Advice on buying new HT system

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Pam_S, Sep 26, 2002.

  1. Pam_S

    Pam_S Auditioning

    Sep 26, 2002
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    Please bear with me, this is my first post here. I'm interested in purchasing my first HT system. This is all very new to me & the real technical stuff is a bit over my head. My living room is about 17' x 12'. I currently have a HDTV & hifi VCR. I plan on watching DVDs & will also be listening to music a small % of the time.

    My HT budget is about $1000. I've been to a few stores and one salesman suggested a Denon AVR-1603 receiver for $400. Do I really need to spend this much for a decent receiver? I'm also looking for a progressive scan DVD, a powerful subwoofer & speakers of course.

    Suggestions for the entire system would be much appreciated. I've been obsessing over what to buy for 2 weeks now, reading postings in the forum & reviews on the net. But not being knowledgeable, I'm just not sure what to buy.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions!!
  2. Greg_R

    Greg_R Screenwriter

    Apr 9, 2000
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    Portland, OR
    Real Name:
    $1000 is a tight budget to get a receiver, 5 speakers, sub, & DVD player. However, it can be done. I'd take a long look at Home Theater Direct's offerings (level 2 and level 1). JBL's N-24s would make a good 5ch setup but would be pushing your budget ($500 for just the 5 speakers). For a DVD player, I'm not all that up to date but it looks like the Denon DV-900 would be a good purchase (ask in the AV source area). (You want something with progressive scan and true 3:2 pulldown processing for optimal video on your HDTV.) If you look around you might be able to find an older model receiver (like the Denon 1602 or 1802) for under $300. To really save money (or get better stuff) you could look at the used market (but know what you're getting!).
    - HTD Level 2 ($550)
    - Denon DVD-900 ($250)
    - Denon 1602 receiver ($250)
  3. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

    May 22, 1999
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    A company called Kenwood has been trying to re-build it's reputation. One of their offerings are several "HTB" Home Theater's in a Box.
    They currently have a HTB-509 system with:
    - Modest receiver
    - 5 tone matched speakers
    - External, self-powered sub
    - 5-disk Progressive Scan DVD player
    All the toys for about $600 at Circuit City.
    Check this thread on What do you think the smallest... for other good information.
    Good Luck and be sure to post and let us know what you decide upon BEFORE you buy. We can usually steer you towards decent quality equipment and skipping the junk.
  4. Iver

    Iver Second Unit

    Sep 23, 2002
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    If you're just talking about the receiver and speakers for $1,000, I'd suggest spending about $300 for the former, $700 for the latter.

    Unfortunately, $700 is actually a tight budget when it comes to purchasing five surround speakers and a sub, as you have probably noticed from the speaker prices already quoted in the previous posts.

    You can adjust my figures depending on what is important to you. In other words, if you are just a huge electronics freak and love lots of buttons and displays, you might prefer putting more money into the receiver. The problem is, at your budget level you would then be pushed into making some unpleasant compromises on the speakers.

    As for spending $400 on a receiver, that would actually be considered fairly inexpensive, relative to the going rates for A/V receivers.

    However, you can get a perfectly functional receiver for half that. Something like the Panasonic SA-HE70 (this line was sold for many years under the Technics name) which goes for about $180. Kenwood has an entry-level receiver, the VR605, I believe, for $200 list. You might still find a few of the 2002 Denons kicking around, such as the AVR-1602 (which I just bought for $250 in-store at J&R Music World).

    In current (2003) models, I think the best value is the Denon AVR-1403 which, in terms of performance, is similar to last year's AVR-1602. For a list price of $300, you sacrifice just a few peripheral features such as S-Video (or component-video) switching.

    However, if you have an HDTV it is almost a sure thing that it will have at least two or three video inputs, meaning you can just run all your video devices into the TV and do the switching there (depending on the quality of your receiver, it may be better anyway to run your video devices directly into the TV and avoid having the video signals pass through the receiver).

    You might also consider just starting out with a pair of front L/R speakers. This will let you get a really decent pair of speakers while still staying well within your budget. Movie and TV audio sounds okay over a pair of front L/R speakers and, of course, most music is still in stereo.

    Then, as finances allow, you can add a center-channel speaker, surround R/L speakers, and a subwoofer.
  5. JohnBrianW.

    JohnBrianW. Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 21, 2002
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    I agree with everyone here when they say it will be tough to get a complete HT system for $1000. Not to say you can't do it, but will you be happy with it a year from now? My advice to you is to get the best possible receiver you can afford. The power source for your system is what will improve the sound the most. Of course speakers are important as well but its like saying the tires are the most important part of a car. They are important but they need something to drive them. The Denon 1602 is a good recommendation, 2 others worth looking at are Marantz 4200 and the Onkyo 500. The onkyo should be a little cheaper. Although Onkyo gets a bad wrap from a lot of people on this board its not a bad receiver. As for speakers, I would look at some Canadian made stuff. I feel it presents the best value for the $. Companies like Energy (5.2 system) or Axiom's Epic systems are excellent for the price. Some others are PSB, Paradigm, Mirage and Athena.
    I feel if you can bump your budget to $1400-$1500 you'll get a system you won't tire of and be very pleased for years to come.
  6. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

    May 8, 2001
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    this is a tougie.
    what's more important to you? getting everything at once, or trying to build piece by piece to get exactly what you want?
    the kenwood htb's are very good all-in-one systems. i've listened to them myself and thought they were quite impressive - especially for the price. but the wanna-be audiophile in me still thinks it's better to go the separates (techncially the kenwood's are true separates, but hopefully you know what i mean) route.
    i like iver's idea.
    if you can hold out, build slowly and get quality components. pick up a good receiver, then the main speakers. add a center, then the rears and finally a sub. it may take a while longer, but i believe you'll have a higher quality setup that will last you forever. especially the speakers - those tend to last forever and speaker technology really doesn't change that much. many people keep their same speakers for a very long time. mine are probably going on 6-7 years now. if you build the speakers slowly, remember the concept of "timbre matching" - buying similar speakers from the same manufacturer & model line...that way they'll all sound the same.
    so, i think the first thing you'll need to think about is how you want to build this system. all at once or piece by piece.
    again, i am not bashing the kenwoods in any way. they're totally nice systems.
  7. CollinMorphew

    CollinMorphew Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 26, 2002
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    Not that I'm very knowledgable by any stretch, but you could get really close with something that sounds good/great now with a lot of upside and very little downside and gives you a great upgrade path down the road.

    You could look at something like GregR said on the speakers with respect to JBL--very mellow sounding so a bright or think receiver won't be as hard to camoflauge.

    Speakers--4 n26 and n center--maybe 4-500

    Receiver: Pioneer is going to give you the best bang for the buck--look at other threads especially on the vsx-811. This will give you a very feature packed 7.1 receiver (helps in future) with respectable power output. 100x5 advertised but really you are looking at somewhere between 68-74 watts continuous to all 5 channels and not that distorted. For HT it is great--music on standard stereo is a little think but put in midnight mode with the JBL's--it will sound a lot fuller. With the 811 having preouts for 6 channels, you can easily jump up to seperate amps that are better quality as time goes on and money comes available.
    Price is somewhere around 350.

    Sub--Little Sony SW-40. A lot of positive response on threads--especially for the money--somwhere around 150-200. I used to use this sub and I really like it.

    DVD--Toshiba 4700 is somewhere between 150 and 200 I believe.

    So, low end gets you at about 1050.

    Like I said, I'm nowhere near as educated on this as 99% of the people on here are but those are just some thoughts. To let you know here is what I went to:

    Receiver: Pioneer 811--love it
    Amps: Love the Pioneer but I'm addicted to adding so I have a Parasound 855 and 3 2 channel Adcoms--still not hooked any up because I want to do it all in one day.
    Speakers: 2 JBL S38, S Center, 4 S36 and a PB12--love the 7.1--the Studio series as far as I'm concerned are a serious value and sounded better to me than a lot of others that were close in price and a bit higher.

    If anyone wants to comment on what I wrote (good or bad) and tell me what they think of what I did and how I did--I'd love to hear it.

    I spent about 1000 on all the speakers (pretty good deal I think) 300 on the receiver and 900 on the 4 amps--all in all 2200 bucks.
  8. Stephen Hopkins

    Stephen Hopkins HW Reviewer
    HW Reviewer

    Jul 19, 2002
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    For $1000 for, here's what i'd reccomend.

    Receiver - Pioneer VSX-D811S ($320 shipped, yahoo shopping)

    Speakers -
    Mains - JBL N28s ($130 w/ free shipping, J&R)
    Surrounds & Center - JBL NSP1 package ($250 w/ free shipping, J&R)
    Subwoofer - Sony SA-WM40 ($175 shipped, dealznet)

    DVD Player - Panasonic RP56 ($170 shipped,

    Total - $1045

    This would give you a solid system with a 7.1 speaker setup. If you want to save some $$, you could go with just the NSP1 package and only do 5.1. You could also stick with the NSP1 package and mate it with a Denon 1803, which is the 6.1/7.1 brother to the 1603 the salesman reccomended. This would give you a little better receiver and still offer the room to grow into 6.1 or 7.1.

    Hope this helps.

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