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Help me decide how to upgrade the audio half of my HT

Old 08-16-06, 11:00 PM
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Help me decide how to upgrade the audio half of my HT

Here's what I currently have set up in the living room . . .

30 inch CRT Style HDTV
$300 Panasonic 600 Watt HTiB w/ 5 disc DVD

I have decided on getting a Samsung 56 inch DLP HDTV (The new 1080p model) As far as the speakers go, at this point I really don't need to upgrade too much. The HTiB I have now is decent enough, especially considering that I live in a 1 bedroom apartment.

However, the only downside to my HTiB is that there is no digital audio inputs on the back. So my poor XBox 360 and my cable box are left out of the 5.1 fun. I'm now looking for something with at least 3 digital inputs (2 optical, 1 coax) I was wondering if I can use my speakers if I purchase a new receiver?

The speakers aren't permanently wired to the receiver, I can unhook them. I was told by someone at a Best Buy that HTiB's operate on a different power level than normal speakers. He said I'd probably fry my speakers if I hooked them up to a new receiver. But I've also heard from guys at Circuit City that the guy at Best Buy is an idiot.

So what's the deal . . . can I reuse my speakers? And if so what would you guys recommend. I can either:

a) Buy this $270 Onyko 650 Watt HTiB along with a $100 upconverting DVD player.
b) Buy a $500 900 Watt Sony HTiB that CostCo has. It comes with an upconverting 5 disc DVD player, and the player is seperate from the receiver. So upgrading is an option.
c) Use my current speakers and just buy an upconverting DVD player and a nice ($300-450) receiver. That way I can upgrade the speakers several years later if I move into a house.
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Old 08-16-06, 11:17 PM
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I don't think I would reccomend any of the options listed, except maybe A. Powering your HTiB speakers with a nicer receiver would yield few, if any, sonic benefits. The weakest link in your system is the speakers and putting a good receiver with them is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. Onkyo makes some HTiBs that include a real receiver. I am not sure if the one to which you linked is one of them, but I bet someone here knows. That is probably your best option.

ps. I hope I didn't come accross as rude or elitist, although that is sort of my gig in the HT forum. I just don't want to see you drop $400 on a receiver and not get any real improvements.
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Old 08-16-06, 11:24 PM
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I understand I wouldn't get any real improvements . . . right now.

Thing is, if I'm dropping $3000 on a TV, I can't afford to upgrade everything else at once. I thought if I at least got the receiver, I could begin listening to my video games and TV shows in 5.1 instead of regular stereo.

It'd be my goal to upgrade the speakers too, but not right away. I'd do it when I could afford the upgrade.

I fear if I drop another $400 for an Onkyo HTiB, I'd only be getting a marginal speaker upgrade and a moderate receiver upgrade. I'd be going up to a 650 watt system from a 600 watt system. I'd get a receiver, with 3 digital inputs, out of the deal. But is it a good receiver is my concern.

I guess my real question is if the Onkyo receiver that comes with the $270 HTiB is decent enough to be used down the line when I upgrade speakers? Or should I spend the money on just a new receiver now?

Last edited by Mittman; 08-16-06 at 11:27 PM.
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Old 08-16-06, 11:32 PM
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Don't mistake watts for quality. The difference between 650 watts and 600 watts is almost nothing. Also, both of those figures are highly overstated. I have a 5 x 125 watt Krell amp that will rattle windows long after any 1000 watt HTiB receiver bursts into flames

Here is what I would do. Spend about $250 on a decent receiver. There are some good offereings from Pioneer, Harmon Kardon, etc. Spend $200 on some decent L/R speakers. Paradigm (Titans come to mind), NHT (Super Ones), as well as others offer great speakers for a little bit of money. That will give you an excellent start on building a nice system. As funds allow, you can add a center, surrounds, etc (you can continue to use the HTiB speakers for the rears now, but I would run the setup with no center (i.e. "phantom center" mode).
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Old 08-17-06, 07:50 AM
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I fear if I drop another $400 for an Onkyo HTiB, I'd only be getting a marginal speaker upgrade and a moderate receiver upgrade. I'd be going up to a 650 watt system from a 600 watt system. I'd get a receiver, with 3 digital inputs, out of the deal. But is it a good receiver is my concern.
Bob is right on taget with his advice.

If I were doing it I would buy new speakers first then figure out how to power them. All too often people get hung up on lights and buttons and then wonder why their systems does not sound good.

Speakers are the voice of the system, no quality amp in the world can make bad speakers sound good.
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Old 08-17-06, 08:29 AM
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I would go for the Denon AVR-1506, which is a great receiver for the money and may be able to be picked up on clearance now, since the 07 is out. Great power, clean sound, plenty of inputs and outputs, and it's only $300. There's a comparable Pioneer at that price level as well that the model number is escaping me right now. IMO, the Onkyo's at that level aren't as good, comparably speaking, as their offerings at $500+. A $300 Onkyo just doesn't compare with a $300 Pioneer or Denon.

But I think you should do as Bob says...resonable Receiver, 2 nice fronts (I'll say Paradigm as well...that's what I have. or perhaps something from Home Theater Direct.com). You'll get years of use out of a decent receiver...
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Old 08-17-06, 10:39 AM
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Yes, if possible I would change speakers first. This will give you the most bang for your buck improvement in sound. Also, in general, they will last the longest. Speakers have not changed much over the years and if you like the sound there is no reason to swap them out over the long haul.

For receivers I'm a H/K pimp! So I would check that out. Even some of their lowest end models are excellent have component switching (tho with only 2 component inputs) and excellent sound and power.

And as mentioned, you might as well not ever look at listed watts. When I bought my first H/K it was a refurbished, long discontinued model that pumps out like 35 watts X 5, really! I used it to replace a Sony rated at 100 watts X 5. The H/K blew it away! Both in power, and sound quality.

In my dedicated home theater room, right now I'm using a H/K rated at like 40watts X 5 and it sounds awesome. It not only gets loud enough, but handles the volume excellent.

For specific speakers on a budget, I would look at the NHT's. Excellent product.
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Old 08-17-06, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Shannon
Bob is right on taget with his advice.

If I were doing it I would buy new speakers first then figure out how to power them. All too often people get hung up on lights and buttons and then wonder why their systems does not sound good.

Speakers are the voice of the system, no quality amp in the world can make bad speakers sound good.
I agree 100%.

Also, stay away from CC and Best Buy for speakers. Find a local hi-fi shop that sells Paradigm and find one that sells NHT. Ask them to hook the speakers up to a comparable receiver, bring some music that you like and are familiar with and let your ears decide.
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Old 08-17-06, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by BobDole42
I agree 100%.

Also, stay away from CC and Best Buy for speakers. Find a local hi-fi shop that sells Paradigm and find one that sells NHT. Ask them to hook the speakers up to a comparable receiver, bring some music that you like and are familiar with and let your ears decide.
Good call!

As Sdallnct pointed out speakers last a long time and have changed very little. I am still using a 26 year old pair of Magnepan MG-1A's for two channel listening!
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Old 08-17-06, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Shannon
Good call!

As Sdallnct pointed out speakers last a long time and have changed very little. I am still using a 26 year old pair of Magnepan MG-1A's for two channel listening!
Maggies... one of my all time favorite speaker....

And with all the new cables now (DVI, HDMI, etc) I probably wait till I knew every source I was hooking up to that receiver before buy a receiver.
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Old 08-17-06, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Sdallnct
Maggies... one of my all time favorite speaker....
Thanks!

Here they are in my theater on the side walls, I set them up and connect them via the wall jacks when I just want two channel! Still one of my favorites too!

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Old 08-17-06, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Shannon
Thanks!

Here they are in my theater on the side walls, I set them up and connect them via the wall jacks when I just want two channel! Still one of my favorites too!

What are you driving them with. If I recall they were pretty picky about power and despite their reasonable cost (for a higher end speaker) could handle and seemed to like a real good amp...
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Old 08-17-06, 05:32 PM
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Picky might be an understatement. Aren't they very low efficiency and need 4 ohms from the amp?
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Old 08-17-06, 10:14 PM
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I run a full MMG, MMGC and MMGW set up with a Yamaha receiver (HTR-5790, set to 6 Ohm load). No clips or shutdowns after a year of fun.

I think my HSU sub helps to keep the Yamaha out of trouble
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Old 08-17-06, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by BobDole42
I agree 100%.

Also, stay away from CC and Best Buy for speakers. Find a local hi-fi shop that sells Paradigm and find one that sells NHT.
Circuit City carries Polk Audio and Best Buy carries Klipsch, both of these brands are in the same class with Paradigm and NHT. All four of these brands are from mass-market manufacturers, built quality and sound will be very similar
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Old 08-18-06, 01:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Crowbar
Circuit City carries Polk Audio and Best Buy carries Klipsch, both of these brands are in the same class with Paradigm and NHT. All four of these brands are from mass-market manufacturers, built quality and sound will be very similar
I beg to disagree. While Klipsch does make some good speakers, none of their sub $300 offerings can compete with NHT and Paradigm for quality or value. This is doubly true for Polk. Also, CC and Best Buy are horrible places to audition speakers, with poor setup, often crummy gear and usually clueless employees. I disagree 100% with the statement that all four speakers sound "very similar." The NHTs and the Paradigms have very different sounds, and the Klipsch and Polks (in this price range) are both different and inferior.
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Old 08-18-06, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Sdallnct
What are you driving them with. If I recall they were pretty picky about power and despite their reasonable cost (for a higher end speaker) could handle and seemed to like a real good amp...
Originally I was driving them with an Adcom pre GFP1/amp GFA-1A but now I just run them off my Yamaha RXV1.

Agreed with Bob's assessment, Polks and Klipsch may fall into this op's budget but they do not compare with NHT or Paradigm.
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Old 08-18-06, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Shannon

Agreed with Bob's assessment, Polks and Klipsch may fall into this op's budget but they do not compare with NHT or Paradigm.
When I said similar in sound I meant similar in performance, all four of these brands in the same price range will deliver dynamic sound. Of course some will perform better on certain areas but generally these are mid-level speakers. When connected to a high quality receiver its gonna come down to personal taste.

So I guess what youíre trying to say is Paradigm and NHT are better because itís sold from a hi-fi shop.
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Old 08-18-06, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Crowbar
So I guess what youíre trying to say is Paradigm and NHT are better because itís sold from a hi-fi shop.
No, you said that.

Having seriously listened to all four of the brands in question with source material of my own choosing I stand by my statement.

Where they are bought is entirely up to an individual consumer.

And for the record, I always, ALWAYS recommend to people that they listen to speakers with their own source material in a setting where they can accurately compare. In this you are correct it is personal taste. Which is why I always stress this point.
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