Home theater for noob

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Home theater for noob

Postposted on Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:32 pm

I'd like to preface this with I'm an audio and home theater ignoramus. I've read a thousand articles but it's a topic I just don't know my way around, and depending on what I read I don't know what to believe. The more I read the more confused I get, so with that:

I'm looking to get myself a "quality" surround sound system--by quality I mean respectable to the discerning ear but not the audiophile ear. I regularly read that it's best to buy a receiver and assemble the individual components yourself, and that home theaters in a box suck. Is this really true? As an audio ignoramus I really like the idea of everything coming in one box so I don't shoot myself in the foot with my own stupidity. Also, I'm definitely going to require that rear speakers be wireless which I know vastly limits my choices.

Could someone take pity and point me in the right direction? I'm willing to spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a thousand. I could definitely be persuaded to go higher if necessary (I don't have a strong understanding of what price point I should be targeting to get quality, without going into the crazy high end audiophile stuff).

My primary uses would be movies and music. One sidenote: do some receivers have integrated bluetooth so I could wirelessly beam music from a laptop/phone/etc.? That's a feature I'd really like. My current home theater is a mess of technology that doesn't integrate at all, including a pc, a WD TV, a bluetooth adapter, a 2.1 speaker system, an HDMI splitter, sometimes a cable box sometimes a digital antenna, and about five or six remotes--it's becoming an embarrassment not to mention a daily hassle. I'm looking to end up with one quality set of speakers that I can easily feed audio to from my tv, my computer, my phone/tablet, etc.

Huge thanks for any help. :)
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Re: Home theater for noob

Postposted on Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:07 am

Some higher-end HTIB systems can be passable, but if you want to do both movies and music, I would recommend focusing a decent portion of your budget on a good receiver and a pair of floor-standing L/R mains. For the money this would be a good starter setup which includes a receiver with network capability, USB, Apple Airplay support, and an optional Android/iOS remote control app:

Infinity Primus 253BK, 2 @ $150 each
Yamaha RX-V473 5.1 Receiver, 1 @ $330

For the center and surrounds, it's preferable to match tweeters with the mains in order to keep a coherent soundstage. The center processes a lot of dialogue and sound effects during movies, so it's best to either buy a pretty good one, or else eliminate it and set the center mode to "off" which forces the mains to handle the signal. However the surrounds do much less work and usually have stricter space requirements, and can be reduced significantly relative to the fronts.

Infinity Primus PC351, 1 @ $200
Infinity Primus P153, 2 @ $75 each

That comes out to $980, although you can adjust that down by about $150 if you reduce the front mains to a larger pair of bookshelves instead of floor-standing, and go to a smaller center channel. You'll probably need to pick up some speaker cables and such, for which Monoprice comes highly recommended.

People have different opinions on Infinity speaker systems but I generally like them. They don't make the same kind of ultra-high-end stuff as they did back in the early 1990s, but they do consistently make a good "beginning enthusiast" product that's relatively easy for any receiver to drive, without breaking the bank.
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Re: Home theater for noob

Postposted on Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:33 am

There are plenty of compact "in the box" 5.1/7.1 speaker sets made by quality manufacturers like Polk Audio, Klipsch, Definitive Tech and so on - just look at manufacturer's sites to get an idea, then shop around, maybe listen to them before purchasing (if your local audio store has those models)... Combine that with an inexpensive receiver from Yamaha/Pioneer with features like AirPlay (for wireless music streaming from Apple devices) and automatic built-in speaker calibration (this feature is a must for "inexperienced" or simply lazy audio enthusiasts) and you're basically set :wink:
For much more detailed information about such things I recommend visiting the dedicated forums such as www.avsforum.com
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Re: Home theater for noob

Postposted on Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:48 am

Speaking of Monoprice, they sell a rebadged set of Energy Take Classics for a good $100 less than you can find them under the Energy brand.Link here. These should be a decent set of entry-level home theater speakers for $250 plus shipping.

A current Audio Video receiver should fill in the rest of your needs. Even basic models (if not the very bottom) today have the features you are looking for. For example, this Denon AVR-1713 has all the features you're asking for (ability to stream your iTunes music wirelessly). I have used the Denon and it's great. At $450, though, it's a little pricey. At $100 less, it would be a good buy. This Yahamah RX-v473 at $300 has similar feature set and should be a better value.

In general, I'd recommend spending about 2/3 of your budget on speakers, as this is the most important feature for good sound performance. However, in my experience, it's difficult to find a complete 5-piece speaker system considerably better than something like the Energy Take Classics for much less than $1000, including a subwoofer.
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Re: Home theater for noob

Postposted on Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:08 am

A problem with going wireless surround is you end up not being able to use the nice amp that's in/near your receiver and instead have to rely on a tiny one integrated into the speaker. I guess its all going to depend on how discerning your ear is.

That out of the way, Polk has a nifty wireless surround speaker that takes care of both your RL and RR channels.
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Re: Home theater for noob

Postposted on Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:34 pm

Great information, thanks guys.

I'm going to do my homework on the suggestions so far, but to add to the above: wireless rear speakers will be necessary just because there's no way I can run wires around my current living room, and when I move in the near future that may or may not be the case as well. I'm trying to play it safe on this one; I know it's not ideal.

In terms of wireless playback I think I really need bluetooth. I see for the Yamaha there's a $120 adapter that can provide that, not sure if that's a good route to go as I have an adapter now and it's a pain. It's unlikely I'd ever be streaming from an Apple product, more likely it'd be from a Chromebook or Android. I really want to be able to hit play on any device I own and have sound come out of my surround system.

It's hard for me to describe the level of fidelity I'm looking for too, partly why I'm asking this on a non-dedicated forum :P. To relate computer speakers to graphics cards, a ways back I bought an EVGA FTW GTX670 (built off a 680's PCB and oc'd to match the performance of a stock 680 out of the box for $100 less). That is to say, I'm willing to drop some money for a high-end, high-quality product, that will play every game max'd out at 1080p silky smooth. The GTX670 provides that, a 680 would be overkill, $100 more for the same performance out of the box. If an audiophile were a gamer he'd be telling me to go SLI GTX690. I'm looking for the audio equivalent of a 670. I want and appreciate quality, I'm not cheap, but I'm also pragmatic. If it's a box product or it's sourcing components from all over the place and assembling them with wood glue, I'm game. If $1,000 isn't a reasonable budget, I'll change it, I'm really not sure where the price point should fall on what I'm looking for.
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Re: Home theater for noob

Postposted on Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:07 pm

If you really need to go wireless for your two surround speakers, I'd suggest going the route of using a wireless transmitter/receiver system such as this Soundcast SCS100.

This way, you will still be able to use a full featured AV receiver (ie, that Yamaha RX-v473) with a regular passive set of surround speakers (like the ones that come in the Energy Take Classic kit, or similar). You plug the speaker outputs from your AV receiver into the Soundcast transmitter, and the receiver has speaker outputs and a 50W amplifier to driver the rear speakers. With this system, you don't need to compromise on your speakers by getting a wireless-only set, and can then use your surround speakers wired in future should your space allow it (which is preferable).
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Re: Home theater for noob

Postposted on Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:54 pm

AntiSp4wn wrote:Great information, thanks guys.

I'm going to do my homework on the suggestions so far, but to add to the above: wireless rear speakers will be necessary just because there's no way I can run wires around my current living room, and when I move in the near future that may or may not be the case as well. I'm trying to play it safe on this one; I know it's not ideal.

In terms of wireless playback I think I really need bluetooth. I see for the Yamaha there's a $120 adapter that can provide that, not sure if that's a good route to go as I have an adapter now and it's a pain. It's unlikely I'd ever be streaming from an Apple product, more likely it'd be from a Chromebook or Android. I really want to be able to hit play on any device I own and have sound come out of my surround system.

It's hard for me to describe the level of fidelity I'm looking for too, partly why I'm asking this on a non-dedicated forum :P. To relate computer speakers to graphics cards, a ways back I bought an EVGA FTW GTX670 (built off a 680's PCB and oc'd to match the performance of a stock 680 out of the box for $100 less). That is to say, I'm willing to drop some money for a high-end, high-quality product, that will play every game max'd out at 1080p silky smooth. The GTX670 provides that, a 680 would be overkill, $100 more for the same performance out of the box. If an audiophile were a gamer he'd be telling me to go SLI GTX690. I'm looking for the audio equivalent of a 670. I want and appreciate quality, I'm not cheap, but I'm also pragmatic. If it's a box product or it's sourcing components from all over the place and assembling them with wood glue, I'm game. If $1,000 isn't a reasonable budget, I'll change it, I'm really not sure where the price point should fall on what I'm looking for.


Yamaha does have Bluetooth adapter, but I believe it only works with certain models of receivers... Also, Bluetooth is not quite "universal" standard, incompatibilities often arise between different Bluetooth devices, so if you don't have Apple devices which can use AirPlay - I suggest using a wired connection instead of Bluetooth for better stability/compatibility and sound quality... If you know how to sync your music/video collection properly between all your devices you don't even need the Bluetooth streaming - all you'll need is a soundcard for your PC with digital output (or just use your stand-alone media player device) for a wired connection to the receiver (and use your Android devices as a "remote control" with appropriate app).
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Re: Home theater for noob

Postposted on Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:51 pm

AntiSp4wn wrote:I'm going to do my homework on the suggestions so far, but to add to the above: wireless rear speakers will be necessary just because there's no way I can run wires around my current living room, and when I move in the near future that may or may not be the case as well.

What I do is buy a large (5'x7') rug and use "flat lay" speaker cables specifically designed to be low-profile for running under carpet or behind baseboard. The rug spans from the entertainment center to the couch, the speaker cables then go under the rug and under the couch before popping out to the rear surrounds. Leave some slack on both ends to account for the rug shifting, and done.
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