If you had to assemble an HT system...gradually

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by StevenGU, Jan 4, 2004.

  1. StevenGU

    StevenGU Auditioning

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    I’ve been lurking on this forum for some time, and am hoping those of you who have had the experience of assembling a HT setup can advise me on a dilemma of mine as I start down that road.

    I want to assemble a system suitable for both movies and music, with a slight bias toward music listening. The system I’d like to have, if I could buy it now, would take a budget of approximately $8,000 to $10,000. However, I only have about a third of that available to spend now, and it will take me a couple of years before I could afford the full amount.

    I really don’t want to get myself trapped into an endless case of upgraditis, but want to transform my humble 27” analog TV, DVD player, and mini stereo system into something I can start to enjoy now, and end up with something that has as much “future proofing” as I can realistically manage in this hobby.

    So, if you were forced into a similar position, how would you answer the following:
    • What would you purchase now, as the first components of your system?
    • What would you buy to "tide you over" until you could get a better component later?
    • What would you delay buying until later, as something you could wait on, and what order would you buy it in?
    Although I’d be interested in particular components people want to recommend, I’m actually more interested in where you would spend your money, and how much you'd spend on various parts of the full system.

    Of course, you’re free to tell me that this whole approach will only end in grief. [​IMG] I’d appreciate any advice.

    Steven
     
  2. TommyL

    TommyL Supporting Actor

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    for shock value, I'd start looking at projectors myself...you will be far in awe with movies to keep you in money saving mode for a while. If you have about 3k, I'd look into a setup with something like a sanyo Z2 FP, nice dvd player liek a denon 1600, or something simular (rp-82, panny xp50 etc) and if you really want it all now, grab something like a onkyo htib

    http://www.onkyousa.com/model.cfm?m=...ss=Systems&p=i

    setup as I've recommended for others...HTIB is not a good system, but this one seems to be the bang for the buck...and at 500 bucks, you can probably sell it to a friend later for a few hundred, and work on getting that audio going.

    remember, for 3k, this system will be plenty for most...someof us just dive in headfirst, and can't stop....like me[​IMG] I'm not by any means saying this system is equal to a 15k system, but wow fact with the projector will give ya lots of fun right away, and not make you wonder if the 400 buck dvd player ya bought now makes adifference with the old speakers you have....then you may start thinking the dvd player isn't good when its your speakers bottlenecking you[​IMG]
     
  3. STLMIKE

    STLMIKE Stunt Coordinator

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    Remember that w/a projector, you have to have ambient light control. Also, assuming that you have a room that will work w/a projector -- w/pricing continuing to drop on these, I'd probably wait a while.

    I would definitely second the Onkyo HTIB ($500) and pair it w/your current TV & DVD. This system would then work great in a bedroom, or you could sell it. Until then, it will make a huge difference in movie watching.

    As far as upgrading later -- if you start w/the Onkyo, the biggest change you'd see is a new TV. Of course there are a ton of options: projector, RPTV, LCD, plasma. $2000 is a pretty good benchmark for a decent set. Of course you can spend a lot more or a lot less.

    You'd probably need to upgrade the DVD player when you do the TV, for progressive scan, etc. ($200 - $400 should suffice.)

    I would then upgrade speakers, as better speakers w/the Onkyo receiver will make more of an impact than if you upgrade the receiver & use the Onkyo speakers.
    ($1500 - $2000 is what I'd spend, but of course, you could spend 10 times that if you wanted.)

    I would do the receiver last. I don't think I'd drop more than $1000 on a standalone receiver. If I were going to go more than that, I'd probably look into separates. IMHO, spending more than that on a receiver or separates would necessitate much more expensive speakers.

    Have fun - Mike
     
  4. TommyL

    TommyL Supporting Actor

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    Mike...yes very true in the ambient light, BUT if you are going with a RPTV, you will have a simluar problem with light...and many cost considerably more....bang for the buck IF you can control your light is a FP system...grab a 100" screen and your all set[​IMG] Tell us more about room size, light control and what you would use it for (dvd, cable, sat, hdtv, etc..) I just shot off the best 3k scenario I could think of right now...if you can't get a bigger screen, then of course a portion would be void[​IMG] tom
     
  5. STLMIKE

    STLMIKE Stunt Coordinator

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    I haven't had actual ambient light issues w/mine, but glare is an issue (especially w/the scratchguard on the screen). There's no question that if your room works, a projector is the biggest bang for buck.
     
  6. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    IMO, with 10K, the most important thing is to shop smart.

    If I decided to spend 10K on a HT (and if I had 10K to spend on the theater [​IMG] ), I know I would be tempted to go for big-ticket items, and you can EASILY eat up 10K REALLY quickly. At the same time, you can go REALLY far with it too, and get a VERY nice system.

    Definitely look towards front-projection if you can, if you've got the gumption, look for used CRT for the best bargain in PQ, and arguably the best PQ available.

    I would probably go for a very nice receiver, or perhaps squeeze separates into that budget. You might either go all out for a great receiver now, or, say, get a decent mid-level model for now, and then add separate amps later, for instance. Just idea

    Also, I'd try to spend a LOT of time looking at speakers at all ends of the scales at local dealers. You could get decent speakers now, and then trade them in for much better speakers later. Look for trade-in deals at specialty dealers, lots have them.
     
  7. John S

    John S Producer

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    Steven your going to get lots of opinions on this one for sure....
    Beyond time for you to get in the game so to speak. It will increase your enjoyment 10 fold.
    What sort of screen size were you looking at in yoru dream $8k to $10k setup?
    $3000 will get you a darn nice HDTV and Respectable audio setup.


    That is enough to decently future proof even.

    I would do a 1-2 combo punch... lol

    1. Find an HDTV you like within your budget (This is will be a first component purchase for the long term.
    2. Take what ever money you have left and buy a decent level of audio performance for say $500 to $600.
    3. Then only upgrade in the future where you think your audio system needs upgrading.
     
  8. TommyL

    TommyL Supporting Actor

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    I still vote for a FP system IF the room will work with it (large enough).
     
  9. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    The new Sony Cineza FP Generation 2, $3,500, is giving a very nice picture at my local dealer. [​IMG]

    You can go HTIB for sound in the short-run and gradually move to separates...and then upgrade the DVD player as well.

    Just a suggestion.

    Alternatively I would develop a 2 channel Maggie system and then add surround over time. You will have great audio playback and a natural path to high end surround sonics. The 1.6s are good as are the less expensive L-R speakers. A center channel is around $1K in Maggie land. If you take that approach there are a number of HDTVs available for under $2-2.5K that create a great picture, the Sony Wegas are worth a look as are the Toshibas. I would invest in as good a receiver as possible if you are concerned about music. My brother has had good luck with the Denon receiver line and they are well regarded in audiophile circles.
     
  10. Michael Yung

    Michael Yung Stunt Coordinator

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    Since you mention that you have a slight bias toward music, I would recommend starting your system with the speakers and receiver or prepro + amp first. HDTV technology is still too unstable in my opinion. The 1080i vs. 720p issue as one example and also number of DVI adaptors available for the current crop of TVs available may turn your current purchase obsolete and force you to upgrade. And also, the current price of a decent HDTV (not projection b/c I don't know anything about that) is at a minimum of $2000 to $6000 and that would blow your budget. So for me, TV would be the last upgrade.

    Assuming you have about $2000 to $3000 to spend for now, that should be more then enough to get you started with 2 or 5 decent speakers and receiver or seperate setup and maybe even a dedicated CD player or some nice cables. Search the Speaker forum for some nice home theater speakers like Paradigm. If you could live with just 2 speakers for now, I would suggest that you budget $1000 for a nice pair of front speakers and get the rest later but $1500 for a little less quality will get you 5 speakers for surround sound. Budget another $1000 to $1500 for a nice hi-end receiver or go with the Outlaw seperate combo. My suggestion is to go with the combo because when new format comes out you can always replace the prepro but still keep the amp. A nice amp from Outlaw will last you a long time. Let's not forget the sub, a nice SVS PCi sub would be about $500 to $600. When more money is available, a nice HDTV ready set should be anywhere from $3000 to $5000.

    Hope this helps. Enjoy your new obession.
     
  11. Charles Gurganus

    Charles Gurganus Supporting Actor

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    Why start with a HTIB? Go ahead and get good stuff to start with. Some pieces I think are deals/steals and some are used.

    1. Pioneer 533HD5 53 RPTV....For about $1800 delivered from Wal Mart this is a great set. You can even use an interlaced DVD player and let the Pioneer do the 3:2 pulldown since it has a much better than average progressive engine.

    2. Look for a used Aragon Soundstage processor (around $1200 or so). This is a great 2 channel processor that does surround sound as an afterthought (but does that very well also). It is old (last made in 2000 I think) but unless you have the need for 7.1 it will out perform most anything else in its price range.

    3. Go ahead and buy a good amp. You should be able to get a powerhouse 5 channel amp for under $1500.

    Speakers are so personnal but you could do a lot worse than NHT SB3's. These small bookshelf speakers have very good base and get rave reviews.

    So for under 5k that is a pretty good start and the SB3's are not throw away speakers.
     
  12. TommyL

    TommyL Supporting Actor

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    Guys, reread his post. 1/3 of his 8-10k budget has to last him a few years...so roughly 3k on the higher side...For 2 years, I wouldn't suffer with a 27" TV...no way, and RPTV's are on the downswing.
     
  13. Kevin. W

    Kevin. W Screenwriter

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    HDTV prices are dropping and by the time the format it sorted out you can purchase then. Start of on the audio side of things, particulary in the area of speakers. This is the one purchase that will last you the longest if done right the first time. Taking 1/3 of you higher end here is an example($3333US = $4300CDN)

    Speakers:

    Paradigm Studio 40's(v3): $1400(tax incl)
    Paradigm Studio 20's(v3): $1050(tax incl)
    Paradigm Studio CC470(v3): $700(tax incl)
    Speaker Stands(2pr Premier S-series): FREE

    Audio:

    Yamaha RX-V1400: $1208(tax incl)

    Total: $4358CDN taxes in

    The above example is what I paid for my setup. Paradigm makes an excellent speaker and their Studio series can compete with speakers valued much higher. Checkout Paradigms website for links to reviews. The new Yamaha receivers in the RXV line offer excellent performance for the price. They are feature heavy and well constructed. Checkout Yamaha's website for info.

    Hope this helps.

    Kevin
     
  14. Iver

    Iver Second Unit

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    I would first get a mid-range receiver from one of the better manufacturers (Denon or Yamaha; around $5-800) and a nice pair of bookshelf or floorstanding speakers ($4-600).

    After this I'd add a matching center channel, then surrounds, then a sub.

    Then I would add a video monitor. On a tight budget I'd go with an RPTV ($1,500). Otherwise maybe a better RPTV or a projector. Another possibility I like is the 34-inch 16:9 direct-views. Good value.

    Of any purchase it makes sense to put off, the video monitor is probably the most sensible. The prices for HDTV's, HD-ready TV's, and HD STB's are all going to continue to drop at an accelerating pace over the next few years as the transition to H/DTV continues.

    That said, after the monitor I'd next get an OTA HD STB. Unless I had cable already and my local carrier threw in HD service for a small additional fee. Then I'd skip buying an OTA STB and use whatever box came from the cable company.

    At some point, I'd upgrade the DVD player. Personally I'd like to get a five-disc changer or, even better, one of those 300+ disc mega-changers (you just leave your entire collection in the changer).

    I'd probably get a loveseat too. And attach a couple of low-frequency motion inducers.

    And a commercial-grade popcorn machine [​IMG]
     
  15. John S

    John S Producer

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    27" Analog tv???? Upgrade that first. as I believe it will have the single most impact on your enjoyment.
     
  16. Kevin. W

    Kevin. W Screenwriter

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    Sorry John but I must disagree. Watching a movie or listening to music its the audio that draws you in. Prices on speakers rarely change with new versions, yet TV prices are dropping every year.

    Kevin
     
  17. StevenGU

    StevenGU Auditioning

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    First, thanks for all the advice and help so far. I’ve been better at getting a feel for the audio side of HT more than the video, so looking at the whole system was becoming overwhelming, and fast.

    I should probably give some additional information to help you all help me better. [​IMG]
    • I’m likely to have to move sometime in the next year. So, no dedicated room…yet. I might be rash to start spending money now on HT, but I can’t be certain how long it will be before a move and I’m getting impatient, if you know what I mean.
    • I have actually made one initial purchase. I got in on the 6ave deal on the Denon 3803 that's been discussed here. It was a good enough bargain on a receiver I was looking at anyway, so I figured I could resell it later and not have a lot of buyer’s remorse in the process.
    • I very recently discovered that I’ve got an internet-direct speaker manufacturer literally a few minutes drive away – ACI. I’d have never known about them without being clued in through the forums, and I’m definitely going to give them a listen as soon as I can manage. An “HTIB” option for me would be my Denon receiver plus the ELT 5.1 speaker system they distribute. (they're the same as the Onix Rocket ELT)
    Now, with that, I’m still wrestling with a number of choices. The whole display question is one – I haven’t gotten much farther than drooling at the plasma screen demos in deciding where to go there. Another is the A/V source. My mini system is not going to cut it for music, so do I get a low cost CD player now and live with my existing DVD player, or do I try to get a universal player right away? Finally, there’s the speakers. I could just buy a 5.1 package right away, but I suspect that I’d enjoy a 2 or 2.1 speaker system better for music. I definitely need to audition speakers a lot more before I can answer that last one for myself.

    I’m quickly learning how hard it can be to stick to a budget plan in this hobby! [​IMG]

    I’m perfectly willing to buy equipment as a placeholder until I could afford something better later. However, I’m concerned about resale value, especially in the HDTV arena where the technology and standards appear to be changing rapidly.
     
  18. Ernest Yee

    Ernest Yee Supporting Actor

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    Yeah it definitely sounds like you're a budget minded audio guy - which is funny because you've posted this in the Audio/Video section where you'd get more people convincing you to upgrade to insane displays.

    If I were you, I would do either 2 really good full extension tower speakers or a pair of really good bookshelves and a good sub (either by SVS or HSU).

    If done right, that will last you quite some time - And if you have extra cash, I would try to find a used 32" screen for a few hundred, and maybe the Pioneer 563A with another $200. That way, you'll have the speakers that will be depreciating slowly, you'll have the bigger display (used) that's already been depreciated substantially, and the Pioneer will hold you off in the source department till you've finally gotten everything else up to par to justify upgrading it. Oh yeah - and that's assuming you're not selling your Denon right away. That's definitely a keeper till you go separates.

    I definitely agree with Michael Yung's assessment of how the tv should be one of the last upgrades especially if it's going to be a substantial purchase. $300-$400 for a used 32" will probably hold you off till you have everything straight. It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense to throw a few thousand on technology that's rapidly changing. Your dream plasma will definitely cost you less in the future as well.
     
  19. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Then again, 4-5 hundred bucks can get you a great little starter projector used (CRT), that will MORE than just "hold you over."
     
  20. StevenGU

    StevenGU Auditioning

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    Well, I am looking to put together a full HT system, ultimately, and the moderators have designated Audio/Video Sources as the place to be to discuss systems.

    I've done much more listening to music than watching movies on what I have now mainly because my Yamaha mini stereo has served fairly well for the jazz, classic rock, and acoustic music I listen to. Knowing me, though, once I get speakers that can play the LFE hiding on the DVDs I own, I'll be watching many more movies and will become very eager to make the video side of my system match in quality. The trick is getting there with some shreds of my finances intact.

    That's what prompted my original questions. I especially appreciate the feedback on display options, because the variety of choices out there are mind-numbing right now. The idea of buying used does appeal to me. I love the way that HDTV looks, but the combination of dropping prices and developing standards makes me nervous to make a major purchase immediately.

    Steven
     

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