What to look for when purchasing reciever, mains

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mark M. Smith, Mar 4, 2002.

  1. Mark M. Smith

    Mark M. Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm currently a college student (second semester junior) with grad school aspirations and as such have more or less absolutely nothing in the way of money and income only during major breaks. This is quite a problem when one is considering setting up a good starter HT setup. After making the requisite purchases of a quality tv and dvd player and an increasing library of dvds I've been giving a lot more thought to the next and rather expensive step: audio.

    This will be quite problematic as I need to purchase both a reciever and mains at the same time to get any use out of them and don't want to skimp. I figure that a large outlay now is a much more solid investment than a poor system that will soon need to be upgraded. Entry-level, but the upper echelon of entry-level.

    Given this I'm beginning my research a bit early so that when the money comes along I'll be better able to know what I want and go for it. Here the second problem comes into play: I've realized that I know next to nothing about what I ought to be looking for in a good reciever and set of mains. While definately knowing that I want a set decoding DD and DTS this seems to be pretty much standard these days. I'll likely be using my DVD player for cds to start with or running a few through my old Aiwa shelf system. DVD and tv are both new models connected with component cable.

    Anything that I should start looking at? It's not so much that I need to know the answers, so much as the right questions to be asking when I buckle down to doing some serious A/V research.
     
  2. ColinM

    ColinM Cinematographer

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    As far as speakers go, you get a lot of bag for the buck when you get good quality bookshelf models vs. a pair of floorstanders. These could be moved to rear speaker duty later if you upgrade later.

    Bookshelf speakers with a 6.5 inch woofer can do OK w/o a sub if you want to get by for a bit, but you will want a sub asap, if not immediately.

    My suggestion - NHT SuperOne. I got mine off of Ebay new from theaudiodept, $225 shipped. Good points = accurate, high power handling, great build, good size, and looks nice. Bad points = not efficient (86db), getting rare as far as new is concerned. Also check Yawa online, but more $$. They rock, don't worry about efficiency too much...

    Sony's SA-WM40 can be had at BB for $200, online for much less, or Sears. Try to price-match at Sears vs. online stores, some folks report good things.

    What kind of room do you have? Big?

    - CM
     
  3. Mark M. Smith

    Mark M. Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    As for a room right now I don't exactly have one. I'm spending my undergrad years living in the dorms, but I'm leaving here for grad school in about a year and I don't know where I'll be living then or for how long. Probably small and cramped though.
     
  4. Thomas_Berg

    Thomas_Berg Screenwriter

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    Mark- i live in a dorm here at college, and i think i have a pretty nice setup. here's what i have currently:
    Onkyo 595
    JBL NSP-1
    SVS 16-46+ & S1000
    Panny RP91 for DVD-A
    Marantz CC-4000
    BFD
    i watch movies on my 19" monitor using the computer's DVD drive (which yields a better picture than almost anything). my advice: bunk the beds, use one vertical rack for all your stuff, and try to just stack stuff as much as you can. next year i'm gonna try to squeeze a 36" TV in here. it's all about compressing everything into a small, workable space. [​IMG]
    our rooms are ~11x17 with 10' ceilings. my website is very outdated, but if i can find someone with a digital camera, i'll try to update it in the next week.
    good luck!
     
  5. Mark Hobbs

    Mark Hobbs Stunt Coordinator

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    For 5.1 speakers...

    $400 - 4 Paradigm Titans (mains and rears)

    $200 - Paradigm CC-170 (center)

    $150 - Sony SA-WM40 Sub

    If you just want a pair of nice bookshelf mains for an unbelievable price ($200 for the pair), just grab the Titans. Pair those with a Denon 1802 receiver ($375) and you would be set.

    You can't get Paradigm online (except ebay), so you have to pay almost MSRP (unless your authorized dealer is cooler than mine). But they are still an unbelievable value.
     
  6. Mark M. Smith

    Mark M. Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    Finding a place for things isn't a huge problem at the moment, but speaker placement will be as the walls are largely solid concrete blocks with hefty fines for marking up the paint. Right now and for next year I have a small, but adequate ammount of space to work with as after a few years I've managed to acquire a single suite (slightly larger, slightly better room with private bathroom), but I'm not certain where I'll end up after next year. Everything right now (JVC 27", Sony DVP-NS300, JVC VCR) resides on a stand I was able to get for $20 off the floor at Sears a while back. The only main problems are money and a lack of what I ought to be looking for in audio products. I've heard a number of suggestions, but have no real knowledge of how to properly compare audio equipment.
     
  7. ColinM

    ColinM Cinematographer

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    S1000 and a 16'er in a friggin DORM room???
    Yipes!
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    hmmm...
    speakers
    for a complete ht setup, you're going to need at least 5 speakers. a sub is an added plus. since you're going to (probably) be living in a small place, i think a satellite system may be a better choice...usually that already includes the sub so you'll be all set. this way you won't have these big tower speakers taking up all the room. take a look at the energy take 5.2 system - it consistently gets good reviews, plus i think some mag named it speaker system of the year. if you go for satellites, you'll also have to factor in speaker stands...i got some cheap ones from circuit city!
    try to get a speaker "package" if possible. you want to ensure that all the speakers are timbre-matched. that way, the sound characteristics will be the same for all the speakers. so the harley in the left channel won't sound like a moped when it gets to the center channel.
    in any case, you also want to consider auditioning as many speakers as you can. speakers are the most subjective thing you can listen to and you'll be able to tell differences between speakers much easier than between receivers, etc.
    receivers
    you already know about dd/dts. how about dpl2? how about 6.1 or even 7.1 sound? will you eventually want to add a rear-center?
    how about future expansion? some new receivers have a rs-232 (?) port in the back - you can plug your computer into it and upgrade the software.
    when looking at receivers, try not to put too much importance in the wattage rating. a high-performance 75w/ch receiver will blow away a crappy 100w/ch brand. i like (in no particular order): onkyo, denon, yamaha, and outlaw. if you go with any of the major brands, you should be fine.
    think about how many inputs you'll require. what types of components will you be hooking up? check out the remote. is it lighted, is it programmable, will it control other components from same/different manufacturers?
    accessories
    you don't need to spend a lot on accessories, but factor in cabling, possibly speaker stands, maybe a decent rack, etc.
    hope that helps some...
     
  9. Alex Prosak

    Alex Prosak Supporting Actor

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    Since you'll still be in school for the next several years and receivers become outdated so quickly, I'd suggest a decent home theater in a box system for the time being. This won't hurt your pocket book too much right now, will be space efficient, and you can use it as a bedroom system when you graduate and build yourself a real nice system. Consider the Denon and Onkyo systems.
     
  10. Mark M. Smith

    Mark M. Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for all of the excellent advice so far. I was wondering if there were any other resources that you would suggest? I've been reading a great deal of reviews on AudioReview.com for a while now along with HTF. Any particular magazines, sites, books, etc. that might be helpful in sanding out the tough little points on things and helping me to bulk up on my general knowledge.

    Sadly being a biology (genetic analysis of molecular oncology is my primary interest area atm... so yeah..) and CS major has kind of taken up my time for most technical subjects and I've only been seriously reading up on HT tech for about a year now.
     
  11. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    htf is probably the best place. [​IMG]
    i recommend a subscription to soundandvision magazine. they do a great job of explaining things in their articles. plus they usually review stuff that poor people (like me) can afford. just take their reviews with a large chunk of salt.
    skip audioreview.com - i never trust what those guys are saying... [​IMG]
    this is a pretty good article about ht basics:
    http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_1_1/index.html
     
  12. Thomas_Berg

    Thomas_Berg Screenwriter

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    i'd personally stay away from HTiB systems due to lack of 'upgradeability.' just get some small speakers and a decent receiver (and an SVS :p)) and you're set! this can be done for slightly more than a HTB system, but you'll be happier down the road.
     
  13. Mark M. Smith

    Mark M. Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    Personally I'm wanting to stay away from a HTiB solution as well. I'm planning on slowly building a HT system over time and want something that I'll be happy with for a long time into the future. Once I get everything tweaked out and put into it that I want it might be time to upgrade the basic elements again, but I'm trying to go for a minimum of 4 years or so.

    Based on my very, very early observations I've decided that I probably want between 75-85 W, and have been using this to help narrow down the models I'm interested in from each manufacturer. Right now the Onkyo TX-DS595 and 676 (pricing for the 676 seems to be all over the board, looking at the sub-$500 range) and Denon AVR-1802 both look good although I seem to be hearing better things about the Denon.

    In a similiar nature I was wondering what I should be looking and listening for when I go out to audition recievers in the store. How much of an impact are the speakers and source going to have and how can I try to negate this (given that the store is likely going to try to make everything sound better) and get a good view of the reciever alone? What sort of media should I bring along to give it a good workout? Are there any particular tricks that I should be on the lookout for (I plan on shopping only at reputable stores and listening at more than one if possible, but still...)?

    I'd just like to say that all the help so far has been very encouraging and indescribably helpful in getting me pointed in the right direction so far.
     
  14. ColinM

    ColinM Cinematographer

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    Don't use ANY DSP modes (HALL, JAZZ, that crap). Don't use any tone controls either. When auditioning, the dealers like to hit people with phat sound so they pump up the bass and treble...misleading. YMMV with a good dealer. Also judge a bookshelf on everything but the bass. You will get a sub eventually, so don't even think about bass from a bookshelf. Any bass is just a bonus.

    - CM
     
  15. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    colin's right on the money. absolutely do not use any tone controls or dsp...it will totally skew your evaluation.

    also, bring a cd you're very familiar with. or do like i did and burn your own cd with different "types" of music. (some speakers do better with certain types of music, but not so well with others.) mine has everything from classical to techno...that way you can see how the speaker/receiver fares with different types of music.
     
  16. Bac Bradley

    Bac Bradley Stunt Coordinator

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    If you're looking for "Bang For Your Buck" from your speakers, you might want to consider the HomeTheaterDirect Level 3 line. At $200 for bookshelf mains and $140 for a center, it really can't be beat in that price range. Match that up with a nice Denon 1802 receiver and you're rockin
     
  17. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Mark - I'm going to make an unpopular suggestion: Don't buy anything right now.
    I went from undergrad to grad school, and am now near finishing my Ph.D. work. I know some of what you will face.
    You'll be moving a lot in the next couple years, and speakers especially are bulky, heavy, and a hassle to move. It might be easier to wait until you're a bit more settled in grad school.
    Also, as an impoverished student aspiring to be an impoverished grad student, it might not make sense to spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on stereo equipment. You've got a lot of expenses coming up: travel costs, grad school applications, GRE tests, moving expenses, course books, health/car/renters insurance, to name the obvious ones.
    Many friends who go into industry, will getting that new car or other big purchase, to celebrate their first job. YOu'll want to splurge on something as well; the HT equipment might be a good option.
    Just some (contrary) thoughts [​IMG]
     
  18. peter_anderson

    peter_anderson Stunt Coordinator

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    VERY good point, DaveF; i myself was about to go to grad school in religious studies at U. of Pitt. and tried to save every penny during that first year out of college. then i decided there just weren't enough jobs in that area and stuck to my network admin job...

    anyway, the point is, wait until you have a considerable "buffer" of liquid assets before buying stereo equipment, cars and the like if you are considering being a student for the next 4/5/6 years! too many people choose to live paycheck-to-paycheck (i am not criticizing those who _have_ to).

    buyer's remorse can make very good equipment lots less fun.
     
  19. Mark M. Smith

    Mark M. Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    An excellent suggestion, but it doesn't particularly apply to my case right now. College, books, insurance, etc. are all covered by my parents while I'm in school as I don't have anywhere near the assets to do so and don't have the available time to work and go to school. Almost all of my work is during breaks with the money saved to be spent throughout the year with rather tight budgeting. Living expenses will still be there, but are by and large not a matter of concern.

    As well this is definately not something that will be paid for out of my standard income. More likely I'll be piecing together various monies for birthdays and the like with smaller personal contributions. Consequently I'm doing my research well in advance so that when it gets closer to actual acquisition I'll be able to properly budget everything out and save as needed.
     

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