Inexpensive home theater upgrade

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Inexpensive home theater upgrade

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:05 pm

It's so inexpensive I have trouble thinking of it as a 'theater' system, but I need an upgrade to my TV's built-in speakers and have precious little funding to dedicate to it. The Dayton Audio B652 get good reviews and are really cheap. For an amp, a Dayton Audio APA150 should cover the B652's if I crank the volume up during 80's action movie night. I will also use this system to listen to music while I'm working around the house.

Will this setup work for my purposes? Is the amp too much? Too little? Is Parts Express a reputable seller?
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FireGryphon
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Re: Inexpensive home theater upgrade

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:30 pm

Parts Express is excellent. I got back into custom speaker building this past year and spent roughly $1500 spread across a dozen orders or so. Very fast processing and shipping. Their rotating seasonal sales and daily specials are usually pretty good provided you can find the part or item you want.

By the way, they stock a majority of the Dayton Audio line, and the amplifier you are looking at on Amazon is also available from PE at a special sale price. Usually you can get free shipping from PE with a minimum order of $100.

http://www.parts-express.com/dayton-aud ... r--300-812

Try waiting until Wednesday or Thursday before ordering, though, odds are good they'll post a special discount code for the Black Friday weekend. If they do, it usually gets a banner right below the main menu bar.
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Re: Inexpensive home theater upgrade

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:44 pm

All right, I'll hold out. I checked the amps at PE and they have amps that do DAC from a USB source (like those from Topping). This is essentially a USB sound card, but probably better! The catch is that the they're only in the teens and twenties per channel, so probably too weak for my purposes. Is that correct?
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Re: Inexpensive home theater upgrade

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:58 pm

FireGryphon wrote:All right, I'll hold out. I checked the amps at PE and they have amps that do DAC from a USB source (like those from Topping). This is essentially a USB sound card, but probably better! The catch is that the they're only in the teens and twenties per channel, so probably too weak for my purposes. Is that correct?

Yes and no. The speakers you are looking at are only rated for 40W maximum. However, some of the amps you are looking at will have ridiculously high distortion figures at the maximum "rated" output, which is pretty typical of Class D amplifiers being driven to their limits. So, you may want to over-buy a bit on the amplifier power rating, but mostly to ensure you get good output quality within the "normal" listening range, not because you'll normally be driving it that hard.

Audio program material is dynamic, most of the time a pair of home audio speakers will only be operating in the range of a few mW with short periods extending into 1W+, and only very brief excursions to maximum power.
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Re: Inexpensive home theater upgrade

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 7:27 pm

I built a home theater six months ago. I tell everybody I did it on a shoe-string budget, which is nearly true. Offbrand TV on a deep sale, used receiver from 2007, used Blu-ray player from 2007. I found a guy selling seven Infinity Primus bookshelf speakers for $30 each. They sound great, even better when put on speaker stands. I bought and assembled the cheapest speaker stands Sanus makes, purchased through Amazon.

You're going about it the right way. Computer speakers are crap, soundbars are crap, and those home-theater-in-a-box sets are crap. A pair of bookshelf speakers and an amp is the right way to go. (Or, if surround sound, many book shelf speakers on stands, or many floorstanders around you.)

Parts Express is trustworthy. I've ordered through them, and DIY builders I know order through them constantly. A lot of the stuff they sell is cheap quality with a price to match. Some stuff they sell is good. I wouldn't consider them overpriced as a retailer. And, as far as I can tell, Dayton is their house brand. So if a Dayton product is sold elsewhere, it is probably sold cheaper on Parts Express.

I think the amp you're looking at is overkill. It's not high fidelity, and those aren't the kind of features you'll appreciate with speakers like that. I know several people that swear by class T amps as being very cheap yet still pretty good. Here is one for $70: Dayton Audio DTA-100a. I've got a friend that knows good sound that got a class T amp for $30. He said the imaging is terrible (when you close your eyes and can locate each "musician" on the imaginary stage in front of you), but everything else is fantastic, and it sounds really great. I could ask him the brand if you like.

Don't worry about how many watts the amp has. Unless you really crank it, you're not going to use more than two watts per channel. Research it if you don't believe me.

The speakers you're looking at ... $30 a pair is really cheap. If that was really my max budget and Craigslist wasn't an option, I'd get the Daytons you mentioned. They look as good as anything.

If you can afford a bit more, look for sales on speakers. Polk Audio makes some really good speakers in low price ranges, and so does Infinity. And the cheap Pioneer series developed by Andrew Jones is really good too.

I bought the Pioneer SP-BS21-LR on sale for $50 and that was a steal. Newegg and Amazon currently sell them for $80/pr. But the prices keeps fluctuating up and down. Check back often, especially Black Friday. Clear and natural sound, bass response is surprisingly good.

I bought the Pioneer SP-FS51-LR floorstanding speakers for $130/pr on sale (currently $153 on Amazon and $150 on Newegg until Thursday, yet Newegg gives you a $50 "rebate card" whatever that means?). Same clear sound, fantastic bass. Almost don't need a sub (depending on your preferences). And since they are floorstanders, you don't need to purchase speaker stands and you still get the best sound! They are a little short for ear-level tweeters while sitting on a couch, but otherwise great.

I bought the Polk T15 for $50/pr online on Black Friday two years ago from Best Buy's website. No lines, no trouble. They are normally $100/pr. It looks like they are $50/pr right now! A great deal. The bass isn't as deep as the pioneers, and the treble is slightly funky, but they're dramatically better than most in this price range. (My DIY friend also bought a pair and tweaked the crossovers for $6 of parts, and the treble sounds even sweeter. Not as good as his $6,000/pr Magnepans, but stupidly good for the price.)

And anything in the Infinity Primus line is good, although a bit more costly than the other models I've mentioned. Very clear and natural sound, more-so than the Polks. They need a sub less than the Polks but more than the Pioneers.

You didn't mention a sub, but you may want to think about it. I bought the Polk Audio PSW10 from Amazon for $80 on a steep sale once. It is $100 now. I'm not going to lie, it's junk. :) But it adds an extra lower octave to your bookshelf speakers, more if you get the Polk T15's. It can handle music medium-loud, or movies at low volume. I've got a pair of them in my home theater now and I listen somewhat loud, and they just fall apart during bass-heavy scenes. But if the price is right and the volume is low...

If you'll have more money for a subwoofer sometime down the road, I recommend Hsu Research (internet direct, so you have to buy through them). From $309-879, you get what you pay for. But you get 1.5-2.0x more for the money from them than you do from any of the other brands. I've calibrated three of their models in peoples homes, and they're fantastic bang for the buck.

More than anything, shop online from home Thursday night or Friday morning. No mess, no lines, but still great prices.

Let us know what you get!
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Re: Inexpensive home theater upgrade

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:21 pm

You probably don't need as many watts as you think. I have a vaccuum tube amp that only output 3.5 watts and I have never needed more power (this also depends on your speakers' sensitivity).

I also have the Topping D20 and think it is a really good DAC for the price. It also accepts USB, Optical and Coaxial depending on your preference.

A review: http://www.headfonia.com/affordable-dig ... and-d20/2/
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Re: Inexpensive home theater upgrade

Postposted on Wed Nov 27, 2013 11:44 am

Parts Express has posted their Black Friday discount codes.

http://www.parts-express.com/promo/black_friday
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Re: Inexpensive home theater upgrade

Postposted on Wed Nov 27, 2013 1:06 pm

That seems like an expensive amp for what you want - I'm sure it'll work great but stereo amps are easy to pick up used now. Everyone wants a 24.1 surround-sound HDMI all-in-one to go with their new-fangled smart TV so there are plenty of 5.1 receivers and old-school stereo amps worth picking up for a few bucks.
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Re: Inexpensive home theater upgrade

Postposted on Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:57 pm

While you're there throw in the Dayton Sub :D
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