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Upgrade advice for a newbie


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3 replies to this topic

#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Buckethead78

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Posted November 15 2007 - 07:25 PM

Hello all,

I’m a newbie to this forum, but spent a lot of time going through posts over the weekend, and have found it to be very informative. I was pretty into HT about 10 years ago, and did a lot of research when I helped my Mom setup and install her Dolby Pro Logic surround system. I think she had a great surround system for her budget and the time (circa 1994). It was a Sony receiver, Technics turntable, Sony HiFi VCR (he he, remember those?) and a mixture of Boston Acoustics and Technics speakers. Well, I was home last weekend installing her (my old) DVD player, and a set of “B” speakers for her workout room. After the player was setup we watched a DVD and I was amazed at how much better her “old” system sounded than my pre-packaged Box system. So…..


I’m looking to upgrade my current HT system. Here’s what I have right now

- Older CRT 16:9 Philips 34” 1080i television. (Only has 2 Component inputs and no HDMI
- HD Cable Box / DVR
- Older Sony HTIB, satellites and center with subwoofer. (Only has one optical input, currently used by the Xbox) I think its supposedly 70W per channel, so I’m assuming about 30-40 watts RMS
- Xbox 360, for games and DVD’s

Here’s my tentative plan. I just relocated for work, and I’m living in a leased house for the time being. The TV can wait a couple more years. I don’t want to move/install it twice!

I’d like to spend about 2000-2500 (although less would be nice) for the receiver, speakers and most likely a next-gen DVD player, after THAT smoke clears. I would like to future proof the system as much as possible, as I don’t want to start replacing things a couple years from now. I’d optimally like to see this setup last upwards of 10-15 years if I can.

For the receiver I’m thinking H/K 347 or 445. I’m going to need a couple inputs on the receiver for any video expansion, as my current TV’s HD inputs are full. I really like the fact that HK lists their RMS power as their rating, no BS there! H/K also advertises their systems as “upgradeable” as future technology comes out. I’m not sure if this is BS or not. Maybe someone here knows? I did demo these units at a local retailer a few months ago. The features (I think) I need are all there, and the design seems to be wife approved.

For the speakers, I’m not really sure. I used to love Boston Acoustics sound, and had their speakers at home and in my car. I listened to some of their current stuff and was not really impressed at all. I’m going to drive up to Buffalo this weekend and start checking out some shops. Whatever I get unfortunately has to be “wife approved” cosmetically. L I’m thinking about (after reading this forum and some internet bench racing) Polk’s retiring Lsi line, Asperion, Paradigm, and some better Infinity and JBL’s. I do know that I absolutely HATE the way my system sounds for music now, so whatever I get needs to play music well and also HT duties.

My upgrade plan will last through most of 2008 and goes something like this:

R/F/C speakers -> surrounds -> sub (powered) -> receiver -> DVD

Does anyone have another suggestions for a similar setup? Will the upgrade path work out with the speakers and the older deck?

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   mackie

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Posted November 16 2007 - 12:02 AM

I think you're on the right track. Focus on speakers first then the electronics second. There is no reason a set of speakers can't last 10 years as long as they aren't abused. I helped set-up a friend's system that included a Yamaha receiver, Paradigm Monitor speakers, and a HSU sub. It came out to be right in your price range and it sounds very good.

Best advice it go listen to as many brands as you can before buying. You've got a pretty good budget, so you will have a lot of really good options.

The prices of the HD DVD and Bluray players are really coming down so that will help.

Receivers change so much that there will be a new model as soon as you get yours home. Don't sweat it too much though because it will most likely have the features you really need for a long time. My old Denon 3803 still works fine but it doesn't have HDMI and automatic set-up, but there are ways around that such as an external HDMI switcher and a radioshack SPL meter...

I'm not a big fan of H/K receivers since I've read so many reports of QC issues. I don't hear that many about Yamaha or Denon though.

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   MaxL

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Posted November 18 2007 - 03:06 PM

yeah, i agree with mackie, you're on the right track.

i also agree that i've heard about QC issues on the H/K avr's in the sub $1000 price range. i heard that back in the summer of 2006 from a trusted dealer and have heard it anecdotally since. if anyone has heard otherwise, they should speak up. i was also interested as i thought they had a good rep for good sound and spec'd very well for the price.

as far as future proof, there's no such thing, but that's okay. in your budget, there's not a whole lot feature wise that will vary much from one maker to the next at a given price. the stuff that does vary isn't that important sound-wise anyway. i'd ask youself what you're likely to need input/output wise in the forseeable future and buy for that as a minimum.

as far as specific speakers are concerned, again, go listen to as many brands as possible before you buy. then if you buy sound-unheard, you'll have some idea how they stack up to other things out there for similar $$. listen above and below your expected budget as well, you might find that the speakers that cost $100 more each only sound $5 better to you. you may also discover that you can stretch for the speakers that cost $500 more than you wanted when they sound twice as good as the next best. you never know till you hear.

as far as order of purchase, i'd go this way>
1, main and center speakers + avr
2, sub
3, rears + dvd
4, rear surrounds?

here's why>
1, you should definitely get your front three speakers together, they should be form the same manufacturer and line. whether or not you buy speakers first they will have the largest impact on the sound you hear of any component you buy. if you really want to get the matching rears go ahead. you can even try using your htib speakers for rears and rear surrounds. get the avr right away. that htib you have may not drive those new speakers, and there is a chance if you push the system you may even damage your new speakers (that's right, an under-powered amp is more likely to damage speakers than an over-powered one).
2, a good sub will do much more than add bass to the system, it will make everything sound better. i won't go into explaining it all right now, but this is the truth. do not skimp on the sub.
3, if there is a place to skimp it's the rears and rear surrounds. there is relatively little actual sound passed through these speakers, the material tends not to be terribly sonically demanding, and frankly, unless you are listening to lots of 5+ channel music, you're just not that likely to notice a lesser speaker in this role. as far as disc players, there's a whole lot of choice and price range for not a lot of difference in functiontionality in my opinion. maybe my mind will change when i enter the world of HD.
4, do you need 7 channels? up to you, we're just starting to see material that actually uses it a bit. most titles are still basically just 5.1 sound that is manipulated to use the extra speakers. but that will change and if future-proof is your goal...

on budget, i'd say at $2500>
$750 - avr (spend more here to future-protect and if you like the cheaper speakers, you may get more out of them with better amplification)
$900 - sub (depending on expected room size, big room needs more sub)
$600 - 5 speakers (focus on the front 3)
$150 - disc player
$100 - cables (arguably this could be a lot higher. but many people don't budget for them at all. don't go out and buy the most expensive cables, and don't buy monster unless you're getting a very good deal on it. i won't say all cable hype is only hype, but most of it is IMO.)

brand wise, i like the following>

avr - for sound #1 marantz, for features #1 denon, for value overall, onkyo, pioneer and yamaha in no particular order. next step up in sound and price - NAD and outlaw

speakers - too many to give advice without knowing your taste

sub - svs, martin logan, monitor audio, hsu

disc player - oppo will probably be my next

if i had your budget and had to buy it all tomorrow i'd get
avr-marantz sr-4002 $550 shipped

speakers - Monitor Audio bronze series B-2 mains, b-1 or bfx rears, bronze center - $580!!! + shipping from saturdayaudio.com - these are unbelieveably warm and musical for the price (second choice would be psb alpha line)

sub - i love my martin logan dynamo and think it's unbeatable at $600 for medium sized rooms and smaller. it's sealed design is tight, fast and musical but if you need big bass and have a big room try svs or hsu which have more bass per $ and are still very good on quality.

so that's $1730 plus some shipping and maybe some tax - should leave plenty for cables and a player, potentially still under $2000 (but not likely).

good luck and enjoy.
HT: Marantz SR8000, PSB Alpha B fronts, Alpha C center, CSW Newton S200 surrounds, Martin Logan Dynamo Sub, Marantz DVD, Sony CRT TV

Stereos include vintage Sony receivers/amps into vintage AR and KEF speakers.

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Buckethead78

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Posted November 23 2007 - 05:56 PM

Thanks for the advice. I managed to get up to Buffalo last weekend to check out some shops....

I got the same advice to stay away from lower priced H/K's from 2 different dealers. The shops recommended Yamaha and Onkyo instead. I did get a chance to play around with each of them, and sound-wise, I really didn't notice much difference. It will probably come down to price vs features between the 2 when I'm ready to buy (although I'm a little partial to Yamaha, as I have had lots of musical gear from them in the past--took a licking and kept..you know).

I listened to LOTS of speakers and it was amazing how different each speaker really sounded to me. I found it odd that say, a bookshelf speaker sounded better to me than a tower from the same manufacturer, same line. I didn't really find any favorites. The closest I came was the Mirage satellite speakers, but when we put music through them, I was no longer happy.

Gonna continue reading and searching....wife says no "stuff" until after Feb!