First post - What did you look for in your receiver?

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Chris_Z, Oct 4, 2004.

  1. Chris_Z

    Chris_Z Auditioning

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    Hi all,

    I'm new to the forum and would really appreciate any advice you can offer. I hope my question won't be too basic. I like to do the hard work of researching products myself, but I like to balance that with voices of experience. I find the right advice early on can really save a lot of time researching down the wrong path. So thanks for your patience in advance.

    I've been doing a lot of research on speakers and now I am ready to start thinking about surround-sound receivers. Just as an FYI, I am going to go with a satellite/subwoofer system. The room I have available is fairly tiny (8.5' x 8') but has good acoustics for home theater (sound absorbing panels, etc.). In general, it will be used for just one person at a time.

    The reason for this post is that I am looking for a solid no-frills receiver that will last a while. I currently use a set of stereo amps from the 80's that work great. What can I say, I prefer dials to buttons :b. I need to upgrade because I just don't have enough outputs for 5 channel surround-sound. For the longevity reason, I'd prefer to have the CD/DVD player and other peripherals connect to the receiver rather than having something built in. I also plan to connect my computer's sound-card to the receiver so I can mix my own surround-sound using Adobe Audition (the auditory equivalent of Photoshop). I am a bit confused by the receivers out there with lots of presettings that I don't think I'd use, but don't want to rule them out if they are decent.

    What did you look for in your basic surround-sound receiver?

    Can I get away with spending less than $300?

    What do I get with spending a bit more?

    Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom.

    -Chris
     
  2. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Hi Chris. Welcome to HTF!

    Well, if it was me I would try and stick to a name-brand reciever like Yamaha or even Kenwood. While Sony makes a few good units, they make a lot of so-so ones as well.

    Since you are going with a sub-sat system (good choice by the way), you dont need tons of power. While power is nice, you are not trying to fill a concert hall, but surround yourself with speakers focused on a central seating location.

    The normal advice for recievers (remote, number of AV inputs) may not apply in your case as you are likely NOT going to try and create a family-friendly system.

    You should look for 50+ watts per channel, as many digital inputs (coaxial and optical) as possible. You would like all the speaker terminals to have 5-way binding posts instead of spring-clips. DSP modes are nice to have, but optional. One thing to look for is auto-detection on the digital inputs. This way you can feed PCM, Dolby Digital or DTS into the same input and let the receiver figure it out.

    Looking at 2 similar units, the heavier unit will likely run cooler/have a longer life.

    You might consider used as you can likely get some $400 recievers for about $230 (as I just saw one on CraigsList).

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. John S

    John S Producer

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    Since this is in Basics, I won't mention any specific models.

    What I look for?

    Solid build (So many little things on the production engineering side)
    Clean power amps
    Great reliability
    HD Component Video Switching
    Pre-outs and power-amp ins
    DD,DPLIIx,DTS on the decoding side
    Excellent DACs


    Most all quality AVRs handle constant moderate volume use, but when yur start talking about true reference levels (the type of sound levels used in pay theaters) type volume, well then the clean amps, build quality, and reliability really start to come into play. I'd say that is what you really gain when you spend more.
     
  4. Chuck_W

    Chuck_W Second Unit

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    Speaking of DACs, how do multiple DACs per channel affect the sound of a receiver? For example, the Denon 2805 and 3805 have dual DACs for each channel...I really haven't seen mention of this for other manufacturers so I don't know who else might offer this feature.
     
  5. John S

    John S Producer

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    great question Chuck_W.....

    I'm not sure, I'm still using a 4802, so I am behind the times quite a bit these days. But, I will be using the 4802 til it dies completely, so many more moons I hope.
     
  6. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I look for:
    1) Sound quality - I listen to more music, so this is a must for me.
    2) BIG power supply
    3) quality capacitors
    4) Preamp outputs

    These are things you probably aren't going to find in most $300 receivers, but there are some good choices. What can often be your best bet even, is to look used or refurb. I prefer a used unit to a refurb though. I was able to pick up a used receiver with great amps for my girlfriend. It doesn't have all the latest bells & whistles, but it's still able to handle DD/DTS and sound great for just $200. You can usually go a model or two higher than new when looking used, which is often money well spent, IMO.

    I went with Marantz, and the model I have (8300) also uses a cascading DAC setup for music. You are not likely to find this on less expensive receivers either.

    New, I'd look at the offerings from Marantz, Denon, Onkyo, Harman Kardon and Yamaha. At that price point, they are all going to have about the same power and feature set.
     
  7. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    Cambridge Soundworks has b-stock Onkyo TX-SR501s on sale for $273 and Marantz 5300 open box for $349 right now:

    http://www.bestspeakerdeals.com/

    click on receivers.
     
  8. Chris_Z

    Chris_Z Auditioning

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    Hi all,

    Thanks for the helpful advice on all fronts. It looks like there are decent lower-priced options based on your recommendations (especially since I don't need a lot of power for my small room).

    Bob is right that I don't need a family friendly system. I didn't want to misdirect the post at the beginning by rambling about my master-plan, but to be more specific, my HT system will be like a workshop for designing audio-video presentations with my PC. So the application is a little different than the family-friendly entertainment systems that are more common. But it will still be really cool to pop in a DVD/CD or have a friend hook up their Xbox every so often.

    I think I'll head over to the local chain-store to get a feel for some of the models you suggested, then read some online reviews, torture myself, post some more questions, and then finally decide and look for a good deal online or used/refurb. :)

    One quick followup question: John Garcia, what is the advantage of cascading DACs for music in particular? I'm curious, it sounds interesting. :)
     

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