Stereo Receiver for Movies?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by David_SG, Sep 16, 2004.

  1. David_SG

    David_SG Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm in the market for a new receiver, but not sure whether to go with a surround receiver or just a good old fashion 2 channel stereo receiver. The models I am considering are the Rotel RSX-1056 surround receiver or the Rotel RX-1050 stereo receiver. The 1056 runs about $400 more.

    I plan to use this 50/50 for music/movies, but I probably won't have a need for all those extra channels for a couple of years, if that, at which time it will probably be time to upgrade anyway.

    What I am more concerned about is any difference in sound quality between a surround and stereo receiver while watching movies, assuming I will only be using the front two channels with either set-up. I understand that all things being equal, a two-channel receiver will sound better than a surround receiver when playing a two-channel source. But is there a difference in the mixes on DVDs where a receiver processing a Dolby Digital track and hooked up to only 2 speakers will sound better than a stereo receiver playing the [potentially inferior] 2-channel mix? One of the features I like about Dolby Digital is the ability to compress dynamic range for late-night viewing, but that's not really a sound quality issue.

    Bottom line is that I don't want to spend $400 more for a surround receiver that will sound either the same or worse than a two-channel receiver, given that I will only be using 2 speakers. Not to mention I can use that extra $400 to buy higher quality speakers.
     
  2. David_SG

    David_SG Stunt Coordinator

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    Or to put the question another way - which do you think would sound better with a two speaker set-up for movies:

    1) Having the dvd player down-convert the 5.1 track to a two-channel stereo signal (or alternatively selecting the 2 channel mix in the DVD's set-up menu, if available), and then using the analog rca cables to connect to the receiver, or

    2) Using a digital connection to utilize Dolby Digital processing, setting the center channel to "phantom", and simply losing any source material that would go to the surround channels.

    I asked this question to two different salesmen, and naturally I got two different answers.
     
  3. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Moderator

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    David,

    With the stereo receiver you’d be getting DVD audio from the player’s L/R analog jacks. With the DPL receiver you’d getting two-channel audio via the DVD player’s digital connection.

    Personally I’d be surprised if you’d be able to hear a difference between the two. And if you could, and if you felt the latter was actually “better,” I doubt it would be “$400 better.”

    Bottom line, if you don’t anticipating using the extra surround speakers, and would anticipate upgrading your receiver about the time you would be getting them, I see no reason to justify the extra expenditure at this time.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  4. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I am not a big fan of the phantom center. It generally works, but it doesn't sound right to me. To me, it's usually better to listen in stereo.

    I agree with Wayne. IMO, your thinking is right, the stereo receiver will sound as good if not better than the surround receiver. Downmixing to stereo or the stereo track will sound very similar in the end.
     
  5. David_SG

    David_SG Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks guys - definitely leaning towards the stereo receiver option. Besides, we all know this surround sound stuff is just a passing fad. [​IMG]
     
  6. Robbie R

    Robbie R Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree with the previous posters that the Stereo Receiver is the right decision for today, but what about a year from now?????

    I know you have no intention of doing a 5.1 system for a couple of years, but that will change!!! Trust me.... It will. One day you will be sitting around watching a movie and say to yourself, I wish I had a Sub, next thing you know a Subwoofer will magically appear and your bank account will be $700 lighter, then rear speakers, then a center channel!!! next thing you know you will be wanting a
    5 channel amp!!!!(this is the stage I am at now) And when you get these urges a Stereo Receiver is not going to help you.

    The only reason I say this is because it happened to me, and about half the members here. Just read the thread "How much $ do you have tied up in gear, and did you expect to spend that much"

    When the "Home Theater Bug" does get you, the extra $400.00 spent today will save you from having to buy a new receiver tomorrow. Don't fight it, it won't help [​IMG]
     
  7. David_SG

    David_SG Stunt Coordinator

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    Or the extra $400 I save today will prevent me from feeling the need to buy all that other stuff tomorrow!

    I understand what you're saying - trust me, I'm certainly factoring in the "Home Theater Bug" hitting me eventually. To tell you the truth, I think I just like the idea of having an old-school stereo receiver, which might be clouding my judgement. There really isn't a clear upgrade path to home theater with this choice (aside from the speakers), but a good stereo receiver wouldn't be a bad thing to have lying around if I ever wanted to set up a dedicated music listening room. And though I realize it's impossible to stay ahead of the technology curve, I really feel the next evolutionary leap for surround receivers is around the corner, which makes me less willing to spring for a more expensive receiver right now.

    With that said, I'm probably leaning a different direction now - buying a decent 2 channel amp like the Rotel RB 1070 and either a cheap (sub-$500) surround receiver with pre-outs or a stereo pre-amp. Haven't done a lot of research on this, but the goal here would be to get decent 2-channel now with a clearer upgrade path to a true home theater set-up. And when I decide to upgrade the surround receiver/pre-amp, the 2-channel amp wouldn't be a sunk cost.
     
  8. Robbie R

    Robbie R Stunt Coordinator

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    I think that's a great way to go..It opens many doors for the future, and a good 2 channel amp will never fall behind the technology curve.

    Good Luck.
     
  9. Bob_M

    Bob_M Stunt Coordinator

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    This is interesting,

    Sometime I think I could live without the surounds and the center. I could not live without the sub.

    If you listen to a DVD in stereo mode, would you loose the .1 of the 5.1 mix or would it me included in the left and right feed?

    Bob
     
  10. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    What leap would that be?
     
  11. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    One will not be missing anything using the stereo outputs of a dvd player or if their receiver is programmed with no center/subwoofer/surrounds (do a search on the term "downmixing").

    Do try to use a dvd's stereo track option if it's available as the sound effects will usually have a better balance. Some discs have a track labeled "stereo surround" or "Dolby Surround"--this is also stereo but this version includes a mono rear channel that has been encoded into it but this will only be heard if a Dolby Surround, Dolby Pro-Logic or DPLII decoder is used (& certain DSP modes will also decode it but it will not sound exactly the same way).
     
  12. Dave Simpson

    Dave Simpson Second Unit

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    David,



    ...given your needs, you may not have to.

    My experience: I moved all my gear (amps, receiver, blah, blah, blah...) to the basement late last year when I set up my front-projector. Left upstairs now is my old 27inch TV, a second DVD player, CD changer, X-box, turntable, my old ten-inch sub and PSB 4T speakers...and the brains and power of the outfit, a vintage Marantz
    2285B receiver
    . My feeling is that they don't make 'em like they used to, and for two-channel use, a vintage unit can scarcely be beat. Likewise, for the times that I don't feel like gassin' up the basement stuff, this set-up is fully satisfying for movies, 5.1 be damned. Most subs are easily added to a receiver of this age, and the quality of sound (and build, and power, and ease-of-use...) will likely clobber most reasonably-priced two-channel receivers built today. Your best resource is E-Bay, 'tho you'll pay the going market rate for a decent vintage unit (say around $300. Or more. Or less.) Flea markets and garage sales are always good to look into, but they require some patience.
    I strongly encourage you to look into vintage gear as an alternative, and I wish you the best of luck. Cheers!

    DS.
     
  13. Paul S

    Paul S Stunt Coordinator

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    Old receivers do not sound one bit better than new receivers. Also, stereo receivers do not sound one bit better than a 5 channel receiver being run in the stereo mode. You are misleading many people here.
     
  14. David_SG

    David_SG Stunt Coordinator

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    Debatable? With everything else, I think you need to factor price when making that argument. From all my research (which isn't much), I was led to believe that in the same price range, a two channel stereo receiver will sound better than a 5-channel receiver run in stereo mode - because you aren't paying for all that extra stuff.
     
  15. Dave Simpson

    Dave Simpson Second Unit

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    Paul,



    Nonsense, sir; I'm simply sharing my opinion, and offering the original poster a cost-efficient alternative. Isn't that the intended purpose of forums such as this? Kindly note my use of the phrases "my experience", and "my feeling"; none of my post is presented as absolute, final truth for anyone but myself.
    As for older gear sounding no better than comtemporary stuff, again, this is a matter of personal opinion. You've got yours, and I have mine, and it looks as though the two of us will have to respectfully agree to disagree.
    Best regards,

    DS.
     
  16. JeromeS

    JeromeS Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm surprised nobody has yet suggested getting a stereo preamp and stereo amp. Later on when you want to add multi-channel, get a receiver with preouts and run the L/R preouts through the stereo preamp. You'll have to set the stereo preamp's volume to a certain setting called unity gain(usually 12 o'clock) to equalize the volume db between L/R and the other channels. Once this is done you can have a great sounding stereo now and later on you can meld both systems.

    Here are some old links referencing what I'm talking about.

    2 Channel and HT

    Music and HT
     

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