Oh Wise Ones, Please Help Me Choose a Receiver

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Shmax, Feb 20, 2007.

  1. Shmax

    Shmax Auditioning

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    Hi folks, I have come to you for help. You see, I just don't know how to complete my home entertainment center. I've got a 50" Sony SXRD (which I love) at the heart of everything, and a plethora of silly toys hooked up directly into the inputs in the back (Windos Media Center PC, XBox 360, Sony PS3, Nintendo Wii). The final step is to add surround sound (which I've never had, somehow), but I just can't figure out what to buy. User reviews for various components on some of the sites I've browsed are little help--they seem to range from surly and terse to babblingly effusive. So I'm coming to you folks--I figure if I list what I'm looking for, maybe you can suggest an ideal solution. So, here are my parameters:

    1. Would Prefer a Sony (I work for Sony--mmm, discount)
    2. Looking to spend under $1000.
    3. One way or another, would like to hear my various video game systems and PC in surround sound.
    4. Don't want some weird combo-thing that already has a DVD changer or something built into it--I use my PC for playing the DVDs

    And some bonus parameters:
    5. I wouldn't mind XM readiness.
    6. Wireless rear satellite speakers


    Next, configuration. The office uber techno-geek at work drew a little ideal schematic for me in which the PC's video goes directly into the TV, but the audio goes directly into the receiver (via optical cable). Further, in his plan the video game systems continue to plug into the tv via HDMI, but then he has an optical cable coming out of the tv and going into the receiver. Does all that check out with you guys? Or should the video games plug into the receiver?

    I'm horribly, horribly confused by all this.

    Please help a poor hapless fool.

    Many thanks, fellas...

    -Max
     
  2. Al.Anderson

    Al.Anderson Cinematographer

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    The connection described by your office buddy is common, but not ideal; especially for someone like yourself who has a lot of input sources.

    It makes life easier if you route everything, including video, through your reciever; that way you don't have to juggle a bunch of remotes when you switch sources. So, look for a receiver with a lot of connections for video switching. I'm not an expert on receivers; but the Sony SONY STR-DG1000 certainly has the features you'll want (thought I didn't compare it to anything else for a per dollar evaluation).
     
  3. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

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    Hi Max

    I agree with Al Anderson

    If you are willing to consider receivers from other manufacturers, I can recommend Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo and possibly Pioneer. Especially Denon and Yamaha. Sony has a significant share of the receiver market. Please keep in touch with me.
     
  4. aht3

    aht3 Stunt Coordinator

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    I am going to recommend the pioneer elite 82 because of the power and the connections I have the 84 and know it well enough to know that I should have purchased an 82 since I do not use all of the bells and whistles. one an know it well. The sony's appear the be good receivers even though I have not heard them. At this level of receiver, your non hd games will be trans coded to HDMI and have a richer look. maybe not as sharp but a lot richer. There are a tone of surround speaker out there but I am partial to the JBL Studio L series because I have them and they sound great. A Hsu sub would work for you too. If you like the JBLs, PM me and I will send you to a reasonable dealer. Hope this helps.

    Happy hunting,

    Andrew


    PS..If you get the sony, let me know how it sounds to you because I am definitely interested.
     
  5. John Brill

    John Brill Supporting Actor

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    Hope this was helpful.
     
  6. Shmax

    Shmax Auditioning

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    Thanks guys, this is exactly the kind of advice I was looking for. Per your suggestions, I'll be checking out the ES line from Sony, the SONY STR-DG1000, the Onkyo 604 or 674, the Denon 2307, the Yamaha 5990/1700 , the Pioneer Elite 82, and the JBL Studio L speakers.

    I'll research this stuff carefully over the next day or so and let you know what I ultimately decide on.

    By the way, do receivers generally come with speakers, or is that going to be a separate project?

    -Max
     
  7. John Brill

    John Brill Supporting Actor

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    Separate project unless you buy a "Home Theater in a Box" (HTiB). Best place for speaker recommendation will be in the speaker forum next door --> [​IMG]

    Actually, what you need to do is set yourself an overall budget for this project. Then, a good rule of thumb is to take 60% and put it into speakers and 40% into audio components. This isn't hard and fast but should help. In my case, I currently have 70% in speakers, 25% in audio, and 5% in video. However, when I first started in this hobby, my breakdown was closer to 50/50. As you get more experienced in the hobby, your priorities will adjust accordingly.

    Cheers, JB
     
  8. Shane Harg

    Shane Harg Second Unit

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    Mr. Brill knows what he's talking about. I would second everything he said above and and add that since the signal for wireless speakers (in case you are still considering this for your rear surrounds) is frequency modulated, the sound won't be as clear, nor will it be as detailed and clean as your front speakers. It will be kind of like the difference between highly compressed, low quality mp3 audio and CD audio.
     
  9. Shmax

    Shmax Auditioning

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    Hey guys, I thought I'd check in and let you know how my research is going. I looked up every receiver you guys mentioned (plus a few more), and dug around through reviews (mostly from CNET) and user forums, and took some notes on each one:

    Pioneer ELITE 82 ($965)
    pro:
    converts analog video inputs to 480p, 720p, or 1080i
    3 HDMI inputs

    con:
    no 1080p output? (PS3 does 1080p)
    Densely packed menus will intimidate novices.
    Analog-to-digital video conversion has some issues

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    SonySTRDA5200ES ($1500)
    pro:
    3 HDMI inputs
    Cool PS3-style onscreen user interface

    con:
    Can't rename the HDMI inputs
    no OSD overlay when using HDMI (though this may be true of all receivers)
    Awful remote
    Occasional complaints about upconversion functionality


    STRDA7100ES
    pro:
    upconversion from Component, S-Video, and Composite Video
    LCD remote control

    con:
    only 2 HDMI inputs
    huge--51 lbs, 7 " tall

    STR-DG1000 ($799)
    pro:
    converts analog video to HDMI
    transfers video resolutions up to 1080p

    con:
    Quirky menu navigation
    mediocre video upconversion
    Only 2 HDMI inputs

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Onkyo 604 ($499)
    pro:
    very advanced autosetup/calibration
    Xm Radio, optional ipod dock

    con:
    no analog video to HDMI upconversion
    only 2 HDMI inputs

    674 ($674)
    pro:
    very advanced autosetup/calibration
    XM Radio cap. w/ XM HD surround

    con:
    only 2 HDMI inputs

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Denon2307 ($799)
    pro:
    analog video to HDMI upconversion
    advanced autosetup capabilities
    XM HD Surround compatible

    con:
    remote uses awkward 2-sided design
    doesn't offer de-interlacing (480i to 480p conversion),

    4306 ($1999)
    pro:
    connect with ipods, usb drives
    ethernet port, listen to online radio
    configure from any PC via web browser

    con:
    ugly onscreen menus

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Yamaha1700 ($780)
    pro:
    upconverts all analog signals to single HDMI output
    ipod dock
    8 digital audio inputs

    cons:
    only 2 HDMI inputs
    ugly onscreen menus


    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    So I'm learning more as I read, but I still have some questions about some buzzword features that I come across again and again...

    What do they mean by "HDMI switching"? As opposed to what? Presumably, if you have more than one HDMI input, you'd need to be able to switch between them. Or is that what they're touting, the multiple inputs?

    What do they mean by "can handle second and third rooms"?
    I can't figure that one out. I'm pretty sure they don't mean for me to be lugging this thing from room to room. Do they mean that it can output to more than one set of speakers?

    One poster in one of the other forums I browsed through wrote (regarding the Sony STRDA5200ES ) "I decided to wait till the HDMI 1.3 [comes] out. So far, it's not worth [it] to buy 5200ES or others". What's he talking about, and does he have a point?


    At this point I'm leaning towards the Sony STRDA5200ES, which I can get through work for about $500 (B-Stock) or $700 (A-Stock). It has 3 HDMI inputs, which I'm keen on, a slick PS3-styled interface, and good sound and video quality (though I've read that some people have difficulty getting HDMI to work). There are some nagging issues, such as the inability to rename the HDMI inputs, and a clunky, convoluted remote, but for $500 I figure I can live with it until something better comes along.

    Any thoughts?

    -Max
     
  10. Shmax

    Shmax Auditioning

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    SonySTRDA5200ES ($1500)
    pro:3 HDMI inputs
    Cool PS3-style onscreen user interface

    con:
    Can't rename the HDMI inputs
    no OSD overlay when using HDMI (though this may be true of all

    receivers)
    Awful remote
    Occasional complaints about upconversion functionality


    STRDA7100ES
    pro:upconversion from Component, S-Video, and Composite Video
    LCD remote control

    con: only 2 HDMI inputs
    huge--51 lbs, 7 " tall

    STR-DG1000 ($799)
    pro:converts analog video to HDMI
    transfers video resolutions up to 1080p

    con:Quirky menu navigation
    mediocre video upconversion
    Only 2 HDMI inputs
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Onkyo 604 ($499)
    pro:very advanced autosetup/calibration
    Xm Radio, optional ipod dock

    con:
    no analog video to HDMI upconversion
    only 2 HDMI inputs

    674 ($674)
    pro:very advanced autosetup/calibration
    XM Radio cap. w/ XM HD surround

    con:
    only 2 HDMI inputs


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Denon2307 ($799)
    pro:
    analog video to HDMI upconversion
    advanced autosetup capabilities
    XM HD Surround compatible

    con:
    remote uses awkward 2-sided design
    doesn't offer de-interlacing (480i to 480p conversion),

    4306 ($1999)
    pro:connect with ipods, usb drives
    ethernet port, listen to online radio
    configure from any PC via web browser

    con:
    ugly onscreen menus

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Yamaha1700 ($780)
    pro:upconverts all analog signals to single HDMI output
    ipod dock
    8 digital audio inputs

    cons:eek:nly 2 HDMI inputs
    ugly onscreen menus

    5990

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    So I'm learning more as I read, but I still have some questions about some buzzword features that I come across again and again...

    What do they mean by "HDMI switching"? As opposed to what? Presumably, if you have more than one HDMI input, you'd need to be able to switch between them. Or is that what they're touting, the multiple inputs?

    What do they mean by "can handle second and third rooms"?
    I can't figure that one out. I'm pretty sure they don't mean for me to be lugging this thing from room to room. Do they mean that it can output to more than one set of speakers?

    One poster in one of the other forums I brosed through wrote (regarding the Sony STRDA5200ES ) "I decided to wait till the HDMI 1.3 [comes] out. So far, it's not worth to buy 5200ES or others". What's he talking about, and does he have a point?


    At this point I'm leaning towards the STRDA5200ES, which I can get through work for about $500 (B-Stock) or $700 (A-Stock). It has 3 HDMI inputs, which I'm keen on, a slick PS3-styled interface, and good sound and video quality (though I've read that some people have difficulty getting HDMI to work). There are some nagging issues, such as the inability to rename the HDMI inputs, and a clunky, convoluted remote, but for $500 I figure I can live with it until something better comes along.

    Any thoughts?

    -Max
     
  11. John Brill

    John Brill Supporting Actor

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    Not a bad choice considering the discount you can get. As for the remote, that can easily be remedied with a nice Logitech Harmony 890 remote... [​IMG]
     
  12. Brian D H

    Brian D H Second Unit

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    And now you'll still have $500 (or more) for speakers! Time to ask that question at the speaker forum.
     
  13. Shmax

    Shmax Auditioning

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    Ooh, I'm drooling over that remote. I'm also new to the idea of the uber universal remote, but are these completely user programmable? I mean let's say the back of my entertainment center is complete spaghetti, with some devices going directly into the back of the tv, some going into the back of the receiver, others going god-knows-where--would it be possible to have a giant, friendly button on the universal remote labeled "PS3" (or PC, or XBOX 360, etc), that knows how to switch to the right video device, set it to the right input, switch to the right audio device, set it to the right input, etc, and sort of accomplish everything with one button press?

    If I can accomplish that kind of mojo, then the fact that you can't name HDMI inputs on the receiver wouldn't even matter, right?

    Also, have any of you used one of these things with Windows Media Center? Any troubles? Because I've been using the remote that came with my PC, and even that has problems. Namely, there is no "info" button (you have to stop the DVD you're watching to go to the menu to turn subtitles on and off, skip to chapters, etc), and my XBox 360 greedily takes input from the remote and gets all confused when I'm trying to access MCE.

    Something tells me I'm about to get bounced into another forum again. [​IMG]

    -Max
     
  14. John Brill

    John Brill Supporting Actor

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    The beauty of these remotes are that they are fully programable including the ability to design macros so that one button can perform a combination of tasks.

    However, Sony also makes a couple of user programable remotes such as the RM-AV3000 which you might be able to get cheap with your discount.
     

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