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Looking to upgrade HT receiver and speakers....preparatory questions beforehand :)


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7 replies to this topic

#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Phil Carter

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Posted April 21 2010 - 02:58 AM

Hey folks!

I made the jump to high-def video in December 2008 with a new 50" Samsung plasma TV and PS3 for Blu-Rays, fed through HDMI for the best video quality. I have now decided that I'm tired of dealing with last-generation audio on sub-par speakers and would like to upgrade my receiver and speakers to something that will actually support HD audio.

Researching speakers is comparatively easy and in any case I'll have to actually demo and listen to any speakers I'm interested in before trying them out. Researching receivers, on the other hand, is beginning to make my head spin.

Denon, for example, confuses the hell out of me with its naming scheme. I always thought smaller model numbers meant older models; Denon, on the other hand, has what seems to be a fairly high-end model with the AVR-990 ($1499 MSRP), and then the AVR-1610 (next in line) has......less power? Fewer inputs? A price of $379?

More comparisons only confused me more. These two models look like almost exactly alike to me. What's the difference? Are the "CI" models the newest versions of the "older" 890/990 line, or something?


[AVR-2310CI] 7.1 CH A/V Home Theater Multi-Source/Multi-Zone Receiver

  • 105 watts per channel x 7 channels
  • Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIz decoding
  • DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High Resolution, DTS ES 6.1 Discrete, DTS ES 6.1 Matrix, DTS Neo:6 decoding
  • Anchor Bay ABT-2010 advanced analog and digital video 1080p/24fps/60fps upconversion and deinterlacing with multi-cadence detection
  • Audyssey MultEQ automatic room acoustic measuring and correction system
  • Audyssey Dynamic Volume, Audyssey Dynamic EQ
  • Sirius satellite ready
  • 5 HDMI inputs
[AVR-890] 7.1 CH A/V Home Theater Multi-Source/Multi-Zone Receiver

  • 105 watts per channel x 7 channels
  • Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIz decoding
  • DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High Resolution, DTS ES 6.1 Discrete, DTS ES 6.1 Matrix, DTS Neo:6 decoding
  • Audyssey MultEQ automatic room acoustic measuring and correction system
  • Audyssey Dynamic Volume, Audyssey Dynamic EQ
  • Sirius satellite ready
  • Anchor Bay ABT-2010 advanced analog and digital video 1080p/24fps/60fps upconversion and deinterlacing with multi-cadence detection
  • 5 HDMI inputs, 2 component inputs
Also, the next model up from each of these has a $600 price jump for what's apparently a small increase in power per channel and the addition of networking. Is the networking ability really THAT pricey?

I should add that I don't need a receiver with a billion inputs. I currently have only two devices that are actually playing sound through the receiver: the PS3, which I use for Blu-Rays and DVDs, and a PS2 which I use for older games. I don't have digital cable, satellite TV, a DVR, or anything that most people might need to plug in. I do have an ancient VCR and a couple of older gaming systems, but both of those are playing sound through the TV's speakers via composite audio.

Here's another question. I saw something on the Denon website that said all signals can be converted to HDMI. Does that mean I could run the composite video/audio of my VCR, the HDMI cable from my PS3, the component video cables and optical audio cable from my PS2, and the composite video/audio cables from the older consoles to the receiver -- and then have just a single HDMI cable to the TV for video? Would choosing a source on the receiver then switch both audio AND video?

Currently I run all my video direct to the TV (HDMI from the PS3, component cables from the PS2, composite from the VCR and older consoles) and switch between video signals using the TV's remote. If everything can indeed be done through the receiver I'd probably be better off (especially since it seems all these newer receivers have their own on-deck upconversion for video signals connected using older analog cables).

I suppose the upshot of all this is that I need help choosing the best receiver for me. What I do need:

1. The latest HD audio capabilities/decoders and one or two HDMI inputs. This is, after all, the main reason I'm buying it -- for high-def audio.

2. Sufficient power to drive a mid-level set of speakers (budget, say, $3000 for a set of 5 -- I'm more interested in getting nice speakers than in getting the newest flashiest receiver). Even the lowest-end receiver I've seen has 75 watts per channel.

What I don't need:

1. Networking (the receiver is too far from my router upstairs for me to run cable, and anyway, I use my PS3 to connect via wireless to my home PC, which serves as a media server for video and audio).

2. More than a couple HDMI inputs -- the PS3 is the only thing that will be using HDMI for video. No current plans to add digital cable, satellite or DVRs to the mix.

3. Horrendous power per channel. The highest-end speakers I've looked at (Polk Audio's RTAi A9 line) says they need 50-500 watts per channel. I don't plan on using these to blow pictures off the walls; I live in an apartment, after all.

4. Nine channels. I don't even have space for a 7-speaker setup (my couch sits against the back wall and the two rear surrounds are placed at each side of it; I'd have nowhere for additional rear surrounds).

5. Multi-zone capability (if this is the right terminology) -- I'll be using it to drive the 5.1 system in the same room. That's it. Don't need to hook up a separate set of speakers in another room, or anything.


Based on this it seems to me that the Denon AVR-890 or AVR-2310CI  would work just fine, or the Onkyo TX-SR707 . Other possible suggestions?

Thanks in advance for listening. I haven't been this confused since I made the jump to DVD and home theater originally. :)

"I should never have written all of those tank programs."
-- Kevin Flynn, "Tron"
** My DVD / Blu-Ray collection; profile by DVD Profiler **

#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Selden Ball

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Posted April 21 2010 - 10:30 AM


Sadly, model numbers aren't as much of a guide to improvements as they used to be. Many newer AVRs with what seem to be sequentially larger model numbers actually have poorer performance or fewer features than the previous year's supposedly comparable model. :(

Per-channel wattage values are almost useless as a guide these days. For marketing reasons, entry level AVRs all have to be rated at about 100W/channel, but the manufacturers measure them in several different ways. You have to look at the power supply rating to get an idea of how they really compare. Part of the cost in more expensive AVRs goes toward providing a better power supply. Under-powered receivers will "clip" and not deliver adequate power when you try to turn up the volume in a large room with inefficient speakers. Clipping can damage the tweeters in the speakers and also sounds bad.

The two Denon receivers you mention are quite good in that regard. At 6 Amps, their power supplies have about twice the capacity of what is typically available in entry level AVRs.

You're pointed in the right direction in budgeting a significant amount in speakers. Good speakers in a good room have much more of an effect on the quality of the sound than the quality of the electronics. (Traditionally, one would spend twice as much on speakers as on electronics.)

The difference between the 2310 and the 890 is that the 2310 is intended for integration into an externally controlled multi-room home theater system and the 890 is not. Otherwise, their audio and video features are identical.  For example, the 2310 has an RS232 port for connection to something like a Crestron control system as well as a 12v trigger output for controlling external amplifiers. The 2310 also comes with a second remote for controlling what is played in the 2nd zone. The 890 has none of these options. (I think the CI suffix stands for something like "control integration".)

Adding DLNI networking is indeed expensive. Essentially they have to include another computer in the box with the receiver in order to handle the network interface, communicate with other computers, and to decode the various computer audio, video and image file formats which are quite different from the traditional disc-based A/V formats.

The better modern receivers are designed so you can connect input devices with all of the different types of signals (composite and component video, digital and analog audio) and transcode them into HDMI so only a single cable has to be run to your display device, whether TV or projector.

Most modern AVRs are 7.1, while 5.1 AVRs are becoming rare. 9.1 AVRs (for front height and/or width channels) are not quite mainstream yet. In either case, you can just disable the channels you aren't using and the channels you don't have will be properly redirected to the ones you do.

Of the ones you've listed, the 890 should be fine for what you want to do. Onkyo AVRs tend to run rather hot, which can be an issue, depending on where it has to be located.

Selden

#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Phil Carter

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Posted April 21 2010 - 10:46 AM

Selden: Thanks so much for the hugely detailed reply. It sounds like the 890 is likely to give me what I need. You addressed nearly everything I could think of regarding receiver choice and specs. I'd figured I would be able to use any 7.1 system as a 5.1 system without issues, so thanks for confirming that too.

I am curious about one thing that probably went overlooked in the slew of questions I had. I currently run all my video inputs direct to the TV and switch between them with the TV's remote, then switch to the corresponding audio source on the receiver. Is it true that a modern receiver can handle multiple different video inputs (say, two composite video, one component video, and one HDMI) and then send the video signal to my TV via just one HDMI cable? Seems almost too good to be true -- not only would switching sources on the receiver change my audio, it'd change the video too.

Just curious. Again, thanks ever so much for the detailed reply.

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-- Kevin Flynn, "Tron"
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#4 of 8 OFFLINE   Al.Anderson

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Posted April 22 2010 - 12:46 AM


Quote:
 Is it true that a modern receiver can handle multiple different video inputs (say, two composite video, one component video, and one HDMI) and then send the video signal to my TV via just one HDMI cable?


Yes, that's the preferred approach.  Although the ability to "convert" the analog inputs (compoent, composite) to digital is only available on higher end receivers.  On less expensive receivers you would have to run each of the connections to the TV.  So multiple HDMI inputs to the receiver would br carried by one connection to the TV, and multiple component connection would be carried by the one component connection to the TV; but the TV would still have to be set to the correct input.  Obviously a receiver than upconverts is preferable.

Also of note is that some receivers are only "passthrough" HDMI, which means they only carry the video signal.  For that kind of receiver you would have to run both the HDMI and an audio cable to the receiver, then the HDMI to your TV.  This is less of an annoyance since the audio connection doesn't need to go to the TV.  But again this problem goes away when using a higher end receiver (and actually, most newer receivers).


#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Selden Ball

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Posted April 22 2010 - 01:40 AM

The Denon AVR-890 is one such higher-end receiver. See pages 9 and 36 of its manual, which is downloadable from the Denon Web site. All analog video inputs are transcoded to HDMI and can be upscaled in the AVR to 1080p/60 if you want. It's usually better to do the scaling in the display, though.

Selden

#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Phil Carter

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Posted April 22 2010 - 06:39 AM

Al, Selden: Again, thanks so much for the replies. Perhaps this isn't as far over my head as I'd originally thought. I always was fairly good at catching up on technology and learning to speak the right language in a hurry with some study. :)

So not only am I upgrading to superior sound with this upgrade, I also will be able to consolidate my video signals -- multiple analog and digital connections into the receiver, both audio and video, and then a single HDMI cable from the receiver to the TV for video. I'll be able to set the TV to just one input! I won't have to fiddle with the TV every time I switch from PS3/Blu-Ray to VCR to PS2 to Nintendo 64!

Of course, I'll still have to switch sources on the receiver, but pressing just one button to switch both audio AND video sources will be much nicer.

Now, to get happy with a set of speakers. I've spent most of the week already researching various sets online and will be hitting several local shops this weekend to demo. Specialty shops if at all possible; I already know the big-box stores won't be much good to me for demoing these.

Hm, maybe I should go post in the Speakers forum now that all my receiver queries have been thoroughly addressed. Man, do I love the HTF.



"I should never have written all of those tank programs."
-- Kevin Flynn, "Tron"
** My DVD / Blu-Ray collection; profile by DVD Profiler **

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Selden Ball

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Posted April 22 2010 - 07:02 AM

Phil,

You're very welcome.

Although it's very convenient, HDMI does have its quirks. Be sure to get cables which are certified Category 2 (aka "high speed") so that they can carry 1080p/60 video signals without loss. Such cables don't have to be particularly expensive, though. The general consensus is that Monster cables, for example, are way overpriced for what you get.


Selden

#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Phil Carter

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Posted April 22 2010 - 07:58 AM

Monster I knew was overpriced years ago (mostly due to the complaints of people here). I did get the word on HDMI cables when I was getting one for my high-def vid when I first ventured into the world of Blu. Got myself a nice high-quality cable from Monoprice for a very reasonable price. That place has my business for life; no doubt I'll get my new HDMI cable from Monoprice too.



"I should never have written all of those tank programs."
-- Kevin Flynn, "Tron"
** My DVD / Blu-Ray collection; profile by DVD Profiler **