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shopping suggestions: HTIB vs. components (1 Viewer)

nexofa

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tony
Hi all... I'm helping my sister buy a new TV/audio/video system, and have been doing some research, and this forum seems to have confirmed my suspicions that HTIB systems are probably not the way to go. We'll probably go to Best Buy but I'm in the DC area so I have a lot of choices. So I'm looking for suggestions on how to spend her $1,800 budget.

Here are the particulars:

- She wants a 37" LCD TV, due to furniture constraints. Can you guys confirm that at this size, there is no real difference in picture quality *to the untrained eye* between 720p vs 1080p? Seems I can get one (720p) for about $800 these days. Is there a reason to spend more?

- She will also need a DVD player, receiver, and speakers.

- This will be used for watching TV (via cable) and DVDs, but also as the primary system for playing music, which she does a lot of, of all kinds. She's not an audioplie by an means, but will want a system that she can rock out to.

- She's in a relatively small apartment, and will be seated about 8-9ft from the TV, on a sofa against a wall.

- I liked the idea of the HTIB because all the components go together, and if I paired a Sony (for example) TV with a Sony HTIB, she could have just one remote, and the system's "auto-detect" capabilities would save me time and aggravation. But I could probably get the same effect with matched components, right? As you can tell by now I'm not a HT enthusiast, hence the basic questions...

- She'll need floor-standing or bookshelf speakers, as in-wall speakers are not an option. Wireless rear speakers would be a bonus becuase there's no easy way of running those wires. But I'm not completely sold on 5.1. Are the 2.1 systems any good? I'd rather have fewer better speakers than 6 mediocre (5.1) speakers. I know Klipsch speakers aren't what they used to be, but what about something like the CS-700 for $1000 at BB?

- An input for her iPod is a must; an input for her laptop would be a bonus.

Not sure what other info you might need to make suggestions. Feel free to set me straight on any misconceptions/errors above.

Thanks in advance for your input!
 

Stephen Tu

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Don't buy components for integration reasons. Instead budget $50-100 for a good universal remote. (I recommend Logitech Harmony 610/620, 610 is on sale now at Target web site, though limited to 5 components, get 620 if anticipate more).
 

nexofa

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tony
Thanks for your help!

Your point about integration makes sense. I just hope I don't get calls in the middle of the night from my sister complaining that she can't use the remote control!

So now I'm thinking about separate components, and I've come up with a rough budget. Let me know if you think I'm mis-allocating (could/should spend more or less ) on any item:

37" LCD TV 720p...$800
Speakers...$500...
Receiver...$300...
DVD/CD player...$200
Universal Remote Harmony 610...$60
Total...$1,860 (not including cables)

Remember this isn't just for watching TV and movies, it's for music too.
 

Al.Anderson

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Yeah, that's going to be your biggest problem.

I didn't see a room size, but in general I think you'll want the 5.1. 2.1 will work if you're short on cash, but you aren't and a center speaker is well worth the money for movies. You can get decent results from 3.1; but 5.1 is a noticeably better. 7.1 you can live without.

But music will be an issue. You can get decent theater starter speakers for $500. But music drives the speakers much more than movies. It gets old hearing it, but if she's into music she should probably audition the speakers herself and pick what sounds good to her for her style of music. You want the 3 upfront speakers to be matched. You can get different, lesser speakers for the side surrounds.
 

David Willow

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You can get the Onkyo 506 for $220

You can find decent DVD player for $100

The remotes that come with most components are universal already. The Harmony is nicer, but not 100% necessary.

For speakers, try this combo:

Fluance SXHTB+ 5 Speaker Surround Sound Home Theater System - $300
SVSound - Box Subwoofers 0 $430

Total $1850 not including cables (plus shipping and taxes). Go to Blue Jeans Cables or Monoprice.com for cables (maybe another $20).

I can confirm that the Fluance speakers, although cheap, sound good (of course you and your sister will have to decide if you like them). Just remember, they are cheap and will never be top of the line. The SVS sub will add to the movie and music experience.
 

Stephen Tu

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These remotes are usually more "multi-brand partial control" rather than truly universal. It's not 100% necessary but IMO it's awfully close, especially with someone who may not be that tech savvy. The component remotes tend to have some combo of the following limitations:
- preprogrammed only, no learning capabilities so sometimes cannot control new equipment or can only control a subset of keys.
- not enough buttons to fully control the other equipment
- can't label buttons for other equipment so have to remember which button went where
- limited or no macro abilities for starting/stopping system, switching activities
So you still tend to juggle remotes a lot even though each remote has some limited control over the other components.

The Harmony gives total control over everything with all advanced commands labeled, truly lets you put the other remotes in storage, and is easier to use with the activity concept.
 

nexofa

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Thanks guys. I apologize in advance for my ignorance; a couple more questions/observations:

- Al: The music will definitely be the issue. So can I get the three matched front speakers, then get seperate Sub and rears? Does that increase the amount of tinkering to get it working right? I was figuring that the speakers would be the most expensive part of this system (after the TV) but didn't think of spending that much ($430) on just a subwoofer. Personally (and I don't know that my sister feels the same way) I'm more into accurate mids and highs than the booming bass, but that's probably because audio quality is more important to me when I listen to music than when I watch movies. Not it sure if that makes sense. And she's in an apartment with neighbors above and below, so she can't go nuts with the bass. So the subwoofer is less important to me than the three front speakers.

- Does the peanut gallery have any opinion about Klipsch speakers? I've heard that they're not what they once were, but how about something like the Quintet III? $500 at BB.

- With a receiver like the Onkyo 606 that's 7.1, do you lose much by only hooking up 5 speakers + sub? There's no chance my sister will want 8 speakers in her little apartment!

- Stephen - Your points about the remote make sense. And I've had great luck with Logictech. Could the Harmony 610 learn the commands of her cable box remote? We're going shopping tomorrow. I think we'll probably buy the TV at Best Buy, then order the components online to save money.

- It turns out that she does have a DVD player, so we might be able to get away with not buying a new one. She isn't sure if it pays CDs as well (girls!). If she doesn't need the DVD/CD player, that's more money to spend on speakers!!

- Blu Ray or not? Again, my sister is not an enthusiast like you guys, so I'm thinking Blu Ray is not necessary (on a 37" TV). But I can be convinced; I don't know anything about Blu Ray. I don't even think I've knowingly seen a Blu Ray movie, and I certainly have never done any type of side by side comparison.

Th Sony STR-DG820 is $327+shp on amazon. The Onkyo 606 is $398 no shipping (Amazon prime). Okyo 576 $301 (no shippng).

How about some suggestions for speakers? Obviously we'll need to go listen to them. But from your experience, what are the brands to look for or to avoid (I saw Bose trashed in this forum as overpriced).

Thanks again guys. THis is kinda fun. And a good warm up for when I can replace my old TV and A/V system.
 

chris.big.money

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Okay do you absolutely need to go to Best Buy for this stuff? In my experience, they are cash hogs and suck money out of their customers (and don't even get me started on their "rewards program"). Online ordering (tigerdiect.com would be my first choice) is a good option because it's usually much cheaper than a place like Best Buy if you know what you're shopping for. From my recent experience, Paradigm speakers sound the best to me. But they might overrun your budget, so that's probably out of the question. As for Blu-ray, you're not going to need it on a 37", especially if it's only 720p. So i wouldn't worry about that quite yet, but get a receiver that can handle it if possible.
 

Al.Anderson

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A sub adds a lot to the movie experience, but it's not absolutely necessary. And since she's in an appartment, you really could consider holding off on this and getting it later either when she decides she needs it or when she moves out. The surrounds are even less important; but again, if you're a movie fanatic you'll want them.

Given your crriteria, I'd seriorsly consider spending more fot the three speakers and see how that works for you. If you go to an audio store (as apposed to Best Buy, which I would avoid anyway) you could probably even tell then what you're planning and they'd exchange them if you didn't like the outcome.

I haven't purchased in a while, so I don't have any good recos. Go down to the speaker forum and post the speaker only question, you'll likely get better responses.

Just to complete the thought, what I did is get a full set of cheaper "home theater" speakers (satellites and a sub) for DVD playing; and then a pair of decent bookshelf speakers for music. I'm good with stereo when listening to music. Each set of speakers works great for what they're used for. In your case you probably don't want all those speakers (I know my wife ain't thrilled!)
 

nexofa

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tony
Excellent input from all... Thanks

Here's the latest:

- We picked up a TV yesterday and sis is happy - 37" Samsung 37A450. She'll be really psyched when she upgrades to HD service.

- We looked at a few HT audio systems, and long-story-short, she/we decided that she'd prefer to just get two better speakers rather than 5+1. So we listened to some Klipsch (WB14) and Definitive Technology bookshelfs. She thought they were nice but then she much preferred the sound of some Polk towers at another store, but it was a big open Best Buy so not a very valid comparison. But bottom line, she preferred the bigger sound of the towers, so that's what I'm looking for now.

So now I'm looking for recommendations for floorstanding speakers in the $500-$600 range. I know... I just need to get out and listen to a bunch. But if you have any favorites, let me know.
 

CB750

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Remember, this is a system for your sister. I would suspect that you need to consider that she is going to want to pick up one remove and have everything work with no hassles.

I would suggest that for the rest of your sisters system that you consider a AV receiver that will connect as many of your receiver with HDMI Cables. This will make installation much simpler.

I think your sister should be the judge of what speakers she likes especially if she likes to listen to music. If it's in her price range it's hard to beat the sound of a tower system Notice how many companies make speaker systems. It's because we all tend to perceive sound differently from each other.

For Small size 5.1 satellite systems which also do sound good for music I have listened to B&W M1, Klipsch Cinema 800, and Definitive Technoloy 1000. But these would be out of your price range.

As far as using only front speakers in your system I am currently using a set of 1970's vintage Bose 901's series II. These are perhaps one of the better speaker systems made for music back in the stereo age because of their direct reflective they do OK on broadcast HD but they are missing the 5.1 experience.

You sister could go with two front speakers which she likes for listening for music and add some surrounds and sub later on. That way she would have the best of both worlds.
 

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