Home Theater Packages

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Dan Mertz, Nov 15, 2003.

  1. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    I have a big screen TV and DVD player and I am looking to buy a low price home theater in a box, preferrably under $300. I know that is cheap, but its for a small room and I don't need anything that is going to blow the roof off, I just want to be able to experience surround sound from many of the DVDs I have. Plus I no longer have a way to listen to CDs since my CD player died. So I want a low price receiver/6 speaker package, but I don't know if there a decent ones for under $300.

    I know I need DTS/Dolby Digital but I'm not sure about the minimum amount of watts I should look for in the entire system, and for each speaker. I have found the following packages for under $300 and would like some opinions on them:

    Toshiba SD-43HT (DD/DTS, 350 Total watts/70 watt subwoofer) $199

    Panasonic SC-HT650 (DD/DTS, 360 watts) $280

    Sony HTDDW750 (DD/DTS, 500? watts/75 watt subwoofer, Digital inputs) $299

    Does anyone know of any major problems with systems similar to these? Are they worth the low price
     
  2. Drew_W

    Drew_W Screenwriter

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    To be quite honest, if you want to "experience" surround sound, no HTIB will do it for you...you have a big-screen TV, but an HTIB is far from an ideal solution. There are a few threads about similar questions, but if you could expand your budget a little, you could acquire a system that would be infinitely better. A separate inexpensive receiver, an inexpensive dvd player, and perhaps a speaker package like the Energy Take 5 (the original, now discontinued, you might be able to find it on ebay for cheap). Paradigm makes a Cinema series package that should be relatively inexpensive, Energy's Take 5.2s are phenomenal as well. In the US, there are far more options as we Canadians seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to HT. And there are a gazillion places to get refurbs from authorized dealers that will save you a TON of money...harmanaudio.com for H/K, Infinity, and JBL, acessories4less.com for Marantz, ecost.com for Denon, etc...you can even look at packages at onecall, such as: http://ww2.onecall.com/SPL_811.htm

    In any case, go to an A/V specialty store (*NOT* Best Buy or the like) and have a listen. I'll bet that anything that you listen to there will beat a HTIB. Oh, and wattage means nothing. You need to double wattage to get a +3dB increase in SPL. What you should look at are distortion levels which is where HTIBs will inevitably fall short. Their amps will begin to distort even before you reach a moderately loud volume, and I tend to think that you need at least a fair bit of volume if you want to "experience" surround sound
     
  3. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Or like many of us here, you'll buy the "budget" HTiB (I had a Kenwood VR407 $499) and think its the best thing since color TV. Then after a few weeks the "newness" of the purchase will wear-off and you'll slowly realise that your system (while better than TV speakers) actually doesn't sound very good (You'll probably learn this when your budget subwoofer starts "bottoming out" on many action DVDs).

    The unfortunate truth is that a decent, if not excellent, HT set-up will likely run nearly $1000 or more (easily much much more).

    UNLESS, you have a pawn shop near where you live. You can find some incredible de
    ls on questionably legal HT gear at many pawn shops. Ebay is a good place for great deals but the myth of the $50 plasma isn't real.

    [​IMG]

    Quick question: You said you had no way to listen to CD's anymore, Will you need a DVD player also to go with your purchases?
     
  4. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the advice. I do have a DVD player, so I can play CDs on it, but I don't have speakers so I can only listen to CDs thru my TV speaker...pointless.

    I'm sure I will get better sound by spending more on seperate components than on an HTiB, but being on a budget here is the way I look at it:

    I recently got the T2 Extreme DVD and I watched it on my computer. The sound that came out of my 2 Altec speakers and subwoofer were 100 times better than my TV speakers, so I figured I could buy a low end HTiB and be satisfied. I figure that the improvement in sound I will get by going from TV speakers to a HTiB will be well worth the $250. But, the level of improvement I would get if I went from a HTiB to a $600 or $700 system would not be worth the extra $350 or $450. But, since I've never had a HT I could be wrong.

    I will take the advice and look into individual components. What should I look for in a receiver? Any opinions on Yamaha?
     
  5. NicholasL

    NicholasL Second Unit

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    Drew and Garrett are totally right. While you might need to spend atleast $1000, you'd probably end up spending a whole lot more if you first went with the HTIB and decided to upgrade in short order - which I almost guarantee you will as it has happened to the even best of us!

    Yamaha receivers are excellent. That was the first receiver I ever owned. They are sturdy, reliable, good customer service, excellent DSP modes, ample power supplies...only thing is that they are somewhat bright. Depending on what speakers you go with, your highs might be accentuated unnaturally.

    While the receiver (or preamp) is the heart of any home theater system, in your case it might be better to spend the lion's share of the $$$ into speakers, as those are the components that are most likely to stay with you the longest. You can always go up the ladder in receivers (and eventually, seperates), but if you bite the bullet and get good speakers now, they will probably be with you through several upgrade phases.
     
  6. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Since we're discussing specific HTiB recommendations this conversation is moving to A/V Sources. Basics is for asking such a question as, "What's an 'HTiB'?"
     
  7. John Sib

    John Sib Auditioning

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    As you can see by my membership date - I don't have much experience here. So take this for what its worth. I was also looking for a budget HTIB and opted for the Onkyo S760 system. Got it on sale for $499.
    Sounds great to me - but I've only had it for a week. I do plan to buy better speaker wire for it, but i think it will suit me fine. I was also looking into separates, but just can't afford it right now. Good luck [​IMG]
     
  8. ChuckSolo

    ChuckSolo Screenwriter

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    John, the Onkyo is a great system; my dad has an Onkyo HTiB and lives in a trailer court where a lot of power would probably annoy the neighbors. He loves his system and when I go watch a movie at his house, I don't find it lacking at all.. HTiB systems are fine for people on a budget who want to listen to surround sound while watching DVD movies. But like all "compromises" they have their limitations. Expansion being one of them. However, if you like it and it indeed does sound good to you, then your mission has been accomplished. Welcome to the world of "surround" sound and to the Home Theater forum. This is a great place and the people are super and always willing to exchange ideas..
     
  9. SethOakley

    SethOakley Agent

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    Dan, as a former owner of a HTIB I would definitely say that it would be worth the buy. The system that I owned was the Panasonic SC HT80. When I added this to my 47" 16:9 TV, I really thought I was the Big Man On Campus. I enjoyed hundreds of movies with that system and my friends all loved coming by to watch with me because I had a home theater system. I initially paid $799(saw it on Ebay the other day for $75 and bought it for my nephews Christmas Gift) for that system, and truly loved every minute of it. I have now retired it to my bedroom as a surround sound system for our room.

    I did take the plunge into the world of separates, with Paradigm speakers, Denon Receiver, Denon DVD Player and even a 16:9 projector. This system is really good for me, I would consider it to be an unbelievable system but there are still some that would say my system is weak. That’s how this world works. A brand new Chevrolet Tahoe would be sooooo sweet, but when you bought it someone would say, "You should have got the 2004 Cadillac Escallade or the H2"

    Dan, I'm sure you realize that if you'd go the other route, you could have an amazing system. However, a HTIB can also be a great option. You may want to upgrade in two years and you may just want to keep it the same and spend thousands of dollars on other things. If you spend $299 now, and then upgrade its not like you are out of that money. You could give it to your child/dad/brother/cousin/ or your bedroom and have another Home Theater System. For those who haven’t experienced Home Theater, they are going to think that your system is completely amazing.

    As far as which system you should get? I don't have personal experience with any of them. However, I loved my Panasonic so I would steer you in that direction. One suggestion I have for you is to listen to the system without the Subwoofer on. Most of the time with these HTIB they will supply a decent subwoofer that overpowers the rest of the system. When you demo a movie, it sounds awesome cause you get the bass rattling explosions and everything. However, when you turn it off you can hear that the speakers aren’t that great. Test the speakers this way, then make your decision. Also, most of these are probably going to be Simulated Dolby Digital, so you might investigate that as well.

    Sorry for the long message, it just kind of bothers me when people are too quick to shoot down someone’s Home Theater plan because its not perfect in their minds. I have no doubt in my mind that you will enjoy it, because its yours! Do the HTIB, and if you want to upgrade later someone would be more than happy to have your “Old” system.
     
  10. John S

    John S Producer

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    For not much more than $300, you could put together a quite respectable system....

    Both refurb though....
    Onkyo SR501 6.1 component video switching - $180
    Infinity HTS-20 inc/12" powered sub, 2 way sats - $140
    (The Harmon Kardon factory refurb direct has a bunch of these on ebay right now, the last one sold for $140)

    I think there is like $40 shipping on the HTS-20, shipping was included with the Onkyo SR501.....
     
  11. Victor Chan

    Victor Chan Stunt Coordinator

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    As SethOakley says, you should only spend what you feel comfortable spending and, in the $300 category, HTIB really is the only option you have to get a decent receiver and 5.1 speaker set.

    I think the best choice would be to go with the Onkyo HT-S660. New, It's going to run you about $400, but you can get it factory refurbished for less than $300.

    http://store.yahoo.com/adnet1/onhtju3bnesi.html

    http://www.ecost.com/ecost/shop/deta...ail,ewbfroogle

    Reasons to recommend the system? First off, unlike most HTIBs, the Onkyo actually has fairly large sized speakers. While this might not look as "cute" as the Sony and Bose cube speakers, this means that these speakers can actually play at decent levels without straining and won't sound harsh and tinny.

    Moreover, this is the only HTIB I know of in this range that actually gives you a full sized receiver versus the usual slimline receiver/DVD combo units. This means that you have all the connectivity of a full sized receiver and a decent sized amp section, allowing you to upgrade your speakers in the future and being able to continue to use the receiver as the central part of your system rather than needing to toss the whole HTIB when it comes time to upgrade your speakers. With the Onkyo, you can upgrade speakers and or receiver bit by bit as money will allow.

    Victor
     
  12. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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    Personally, I was on a budget, and ended up with a Onkyo TX-SR601 receiver, Fluance AV-HTB speaker package, and Sony WM20 sub.

    Fluance speakers are generally well reviewed for the price ($300 shipped for 2 small towers, 2 Bookshelf speakers, and a center channel).

    I find the Sony sub is the weakest part of my setup by far.

    You can find refurb TX-SR501's for as low as $180 (as mentioned above). Toss in a decent $150 sub and some Fluance speakers (or the ever-popular JBL NSP1 setup, or some of the other cheap speaker setups that are popular around here). You're talking, say $200 receiver, $300 speakers, $150 subwoofer = $650 total for a real budget HT setup vs $400-500 for one of the decent HTiB setups (Onkyo 6.1 setup, Kenwood HTib).

    But if you are on a REALLY tight budget (I charged my receiver same-as-cash to pay for it all), the Onkyo HTiB mentioned above is normally well-regarded, and does have a real receiver (albeit a very basic one without as many connections).
     
  13. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Ignore the home theater snobs, read to Seth's post twice, get yourself a nice little HTIB system, and enjoy. Avoid the Bose brand name as if it were poison. Look for bargains online at places like www.jandr.com .
     

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