All in one box or more money in receiver?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Miles E, Apr 2, 2002.

  1. Miles E

    Miles E Auditioning

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    I'm new to this forum and this topic in general. Recently stumbled into some extra money and was wondering which if my options made more sense. I've got two pair of speakers, both cambridge - the ensemble and the ensemble IV. I'm presently using them on computers at home and at work. I was wondering whether I should spend $500 - $600 on a fancy receiver and center channel speaker and use the cambridge's for front and back or just buy one of the happy boxed sets? The cambridges have different impedences (6 and 8 ohms) and unpowered subs but aren't bad by my ear. If I go the all in one route, what would you nice people recommend?

    I'd also like to be able to hook my PS2 up the system with the fancy optical cable if possible at my price range.
     
  2. Andre F

    Andre F Screenwriter

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    I'd go with seperates. Do some homework and buy what you can afford right now. You should be able to do pretty good with that amount of money.

    -Andre F
     
  3. Mark Hobbs

    Mark Hobbs Stunt Coordinator

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    I would avoid the all-in-one route. While you can find a HTIB (home theater in box) set that won't cost more than $500, it likely won't satisfy you forever and upgrading is difficult if not impossible.
    My suggestion is that you spend around $400 on a nice entry-level HT receiver (like the Denon 1802 or Onkyo 595) and then look around for a center channel and a budget powered subwoofer.
    For the center speaker, you need to decide if you like the Cambridge sound and want to stick with it, since your center channel and mains (and surrounds if possible) should match. I haven't heard these speakers but you should audition some other brands (read through and search the speaker forum for many many good recommendations). If you decide to go with another brand, get a good center speaker now and upgrade the mains to match when you can afford it. You can use the Cambridge for rears until you get ready to replace them to match the mains (or upgrade the mains and move them to rears). [​IMG] If you want to stick with Cambridge, find a center speaker that is tibre-matched to the set you will use as mains.
    The Sony SA-WM40 is a popular recommendation in the "under $200" sub category. You can pick one up for $149 at Best Buy if you catch it on sale, or $199 (regular price).
    The bottom line is if you are looking to spend $500 and forget about it then a HTIB could serve you well. Search this forum for good advice on those systems. If you think HT might become something of a hobby for you and you may have some cash to upgrade in the not-too-distant future, go the component route. The difference will be very noticeable if you buy quality (but not necessarily expensive) components. Do your homework and upgrade each piece as you can afford it.
    Your PS2 will connect nicely via an optical toslink cable to any decent HT receiver.
     
  4. Miles E

    Miles E Auditioning

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    Groovy. Thanks for your help. I'll check those two receivers for most optical inputs and grab the center channel for now. My neighbors would probably appreciate me putting off the sub for a couple months anyways. I haven't made up my mind about the cambridges yet since it's hard to put them through much work with only a soundcard to drive them.
     
  5. Harold_C

    Harold_C Stunt Coordinator

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    Your Cambridge speakers should be better than anything you would find in a one-box surround system and should work pretty well in a surround sound system.

    Here's what you will need:

    a) a Cambridge center channel. Looks like either the Center II or he Center Plus would match your Ensembles pretty well.

    b) a powered sub. In the Cambridge line, either the 10 inch or 12 inch bass cubes would be a good match, although there are plenty of subwoofer choices.

    c) a Dolby Digital surround sound receiver. These are a dime a dozen at Best Buy. Look for one that is rated at "100 watts per channel". This is a lie, but most of these should be good for an honest 60 to 80 watts. These can be had for a few hundred dollars and there really isn't any diffence between the various brands. If you think you'll get the upgrade bug, look for one with full pre-amp outputs like the Pioneer 810 ($400 or so).

    So, here's the damage: $150 for the center channel, $300 for the Cambridge 10-inch sub, $300 for a receiver. So for about the cost of a one-box system, you'll be cookin'.

    Now, you want to hook up the entire Ensemble system to the front speaker outputs of the receiver. You want to hook up the entire Ensemble IV system to the surround speaker outputs of the receiver. You want to hook up the center channel speaker to the center speaker outputs of the receiver. And you want to hookup the new powered sub to the subwoofer pre-amp output of the receiver and put it in a corner.

    You want to configure the receiver so that ALL of your speakers are set to SMALL and the SUB is set to ON. You want to select an 80 or 100 Hz crossover on the receiver -- whichever your receiver has.

    And, you want to buy a Radio Shack SPL meter for $39 to calibrate the system.

    This system should be quite satisfying and should be capable of playing plenty loud enough -- probably not to Dolby reference levels (which are very loud), but within 6dB or so of that without much severe clipping (the 75 watt or 100 watt amp on the Cambridge powered sub will be the limiting factor). At 10db below Dolby reference levels, you should be "clean and green" all the way. This is perfectly reasonable volume level for movie soundtracks in a quiet home environment. This system will blow the doors off a one-box system.

    If you want to improve the system for a little more money, I would ditch the Ensemble IVs and buy a second set of Ensembles for the surround channels. Having identical front and surround speakers will produce the most cohesive soundfield and the Ensemble IVs are a little marginal (but adequate) for hifi use. A little more powered subwoofer would also be a reasonable upgrade. A 10-inch driver in a vented enclosure with a 150 watt amp is probably a reasonable minimum for full Dolby reference levels (which again is louder than most people play movies at home).
     
  6. Adam J

    Adam J Stunt Coordinator

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    If you are hooking up a PS2 make sure the receiver does Dolby Pro Logic II!
    This is the new format that PS2 games will use to get surround sound.
    http://www.dolby.com/press/co_pr_0203_PS2PLII.html
    Also, Onkyo is going to release an SR-500 series for $325 and an SR-600 for $525 this month (Supposedly) that may be worth waiting for, both will decode dolby pro logic II.
    Check "Whats New" bottom right of page:
    http://www.onkyousa.com/
     
  7. Wayne Ernst

    Wayne Ernst Cinematographer

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  8. Adam J

    Adam J Stunt Coordinator

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    Shucks!

    Maybe I should have waited a week before buying my HK-120. I didn't think they would be out that soon in April!

    If anyone sees any reviews on either of these models could you post a thread? Thanks.
     
  9. Wayne Ernst

    Wayne Ernst Cinematographer

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