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Upgrading sound system


PackFan
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I am using the same system that I bought in graduate school (circa 1998).

 

Pioneer VSX-D608

Energy Take 5

10" Energy Sub

 

This system has served me quite well, but I have been thinking of upgrading. Although I am not a huge audiophile, I would like to start piecing together a better system.

 

I think I would like to upgrade my speakers. I think the weakest link right now is the small center of the Energy Take 5 series... I would like better quality, but without breaking the bank. Any suggestions? I want to stick to wall-mountable speakers, iof possible, as I have my room pre-wired for 5.1, and don't really have room for tower speakers in front...

 

I would also like to upgrade the receiver - although how soon is a question. Which would get me the better immediate upgrade? The speakers or the receiver? In a receiver, I want one that accepts HDMI so that I am "future-proof" for BluRay and/or HD-DVD. I know that there is an Onkyo receiver for ~$500 that does this... Upconverting everything else to HDMI would be nice too... Also, the more digital inputs, the better... Any other receiver suggestions?

 

Who knows if and when I'll actually pull the trigger on any of this, but I thought I would ask for suggestions.

 

Thanks!

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Don't know how much cash you're looking to part with, but I would consider the Denon AVR-2307CI ($800 list) receiver and a nice set of Axiom bookshelf speakers. I just built a home theater for my dad using the 2307 as a pre-amp for an Outlaw 7700 amplifier; I don't know how you could cram more features into a receiver for the money. It will more than handle anything now, and offers expandability in the form of 12-volt triggers, IR in/out, 7.1 analog in and 7.1 pre-amp out (and Zone 2 out) should you want to add on in the future. That said, it lacks HDMI 1.3 (but no receiver available NOW offers HDMI 1.3, either.) It does have HDMI 2-in 1-out switching and will convert all analog video signals to output over HDMI.

 

As for the Axioms, I find them to sound extremely nice, especially considering the very reasonable price tag. And their "full metal bracket" speaker wall-mounts are easy as hell to install and more than do the job.

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Don't know how much cash you're looking to part with, but I would consider the Denon AVR-2307CI ($800 list) receiver and a nice set of Axiom bookshelf speakers. I just built a home theater for my dad using the 2307 as a pre-amp for an Outlaw 7700 amplifier; I don't know how you could cram more features into a receiver for the money. It will more than handle anything now, and offers expandability in the form of 12-volt triggers, IR in/out, 7.1 analog in and 7.1 pre-amp out (and Zone 2 out) should you want to add on in the future. That said, it lacks HDMI 1.3 (but no receiver available NOW offers HDMI 1.3, either.) It does have HDMI 2-in 1-out switching and will convert all analog video signals to output over HDMI.

 

As for the Axioms, I find them to sound extremely nice, especially considering the very reasonable price tag. And their "full metal bracket" speaker wall-mounts are easy as hell to install and more than do the job.

I'll second the nod for that receiver, just make sure your HDTV can receive 480i over HDMI. The 2307 doesn't up-convert the video, it just converts from analog to HDMI.

I own a Denon 4306 and a 2307. They make good products.

 

And if you're considering internet retailers for Speakers, definitely look at Axiom, SVS and Aperion Audio. I bought from Aperion Audio and couldn't be happier.

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Whats your budget?

 

That's the question - isn't it? I'm not sure at this point - but the less sticker shock, the less my wife is to complain...

 

Which would give the biggest improvement off the bat? The speakers or the receiver? I might buy the speakers piece by piece, starting with the center, and then buy the receiver after that...

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Speakers for sure. Waiting until later next year to consider a receiver is the right thing because newer receivers with HDMI 1.3 and the latest codecs are coming.

 

The newest Denon's will be announced at CES and I'm really considering one. It is rumored to have what I want(HDMI 1.3, audyssey eq, new audio codecs). The only issue for some is the cost(its msrp is >$1200).

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I want a new reciever so bad right now, but I too am waiting on a new one with HDMI 1.3 and the new audio codecs. Sucks I've been so tempted to just go ahead and buy, but I've waited this long I can wait a little while longer.

 

And for speakers, I'd go to your local shops and listen to everything you can. Be willing to take your time with these, its a big investment and one that you will have for many years probably.

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I'm also waiting for the receiver refresh. Yammy here I come.

 

As for speakers, Kelley's advice is spot-on. Speakers are a personal thing - some people like bright speakers, some people like boomy speakers, some people like flat-sounding speakers, etc. Most good places will allow you to audition the speakers in your home, which is key since the shape, size, and materials of a room can make the greatest speakers in the world sound like Bose Lifestyles.

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I know speakers are a personal thing - unfortunately, I'm usually not a picky enough audiophile to tell... I just want better dialog from the center speaker than what I'm getting. It annoys me that certain movies seem to have such quiet dialog, but the music/sound effects will nearly blow the roof off if I turn up the volume to compensate for the low volume...

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My front three speakers are B&W 600 series. Originally I had them paired with a midrange Yamaha receiver. While I liked the sound, it could get pretty fatiguing. Eventually I paired my B&Ws with a Pioneer 56TXi and was absolutely floored by the sound. While I agree speakers should be your first purchase, don't discount how much a nice, powerful receiver can enhance the sound.

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I know speakers are a personal thing - unfortunately, I'm usually not a picky enough audiophile to tell... I just want better dialog from the center speaker than what I'm getting. It annoys me that certain movies seem to have such quiet dialog, but the music/sound effects will nearly blow the roof off if I turn up the volume to compensate for the low volume...

 

Have you calibrated it with a sound pressure level meter? That helps resolve a lot of those problems. They're like $20 or something at Radio Shack.

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Have you calibrated it with a sound pressure level meter? That helps resolve a lot of those problems. They're like $20 or something at Radio Shack.

 

Are you kidding? Of course I've done that! :)

 

That meter was one of my first purchases after I bought the 5.1 receiver in ~1998.

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The complaint about too little dialogue with too much effects is often a result of a dynamic range setting, as well. If you have a "night time" or "dynamic range" setting, try tweaking that - it'll help compress the dialogue and the effects.

 

Really? So I should try using the "Night-time" setting on my receiver all the time? Won't that distort from the way it was meant to be?

 

And here I thought I just needed a better center speaker...

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Really? So I should try using the "Night-time" setting on my receiver all the time? Won't that distort from the way it was meant to be?

 

And here I thought I just needed a better center speaker...

 

It won't distort anything, as it uses amplification rather than attenuation. It will just reduce the dynamic range so you don't need to crank it up to hear dialog. Give it a try.

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Good question. Since you ran the test DVD through your receiver, I assume, it was delivering SPFs based on those settings. I'd give the night-time mode a try and see how it works, though. You're at a point where you can only judge for yourself and your own comfort. I've recommended the same solution to friends and it has worked out.

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PackFan,

 

I don't know if you have bought anything or not yet, but I would second the opinion to wait on the reciever. With HD-DVD and Bluray launching this year, a good amount of new audio formats are on the way soon. No receivers or pre-pros have those formats yet and in a few years none will be sold without them. If possible, get something used that gives a good sound (or just wait with what you have) and look back at receivers next year.

 

I'm in the same boat right now with an Outlaw 950/750 setup. I'd like to go to the 990, but with the new codecs just around the bend (that they will have to support quickly), why bother? The 950 is fine for DVD and TV watching, I can wait for the HD sound rollout to run its course.

 

Speakers are a different story. Go start auditioning pieces until you fall in love, tons of great speakers out there right now. B&W, Axiom, Onix (Rockets), Magnepan, too many others to list. And all of them are top notch speakers.

 

Hammer out the speakers, wait on the receiver (or get a stop-gap used.)

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Well - I'll probably work on slowly upgrading my speakers in the near future - but I ended up purchasing a receiver for a bargain (I think) this morning.

 

I stopped into Best Buy/Magnolia during a break, and in their open-box area, they had a Pioneer Elite VSX-74TXVi listed for $499.99. Seemed like a pretty good price already for a receiver that upconverts on HDMI, but then I overheard an employee telling another customer that all open-box items were half-off. I ended out getting it for $249.99, although I added on the 4-yr service plan. There were some minor scratches on the top of the unit, but for that price... :)

 

I'll have to look up, but I assume it accepts digital audio via the HDMI, so I would be all set for HD-DVD/BluRay players that themselves decode TrueHD, etc...

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  • 4 weeks later...

I got a Martin Logan Dynamo sub for Christmas, and has anyone had a side-firing sub? I can change this one from down-firing to side-firing and wonder if it really makes much of a difference. Also, this little sub really lets out the WOOMP! First time I've had my theater chair shake while playing a game!

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