Most bang for small bucks

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Mark Thomas, Oct 29, 2004.

  1. Mark Thomas

    Mark Thomas Auditioning

    Feb 5, 2004
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    Not sure whether this is the right area or not, but since I am new to HT I'll try it here.

    I am building a home theater in my basement. The dimensions are 12X24. The couch will sit cross-ways the room approximately eight feet from the screen face of a Sony 46" rear projection TV, essentially splitting the room in half, the other half will be game table, computer desk, reading room...etc. I purchased the TV several months ago and it is stored. I need some type of HT sound, but have a limited budget due to some other stuff. Wife and I have agreed on around a thousand bucks, give or take fifty cents. I know I can't get studio quality out of a paltry G note, so what is the opinion of the experts to get the most bang for my buck?

    My other inquiry centers around viewing height. I have built a short stage across the end of the room, creating a six inch rise. I know there is a general rule for viewing distance, but is there a rule of thumb as to the optimum height? Does Sony know what they're doing when they build stand for their TV's? I will build my own stand, so I could take their dimension and alter it for the stage height.

    Any expert (and all others) advice is greatly appreciated.
  2. John S

    John S Producer

    Nov 4, 2003
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    Look at the Onkyo 770 system. This is HT in a box built around a real nice AVR. great out of the box, with room to grow and change anything in particular you don't like.

    I have found nothing better for the price, and it is way under your budget, and even if you want to change part of it, you can do that and still make your budget.

    Most people are very happy with the 770 as is though, look it up and read the reviews.
  3. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Aug 5, 1999
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    Katy, TX
    Real Name:
    Hi Mark, welcome to the Forum!

    Yes, $1k is a fairly tight budget for a room that big, especially starting from scratch. I assume you’re needing a DVD player, receiver and speakers.

    The big problem is getting a decent sub for a room that large, given the small budget. “Cheap out” with the sub and you’ll regret it. You’ll end up with one that rattles and bottoms out all the time, and you’ll be wanting to replace it in short order – which means you’ve spent twice.

    I suggest putting a sub on hold for the time being. Your $1000 will then be able to get you a set-up that will include a decent set of speakers – which is the most important factor of good sound quality.

    I think I’d break your system down something like this:

    $400-450 – Five speaker set.
    $150 – DVD player.
    $400-450 – Receiver.

    This would get you up and running for the time being, and you could plan the sub as a future upgrade.

    It may take some doing to find the right set of speakers sans sub, since it’s common for home theater packaged systems to come with a sub of some kind. However, the better brands should have something to fit the bill.

    For recommendations of particular brands in those price ranges (or whatever ranges you might ultimately choose), I suggest opening threads in our Audio/Video Sources, Receivers/ Separates/Amps, and Speakers and Subwoofers Forums.

    Regarding screen height, I don’t think there is a set standard for that as there is for distance/size ratio, but my personal preference is for the bottom of the screen to be no higher than eye-level, or maybe slightly above. What you don’t want is to have it so high that people have to tilt their heads to watch.

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
  4. Kurt Charnoski

    Oct 25, 2004
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    You may want to give some ELT's a look at from these are great sounding speakers. Comes with all 5 speakers and powered Sub.

    Are you also in the need for a DVD player and receiver ?
  5. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

    May 22, 1999
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    Hi Mark.

    Let me give you some general advice.

    1. You dont need big speakers or tons of power for a HT system.

    People with music systems want to have 2 speakers sound like a concert hall. With a HT system you use an an array of 5-6 speakers all focused on a couch or a couch-chair combination. You dont care how it sounds in the corners or the next room. You just want good, clean sound that does not over-power the listeners in a small area.

    This is why many $500 systems can sound so great. They use inexpensive, but tone-matched speakers in a circle.

    2. Seating height:

    I dont believe you want your audience to strain their necks by looking upwards (unless you slant your seats back). In general - lower is better. You want the bulk of the display area just below horizontal for your eyes while seated.

    3. Seating Distance:

    Use this Viewing Distance Calculator to help decide how far back to put the couch. For your 46" television - a seating distance of 5-6 feet would be better than your 8 foot you mentioned. This will make your 'Theater' side smaller and more intimate, and give more room for the computer and game area.

    4. Home Theaters in a Box

    These can be GREAT systems. But you want to make sure you can swap out the pieces in the future as your money/interest improves. While the all-in-one HT systems look nice, small and the spouse will like it, they have a big flaw: no expandablity.

    Here is what to look for:

    - Multiple coaxial-digital and optical inputs
    - A self-powered subwoofer
    - Normal sized speaker connections
    - A separate DVD player

    As Wayne said above - the subwoofer is THE thing for Home Theater. But I would suggest you target about $500 for a HTIB including a inexpensive sub, then in a few months, sink the money you saved into a $600 or so subwoofer. It does sound like the "tail-wagging-the-dog" in terms of the budget, but the subwoofer is a very-big tail.

    5. Decide how much time you want to invest.

    That's right - time. You CAN go out and buy the above Onkyo system and be done with it. Or - study a bit, learn the names and shop the used sites or your local stores and slowly put together a piece-meal system that can sound great.

    Here is what I did for my parents home:

    - Yamaha 793 reciever (~200 used)
    - 5 Miller and Kressle bookshelf speakers ($47 ea at a scratch and dent sale): $250
    - A Home Theater Direct subwoofer $150 bought used via the internet

    This little $600 system sounds very very good. It has quality components - older - but good.

    But to do this will take some of your time to read this site, study and put the parts together over the next few months. This makes Home Theater a HOBBY - not just something you have.

    It's your choice. Take our advice and buy a box system (and we will help you set it up properly to get a great HT experience). Or cruse this site, study, and put the pieces together yourself.

    Just let us know how much time you have or want to invest. We can help you either way.
  6. Ed Moxley

    Ed Moxley Cinematographer

    May 25, 2003
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    Eastern NC
    Real Name:
    Also, refurbished is a way to get good quality stuff, cheap.
    Check out
    They have refurbed JVC, Yamaha and Denon receivers, with warranties.
    I personally like JVC. I think you get more for your money in power and inputs. Compare JVC to same price receiver of another brand, and see which has most inputs and power. I don't know of ANY receivers that actually put out the power advertised. So, don't let anyone tell you that JVC doesn't, and others do........
    Good luck with whatever you decide on. [​IMG]
  7. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Jun 3, 1999
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    If we're going to make specific-model suggestions, then the thread will have to moved to A/V Sources. Otherwise, if this thread is serving as a means of helping you budget the system component breakdown, then it can remain here.
  8. Torgny Nilsson

    Torgny Nilsson Second Unit

    Jan 8, 2003
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    Wayne's advice is very good and you may be best served getting an inexpensive 5.1 set up as he suggests. Then, if you later decide to upgrade to larger speakers, you can move your 5.1 system to some other room where small speakers will be a benefit.

    I would, however, suggest that you might be most happy in the long run by buying the best pair of front speakers, and a matched center, that you can afford now. Then, as your finances allow, you can add the other speakers piecemeal. That method would let you avoid upgrading your speakers for a long time and you'd end up with a better soundstage than if you buy a surround sound speaker system in a box.
  9. ColinM

    ColinM Cinematographer

    Dec 9, 2001
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    HK AVR110 = $150

    I've been using one for 3 years, and at "only" 40*5, it'll blow you right out of the room, looks like $1000.00. Great item.

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