Buying theater-in-box....please help

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by James_Kiang, Dec 8, 2005.

  1. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    I've heard that in general, the TiB idea is not considered to be all that good. However, for my situation I think it may work okay. We currently are in a decent size apartment. I have a 27" hdtv on its way to me, and I'm thinking of getting some new equipment to go with it. Here's what I currently have:

    DVD: Toshiba SD-1200
    Stereo: Technics SA-AX720 Receiver & Sh-AC300 Digital Sound Processor
    Speakers: 2 Cerwin Vega D-7

    I have no problems with the dvd player; in fact, it seems to be pretty well-reviewed. The sound, however, is another issue. The foam (rubber?) around to woofers of the speakers has deteriorated and fallen completely apart. Also, it is a common thing to have one channel drop out when watching a movie or listening to a cd.

    Because of all this, I am considering buying a theater-in-box from Best Buy. There are two I am looking at:

    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1099394447171
    and
    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1099393829210

    The Samsung is slightly lower in terms of watts, and it's only 5.1. Those drawbacks don't bother me too much because the room isn't large. The Insignia would be, I think, a lesser brand and it does not support DTS. Still, it does have 6.1 sound. The Samsung is the more expensive item as well.

    So, any thoughts on which to buy? Also, I'm pretty sure I'm using a digital coaxial cable to connect my current dvd to the stereo, but under these set-ups I wouldn't need any digital audio connections (for dvd playback at least), right?

    Thanks in advance for your help!
     
  2. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    The main drawback with both of these systems is that they both have a passive subwoofer. It is likely that neither will actually deliver anywhere near their rated power.

    Personally, I’d stay away from 6.1 in systems in this price range. Nothing wrong with getting started inexpensively, but put as much of your money as possible into a more limited set of features. This plus the fact that Samsung makes generally OK products (some of them very fine price performers) would make the nod (for me) the Samsung.
     
  3. John S

    John S Producer

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    At Best Buy, your much better off with something like this one...

    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1099395730557

    It can be easily upgraded if you find any one part of not able to satisfy you years down the road.

    These are juest some decent separate components bundled together.


    Don't get an integrated DVD player. You have an HDTV it deserves a separate DVD player. Your current player is most likely better than anything that comes integrated into any audio system.
     
  4. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    I vote with John. The Yamaha is only $50 more and a much better value. The Samsung has a built-in DVD player, which is a waste of your money since you already have a good one.

    My son bought a budget HTIB a few years ago. The DVD drive bit the dust in less than two years, which essentially made the entire unit a boat anchor, since there was no way to plug an outboard player into it. With this Yamaha set-up, if any one piece fails the rest of the system is still serviceable.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  5. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Gentlemen, we want HTiB-related questions posted here in A/V Sources; the Basics area is for general discussion at the beginner's level only (in other words, no what-should-I-buy posts). Thanks. JB
     
  6. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    Sorry Jack, I did not know that.

    Thanks for the advice guys. At this point, I'm a bit undecided between the SamSung and the Yamaha. The issue with the integrated dvd player does have me reconsidering. The only problem is that I know my wife would not like the color of the Yamaha...

    The one thing the Yamaha has going for it is that at that price I can get no-interest financing until January 2008. Not that this is all that huge an amount, but it gives me a little time to pay it off if that's what I choose to do.

    So, looking at the Yamaha...is there a dvd player in that one? I see component input and output, so I'm thinking there is one. If I got this and continued using my Toshiba player, would I connect the Toshiba directly to the TV or to this? I know the digital audio would go to the Yamaha, but I'm not sure of the video.
     
  7. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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    No. Theoretically, you can connect two component devices (e.g DVD and XBox) to the receiver's component ins, and connect the component out to your TV, making your receiver into a switch-box. However, this can degrade the signal, your TV probably has a more versatile array of connections, and presumably, it also has either HDMI or DVI-HDCP, which can be used to connect an upsampling DVD player. (another reason why getting a player with a built in dvd player is a bad idea).
     
  8. John S

    John S Producer

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    No DVD player, but as we tried to state. That is an advantage believe it or not. [​IMG]
     
  9. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    Ah, I was trying to figure out why it had the inputs. That makes sense now. So I would connect the dvd directly to the tv, though the digital audio would go to the Yamaha. This saves me from having to buy another set of component cables.

    I guess my vcr would also go to the tv directly as well, though I would want to connect it to the Yamaha if I wanted to play audio over the speakers, right? I'll have to make sure there are two sets of audio outputs on it so it can go to the tv as well.

    I also have a cd jukebox in my current set-up. That seems easily enough connected to this - audio out on the cd player to audio in.

    Quick question about the speakers in these TiB deals. What is the best way of placing the front speakers? Are stand better than wall-mounts? I'm thinking of going with mounts for the rears - is it better to be at the top of the ceiling or somewhere lower?

    This has been very helpful. Thank you all again.
     
  10. John S

    John S Producer

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    The fronts are generally better not wall mounted. But not to bad wall mounted, in-wall / cieling is the worst for the front sound stage.


    I love on the wall at the cieling level for surrounds.
     
  11. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    Thanks again. I was just thinking practically with the rears - by placing them at ceiling level, I can run the wire to them and not need quite as much as if they were to be mounted lower. Of course, this just confirms that I'll need to buy 2 stands and 2 mounts...

    I've been spending entirely too much time this morning at work figuring out the various connections and everything [​IMG]. The only problem is that I don't know what exactly is on the back of my cable box. Otherwise, I think I have everything pretty well figured out.

    One more question: My dvd player has an audio output that is labeled "Bitstream/PCM". I am almost 100% sure that I am using a digital coaxial cable right now. I would just continue using that cable to connect it to the Yamaha to get the best quality sound for the dvd player, right? (There is no optical out)
     
  12. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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    For some time, forum members used to recommend a certain Onkyo Home Theater System (HT-760 or something) as a really good deal. I'm not sure if there's still a consensus there, or not, and besides, it's beyond your budget-- ~$500 new.

    There is an Onkyo ST-580, and it's selling for $250. Maybe some other thread has a critique of it.

    It does not switch component, or even S/Video, and offers only two digital inputs. Still, it may (or may not) sound better than the Yamaha.

    I have the Onkyo SR-502 receiver-- and I do like it, but I haven't been comparing it to Denon, Pioneer, or Yamaha, so. Nor have I heard the Onkyo SR-303. which this particular system is probably based on.

    Edit: Oops. The subwoofer appears to be a passive model.. I'm not sure if that's par for the course at this price point, though.
     
  13. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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    Ok. Let's take a different track.
    You live in an apartment. Therefore, a subwoofer that loads the room is not so important. Fun, maybe, but probably a leasebreaker.
    You have a HDTV. HDTV uses Dolby Digital, although the availability of 5.1 tracks is location dependent. Therefore, you will probably need at least two digital inputs-- one for the dvd. one for the cable box/atsc tuner. If you have a video game console, possibly one more. Maybe one more for a mp3 player/computer. Two is probably the minimum. They should be of the right type-- optical is more commonly used, but some devices come with only a coaxial port.

    Your HDTV probably has a panapoly of inputs already, including (one would hope), a DVI and/or hdmi. Unfortunately, most cheap receivers support only component video. Thus, you can probably count on using your tv to switch video, and your receiver to switch audio. If you get tired of this complexity, you can always automate it later with a Harmony remote, but that's an added expense.


    Now, the secret to good sounding audio is dynamic range. Loud passages should be loud, and soft passages should be soft. This is usually expressed in watts. Unfortunately for you, most companies exaggerate power. Many times, the claim is expressed with an absurd Total Harmonic Distortion (THD). Now, people might wonder whether the differences between 0.1% and 0.0055 can really be heard. But 10% THD is horrible. Besides, you're buying a HTiaB. Speakers come with it. And if the speakers are inefficient, those watts will be wasted away trying to drive quiet speakers.

    So, do some listening before you buy.

    Things that are nice to have:

    Dolby ProLogic II. Many programs are still in Dolby Surround. This algorithm is far superior to Dolby ProLogic.
    DTS: maybe, maybe not. Some early DVDs came with special optimized mixes for dts. I don't know if you'll be able to detect a difference.



    Things that are dubious:
    6.1/7.1-- the extra speakers may mean that less attention/funds is given to the fundamentals.
    dts Neo/dts 96/24-- I don't really use dts Neo, as my receiver can only apply dPLII to dolby digital streams. A matter of taste, really. I've never seen a dts 96/24 disc, though, admittedly, I haven't been looking.
     
  14. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    Well, I just got back from Best Buy. No purchase made at this point, but man was it tempting.

    I was able to listen to all 3 models that I am considering: the Yamaha, the Samsung, and the Insignia. The Yamaha, to me, definitely stood out in terms of audio. I noticed the subwoofer on that one has it's own power plug and volume control - is this what is meant by active? It clearly delivered some nice bass, moreso than the other two.

    I also prefer the Yamaha because it seems so much simpler to use without a remote (they did not have those out for some reason). Unfortunately, the Samsung and Insignia units did not display volume in db like the Yamaha did, so I could not get an audio comparison at the same decibel levels. Also, I think those models do let you adjust the subwoofer level, but I think you need the remote to do so.

    So why didn't I walk out with one? I guess it boils down to the "wife factor" [​IMG]. I know she does not like silver units, and the Yamaha is definitely silver. Also, they did not have silver mounts for the rears (only white or black). What do you think goes better in a white room - white or black mounts with the silver speakers?

    The stands were nice as they included the hidden wire feature. That leads me to another question - when mounting the rears (it looks like they would be the two-hole type of mount), how do you connect the speaker wires? Obviously you connect the wire before connecting the mount, but the mount looks to pretty well cover that area. I'm guessing there is enough room for the wire to slip by, but I can't be sure.

    EDIT: The TV I am getting does not have DVI or HDMI, nor does my dvd player.
     
  15. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    I guess I'm weird but no HTiB is going to sound as good as using your present Technics system with a new set of speakers (unless that cut-out problem you mentioned is actually happening in the receiver itself, but that could be fixed for not too many $$$). BTW: Those Cerwin woofers can be fixed for around $50-$70 per pair.

    These won't win a contest against a set of Polks or Paradigms, but IMO the following speakers sure as heck sound better than 99% of all HTiBs I've personally heard:

    Pioneer:

    Small bookshelves for rears AND front mains (for higher wife approval factor ["WAF"]). Right now they are only $25/pair instead of $50.

    "Large" bookshelfs for front mains for significantly improved sound (but lower WAF). There is also a 6.5" woofer version.

    I saw a matching Pioneer center channel, but it's not on Circuit's website yet.

    Sony:

    They sell a similar set of speakers (scroll down), are a bit more stylish and still sound decent like the Pioneers.

    In the typical apartment, to maintain good community relations [​IMG] personally I wouldn't bother with a subwoofer (but you need to use the larger bookshelves for mains to get some usable bass), but if you want one I would grab the respected 10" model that PartsExpress sells for @$100. But make sure that outboard decoder has the "no sub" option in its set-up menu or you'll be missing out on some low bass effects.
     
  16. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

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    Lance -
    Those small Pioneers are pretty interesting, though I would want a center and a sub (getting the full surround sound thing going is one reason I am looking at TiB). While I like the larger ones, I don't think my wife would go for them too much - downsizing my current speakers is something she would like to do (though those would still be smaller than what I have).

    Speaking of the Cerwin Vega's...Where would I go to get the woofers fixed? I would guess that wherever that is could also check the speakers to see if they are the cause of the drop-out problem. With that problem, sometimes simply playing with the volume control will get things back to normal, other times it just takes a little while. Not sure if that info helps to pinpoint the problem any.
     
  17. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Seems like the receiver's volume control itself, or one of the circuits connected to it (since it has to control six individual channels) is acting up. But since it takes awhile sometimes to act up, I think it could also be something somewhere else (preamp or power amp)-how's that for a conclusive diagnosis? [​IMG]
     
  18. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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    An active subwoofer is a subwoofer with its own amplifier. A passive subwoofer requires a separate amplifier. Although there are extremely good passiive subwoofers around, the intention of the manufacturer is usually that the customer will buy a separate power amplifier. But when a passive subwoofer is used in a HTiB design, the extra amplifier is crammed into the receiver's cabinet and could, in a particularly loud scene, "suck" power from the rest of the speakers, resulting in less than perfect sound. For instance, if an actor is straining to shout over a explosion, you might not be able to hear that actor.
     
  19. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Just a dusty FYI from the mid 90s: in some of Technics' larger component receivers sold then, they included a sixth amplifier channel for a passive subwoofer. IIRC it was rated like the other channels-100 watts @1khz-so it wasn't designed for large rooms obviously but probably more as a convenience feature, because Technics also sold a matching 12" passive sub. It sounded fine for what it was. Right now Yamaha sells an HTiB with a separate receiver that also uses a sixth amp channel to power an included passive sub.
     
  20. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    FYI#2 from back then concerning passive subs: when I sold HT, we sold Cambridge SoundWorks' largest subwoofer (can't remember the model #) which consisted of a 12" woofer in a sealed enclosure powered by a 140 watt RMS amplifier (i.e. a REAL 140 watts). The use of the acoustic-suspension enclosure is because Henry Kloss-who also designed the first home projection TV, the Advent Video Beam 1000-was working for them.....and probably also the reason for the next special feature of this subwoofer.

    If you wanted, you could also buy a matching "slave" subwoofer to obtain even better bass. This slave sub (which we used in our HT demo system) was exactly the same as the powered version but didn't have an amp. It was connected to the powered sub via an included cord that plugged into the powered sub. Electrically-speaking it was connected in parallel so IIRC the manual said the amp's output jumped up to 200 watts RMS.

    The addition of the second sub definitely made a difference in that large room. Up to that time our largest sub-and our HT demo sub-was a ported 12" from Audio Source, which actually sounded very good......when it worked. [​IMG] We must have gone through three of them in a year's time! But when we installed just the single CSW sub-wow.* What a difference. Then when got hold of the slave sub & wired that up-WOW. This system couldn't get as loud as many modern subs-we had to be careful not to bottom out its woofers-but the depth, "richness" and overall quality of bass was excellent.

    Another thing we liked about that sub was that it used an enclosure shape similar to a typical floor-standing 12" model, like Cerwin-Vega still uses: a large boxy rectangle instead of a cube. But it was also quite shallow, maybe only about 10" deep (one of the advantages of an acoustic-suspension design). This shape enabled it to be visually less intrusive & also it could be placed behind most couches if desired. Their best sat/passive-sub system also used the same design for its 8" sealed subwoofers (each sat had its own subwoofer).

    * when Stereo Review tested the powered sub by itself, they said it was the first sub they had tested up to that time that could get down to a true 20Hz, i.e. it was a usable 20Hz (i.e. not 10dB down at 20Hz or anything like that). While we didn't have any test discs back then, we did immediately notice that we were feeling bass effects we had never felt before.
     

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