Help Me Find A Great Receiver For Under $500

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by balzac, Aug 7, 2005.

  1. balzac

    balzac Agent

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    Hey guys, I'm VERY new around here and have yet begun to get past the tip of the ice berg as far as reading through the site goes. My goal in building this project up is to get a great DVD watching platform, since my girl and I like watching a lot of movies.

    I've already done a bunch of research and more importantly, I've come up with a budget. Budget is as follows: TOTAL FOR THE RECEIVER AND SPEAKER COMBO IS $850!!
    RECEIVERS - BUDGET UNDER $450
    As far as receivers go, I'd been looking at the:
    Harman Kardon 235 (~$340) and 335 (~$420)
    Kenwood VR-9070-S (~$310)
    Pioneer VSX-1014TX-K (~$320)
    Pioneer VSX-D914-K ($250)
    Yamaha RX-V550 (~$300)
    Sony STR-DE898/B (~$260)

    I listed them in the order of how my preference. I'm trying to find something that's nice looking (HK, Kenwood, Pioneer 1014) and that works well, however, performance comes first. These are after reading reviews on CNet and looking at performance and the numbers. I really haven't heard these receivers and speakers, since no one around me carries them except best buy and circuit city and its hard to get a feel for them in their stores.

    The receivers are where I'm really stuck. I don't know much about them, their ease of use or how durable they are. I know the HK's power ratings are on the low side, but they have some of the most clear sounding receivers. They also have the best looking (IMO) receivers of the bunch. I also wanted to keep the system SIlVER if possible or atleast everything matching. I currently have a silver Sony dvd player, but I'm not too concerned about this $120 player compared to the $400 receiver. But it'd be nice to get something that matches.


    SPEAKERS - BUDGET UNDER $500
    As far as speakers go, I've again come down to a couple sets of speakers, most of which are smaller. I haven't really gone and found individual speaker components, I found the package type deals, which are more affordable for me. Here's what I'm looking at in the order of my preference:

    Harman Kardon HKTS 14 (~$375) Smaller speakers, has the largest (12") subwoofer of my picks, only a 5.1 system, but allows me to add bigger front speakers (Klipsche floor standing or whatnot) without "throwing away" speakers one day. I cal also add the HK HKS4's to make this a 7.1 for $120.


    Onkyo SKS-HT240 (~$350) Has a 6.1 system with smaller speakers meant for an LCD or Plasma display. Rated very highly on Cnet, but they look kinda weird to me. Only has an 8" 150 watt sub as well, but according to the review, it performed well.


    Onkyo SKS-HT520S (~$300) Has a complete 7.1 package, is cheaper than the HK, but has larger, "uglier" speakers, which are harder to integrate into this system.

    Harman Kardon HKTS 8 (~$289) a cheaper, smaller version of the HKS 14, with a much smaller sub with less power. Appears that the Onkyo system sounds better due to the larger sub. Its also a 6.1 system, which is a plus, but probably won't outperform the Onkyo anyway, since the Onk is 7.1.

    JBL SCS-180.6 SCS (~$269) Cheaper than the rest, but is only a 6.1 system. Appears to be the cheapest quality of the bunch as well, but at least is more compact than the Onkyo system.

    So what do you guys think? Is there another better system that I missed?

    I posted this in the speaker forum as well, I hope that's ok!
     
  2. John_RO

    John_RO Stunt Coordinator

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    As far as recievers go, i'm a huge Yamaha fan. Keeping that in mind, I recommend the RX-V 557 if you can swing $450. If not, the RX-V 457 is a hundred bucks less. But remember the old addage...you get what you pay for.

    For speakers, I would try to stick with with brands that only make speakers. I've found that HTIB speakers tend to use inferior cabinets and drivers (ie. thin fiberboard vs. MDF enclosures and paper drivers). That should probably rule out the HK and the Onkyo.

    I would take a look at JBL and Polk for budget speakers. You could buy a 6.1 bundle or piece it together with some small bookshelves and a center channel. If you go that route, you'll need a sub. Rumor is, the best budget sub out there is the Dayton 10". It's on sale for $100 at www.partsexpress.com. I also like the sony 12" sub. But it's $149 and a bit on the boomy side.

    Good luck,

    JR
     
  3. FeisalK

    FeisalK Screenwriter

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    I'm a fan of the Panasonic digital receivers - performance way over their price point. Check out the new Panasonic XR55
     
  4. balzac

    balzac Agent

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    So it looks like my options are being drastically reduced to two models, the HK 335 and Pio 1014/1015. What are the pluses and downsides of each in comparison?

    My online research basically said that the Pio has LOADS of features and that the setup is really really easy on it with the MACCAC feature, while the HK is a bitch to setup the first time. Said that the HK also has the cleanest sound of the two as well. I'm partial to the HK's looks, which plays some part in all of this, but only because I wanted something silver to match the tv. In fact, the HK matches the tv to a T, since the tv has a silver and "black lacquer" look to it.

    Are the Kenwood's worth a look or does the Pio/HK blow it away? Anything else in this price range that'll work better?
     
  5. balzac

    balzac Agent

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    Another question...

    What's the difference between the Pioneer 1014 and the VSX9100TX?
     
  6. John_RO

    John_RO Stunt Coordinator

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    Pioneer or HK will outperform the Kenwoods in every aspect.
    Kenwood inflates thier wattage numbers considerably. I had an older Kenwood AV reciever purchased fron Sam's Club that claimed 100 watts per channel. Research on the net revealed it was only putting out about 40 watts per channnel. That said, the Pioneer 1014 has been known to "crap out" according to online reviews. Dunno if the VSX9100TX is any better. Do your research to find out.

    The HK 335 seems to be a good reciever and reportedly works well with bright speakers. HK is also pretty good about publishing relatively accurate output specs.

    I'm still pushing the Yamaha RX-V's over either of these. Yamaha recievers are a little on the bright side but the power specs are relatively honest and they are bulletproof IMO. Every time i demo'd them against other recievers in a blind test, I (as well as my wife) preferred the Yamaha. If you go with a Yamaha, stick to the RX-V series as opposed to the HTR series offered in the mega stores.
     
  7. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    You might consider some of the Sherwood Newcastle's as well. They're a beautiful titanium color and sound fantastic. They won't have all the bells and whistles that the Pioneer's have but they ought to sound better.

    As for speakers I agree stick to a manufacture that only makes speakers...there's a few exceptions but by and large anything speaker from Pioneer, Yahama, Sony, Onyko etc isn't going to sound that good.
     
  8. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    The Athena Micra 6 speaker package in black has been hovering right around $300 at Best Buy. Defintely worth a listen at that price. The Acoustic Research HC-6 can be had for around $199 online from places such as www.etronics.com .

    Out of the recievers, I'd go for the 1014 or H/K 335.
     
  9. ChrisHeflen

    ChrisHeflen Supporting Actor

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    You know, depending on how big your room is, you might wanna take a look at the Onkyo 770 or the next model up.
    Yeah it's a HTIB, but a very good one.
    If you are mainly into movies and are in a small to medium room, and with that budget, that's what I'd look at.
     
  10. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I just installed the Onkyo 780 for a customer this past weekend, and I have to say, it's quite decent for the price if you have a smaller room. The receiver lacks some higher end features that are found on many of the receivers mentioned (no video upconversion, no auto-EQ), but it isn't too bad, I'd say it's equivalent to a TX-SR501 or 601. The new main speakers are nicer than the previous versions, IMO. Very easy to setup and install too.

    The downsides are probably the sub and the surrounds. The sub isn't going to cut it for a larger room but is pretty standard as far as HTiB subs go, and the surrounds are pretty average. Overall, it's very decent for the price.
     

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