Best Bang for buck for $600-$1000 (2.1 system)? + other newbie home theater questions.

ensignlee

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Edmund Lee
Hey guys,
Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time to read this post and for replying. I'm trying to set up a 2.1 system for myself in my living room with the option to upgrade to 5.1 later.
I impulse bought a Bose Cinemate Series II and am slightly regretting the decision - from what I've been reading from the last hour or so, I could have gotten a lot more for my money? Fortunately, Costco has a great return policy so if you guys can help me put together a home theater system, I'd be glad to do it!
So here are the main things that I will be listening to/watching, in order:
1) Football, TV shows (90% of usage)
2) Internet streams (via twitch, mostly Starcraft 2 tournament streams) (9% of usage)
3) Blu Ray Movies (1% of usage)
And here are the input devices that I will be using, in descending order of amount of use:
1) Cable Box
2) HTPC that I have in the living room.
3) Playstation 3 (mostly for blu rays)
My visual display is a 46" Samsung LED.
From my initial few hours of research, here are the things that are needed for a home theater system:
1) Receiver
2) Amp
3) Speakers
4) Subwoofer
Is that right? Please let me know if I'm wrong.
So, now that I've gotten that out of the way, here are my main questions:
1) I'm pretty good at building computers, and if anybody asked me what the sweet spot was for building a gaming computer, I would say right around $1,000. Anything past that and you hit a wall of rapidly diminishing marginal returns, where you can spend twice as much more, but only eek out 10% or so in noticeable improvements. Is $1k the magic number for home theater systems as well?
2) Given the answer in question 1, what components would you choose to fill out that budget? (can buy from anywhere, though I'd prefer newegg to amazon because amazon charges sales tax in TX now).
3) Why are receivers so expensive? Could I replace the receiver with my htpc? And what makes one receiver better than another?
Thanks so much for y'all's help!
Sincerely,
ensign_lee
 

schan1269

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Why are "receivers so expensive"???
This is expensive? (and all you'd "need")
http://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/ONKHTRC330/Onkyo-HT-RC330-5.1-CHANNEL-HOME-THEATER-RECEIVER/1.html
What makes some receivers "better than another"?
There is no "better". 99% of people couldn't tell the difference between a Yamaha and a Denon. You buy based on the features you need.
Your HTPC is a source. So no, a "receiver" can't be replaced by a "source".
When you buy a "receiver"(which is called an AVR when video is involved) it includes the amp(as a receiver is...tuner+pre-amp+amp).
Since you have the HTPC as a source the receiver doesn't need networking.
Also, since your sources are all HDMI(I presume) you don't need HDMI upconversion.
The only things you need to consider are....
1. Will you ever want 2nd/3rd zone?
2. Will you ever expand beyond 5.1? (which also includes height/width)
Once we know "more"...we can offer solutions. But with the prior mentioned Onkyo 330, add two speakers and a sub from Parts Express(Dayton brand) and you could be "all in" for less than $300.
 

ensignlee

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Edmund Lee
Oh, my bad. All the ones I had seen at Magnolia were $400+, up to about $3k.
$100 is indeed much more reasonable.
To answer your questions,
1) I assume 2nd 3rd zone = other rooms that I may want to fill with the exact same sound/signal? If so, that would actually be pretty cool. I would indeed like that functionality.
2) I don't see going much beyond 5.1, though if I do choose to do other rooms, I guess I would need that functionality (5.1 in the main room, 2.1 in the second room?)
Also yes, all input connections will be via hdmi ideally.
 

ensignlee

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Edmund Lee
So I started looking at things. What do you guys think of these:
Receiver: http://www.crutchfield.com/p_033AV1513/Denon-AVR-1513.html
Speakers: http://www.crutchfield.com/p_107TL3B/Polk-Audio-Blackstone-TL3-Black.html
Sub: ?
Cost effective? Good? Bad? :?
Personally, I like the look of smaller speakers as I don't want to have big honking speakers to the left and right of my television for aesthetic reasons. Let me know if I'm sacrificing a lot to do that.
 

schan1269

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Ideally you want(especially the main two) speakers that reach 80hz. 80hz is where bass becomes non-directional(is in you can't tell where it comes from). The 5.1 standard is based on 80hz.
Those TL3 reach 115hz...meaning your sub would have to be set that high to not leave an acoustic hole You "can" do that, but subs that dig down below 30hz, don't do well when tasked with having to run up over 80hz.
So, you can still buy "small" and achieve 80hz...
This is one of the smallest speakers you can buy, that still has usable bass down to 80hz...
http://www.amazon.com/Definitive-Technology-ProMonitor-Bookshelf-Speaker/dp/B000V41XII/ref=sr_1_8?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1354854639&sr=1-8&keywords=definitive+procinema+600
Most speakers that achieve 80hz contain a 6" woofer. 5 1/2 woofers can get there...this particular Def Tech does because of the passive radiator.
 

schan1269

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Ideally you want(especially the main two) speakers that reach 80hz. 80hz is where bass becomes non-directional(as in you can't tell where it comes from). The 5.1 standard is based on 80hz.
Those TL3 reach 115hz...meaning your sub would have to be set that high to not leave an acoustic hole. You "can" do that, but subs that dig down below 30hz don't do well when tasked with having to run up over 80hz.
So, you can still buy "small" and achieve 80hz...
This is one of the smallest speakers you can buy, that still has usable bass down to 80hz...
http://www.amazon.com/Definitive-Technology-ProMonitor-Bookshelf-Speaker/dp/B000V41XII/ref=sr_1_8?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1354854639&sr=1-8&keywords=definitive+procinema+600
Most speakers that achieve 80hz contain a 6" woofer. 5 1/2 woofers can get there...this particular Def Tech does because of the passive radiator.
 

schan1269

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Ideally you want(especially the main two) speakers that reach 80hz. 80hz is where bass becomes non-directional(is in you can't tell where it comes from). The 5.1 standard is based on 80hz.
Those TL3 reach 115hz...meaning your sub would have to be set that high to not leave an acoustic hole You "can" do that, but subs that dig down below 30hz, don't do well when tasked with having to run up over 80hz.
So, you can still buy "small" and achieve 80hz...
This is one of the smallest speakers you can buy, that still has usable bass down to 80hz...
http://www.amazon.com/Definitive-Technology-ProMonitor-Bookshelf-Speaker/dp/B000V41XII/ref=sr_1_8?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1354854639&sr=1-8&keywords=definitive+procinema+600
Most speakers that achieve 80hz contain a 6" woofer. 5 1/2 woofers can get there...this particular Def Tech does because of the passive radiator.
 

schan1269

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Ideally you want(especially the main two) speakers that reach 80hz. 80hz is where bass becomes non-directional(is in you can't tell where it comes from). The 5.1 standard is based on 80hz.
Those TL3 reach 115hz...meaning your sub would have to be set that high to not leave an acoustic hole You "can" do that, but subs that dig down below 30hz, don't do well when tasked with having to run up over 80hz.
So, you can still buy "small" and achieve 80hz...
This is one of the smallest speakers you can buy, that still has usable bass down to 80hz...
http://www.amazon.com/Definitive-Technology-ProMonitor-Bookshelf-Speaker/dp/B000V41XII/ref=sr_1_8?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1354854639&sr=1-8&keywords=definitive+procinema+600
Most speakers that achieve 80hz contain a 6" woofer. 5 1/2 woofers can get there...this particular Def Tech does because of the passive radiator.
 

SoundDoc

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I have a set up that uses small satellites for the left, right, and surrounds. But, I use two sub woofers. The first is a passive unit (12" dual voice coil) through which the leads to my left and right front speakers run. The way I have it voiced is so that the sub's high-pass filter is set to 80 Hz, as is its low pass to the 12" driver. The driver sits in a ported down-firing box. I set my front speakers to large on my AVR. The second sub sits behind me and is connected to the LFE output form the AVR. The rear satellites are set for small as is the center speaker that has two of the same woofers as the satellites and one tweeter in the typical "D'Appolito Configuration". I have a projector and my right, center, and left satellites sit just under it with the right and left at the far edges of my 110' screen. I am using an old JVC AVR that is happy to take everything as PCM, including the high-def sound tracks. (I have a Yamaha AVR as a back up if needed). I use a computer with a AVerMedia USB HDTV and FM radio for my video input, I have a Samsung Smart BD player that I also use for Blue-ray playback and most Internet streaming since those apps are better than the ones on the PC. I have used Tru-RTA with my Bruel & Kjaer microphones, power supplies, and amp to verify that my AVR - 5.1 speaker arrangement has a response that meets the typical theater response of being flat from 31.5 Hz to 10 kHz, and then slowing falling off to 20 kHz. With these small speakers and subs I can get A-weighted sound levels of 115 dB. My maximum output in the low-frequency band is 105 dB, in the ultra-low band it drops to 97 dB SPL. I put this system together by NOT being in a hurry and by NOT buying retail.
My passive sub cost me $75 and you can have one in kit form from Parts Express who will happily sell you a 12" dual voice coil driver along with a cabinet into which to place it. The sats and center are Athena are are no longer manufactured, but I believe Amazon still has one for sale (Athena 15373-4 Micra 6 Speaker System, Black/Chrome) for $559.00. During its day it gave the Bose Acoustimass system a run for its money. For starters, almost any used AVR system with a 5.1 or more capability will work, so buy used to start. If you get seven or more channels, you can planning on zoning later. I don't care for zoning and instead I prefer to have different system in different rooms. I have a computer that I use a media server, so that if I am not streaming or watching a disk, I can pull from my media server to any other room in the house, including through the PS3 that I use for my bedroom Blue-ray playback and Internet streaming. (In my bedroom, I do use a Bose Wave radio when watching movies, but I'll never be allowed to put a surround sound system there anyway, so I have to listen in stereo - my display is 37'.)
I am not surprised you are disappointed with the Bose 2.1 system - says goes, "No highs, no lows, must be a Bose." And I've consulted for them on various things including direct radiating speakers. With patience, you can build a really good home theater system that will allow you to enjoy it now and upgrade it at your leisure; and probably impress your friends all the while..
 

ensignlee

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Edmund Lee
http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/325079/gf-came-home-with-cinemate-ii
Hmm, found this thread; seems pretty similar to my situation.
David Upton said:
I was trying very hard to maintain your budget - so if you're flexible, that helps a lot. If you're up for the Pioneer route, then go with:
Left & Right: http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-SP-FS52-SP-FS52-LR-Designed-Loudspeakers/dp/B008NCD2S4http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=hometheaterforum-20&l=ur2&o=1
x2 $250
Center: http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-SP-C22-Designed-Channel-Speaker/dp/B008NCD2EI/ref=pd_bxgy_e_text_yhttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=hometheaterforum-20&l=ur2&o=1
x1 $99
Surrounds: http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-SP-BS22-LR-Designed-Bookshelf-Loudspeakers/dp/B008NCD2LG/ref=pd_bxgy_e_text_zhttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=hometheaterforum-20&l=ur2&o=1
$129
Sub: 
http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=300-628
  $100
Receiver: http://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/ONKTXNR609/Onkyo-TX-NR609-7.2-Channel-3-D-Ready-Network-A/V-Receiver/1.html $289
Total: $867
It's important imo to match speakers (at least in the front 3) as inconsistent timbre can wreak havoc on the uniformity of the sound. So - if you're willing to increase budget a tad, then go with the above.
Seemed pretty nice, minus the surrounds (since I'm not going hte full 5.1. I guess this would be 3.1?)
I take it that the receivers are going to perform pretty much the same for my use? Would you guys recommend those?
 

ensignlee

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So I found this thread and it seems to mirror my situation very well: http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/325079/gf-came-home-with-cinemate-ii
David Upton said:
I was trying very hard to maintain your budget - so if you're flexible, that helps a lot. If you're up for the Pioneer route, then go with:
Left & Right: http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-SP-FS52-SP-FS52-LR-Designed-Loudspeakers/dp/B008NCD2S4http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=hometheaterforum-20&l=ur2&o=1
x2 $250
Center: http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-SP-C22-Designed-Channel-Speaker/dp/B008NCD2EI/ref=pd_bxgy_e_text_yhttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=hometheaterforum-20&l=ur2&o=1
x1 $99
Surrounds: http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-SP-BS22-LR-Designed-Bookshelf-Loudspeakers/dp/B008NCD2LG/ref=pd_bxgy_e_text_zhttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=hometheaterforum-20&l=ur2&o=1
$129
Sub: 
http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=300-628
  $100
Receiver: http://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/ONKTXNR609/Onkyo-TX-NR609-7.2-Channel-3-D-Ready-Network-A/V-Receiver/1.html $289
Total: $867
It's important imo to match speakers (at least in the front 3) as inconsistent timbre can wreak havoc on the uniformity of the sound. So - if you're willing to increase budget a tad, then go with the above.
Is that package still a pretty good set of speakers for a 3.1 if I remove the surrounds?
More followup questions:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882981005
Is that > = or < the subwoofer linked above?
And would you get this receiever instead of the linked one above? or is the price diff not worth it? http://houston.craigslist.org/ele/3436832662.html
 

schan1269

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I'd almost call it a wash between the ML and Dayton subs...
The Dayton will rattle stuff, but sound muddy.
The ML will provide nice fill...but no shake.
At under $150...you can't have both.
 

ensignlee

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Thanks for the reply, Schan! What would be your best bang for buck subwoofer in your opinion? I don't mind increasing my budget if need be.
 

ensignlee

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Okay, about to pull the trigger with any after Christmas sales that may come up.
Any last minute deals that y'all might recommend to change from my choices? :)
 

Number1AVdork

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HSU research has the best bang for the buck subwoofers.
You don't really need to have a home theater sound system if your just going to watch tv and football. I honestly know from experience that a good 2.1 speaker system is always going outperform a lackluster 5.1 system.
If you invest in a good pair of speakers and a subwoofer you can later add to the system as your budget permits. It doesn't make any sense to pay for a shoddy system. I recommend the HSU 2.1 speaker package. It is 1,000$ so your looking at an extra 200$ for the amp. You would essentially be buying a really good subwoofer. The two speakers are also quite nice.
I want to emphasize that a good 2.1 channel will outperform a budget 5.1 system in every regard. And by that I mean bass....You can watch movies in stereo and get great sound. The subwoofer is the most important component of building a reference level home theater or stereo.
With a really good subwoofer you have a platform to upgrade on if you decide to do so later. The impact of a good subwoofer in a 2.1 system can easily outperform any 500-800$ theater in a box package.
If you really want to go with the 5.1 setup the Paradigm CT100 system is an all around great value and comes with the subwoofer. It's not a bad sub, but it ain't no monster like the HSU.
Good luck, god bless you sir...Anything is better than bose. You know what the best part of owning a Bose is? Returning it during the trial period back to the showroom :) Let some other sucker enjoy the open box special.
 

ensignlee

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http://houston.craigslist.org/ele/3484720619.html
Would these be worth it for the three speakers in a 3.1 system?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882981006
Or these? for the 2 speakers in a 2.1?
 

ensignlee

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Okay so I've been reading all afternoon about receivers and I finally think I know what I'm looking for.
Two questions:
1) I'm eyeing the Onkyo NR414 at ~$200 refurbished from Onkyo. My only qualm is that I saw wseveral reviews that say that it doesn't have an auto tune feature that allows it to tune itself to the room. Does anybody know which step up from the 414 would accomplish that? The 515? Or do I need to go higher? OR do I need to switch brands entirely?
I see that a comprable Denon would be the AVR 1713 (in that it can handle at least 5.1 and multiple zones), but it's at $450, so it's about double the cost. :O
2) How do I know how many watts I will need for my speakers? I think at this point I am going to go with a 2.1 system, with these as my two speakers as I got an amazing deal on them: http://www.amazon.com/Definitive-Technology-SM65-Bookshelf-Speaker/dp/B005XXMN2C
I see some receivers with 80 watts, some with 90. How do I know how many I need?
 

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