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Home Theater Newbie

Old 04-03-01, 09:35 PM
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Ok....time for a new entry into the newbie question hall of fame. I've been reading through posts all night and just can't decide how to go on a new home theater setup.

Currently I have a 32" sony TV and a Panasonic A120 DVD player. I've had this bare minimum setup for about a year and from reading reviews and posts on these boards I know how much I'm missing by not having DTS or DD sound. As of now I've got $500-$700 (preferably no more than 650) to spend on a basic Home Theater setup. I'd prefer a Sony setup (simply because I've always had good luck with their products) however a Pioneer would also work. I'd like this system to be high enough performance for me to get the full digital experience, but I know it won't be the best. At least by having the reciever, sub and speakers, I'll have a complete HT that I can upgrade piece at a time from their. I have a feeling once I hear digital sound I'll be addicted.

What setup should I buy?? I looked at the Sony DVD-S300 but 180watts seems pretty weak, plus I already have a DVD player I'm happy enough with.I'm currently leaning towards Sony's HTDDW820 system. I can't see anything wrong with it. Anyone have a better system suggestion? Where should I start shopping online (for good prices)?? Thanks for your help and opinions,

Jim
Old 04-03-01, 10:14 PM
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I recently bought a JVC home theater in a box,I got it at circuit city for $445.00 that was tax and everything.The receiver is DD,as well as DTS.I too was working on a very small budget,and the systen rocks!I have no problems with it at all,very easy to set-up. Model number on the receiver is rx-6008x.
Old 04-04-01, 09:26 AM
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The problem with home-theater-in-a-box is that the speakers are rarely worth anything. If you can go the separates route, that would be wise. However, $700 is a pretty low cap. You could probably squeeze a Yamaha or Pioneer receiver and the Energy Take 5 system into that budget with some smart shopping. Sony receivers are typically mediocre at entry level and improve as you go up: DE -> DB -> SE, I think.

As far as watts go, a good receiver with 70 watts will be better than a lesser receiver with 100. So don't get caught up in wattages, most if not all specs can be manipulated anyway.

If you really want to keep it simple, get a complete setup, and worry about upgrades down the road, the Kenwood HTB-503 is regularly recommended. It would give you a good foundation to build off of.

The only thing I see wrong with the Sony system is that the speakers are really small. Small doesn't necessarily equal bad, but my tastes always run larger. DD/DTS can (and do) carry bass frequencies in every channel, and while a good subwoofer can fill in the gaps, it can't do everything.

Finally, don't take my word for it. Get some suggestions from people here and then go listen to these systems in person. You are the best judge of what you should/shouldn't buy.

See also:
Receivers under $200?
Energy Take 5 speakers: 1 2
Cheap subwoofer
Yamaha HTIB

Old 04-04-01, 10:27 AM
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With your stated budget in mind, here's what I would suggest. Get a decent low priced DD/DTS receiver, and 4 decent speakers (2 front, and 2 surround) for now and save up for your sub and center speakers. You can run a phantom center through your mains and you won't miss the center too much until you can afford one. You will get a lot better equipment for your money this way and have a more satisfying system in the end. You could try to work it where you have enough for that Sony sub since it's so cheap (read: inexpensive) . Here is a good place to check for prices online:

http://www.pricescan.com/

For a receiver, you might want to look at units like the Onkyo 484 or it's equivelant. For speakers, I would look for brands like KEF, NHT, Boston Acoustics, Energy, Klipsch, and other equivelant brands. Here is one of the great online dealers, but you will have to call them for the best price, they don't list the actual price:

http://www.onecall.com/

This will be a much better solution in the end than a home-theater-in-a-box, IMHO.
Old 04-04-01, 11:30 AM
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Thanks for all the responses....

Thanks for all the suggestions both hear and in my email. I have pretty much decided against the HT in a box idea. Assuming a home theater is only as good as it's weakest component, it seems pointless to not pay more attention to speaker quality. Taking some of the suggestions into mind, here is what I'm now leaning towards:
Receiver: Sony STR-DE545 or DE845 (the first one be less than $300, second right around $300)-- anyone have a preference??
Floor Speakers: Sony SS-MF315 or MF515 ($125 and $175ish) --Any major advantages to the MF515?
Rear surround and Center: Sony SS-CR490 ($125ish)
Sub: Sony SA-WM40 ($160)

Anyone have any opinions?? Should this be adequate (keeping in mind the room in question is only 12'x15')? I do know that other companies make components that are similar in price to Sony that may be a bit better. I've always had good luck with Sony products and prefer to use them if possible. I'm thinking this setup will at least get me up and running and I can upgrade piece by piece if need be down the road.

Thanks again,
Jim
Old 04-04-01, 12:45 PM
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I understand your budget issues, but IMHO, Sony speakers really aren't particularly good. I think you might be able to do better and stay close to your budget.

As mentioned earlier, you might want to look at the Energy Take 5 speaker system.
Old 04-04-01, 01:14 PM
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I have heard quite a few of the in box specials. Most of them sound the same. I would suggest that you take a look at is the Kenwood HTB-503. The reason is.... expandability. There are plenty of optic and coax imputs for things that may come down the road. If my memory serves me right it runs for around $500.00.

It helps to not only look at what your need are now but in the future. Your home theater is an investment not a commodity. JMHO.



Old 04-04-01, 01:34 PM
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Originally posted by Brunner
I have heard quite a few of the in box specials. Most of them sound the same. I would suggest that you take a look at is the Kenwood HTB-503. The reason is.... expandability. There are plenty of optic and coax imputs for things that may come down the road. If my memory serves me right it runs for around $500.00.

It helps to not only look at what your need are now but in the future. Your home theater is an investment not a commodity. JMHO.



i just picked up the htb-503 off ubid.com the other day.. i got it for $169 (but outrageous shipping, $106).. so a total cost of $275, which I feel is a pretty good deal, since I caught it on one of the days that they were selling the set new, and not refurb.. on the same note, some people pay $200+ before s&h(on ubid at that) just for the receiver that comes in this set, and its normally refurb at that price. Of course I dont have it yet, so I cant say anything about the quality, but all the reviews I have read so far have been really good.
Old 04-04-01, 01:53 PM
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PLEASE, do not buy Sony speakers. No offense to any owners of Sony speakers, but you will not get the best speakers for your money buying Sony. Buy speakers from a company that makes nothing but speakers. Then all the R&D is focusing on producing the best speakers period. I gave you a short list of brands earlier, but their are many that are good.

And, not to spew all over Sony, but the DE series of Sony receivers have received bad reviews. The Onkyo 484 I suggested earlier can be had for
Old 04-04-01, 02:03 PM
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BTW, just a very quick search at pricescan.com and I found the Sony STRDB840 for less than $400 in 2 places. I also found the Energy Take 5 speaker system for less than $400 at 2 places.

Sony STRDB840 = $388
Energy Take 5 = $349

Total = $737 + shipping

This is a little more than your stated budget, but you can get other brands of receivers (the Onkyo 484 is $245 at pricescan and the Denon 1601 is in this range too) for less.

[Edited by knit-witt on 04-04-01 at 12:10 PM]
Old 04-04-01, 02:06 PM
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Well...just for an opposing point of view...

I have the Sony DE-935, which is very close to the 835 with some more bells and whistles. I really like it, the only complaint for me being the confusing remote.

I think the money should be put into your speaker system. To take advantage of the DD/DTS, you need a good setup. For me, anything without a sub and center is missing too much.

I think I paid around $300 for the DE-935...you maybe be able to spend less for the 845.. The Pioneer, Onkyo, and Kenwoods were the other ones I looked at. Read the reviews at audioreview.com. You may also find places to look at for buying them online.

That would leave you $400 for the speakers..which is really not enough. I chose a matched Atlantic Technology system, because of it's ability to do both movies and music well, but it was far more than your budget.

My thought is to not worry too much then about your speakers and go in understanding you will be upgrading these. Even crappy speakers with DTS/DD will blow you away anyways, compared to listening to stereo thru your TV.

Since your budget is not enough for a good speaker setup, I think you might want to reconsider the home theater in a box method. Really, it will sound great for the cost.

And then replace it all later....and sell off the old stuff, or have a great bedroom system.
Old 04-04-01, 02:17 PM
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Spend the $594 + shipping on the Onkyo and Take 5 system before a HTB. It will blow a HTB away, IMO.
Old 04-04-01, 02:19 PM
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Also, to aid in your research, here is a site with reviews of inexpensive home theater gear:

http://www.cheaphometheater.com/

Old 04-04-01, 02:19 PM
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Originally posted by knit-witt
Spend the $594 + shipping on the Onkyo and Take 5 system before a HTB. It will blow a HTB away, IMO.
Of course, it'll be missing a subwoofer.
Old 04-04-01, 02:24 PM
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>>>Of course, it'll be missing a subwoofer.
Old 04-04-01, 02:37 PM
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by knit-witt
[B]>>>Of course, it'll be missing a subwoofer.
Old 04-04-01, 02:39 PM
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I knew I'd get a lot of opinions.....

but wow! This is worse than buying a new car! My budget is quite flexible. I would prefer to spend less than $700, BUT if I would see a big difference I could spend much more. I'm hoping to be able to get $150-$200 for my Pro-logic reciever, CD deck and cassette deck on eBay (hey...it could happen), so that will help.

Plus remember I currently have NO SOUND setup, so if I have to listen to just the TV speakers for a few months as I acquire components that will be fine. What would the difference between a 333ES receiver and a de945 reciever be. Granted these are more than I wanted to spend however at least I'd be off to a good start.

Well this is all very confusing, but at least when I'm all done I'll know I got something good!

Thanks,
Jim
Old 04-04-01, 02:41 PM
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Everyone has opinions. As for me, I go for quality. Call me a home theater snob if you like, but when I spend my money I like to be satisfied. That's why my initial suggestion was that he basically up his budget. Just a little more cash will get him a lot more home theater. BTW, this thread seems to have become confrontational. I'm only posting suggestions to help this guy out, not argue opinions. I just don't think much of HTBs. It's just one man's humble opinion.
Old 04-04-01, 02:45 PM
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>>>What would the difference between a 333ES receiver and a de945 reciever be.
Old 04-04-01, 03:12 PM
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All I was saying was that the Take 5 system is unsatisfying without a sub, and the cost of one should be considered when you buy it. I won't try to guess whether or not knitt-witt would agree with this point.

If a friend of mine had $700 and needed a receiver and speakers, I'd tell him to buy a $300 receiver (probably an Onkyo), and a pair of PSB Alpha AVs and a pair of PSB Alpha Minis, and wait until he could afford to add a center and subwoofer.

In the mean time, he'd have a pretty decent system to enjoy.

If you need or want to do things all at once, a htb or a higher budget is probably in order.
Old 04-04-01, 03:14 PM
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stevevt just suggested the same thing I did in my 1st post to this thread - so I guess we are in agreement after all.
Old 04-04-01, 03:24 PM
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My suggestion would be to get on UBID.com and be patient for a receiver or HB 503 Kenwood system. I recently purchased a JVC RX 8000 receiver that was new, not refurbished for 250 shiping and all. You will not be disappointed. The reason I chose JVC is because all my components are JVC and I like their compulink set up. Plus I used a JVC prologic receiver for almost 10 years with never a problem. A friend that I work with recently purchased the Kenwood HB 503 off UBID for less than 300 for everything new in the box.
Old 04-04-01, 03:26 PM
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Originally posted by knit-witt
stevevt just suggested the same thing I did in my 1st post to this thread - so I guess we are in agreement after all.
I knew I read that somewhere.

We certainly agree, because I give this advice all the time (unless somebody is hell-bent on getting a sub or has a very-off-center listening position).

In fact, my bedroom HT is a Toshiba 6109c (aka Onkyo receiver and Toshiba 2109 dvd all in one), a pair of Mirage 460s (mains) and a pair of PSB Alpha AVs (surrounds). No plans to get a sub or center any time soon.
Old 04-04-01, 03:33 PM
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Originally posted by stevevt
receiver and Toshiba 2109 dvd all in one), a pair of Mirage 460s (mains) and a pair of PSB Alpha AVs (surrounds). No plans to get a sub or center any time soon.
By the way, the total I paid for all of the above equipment:
$690.

And that included a (integrated) dvd player.

Of course, the 6109c came at the expense of the NASDAQ, and I got a hot deal on the speakers -- I paid 40% of retail.
Old 04-05-01, 08:50 AM
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I would second the idea that knit-witt and stevevt brought up. Getting good value speakers and adding to complete the system is better in the long run than a HTB. My opinion on Sony is they are fine but overpriced for what you get.

Still in light of everything let your ears be the judge. Go somewhere you can demo what you're looking for in features. The brands for your budget have been suggested. Take a listen for yourself and find something you can be happy with.

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