My daughter, married, middle aged, has asked me to help them set up a decent home theater/listening room in their new home. I've been an audiophile since the 70's......before I even heard the term, so I'm a pretty competent 2 channel guy and I understand room acoustics............That said, I never really ventured into HT. I simply went with my 2 channel rig and was perfectly happy with things that way.....still am.
I guess my questions are..........How important is multi-channel for movies vs audio.............dumb question, I'm sure, but it's not my area, so I'm asking...............and any recommendations for a decent, not UBER, sound system primarily for movies. They're willing to spend some money to get a nice setup, but not the kind of coin that many here likely would. I'm thinking used gear, speakers, subs, receiver or amps. Something that will sound good, but not require a second mortgage..................These folks think that hanging 4 inch Bose speakers in the corners of the room with a micro, wanna-be sub is good sound..............I want to "enlighten" them..........thanks
Mx132 A/V control center. Mcintosh MC 58 eight cahnnel power amp. Mcintosh
This is good old gear. Looks cool to I use B&W wall mount. For a 5 &1 system. Add a blue ray or some other source I am very happy with this system Surround system adds great movie watching experience . This old gear is quality and sounds decent
Above is a completely different system than my better equipped 2 channel rig Krell based in the other side of the same room
My only complaint is the acoustics in this room are all wrong for best sound
First if you really want to enlighten them take them to hear some live unamplified music...Then demo a Bose system,followed by a decent surround system and finally a really good 2 channel system... If you just want to grab them something decent without any fuss a Subwoofer/satellite 5.1(4 satellite speakers,center speaker and powered subwoofer)speaker system from Paradigm Acoustics,Definitive Technology or Atlantic Technology, a good surround receiver from Marantz or Yamaha & a DVD player from Oppo or Yamaha wired up with basic Audioquest wiring will probably blow them away...Spend some time setting everything up along with some light acoustic treatments if you get any echo in the room(walk around clapping hands and you’ll hear it)..A Set Up/Video Calibration DVD is cheap and will allow you to get the best out of the system... .
For decent HT sound, a 5.1 channel/speaker system is minimum. You can climb to 11.2.4 or more.
Good amps like the 9.2 capable Yamaha 3070 or similar are a great and economical way to go. (I have only moved on from a 3030 to a full Anthem ARC60, M525 x 2,+ M325 for 13 discrete channels). Speakers like the B&W 703 are great for dual purpose stereo and HT. I have only used Miller&Kreisel (M&K original Satellite/Volkswoofer, full set of 950 series and now full set of 300 series) speakers for HT so do not have experience in others, aside from reading about the wider range in A/V mags.
You can make a big impression with an economical 5.1 system.
Yeah, I think before all of us start answering questions (which happened fast here), we need to know how much money you are looking at investing. Is it $1,000? $2,000? $5,000? You can probably get a decent setup for any of these amounts, but of course it will be better with more money investment. Without knowing your budget, it's really a pie in the sky, because suggestions could very easily get up into the "over $10,000 level" and even potentially in the "over $20,000 level". At the bottom $1,000 level, you are probably looking at some sort of used Yamaha receiver with some entry level speakers (maybe like Elac or similar).
--- As far as your first question, you can probably get a way with a 3-channel system. A Center Channel speaker is probably the most important (in addition to the left/right). Without a center channel, the dialogue and sound will have an "echo" effect because the left/right speakers have to produce the main dialogue as well as the reverberation from the dialogue.
---- Surround speakers will add some ambience and also add depth and immersion. If you're looking at budget, these are somewhat important, but no where near as important as a center channel. So, 3 speakers is absolute minimum. 5 speakers is better. You don't need to look past that (these 7 speaker, or 11-speaker plus Dolby Atmos systems are just more junk you have to buy, but they do offer more "special effects" type of thing).
WOW...........I thought I was the only one who doesn't sleep!!..........Guess I was wrong. LOL
Haven't hammered out the budget thing with them yet. As previously mentioned, they have NO idea what good sound or gear is like. They think 4 inch Bose satellites are high end.........Not knocking Bose, per se, they sell a ton of speakers, but not usually to audio people.
I'm thinking start basic, decent HT receiver with solid full or near full range L-R speakers and matching center. They can build on that later, more speakers, subs, what have you. Keeps the initial system simpler and allows the up front costs to be more about quality, than how many channels can they cram into one room.
I've watched a lot of movies over the years with my 2 channel rig and never missed not having the other 35 speakers at the time, but I do understand that movie sound tracks are meant to be heard multi-channel for the best effect.
Okay, so an AV Receiver is going to be your target. One thing to know with these is that it is best if you buy the biggest and most powerful one you can. Ignore the fact that it’s a “11 channel receiver”. I recommend buying the biggest because you will get the largest transformer and power supply section (which are important, as you probably know). That being said, even the biggest receiver will not have as good of a power supply as a nice 2-channel amplifier (such as Parasound A21 or similar).
Anthem makes some good receivers. You can get a used MRX710 on ebay for $1100-1500 range. Many love them. Anthem is probably the cleanest and fastest sounding AV receiver. However, I think the Anthem is a bit hard edged in the highs, but it will definitely be an exciting sound for movies. I would definitely suggest using gold-plated terminations on any speaker wire and even putting in a Isoclean gold-plated fuse or a Hi-Fi Tuning Supreme “Cu” copper fuse to take the edge off the highs.
Yamaha makes nice natural sounding receivers. You can get a used Yamaha RX-A3070 for $1300. New for $1500. It’s just one generation old. I have had extremely good results when adding a Furutech fuse into the Yamaha receivers. I usually recommend getting into the Yamaha advanced menu to set the speaker type to “6 ohm”. This changes the circuit in the Yamaha and performs better. With a speaker that has impedance drops down to 3-4, the receiver will sound weak in the bass/midbass/midrange area when set at the default “8 ohm” setting.
Marantz has good stuff, but it is definitely warm sounding with soft/rolled-off highs. Marantz has good body and impact. However, if your audience are not audiophiles that understand what they are hearing, they may think the Marantz sounds dull. One of the good things about Marantz is they have a fully discrete analog output stage in the preamp section. You can find the Marantz SR7011 and SR7012 receivers on ebay for $1300-$1600 new. They may work out if you put a fast Hi-Fi Tuning Supreme silver fuse in and/or use silver-plated bananas/spades on your speaker wire.
Speakers are an entirely different thing and if you ask “what’s the best speaker” you will get 18 different answers on this forum. There are many different options and it becomes a very “personal preference” thing here. That being said, here are some thoughts:
For bargain basement, Elac Debut speakers seem to be one of the best. You’re looking at $500-800 for a pair of full range tower speakers.
Klipsch Reference speakers are nice as well. In the $700-$1600 range. They do have a horn loaded tweeter, which has its own unique sound. However, the Klipsch have the added benefit of being an extremely efficient speaker (like 96db) so you won’t need to use as much power from the receiver (which means you’re not starving the receiver power supply).
If you want a higher resolution speaker, I suggest looking into the Monitor Audio Silver series. New models are getting into the expensive area. It’s $1,500 for a pair of Silver 200, and $2,000 for a pair of Silver 300. You can get a previous generation Silver 6 for $1200 a pair from Crutchfield. Parts Connexion has a pair of Silver 6 in White Gloss new-in-box for $899 a pair.
I’d keep it as simple as possible and lean strongly towards lifestyle factors. [Given your repeated mention of Bose satellites as being a reference for them]
Nothing at all wrong going with a well reviewed higher end soundbar (that is amplified and accepts ARC and has sub outs). If you want to be picky, then ignore the included sub and add a smallish (10 - 12 inch) audiophile approved sub.
Seriously, keep it simple. They will appreciate it and can move to the next step later, should this one take off. All the best.
david_ten has a suggestion, but I would like to point out that a soundbar is somewhat of a "final solution". You really can’t upgrade or expand that solution. It is designed for people who want a easy solution to just putting sound out for their tv. Soundbars can sound good, but you are restricted on speaker placement and you won’t get the imaging that you can when you can place/position your speakers manually. ----- Also, we didn’t talk about speaker cable. If you go to usaudiomart site and do a search for "audioquest slate", there is a guy that’s selling a pair of 8 foot + a single 4 foot cable (for center). He’s asking $159, which is great for the value of this. Don’t know if the lengths will work and it means that the receiver needs to be very close to the center speaker, but it’s a nice option.
Naim Muso will sound much better than soundbars but it is meant for listening to music only, not for watching movies or tv shows. And it isn't multi-channel setup but it is very simple. Thought I just threw it out there for you.
@caphill Agreed, and a good option as well.... but as you point out, it lacks multi-channel (minimally three or 'virtual' efforts beyond).
I have a Muso and it works well for stereo playback from the TV, but offers so much more for music listening.
An even simpler option would be to choose a TV with an integrated soundbar like LG's OLED series or, better yet, one of the OLED acoustic panels from Sony. The Sony's sound more than terrific (I have the LG with integrated bar) actually fantastic for TV / Movie sound. AND it's coming from the screen so placement has greater reality.
Agreed....those acoustic panels from Sony OLED is pretty good for tv viewings. Or else Bose small surround sound speakers system will work for them since Bose seems to be a reference system for them and is simple to operate.
Hey guys, before we get too deep in sound bar options and single TV options, shadowcat specifically said he wanted to build a good sounding "low end audiphile" HT system. As good a sound bars are, I don't think that's the direction he really wants to go. As he said, he wants to "impress" his daughter as to what a real audiophile type system can do. A "Bose" type system is also not what he wants to do.
The Vandersteen have a very unique warm/dry type of sound, mostly due to the combination of a poly mid (warm sounding) and the coated metal tweeter (contributing to the dry sound). If you love that sound, that’s great! The Vandersteen 2c looks to have a used value of $500-600 a pair. The 2ce looks to be $1400-1600 a pair. You don’t necessarily have to use a full range speaker for surrounds, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. You could use two of the VCC-1 center channel speakers for surrounds, but they are $850 each, so you are actually doing better by getting a set of 2ce for surrounds. So, four 2ce speakers would be very nice, and since they are perfectly matching, the sound will be very cohesive around the entire room. As long as you get a matching VCC-1 or VCC-2 center, you are good.
--- That being said, the 2ce is a rather low efficency speaker -- it’s only 86db efficient. Also, the impedance drops down to 4 ohms in the sub bass area (30-60hz): https://www.stereophile.com/content/vandersteen-2ce-signature-ii-loudspeaker-measurements -- If you wanted to go the Vandersteen route, I would highly suggest getting a really good external 5-channel amp because the receiver just won’t have the power supply to push these Vandersteen effectively. Essentially, the receiver won’t get the volume and will suffer in bass power/strength (this may cause you to think you need subs). For these specific speakers, you really want to get a 5-channel amp that has a massive power supply. I would also not recommend a warm sounding amp because you want the most amount of attack/resolution for home theater (and the fact that the Vandy are warm sounding already). The smaller amps (such as 100 x 5) would not be as good, in my opinion.
Looking at new, the Emotiva XPA-5 Gen 3 is probably the best you will do for the money at $1599. Used, there are options, but they can definitely get expensive. The Emotiva Gen 3 uses switching power supply, but it does have enough current to drive your Vandersteen.
There’s a Krell Showcase 5 on audiogon/tmraudio for $1599. It will definitely be fast and resolving, but may not have the power supply to give you good strong bass.
We can discuss more if you want to explore this direction.
"Running two sets of Vandy 2's, L-R-LR-RR might be amazing and I don't think you'd miss a sub-woofer with a setup like that to keep things a bit simpler."
I used to think like this too until I cobbled together my own HT by starting with my dedicated 2-channel rig. Having gone through this I will say my strong opinion is that two of the most critical pieces for a truly entertaining HT experience are a good subwoofer and center speaker. I started with front L/R speakers that went down to 28Hz, and when I added a sub it was a total game changer from an enjoyment perspective. Plus, good subs these days aren't terribly expensive relative to the added fun they bring to the table.
Similarly, skimping on or buying a compromised center speaker will greatly degrade the whole HT experience as about 80% or so of what we hear from movies comes from the center speaker. The best center speakers I've heard have the tweeter located directly above a dedicated midrange driver flanked by a couple midwoofs. I think that's because this configuration tends to sound more uniform from left to right across seating positions, and they extend low enough to forcefully and faithfully reproduce lower mids when called for (think Darth Vader's voice as one example). Can't tell you how many homes I've been to where if they just ponied up an extra $100 or so for their center speaker their HT experience would be at a completely different level. Penny wise and pound foolish IMO.
Lastly, if I'm skimping anywhere it'd be for the rear speakers. And yes, IME at least one pair of rear speakers is absolutely necessary to achieve a real, immersive HT experience. However, I've heard several excellent home theaters (including my own) that use relatively cheap monitors or in-ceiling speakers, and they do the job just fine IMHO as long as they're set up properly. Is it better to use better speakers back there? Sure, but the dollar trade off gets kinda steep as upgrading another component instead often outweighs the benefits of better surrounds. Again, just my experience.
Wow, this went longer than I planned. Sorry. Anyway, just thought I'd share my experience as a stereo guy who transitioned to HT in case it helps you make some choices and maybe potentially avoid some costly mistakes. I've got some specific recommendations I'll add later FWIW.
Daughter is not an audiophile. Dad is not a Home Theatre guy.
Daughter and family are starting here:
"These folks think that hanging 4 inch Bose speakers in the corners of the room with a micro, wanna-be sub is good sound"
We don't know the room size. We don't know the TV / Monitor / Screen setup. We don't know the seating distance. We don't know the typical family size and seating arrangement when watching movies. We don't know if the room is dedicated to HT or will be a multipurpose room. We don't know speaker placement challenges. We don't know if in-wall, on-wall, on-stand or floor-standers are preferred. We don't know what speaker size is acceptable or desired. We don't know if a center-channel can be properly placed and matched for time and phase coherence with the L/R speakers.
Should I go on? Oh yes... we don't know the budget, and we don't know if movies sound better in multichannel vs 2 channel.
We don't know how much aesthetics factor in? We don't know what level of complexity vis a vis the interface is acceptable. We don't know what platform (OS) the family uses or prefers to use. We don't know how needs for sound beyond the main room factor in.
These are all relevant and just a few of the questions that need to be answered and addressed before anyone giving you multichannel system advice is actually helping you.
And yes, there are many more issues that need to be thought through for proper implementation and end user satisfaction and contentment.
😊 Tread wisely and all the best with your decisions.
Here is our take on how to do this please take this guidance for what you wish, 30 years of professional audio/home theater design including designing a Home Theater for Rev Run’s Home, check out DIY network Rev Run’s Renovation Season 2 episode 9 Secret Cinema.
1: For surround sound yes multi channel sound is what is what will recreate the experience of being in the action, many people don’t like multi channel music as it tends to sound gimicky 2: The quality of the receiver or electronics really matters. If you are trying to get the best bang for the buck use a high end receiver. 3: Stick to the Audiophile brands, NAD, Primare, Arcam/Audio Control they really do sound better, and put their money into better circuits and conversely are easier to use and setup vs the mass market Japanese brands which tend to feature useless surround sound modes like Cathederal and others, All you need it Dolby Digital and DTS for most codecs. 4: Choose speakers that will work for both music and theater, that means a matching center channel and so the look and size of the center channel which may be under the TV and visible may be important as you must have the room for the speaker. Choose floorstanders as they sound best for music, with a small speaker and sub combo doesn't sound nearely as seemless for music but works for TV, the more bass the fronts have the easier it is to blend with a subwoofer. 5: The rears can be of another brand than the fronts and in ceiing speakers if you can install them work great for rear surrounds.
It is best if you can use the same speakers or same brands all around but the rear effects speakers are for mostly effects so any difference sonically will be less noticable. If a speaker for the fronts use metal dome tweeters then seek the same for the rears. 6: Especially for music put the majority of the budget into the main left and right speakers, so if you have to economize use cheaper backs and forgo the subwoofer which can be added later.
7: If you are going to use a subwoofer, most home owners do not want giant subwoofers, so stick with Rel, Jl Audio, Paradigm, SVS.
The new Paradigm Dominator series offers a very high performance subwoofer, with state of the art bass correction and a very useful app and they sound great for music and theater, we just put out the 10inch $1,000.00 woofer and it is very impressive.
For louspeakers the Kef R series can be formidable loudspeakers especially for theater, the speakers use a dual concentric driver that puts the tweeter inside the woofer which acts like a mini horn this creates a very wide soundstage with very little localization.
Many dealers are now selling older R for 50% off with full warranty, we have a set of R700 which were $3,800 now for $1,900.00 a pair add in a center for $500 and you have almost $5,000.00 worth of speakers for $2,400.00
Other good speakers for Home Theater are Golden Ear Triton’s which have good bass with built in subs, howerver they are very ugly and sound better for theater then music.
Step one is to figure out a budget a cheapie 5 speaker sub/receiver package starts at around $3k a much better theater is $5-10k
So one of the things you may want to do is to actually audition a system so if you can get to a good dealer that would be our recommendation.
Most dealers often have demo or display products that they can sell you to rival the prices found here with the added benefit of having a warrranty and support.
Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any further questions.
Following up from my prior post and adhering to those principles, here is a system I put together for my brother's friend who was in a similar situation and was also ready to check the dreaded "Bose" default option. He wasn't willing to deal with the used market, so I stuck to direct sellers and heavily discounted items (all with very good reviews) to keep the cost down. The whole shebang cost about $2500 (plus cables, but I just used some old ones I had hanging around), and after getting it set up and dialed in he was totally blown away by the results. And I have to say even I was shocked at the level of performance for that amount of money. I'd bet your daughter would be absolutely thrilled by it as well if she considers Bose good. Here are the speakers, sub, and receiver he bought...
I chose a Yamaha receiver for him because they get high ratings for sound, are fairly user friendly, and have been very reliable (many other brands that sound good have very spotty reliability records). As a prior poster mentioned, I myself would be sorely tempted to buy a used Anthem MRX710, but used it's still more than double the price of the above Yamaha that sounded great when I heard it. I'm sure the Anthem would sound even better, but that'd be up to you (and the budget) if they'd appreciate the difference. I own the same sub myself, and despite being a sealed box design it can literally shake my fairly large family room with movies but is quick and tight enough to blend with music too -- and it's not very big, which is really nice. It goes down to an honest 20Hz and feels every bit of it. Anyway...
As someone mentioned above, I have no idea of the size of the room, budget, etc. so I wouldn't presume to think this would be the right system for your daughter. I'm just throwing something out there that I found to work well so hoping it just gives you some ideas for your situation. Best of luck.
Wow, lots of help and suggestions..............much appreciated folks. I learn more every day..........40 years, two channel audiophile, but the HT thing will be new ground. Lots of similarities, but important differences as well.
Daughter is in Florida, I'm in Maryland, so it will be a field trip for me to do this, which is fine.
I'll be the one buying the gear and doing the setup since they have no idea where to start. They'd likely just go to Best Buy, get whatever was on sale that day, stick everything in corners and think they'd done good..........ugh.........Always fun spending other peoples $$$.
My impression is that that this will be a dedicated room, so aesthetics should be less of a concern than in multi-use rooms. That will give me some leeway to do it properly. Decent gear and some appropriate acoustic treatment should provide them with a new experience they'll be very happy with.
I did check out the Master Switch article that was recommended..............good stuff,
For starters or for someone who isn't an audiophile such as your daughter I think a good quality AV receiver would suffice it. As suggested by audiotroy earlier I would look for audiophile brand receivers eg NAD, Rotel, Arcam, Audio Control, Anthem, Cambridge Audio for good reproductions of both music and surrounds (movies) and avoid those Japanese mass produced AV brands as they usually won't sound that good for stereo music playbacks but fine for movies (surrounds).
The Cambridge Audio CXR200 av receiver retails for $2k but recently I think there's one offered for sale here for around $1200 if I'm not mistaken. This is a quite musical sounding receiver and this will be your cheapest audiophile receiver option IMO. The Cambridge isn't loaded with features or bells & whistles like those found on Japanese mass produced AV receivers but for stereo music playbacks the Cambridge CXR 200 will sound better than most if not all Japanese av receivers.
The NAD, Arcam, Rotel, Audio Control make great sounding av receivers especially for stereo music reproductions but cost more than the Cambridge Audio. So your best cheapest audiophile quality receiver will be the Cambridge CXR 200.
For speakers there are countless options out there and you should look for the ones that are suitable for both music and movies as suggested by audiotroy earlier. KEF, Paradigm, Martin Logan, Monitor Audio, Golden Ear Technology, B&W, PSB are great options for both music and home theater (movies).
As several have already mentioned, without a budget and more info about the room, I can’t give you recommendations on specific equipment but I do have experience introducing a non-audiophile (my wife) to the benefits of a decent home theatre setup.
I definitely agree with what was said before about needing at least a 5.1 system to really get that “WOW” factor. My wife had never experienced surround sound and was initially a bit annoyed when I cut holes in the walls of the living room for surround speakers, but it took about two days for her to be totally won over by hearing effects from our favorite shows coming from behind us or in the room. She still after 3yrs occasionally darts a look over her shoulder and smiles about being fooled by it when an effect gives that immersive feeling...especially on a scary or suspenseful scene. It’s mid-fi, but she likes that room way more than another setup we have with much better stereo speakers & electronics but without the surrounds.
She was also annoyed by the “big black box” (an SVS SB2000) that “ruined” the aesthetics of the room...for about 36hrs until a scene in Game of Thrones where one of the dragons landing gave that sensation where you can feel it in your chest. She literally paused the show just to look at me and say “that was cool” and I’ve not heard a complaint about that big black box ever since. Total game changer compared to the micro sub from an old pioneer home theatre in a box that had been in the room before. So get a real subwoofer...or two :).
Depending on the budget, neither surround speakers or a decent subwoofer even need to give anything away to room aesthetics anymore as there are really good in-wall/in-ceiling options these days for both. I’m not suggesting the in-wall are better or as good for a given price point, but for surround and subwoofer channels where sound quality is less vital compared to the center and front R/L, they do a great job...especially if the room will have to stay multifunctional.
As as for electronics, my only suggestion is to keep it simple. Ideally have the whole setup controllable from a single remote &/or phone or tablet apps. Audiophiles might not mind getting up and sequentially turning on multiple components or having 5 different remotes to control every part of a home theatre system, but that’s annoying to most people. Also, be sure any receiver you get is 4ohm stable and has pre-outs in case they want to upgrade to a separate amp down the road...most decent ones will have both qualities, but some of the lower end models won’t.
What a great challenge, let's build a system. A couple of suggestions would be to keep the AV receiver newish so it handles all the current Codecs.
Older gear like meridian g68s or krell image and sound amazing but are limited to playing compressed file codecs.
You want to have Hdmi v2 at the least, moving forward.
What about high current solutions like Arcam although for the cheaper money they may be hdmi v1.4 ok but I would want v2.
Marantz gives an excellent hdmi hand shake, and they just simply work. their new AV gear would give all the connectivity in the would. DLNA, wireless, blue tooth, network access and heos that could be expanded into the whole house.
An expansion in the future would be to add an external 7 channel amp, followed by another 5 channel (emotiva is affordable) and 2 or 4 ceiling speakers for atmos. You could use in wall speakers in combination with in ceiling, with only the two fronts and centre taking up real estate. Obviously if you chose the right current model Atmos capable unit you will be able to expand the system if so desired, once they get hooked on good AV experience (:
Try getting them hard wired in by lan line but configure the wirless phone and Tab integration with it all.
Know body uses discs any more, sure cover that base if that's what works, I wouldn't bother, unless they have hundreds of DVDs and CDs and then I still wouldn't bother I'd just get it all ripped onto storage.
An Invidia Shield will get them gaming and streaming plus hooked into their network.
What about a NAS for storage. At least a 4 bay with 3tb drives or bigger.
A Zippidy is suppose to be a good media player also, it will play everything I am told.
The new Marantz has streaming capabilities equivalent to blue sound 2 for music streaming.... bonus.
What about Fronts with subs in them, as someone else mentioned, Def tech. They are designed for theatre and aren't too dear. Also Parridym, M and K,
Recent Sony top of the range LEDs have powerful processors and give great image and brightness at affordable pricing on special. A fraction of the expense of LG oled.
HOWEVR if you could afford a Lg oled C8 65 " it would become the jewel in the system. Love my c8 77" (: . Finally at least $5 - $10 as much as $20 per m for the fronts and centre per m on speaker cables and maybe some Audioquest cinnamon hdmi leads, they want to be decent as so information travels along them.