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The STEREO home theater thread


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48 replies to this topic

#1 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted March 28 2006 - 10:03 AM

I was motivated to create this thread by all the reports, official and otherwise, of the severe downturn in popularity of component audio systems for movie and music playback. Obviously this attitude hasn't reached everyone since the HTF is still here along with several other A/V forums, so the people this thread is mostly aimed at are:

1) movie fans that would enjoy high quality sound BUT do not enjoy fussing with complicated gear, either its initial set-up or its day-to-day operation. I've read several article recently describing the issue of "technology overload" and I truly believe this is one of the factors causing those sagging sales numbers. *We* may enjoy pulling up on-screen menus and excitedly scrolling through them, pulling out rulers for speaker/sweet spot distance numbers or dialing in optimum crossover points, but many others do not.

2) movie fans that want high quality sound BUT do not enjoy seeing speakers scattered throughout their living room, even the small cubical or in-wall variety. Whether we like it or not, in many peoples' living rooms function follows form.

3) movie fans that aren't "golden ears". I'm not really into so-called "hi-end" gear myself and IMO using a $10K pair of speakers to play back the lossy compressed formats that dvds use like Dolby Digital or even DTS seems silly.

I always try to convince others how much a surround system can heighten the enjoyment of watching movies, but if they still remain unconvinced , that’s when I present them with the concept of a Stereo Home Theater . Most seem surprised that this is an option, I guess because of all the talk of 5.1 and such.

And anyway, AFAIK only a minority of movies ("movies" meaning starting from around the 1930s) feature 5.1 soundtracks and of those, not all of them are all that active anyway (but those active ones sure can be a lot of fun to experience!). *I* know that even in quiet scenes where there is just ambient information surrounding the audience - i.e. birds, wind, people in restaurants setting their forks on plates - can definitely add to the sense of "being there", but not everyone considers this important, and indeed, it is just an enhancement to what's on the screen i.e. the "meat" of the soundtrack is contained in the front channels.

While a stereo home theater may seem old-skool to some and a step backwards in technology, 2.0 channel component audio playback can still provide a very engaging experience, and sounding MUCH better than any built-in TV speakers I know of. And a high quality stereo system can be purchased for many less dollars than a comparable quality surround system.

FYI: from now on I'm going to refer to the person that doesn't get into A/V gear as a hobby but still enjoys quality sound as an "Average Joe", or "AJ" for short. This is not meant as a derogatory term but only as a form of shorthand. I thought about using the phrase "movie fan" but its initials were a bit too earthy for this discussion. Posted Image

To the other members of HTF: please add anything to this discussion you think would help, but one thing I would ask you to keep in mind as you type is points #1 and #3 above, but especially #1. We're competing against sexy and easy-to-use gear like iPods and it imitators, and all-in-one systems from a certain manufacturer who loves using little paper cones crammed into plastic cubes that I think produce very compromised sound, so IMO the K.I.S.S. ("keep it simple stupid") principal ought to be followed.

And here we go.............

*****************************************

Since the receiver is the heart of an A/V system, I went around to most of the major manufacturers' sites, found their 2.0 channel receivers, and placed links to them below. For me anyway, radio nowadays is mostly a wasteland of focus-grouped pablum and ultra-niche formats that appeal to practically no one, but there are still a few quality stations out there in addition to the talk radio that has become so popular. Otherwise I would have listed more integrated amplifers (basically a receiver but without a tuner), though I did provide a link to a Pioneer Elite integrated.

Also, I chose all this equipment based on easy availability. In other words, no gear that is only available at audio "salons" that you have to drive two hours to get to, and/or from overseas sellers. Based on much personal experience, telling AJ such a thing will likely get you rolling eyeballs and severely decreasing interest in such a piece of gear....or the entire 2.0 HT system idea.

Harmon/Kardon 2 models

Onkyo:

TX-8011
This has "only" 50 watts per channel, but personal experience tells me this is more than enough for many people when used in the "average" living room, even when used with (most) speakers equipped with up to a 10" woofer.

TX-8211
TX-8511

Sherwood RX-4105
Entry-level model; seems built well for the price though.

Sony STR-DE197
Many, many people own Sony dvd players and Sony TVs - this model's remote will make an all-Sony system easier to use (point #1) & style-wise will make for a unified system. Also one of the very few receivers here that allow the user to create custom names (shown on the fluorescent display) for radio stations & the receiver's various inputs - nice.

Denon
5 models

Yamaha
3 brand new models + older ones. FYI: Two of these are XM Satellite Radio Ready - very cool!

Outlaw Audio RR2150
Not your conventional receiver! Also, the only 2.0 receiver here (or anywhere?) that includes bass management for sub/satellites.

Pioneer Elite A-35R
Nice little integrated amp. Like the small Onkyo TX-8011's power output, this model's power output is plenty for many AJs (and HT hobbyists). Black glossy finish matches most Pioneer plasma monitors.

>>> Several of these receivers include multizone and/or multisource capability.

>>> Most also include phono inputs. Posted Image

Surprisingly the majority of these receivers include *video* switching facilities. But they are only of the composite variety and if AJ has a big screen monitor the drop in image quality will be evident compared to the S-video or component connection method, so I would advise connecting the dvd player and other video components directly to the monitor using at least the S-video connection. Also, S-video only involves one cable with not much sacrifice in image quality (eeewww, dangling cables - see point #2). Though if AJ is using a 35" or smaller monitor, the composite image may be perfectly exceptable to him (see point #3, but change to "golden EYE" Posted Image) & one good composite video cable is much cheaper than the other two connection methods.

About half of the receivers include a subwoofer output in the form of a single RCA phono plug. But based on reading their manuals (which basically said nothing about this feature Posted Image ) with the exception of the Outlaw, I'm assuming they all output a full-range signal and don't include any sort of individual level control. No biggy, just use the sub's crossover & gain controls.......if you're using a sub. Which brings me to the next Big Decision.

Subwoofers for a stereo HT system

Subs can add a lot of fun to watching many movies, but they can also be a major pain in the rear to deal with even for a dedicated HT enthusiast. And for many style-conscious people, are absolute eyesores. AND not everyone is into watching action/adventure movies all the time, the ones that usually take advantage of a sub's capabilities the most.

So keeping points #1 and #3 firmly in mind, for now I'm assuming no subwoofer will be used in the following system:

Personally speaking, for a living room that's around 16 x 22 x 8ft, with any of the receivers above, a pair of bookshelves or floorstanders with an 8" woofer, can easily attain volume levels that would require shouting to carry on a conversation with the person seated directly next to you. Bass would not be all that "feelable" but it could certainly be easily heard (some movies include bass specifically in the 40-60Hz range because studios know not everyone owns a sub). A single 6.5 woofer would also be about as loud, but bass would be even less. A speaker with a 10" woofer or dual eights IMO would be able to provide a good chunk of feelable bass, almost like a small subwoofer can provide.

For me, a pair of bookshelfs with a single 6.5" woofer is the smallest I would use for a stereo HT system, even in a smaller space. Though for music use, many such speakers have very enjoyable bass output (most rock/pop bass exists around 40Hz to 60Hz).

A stereo system with a subwoofer

I'll bet the first thing an HT enthusiast will think when they read that is "How do you integrate a sub smoothly with conventional speakers without a full bass management system?" Well, technically speaking the chances of that happening *smoothly* aren't that high. But keeping point #3 in mind, while such a system might have a slightly lumpy bass response, IMO the increase in sub-30Hz bass, the kind that makes grown men giggle when a plane roars by on the screen, will more than offset that. And lumpy bass doesn't always sound that bad!

But the majority of subs are easy to connect to these receivers, either through their sub output or via the receiver's speaker outputs (either the "A" or "B" outputs).

But what about the left/right speakers? I checked out the manuals for about seven easily-available subwoofers, and only two had speaker level outputs. This usually means they have a built-in crossover to filter out certain low frequencies from the satellite speakers connected to them, but it isn't adjustable - not good. But what's even worse is that using the sub's speaker-level crossover means the satellite's internal crossover will be connected in series to another crossover - this is an electrical no-no because this can play havoc with the crossover's behavior in the sat, and probably audibly change the sat's sound. I personally would not use this "bass management" method.

Despite the lack of a full crossover system, I think a sub can be reasonably integrated with a pair of speakers running full range, using just one's ears to do so (I really, really don't believe AJ will run out and buy a calibration disc and a sound level meter for this one-time procedure).

The only potential problem with the full-range sats + sub system is if someone REALLY cranks up the system: the sub may be playing at high levels with no problem, but if the sats are on the small side (i.e. a 6.5" or smaller woofer) they may get overpowered and the sound of their suffering woofers & possibly tweeters also may be masked by the sub's output. This might result in a pair of fried woofers.

Idea: use floorstanders with built-in powered subs for a "half-way" solution. Subs usually sound best when placed in or near a corner. But you cannot usually do this with conventional speakers, and anyway, such placement can cause them to sound very boomy & can really mess with their midrange frequencies. But the two powered floorstanders, with plain brute force, can potentially overcome much of the bass *level* deficiency (compared to unpowered floorstanders) when placed away from corners. Also, a less powerful receiver can be used with the powered versions.


For a stereo HT, use the dvd's stereo or Dolby Surround track if available

a) Obviously one can only use a dvd player's left/right outputs with a 2.0 system (none of the above receivers includes a digital input).

b) Surround tracks and stereo tracks are two different animals, so to create the proper sound fields and moving effects, they are mixed separately by the movie studio (though some really economy-minded studios might not do this).

Problem: if the disc's 5.1 track is selected, the player automatically downmixes all those channels into two channels. This means that when this "mix" is played by the left/right speakers, much of the front sound image will likely be rather disjointed (rear channels effects are now crammed haphazardly into the front sound stage) and moving effects (the ones that were supposed to be reproduced by the rear channels) will likely sound incorrect in level. It's not like all this will be horribly unlistenable, but it won't exactly be what the director wanted you to hear either.

Solution: use the disc's stereo or Dolby Surround track if one is provided.

Also, when a dvd player downmixes a 5.1 track, all the ones I've dealt with discard the LFE signal, in other words the ".1" channel doesn't make it to the receiver. This is because the typical TV's 5" internal speakers can't handle a 20Hz signal! But when a stereo track is mixed, from what I've read, most of the time the extreme low bass effects are replaced with relatively higher frequencies in the 40Hz or so range so AJ can at least *hear* the starship's engines or the torpedoes explode. And anyone who's heard a 40Hz signal (especially if they own a graphic equalizer) knows this can provide a powerful punch.


Classic technology FYI: if someone is using an older A/V receiver with only Dolby Surround or Dolby Pro-Logic, use the disc's Dolby Surround option if provided. This 2.0 track will have been specially encoded with what's called a matrixed surround signal: the receiver's decoder will then pick it up and send it to the rear speakers (the signal is mono but still played by both speakers). This system can provide fully audible directional effects, even though they aren't full-range or in stereo like with the Dolby Digital or DTS formats. Using a "plain" stereo track can also result in some accidently cool effects too, either directional and/or ambient.

If anyone sees anything really out of line here, make sure you say something! Posted Image

#2 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted March 28 2006 - 10:20 AM

BTW: I know this can be a VERY touchy issue, but I've got to mention it: I really don't think it would be a good idea to tell AJ to buy expensive interconnects when it's difficult enough to get him to buy just a basic system in the first place (though if AJ drove up in an Aston Martin I would probably be more relaxed about this issue Posted Image ). For the typical 3ft stereo interconnect, my own personal view on this is to advise spending no more than $20 to $30 apiece.

Same deal with speaker wire. For example, as per Boston's own advice for my particular speakers, I use 16ga wire all the way around (actually it's just lamp cord from Lowes).

FYI: a turntable's cartridge is quite a different signal source compared to most other components and the interconnect *can* have an audible effect (mostly due to capacitance issues). Make sure to read the manual that came with the cartridge to determine the correct type of interconnect to use.

#3 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted March 28 2006 - 10:43 AM

Forgot to mention: if you hook up a sub using its speaker-level input AND you use the receiver's "B" output to do this, when both "A" and "B" are selected make sure the receiver connects these in parallel. If it doesn't the subwoofer's crossover & the "A" speakers' crossovers will be connected in series - not good! I'm sure this is partly why the Sherwood site mentions this issue (though *any* amp is stressed out a bit more doing this).

To discover if the receiver connects in parallel is easy: if there are speakers connected to the "A" output and you push the button for the "B" output but with no speakers actually attached to the "B" outputs, if the "A" speakers remain on, then there is a parallel connection.

But if the "A" speeakers DO turn off, then it's a series connection (a series connection is a loop, so if the loop is not complete..........).

But make sure you read the receiver's manual anyway to confirm this! (this is the C.Y.A. part of this post :wink: ).

FYI: this test is not accurate for a surround receiver because many surround receivers just use their surround amps to power the "B" speakers.

#4 of 49 Danny Tse

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Posted March 28 2006 - 11:39 AM

Great topic, Lance! You're Da Man!!

I would like to recommend that video connection should be made directly from source (VCR, DVD player, etc.) to the TV monitor. Unless your TV monitor doesn't have enough video inputs, not connecting the video source through the stereo receiver will also cut down on the number of cables used.
SACD not listed at sa-cd.net (updated 8/26/2009)

#5 of 49 Leo Kerr

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Posted March 28 2006 - 12:32 PM

On the other hand, I think your target audience might not need a tremendous load of video switching in the first place.

For example, a DVD player and the cable-box? Actually, in my case, it's a DVD player and the LD player, but these "smaller" systems might not have two DVRs, a cable box, and three DVD players.

While I have a moderately decent 5.1 set-up, I'm also one to admit that a good 2-channel reproduction can be extremely compelling.

Leo

#6 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted March 28 2006 - 03:08 PM

Quote:
Great topic, Lance! You're Da Man!!
Thanks.

Quote:
On the other hand, I think your target audience might not need a tremendous load of video switching in the first place.
Yep. That's what I've seen in most of my friend's & family's homes. Most of them have just what you listed, one dvd player and/or a cable box but *all* of them have a VCR (one has one of those combo dvd/VCR units). I've tried to get them to also use the VCR's composite output, but only one has done it - the others get sort of spooked when they realize they wouldn't be using channel 3 or 4 anymore after all these years. I finally just gave up. None use the component or S-video connections on the other gear.Posted Image

And a tip for people really on a budget: I've seen lots of good to great speakers being practically given away at garage sales and resale shops the past few years, particularly the larger boxy types with 10" & 12" woofers. Some will probably need their woofers refoamed but that's not a big deal (better models will have rubber or for vintage stuff, treated cloth surrounds - both of these are very long lived). And lots of places will refoam them for you. This site will give one a good idea of what's out there (I have no affiliation with them).

#7 of 49 Philip Hamm

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Posted March 28 2006 - 11:49 PM

Hee hee there are great deals to be had on used stereo gear, too.... Like a really nice clean Harman/Kardon right here in the gear for sale forum..... [/plug mode off]
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#8 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted April 02 2006 - 04:18 PM

Various speakers to check out for a 2.0 HT system

For people that are also looking for speakers that can add to their room's style, here's a few:

Dynaudio Contour Series These look much better in person. The site isn't kidding about their build quality either - they're like fine furniture.

Legacy Audio More traditionally styled than the Dynaudios, with a kind of Mediterranean(?) look to them. The larger sub is rather pretty I think.

JBL TiK Series If Ikea made hi-end speakers, these might be them. Posted Image Very clean & modern design with interesting geometrical shapes. Wish they had a subwoofer using the same design elements.

Infinity Prelude A true hi-end loudspeaker IMO but without questionable "technology" some boutique names use to justify their products' outrageous price tags. Full Stereophile review here.

Infinity Cascade Series [s] Probably some of the best looking speakers I've seen in awhile. The Model 15 subwoofer, one of the few non-cubical subs around, is shaped so it makes little impact on the room it's in.

Pod speakers [s] Something you might see in one of those 1960s bachelor pad movies - a very highly styled & eye-grabbing design. The Minipod can be attached to an optional bass extension pod with a 10" woofer called a Megapod.

....and some understated "boxy" models with clean lines

B&W 600 Series

B&W CM1 [s]

Boston Acoustics VRB

JBL E50 With their grilles attached, these look much better, especially the black ash model.

The speakers marked with a [s] are ones that really need a subwoofer for movie use. IMO the Outlaw receiver would definitely be advised for use with these small speakers because of its full bass management system (though for Minipod onwers its art-deco retro styling might be a drawback).

MTX "Lolita" subwoofer I'm mentioning this subwoofer because along with the Cascade Model 15 sub, it's another of the (very few) thin-profile subwoofers that can be acccomodated more easily into a room's decor. The MTX gear I've seen has sort of a Chevy-level of quality to it, so this should sound decent for the price. Amazon & Circuit City sell it online. It also has a line-out jack so AFAIK you can daisy-chain it to another subwoofer.

MTX's Monitor Series also look interesting, looking like slender/more modern versions of their previous "punchy/loud" boxy speaker series.


Here are some speakers with built-in powered bass sections (usually such speakers won't need as powerful a receiver as an unpowered model):

Definitive Technology PowerMonitors "Bookshelf" size, though probably better placed on a stand.

Cambridge SoundWorks Newton T300 towers The T500 is the larger version.

Two budget models

This entry may gross out some HTF members, but since there are people out there on a very tight budget but still want to be able to turn up their AC/DC and Sonic Youth, here's a speaker readily available at Best Buy that would be a good match for the Sony and Sherwood receivers listed previously:

KLH 9250B Click on products > current speakers > tower & floorstanding speakers. A 12" woofer, 5" midrange and a 1" dome tweeter. I listened to these for 20 minutes last year to make sure and while they aren't exactly high resolution monitors, it was what they didn't do that caused me to list them here. Only a little bit of boom in their punchy bass & surprisngly the highs weren't grainy or sizzly like so many other budget speakers. It may come as a surprise that it actually takes some good engineering to make a low-priced product also be a *listenable* product. Though not exactly the same company as when it started, KLH has been around since the mid 1960s so they have easy access to decades of technical knowledge.

BTW: the "Rave" series they sell (not the Rave IIs) sound very good for what they're asking, much like Cerwin-Vegas'. They are built like tanks too.

Pioneer H-Series I own the previous version of this speaker (used as my rear channels for now) and except for a slightly sizzly high end, they sound pretty good. Clean simple styling. Bass response is excellent for such a low price (Pioneer builds their own drivers so this helps a lot with the pricing). But I've never heard this new & quite different version yet sold at Circuit City, so maybe it's a little more balanced now.

Can't leave these out:

Every audiophile's favorite delicately-nuanced sound reproduction device :wink: & the Rodney Dangerfield of the speaker world Posted Image , the

Cerwin-Vega E Series The three largest models have level controls for their tweeters and midranges so the user can better customize their...intense....sound to the room they're placed in (fyi: on my computer, I had to click the browser's full-screen button to see the full product description at the very bottom).

Lastly.....

Magnepan planar speakers These are special speakers that do need extra attention paid to their source of amplification, but if you don't need loads of couch-shaking bass (just add a sub then) but do like an airy sonic presentation, you might want to check them out. Not exactly an inconspicuous design but their sound may make that irrelevant.

#9 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted April 02 2006 - 07:32 PM

Various things to enhance a 2.0 system for music playback.

Antennas

Not all radio stations are playing corporate-approved/focus-grouped garbage, so to help you hear the "good stuff" more clearly, an outside antenna is usually needed. The FM format is capable of very good sound, almost like a CD, but as with most analog formats it takes some extra care to attain this (and as long as the *station* is also using good gear and broadcasting practices).

One from Radio Shack, though many stores don't always stock them.

Four FM antennas from another manufacturer. I think I used to see a couple of these for sale at Lowes and Home Depot.

AM also benefits from using an outside antenna, but more for pulling in stations from further away than improving its sound quality. An AM antenna usually just consists of a long single length of wire.

Note: besides mounting them securely, make sure you properly ground these antennas!! The manual should tell you how.

Antenna rotators To really optimize your receiver's radio reception, using one of these will allow you to point the antenna directly at the various stations' transmitter towers (as long as they are within line-of-sight).

FYI: Your homeowners association may not permit antennas like these, so check to make sure before installing one. Antennas can also be placed in an attic, but this can really decrease their effectiveness.

For iPod and MP3 player owners Several of the receiver manufacturers above sell optional docking devices to allow for connection of these players to certain models (not neccesarily those listed above though). Here are two examples:

Onkyo DS-A1 Has RCA audio output; a video output for video iPods; it charges your iPod; and Onkyo remotes can be used with it.

"The Bridge" For Harmon/Kardon receivers. Does pretty much what Onkyo's version does, and "....on-screen and front-panel menus guide your track selections." Cool.


Phono preamps

These are for receivers without an input marked *specifically* for a turntable (ones marked "phono/aux" don't count!) AND a turntable without a built-in preamp (personally I would avoid the tables with built-in preamps - IMO most of them seem pretty cheesy). Phono preamps are sensitive amplifiers that convert the very low signal of a magnetic cartridge into one that a "regular" input on a receiver - or your computer's soundcard - can handle. Otherwise all you'll hear is either a whisper-quiet signal or nothing at all.

Phono preamps are available in a very wide range of prices, from $30 all the way into the thousands. I've never used one myself, but this technology is very mature and I remember reading on AudioAsylum a couple years ago where a $25 battery-powered model from Radio Shack was receiving excellent reviews & being compared to ones 10X its price.

FYI: If you don't like the sound of the preamp built into your receiver or just want a higher quality one, you can use an external preamp and simply hook it up to an unused input on the receiver.

Here's a basic one sold at Circuit City (from good ol' General Electric).

Here's a preamp retailer I see mentioned a lot (from $30 to $15,000!): Needledoctor's preamp page

Turntables

Entire books have been written about this one component so I'll just list a few that are popular, though you may have to order them online.

Technics SL-BD20 I own its slightly more expensive brother, the SL-BD22, which has a strobe to set the speed more accurately & a better electronic speed-control system. Panasonic no longer lists these on their site anymore for some reason. This table's P-mount cartridge is very easy to set-up compared to a conventional cart, and sounds very good to me. Regular carts take patience and time to mount and align correctly.

Rega P2 This is a highly regarded entry-level table by many audiophiles, though for me it's seems a bit.....basic. Its more upscale brother, the P3, comes with a transparent glass platter & in an array of wild colors and would be a great companion to the Pod speakers listed above. Regas use conventional carts.

Technics SL-1200 Series This is not just for DJs & which many say can provide excellent/true hi-fi performance when used at home. Many pro audio shops like Guitar Center sell these.

ION Audio IONiTTUSB This is an interesting turntable: it includes a system that allows you to connect it via USB directly to your computer so you can rip your vinyl to CD-R form (in either PCM or MP3 format).

Cartridges: just like with speakers, and many other analog devices, you get what you pay for. And better carts treat your LP's grooves better too. Shure is a respected & loooong-time manufacturer of carts, including the legendary V15 series (they just stopped manufacturing these last year though Posted Image ). Audio-Technica is another readily-available brand of quality gear.

FYI: a cart's performance can be audibly effected by the wrong type of interconnect & this has nothing to do with the interconnect's price. If you want to upgrade your table's interconnect, make sure you read the cart's manual first for the right type.

MANY people are now selling their turntables at garage sales and resale shops for ridculously low prices - just make sure these highly mechanical devices are working properly before buying.

And even more important, many of those same people are getting rid of their vinyl music collections too, also usually at eye-popping prices. Yes, you can't always tell about its playback quality until you actually play it, but for $2, $1 or 25 cents apiece, I'm willing to take that chance! And contrary to urban myth, vinyl can sound excellent - it just requires more care than digital to sound that way.

And many modern artists are releasing NEW material on vinyl. Check online or with the local mom-n-pops for these releases. It's a bit more trouble, but the "vinyl experience" can be an enjoyable one. Posted Image

Cassette decks

......are still being sold. With a good-enough deck (+ a quality chrome tape recorded with properly set levels) the tape version can sound almost identical to the CD or vinyl version. Or, you can use a deck to make CD-Rs of valued tapes via computer or a standalone burner. Pioneer sells a deck with digital processing to improve the final version's quality:

CT-W606DR

Standalone CD burners.

These have become really hard to find, but many people find them much easier to use than a PC-based burner and they seem to produce fewer "coasters" too. Most of the ones I've seen have a system where you simply insert the two discs, push one button and you can walk away from it with no programming involved. They (obviously) are also easier to use when burning copies of cassettes or vinyl. And nowadays blank music CD-Rs are barely more expensive than data CD-Rs (many professional standalone burners are able to use data CD-Rs. Here's a pro model from Tascam). This following is about the only consumer model I see out there anymore:

Sony RCD-W500C

But I'll bet all those standalones sold until just a year or so ago by Pioneer, TDK, Panasonic, etc, etc, are out there somewhere, getting dusty in a basement because someone thought they were now old fashioned. I'm sure you could take one of them off their hands for a few bucks. Posted Image

#10 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted April 08 2006 - 02:09 PM

Great minds think alike! Posted Image

Check this out:

The Great Audio Experience

From the Stereophile article about this website:

Quote:
Are you ready?: The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has begun hosting The Great Audio Experience, which includes a specialty audio dealer locater, E-gear Buyer's Guide, HDTV primer, and a connection guide. Also included are a custom installer locater and a handy antenna reference that will help consumers determine which antenna will work best for their broadcast area.

Members of the CEA's High Performance Group told Stereophile that concerns over consumer confusion motivated the outreach program. "We realize that things aren't simple any more," one staff member said. "The more information about connections, technologies, and components we get out there, the more comfortable people are with our industry."

To paraphrase another industry's slogan, an informed consumer probably does make the best customer.


#11 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted December 06 2006 - 09:11 PM

Was checking out Home Theater magazine (or another mag with a very similar title) last night at the grocery store and they have an article about.......a stereo HT system. Theirs consisted of Totem left/right speakers, an Outlaw 8" subwoofer and the Outlaw stereo receiver with a true internal bass management system for its sub output.

BTW: if you want to experience ALL the bass on a dvd's 5.1 track and there is no stereo/Dolby Surround option on the disc*, you'll have to use either a player with built-in Dolby/DTS decoder or an A/V receiver.

This is because when using a regular dvd-video player to listen to a 5.1 track via the player's left/right analog jacks, when the player downmixes the 5.1 track into a stereo mix it leaves out the LFE channel. This is done intentionally since they figure those L/R jacks will be connected directly to a TV's internal speakers (which are usually very small and/or of low quality) and sending them extrmely low frequencies like what's on War Of The Worlds' DTS track Posted Image could cause very audible distortion.

So if you use a decoder-equipped player, you can then set its speaker configuration system to "no subwoofer", "no center channel" and "no surrounds" and it should downmix everything to stereo though sometimes the resulting mix produces a weird stereo image. Same with an A/V receiver, or if it is like my Technics SA-DA8, simply choosing the "stereo" option with the soundfield button will cause the downmixing to occur.

Or if using a hi-res player like my Pioneer DV-656A, choosing the 2 channel output mode in its initial settings menu will also cause downmixing to automatically occur for all formats.

Note: some oddball brands don't operate the same way as more common brands. And as far as certain hi-res Samsungs outputting DTS via their analog jacks, I've read several posts where owners said theirs would not do that (my Pioneer does). To see what works with your gear you'll just have to start pushing buttons or clicking on icons.....and having an eggnog nearby with a good jolt of bourbon wouldn't hurt either. Posted Image

* this is why if the disc offers it, choose the stereo or "Dolby Surround" option for regular dvd-video players connected to a stereo receiver - usually these mixes have a different set of bass frequencies that are better suited for stereo-only systems. They might not have bone-rattling looooow bass but will have more *audible* bass smaller speakers can reproduce decently.

#12 of 49 Danny Tse

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Posted December 08 2006 - 06:36 PM

Thanks for reviving the thread, Lance.

My 2 channel stereo HT is finally coming together. The components include....
  • Energy Connoisseur C-3 bookshelf speakers
  • TEAC A-1D stereo integrated amp or Cambridge Audio A500 stereo integrated amp
  • (most likely) Cambridge Audio P540 phono pre-amp
  • Technics SL-BD20 turntable
  • (possibly) Oppo 970 universal player
Having been a previous owner of Onkyo's TX-8511 stereo receiver, I am considering replacing the integrated amp with one of Onkyo's new stereo receivers (TX-8522 or TX-8222). The "sonic improvement" of the Cambridge Audio A500, if any, doesn't justify the features I lost....AM/FM tuner, phono pre-amp, and a much better remote.
SACD not listed at sa-cd.net (updated 8/26/2009)

#13 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted December 09 2006 - 07:10 PM

I just figured newbies should know surround sound isn't the end all-be all for movie soundtrack reproduction.

As that magazine article discusses, many people don't want to see speaker boxes all over their room or want to deal with trying to program the typical A/V receiver (and anyone who has read the online manuals for more upscale receivers is really in for a shock). I still believe many people are totally blowing off any type of audio system for their TV because the commercials insist nothing but a complicated 7.1 system is the only system that sounds good. No wonder those Bose 3-2-1 systems sell so well. Posted Image anyway.........add the fact that many conventional speakers are styled so nicely - Sonus Faber, JM Labs' "Profile" series, etc - that two of these can actually *add* to a room's decor, further easing the problem of fitting them into the room's "look".

btw: I didn't know Teac still built amps - is that a vintage model?

I sure wish more manufacturers would include at least a rudimentary bass management system with their 2.0 receivers, even one with a fixed 80Hz crossover would be fine. Anyone else think a Pioneer Elite 2.0 receiver, with just volume/bass/treble knobs + a function selector (with video switching capability) together with gloss black front panel and Urushi wood side panels would sell well? I do. Then add these $6K Pioneer EX-2 speakers to make up a really nice system (sorry to sound like a shill - I just think these look very cool and I own Pioneer gear myself).

#14 of 49 Danny Tse

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Posted December 09 2006 - 09:02 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by LanceJ
btw: I didn't know Teac still built amps - is that a vintage model?

I sure wish more manufacturers would include at least a rudimentary bass management system with their 2.0 receivers, even one with a fixed 80Hz crossover would be fine. Anyone else think a Pioneer Elite 2.0 receiver, with just volume/bass/treble knobs + a function selector (with video switching capability) together with gloss black front panel and Urushi wood side panels would sell well? I do. Then add these $6K Pioneer EX-2 speakers to make up a really nice system (sorry to sound like a shill - I just think these look very cool and I own Pioneer gear myself).

The TEAC was purchased new earlier this year from J&R for $175.00 shipped. I believe it was a NOS (new old stock) model since I lusted after one several years back. Even though I have the Cambridge Audio A500, I couldn't let such a bargain slip by. J&R has since sold out of the amp although a pic of it is still used for the "amplifier" catagory on its site.

Posted Image

BTW, you mentioned a Pioneer Elite 2.0 receiver. While not a receiver, Pioneer Elite has a 45 watts/channel stereo integrated amp, the A-35R, that is marketed as an aux amp for second room applications. The MSRP is only $200.00 but this amp is often mentioned on various audiophile websites as being a "sonic bargain". Includes a phono pro-amp and can be used as a power amp.
SACD not listed at sa-cd.net (updated 8/26/2009)

#15 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted December 10 2006 - 04:46 PM

The Teac looks nice (I'll bet it sounds nice too)! I like that volume knob - reminds me of old skool stuff from the 60s. And since radio is such a wasteland as far as good music is concerned, an integrated amp is a great way to go IMO.

Here's the Pioneer A-35R integrated and it includes a remote too:
Posted Image
45 watts/channel doesn't seem like much in this era of cheesy amps' inflated "100 watt" ratings measured with ridiculous amounts of distortion.......but after 23 years of owning a Pioneer SX-6 receiver with exactly that same rating (and .01% THD), trust me, in a typical living room with speakers with SPL ratings from @88-92dB for many people 45 watts will be plenty loud enough. And that includes most speakers with up to 12" woofers.

#16 of 49 John Garcia

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Posted December 11 2006 - 04:41 AM

What about Marantz, Rotel, NAD, Arcam, Cambridge Audio, to name just a few...? These things work great for stereo. Maybe not the others, but the lower Cambridge Audio integrateds could easily be found in a budget system.
HT: Emotiva UMC-200, Emotiva XPA-3, Carnegie Acoustics CSB-1s + CSC-1, GR Research A/V-1s, Epik Empire, Oppo BDP-105, PS4, PS3,URC R-50, APC-H10, Panamax 5100 Bluejeans Cable
System Two: Marantz PM7200, Pioneer FS52s, Panasonic BD79
(stolen) : Marantz SR-8300, GR Research A/V-2s, Sony SCD-222ES SACD, Panasonic BD-65, PS3 60G (250G)

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#17 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted December 11 2006 - 02:20 PM

Quote:
What about Marantz, Rotel, NAD, Arcam,
I am trying to not scare people about buying a stereo HT system. Posted Image We've got millions of people used to $250 iPods - skinny little stylish boxes with music & video storage and music & video playback - and telling someone to spend so much (relatively speaking) on "just an amplifier"......see what I mean? Obviously not everyone will think that way, but seeing how nearly deserted the audio departments are these days, I would bring up the less expensive stuff first.

#18 of 49 John Mil

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Posted December 11 2006 - 03:57 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by LanceJ
The Teac looks nice (I'll bet it sounds nice too)! I like that volume knob - reminds me of old skool stuff from the 60s. And since radio is such a wasteland as far as good music is concerned, an integrated amp is a great way to go IMO.

Here's the Pioneer A-35R integrated and it includes a remote too:
Posted Image
45 watts/channel doesn't seem like much in this era of cheesy amps' inflated "100 watt" ratings measured with ridiculous amounts of distortion.......but after 23 years of owning a Pioneer SX-6 receiver with exactly that same rating (and .01% THD), trust me, in a typical living room with speakers with SPL ratings from @88-92dB for many people 45 watts will be plenty loud enough. And that includes most speakers with up to 12" woofers.

Wow! This unit looks pretty nice for $200! I Wonder if it would be enough to power a pair of Paradigm Monitor 11's? I have a pretty large room at 19' by 14' with a vaulted ceiling that starts at 9 ft. and peaks out at 16 ft. The speakers will be near the back wall and that's the wall with the 16ft. ceiling peak. I was originally looking at the Paradigm Monitor 7 speakers but didn't think they would have enough "pop" for my room in a 2 channel set up. So this is my first real system of any kind. I was thinking of getting the HK 3480 receiver but I really don't need the radio. I know NAD, Rotel and Marantz have integrated amps that are rated very highly, but my budget is just not there for these models. I'm not familiar with Cambridge, but I'll look into them.

#19 of 49 LanceJ

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Posted December 11 2006 - 05:29 PM

John: hate to sound like a hypocrite but the little Pioneer probably won't be able to power those big Paradigms properly in that size of room. I mean, you'll get sound out of them but the minute you turn up the volume to really feel the bass the amp will run out of steam. And speakers like these i.e. really accurate ones (this includes B&W, Thiel, etc) depsite their SPL ratings that seem the same as less accurate brands, almost always end up using more power. That's not a complaint but just fact: all those cone/dome materials & elaborate crossovers that help produce such flat frequency responses take their toll on efficiency in ways these speakers' SPL ratings don't reflect for whatever reason.

That being said, I would keep that Harmon/Kardon in mind or one of the several large Denon 2.0 receivers listed in my first post above.

#20 of 49 Danny Tse

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Posted December 11 2006 - 06:17 PM

I had a 100 watts/channel Onkyo TX-8511 that sounds as good as my current Cambridge Audio A500. Go to shoponkyo.com and you can pick up a refurbished one for about $150.00 directly from Onkyo.
SACD not listed at sa-cd.net (updated 8/26/2009)


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