Audio and HT - Finding Balance

Long time lurker with a first time post.

The question of the day-month-year (and the one that I find myself very interested in at the moment) seems to be this:

(1) I've got a great audio system and now I'd like to add HT to the mix. What is the best way to keep my great audio set-up (and the flexibility that I've grown accustom to) and add HT? More specifically, if I add HT what is just ok, what is good, and what is great?


(2) I'm (re) building a system. I'm really interested in great music reproduction, but I would also like HT. Again - what is the best way to add HT? What is just ok, what is good, and what is great?

Two months ago I was in category 1. After a house fire, I now fall into category 2.

I've seen this question asked 100 time in many specific posts, but I'm looking for a general discussion.

Frankly, I'm lost. Thanks in advance.
Start with the hippocratic oath: "first, do no harm."

If you really want to keep a high-end audio setup and add HT, you should seriously consider front projection if your room allows. I've been room-constrained now for 4-5 years, but am preparing to take the plunge. With low cost DLP projectors like the Plus Piano ($3K) and $1500 for a good screen, you can have a set up for not much more than the cost of a large rear projection set, that provides a BIG picture, without a large box sitting between the speakers that obstructs the soundstage. When I'm not watching movies, I plan to cover the screen with a wall-hanging quilt that will provide some acoustic treatment.

Also, look for a processor with an analog pass-through. Depending on what front end you have, you may not want to use the D/A conversion in a HT processor, unless you're buying a true top of the line model. Analog pass-though is becoming pretty common because of SACD and DVD-Audio, fortunately.

Do you have L/R speakers that are salvageable from the fire? If so, you need to select a center channel that matches very closelt in timbre - selecting one from the same manufacturer is almost a must unless you can do a lot of home auditioning.

Why don't you post waht equipment you're planning to use as the basis for the system. You'll have no trouble elicting lots of opinions! Good luck. - Rob
Focus on two-channel first and foremost. Once satisfied, add a subwoofer and tv (Plasma, or front projection would be best to keep things clean). If your pre has two sets of main outs then one set can go to the sub and the other to the amp.

I believe that if you get the 2-channel right, then you'll enjoy your movies almost as much.
I had the same question for my own system. I didn't want the HT corrupting the 2 channel--since 2 channel is really my passion. I went with an pre-amp that as a 2 channel bipass for my 2 channel system. Then I use this bypass for the 2 main channels in the HT system. While it's not important for the general discussion--the preamp is a Mark Levinson 380S, and the HT processor is an EAD Ovation. There are many great 2 channel pre-amps that have this bi-pass option.
It is too bad that nobody makes a simple piece like the old Adcom GSP-560 that is AC-3 / DTS capable with a bit more power. I think that it would sell like hotcakes as it was both convenient and practial due to solving this very problem. Sean
Just to clarify my situation. None of my original equipment survives, so I am back to square one, building from scratch. There really isn't a set budget - once I decide what I want in a new system, I'll set an appropriate budget and start shopping.

I'm really trying to answer a more general question. In the "old days" I would get the best combination amp, pre-amp, tuner, cd player, phono (probably skipping that now due to DOA record collection), and pair of speakers I could afford. Lots and lots of options in products/quality/price, but, generally speaking, one architecture. Easy to upgrade one piece at a time.

Now, with HT, I don't know if that logic applies anymore. For example - I could build the system above and then have a completely seperate HT setup with a different architecture. This would maintain flexibility, provide good sound, but double or triple the cost. Or, I could just build a great HT system and also use it for music by turning the unused parts off. Or, there may be 50 other options out there. I feel lost, because I don't know what all the choices are.

And, I get more confused as I type 8-{ This must be why I lurk and don't post.
I am in your boat, well #2...I am currently using a lexicon dc1 pre, anthem of my system is irreleveant for my response.

Anyway, I want Reference quality 2-channel first, then HT will fall into place. I have narrowed the plan down to two paths. First path is to keep the lexicon (until SACD and DVD-A finalize themselves, then buy any quality pro with 5.1 pass thru for HT) and buy the Adcom gfp750 ($800 used) as a pre for music and use it's pass thru for HT. I then want to buy the Music Fidelity A3(24) DAC ($1K new) to achieve my reference 2 channel music.

Second path is to take the plunge into either the Anthem AVM 20, Proceed AVP 2, or Tag Mclaren AVR32 which are all top of the line pre/pros currently (I'm sure there are others out there...). Just use the one unit for all. Apparently they all sound great for 2-channel and HT, but I haven't heard them yet, only read about them. The ones I mentioned also have the analoge pass through for DVDA and SACD.

I am upgrading to Taylo 7U speakers ( and hope to some day own either a Pass, Levinson or BAT Amp, but am currently happy with my Amp 2. I can't give any other recommendations on speakers, but I feel there are so many quality ones to choose from, it won't be hard to find a pair you like. With everything else, this is all budget dependant.

Keep me posted on what you buy, as I am always looking for gear to demo or read about.

Good luck, and sorry to hear about the fire...that sux:/ (unless your insurance is paying for your stereo, then I'm going to burn my place down and start fresh too:D...j/k Mr. Law Enforcement Agent;))

If you value 2-ch music reproduction higher than HT and do not wish to compromise its quality it is best to keep Stereo completely separate from HT.
Building 2 systems is the best way to go because:

1. Configuration of one system will not affect other. You will not have to select components for your 2-ch system based on compatibility with HT, which rules out preamps without HT bypass and tube amplifiers for most combo systems.
2. You don’t have to worry about matching HT speakers to main speakers. You don’t have to match HT amps to the main amps.
3. You can allocate money you are spending on 2-ch and HT according to your preferences. It will be easy to decide how to separate budget between these 2 systems
4. You will not have urges to buy expensive 5 channel amplifier “for everything”. They usually are not as good as mono/stereo amps and cost much more.
5. It’s actually may be more economic way to go because even though you have to buy 2 extra speakers and 2 more speaker cables, you don’t have to have components as expensive as 2ch. components. One can build a great HT with good receiver and entry hi-fi level 5.1 speakers package. With receiver you will ever save on interconnects.
6. You will not have annoying problems with setup and eliminate potential ground loops.
7. Depending on your living conditions you can put them into separate rooms or try to arrange that way so your tv-set wouldn’t be between main speakers.

Good luck
I would agree with Nar to a point. In my first scenario, I would not lose a think in sound quality with a pre that has ht pass through. Also, and amp good enough for reference 2-channel will suffice for HT (tube amps excluded). You have to decide whats mostimportant and build on that. The quality of components on the market today will work in multiple applications, however if you focus on one thing, you can tailor your componets to meet that need. However if I had a huge house and lots of $$$, I'd have seperate systems.