how well this works, and just how advanced the technology is, for basically free in today's midlevel receivers. With my XT, the calibration runs 10 sweeps per speaker and sub, at EIGHT positions, deconvolutes all the mumbo jumbo of a mess in terms of first reflections, second reflections, ringing tones/modes, understanding all of this in the domain of time.

If I wanted to do that on my own, with software, laptop, etc, Id give myself a 50/50 chance of making it better or worse. I'm not sure that I can successfully be proficient with audio test equipment, know how to correlate data sampled at various locations and interpret the findings, and then be able to build filters that would yield the desired results.

This is why I have been promoting this tech for quite some time now, not just here as I have a lot, but everywhere.

And I say that after already implementing 15 high quality acoustic panels.

back to speakers, I'll repeat that I like Ascend. At anything below 1k, whether, 350, 500, or 800, this brand would be on my short list.

I've used these before, and they can crank pretty decently for the price, but they are very large, the PSB B25s:

http://www.saturdayaudio.com/picturepages/image_sienna_sale.htm

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(NT) 348.8 discreet channel set-up?........I want one!
by RustyDallas / April 2, 2009 11:50 PM PDT
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