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Stereo or Home Theater?


Shaman97

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What are some opinions of having a high end stereo or a comparably priced home theater?

 

Does say, CD music sound as good or better through a $2000 home theater or a comparably priced stereo system? Aren't movies and such DVD's recorded to take advantage of a 5.1 or 7.1 home theater, but what about a music CD, or an old vinyl recording?

 

If you were starting from scratch, what would you do?

 

 

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We opted for stereo in our TV room (basement den). We went with Klipsch loud speakers which have a livelier bass than the speakers on our upstairs stereo. A midrange Yamaha stereo receiver with a Oppo (?) DVD player.

 

Neither of us particularly like "surround sound" for listening to music, and I think plain old stereo is fine for movies, particularly in our fairly live basement room. (hard floor, with paneled wall on one side, stone fire place on the other). I have to admit that we don't watch a lot of movies, though.

 

YMMV.

 

 

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You might go with something like this, for $800: Onkyo HT-S7100

 

Then by a Blu-Ray player.

 

You have a good TV already?

 

You could certainly get better stuff if you go the component route, but your ear may not be able to tell the difference.

 

If you play around with some options, stick with Yamaha and Onkyo for the tuner/amp part. Stay away from Bose.

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all depends upon how you want to listen to your system. We recently went the component route, bought used Onkyo amps and speakers at discounters or off ebay for cheap, and had someone install the a 5.1 system for the TV and stereo sound for music as we remodeled our house.

We have seperate music through flush ceiling mounted stereo speakers in 2 interior rooms and in the patio outside that one amp supports that gets audio source through CD, MP3 or from Cable music stations.

We also have a seperate wall/ceiling mounted TV surround sound that another Onkyo amp supports.

Speakers are not top of line, good mid range price and sounds good to me - we are not experts, if I can hear it, then it sounds good.

All the sound distribution is controlled by a seperate switcher that allows us to play one or all 4 systems at the same time.

We are quite pleased, cost was no more than what you have budgeted.

Spend some time talking to folks and shop around, you don't need to spend alot of money.

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The Onkyo looks good for a 'boxed' solution for home theater.

 

How does it sound for pure music play? I'm thinking that music is recorded differently than a movie is recorded, so the playback requirements are different, no?

 

My TV is an old 30" tube type, so the whole home theater thing will also need a good TV. But, I was curious to know if I bought a good audio system for music, would it morph easily into hoem theater, or are they really two different beasts - pure audio and home theater?

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I found that maintaining a fairly high end home theatre was a pain in my behind. A cheap system likely won't sound all that great, and even a good system requires quite a bit of tuning. Then factor in running cables around the room and finding space for all of the speakers. I eventually dropped back to 2 channel stereo, and since my speakers, preamp, and amp are all fairly nice, it sounds very good and is so much simpler to maintain. I doubt I'll ever bother with home theatre again unless I win the lottery and have a true home theatre with everything wired in behind the drywall and such, and that just isn't all that likely.

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One of the things I would look into is a digital to analogue converter. This will restore a closer proximity to the analogue wave form and make it much nicer and truer to listen to.

D to A stereo converter.

Benchmark makes one that is good.

Hope this helps.

 

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If 2k is your budget for sound only, then get an amp as David suggested and then get as good as speakers as your ears and your budget can agree on. Nothing beats good speakers, whether it's for CDs or a home theater for 5.1-7.1 surround. I tried out a comparable Onkyo system as David suggested and the speakers that came with it just didn't do it for my ears. I needed some distinct, clean and relatively un-colored sound with plenty of presence. I went with Yamaha and some mid-range JBLs and put together a 7.1 system for around $2300. Now I'm both a music and film freak, so I may cross into that "nuts-for-sound" quasi-audiophile demographic, so your mileage might vary. And don't scrimp on the subwoofer either. If you like big bass and a full sound from your music, go with nothing less than a 500w subwoofer, which was nearly $450 of my original budget. My last suggestion is to try and get a 3-way center speaker. Some center speakers are only 2-way and without a decent midrange speaker, sometimes dialog from movies will get lost in the "mush," so to say.

 

Take your time, do your research, and have fun. It's technology that is a part of your life that you will use more than you realize, especially if it's for both music and movies. Since everybody's ears and criteria for "good sound" are so different, it is a purchase on a comparable level of almost as important of which motorcycle best fits you.

 

Here are two discussion forums which might help you with your research.

 

http://www.hometheaterforum.com

http://www.avsforum.com

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The Onkyo looks good for a 'boxed' solution for home theater.

 

How does it sound for pure music play? I'm thinking that music is recorded differently than a movie is recorded, so the playback requirements are different, no?

 

This is kinda like discussing seat comfort: very subjective.

 

My experience has me ending up with thoughts similar to Sam's. Getting satisfactory HT sound takes quite a bit of tweaking, and even when you think you've got it, it might only be good for one seat in the room. Then, music and movies require different settings, so the process begins anew. Everything is just too adjustable, and if you're a compulsive tinkerer, well ...

 

For years before getting an HT system, I just ran the DVD and TV audio through a relatively inexpensive receiver and a 4-speaker setup that was just fine (to my ears) for music. I was content with that and never felt compelled to fiddle with the settings. Maybe my ears aren't all that discerning, but in many cases I liked the sound better than the HT systems that friends or family had. But, that old receiver died, so I started down the HT path. I don't regret that, but the HT setup does take more effort and attention. Oh, and $. :smirk:

 

Now we're moving into a different house, and I get to start all over again.

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The better component amps have the best of both worlds, and you can program it to be automatic. So a movie is surround sound, but music is played as "all stereo," which simply means that each speaker is either on the L or R and not part of a 5.1 or 7.1 setup. That way you get full coverage.

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Silver Surfer/AKAButters

You can piece together a really nice home theatre for $2K (less the moniotr/TV) that will be great for both viewing movies and listeming to music.

Since this is a very subjective and personal decision, I would recommend that you start educting yourself here:

 

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/

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If your price point is in the $2K range, I'd argue (strongly) that your money is much better spent on a decent integrated receiver/amp and a pair of stereo speakers. Once you are dividing that budget up amongst 5 or 7 speakers and a subwoofer, the compromise in quality of each component is so high that overall sound quality is far worse - This is particularly true of systems where the 5 or 7 channels are all identical speakers, since the vast majority of audio information is going to come from the front 3 channels. You can get by with far lower quality speakers in the back of the room. And if you listen to music as much as you watch surround encoded movies (bearing in mind that non-action movies really don't deliver much difference in experience between surround and stereo), then the left and right main channels are vastly more important.

 

If I have $3K to spend, I can absolutely guarantee you that I'll get a better sounding system out of 2 channels than 5.1, no matter what content I am auditioning. Go to a local home theatre store (not a big box or circuit city type place) and audition a pair of $2000/pair stereo speakers in a well set-up room compared to a $2000 set of 5.1 speakers. Spend that remaining $1000 on pre-amp and amplification (go integrated at this price point, for sure), and I bet you'll prefer the stereo system, even when explosions or blowing up and helicopters are swooping.

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If your price point is in the $2K range, I'd argue (strongly) that your money is much better spent on a decent integrated receiver/amp and a pair of stereo speakers. Once you are dividing that budget up amongst 5 or 7 speakers and a subwoofer, the compromise in quality of each component is so high that overall sound quality is far worse - This is particularly true of systems where the 5 or 7 channels are all identical speakers, since the vast majority of audio information is going to come from the front 3 channels. You can get by with far lower quality speakers in the back of the room. And if you listen to music as much as you watch surround encoded movies (bearing in mind that non-action movies really don't deliver much difference in experience between surround and stereo), then the left and right main channels are vastly more important.

 

If I have $3K to spend, I can absolutely guarantee you that I'll get a better sounding system out of 2 channels than 5.1, no matter what content I am auditioning. Go to a local home theatre store (not a big box or circuit city type place) and audition a pair of $2000/pair stereo speakers in a well set-up room compared to a $2000 set of 5.1 speakers. Spend that remaining $1000 on pre-amp and amplification (go integrated at this price point, for sure), and I bet you'll prefer the stereo system, even when explosions or blowing up and helicopters are swooping.

Agreed. In the system I described above, my front speakers and subwoofer are much better than the four rear speakers. For the fronts, I went with towers that have two 6" "woofers," a midrange and tweeter, which do not need huge 8" woofers or above if you have a decent 12" subwoofer. (I first had a lower wattage 10" subwoofer and found for movies it cracked with loud explosions and music with deep bass). The center speaker being the described 3-way above and then for the four rears, I went with smaller 3-way speakers that were about $300 total.

 

(1) Yamaha 7.1 Amp = $700

(1) Center = $200

(2) L/R Towers ($300 each) = $600

(4) Rear Surrounds ($75 each) = $300

(1) Subwoofer = $450

 

P35.jpgES80BK.jpgES30BK.jpgP12SW.jpg

 

These were prices from a few years ago, but probably aren't too far out of range with current stuff.

 

Yes, agreed, that if you listen to music you will mostly use the front soundstage, but I find I do listen to most of 2-channel music with one of the "surround" simulators that are built-in to the amp such as Dolby Digital Pro Logic IIx or DTS Neo:6 because the presence it adds in the back surrounds fill out the sound without destroying the stereo image. If I really want to listen to true 2-channel music, I use the front two towers in tandem with a subwoofer.

 

Also, after you've spent this kind of money on a decent system, it's a no brainer to spend $40 on a SPL meter to properly calibrate it. I think some people never calibrate their systems and then complain how things don't sound good later when they've "eyed" how loud each speaker should be when in actuality and practice, you should have each speaker calibrated at the same dB level from a little bit back from the center of the room.

 

SPLmeter.jpg

 

Also, I cannot emphasize how important it is to have speakers made with wood cabinets, not some of the plastic casings a lot of these home theater systems are built with. If plastic was a good conductor of sound, then musical instruments would be made of it. And last I checked, but my guitars, bass and drums were made of wood. And the better the wood, the better the instrument sounds. Same goes for speakers.

 

Of course, I'm no audiologist or an expert, so your mileage will vary. But I do stay in at Holiday Inn Express when I can. :grin::/

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All these folks are right, and you'll do well to listen to them.

I just got rid of an old system.

When looking to replace it I decided that I didn't want (well, Beth told me :grin:) the multi speaker setup in our newly redone room.

So I looked at the Home Speaker surround sound bars.

Some of them are quite good, IMO, not quite what these others are, but very good, and easy to set up.

Best wishes.

http://www.jr.com/polk-audio/pe/POK_SURRBAR_hy_BK/

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I'm old school, running my big screen DLP through a high end 2-channel component stereo system. At some point, I would like to upgrade to a newer receiver that has an all-in-1 remote, but I could care less if I had a 5.1 or 7.1. I get plenty of sound out of 2 channels and a sub woofer, and the system is easy to set up and maintain. Besides, I spend all my discretionary cash on motorcycles. ;)

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The better component amps have the best of both worlds, and you can program it to be automatic. So a movie is surround sound, but music is played as "all stereo," which simply means that each speaker is either on the L or R and not part of a 5.1 or 7.1 setup. That way you get full coverage.

 

This sounds good - the abilty to switch between both worlds. Time to hit the sound rooms for some comparisons.

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I'd urge you to listen with your ears and ignore a lot of the advice you're getting here. Maybe even mine. :grin:

 

The Onkyo system I pointed you to has remarkable specs and power for the money. I've had several systems like that, and for the money you can't really beat them. At least make sure you listen to a good receiver with good speakers in a system, and then compare it with a selected component system. I have both, and they each have their place.

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I too am in the camp of a quality amp in combo with similar speakers. Since I didn't want surround sound speakers and cables routed in my fairly small family room, I'm using a Harman Kardon amp with a set of ancient Rodger Sound Labs (RSL) studio monitor speakers outboard of my stereo cabinet with LCD on top. I also have a powered subwoofer in play, but the combo of clean amplification and pure tonal quality from those old 3-way speakers works well for me.

 

 

Jeff

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If you were starting from scratch, what would you do?

 

 

I'd do exactly what I am doing - have separate systems for my HT and music. I enjoy great HT sound like anyone else, but my critical listening has always been done though a high quality stereo rig. So as not to bother anyone else in the house when I'm spinning some music, I'm acquiring a very high quality CD player running through a dedicated headphone amplifier powering a pair of headphones. This is a real attractive option if you are serious about your music listening, and don't want to bust the budget.

 

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