7.1 HT under about 3k

May look to upgrade my current low-end Onkyo HT receiver. Would like to keep the price in the 2-3k range and don't mind used.

Stereo audio quality very important as this doubles as our audio system.

So far the Krell Showcase, Aragon Stage 1, and possibly the Krell HTS all look interesting, I'm not really familiar with all the others.

Also looking at the Totem Arro or Schweikert VR2 for front channel speakers (speaker budget separate). Will feed the audio primarily with a squeezebox3 into an outboard dac.

Not knowing any better, but the Onkyo I have now actually sounds pretty darn good to me (part of a 1000w 7.1 HTIB system), so I'm really looking forward to a step up.

I realize you want advice on this matter, but let me start the discussion by asking you why you want 7.1, as opposed to 5.1. The 7.1 format requires more speakers and more amplification channels (all of which means more money), with very little or nothing that improves over 5.1.

DVD releases for the vast majority of movies are in 5.1, and ALL of the audio-only releases (SACD & DVD-A) are 5.1. The consensus of opinion among Hollywood recording engineers is that they see little likelihood that 7.1 will supplant 5.1. For a more informed opinion on this matter, see the following link from Bryston's website which contains commentary by Dennis Sands, one of Hollywood's leading soundtrack engineers:

And for an additional point of view, click here, and then scan down to the middle article titled "Encode vs. Decode":

Obviously, it is your decision whether to implelemt 7.1 rather than 5.1, but if you are just starting out and have a budget of $3k or less (which is not a lot for a full HT system), you will get a lot more "bang for your buck" by starting with 5.1 and upgrading at a later date. Rather than buying MORE speakers on your budget, I'd recommend getting BETTER speakers for your system, driven by better amplication, as you indicate that you also want the system to be your primary audio playback system.
Thanks Sdcampbell. All input is valuable to me.

I didn't realize all of that, I was just assuming that 7.1 was the latest technology and it would become "standard". I'll give the 5.1 vs 7.1 question more consideration.

Just wanted to point out also, that the budget is for the HT proc only, speakers will get separate consideration.
Point noted -- $3k for the HT processing/amplification only is much more realistic. The concluding point I should have made in my first post is: trust your own ears. Ultimately, what YOU like is more important than adhering to the "prevailing wisdom".
6.1 and 7.1 are alot more involving than 5.1, yes it is more money and effort, but isnt your pleasure worth it in the end? These systems also will do a very good job at adding the extra material to the back channels from 5.1, so really everything can be 7.1 and is in the end alot more involving. I sometimes question why folks push 5.1, yes there are valid points to consider, but it also makes me think they bought a good 5.1 and cant or wont go to 7.1
anyways it is all just opinion in the end.
Trust your ears and enjoy whatever you decide.
Unless you're totally sure that you don't want/can't fit the center rear channels, I will not get a receiver/processor that doesn't do 7.1 processing. If you've got the room, for movies encoded with a 6th or 7th channel, having that 6th or 7th channel is definitely a more pleasurable experience.

With that said, the rear centers have very little information and so I definitely won't worry too much about it. I would use the funds to build the best 5.1 system you can. You can pretty much throw any old speaker in the back and it'll still improve your experience IMO. Timbre matching is really not needed for those rear centers, although obviously, having speakers that match the rest of your system will make a subtle difference. So you can always add those rear centers as budget permits.

7.1 provides a much more enveloping surround environment than 5.1. I've tried both, and am firmly committed to 7.1. I think you are making the right decision to go with a 7.1 PrePro/Receiver, as long as it has DPLIIx and/or Logic 7. (Note, DPLII is only 5.1, DPLIIx is 7.1).

The number of speakers does not have to match the number of channels in the source material. For example, both DPLIIx and Logic 7 do an excellent job of spatially redistributing the 2 surround channels in 5.1 sources to the 4 surround speakers of 7.1. They don't create information, just redistribute it. These processing modes work with various sources, so you always have the option to listen in 7.1 independent of input format.

I would avoid 6.1. I would also look at the suggested speaker placement diagrams on the Dolby web site for a 7.1 set up; e.g., you do not want rear speakers placed in the center of the back of the room.

I would avoid 6.1. I would also look at the suggested speaker placement diagrams on the Dolby web site for a 7.1 set up; e.g., you do not want rear speakers placed in the center of the back of the room.

7.1 is better than 6.1 but 6.1 is better than 5.1 if you're watching Star Wars or something. Also, he actually might want rear speakers placed in the center (or near center spread out a bit) of the back of the room. Check out the suggested speaker placement diagrams on the THX web site. They recommend something different from Dolby. Just so you know, there are different ways to set up your system.
This shouldn't really be a big deal. Aragon STage One feeding some used 5-7channels of amplification, used, at under $1500 for amp, and $1500 for pre should not be a problem. You could also go Anthem AVM20 used at $1500 range maybe, and I'm sure others. $3k should be easy on the "used market" for separates

Interesting, I had never looked at the THX web site for speaker placement suggestions. My comment on not going 6.1/not placing rear speaker(s) in the center of the back wall was to avoid possible front to back image reversal. There are a lot of postings on this at avsforum.

I also noticed on the THX web site their speaker placement suggestions seem to be for THX ASA and THX EX processing. I was recommending going with DPLIIx and/or Logic 7.

"... My comment on not going 6.1/not placing rear speaker(s) in the center of the back wall was to avoid possible front to back image reversal. There are a lot of postings on this at avsforum." (Bruceomega)

For the record, as someone who does acoustics, I think anyone reading the above might be getting some mystical acoustical pheonominon worries here, that simply aren't going to happen in any real world scenarios! Basically, distances and delays in the system, acoustics in the room, recording mixes/delays are going to make what Bruceomega's infering a near impossibility, as a problem!
I've done hundreds of systems/installs over the years in 6.1 or more, and this is not an issue, trust me!
From gathering what Bruceomega is talking about, again, all the right varriables, elements, adjustments, acoustics, and recorded material would have to be in precise allignent to make you think you were hearing the back info in front, and the front info in back! You'd also likely have to not only have lousy acoustics (in which case, you can forget about good sound anyway), but you'd probably need to have the processor in your system set to "Concert Hall", er "Stadium" or whatever!!! Last I checked, most people doing discrete dd/DTS use very little additional DSP modes with their sound! It's already mixed as well as it needs mostly, if you do things right...you needn't even go there!
Anyway, as long as you have either some diffusion or absorption either on your back wall, side walls, or front, and preferably a combination of those, you'll never encounter any mystical problems like what's being infered above, I assure you.
Bruce, I see what you're getting at now. In the case of DPLIIx and/or Logic 7, I'm not quite sure what would be the best way of setting up the rear centers. I have a THX Ultra2 capable receiver so I set it up according to their directions. I tried having the rear centers spaced out, but found them better closer together (my receiver had auto calibration so there were different settings for different rear center distances). DPLII sounded find either way I think. But if the original poster is going to be listening to multichannel music, I think it makes more sense to have them spaced further apart.

Based on your experience, if one wants to expand beyond a 5.1 speaker array, do you recommend 6.1 or 7.1? I never tried 6.1. My comment on image reversal was based on postings at avs forum. I went directly from 5.1 to 7.1.

I did not try putting my rear speakers in a center rear position, but spread them out like the DPLIIx suggestion.

When I had a 5.1 speaker array, I placed my two surround speakers on the sides of the room like the Dolby Digital suggestion. In my room, I found the surround envelopment to be seriously lacking.

I then added two rear speakers, two additional channels of amplification, and used Logic 7 for the 7.1 speaker array and the surround envelopment was significantly improved.

Wow, lots of information in there. Unfortunately, I don't have a ton of choice as to speaker placement. I did try to follow the basic guidelines at one of the sites as best possible (can't remember which at the moment, may have been Dolby or THX or Crutchfield).

I just replaced a 5.1 system with a 7.1 system and I'd agree with the folks that say the 7.1 is a more involving experience; there just seems to be more sound enveloping you and better spacial positioning (maybe this is just my imagination, but it would seem to make some sense).

I don't really understand what flrnlamb is saying about using a HT proc with other audio equipment, can someone take a stab at how that gets setup for someone who's never done something like that (my only experience is with entry-level audiophile audio and HT, so very basic stuff). Is there some way to use the 7.1 proc for HT and regular 2 channel componentry when just listening to audio, somehow bypassing the HT stuff in order to feed the signal through higher quality audio components?

Joncourage, I presume you're refering to the part about "looping" your 7.1 processor into an auxilary input, or bypass input, or whatever, on your 2 channel preamp?
Basically, you do just that, to keep your separate 2 channel system, well, separate, for 2 channel dubties.
It's simple...when you use your 2 channel setup, you keep things all connected as normal. The CD player, tuner, record player, whatever, all get plugged into the back of your existing 2 channel preamp. The pre-out's of your 2 channel pre connect to your amp, like normal...nothing different. However, for your 7.1 preamp/processor, you would connect the main L/R out's from that, into the above mentioned "auxilary" or "bypass" inputs(you could probably use a "tape-in" as well, I suppose) on your 2 channel preamp, just like that input was from another source.
You'd then connect all outher sources, like digital connections, to your 7.1 pre/processor, and connect all the "pre-out's" for the other channels(center, sides, rears, subs), to that 7.1 pre also, out to the other amp channels. Then, when you want to watch movies, you simply switch to the "auxilary"/"bypass" or whatever input on your 2 channel preamp, which plays through that preamp for L/R channel, and of course plays the other channels as normal from your 7.1. It's just that the main L/R channels is playing out of the 7.1 pre, into the 2 channel pre, and out to it's amps. You'd then set the 2 channel pre at like 12oclock(somewhere in the middle likely), and let those 2 channels play through. Then, when you listen to music from your 2 channel sources, you can simply switch off the 7.1, and use the 2 channel set up as normal.
Basically, you're using the 7.1 system as another input going to the 2 channel system!...only you're having to connect all the other channels to the 7.1 pre, as if the 2 channel pre isn't there. Do you get that? If not, someone can send you a diagram, I'm sure. Hope this helps
Hi !

Look I had a 7.1 and thought everything was wonderful, but a friend of mine let me see his 5.1, and I was impressed, I would say go for the 5.1 now, spend more money on the speakers and the budget that you have for the amp-pre is very good second hand, I bought here a couple of times and the people who likes this takes very good care of his equipment.
I have Adcom GFA 5500 (3 of 3X200 W) and Theta Casanova (and costed me all together 2.500), and for the money is very good, in the home theater I have Parasound C1 and A1. There is difference, but not that much.
I insist go for the 5.1 and upgrade later, no movies with 7.1, try taking the surround speaker a little bit farther away and if you like the sound that envolves you and have room buy bipolar, but do not spend that much money on them, Axiom and Polk Audio have it on about 400US$ heard them both and are great.

I would agree that starting with 5.1, and then expanding to 7.1 as budget allows can be a good approach. But the fact that there are no movies in 7.1 should not be a factor in making a decision on whether to go 7.1 for the objective system. Logic 7 and listening in 7.1 has been around for awhile. The advent of DPLIIx makes a similar capabilty more widely available.

When running in 7.1 with 5.1 sources, for example, Logic 7 doesn't add anything to the information in the 2 surround channels. It redistributes the surround information across 4 surround speakers rather than 2. The redistribution is a dynamic process based on signal content, not a fixed parameter. With 4 surround speakers, the system can have sounds come from behind the listener, or beside the listener, or any combination. That's more difficult to do with only 2 surround speakers.

If you are undecided on 7.1 and committing to a PrePro/Receiver with DPLIIx/Logic 7, I suggest trying to find a properly set up 7.1 system and listening for yourself. You should be able to toggle between 5.1 and 7.1, and then you can decide which you prefer.

Lots of good advice here. I think that the 2 extra speakers in the back that turns your system from 5.1 to 7.1 should be viewed as "complementary." In your system, they are least important by a very very long stretch. So do not spend money getting two extra speakers if it means cutting somewhere else in your system.

Joncourage, I might be missing something here, do you plan to use the amps in the Onkyo?
Bruceomega, you are right. The thing is that depends as well on the room dimensions, the room that i Have with 5.1 is w 16.5 and 20 feet l.
For me 7.1 in this room makes no sense due to the closeness of the speakers, and my budget, he, he, he.
Joncourage, if you want to buy it perfect, but really go first with a good 5.1 (7.1 processor) and then add with time and money the two extra speakers and the amp

FWIW, my 7.1 set up is in a room which is approximately 13' x 17' x 9.5'. Both my side speakers and rear speakers are about 7' away from the primary listening position (they're suspended from the ceiling, pointing down and toward the listening position). My intuition says that is a bit close, but my room layout doesn't provide any flexibility. Fortunately, it works.

There are times when 7.1 is not a good choice, or even impossible such as when the listening position is flush against the rear wall where you don't have room behind you to place the rear speakers. AFAIK, room size itself should not be a determining factor, but room layout can be, just as the cost of an additional two channels can be.