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What Audio System Powers Your Home Theater? 558

FusionJunky asks: "My cohorts and I at The GeekPad are working to develop our home theatre into something a little more robust. We picked up a 36" Sony Television and a respectable DVD we're ready to tackle audio. We've noticed we have this optical out capability from the DVD player, and a bunch of other new fangled plugs back there, and we were wondering what the Slashdot community uses for home theatre audio. We'd like to keep it under $1500." I'd be interested in what you all feel is the best system for the buck, from your choices in tuners to speakers.
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What Audio System Powers Your Home Theatre?

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  • As far as a receiver, I've heard very [] good [] things [] about the Outlaw Audio [] 1050 []. It's a 6.1 channel receiver, but for $599 (available only by ordering online directly). From all that I've read, quality such as theirs would normally cost a few hundred more. And, I'm not the type to usually buy such inexpensive components (in contrast to the Panasonic DVD H1000 [] that I own, for instance), but this product just won me over. As such, I'll be placing an order for one within a couple weeks. And, no, I don't work for them ;).

    Alex Bischoff
  • Bose artificially (through EQ) inflates the midrange, leading to a "pleasing" sound, at first, to the casual listener (say, someone browsing in the audio department at a big chain store). Eventually, though, the accentuated midrange leads to fatigue, and the frequency response of those tiny little cube speakers is absolutely atrocious. You can pick up much better speakers for the $1500 you'd spend on a Bose mini-system.

    - A.P.

    * CmdrTaco is an idiot.

  • Small company in Ann Arbor, amazingly good sound at the price.

  • Very good stuff. I am so glad I got them.

    If you want to look for Paradigms - st/dealerlocate.taf - There is the link for thier dealer locator.

    I have a Denon AVR-2700 reciver to go with my Paradigms.

    Mini Monitors or Monitor 3s and a CC-370 Center Channel will be good.
  • Not to be flamebaity. But Bose are really crap compared to other speakers in the same price range.
  • If you've got the cash to pick up a new XBR Wega, then you're probably aiming a bit higher than this, but I'm very happy with my Creative Labs (Cambridge Soundworks) DTT2500 setup. It was orginally intended to be a speaker setup for my computer, but quickly found a better place framing my TV.

    For CAN$350 (I think that's in the "bus fare" range in US currency), I got a complete 6 channel Dolby Digital speaker setup, with decoder. It's perfect for those that are simply interested in getting decent digital audio for DVD, as opposed to a general purpose sound system.

    The main weakness of the system is the power. It's not very loud, the sub in particular. But it's fine for a small room, if you're not commited to seeing ripples in your own drinks while watching Jurassic Park. It does have an output to which you can connect a proper powered subwoofer, and I may invest in that someday soon.

    The quality is good though, to my decidedly non-audiophile ears. Certainly it's a decent system if you want digital DVD audio without having to invest in a full stereo system.

  • I also have Cambridge Soundworks speakers. I bought a Technics (I know, low end) amp with DTS and optical inputs. My wife wasn't so sure about this whole surround business, so I bought the best CSW center speaker and two cheap rear surround speakers. I kept my Yamaha speakers up front for now. The kicker is that my wife loves the sound now (especially on the Sting DTS CD). With CSW, I can take my cheap-o rear speakers back and pay the difference for the dipole model. That means I can slowly -- without freaking the wife out-- upgrade my system to meet my ultimate goal. For those out there who want to appease their better halves, this is a nice way to get what you want without months of lobbying, explaining, begging or whatever your normal method of getting-your-way might be.

  • Part of my Christmas gift exchange/upgrades was to get a DDS reciever -- Circuit City has a good Kenwood one on sale this week at $300 -- two optical inputs in addition to two digital inputs; 3+2+3 sets of Video/A/V inputs for video, audio, and auxialary componets, as well as 5.1 inputs. Also has bank of s-video inputs though these aren't really used by the reciever. So far, the output seems clean -- when on but no signal, narely a buzz from my speakers and trying a number of sources (TV, VCR, DVD, computer) I can't fault it's performance. Basic equalizer functions on the box itself but they can be disabled if the sound is routed to a monitor. Supports full digital copying between audio sources assuming digital connections are used. Remote is rather simple to use to access most of the features. Obviously, standard 5.1 outputs as well.

    But as others have told me and are saying here, you basically are going to be plunking the money down for speakers, and not the reciever itself, in order to get good quality sound.

  • Other folks have cited, which is a great place to go for reviews on everything. I always check there before I buy any of my audio stuff.

    Recievers are quite a bit easier to pick than speakers. Basically you need to find a unit that has the features that you want (DTS decoding, etc) and the power output you want. From your description, it sounds like you want one of the mid to high end recievers. You'll want to shoot for a reciever with a built-in decoder, S-video switching, a whole shitload of inputs, and 70-100W per channel. Power output doesn't necessarily equate to loudness... some speakers require more power than others. You can always turn the volume down, but it's a lot harder to turn it up if your amp can't handle your speakers. When looking at brands of recievers, you'll probably want to look at sony, onkyo, harman kardon, or denon. I tend to like the H/K's because the controls are intuitive, they sound good, and they can drive a shitload of speakers. I had a pro-logic H/K reciever driving 4 main speakers, a center channel, and *4* rear channel speakers. That's right- 9 speakers!!! It never flinched, and always sounded top notch.

    As for speakers, I highly recommend the Energy "Take 5" setup. It's composed of 5 small speakers, and a subwoofer you add on. You can get the whole setup there for around $900, and it sounds absolutely awesome. That leaves you $600 to spend on your reciever, and that's more than enough dough. You can get more info on the Take 5 at Energy's site [].

    And lastly- If you're thinking about getting some bose speakers, check out first. I used to think those speakers were awesome until I realized how much they suck. :) The only thing they're good at reproducing is that light, airy, spanish guitar type of music with ONLY crisp high's and some lower frequencies. Listening to some rock or even watching a movie with any of the bose "acoustimass" speakers leaves a lot to desire.
  • It may not work well in a big household, but a really good pair of headphones will take you deeper into a movie than any speaker system. It's a very different effect, totally anti-social, but when you watch a movie do you want top quality sound, or do you want to listen to your buddies making a bunch of inane predictable "funny" comments.

    Sennheiser 600s are great for this, and feel very spacious and surround-soundish. Not properly directional like surround-speaker setup, but better quality and less gimmicky. You'll need a decent amp of course.

  • I was thinking of going for Yamaha, but I heard they've gone down hill. . .
  • Hi, I have to say the best audio purchase I ever made were for my B&W Matrix 802 (mkII) speakers. The second best were thier predecessor on my system, the 805s (bookshelf model). Man, I can only rave about these guys.

    Chris DiBona
    Grant Chair, Linux Int.
    Pres, SVLUG

  • The two front speakers meet that price range. Or you could buy the amplifier and the center channel. Or the Sub and the rears. Unfortunately, you probably can't get all of them for that.
    You can, however, get a setup that includes 5 infinity speakers, a sub and an amp for about 1500. You just can't the one I have. (Or maybe prices have dropped enough in the last 2 years where you can get it) Infinity is not that expensive, and they sound great!
    Mike Mangino
    Sr. Software Engineer,
  • I think that I have a reasonable mid-range system (I won't say high-end as I didn't spend thousands). Definitely better than the average person though. The only thing that bothered me was how quiet the dialogue tracks can be. I don't know if this is because I have such a small centre speaker (I now have the centre volume turned up), or whether that's just how it sounds from DVD. So long as I crank the volumn everything's okay... and I like it loud anyway! I bought my stuff from a local shop, but I'm sure you can get it cheaper off the web (especially if you're in the US).

    I have a 5.1 Polk Audio (RM6200) speaker set. I found that the price and quality are very good. They will fit you budget. Your house will shake. The neighbours will think you have Roman legions running around when you watch Gladiator. They will think you're killing people when you watch Saving Private Ryan. I think I paid Cdn$550 (USD$360?) for the satelites, and Cdn$330 (USD$220?) for the sub-woofer.

    I had never heard pf Polk Audio before this purchase, and none of my friend's have either. Ok, one friend. He's audiophile and his first real setup had Polk speakers. If it's of any interest, Polk Audio is an American company. My friend also recommended a company called Thiel (or something like that), but I've never seen them so I can't comment on the price.

    Oh, and make sure you get a receiver that has a DTS decoder (sorry, I didn't check the link you provided to see if you DVD player has one built in). I got a JVC RX-6100VBK for Cdn$340 (USD$220?), and I'm really happy with it.

    One more thing, don't forget to budget for cables. If you go for the decent digital cables, and high speaker cables, you could spend quite a bit.
  • I love my CSW New Ensemble speaker system. It's got fairly flat response in all of the bands it covers, and the bass enclosures are shallow enough to hide out of the way. CSW also has a great 5.1 surround setup they sell that's built around these same speakers. You can't get much better in the under $2000 pricerange. Plus there's a 10 year warranty in case anything goes wrong. They even let you trade your used CSW gear at its full purchase price for newer/better stuff within the first year.

    I have my gripes with Sony's audio amplifiers, including those used in their car stereo and home theater amps. Maybe it's got better in the past few years, but last I checked their amplifiers couldn't muster enough current to drive high end speakers, had wattage ratings that were inflated by a good 50%, and introduced a lot of noise, clipping, and harmonics when driven hard. Then again, maybe I'm just picky.

    The last amplifier I bought was a NAD 2200 []. It's just as powerful as some of their newer THX certified power amplifiers, but built before THX certification existed. You'd need 3 NAD 2200's to do 5.1 surround - 5 if you were running them in bridged mode and hard a powered subwoofer.

    Failing one's ability to find a few used 2200's along with a Dolby Digital / DTS decoder and preamp at a good price, one could instead opt for one of the newer Onkyo integrated receivers. Better models give you integrated decoding w/ DSP effects, an AM/FM tuner, input selection betwen about 8 sources with a tape monitor, 2 or 3 digital inputs, and an equalized Phono preamp stage, volume control, and amplifiers for the 5 major channels along with a line-level output for your powered subwoofer. The built in amplifiers are rated conservatively and put out plenty of current, unlike the Sony and JVC stuff I've played with, so you'll have no trouble driving low impedance loads at high volume.

  • The last amplifier I bought was a NAD 2200 []. The 218THX is rated at twice the continuous power of the 2200, and if it's anything like the 2200 quality-wise it should impress just about everyone. Note that since the 2200 and 218THX are both two channel amplifiers, you'd need 3 of them to do 5.1 surround. If you were running them in bridged mode to make roughly 3-4x more wattage, you'd need five of them (six if your sub doesn't have its own amplifier).

  • FETs as followers only, with something else for voltage gain, *might* work. But i've never heard a FET amp that really does it for me. However, some people have had really good luck using FETs on the input of phono stages, cascoded with a triode, for gain. Supposedly, the FET is sonically invisible in this location. But that's a whole different game than power amps.

    FETs also suffer from thermal overload problems, which i didn't go into earlier. When a transistor or FET is overloaded, the die overheats, and its gate capacitance changes. If the device is in a feedback loop to linearize it (as they nearly always are), changing the gate capacitance changes the time constants in the feedback loop, in a nonlinear way! And ALL amps clip ALL the time, unless you have 30-40dB of headroom. This is one of the reasons amps can blow up dealing with a speaker load at even normal volumes.

    I'm not sure i believe in objective measures of sonic performance in amplifiers. Power, THD, and noise measurements can tell you something about it at least working correctly, but the amp/speaker/room combination is so sensitive and complex that i think the only real value call is your ears. Beyond that, it's largely a matter of your taste in music and hi-fi. The best overall system i've ever heard was optimized for small jazz groups, and couldn't play much of my own music well (3/4 of a watt can only do so much, even with super-efficient Lowther speakers).

    What i can tell you is what measures are NOT really relevant... THD and watts. With even moderately efficient speakers, 8-10 watts from an amp that is optimized for good clipping behavior will more than fill a room. With more efficient speakers, only a watt or so is necessary. Think about it... if your speakers are 96dB sensitive, and you never listen more than 85dB in your living room, how much power do you really need? Enough for headroom, that's all. Now, you won't prevent it from clipping on peaks, unless you have a kilowatt of power into 100dB speakers (i know guys who use big PA rigs at home for just that reason), but if your amp clips gracefully, you're okay.
  • Real Geeks build their own amplifiers from scratch, using the highest quality components for audio reproduction - triode vacuum tubes, the most linear amplifying devices ever made.

    But for a cheap and easy system, pick up a pair of old Dynaco Stereo 70 amplifiers for the front and rear channels. Triode-wire them and remove the global feedback (ten minutes with a soldering iron). Add good mini-monitor speakers like the NHT Superzero, and a Paradigm powered sub (i'm assuming you're on a budget), and you're in a land of sound quality quite beyond the comprehension of the average home theatre geek for not too much money.

    Hell, just get the Paradigm sub, a single ST-70 amp, and a pair of speakers, and run in stereo rather than Dolby Digital. You'd be surprised at just how good it can be, and that setup could be built for under $1000.

  • An output signal closer to the input signal? First, what signals are you looking at? Sine waves (the preferred source of transistor amp manufacturers everywhere), or musical signals spread across a 10 octave bandwidth and 60dB dynamic range (that's a milliwatt to a kilowatt)? I suspect the former.

    Second, what is the predominant shape of whatever inaccuracy you see at the end result? The human ear is perfectly willing to ignore broad, gross distortions, but can pick up nearly unmeasurable changes in phase (the curse of two-way and three-way speakers everywhere... phase distortion).

    I'd argue that the problem isn't "warmth", but rather "coldness". "Warm" tube amps are generally sluggish and lack detail and deserve their criticism. But the best tube amps i've heard (all DIY homemade jobs) don't sound warm... they sound transparent, which is completely different. The cold sound of solid-state is the layer of electronic-sounding haze they spread over everything... intermodulation distortion, high-order harmonics, inaccurate error correction from relying on feedback for their reward (hence using sine waves rather than dynamic, wide-bandwidth signals for measurement... feedback loves the simple model), etc.

  • I've been very impressed by my Technics CD player and tape deck, less so by my Technics amp (although it does have the advantage that I can use one remote for everything). And of course Technics rule vinyl decks.

    Denon have very clean sounding amps. For speakers, Missions will deliver on budget.

    If you were in the UK, I'd recommend Richer Sounds [].


  • Good points. A former roommate of mine is an audiophile who was on a college budget, consequently he had to seek every affordable performance advantage. He found that placement had a profound effect on his modest (yet still high end) equipment. He used a laser pointer to verify that the speakers were directed to the sweat spot. He also used a decibal meeter to balance the audio. He also had a DVD which helped calibrate the color settings of his TV. Through a bit of reading and effort he made a noticable improvement over even an informed placement of speakers.
  • I'm not a television person, but I do have a decent (100+) DVD collection and buy several more each month. I didn't need the most extravegant system for my entertainment center, but the following suit me very well:

    36" RCA Entertainment Series ($400)
    Good picture, especially with digital video. I would have gone for a much larger screen, but if I did that, I might as well go for a widescreen/HDTV -- besides, I'm not carrying that thing up three flights of stairs. This one was hard enough and barely fit through the door!

    JVC RX-6008V Audio/Video Reciever ($550)
    Great sounding reciever with a 5.1 speaker system. Supports DTS, DTS-ES, 5.1 and some others. DTS-ES sounds especially nice of course, but everything else sounds pretty good too.

    Apex AD600A DVD Player ($150)
    Single tray player. Plays DVD, CD, MP3. Cheap and nice.

    I figure this system will due until I buy a home and go nuts on a real home theater, like you see in those expensive renovations on all the home building shows on PBS and TLC. :)

  • The sad thing is that the ol' fart has rapidly declining hearing. It's an unavoidable consequence of growing older. So while he may have a truly kick-ass system, he can't really hear it!

    Yes, I exagerrate. On the other hand, so does he. Concrete pillars to bedrock? Pshaw.

  • One very important thing to keep in mind when choosing your speakers is are you going to be listening primarially to music, or is this a theatre system. But your question was about amps/reciever.

    Make sure that whatever you get is rated to deliver it's peak wattage across all 6 channels simultaneously. A lot of manufacturers will show funny numbers by combining the power to each channel and quoting that number. And if you're using it for DVD's (And are a geek) you NEED full power to all 6 channels of amplification.

    Some people are very against the optical connectors for digital out and swear by the RCA jack digital outputs instead. The reason they cite is Jitter, however it's more a technical probelm than it is anything you'll actually hear. Personally I get a kick out of having fiber optics connecting my components.

    I bought the precursor to the /. DVD player two years ago from Sony and love it. I also ended up going all sony for compatibility and because of a funky little geek toy called the "Slink-E". You can find out about these things from and they rock for sony setups! You can control anything that uses the sony s-link protocol and if your patient you can even teach it to recognize and emulate almost any IR codes for non sony equipment. With a several hundred dish changer this thing gets really neat and will automatically lookup and database all of your CD's. I love mine...just wish I had time to put my CD's back into my changer after moving!

  • The core of my system, audio-wise, is an old Yamaha Dolby pro-logic receiver. No support for sub-woofer, but the 5-speaker Yamo setup provides enough bass for me. Audio sources include the latest Sony VCR (2000-something) which in turn is connected to a cable-box. I also have an Olivetti Envision that I use for playing MP3s through the hi-fi, should I feel the need. Other than the PC, the only CD player connected to the system is my original PSX. Sometimes I use the "Baby Universe" software to match visual stimulous to the audio. Speaking of visual, the screen for this setup is a Philips 68cm TV. 4:3, but supports some nice picture-in-picture modes. It also has its own speakers, which I tend to use in preference to the amp in hot months like Jan & Feb. Oh, there's also a classic old SNES system (with SuperGameboy adapter and Gameboy camera) hooked in the coax cable between the cable box and the VCR. But it doesn't stop there. I've also got a pair of RF transmitters, one for just audio and a new one for video and audio. There's a TV just outside this room that is setup to also be able to receive anything playing on the system (cables weren't an option). Still going. I have a Hauppauge WinTV (USB 'cause I've got a portable) box that's connected to both the coax and the TV's monitor out. It allows me to view on my PC anything going on on the system, and to webcam it. Also, the audio-out from the WinTV is connected to a set of those little Sony desktop speakers, as is the audio from a Sony Discman and, on occasion, the audio-out of my portable. Oh, there's also a (JVC) video camera on a tripod pointed at a birdbath outside the room.

    Yes, I've got so many cables I look like a high-tech spider. Yes, I've got two pairs of 4-plug switched power boards, with some double-adaptors, for a total of between 20 and 24 devices connected depending on the season.

  • As plenty of other people have said, spend more money on speakers than you spend on the receiver. For my little setup I bagged a JVC RX6008v receiver from Costco with speakers for the cheap. The speakers are small which reduces some of their sound range but the receiver has specific settings for smaller speakers to help adjust them. It's got a shitload of inputs and outputs, lots of RCA style plugs as well as optical and coax digital plugs, S-Video to boot. As for speakers, pick up an audiophile magazine and see how sets stand up to their reviews, I rather enjoy the speakers I hooked up to my JVC (the rear speakers came with the rig while the fronts and center I already had). Monsoon just released a pretty bigass pair of flat speakers for home theaters at CES and I'm pretty sure they are available now or will be soon. Which are 1000$ for the pair. The good thing with the flat panels is you don't end up with defined sound cones. If you want to get a little more hardcore build your own speakers and match them to your TV's housing or entertainment center's finish.
  • I was thinking of something somewhat related not long ago.

    I recently splurged on a nice receiver and surround sound speaker set. It's got all I need when it comes to clean sound processing. The receiver itself is a Sony STR-DB840, which has a 24 bit sound processor for dolby digital/dts, another separate 32 bit processor for sony's format used with some of their other products. These DSPs do a great job, and don't resample sound when not necessary. They've also got some different built in effects modes to give the listener different choices of soundfields. It also has an analog direct mode where no sampling/conversion is done - good for records and some high-end sources.

    So anyway, I've got a nice receiver and it happens to be right next to my computer. I would simply like to hook the optical jacks on the back of the receiver to a bare-bones sound card, so that all stuff analog is done by the receiver, not my pc.

    Is there a digital-only sound card out there with optical jacks that supports 5.1 surround?
  • well, I know people bash sony, along with the other brands, but I am a poor college student and I happened to get a deal on this particular sony. It's actually the same as their ES line, but with less wattage (100 per channel, instead of the 120 or so for ES). Since my set of Klipsch quintet surrounds was also 100 per channel, it seemed like a good match.

    A decent setup in all, until you realize that these are my PC SPEAKERS - and then it simply kicks ass. This is why I don't want a crappy soundcard to be the weak link in the chain.
  • there is now a 5.1 version of the soundblaster live, which is decent. However, there are some problems that keep me from buying it:

    * It is expensive (>$150 if you want the livedrive with the spdif (digital) outs)
    * I don't want a card that has anything to do with analog, so it seems like a waste to pay for it
    * The card resamples all sound to a standard (I think) 16 bit, 44Khz, and then back to whatever the output signal is. This muddies the sound.

    Still, I'd get it since it seems to be the choice right now if it weren't so damn expensive.
  • What stereo equipment out there is computer controlable? I'm working on ripping all my CDs to MP3s, and wish to setup a music server as part of my stereo stack. I'd like to be able to control the amplifier directly by the computer. Stuff like turning it on and off, setting volume, switching between various inputs, etc. I know it's possible to use an IR transmitter to control an amp that has a remote, but I'd like to also be able to get feadback from the amp as well as more positive control that a direct link would provide. Price is a relative issue, but if I need to I can easily strech my budget higher so I'm not setting limits. The final thing is I wish to do this under Linux if at all possible, but if that isn't possible I might be persuaded to use Windows or some other OS.
  • If you can find them, the Inifinty Studio Monitors have a much richer, broader sound then the reference series. I lucked out on a pair of SM-155 (now SM-255) for about $400 at Costco.

    The overall sound is gorgeous, and the volume levels well definately get you in trouble, I had to move into a house after I got these.

    If you get the Studio Monitors make sure to catch the matching Video center channel - also a steal at like $150 from crutchfield.

  • I'll throw my two cents into the ring. I've done quite a bit of research into this area recently. Hopefully I can provide you with some useful information to consider.

    Let me start with the hard part: Speakers.

    I cannot tell you which speakers to buy. I suggest that you don't listen to anyone who tells you what speakers to buy either. The reason for this is quite simple. What sounds good to me might not sound good to you.

    Speakers are a tricky matter due to the inherent subjective nature of what sounds good. All speaker manufacturers have a different "sound". Some are brighter in the high range, some have a more powerful midrange. The best suggestion anyone can give you is to go somewhere and listen to every speaker that you can. Choose the one that sounds best to your ears.

    One more suggestion. Bring a high quality recording of classical music with you when you listen to speakers. The reasoning is that classical employs the broadest range of sound frequencies. It is the best test of a speaker's range.

    Having said that, my personal recommendation is Polk. They are brighter without sacrificing much midrange.

    Now on to recievers.

    If you are interested in watching a lot of movies on this setup, I highly recommend something from Yamaha for the reciever. I've heard time and time again that they have the best DSP chips. They offer the greatest number of modes and very high quality of surround sound decoding.

    I urge you not to base your choice off of power output numbers. A higher power will not ensure better sound. It usually means that you'll get a cleaner signal, but that's a loose guideline and not a rule.

    Again I suggest a listening test. Although my experience leads me to believe there isn't much of a difference in audio quality in the $400-$600 price range (where I assume you'll be looking).

    A final bit of advice that is directed towards anyone else who is building a system. If you're buying a dvd player that will double as a CD player, check to make sure that it will play CD-R's. Much to my father's chagrin, the Onkyo DVD player he bought has a blocker in it to prevent playback of burned audio CDs.

    Happy listening!
  • Following the philosophy of 'less is more,' those interested in a clean digital output might be interested in the Zoltrix Nightingale. It's a rather inexpensive card ($12) with an RCA coaxial digital output, with an optional optical output board (costs another couple of dollars) - check Pricewatch for availability.

    This card is based on the CMI 8738 chip, which is blessedly stupid enough to be absolutely incapable of doing any of the horrid resampling which is irrevocably commonplace on most consumer sound cards (Yamaha XG and SBLive! come to mind as two which resample -everything- to 48KHz).

    Good support with OSS/Pay under most/all x86 unices, better support with the 2.4 Linux kernel, and great support with ALSA. There's also OS/2 drivers, though I can't vouch for the quality of them.

    The only downside of this wonderously cheap gem is its inability to feed non-44.1/48KHz signals to its digital output, but I don't find that to be any hinderance.

    Bonuses include quad analog output for games, the ability to spit AC3 (Dolby Digital) data to the digital output for DVDs, digital pass-through with SCMS stripper for Minidisc freaks, and 24-bit capable digital IO (that's in, and out, both coaxial and optical).

    It should be mentioned that Midiman/M-Audio sells a supposedly pro-oriented card (the DiO-2448) using this -same- chip at $149 list, and it doesn't have anywhere near as much I/O flexibility as the Zoltrix does, or any extra hardware to improve the digital IO, though I suspect the analog section to be somewhat better designed [and for this application, who cares - spend the difference on some new music].

    I've got one tied in with TOSLINK to an Audio Alchemy DDE v1.1 DAC, which is in turn connected to a Rotel RTC-940 preamp and Ashly FET-1000 poweramp. For some dull-sounding recordings, I'll switch in a BBE 200R to add a bit of sparkle (most newer recordings needn't be fucked with, though).

    Speakers are a pair of two-ways and stereo subs (of my own design), which I'd rate as somewhat above Circuit City quality, and somewhat below what your typical audio salon might sell alongside a Krell amp. ;)

    The combination of shit sound card and mid-fi DAC sounds a bit better (in terms of transparency, bass, and real detail, but I've got to listen fairly intently to tell) than my Carver TL-3300 CD player, which uses a pair of 18-bit Burr-Brown DACs and isn't any particular slouch in any aspect.

    I'd expect similar results (relatively speaking, as with all other things audio) using a reciever with a digital input.

    Good luck.
  • I'll go after stabilizing rings first. For those who don't know, these are little rings of extra mass that you glue onto your CDs. This extra mass somehow decreases the error rate of your CD, because with the extra mass, it now spins more smoothly.

    Except that CDs spin between 200 and 500 RPM, because it's not like a record, which means all that extra mass makes the servo work harder (since it's a constantly changing speed, and not a steady speed like vinyl), and burn out faster. The users of these little devices claim it improves the high end, and also improves the bass, but someone tell me, with a digital input of either 1 or 0, how this device changes not just a few 1's or 0's, but many of them, as an equalizer would, so that the highs are higher, and lows even lower.

    With non-audio CDs, you want the data, as fast as you can, hence multi-speed CDs. If you read the specs on CD drives, it'll read at like 50x at the outside edge, and 12x at the inside. With music CDs, it's 1x, everywhere on the disk. You have to vary the spinning speed to make the pits on the disk flash by at the same bit rate when you are reading from different places on the disk.

    As for tube vs. transistor amps, the real test is how well the output signal matches the input signal. Most tube amps afficianados complain that transistor and digital amps lack "warmth", meaning that something they are used to hearing is, or isn't there anymore. Since transistor amps present an output signal closer to the input signal, I'll leave the readers to judge
  • May I point out The Bose FAQ [].
  • Dear god man! What evil demon led you to make such bad choices?!?? For less than you paid for that crappy 36" Sony TV, you could have bought a much better 42"-46" Toshiba or Mitsubishi rear-projection television. But where you really went wrong is with the DVD player. You shelled out over $2500 for this HDTV-capable television with 480p inputs, and you didn't even get a DVD player with progressive scan output !!!!! If you want a good progressive scan-capable DVD player, look at the Toshiba SD5190.

    I'd say get whatever speakers are cheapest. Your home theater system is already screwed up anyway. Getting good speakers won't save you now. Sigh. Another one bites the dust...


  • Several months ago I cashed in my VA Linux stock (several months too late, grumble grumble) and blew it on a home theatre system. I bought a 46-inch Mitsubishi widescreen HDTV (it was a close choice between Toshiba and Mitsubishi...I went with the Mitsu) and a Toshiba SD-5190 dual-disc progressive scan DVD player. I didn't bother buying a surround sound system, since I live in an apartment and it would only piss off my neighbors. In any case, I have never been more pleased with anything I've bought.

    Watching DVDs on this system blows me away every time. Anyone who's never seen the output from a progressive scan DVD player has no clue what they're missing. I think it was well worth the extra bucks.


  • Agreed. Paradigms really have bang for the buck and I've seen people consistently impressed with them. If you want to move up a notch, consider getting demo speakers or systems when they are about to be turnt over in stock - you'll save significantly on the system cost.

    For example, I purchassed demo $900 Dahlquist Loudspeakers for $350 + $75 for a 10 year warrantee just when FutureShop was turning over their stock. They are superior to anything I've seen in the $350 class by far. I also purchassed a $500 Sony Receiver used - I haven't heard of any degredation in receivers, unless they're abused (and I made sure this one wasn't).

    I also moved in with a roommate with 9 other speakers, so we have 11 speakers altogether, so we have 3 centre (daisy chained) and two subs (only using one), and four rear satellites, and the sound is really immersive. Since none of the speakers are working particularly hard, there is very little distortion (that's my reasoning, anyway), so the clarity is superb.

    Hope this provided you with a few tips. In point: demo + old model speakers, and used amps will significantly decrease your cost without significantly increasing the potential "lemon" purchase - depending on how much you investigate.

  • Funny you mention the 596.. I just bought one. Discrete (~)100w x5. It does do the video switching, has at least 3 digital inputs and (the reason I bought it) decodes dts. I also like having the extra 5.1 input on the back of the receiver, so I can still plug in my old Yamaha DSP-1 and get nostalgic. :)

    Besides, wasn't Yamaha on the cutting edge of surround equipment for the home? I thought the DSP-1 was a groundbreaker in its day. It's also one of the reasons I bought one.. it has a high noise floor compared to today's stuff, but the unit is just killer. Bought it for $350 from some military guy who got it at his PX. It's my first Internet purchase, to boot.

    It and the Sony 550 DVD player are the only two 'current' pieces of equipment I have... the rest are going on 12+ years old. I didn't really even have to replace my old receiver: I just wanted the video & dts. The center speaker & sub are next.

    Be careful asking questions like this.. you never know when you'll get to the end of the shopping spree. :)

  • Look at a $500 pair of Bose speakers. First off, you'll have a hard time getting a salesman to just show you a single pair of speakers, because what they _want_ to sell you is their special "system," which consists of their Jewel Cube speakers, which are basically nothing more than tweeters, tied to a very average sub (the "acoustimass" unit). However, once you do get to look at the speakers (the "Direct Reflecting" type), take off the grill and look at the cones. On a pair of B&Ws, you'll see gold tweeters and Kevlar woofers from the DM601 on up. On the Bose speakers, you'll see plastic and glue on the woofers, lots of it. In essence, the production quality is questionable, and it compromises sound quality throughout the spectrum, but especially at the lower end. Furthermore, if you go for a full system, the Acoustimass unit cannot produce adequate power around 20Hz for the room-shaking feel one expects from a home theatre sub, and all the bass is coming from a central location, basically destroying the point of a surround system.

    In short, no audiophile will ever use Bose for their system due to poor quality, and no respectable home theatre setup would employ something so under-powered.
  • >dvd players with 5.1 harder to find.

    Well, yeah. I wouldn't want one personally and I suspect I'm in the majority. Right now my DVD player is the only thing I have ever gets a 5.1 signal, but that won't be true a year from now. I'd much rather have the decoder be in the receiver where it can decode multiple sources.

    The only reason I could see getting a player with its own 5.1 decoder is if you already had a really high end "5.1 ready" receiver and didn't want to replace it. But, now that you have it you may be able to pick up what was a $1000 "ready" receiver 2 years ago for ~$200 if you look hard enough.

    Interconnects only seem to matter if they are the limiting factor. You say you can't see the difference between the SVHS plug and the component video though? Me Either. The TV may not be good enough (or large enough) to show the difference, maybe the difference just isn't evident on the interlaced DVD signal (FWIW, I would have bought a progressive scan player for that TV) but you would see it when you feed it an HDTV signal.

  • You paid extra for a dvd player with a 5.1 decoder. This means you can get a good "5.1 ready" receiver. They are being discontinued by most mfg's so you can pick up good quality for quite cheap. spend the $$ you save on better speakers for now.
  • Quoted from the linked Crutchfield site:

    Note: This player is designed for use with "Region 1" coded DVDs.

    Forget that! Buy something like an Apex [] where you can bypass CSS and go Region-Free!

    #include "disclaim.h"
    "All the best people in life seem to like LINUX." - Steve Wozniak

  • []
    I use a Yamaha RXV-595 but it doesn't have SVideo switching :-(. The 795 and above do and support DTS too. It's got a very nice DSP effects processor builtin (Hall, Rock, Disco (!) ). For speakers, I recommend Paradigm, they're Canadian eh...
  • I'd like to put in a word for Rotel for the electronics section. The amps and integrated amps have really impressed me (I've owned a Rotel 2-channel system for about four years now). They rank with NAD and Adcom on my list for amps (well below the Krells, but hey, the FBP-600 is a little out of my price range...). I've found the Rotel amps to have quite a bit of heft and they are conservatively rated - my 60W/channel integrated can put about 100W/ch into 8ohms, and certainly sounds better at higher listening levels than the 100W/channel Technics and 150W/ch JunkValleyCrap(JVC).

    I'm running with some Polk RT7s for my 2-channel. I love B&W (the 302s are a much better deal than the 602s... the expensive ones are heavenly). My Polks were about the same price as the 302s, and performed quite well in my listening sessions (the 302s had a slightly better image and soundstage, but the range of the Polks was better, and they (quite frankly) sound better than the 602s).

    I'm still waiting on my Vandersteen 2ce's (mmmmmm). A nice amp with those (along with the Rotel CD front end), and let's just say - ahhhhh.

    The best component in my surround system is probably the Velodyne F-1500R. Does its job rather well.

    As always, listen, listen, listen. No point in buying what other people think sounds good if it doesn't to you.
  • I have a several year old Velodyne F-1500R (15"). Gotta love it - there's nothing like *feeling* the movie, and it does a great job with music, too (jazz, classical, rock, etc...).

  • And some of the other brands to avoid you listed? I'm just curious because the opinions I hear about Bose in particular range from pretty good to utter crap but I've never heard anyone back up their negative opinion with much more than "they just suck ok" (not that their defenders say much more than "they sound good to me") but since you seem to know what you're talking about for home theater I was wondering if you could explain just what is so bad about Bose?
  • Agreed about Richer Sounds - they are the place to get great priced low to medium range equipment.

    When I was a student (crikey, 2 years ago), I decided that the naff cheapo korean all-in-one naffo-crappo stereo system would have to go. But I had no money at the time. When the CD part of said stereo broke, I had to buy a CD player, and I went with a Technics (that was 4 years ago, and it is still going great). Darn thing is, it doesn't have a digital output, so when I get a better system that system will be relegated to the kitchen/dining room/bathroom. It wasn't much, around £120 then, and the better models are only £70 now from Richer Sounds. If this sounds cheap to you, remember I was a student.

    I next went for some Mission 731s. £130 at the time, and still going strong. Best sound quality at the time for under £150. The Mission floorstanding speakers are also great, but look in a Hi-Fi magazine to read up on the latest speakers. The 731's will probably make good front speakers or rear speakers when I get a surround sound system, IF I get one. I don't watch or own a TV or video or DVD player, and I won't until I can buy a huge TV like system that isn't a TV (read - huge monitor) so I don't have to pay the TV tax^H^H^Hlicense in the UK.

    I then got a Marantz amplifier (pre-amp for you weirdos with real amps). Got a great review at the time in the Hi-Fi magazines, but obviously doesn't do any sort of surround sound wizardry. Not that I care for a Hi Fi system, especially when I won't be buying a TV ever anyway.

    Cheap Awia tape desk as well (this was before mp3) with decent noise reduction (Dolby A,B,C,S) which is currently only used for the Russian and Japanese language tapes. What a waste of money. Still probably quite good for what it is.

    Anyone got any good recommendations for tuners? Maybe interested in the digital radio available in the UK, but the receivers are a lot still.

    When I get a bigger house, I will invest in some better speakers for audio use only (classical and heavy rock/metal/industrial music - don't ask, except that in my opinion out of all pop, dance, rap, and metal, metal is the most nearest to classical music in terms of composition and effort, erm... anyway...)

    What speakers do people recommend for a home audio setup? Maybe one connected to a PC (I don't play that many games, but I will get a DVD drive so I want good movie sound). Anyone know where I can buy a widescreen 32" - 50" PC monitor - resolution not important :-) only for DVD playing! Maybe a projector would be a good bet - only need a low-res one for that use...

  • What I want to know is, who makes IP addressable stereo components? If my damn refrigerator is going to be networked, the least they could do is make the one appliance in my house that can actually deliver something (sound) remotely configurable. That way, with 802.11, I can control the music/video from anywhere in the house.

    I'd even buy the first, basic model that just let you change inputs, volume and stations while they developed the advanced features like multiple destinations and personal profiles.

    So who makes this beauty, and why aren't they advertising it? I can already turn on my lights and open my apartment security door from a webpage or via telnet, when am I going to be able to change the channel?
  • We built our system up with Paradigm speakers and have been VERY happy. Find a local dealer and go test them out. Take the things you like to listen to, so you know how they will sound for you.

    We looked at a lot of speakers and everyone I talked to kept pointing us to Paradigm, as they provide the best quality for the price. I agree.
  • You can EASILY tap out $1500 putting together a good audio system.

    Personally, I'd spend my money on good quality speakers and an amp that puts out clean power (not necessarily the best, but won't damage the speakers with dirt output). I say this because the speakers effect the sound produced more than any other component in the system you will buy (aside from the room itself).

    If you want more "oomph" than sound quality, you can spend more on a better amp and a bit less on speakers without sacraficing much.

    The system I currently have consists of a pair of B&W 602 mains and a Polk PSW550 sub. Those two items alone cost $1100. I still havn't bought a center channel ($350) or surrounds ($500). And I havn't really looked into some of the DTS/AC3 decoders yet (drool) which run some serious bucks as well, nor have I seriously looked at really good amps.

    I'd recommend you go to your local home theatre store. The place I got my stuff from was awesome -- they didn't push specific products and they knew their stuff. A good store will have salespeople that can take into account your budget and put together a system that will give you the best bang for your buck. I'd recommend you try that route, or at the very least visit a store with some cds/dvds in hand to get a feel for how much money you'll have to spend for a certain sound.
  • Polk makes some pretty decent stuff. The best thing they make IMO is their powered subs. They're one of the only companies filling in the gap between the $1000 wonderboxes (the ones you'd never think were a sub because it sounds like the audio was coming from your mains) and the $200 crapboxes you'll find at best buy (those powered subs with 12" subs only capable of producing 2 tones rather loudly).

    The higher end companies have servo controled ports in the back to reduce the "fweeting" noise you'd get coming out of ports.

    Polk has this large golf tee like thing that goes into the ports which does the same thing. There is almost NO port noise -- it's an EXCELLENT compromise. The $1000 subs sound is obviously more controlled, but the Polk one that I own is VERY close at half the price.
  • You want a good audio system, go to a good HiFi, or if you have the chance, High End audio store. Spend most of the money on speakers, that'll do most for the sound. listen to the speakers before you buy'em. when you go to the store, bring one or 2 CDs you know well, preferably in completely different genres. You'll need this to determine how well your speakers sound. Make sure the store you go to has a separate listening room, a demonstration in the main store is just about useless (BAD acoustics). You CAN go for cheap speaker-cable, but if you do, take it double length, and make all connections from speaker to amp go over a double connection. this greatly decreases resistance, and is usually cheaper than going for high-quality wiring. Make sure the amp is powerful enough, you're dealing with digital media which can need pretty high peak-performance from the amp. The amp should be close in output per channel to the number of watts the speakers can handle, or stronger. a weak amp may cause clipping (temporary direct current. speakers don't like that). again, it's peak performance that counts. If you have digital out, and want real high quality sound it may be a choice to get a separate DA converter (especially useful if your CD player also has digital output). And if you really have the money, get a pre-amp, and a single mono-amp for each channel.

  • Make sure you get good speakers. They are the most important part. You may want to consider budgeting up to %50 of your cost on them.

    Personally I like Bose speakers. I have 4 301s and I love them.

    The best and only way to know you're getting the speakers you want is to listen to them with music you know.
  • Nope, I meant what I said. The receiver limits the quality of any other component (I don't consider the speakers a "component" as such). If you have a crappy receiver, then it really won't matter what you have for speakers. However, I definitely agree with you that the speakers then limit the sound coming out of the receiver. Crappy speakers, and it doesn't matter what you have for a receiver or anything else.

    But I believe that you need to consider the receiver/amp/speakers all together. While the speakers are the endpoint for the sound in your system, all three pieces are bottlenecks. You can't buy reference speakers and a Radio Shack receiver and expect to get great sound. And you can't buy Radio Shack speakers and an expensive THX receiver either. Don't make the mistake of believing that either of the bottlenecks in your audio system is more important than the other.


  • Headphones will wreck your hearing. Ask any DJ. Speak loudly when you ask.
  • It seems that all these highly-moderated comments have to do with specific equipment. I'm not going to name specific manufacturers, but rather suggest that you do a *lot* of shopping and research. This thread has so many anti-Bose posts it's overwhelming. Personally I'm not a Bose fan, but you might be. Listen to them, but listen to other speakers as well. But beware that there are a million variables involved in testing (especially at a store), so you can't make direct comparisons. An in-store audition should give you a general feel for a speaker's character, but when it comes down to crunch time, you'd do better to audition in your home. Of course, this is true for all equipment, not just speakers, but speakers are especially susceptible to changes in room acoustics.

    Secondly, but equally importantly, a good high-fidelity system is about having components that sound good together. Maybe you like the sound of XXX speakers and YYY amplifier, but how do they sound together. Do not neglect this detail.

    Too many people get caught up in "this brand is better than this brand." You're the one who has to live with your purchases, not the salesperson, and not a slashdot poster. Don't let someone tell you what sounds good to your ears.
  • I live in an appartment, so I couldn't get large speakers or a high powered amp.. I got a $500 yamaha receiver with DSP effects (I like the DISCO setting :). It's only like 75Watts / channel (unlike it's more expensive version) but for my appartment that's probably a good thing. Can't afford another noice violation :) Various reviews have given the Boston Acoustics ($1,000 model) a top rating in it's class. Nice rugged old style speakers that work pretty well for both stereo and home-theatre.

    I like BOSE Acoustimass, but they apparently aren't good enough at traditional 2-channel stereo. Don't go for BOSE life-style, however. You're speakers are locked with a minimalist BOSE receiver (which doesn't do DTS btw).

    That setup exactly costs $1,500 assuming you don't get the extended warranty.

    Strangely enough, people seem to prefer the coaxial audio connectors to the digital ones.. The most common reasoning is the breakibility of the fiber cable; you are in danger of crimping it.

    I have a CD jukebox and it only has an optical out. Plus Digital TV tends to have optical, so if your DVD player has a coax, you should probably use that.

    Other things to look for in a receiver. Make sure it has independant digital inputs. Some receivers (I think mine is included) will share an optical/coaxial input so you're limited. Make sure to get nice high quality speaker connectors (ideally bananna clips) on as many channels as possible (most only have them on the mains).

    Make sure that the receiver is capable of compensating for your small-speaker arrangement.. It should be able to suck the base out of the mains and center and divert them towards the sub-woofer (not all can do this).

    Don't know if you're using component video with your TV / DVD (I'd highly recommend it), but you probably don't want to mux the video through the receiver because of signal degredation (especially with component). Actually, my new ideal setup is a true progressive scan player and TV - fat chance this decade for me.

  • Powered Subwoofer.

    My home theater (Denon Pro-Logic AMP, B&W Fronts/center, non-descript rears) were really nice... Until I put in a MK Powered subwoofer with volume and 'crossover adjustment'.

    Suddenly, there's a basement to my movies that the bookshelves wouldn't acknowledge. I get lots of really cool 'ooos' and 'ahs' when people hear it.

  • Aiwa doesn't make *anything* that qualifies as good. They are the shit that Sony is too embarassed to put their own name on when selling. Go ahead, pick up the Aiwa set of yours and squeeze the sides a little bit, did they bow in and creak? Thought so. Now grasp the volume knob, wiggle it up and down a little. Amazing how much it moves in ways it isn't supposed to ain't it.

    Think about it, they didn't take the time to do a good job putting together the stuff on the outside of the box. How good do you think the stuff inside the box is? The only good thing that I can say about Aiwa is that at least it doesn't cost much.

  • Right on the money there. Bass + Trebel only nothing in the middle (which is incidently where most human voices lie and that's pretty important for movies). Bose has done some cool things and you have to give them a little credit. If you want something that sounds pretty good and want it all in one piece and pretty small their wave radios are great. If you want a home theater system stay away like the plague.
  • That scene is good too. I assume you meant T2:Ultimate Edition.
  • With the beach landing :). Much better test than The Matrix DVD.
  • Try some DVD movies for testing from CNET's list []. I pretty much own most of those listed DVDs. :)
  • jCaT says: (about receivers)
    Basically you need to find a unit that has the features that you want (DTS decoding, etc) and the power output you want.

    That's leaving out quite a bit, however, namely how it sounds. I too thought that one 100W receiver/amplifier should be pretty much like another, but once I started putting together a good system I quickly realized that this wasn't the case. I find it easy to find name-brand amplifiers that don't sound good to me.

    Also, don't get too hung up on power ratings. A lot of low-end stuff puts out heaps of bad-sounding power. Once you spend an afternoon in a high-end audio store listening to 60 Watt per channel amplifiers that play loud and sound beautiful, and you'll have a hard time going back. If you get efficient speakers (and a lot of large speakers are quite efficient) most amplifiers (receivers) rated above 60 Watts per channel will be able to play loudly enough for even the most hard-core listeners.

  • I forgot to mention that my subwoofer is a Hsu Research VST-2 (, a small company from California. It's the kind of small where the company founder (Dr. Hsu) will give you subwoofer placement recommendations based on the sketches of your living room you send in. The local dealer who carries Paradigm actually carries these as the subwoofer they recommend. You can get other good subwoofer recommendations elsewhere in the thread, but I thought I'd put in a plug for the little guy.
  • I have a fairly small (32 inch) tube TV.. Mitsu, I think.. (gotten due to the double SVID in and cable in and rca in/out).

    Sony top of the line DVD, with real 5.1 rca outs on it.

    Audio? I have a cheapy Aiwa.. it was like.. 500 bucks on sale at Wal-Mart.. I love it! The speakers are small, yet deliver *real* good sound, and its out of the box.. no extra cables, no crap to deal with. Granted.. I live in a row home, but I have a fairly large living room, and the cables for the satellites make it all the way to the back, (across the cieling.. 19 foot wide room) and the sound is *excellent*.

    Plus, it takes like, six things *out* of your audio setup.. its a 5 disc carousel, double deck with h/s dub, full audio tuner, (w karaoke!) and has a slick lil video game built in.

    Bose is okay I guess, but I always feel like I'm in a cage listening to those little teeny tiny cubes, as that huge bass cannon of theirs dose most of the work.

    So.. thats my .02.. Aiwa makes some *good* stuff.. and I heard somewhere they are made by Sony.. though I'm not certain about that.

  • They generally have a yearly "Guide to the Gear" issue where all they rate are recievers, speakers, and so on. They also have a very good "How to shop for foo" section, usually.
    Speakers are the most important part, of course, and choice of reciver is governed almost exclusively by feature set and price.
  • is good.

    A subscription to the magazine is even better though. Good reviewers. Nice range ($) of products, with no crap companies even making it in.

  • I love my home system.

    I have:

    A Dishplayer 500 (Satelltie plus TiVo)
    A nice Toshiba DVD player
    A $200 Sony AV reciever with mroe bells and whistles then i use.
    A $100 set of close-out Radioshack Satellite speakers that frankly give me great sound.

    The only down side is those Satellites have a passive sub-woofer but at the volumes i play that system at it makes no practical difference.

    You can spend a WHOLE lot of moeny on very fancy equiptment and have big fancy names to show your friends, or you cna spend a lot less and unelss you are a professional musician who listens to music full time you are unlikely to notice the difference.

    Its really up to you.

    I'm visually trained (film production)and primarily visually oriented (though I also play music in an amature capcity now and studied violin for 15 years.) I find things that matter to me are:

    (1) Picture quality. My good Philips set is noticeably nicer to watch movies on then my other sets. Its still not an "expensive" set by moedrn terms, just not a cheap one and Philips ha always ahd pretty good quality in their mid to high end.

    (2) Reproduction smoothness. Skips or pops in CD or DVD are a bad thing.

    (3) Quality of the audio reproduction hardware in the CD player. tehre really IS a difference between cheap and good CD players. My Phillips BitStream CD player (actually ist a CD-I player but thats a long story) is definitely better to listen to then a CD walkman.

    None of this has to be in the 5K and up range "audiophile" stuff goes for.

    Your mileage may differ.
  • I agree! is a great resource. As for a home theater solution for under $1500, I would recommend the JBL Studio Series speakers, such as the S-Center, S310 or S312 for fronts and S38 or S26 for rears. You will see that these speakers are rated very highly on, and you should be able to get a complete set plus subwoofer for a home theater for less than $1500. I think these are by far the best speaker value out there. They sound almost as good as the very high end audiophile stuff for only a small fraction of the price. I would stay away from JBL's lower-end stuff though.
  • The Klipsch are THX certified, which means either of 2 things depending on your opinion:

    a) THX certification is a sham. Ya pay the cert costs, and they give you the right to use their logo.

    b) THX certification means that the speakers have passed a rigorous test regime to ensure that they have accurate audio fidelity.

    I tend to agree with point b. There *are* tests that are done, and not everything passes THX certification without having to go back to the drawing board.

    There's 1 great thing I can say about the Klipsch Promedia, and about *ALL* other Klipsch speakers: they are crafted, not stamped-out-en-masse consumer BS, and have extremely high audio fidelity. That's what Klipsch is known for. If you're looking for power that will piss your neighbors off all the time, Klipsch isn't your brand. They make exacting and elegant instruments, which generally have less power than other speakers in the same price range, but have far better audio quality and at any rate can fill a room to any reasonable sound levels with *no* distortion. Klipsch are especially known for being one of very few audio companies which still use real horns for producing high-pitched sounds. Horns have been replaced over the years by cheaper parts which usually aren't as accurate--but not on Klipsch speakers.

    I'm not sure the ProMedia speakers by Klipsch would be the best bet for a home theater system--they're just the most well known by computer guys like us. I'm sure they'd perform as well as speakers costing twice as much, if you paired them with a decent center channel speaker and a good Dolby Digital/DTS decoder. However, I'm also sure that, for the budgeted $1500, you could afford some Klipsch speakers particularly designed for a home theater system. At any rate, they are a top-quality brand, and when it comes to audio fidelity the only way you're going to get better speakers is by spending three times as much. They have audio *fidelity*, unlike Bose and other consumer products which distort the audio range in a way which is pleasing to the ears of a non-audiophile, but which annoys the Hell out of anyone who wants to hear audio exactly like it was layed down. These days, studios spend millions of dollars to have their soundtracks layed down in exacting detail by audio professionals at places like the Skywalker Ranch--why mess that up with speakers which *think* they can do a better job than millions of dollars worth of audio equipment and some very trained ears?

    Just my 2 pence.

  • I have to argue against tubes as a 'myth'. Vacuum tubes have very different distortion profiles, and sound much better than transistors when driven to their distortion limits. This is a Good Thing, since tubes are so much easier to drive into distortion. Tubes are also very susceptible to microphonics and ringing, which definitely affect the sound.

    I won't even get started on thermal drift effects.

    Of course, any good tube amp design aims to minimise these to below audible levels, just like transistors. (any tube amp that doesn't try to minimise these effects is a BAD design, in my opinion) I wouldn't waste my money on a tube amp when it's so easy to make a better transistor amp, but tubes _do_ often sound different. (i.e. worse :-)

    It's also possible that the CD 'stabilising' rings make a difference--they can increase bit errors in CD players that can't adjust to the extra rotational mass.

    None of this implies that these are anything but Bad Results, but they sometimes do exist.

    Now if you REALLY want snake oil, how about a wooden puck you set on top of your amp with the grain aligned to the electron flow?

  • It's true - quality of interconnects cannot be underestimated. No matter how little you care about them, they're less important than that!

    Of course, they have to work, and have to be decently made. Five to twenty bucks should get you a cable that'll do fine. Anything more than that is snake oil.

    There are some cases where interconnects make a big difference--when your equipment is SO badly designed that it counts on the electrical properties of the cables to operate properly. Curiously, equipment this bad generally sells for thousands upon thousands of dollars. If you have (or desire) equipment this poor, then you need to give your money to a better cause (like me!), or get an electrical engineering degree and learn why Bryston has no use for magic cables.

    If your interconnects make any audible difference to your setup, there's something VERY VERY wrong, no matter if your system cost $100 or $100,000.

  • Just to clarify something here...
    I wasn't trying to suggest that bit errors (or bitrate errors and jitter, which would get eliminated by resynching the data stream in a decent CD player) would make the sound warmer, clearer, or have better high end. If it does, it's most likely due to the electroharmonic acoustification of the listener's interferometric phase shifting[1].

    Failing this, bit errors are bit errors, and may be interpolated (causing a momentary and almost certainly inaudible degradation of the sound) or not (causing a VERY noticble momentary glitch)

    Of course we're arguing from the same side of the table, so I'll be quiet now. Just didn't want to mistakenly be accused of stating that CD rings, for better or worse, would subtly alter the sound in a continuous manner.

    [1] In other words, utter bollocks.
  • I know the setup I think I want.....the question is what ways can it be done?

    1. Get your 5.1 speakers and wire them to 3 amps which in turn are each connected to two chanels of a sound-card (or three) in a linux box. Get a 4 point completely independant system (so I can play with 3d audio) along with the sub and centre. Hack the volume meters together into the volume control tools you want (trying to leave those amp controls alone so it can switch modes etc properly).
    2. Get your 5.1 speakers and wire them to a 6 channel amp the same way (the one amp I looked at was about $500).
    3. Use a decoding amp wired to a fibre connector. I don't like this as you then have to have run realtime ac3/dts encoding on any sound source you want to play through surround!

    I guess I have an Ask Slashdot on this... can anyone tell me if approach 1 is possible. i.e. is there an ac3/dts decoder for Linux and if so what sort of power are we looking at to run it realtime? This is something I have wanted for years (I bought an Event Gina when I was still evacuating Windows land and got nothing when I tried to help bash them for info! Have to admit I didn't hack at it under Linux cause the trouble they were having producing the drivers they wanted (DirectX) suggested that it was not the best card to work with (besides their lack of info guaranteed you would never get the DSP power out of the Dream Chip)). On this, does anyone now any projects working with the Analogue Devices Kit to develop a decent Linux sound card (i.e. more than just an io card...some DSP) as their kits seem to suggest they are worth working with?

    The best approach in many ways is one a friend of mine took. Go into your local hi-fi shop and order a Dolby Digital Amp and pay a 10% deposit. Make sure that the clerk put down that you payed it all on the receipt and go in to pick up the amp a few days later for no more money! Finally when the amp seems a bit dodgy (like turning the volume up for no reason) make sure you get an upgrade to a later model thats twice the price......Cheeky Jammy Bastard!

  • I'd go with the Onkyo DS989, it lists at $2999, but street is about $2200. Alright, so what makes this one special?

    First, it's got all the in's and outs you need. RCA Audio, TOS Digital, Coax Digital, S-Video, Composite and Compoent video switching. Plus it's got all the THX stuff. But that's not the $2200 reason to buy this thing. It has an RS-232 port on it, and 4 Megs of Flash memory. Onkyo will put out new sound standards when they hit market. This summer they will have a new patch for DTS-ES sound. In addition, they have a hardware expanion port for a firewire card (Which will probally be the defacto standard for HDTV). It's going to be a while until you have to upgrade this mother.

    My $.02
  • Optical cables are expesive because retailers know the consumer doesn't know any better. Wholesale wise I can buy a TOS cable for the same price as a good quality coax RCA cable. Hell, cost of sending a 30 ft. TOS cable from asia to the US is less than the wholesale on a 3 ft monster brand TOS cable.

    The real issue for TOS isn't the medium the digital streams travels, it's how it's sent. Jitter is an issue because TOS spec uses very cheap LED's to transmit the stream. If they had used a laser diode it wouldn't be much of an issue.

    If you look at computer networking the optical connections are all Laser driven. And for very good reason, data corruption isn't an option.
  • Don't forget Snell and Maggies for the speakers, and odd as it sounds JVC actually struck gold with thier 700 series progressive scan DVD player.
  • For a more home theater centric site check this linkage - []'s Home Theater Section.
  • yes, Linn makes a product called "skeet" [] (they are halfway down that page) howevever, they are just hard disks that go between the spikes and the floor. So you should be able to use any small flat hard object. The idea is that the little disc is still small enough that it makes good contact with the floor and you can then adjust the spikes so the speakers are very rigid and don't wobble.

    I'm not sure what the Linn discs are made of but they appear to have a hole for the spike too. Talk to your hifi dealer, they probably have something. Otherwise small scrap pieces of marble or slate might work pretty well.


  • I absolutely agree that speakers are probably the most important piece. I'd reccomend doing research and identifying what you want, then looking on ebay and other discounters.

    However, I would strongly reccomend *against* Bose speakers, at least until you can compare them against other speakers side by side. I used to have a pair of 901's, and loved them... until I started getting knowledgeable about sound.

    But Bose speakers are all about trying to make poorly recorded things sound better. Flat, lifeless recordings get room-filling sound. Great, right? Well, try playing well-recorded stuff (which most modern material is).

    All the sudden it's boomy, has a huge preponderance of mid-bass, and sounds generally tweaked. It's like having an equalizer in the system that you can't adjust.

    I'd vote for accuracy, myself, and if you've got source material that needs to be fixed, get an external EQ for that (don't run it all the time unless it's a very expensive EQ; most EQ's introduce phase problems).

    Here's a good set of reviews of speakers in the general price range: audioholics []. (I'm not affiliated with them in any way)

    Cheers, good luck, and enjoy whatever you get.


  • Do NOT get speakers that are made for mixing without listening to them. They have a flat response curve, which no home speaker system has. Listen to them first, you may not like the way they sound. Even the best home theater systems distort the sound that passes through them. That is how they are supposed to be. Your subwoofer should have a low 3db point, and your woofers should pick up right before the sub cuts out. I have many friends who are very good at mixing music, and none of them use their pro audio equipment in their entertainment centers.

    I do agree with you, though, Bose are marketed as quality speakers but actually sound good through only a small set of audio spectra. It has to do with the response curve. Bose speakers distort the lower frequencies in such a way that most demo sounds will sound richer because the speakers provide false overtones. Pianos and guitars sound good. Piccolos sound like crap. Voices just sound different. Any instrument that isn't supposed to have rich overtones just won't sound sharp.

    I found one way to get good sound is to see if a movie theater near you is upgrading their sound system. A friend of a friend did this and his system rocks!

    Bottom line: Listen to what you buy (and take into account that most sound rooms are boxes designed to resonate). Also, buy a good sub (one where you FEEL explosions), it is necessary for movies like Heat or the Matrix.

  • When I was in the market for affordable-but-kickass home theater, I chose the Kenwood HTB-503 "Home Theater in a Box." As its name implies, it's a big honkin' box containing everything you need for a basic home theater setup - two front left/right speakers, shielded center channel speaker, two rear surround speakers, powered subwoofer, and receiver/amplifier. The speakers sound great (although some people complain about the center channel being "muddy" - just replace it if you don't like it). Audio power is 100 watts per channel, which is way more than enough to r0x0r the house.

    The receiver/amplifier is very slick. It's got all the essentials - audio/video switching (with lots of inputs for all your crazy-ass components), S-video capability on all video inputs, two digital-capable audio inputs, each with coaxial and optical inputs. Supported audio formats are stereo, 3-stereo (two stereo channels plus a center channel), Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS.

    The only complaint I have with this unit is the remote - it sucks ass. I don't know what those Kenwood engineers were thinking when they designed this piece of crap. The previous model, the HTB-502, had a much nicer remote. Get a universal remote, preferably a high-end one like that Sony unit with the touchscreen that looks like one of those data-pads on the newer Star Trek series.

    Now for the best news of all - the price. $439.99 seems typical on the web (for example, check this [] out). This system has been reviewed in several audio magazines and they all rave that its sound quality rivals systems costing much, much more and that you can't find another system of this quality for anywhere near this price.

    NOTE: I do not work for Kenwood, nor do I sell stereos for a living. I've never dealt with the store I posted in that link above, so don't consider it a recommendation. I'm just a guy who's real glad he bought a Kenwood HTB-503.

  • by mangino ( 1588 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @09:02AM (#516795) Homepage
    I absolutely love my Onkyo amplifiers. I have 3 of them, including the monster that drives my home theater. It has 6 channel output for room a, and 4 channel output for room b. It will allow me to listen to music in one room while watching TV in another, all driven on the one amplifier. Combine this with Dolby Digital decoding and 3 digital inputs and you have a killer amplifier.

    As far as speakers go, I much prefer my infiniti system. I have infiniti overtures in the front, quadpoles in the back and a really nice center channel. If you can only afford to buy one really good speaker, make it your center channel. You won't regret it.

    As for subs, I like the velodyne 16" subwoofer. MMMMM, bass.
    Mike Mangino
    Sr. Software Engineer,
  • by scotpurl ( 28825 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @09:21AM (#516796)
    Many of the systems being suggested here aren't that good. Klipsch's are like every other horn system, they are efficient at certain frequencies, and inefficient at others. And like other horn instruments, like trombones and trumpets, they have frequencies where standing waves set up, and make the system louder or softer. This makes horn systems fine for auditoriums and stadiums, where you need high volume and low fidelity, but poor choices for home where you have lower volumes, and lower background noise. Bose is adequate, but they are better at marketing than engineering.

    In the myth arena is Monster Cable, green markers on CD-ROMs, CD-ROM stabilizers (inertia/momentum rings), titanium vibration isolation cones, and vacuum tubes. If someone ones me to post more on those, I will, but they are of no proven benefit, and are aimed at those with money to waste.

    What you are after is something you are happy with. In the end, what you buy matters no more than whether its an AMD or an Intel in the box. If you're happy with it while it's running, and you are comfortable with what you spent -- then you've got a good system. There are various people who fancy themselves to be "golden ears", able to somehow hear statistically insignificant levels of distortion that even the best musicians cannot hear, and marketers continually create products aimed at people who don't want to be left out; who want to feel they are in this top tier; who purchase these overpriced, snake-oil products because some "friend" recommended it.

    My system: Accoustic Research AR-5's for the front channels, powered by a Carver amp, with a Carver preamp doing the Dolbly decoding from a Pioneer 414 (?) DVD player. The center channel is an RCA center channel picked up for cheap at Radio Shack. The rear channels are from some place that was discontinuing the model, and instead of $300/apiece, I got them for $75/apiece. The subwoofer is under construction, and I've got more amps for it.

    You need: good, full-range front channel speakers, preferably about 2 cu. ft. in size. A decent center channel, smaller rear channels (since Dolby surround and all those cuts all the bass and much of the high-end). A subwoofer is optional, but with the big front-channel speakers I've got, I don't really need it when playing Bond films or The Matrix.
  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @10:45AM (#516797)
    Spend about $300 on a stereo. I got a nice Sony combo unit from Circuit City for around $350. I paid extra because of the 50+1 CD changer.

    Spend the other $1000 in good alcoholic beverages.

    Drink large amounts of the beverages.

    You're system will sound just as good as everyone elses, your dick will be the same lenght as it was before, and if you're lucky you might have a jolly good time.

  • by dboyles ( 65512 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @09:03AM (#516798) Homepage
    Although it is more for the audio enthusiast (as opposed to home theater), I like [] both for equipment reviews as well as sound, generic buying advice.
  • by lizrd ( 69275 ) <{su.pmub} {ta} {mada}> on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @01:09PM (#516799) Homepage
    I have to dis agree with you a little bit here. No matter how good your speakers are it's going to sound pretty bad if you have a shitty amp.

    However, spending an extra dollar on the speakers is going to get you more than spending the extra dollar on the receiver. If I were going to go out and buy an audio system today and was willing to spend $1.5k I'd be looking to spend about $400 on the receiver (the JVC RX-8000V I have sells for about this much and has quite good sound and lots of features) and the remainder on speakers.

    I would avoid like the plague any sort of setup that has 5 tiny little speakers and a huge subwoofer to make up for their lack of bass and midrange response. I find that these setups leave a lot to be desired in terms of midrange and bass response. Boston makes some excellent speakers and are definately worth checking out in particular their VR series.

  • by Hardwyred ( 71704 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @08:19AM (#516800) Homepage
    For our house, we ended spending the most amount of our cash on small speakers that could produce some nice highs and then using a relativly high cross over point on our subwoofer. Something about our living room just seemed to suck the highs out of pretty much any speaker we could find until we bought 4 infinity reference monitors and a sony center channel. Tied it all to a Velvodine (sp?) 10 inch powered sub, ran the optics out of the DVD and into the pioneer receiever, plummed the whole thing via SVideo into an RCA projection TV. Only regret is owning the projection TV, the colors just arent there like in a tube.
  • by G-Man ( 79561 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @09:37AM (#516801)
    Unless you go really high-end, Paradigms are tough to beat. They're usually the best value at any given price point -- bless the Canucks and the strong dollar. Buy whatever model you can afford. If you're mainly interested in Home Theater, then I'd go with the matching speakers all-around. If music is more important, I'd devote more money to the main speakers, then the center-channel, then the surrounds (which is what I did). I'd still use the same brand all-around to make sure the timbre matching is good. Get a subwoofer if you want better rumbling tanks/stomping dinosaurs/earth-shattering explosions (actually, a powered subwoofer also helps with music by taking the load off of your receiver for the low end). Of course, if you live in an apartment or condo, the subwoofer might make you unpopular with the neighbors.

    As far as A/V receivers go, I'm a fan of Denon, but I can't argue with NAD. Onkyo is also pretty well regarded.
  • by Kagato ( 116051 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @01:20PM (#516802)
    Like any cable there are quality control concerns. But from what I've seen there wasn't much difference in build quality with the monster brand VS a generic.

    The problem is really in transmission. A cheap LED system like TOS can have issues with minor power surges and spikes. In a big AV system there can be a lot of different compoents pulling large power loads at various times. A Laser system generally is better regulated, and has a very constant wavelength. Cheaper LEDs do not. You have to understand that most of the TOS transmitters cost about a dollar each in mass. You're not looking at a high quality, over engineered part. It does what it does and generally it does is well enough. But I wouldn't stake my life on all the bits getting to the destination in tact. Just the majority of them.
  • by burris ( 122191 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @10:27AM (#516803)
    While it's easy to fixate on what gear to buy, of as much importance is how well the gear is setup, particularly the speakers. A great system cannot perform to it's full potential if it is not setup properly. Proper setup can make the difference between a system sounding good and a system sounding great, and proper setup doesn't cost much extra money.

    The most important thing is that speakers be positioned properly and mounted on rigid stands. Speaker positioning is a large topic that I can't go into depth here but there are many excellent articles on the web (use Google). Important things to remember are that corners are never a good spot for speakers. The stands should be heavy (most can be filled with sand or lead shot) and mounted on adjustable spikes. The spikes are adjustable so you can match the contours of your floor (which is never perfectly flat). This allows you to set the stands so when you put your hand on top of the speaker and try to wiggle it the speaker will not move. This is important as if the speaker can wiggle than some energy will be lost. Any setup can get you 90% of the way there, but in high performance audio it's that last 10% where all the action is (and your ears/brain can really tell the difference). Trust me on this one, spending some bucks on nice rigid speaker stands with spikes on the bottom (use floor protectors under them if you have a hardwood floor) makes a big difference, it's not just cosmetic.

    Subwoofers also need careful placement. While your brain cannot localize deep bass, improper placement can cause phase cancellation with the other speakers which creates comb filtering that sounds bad. Many subwoofers have phase adjustment but there is no substitute for proper placement in the first place.

    In short, it's not worth spending a lot of money on good audio equipment if you don't bother to learn to set it up properly. Spending a few days with trial and error speaker placement, using your favorite and best sounding CD for reference, can make all the difference.

    Stereophile [], a magazine dedicated to ridiculously expensive audio reproduction equipment, has some nice articles on low/zero cost "tweaks" (such as speaker placement) that can greatly improve the sound of your system. Some of it may sound pretty tweaky, and some of it is, but by and large it is sound advice (no pun intended). Search their archives for "Fine Tunes"


  • by b1t r0t ( 216468 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @09:31AM (#516804)
    Some people are very against the optical connectors for digital out and swear by the RCA jack digital outputs instead. The reason they cite is Jitter, however it's more a technical probelm than it is anything you'll actually hear. Personally I get a kick out of having fiber optics connecting my components.

    Anybody who refers to a digital connection having "jitter" doesn't understand the technology.

    The real reason to go with coax over digital is that you can use regular video cables instead of more expensive, and shorter, optical cables. Not all cables will work on the coax connection, but a given cable either will or won't work; there is no qualitative element involved. Plus, I hear that the optical cables use plastic fibers rather than glass, which probably explains why they aren't very long.

    So go with coax, because it's going to be cheaper and more reliable.

  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @08:26AM (#516805) Homepage Journal
    The first thing to decide in a receiver is what type and how many connections you need.

    Figure out how many audio-only components you have (or will have) and how many audio/video components you need to support. If your receiver doesn't have enough inputs to support them, you're hosed (or have to mess with a secondary switch; ick).

    For example, I need:
    DVD player: audio/S-video inputs, optical input
    VCR: audio/video inputs, audio/video outputs
    ReplayTV: audio/S-video inputs, audio/S-video outputs.
    and so on.

    You can use splitters on the non-digital outputs, if you don't have enough.

    Keep in mind with the S-video and composite connections that in most cases you need to hook up both, unless all your components only use S-video. Many receivers don't convert between the two, so you'll need to use the composite out if you're relying on a composite input somewhere.
  • by Frank Sullivan ( 2391 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @11:05AM (#516806) Homepage
    If you don't think tubes can make a real difference, you've either never heard a properly set up tube audio system, or you've simply ignored the evidence of your senses in favor of the pseudo-scientific snake oil of the mainstream audio world. Well-designed tube amplifiers with proper speakers sound far better than virtually any solid-state amplifiers. There are sound electrical engineering and psychoacoustic reasons for this, but they're lost in the simpleminded marketing bullshit of watts and THD specs, often to the point where listeners make up nonsense like "euphonic distortion" to explain why the tube system sounds so much better than their "audiophile" solid-state systems with gobs of power and low THD.

    The basic problem is that the human ear is very good about filtering out signal-following distortions even at high levels (which is why a subwoofer with 10% distortion, like an excellent $2000 Velodyne, is even tolerable), but is extremely sensitive to distortions that don't modulate along with the signal. What we find in the electrical real world of the amp-speaker interface is a lot of mechanically stored energy messing with the signal. Say the amp spits out a big pulse of energy. The speaker stores MOST of that energy as mechanical crud, then spits it back into the amp as an electrical signal, maybe tens or hundreds of milliseconds later (speakers are maybe 1% efficient... where does the 99% go, except to mechanical and thermal dissipation? And a speaker motor also works as a generator for mechanically stored energy in the suspension. This is high school physics). That energy coming back from the speaker in a highly distorted, nonlinear way gets fed back to the beginning of the amplifier via the global negative feedback loop (required to make transistors even remotely linear) as *error correction*, and thus modulates totally unrelated signals occuring well after the original pulse.

    And that's just the *beginning* of the problem. This is a very, very difficult problem, despite the simpleton math the marketing departments of the audio makers feed you.

    Triode vacuum tubes are the ONLY amplifying devices linear enough to follow a voltage signal accurately without a feedback loop. The better tubes have distortion so low it is difficult to measure. And, as they approach their output limits, the distortion in a properly designed amplification stage is mostly second harmonic - so benign is is inaudible at less than 5% levels, and is perceived as an increase in loudness beyond that. A triode output stage can absorb reflected energy from the speaker via its own impedance, without feeding "error correction" back into previous stages. Thus, a triode with no negative feedback is MUCH better behaved into complex reactive loads with mechanical energy storage - i.e. speakers. The relatively high measured THD of such amps just shows the stupidity of THD measurements.

    I could go on into numerous other shortcomings of transistors as amplifying devices for music, but this is a start.

  • by Keeper ( 56691 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @08:29AM (#516807)
    Check out to look at reviews for different components. It's a good place to start looking at a ton of different devices.
  • by signe ( 64498 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @08:35AM (#516808) Homepage
    I have a full set of Cambridge SoundWorks speakers in my setup right now. I used their MovieWorks 5.1 speaker system (large center channel, matched pair for left & right, matched pair for left and right surrounds, and a BassCube 10), and added an extra pair of surrounds for the left and right rear surround channels, for a full 6.1 setup. The entire set cost me about $1600, however, so that might fall a little out of your range. They do have less expensive sets, however, and I've never had a problem with their sound quality.

    As far as a receiver goes, I'm using a B&K AVR307 system. It's THX EX certified, and it has more inputs/outputs than I can possibly use. Plus it's upgradeable for future standards (you can swap one of the logic boards and upgrade the software). And it has a serial port for hooking into a home automation system. But that piece was about $3500 alone. I decided that I'd rather spend the money on a really good receiver, since the receiver is going to limit the quality of any other component in the system.


  • by Eric Seppanen ( 79060 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @09:36AM (#516809)
    A few things I've learned while shopping recently for a music-listening system (only 2 channels):

    1. You may have the impression that one $500 amp is going to sound pretty much the same as another $500 amp (or $1000, or $2000...). It's not true. And it's easy to prove. Go and find yourself a high-end audio store and listen to a half-dozen different setups. And I'm not talking about your local stereo-videogame-and-toaster store here, I mean a real high-end store that sells $10,000 turntables and such, and you can actually listen for ten minutes in a quiet room. Oh, and listen to the same (music, movies) everywhere you go. You'll notice a suprising amount of difference in the sound.

    2. Different speakers and amplifiers have different sounds that sound better to different people. Go and listen to a handful of systems and figure out what you like.

    3. Unfortunately, all the reviews seem to follow this pattern: eight out of ten reviewers say "sounds great. If you only have $xxx to spend, this is the (amp|speaker) you should buy". Then there's two reviewers who absolutely hate the sound because it's too bright or lifeless. This is true of $500 stuff and $5000 stuff. Since every review follows that same pattern, it's impossible to compare two pieces of equipment realistically.

    4. Cheap equipment will drag down the sound. $2000 speakers won't sound too hot on a $200 amplifier. Try and spread your money around to maximize overall system performance.

    5. I know I said this in #1 and #2, but go and listen to a bunch of systems at good stores. You really don't need to be an audiophile to hear the difference. Just go and spend a few afternoons hitting the stores and you'll be glad you did.

    6. Many high-end shops will let you try stuff out at home. Ask and see if they'll let you.

    7. There's a lot of BS floating around out there. Don't believe what other people say. Go and figure it out for yourself.

  • by billtcat ( 301878 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @09:34AM (#516810)
    I've spent the last 2 years spending everything I had on audio and home theater. I was such a nut I had 2 seperate systems. One was exclusively for 2 channel audio listening and the other was attached to a 61" Sony XBR300 TV for home theater.

    My current home theater rig consists of the following:

    61" Sony XBR300 TV

    Lexcion DC-1 Preamp (rumor has it George Lucas had one of these things :) )

    Parasound HCA-1206 power amp

    Toshiba 5109 DVD player (has progressive out)

    Sony DSS

    Some damn SVHS VCR that I have yet to use

    Citation 7000 series speakers

    Now... all of that stuff retails for something on the wrong side of $30,000, but you'd be a fool to think I'd actually spend that much money on it. I picked up the power amp, preamp, and speakers all used, at an average of about 1/3 of retail pricing.

    So... my whole hearted recommendation is spend some time looking at the used market! Also, stay away from the Good Guys, Circuit City, etc. These stores carry CRAP. Find a local high end dealer and talk to them. Usually their prices are movable and you can do some wheeling and dealing. Also, checkout []. They currently have what appears to be the deal of the century at the moment... A complete KEF (excellent speaker brand) 5.1 speaker system for $900.

    Here's a short list of good brands to look for:

    Electronics (receivers, preamps, amps, etc.)



    Some Denon/Yamaha


    Sherwood Newcastle (make sure it's NEWCASTLE!)











    Boston Accoustics

    Brands to stay away from:

    Sony (some of the ES Stuff is okay)

    BOSE (don't by it, no matter what)

    sub $500 recievers from ANYONE (these things are just piles of junk)


    Sherwood (non newcastle stuff)

    Yamaha speakers

    Cerwin Vega

    JVC (their SVHS VCRs are the best, however)


    Also, here are a few good links to used audio sites: [] [] [] []

    Hope that helps, and for what it's worth, I've spent a good amount of time these past few years learning about all of this crap and if you use the guide above you should get a perfectly good system. I've left out super high end brands, thinking most people not be interested, but if you are just ask.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith