I was faced with the same dilemma as you, and rather than combine the two, I chose to put together a seperate home theatre system. Same room, two different systems. How do you fit so many speakers in one room? Well, I'm not about to move my Martin Logan ReQuests, so I found the smallest, decent speaker I could for HT, Gallo Nucleus. These speakers are about the size of a softball, mounted on the walls you barely notice them. The sub is the size of a bowling ball, and like most subs doesn't matter that much where you put'em. I picked up a NAD T760 Receiver and Toshiba DVD player, along with the Direct TV dish I already had, and voila, HT without contaminating my audio only rig. The HT electronics all fit in my 36" Sony TV base. Once finished, the whole thing cost me $2000 and does the job. The biggest pain in the ass and expense was running the wire (I used Monster 16 gauge with quality banana plugs); throw in various cables (RCA 75 ohm from the DVD, Toslink from the set-top box) and several S-Video and analog RCA IC's, and it was a little pricey and a pain. In any event, if you'd like more info or pics, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I will probably be "flamed" for saying this, but I think you can combine 2-channel with home theater to good effect. Admittedly I started with multi-channel. But every upgrade was geared toward improving the 2-channel music experience. The two areas that, to me, seem to require some thought are preamp/processor and power amplification. Home theater requires extra circuitry compared to a traditional 2-channel preamp. Perhaps it is because of this that a preamp in the same price range as an A/V processor might sound better. But, many A/V processors have a "direct" mode that bypasses the digital circuitry for 2-channel listening. Some of the "big" names in 2-channel audio are beginning to offer A/V processor/preamps; they aren't cheap at $7000 - $15000. I did read a review from a guy that used two or three Audio Alchemy DLCs (a highly regarded 2-ch preamp) with a dobly digital processor to construct a home theater system. So, it is possbile to build one from 2-ch. components. Next, power amplification. You can either buy a multi-channel amp, three stereo amps, or five/six monoblocks (with a corresponding price increase). To me this is the easiest to solve. If you like your current 2-ch amplifier (be it stereo or monos) just buy more :); of course cost and space may be prohibitive. Again, some of the "big" names in 2-channel are offering five/six channel amps (some for quite some time). With respect to speakers there seem to be differing opinions. Yes, the speakers need to be matched (which usually means from the same manufacturer). But whether or not using "main" loudspeakers for center and rear is better than using speakers designed for center and rear I couldn't say. There is of course the issue of equipment placement...a monitor between the loudspeakers can destroy imaging. But, if have enough space the monitor can positioned welp behind the loudspeakers. Well, I guess I've written enough. Sorry if this post was too long.
buy a preamp that has a processor loop - plug yer processor into it & when ya swithch the preamp to this input, it defaults all the preamps' controls to that of the processor, so yer processor can run yer main speakers, as well as the surrounds. when yer listening only to 2-channel audio, the main speakers don't have to be run thru the processor's electronics. there are many preamps that are now set up to do this - linn, vtl, sonic frontiers, adcom; i'm sure there are many others.
Same dilemma. I chose to combine the two as well. I now have a killer A/V system with what I would call killer 2-channel and 5.1 audio as well. No real magic to accomplish this. Like the previous post, I have Martin Logan ReQuets as my mains too. Killer sound for both operations. Here is the route I took (good luck): Martin Logan Requests (mains) Martin Logan Cinema (center) Polk F/X 1000s (rears) Bryston 7Bs (main amps) Bryston 3Bs (rear & center) Parasound AVC 2500 Pre-amp. (you can bypass the DACs with an upgrade. Naim CD5 for cds Pioneer Elite dv 37 for DVD I also have two subs, one to round out the Logans bass on 2 channel etc. I also have a Sunfire True Sub hooked to LFE out that only plays during movies. That was the only actual "split" I had to make to get great performance in both modes.
Cwlondon: Yes, the ideal would be to use 3 identical speakers up front. And one the these days, we may get a substantial quantity of well-recorded multichannel sound that makes good use of that center channel. The trouble, of course, is that a central tower speaker (or a bookshelf speaker on a stand) would have to go in exactly the same place that home theater places the video monitor. Hence the small horizontal design of center-channel speakers.
Two years ago I sold my separate stereo preamp and modest receiver based ht system. I wanted to simplify (reduce the number of components & speakers) and also wanted to take advantage of the quality that my l/r mains could bring to ht. I'm currently using a Meridian 561 pre/pro and a 508.24 as a transport. This combination sounds very close to the 508.24 used with an analog preamp (SF Line 1 used prior to 561). My mains are Thiel CS7.2s, my center channel is from Aerial Acoustics (CC3B), and my surrounds are Paradigm Ref ADPs. They're not matched but everything blends well for HT. I have a front LCD projector so there is no problem with a monitor between my Thiels, and I move my stand mounted center out of the way when I want to listen critically in Direct two channel mode. I'm considering the addition of an analog preamp that has a HT throughput so I have more options to upgrade my digital 2 channel front end and possibly improve the sound at the same time. If I could do it over again I would have spent less money on a high end pre/pro and used the difference to get a better preamp w/HT throughput. If you do blend your SL3s into a HT system I would consider ML's 'Cinema' center.
I started out with a mid fi home theater system and upgraded everything while trying to improve my two channel quality. Eventually I found that I did not need a center channel speaker. I use Avalon Eidolon's and they are about 66" into the room and I have a perfectly coherent front soundstage and can use a high quality 2-channel tube amp in front. In my opinion too much is made of matching the amps and speakers front to back. Most of the sound at the rear is thunder, cars and bullets. Also I'm more into classic and foreign film rather than the current crop of lousy stories with computerized special effects. I use my old speakers and tube amp for the rears and am very happy. The only compromise that I have had to make is that speaker placement is wider than I would like for two channel ( my screen is 9' wide). Some of the early jazz stereo recordings were recorded without any center stage info and when I listen to these recordings there is a hole in the sound stage. I don't use a preamp at all. I have a processor for HT and my Accuphase has a preamp built in so I switch my interconnects when I change from HT to two channel.
Connect your av processor through the tape loop of your analog preamp if you dont have a processor loop. This will let you control volume with the processor when watching movies. If, like me, you are using low powerred tube amps for your stereo system(which are gonna become the two mains in a HT set-up) make sure to set these speakers to the position ''small'' this will send the bass to the subwoofers and free up lots of power. Unlike music, movie playback requires a great deal of power for the constantly varying SPLs, it can really tax your amp to reproduce a loud explosion. As for the center channel it is really unnecessary and highly overrated. Unless your speakers are broken and cannot image properly, I don't see why they wouldn't be able to create a 'phantom' center channel by puting the dialog in between your two speakers(most av pro have a phantom center channel option) . I have a center channel that I don't even use because when I turn it on I find the sound becomes disconnected from the two fronts and the voices sound congested. Save your money don't buy one, or if you really think you need one try it first before you buy, more and more people are changing their views about center channels and are getting rid of them. 'Nough said... I have to listen to the new Sade cd I just bought, but not before I whatch Gladiator with my wife... Happy Holidays!!!
I have a Rowland Coherence 2 pre-amp which has a bypass circuit. I have the HT processer send the output for the mains. This way the processor(Theta Casa 2)controls the volume. I disagree with the previous poster who discounted the importance of the center channel. Using it gives a much more coherent soundstage for dialogue and effects. It's true, most good processors have a "phantom center channel mode" for those systems without a center, but at least in my system it doesn't work nearly as well. You do need a good center, and some HT people recommend a separate subwoofer for it. My main amps are Rowland 9Ti's. The only shared components are the subs. I have dual REL Stentors running off the Rowland monos and I have a second input into each, running off of a Y-connector out of the processors LFE channel. Both of the systems sound great. Next, of course, is taming the room, but that's a whole other issue. David
re: center-channel - newform research sez their speakers eliminate the need for a center-channel speaker in h-t. anyone try 'em in this configuration? if it's true, then they should be decent for 2-channel stereo... ;~)
I think that everyone has covered the solution pretty well. I just wanted to say that I feel the perfect system for music is also the perfect system for home theater. I like the natural charcteristics of my stereo in the home theater. Bloated base may make explosions sound bigger but it also makes everything else sound worse. That said I think you are not skimping on your audio system you are using your money wisely and getting two uses for the price of one. When you are set up you will have a system that sounds so much better then the best of theaters. Enjoy.
Some speakers may lend better than others to providing a good match for vertical placement as center channel. I use an Audio research LS10 ss/pre w/Music Reference tube amp on (now defunct flagship) Soundwaves-(4.5)Point source spkrs by Vero research Inc.-for mains. Alongside Vandesteen 2wq's subs. Theatre is patched into LS10 via a Sonic Frontiers; Anthem AVM2 pre/procc. w/Anthem AVC3 amp powering diolog center & (2.5)-floor standing rears. Sony DVP9000es dvd may replace Audio Refinement cd & tuner. All in all the center is weakest link w/overall integration & synergy its strengths. May add 1-more rear 2wq for theatre bass. All Straightwire Crescendo/Seranade Interconncts & Blacsilc spkrcable. Until I have a home w/more rooms, this is it.