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Help me choose high-end components! Never had a budget like this...

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#1 of 13 OFFLINE   Javy212



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Posted April 09 2010 - 03:47 AM

My uncle has decided to put a full fledged home theater in his new house and has tapped me to help him pick components and to hook it all up. I'm a bit of audio buff, but my knowledge is limited to low-mid end stuff (you know, stuff a normal person can afford), but he's looking for some very high-end gear. I don't want to say that cost isn't a concern, but he's willing to sink a good chunk of change into this project. I guess for cost, it's a matter of finding the line for diminishing return.

What we need:

He already wired the room for 7.1 surround, so that's where we start. To give you an idea, after some searching I was looking at the Klipsch Reference setup with the RF-63 or RF-83 and the matching center and surround. I also saw the Klipsch THX Ultra2 setup which is within budget, but at nearly twice the price is it twice as good as the Reference line?

Obviously needs to be 7.1 or 7.2 capable. I will be hooking up a BD player but will also use some lower def sources so the receiver needs to upconvert. It also needs to have all the appropriate decoders (can't think of the right word here) ie TrueHD DTS, etc.

BD Player:
I've never researched BD players since my PS3 has been serving this purpose for me. So what's the best in this category?

I'm not sure if this will be required, but I'm guessing that with the speakers we're looking at we'll probably need a seperate amp, is that correct? It seems like the RMS requirements of the speakers are as high as the max output of most of the receivers I've seen. Do we need seperate crossovers?

1080p projector. I just want something that's crisp and accurate. Doesn't need to have a lot of bells and whistles. The room it's going in has no windows (zero ambient light) and black walls so I'm more interested in something accurate than something that deals with bad conditions.

I've played with the idea of using the paint on screen material (Screen goo), but I'm curious how that rates compared to an actual screen. The plus to that would be a much cleaner install with no additional wiring (if we're going to get a screen, it will definitely be motorized).

All of the gear is going in a room next to the the theater, so I need some kind of RF or bluetooth control for all this stuff. Is there a universal that can control all of it that isn't insanely complicated to use (setup can be a big pita as long as using it isn't)

Also, I have no idea where to get the appropriate speaker stands, mounting hardware, racks, etc.

The theater room is approximately 15'x20' if that helps at all.

This is gonna be a whole new experience for me since my experience with HT is limited to the bargain bin stuff. Any and all help and guidance is much appreciated!

#2 of 13 OFFLINE   Ed Moxley

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Posted April 09 2010 - 07:09 AM

Will try to help some. I'll say what I would do for myself. I'm sure others will probably disagree and suggest something else, on some stuff.

First off, have you listened to Klipsch speakers? People usually either love them or hate them. Their horn type tweeters are very ear fatiguing for some people (me for one). You need to listen to them if possible. Speakers are the most important part of the system. They are the "sound" of the system. They are where you shouldn't hold back, if you don't have to. He he doesn't mind spending the money for very good speakers, I'd say to look at Polk Audio LSi series of speakers. They are Polk's top of the line, and are very good with music, as well as movies.
http://www.polkaudio...tanding.php#lsi and http://www.polkaudio...okshelf.php#lsi as well as http://www.polkaudio.../center.php#lsi I also recommend SVS speaker systems. They are internet only, so no way to hear them, except to buy them. They have a very good return policy. See them here: http://www.svsound.c...s-sys-mts01.cfm If you have any high end stores near by, just go listen to what they have. DaveF, a member here is getting (or got already), the SVS speakers. Talk with him about them: http://www.hometheat...uy-new-speakers

For receivers, I like Onkyo and Denon. http://www.us.onkyo....?class=Receiver and http://www.usa.denon...AVReceivers.asp You might want to consider separate pre/pro (pre-amp/processor) setup with the Polk or SVS speakers. Especially the Polks. The LSi's are all 4 ohm speakers. Some of the SVS are 4-6 ohm, and some are 8 ohm. If you get a receiver, make sure it has pre-outs, so you can connect an amp to it, to power 4 ohm speakers. The higher end Onkyos are 4 ohm certified, but probably can't handle a whole 7.1 setup of 4 ohm speakers.

For a BD player, I think the Oppo BDP-83 is the only way to go. See it here: http://www.oppodigit...blu-ray-bdp-83/ It is considered the best at upscaling regular dvds, to near HD quality. Of course, the blu ray movies are outstanding with it. It also plays sacd and dvd-audio music discs, if that matters.

No need for separate crossovers, but amp may be needed, depending on what speakers you get.

Projectors are something I don't really have experience with. But, if I could buy one, I'd buy the new JVC D-ILA or the Sony SXRD. I think they run around $5000 - $8000 each. May find them cheaper online somewhere.
I think I'd like an electric screen too.

As for remotes, Harmony is hard to beat. http://www.logitech....versal_remotes/ The Harmony 900 is an RF remote, but they may have others that are too. Most of us that have Harmony remotes, love them! Very wife friendly too.

Here is a site for stands and mounts: http://www.standsandmounts.com/
If you think about getting the SVS speakers, they offer stands and mounts, meant for those speakers.

I've offered some things to look at and think about. As I said, this is what I'd do, if I had the money. Good luck with whatever you do.
Have fun!

Samsung HL61A750 (LED DLP)            Onkyo TX-SR805
Oppo BDP-83 Blu ray                                  Polk Audio LSi9
Polk Audio LSiC                                  Sony SS-MB100H
SVS PC12-NSD (Sub)                       ...

#3 of 13 OFFLINE   Selden Ball

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Posted April 09 2010 - 08:24 AM

What's the ballpark budget total? $5K? $15K? $50K? $150K?
There are quite different options at the different price points.

Remember that speakers should be at least half the budget. Usually people say 2/3, but you're getting more than just an AVR. The speakers that you've mentioned are *not* what would typically be called high end, and suggest that the budget is more like $5K than $50K.

The sound is going to have to be acceptable to your uncle and his wife, assuming he has one. What sounds good to you might be unbearable to them. That's why auditioning speakers is very important.

Don't forget what are called "room treatments". A room with lots of hard surfaces is quite bad for the sound.

You probably should visit one or more local specialty A/V stores (not Best Buy!) to find out what they have and what services they'll provide. The availability of local after-sale support can be very important when things get flaky -- which is a common issue when long HDMI cables are used for projectors.


#4 of 13 OFFLINE   Javy212



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Posted April 09 2010 - 10:00 AM

Thanks for the suggestions thus far guys, keep them coming!

The total budget is definitely more than $5k. If we can get 95% performance for $15k, and 98% performance for $25k, then we're probably more interested in the $15k area. I just don't think that for an average Joe like my uncle that the subtle differences after a certain price point are going to be enough to justify a large increase in cost. Nobody in his house is an audiophile... With that said though, that's why I'm asking... even $5k is way above what I've ever looked at for myself, so I'm flying blind right now and certainly could use the guidance.

I demoed some klipsch rf63 that sounded really nice today as well as some definitive mythos fronts that I didn't like at all. I had a close eye on a polk setup (lsi15 with matching center and rears) since I've heard a lot of polk gear over the years and never heard a set of their nicer stuff that I didn't like (I also have had polk speakers in every car I've owned, so I'm partial to them).

The other speakers I heard today were Martin Logan Vantage speakers that were incredibly smooth although perhaps a little weak in the midbass area. I really liked them though, and the bling factor is way up there. What's the deal with the electrostatic speakers? Is this a good technology? What are the shortcomings?

As for projectors, I saw the JVC D-ILA today that Ed mentioned and was blown away with it. I've never experienced a truly nice projector and it was better than I was expecting. I'm going to try to find a Sony SXRD model to compare it to, but from what I'm reading, I'll probably end up with one or the other.

As for a receiver, I was looking at a Denon AVR-4310CIand from what I can see of the specs it has the pre-outs that Ed referred to. Any thoughts on this unit?

#5 of 13 OFFLINE   John Brill

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Posted April 12 2010 - 05:32 AM


1) B&W 684 Theater package ~$4000?
2) Paradigm Studio Package ~$3000-$5000?

1) NAD T775 ~$3000
2) Denon 4810CI ~$3000
3) Emotiva UMC-1 + Emotiva XPA5 + Emotiva XPA2 ~$2300
BD Player:
1) Who cares? Get an Oppo BDP-83 and be done with it  or go up a model on the NAD ARV.

Best of luck,


#6 of 13 OFFLINE   Bob_L


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Posted April 12 2010 - 12:56 PM

I think John has given you some very good specific suggestions. I own the Denon 4810 and recommend it without reservation (though the 4310 is also very well regarded for less money.) The upconversion of the 4810 is phenomenal, the sound is expansive yet detailed, and full of punch.

I would rule out separates (pre/pro and amps, or external amps with a receiver.) Based on your description, I don't think your uncle needs that. The Denons perform brilliantly. (FWIW, I've had separates until buying the Denon 4810 a month ago. I've never looked back.)

Also, I've installed the Panasonic AE4000 projector for a friend and I'm sure your uncle would be EXTREMELY happy with it. Looks great and an excellent value.

I wouldn't go crazy on cables. The expensive ones aren't worth the extra cost, IMO. Buy good quality cables from a price-competitive vendor like Monoprice.com and you're fine. Same thing with speaker wire. Get 12-14 gauge wire and don't bother with overpriced boutique "snake oil." (Monoprice also has some cost-effective screens on their site. I have no idea about the quality, but perhaps another poster here has some first-hand knowledge.)

Oppo Blu-ray player? Excellent choice.

Harmony remote? I dunno. I'd first try programming whatever remote comes with your receiver and see how your uncle does with it. That may be quite sufficient. I've owned two Harmony remotes and while they are good, I'm not so sure they're essential. I no longer use them.

I recently toured Harman International with some other AVS members in LA and was very impressed with the higher-quality JBL speakers. Those are worth investigating. (Most speakers in commercial theaters are JBLs, FWIW.) John's suggestions are also very good.

At this level of hardware (which isn't at the Super Audio Nerd level, and NOWHERE NEAR the SAN price points <grin>), I guarantee your uncle will rarely feel the need to go to a movie theater. He'll be blown away.

#7 of 13 OFFLINE   mattCR


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Posted April 12 2010 - 02:04 PM

I agree with the above.  I have long had a mix of components, rotating between seperates and receivers, and the Denon 4810 is maybe one of the best units I've ever heard.  You'll have to spend a ton of money to really get a major improvement from there (the moment you decide you've got $25k for a pre-pro in a Krell 707, let me know)

Here's some of the other items I'd use to flush it out on 15k:

TV:  Grab a decent LCD, even if you're going to have a projector.  
Projector:  Strongest Recommends for the Panasonic AE-4000 and Mitsubishi HC6800.  If you have the money (it's about $600 more) the Mitsubishi has some nice functions:  Powered Zoom, Lens Shift and Anamorphic Lens.  These kind of funtions can make a big difference. ($2000-$2600)
Screen:  Grab a decent screen.  Too much gain is bad, but you don't want to be shooting at something flat.  I personally prefer about a 1.1-1.3 gain.  Anything in there is good.  Stewart is a good brand, though you can find several.  You don't necessarily need motorized, that's easy enough to do yourself.
Source:  Grab an Oppo.  Can't speak Highly enough about that product *($500)
Receiver: Again, the Denon 4810CI.  With some looking, you can grab it at $1999.  Best money you'll spend.

For speakers, here are some of the options I'd throw at you:  I like the Martin Logans you listened to; their main production is near me.  But I've never found them very great for home theater.  So, here's three options:

For $6k, you can get SVS Sound's MTS 7.1 setup with 2 subs.  I've heard this, and was incredibly impressed.  It's a clean sound, and very nice to look at.  Plus, they are a HTF sponsor, so they should get a mention.  But their support of their product is very, very good.  I don't think you'd be at all dissappointed in this.

I've got two others you should look at:
Kef makes a Great front set, I'd also say give a listen to the B&W.

I have to admit, Speakers are something I really miss, as unfortunately I'm having to redo mine still.  Years ago, I lost maybe one of the greatest sets of speakers I have ever heard, the Von Schweikert VR4 MKI.  Since then, damn near everything else just pales in comparison.   So, I'm spoiled.  Couldn't do it again (and you wouldn't either, their new MKIII is almost triple the price I paid for a pair 10 years ago).  But great stuff.  Speakers are a very personal thing.  Also despite the need for good quality sound, keep in mind how they look in your home theater.  Great sound that is distracting to the eye takes away from the film experience.

Good luck!  Have fun!

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#8 of 13 OFFLINE   John Brill

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Posted April 13 2010 - 04:43 AM

While I would agree that the Denon 4810 is excellent, I've gone from the separates route (back in 2 ch hi-fi days) to the all-in-one AVR route (Yamaha RX-V540 and 1800 and a Rotel 1067) but I'm tired of forking out $$$'s for new codecs in what now appears to be under 18 month development cycles!   This is why I've moved back to a separates system (Emotiva UMC-1) so that I don't have to spend dollars on new amps everytime and only need to switch out the processor.  Personally, I love the approach NAD is taking with swapable cards and hope it works and that the Denon and Yamaha's of the world adopt a similar approach to the $2k+ AVR's.

I also agree that adding a basic LDC TV/Monitor to the mix to supplement the projector is a good idea.  There are many a time where I don't want to bother setting up the projector and just want to watch SD TV for 30 minutes...

#9 of 13 OFFLINE   Dave Moritz

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Posted April 15 2010 - 11:09 AM

Here are two different suggestions for a/v equipment, not to sure about what to suggest for speakers.  There are so many brands and what sounds good to me may not sound good to someone else.  I would how ever invest in some really good speakers that you like the sound of and that will fit the room they will be going into, and the power that you will be feeding them.  No matter what on the video side I would stick with a Stewart Film Screen for your video, IMHO the best screen money can buy!  Subwoofers I would look at are SVS, Velodyne, Martin Logan.  A question you will want to ask yourself is will you want the three main speakers behind the screen or not?  If you would like to run a big screen and have the speakers hidden, I would go with a perferated THX screen and in wall surrounds for the back channels. 

High End System 1:
McIntosh MX-150 AV Control Center
No less than 5 HDMI 1.3 audio/video inputs, on-board RoomPerfect, decodes Dolby* TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio.  Also has ballanced XLR outputs.     http://www.mcintoshl...oducts/1432.asp
McIntosh MC205 200 watt X 5 multi channel power amplifier     http://www.mcintoshl...l-power-amp.asp
McIntosh MC252 250 watt X 2 stereo power amplifier     http://www.mcintoshl...r-amplifier.asp
McIntosh MVP881 Bluray/DVD-V/CD/DVD-A/SACD     http://www.mcintoshl...oducts/1398.asp
McIntosh MS750 750 GB Music Server     http://www.mcintoshl...usic-server.asp
Runco Signature Cinema™ SC-1 with DHD Digital Controller     http://www.runco.com...ital_Controller
Stewart Film Screen

Second High End System:
Denon AVP-A1HDCI(A): Ultra-Reference 12 Channel A/V Home Theater/MultiMedia Preamplifier with Network Streaming and Wi-Fi $7500
Denon POA-A1HDCI: Ultra-Reference 10 Channel A/V Power Amplifier $7500
Denon DVD-A1UDCI: World's First 'Universal' Blu-ray Disc Player $4500
Projector Sony SXRD or JVC DLA-RS1
Stewart Film Screen

Supporter of 1080p & 4K/UHD video (271 1080p Blu-ray Titles - 0 UHD Blu-ray Titles)/ Supporter of Lossless PCM, Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio / Say No To MP3 & WMA / Say no to Bose




#10 of 13 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

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Posted April 15 2010 - 01:15 PM

Anyway, for good picture projectors, I'd look first at JVC.  The D-ILA projectors can be absolutely stunningly beautiful.

#11 of 13 OFFLINE   JohnRice


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Posted April 16 2010 - 04:31 AM

I will throw in my $0.02.  In my opinion, many of my fellow HTFers are a bit too electronics centric.  The payoff starts dropping quickly with electronics once you are spending a few thousand.  I have to say, that Emotiva stuff seems like it may be the way to go.  The 2.3K setup John Brill listed is something I would give some serious thought.  It may also make the most sense in the long run, since you don't have to keep throwing away amps (in the form of receivers).  Times may be changing in this area a bit.

In your budget, I would seriously try to steer away from most of the speaker brands you have actually heard of.  There are  MANY excellent speaker companies out there.  You just have to look for them.  Again, the ones John listed are worth looking at.  You mentioned Martin Logan.  Excellent speakers, but my gut feeling is they are not ideal for the use or user.  I always recommend Vandersteen to people in your price range.  Seek them out and give a good listen.  Very nice speakers.  Stick with a sub company for the subwoofer(s).

The Hybrid System

The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

The Surround Part: Sherbourn PT-7030, Thiel SCS3, Emotiva XPA-5, Polk & Emotiva Surrounds.

#12 of 13 OFFLINE   Colin Dunn

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Posted April 20 2010 - 09:43 AM

This is what I think would be the most 'bang for the buck' in the $10K-$15K price range... Projector: Panasonic AE-4000. I have the 3000 and really enjoy it. The 4000 does it a step better. Street price is about $2,000. Screen: Not picky about brands but get something with a 1.3-1.8 gain, and as large as the living space can accommodate. A fixed frame screen of these specs is about $600. Pre/pro: Onkyo PR-SC5507P. Street price is around $1,800. It supports all sound formats, has 7 HDMI inputs, and Audyssey room correction. Power amps: Emotiva XPA-2 (fronts) and XPA-5 (center/surrounds). $1,600 for both. Speakers: Magnepan MG1.7 ($2,000), an MGCC3 center ($1,000), and two pair of MMGs ($600/pr or $1,200 for all 4 surrounds). I like Maggies as they're excellent for music and movies, and deliver performance way beyond their price point. They sound like Martin-Logans but cost half as much. Disadvantages? They like lots of amp power and have limited bass (but the sub you're getting anyway will take care of that). If you can't accommodate planar speakers - I've liked dynamic speakers from Vandersteen, Sonus Faber, and Quad. Subwoofer: SVS PB-12 Plus ($1,200). Source: Oppo BDP-83 ($500). The best Blu-ray player available, also excellent for DVD, DVD-A, SACD, and red book CD. No need to buy the $900 BDP-83SE, because you'll be using a digital HDMI connection and won't benefit from the high-quality analog electronics in the SE version. Total: $11,900 before sales tax, shipping, cables, accessories, installation, calibration.
Colin Dunn

#13 of 13 OFFLINE   rdb1960



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Posted April 20 2010 - 10:49 AM

Can't help you with projectors or screens, as I don't have any experience with those.  My home theater system consists of a Denon AVR-988 receiver, Klipsch Reference Series RF-82's, Klipsch RC62 center, RS52 surrounds, and an SVS Sound PB12Plus sub.  My room is somewhat irregularly shaped, with the screen and seating area in a 16' x 12' that narrows to an adjoining 12'x12' dining area, so the overall room is 24' from screen to rear surrounds. I find myself wishing I had a more powerful receiver, so the recommendations you've received for the Denon 4810 are good--unfortunately, the more powerful receiver was beyond my budget--someday I hope to upgrade that component.  If your budget allows, MacIntosh has a reputation of being extremely good.  I don't have any personal experience with them since they're beyond my budget, but if you can afford it, I'd definitely check them out. I am happy with the Klipsch speakers--they do have some more expensive models than the Reference Series that you may want to check out if your budget allows.  You've also seen a couple of recommendations for the SVS sound subwoofers.  I purchased my SVS after posting a question and having several responses that recommended SVS as the best bang for the buck on subs.  I'm glad I took their advice.  I couldn't be happier with the sound, quality, and performance of my sub. One more thing I want to add.  My Blu-ray player was a Sony BDP-S550 that I purchased about 2 months after the model was introduced in the fall of 2008.  I chose that unit after reading several reviews that said it had great picture quality and really good upconversion of standard DVD's.  The player died about 6 weeks beyond the end of the 12 month warranty period.  When I contacted Sony, they said the best they could do was offer me an out-of-warranty exchange for a factory refurb unit at a cost of $159.99 plus tax, a price that I considered totally unreasonable considering my unit barely made it past the warranty period, and I could buy a brand new entry level player for that price, or a factory refurb of a newer model for just a few bucks more.  It seemed to me that they weren't giving me any credit at all for my 13 1/2 month old unit that I'd be returning in the exchange.  A little internet research turned up several other people with similar experiences of S550's dying premature deaths.  It was only after pointing this out to Sony and threatening to create a FaceBook page to publically highlight the problems people were having that they relented and agreed to an exchange for $41--a price I considered reasonable for a just out-of-warranty unit.  Unfortunately, I discovered that contrary to their advertised policy on their exchange program (same or comparable model unit), they tried to pass off an entry level model instead of replacing my S550 with another S550 or with an S560 which is the virtually identical model that replaced the discontinued S550.  I finally got them to do an exchange with a comparable model, but it took me several weeks of arguing with them and then waiting for them to provide a suitable replacement.  After my experience, I would not recommend any model of Sony anything to anybody, so I'd suggest you stay clear of them for your Blu-ray player unless you can get a good extended warranty at a bargain basement price.

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