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Best sounding setup for under $500

Old 01-13-09, 08:54 PM
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Best sounding setup for under $500

I still have no sound setup for my home theater and i'm finally getting in the market to purchase one..

I'm looking to spend roughly under $500 for various reasons. Space is an issue because we live in a townhouse. If anyone has any input, it will be greatly appreciated!
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Old 01-13-09, 09:06 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Is there a shared wall with a neighbor (i.e. is it going to be difficult to have things loud without pissing off the neighbors)?

Do you want a full 5.1/7.1 setup? Is there a place to easily put rear speakers?

Are you going to be in this townhouse for the foreseeable future?
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Old 01-13-09, 09:19 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

The room that it will be in is not shared with a neighbor, but it is about 12' away or so.

I'd prefer 7.1... But I figured that wasn't manageable under $500.

Yes, there is an easy place for rear speakers.

And for the forseeable future, yes.
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Old 01-13-09, 09:39 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Are you talking $500 for just speakers, or do you need a receiver in that budget as well? You just mention "sound"...
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Old 01-13-09, 09:45 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Here's a 7.1 Onkyo full setup for just under 500 at Circuit City.
http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Onkyo...oductDetail.do
3 S-Video inputs and 2 out, as well as 3 HDMI inputs and 1 output
Dolby Digital and DTS sound technologies, placing you in the middle of a movie…or in a concert crowd. The HT-S5100 also comes equipped with DTS-ES Discrete/Matrix, DTS Neo:6, DTS 96/24, Dolby Digital EX, and Dolby Pro Logic IIx decodings.
0.08% @ 8 ohms
130 Watts

I've got one of the predecessors to this model and it hits a sweet spot between price and quality. I can't/won't pay 500$ per piece, but I want a reliable good sounding unit, and I think the Onkyo HTiBs are generally considered the best way to get a good system for < 700-1000 or going piecemeal.
The speakers, apart from the sub, are also relatively small, which you say you are looking for.
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Old 01-13-09, 10:37 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Originally Posted by shelland View Post
Are you talking $500 for just speakers, or do you need a receiver in that budget as well? You just mention "sound"...
I kind of thought setup meant the whole she-bang, but yeah...

I'm looking for a reciever and speakers.

I'm new to the audio side of things, but that's why I want to get involved so I can learn.
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Old 01-13-09, 10:39 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Originally Posted by dtcarson View Post
Here's a 7.1 Onkyo full setup for just under 500 at Circuit City.
http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Onkyo...oductDetail.do
3 S-Video inputs and 2 out, as well as 3 HDMI inputs and 1 output
Dolby Digital and DTS sound technologies, placing you in the middle of a movie…or in a concert crowd. The HT-S5100 also comes equipped with DTS-ES Discrete/Matrix, DTS Neo:6, DTS 96/24, Dolby Digital EX, and Dolby Pro Logic IIx decodings.
0.08% @ 8 ohms
130 Watts

I've got one of the predecessors to this model and it hits a sweet spot between price and quality. I can't/won't pay 500$ per piece, but I want a reliable good sounding unit, and I think the Onkyo HTiBs are generally considered the best way to get a good system for < 700-1000 or going piecemeal.
The speakers, apart from the sub, are also relatively small, which you say you are looking for.
Wow, this looks to be something I had in mind for sure, I didn't know it could be had for a price like this. I am very interested in this setup.

Please keep the ideas and feedback rolling in, it is very appreciated!
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Old 01-13-09, 11:11 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

That's pretty decent for the price and for a first setup. If you want to see better specs listings, that appears to be the Onkyo 506 receiver, you can look that up. One item of note is the HDMI. It is video passthrough only, doesn't play audio from there so you need another connection.
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Old 01-14-09, 12:15 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

If you want a full setup now, I think an Onkyo HTiB, from my limited experience, is the way to go for a budget like yours. That's the first thing I had, and it was a cheap $250 one, and it's still going strong today. If you aren't used to listening on a high end system, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how good even a cheap Onkyo system sounds (vs. just your TV's sound).

The only other suggestion I'd have is if you wanted to put more towards the audio in the near future, to get a decent receiver and a good pair of speakers now (or even a pair of fronts and a center), and then down the road, as you save more money for speakers, add surrounds and a center/sub. Something like these - http://av123.com/component/page,shop...art/Itemid,37/ and an Onkyo 606 receiver (~$300 if you shop around, I think).

Last edited by aktick; 01-14-09 at 12:18 AM.
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Old 01-14-09, 01:03 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Originally Posted by Spiky View Post
That's pretty decent for the price and for a first setup. If you want to see better specs listings, that appears to be the Onkyo 506 receiver, you can look that up. One item of note is the HDMI. It is video passthrough only, doesn't play audio from there so you need another connection.
Excellent, I do apologize on my lack of knowledge, but I figure that's what asking around and getting opinions is for. How would I work out another connection so I could get audio via HDMI?
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Old 01-14-09, 01:05 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Originally Posted by aktick View Post
If you want a full setup now, I think an Onkyo HTiB, from my limited experience, is the way to go for a budget like yours. That's the first thing I had, and it was a cheap $250 one, and it's still going strong today. If you aren't used to listening on a high end system, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how good even a cheap Onkyo system sounds (vs. just your TV's sound).

The only other suggestion I'd have is if you wanted to put more towards the audio in the near future, to get a decent receiver and a good pair of speakers now (or even a pair of fronts and a center), and then down the road, as you save more money for speakers, add surrounds and a center/sub. Something like these - http://av123.com/component/page,shop...art/Itemid,37/ and an Onkyo 606 receiver (~$300 if you shop around, I think).
So you're saying it might also be a good idea just to get a good base going with some pretty decent equipment? Because that's something that never really occured to me, I do like having the potential to build up later with nice speakers.
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Old 01-14-09, 01:54 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

I mean you'll also need the optical connection for audio. That receiver can't get audio from the HDMI. Typically HDMI carries both video and audio, but this receiver does not allow for that.

That's if you want to use the HDMI. If you are using an older DVD player, HDMI won't be a factor anyway. But if you move onto Bluray, HDMI will likely be something you want to use.
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Old 01-14-09, 09:33 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

I agree with aktick.

I would get a receiver with a l/r/center speakers (so 3.0 instead of 5.1/7.1) in you situation. It will sound better than a cheaper HTIB.

Then when you move or what not you can upgrade to add rears adn a sub.
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Old 01-14-09, 10:14 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Originally Posted by Moopher View Post
So you're saying it might also be a good idea just to get a good base going with some pretty decent equipment? Because that's something that never really occured to me, I do like having the potential to build up later with nice speakers.
Yeah it really depends on what you want to ultimately have. If you eventually (say, within a few years) would like to have a very good overall system, and you're used to having nothing but TV audio, doing it piece by piece makes a lot of sense. I think we're at a point now where the technology in receivers isn't going to become outdated in a year or two like some of the previous incarnations did, so you have the peace of mind knowing if you drop $300-400 on a receiver, it should be good for many years.

There are a lot of good internet direct speaker companies now that make top notch speakers better than most anything you can find at Best Buy or Circuit City, often for half the cost of those big box outfits.

I'm sure you knew this, but the ".1" in 5.1 is the subwoofer. I think most people will tell you that a sub is much more necessary for smaller speakers like those Onkyo ones or other similar HTiB speakers. But with quality speakers, a sub, while definitely something to plan on eventually, is not absolutely necessary right away. I went from listening to everything through my TV to a simple 2.0 (pair of front speakers, no sub) setup with good bookshelf speakers from av123.com, and it was MUCH better sound, just so much more crisp and clear.

You aren't going to blow anybody's eardrums out with most 2.0 setups, but I imagine in your townhouse that isn't the plan anyways. Adding a center speaker will help a lot as well, since 90% of the dialogue will come from it, leaving the side speakers for effects and ambient sounds.

The other thing about a subwoofer, when you have neighbors nearby...the low frequency effects that a subwoofer produces sort of float right through walls and floors, so if you had a sub turned up much at all, your neighbors might "feel" it.

One more great thing about some of these internet direct companies - the speakers generally have beautiful finishes, as opposed the simple black or silver you might get on something from a Best Buy, so they really don't stick out as an ugly sore thumb in your room.

As far as which companies to look at, the aforementioned www.av123.com is the only ID speaker company I've dealt with and strongly recommend them, but there are many others out there that are probably just as good. I'm sure folks will chime in with suggestions.

And finally, if you look at some of these things and they seem slightly out of your budget (for example, a 3.0 setup - just the speakers - from av123 would be about $550), you should look at the classified forums on those particular sites or at AVSForum.com. A quality speaker really lasts a looooong time if treated well (my old man has some nice floorstanding speakers from the 70s that still sound great), and a majority of those for sale on these forums are just from people upgrading to something bigger and more expensive.

Actually I just took a glance at the av123.com classifieds forum, and there's a guy selling a like new pair of the speakers I linked in my previous post ($299 new + shipping) for $225 shipped. So that's just an example of how much you can save. Take advantage of the spendthrift habits of speaker addicts!
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Old 01-28-09, 03:04 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

I try to get by on the cheap whenever possible. I got a Sony 5.1 audio system for my home theater last year for $139.00. At 50% volume you can hear it when you are standing outside of the house.

Model is
Sony HT-DDW790 Theater System

Probably not for audiophiles, but we are very happy with ours.

Regards,

Gil
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Old 01-28-09, 09:23 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Originally Posted by aktick View Post
If you want a full setup now, I think an Onkyo HTiB, from my limited experience, is the way to go for a budget like yours. That's the first thing I had, and it was a cheap $250 one, and it's still going strong today. If you aren't used to listening on a high end system, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how good even a cheap Onkyo system sounds (vs. just your TV's sound).

The only other suggestion I'd have is if you wanted to put more towards the audio in the near future, to get a decent receiver and a good pair of speakers now (or even a pair of fronts and a center), and then down the road, as you save more money for speakers, add surrounds and a center/sub. Something like these - http://av123.com/component/page,shop...art/Itemid,37/ and an Onkyo 606 receiver (~$300 if you shop around, I think).
Originally Posted by SoSpacey View Post
I agree with aktick.

I would get a receiver with a l/r/center speakers (so 3.0 instead of 5.1/7.1) in you situation. It will sound better than a cheaper HTIB.

Then when you move or what not you can upgrade to add rears adn a sub.
Yes I would have to agree with both AKtick & Spacey on this. I would find something you can build on and go from there. I'm not sure if you have anything now but if you good sound quality and would put most my budget into the speakers. You can get a decent AVR for around $350 but I would worry about speakers for now. There are alot of people on here that have been very satisfied with ID brands. You can do research on those on AVS forum and find out which to consider.
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Old 01-29-09, 09:06 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Originally Posted by Gil V View Post
I try to get by on the cheap whenever possible. I got a Sony 5.1 audio system for my home theater last year for $139.00. At 50% volume you can hear it when you are standing outside of the house.
I guess that's good. Because I wouldn't turn it up any higher than that if you want it to last longer than a year.
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Old 01-29-09, 09:32 AM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

When I had my apartment on Long Island I had a Yamaha HTIB from Best Buy. It was only around $300. For an apartment sized living room it was actually pretty good. People who would visit and knew what I had at home would comment on how good it sounded for being a basic system. In fact when I got all the high end stuff for home a friend said " why didn't you just stick with that small set up, it sounded fine?"

Something like that will get you started then as time and money permits, you can start upgrading one piece at a time.
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Old 01-29-09, 12:29 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

I have an old receiver that may do the trick for you. These days DVD players (even cheap ones) will do the decoding for you. That would allow you to spend more money on speakers. I'll have to dig up information on the unit when I get home.
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Old 01-29-09, 12:31 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

I got my first surround setup for the holidays, and it's an Onkyo setup. The one nice thing about Onkyo sets as compared to most lower end HTiB set ups is that it doesn't contain a built in DVD player, and it functions LIKE a higher end set up. It might be all the power you need for your space. However, they do come with decent speakers, a decent sub, and a better than average reciever that can THEN be replaced as your needs adjust.

I'm perfectly happy with the sound the system produces. Its only drawback is that it can't process TRUE 7.1 (despite what the box leads you to believe) because it can't process HDMI audio. I don't have BluRay yet, so it's not an issue, but at some point, I'll probably want to upgrade the reciever at a later point in time.

So that's an option too, if you want to get the "full" experience now.
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Old 01-29-09, 03:53 PM
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Re: Best sounding setup for under $500

Here's a bunch of options, mix and match as you see fit. I stuck with 5.1 here.

Speakers Options ($130-$400)
Yamaha 5.1 set w/sub, $129 shipped.
Dayton Speakers from Parts Express 5.1 speakers with powered sub ~$186 shipped.
Fluance 5.1 set, $275 + 10" Sub, $135 for $400 shipped


Receiver options $210-450 --

Non-decoding Receivers (work great with PS3)
These provide lossless from the LPCM streams from a PS3
Sony STR-DG720 - $210 shipped
Yamaha 6140 or 463 - $260 shipped

Decoding Receivers (work great with any Blu-ray player)
These will take the LPCM from PS3 or bitstreamed TrueHD/DTA-MA from any BR Player
Sony STR-DG820 - $290 shipped
Yamaha 6160 or 663 - $360 shipped
Onkyo TR-SR606 - $360 shipped
Pioneer 1018 - $450 shipped

Then get some speaker wire, 100' 16 guage (AWG) for under $20 from Monoprice.

-beebs
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