How do I start?

I'm a newbie in this arena, but would like to get started. Probably like most people, I'm on a tight budget. I decided I'm going to just start by buying piece by piece. I've got a cheap 27" TV and a cheap DVD player already. My plan is to buy something each year for my system. My question to you experts is what should I buy first? I don't necessarily mean brands (but if you want to recommend some that's fine too) rather should I start with getting a receiver, speakers, etc.? I'm thinking about $1000-$1500 is my starting budget. Thanks in advance for any help,

Even though this site is dedicated to selling stuff to each other, you can't invalidate the advice of knowledgeable professionals in audio retailers. Talk to them, listen to what products they have to offer, and begin to learn what type of sound you prefer. The more you know about your own listening preferences the easier it will be to narrow your choices of equipment. There are lots of brands to choose from, here are a few to help you start...Rotel, NAD, Parasound, Vandersteen, Paradigm. Most importantly make sure you enloy yourself, if this experience becomes a chore, step back and reevaluate.
I'd say speakers are as good a place as any to start. Be forwarned, once you make your first purchase there can be no turnig back. Ha ha ha ......ha ha ha ha ha....... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.......etc... :^)
One piece a year for speakers, power/control and cables? Ouch! Buy a chance to hear some music today. $1500 can get you a decent used starter system. You can upgrade from there. I think Glen is right on. I would start with your room and where the speakers will be placed and where the listening position will be. These interaction are IMHO the most important for a sucessfull system. It will also narrow the field to a workable size. Perhaps you can give us details as to your listneing room, types of music you prefer and the volume you hope to achieve. We might be able to provide you will some options that are specific to your needs. Good luck.
sah, you may want to go the receiver route to begin with instead of getting all seperates.
1. I would get the speakers first, get something that you'll keep over time. Just get the front channel speakers to begin with. In my opinion the speakers are the foundation.
2. Then go for the receiver (making sure it can drive the speakers that you got).
3. Then add the surrounds, the center and the sub.
4. You can connect the whole thing together with less expensive cables and IC's to begin with.
5. Until you really get the receiver upgraded to an amp and preamp processor, there really is no need to go nuts on cables.

If I was starting, this is what I would do.

my 2 cents.
You've got some good advice already especially mine :^). Seriously, there is a way to build a nice little system to start out with. You can indeed start small with a complete system and then add on to it a little bit every year. There are a couple manufacturers that make 1-box units that do it all. Classe and Linn make very nice little pieces that have cd, fm tuner, pre-amp and amp all built into one. Add a nice little pair of monitors (book shelve speakers) and your there. I almost put the Linn Classik in my bedroom with a small pair of B&W speakers once, but the thought of downsizing my current system was unbearable.
Start at the source and work your way back to the speakers. Buy the best DVD player you can afford and then match what you buy to the source. If you don't get the best possible sound and picture off of the DVD your wonderful speakers are not going to add it later. Good speakers are a waste of money if you don't have the electronics to go with it!
1) DVD
2) TV, if you are still in the market
3) Pre-amp
4) Amp
5) Speakers
Don't forget to get the best sounding/looking cables you can afford to buy.
You guys are great for answering me so fast. I've been researching for about a month and I thought I would get a receiver first. I have an older Home Theater in a box from Onkyo that just has Pro Logic. I thought it sounded pretty decent in my apartment. Now I have a different apartment and a family, which is why I can't spend all my money. I've pretty much narrowed my choice of getting the Integra 7.2. It doesn't have Dolby Digital EX, but I'm guessing the 7.3 will come out pretty soon. I'm thinking that maybe I should go the receiver route instead of the preamp amp route. It seems a little less confusing, althouth I got the chills looking at the parasound equipment (Glen, I haven't bought anything yet and I'm already stuck!). The local shop sold NHT speakers and I thought they sounded great. I admit though, I'm a newbie and probably can't tell the difference as well as you all can from other speakers.

My system will be mostly for movies and not as much for music. My room is about 15' x 25'. I liked the receiver because it has some flexibility for multirooming. I definitely want to wire my whole house when I get one (who knows when that will be). While I just said my receiver is mostly for movies I would like to someday play music throughout the house.

I'll continue to monitor the responses. Thanks again for the input.
Geez, where to begin?

Glen is right on target if you really want to jump in head first and to keep it simple. The Linn Classik and a pair of monitors (Triangle Titus for $499, Mission 780's, B&W's - lots and lots of nice stuff out there - listen to a couple of them and then pick).

I wouldn't do that, however, if I wanted to get into the hobby as a learning experience - only if I wanted to solve the problem of "I need better sound" so I can get on with my life (and DVD's, of course). If I wanted to learn about audio, I'd keep my money in my pocket - if I were you - UNTIL I had done the following:

1. Learned a bunch about the PROCESS (not products)- for example, how best to ALLOCATE your $1,500 budget to your: receiver, speakers (front, center, surrounds, and sub), source (i.e, DVD, CD), wires (or we call them, cables and interconnects). There have been some nice threads in the last couple of months on this site that will help you sort through this - conceptually, where to get the bang for your buck. If it doesn't start from a conceptual allocation, then any one component along the way can easily blow your budget.

2. Found out what my money could do, say $500 for a receiver? The used market is generally "suspect", but in my opinion, your worries can be greatly allieviated if you stick to the used market on this website, and possibly a couple of others. 99% of the members here at A'gon are honest (100% in my personal experience) and you can get twice the bang for your buck in the used market. You have to know what you're looking for and be patient to find a great deal. Use Google if you're looking for namebrand gear, but stick to this site for the wierd stuff (ha!).

For that receiver, go with the Outlaw Audio 6.1 jobbie for $499, but come to that conclusion on your own after a lot of reading (it's not available for audition because Outlaw Audio is an online only retailer). Or decide on something else. But remember, stick to your budget in terms of the relative amount you spend on each piece of gear.

3. Whenever possible, listen first. The easy thing to do is to narrow the field and then pick a winner and buy it. It's a lot more fun to extend your reasearch and do more comparisons and the end result will be a better match for your musical tastes. Keep an eye on this forum and use the search facility to look at old threads that relate to items you're interested in. Read everything you can about the low budget products for each aspect of your system, and try not to drool too much with the gear that is beyond your price point.

4. Make all of your major decisions in a month or two, and go with what you know at that time. Buy your components as quickly as possible once you start. You don't want to have speakers sitting around for 3 months waiting for the rest of it to come together.

5. Save some money for new music! With your new toys, it will all sound better! There are plenty of websites that will help you to identify audiophile quality recordings that will help any modest system shine.

6. Follow Angela's advice about cables. Keep it simple at first because the sonic improvements that cables add will not be nearly as noticable on a low budget system as they will be as you expand and develop your rig and shrink your retirement savings in the years to come.

Good luck and welcome. Oh, and follow Angela's advice as a general rule of thumb no matter what the subject!
NHT's are nice speakers, especially for a modest system (at least initially) - a good receiver can drive them nicely, they're made to be place relatively close to the wall, they work very well in a dual-purpose role (HT and Music). And, they have a line that extends from budget up to pretty darn nice, so upgrading while keeping the basic sonic signature is achievable. I'd start with a pair of NHT's from the VT series - the 1.4's or 2.4's specifically. It seems very possible to get some used 1.4's and a used Denon 3300 (or similar level) of receiver for around $1500. That would set you nicely on the road to never having money again :-)
At the risk of appearing mercenary, I have some nice pieces that would fit into your budget. All designed to work together. A step up from what your considering. I have moved into bigger quarters and really need a bigger rig. If your interested e-mail me. I apologize in advance to all for this apparent breach of decorum.
I'll send you your PayPal funds for that last comment, Wmcmanus! :-) is another discussion board dedicated to HT. I haven't spent any time reading anything, but it appears to be a good source.

best of luck,
I guess I disagree with the one at a time approach and I also think that life is too short to keep looking for nirvana. I would take my budget and allocate it as best as possible and bring up the whole system to its next level. That way you can enjoy what you have now and learn about the next steps as you save-up. Believe me, I sometimes drive myself crazy trying to decide should I upgrade now or wait until the next best thing is out.

Enough for generalities, the world of video is in a pretty high state of flux right now. HDTV, HD-DVD, DTS-EX and on-and-on. So I would take my budget and weight it more towards a set of speakers. In most appartments you can get away without the center channel and go with the phantom center (saves some money). And there are tons of great speakers here on Audiogon that you can pick up at a reasonable price. In order to drive the new speakers you will need a reciever and I think you should do well to stick with something from a couple of years back and remember that you will be fine with just Dolby Digital 5.1 for quite a while. If you have anything left you can think about some surrounds. Your choices here are going to depend on how you are able to mount them. Living in an appartment you most likely can't mount them to a wall so you will be stuck with either stands or maybe a bookcase. And therefore you may endup with a pair of simple direct radiating speakers. I think you will have spent your first allotment of funds by now but your next thought should be to a subwoofer.

I agree with the "make this enjoyable" sentiment so no worries.

Good luck and welcome to the 'Gon

Keep it simple: a multichannel receiver and a full set of speakers. For this round at least, buy your cables and interconnects from Radio Shack. Some A-goners will pooh-pooh this suggestion, but in your price range Sound & Vision is a better source of product info than the higher-end rags. They've done some good roundups of components in the past, so find a local library that gets it and you'll get some good advice.
Buying everything at once means the customer has to compromise on everything. Real people have to live with real budgets. Buying everything at once sounds like the approach my ten year old son would take. I would encourage a more mature approach to this obsession.
Hey Nrchy,

Congratulations on having such a mature and insightful son. He must know the frustration of having a single terrific component that cannot be enjoyed because of the limitations of the rest of the system. I'm not sure how your 10 year old figured out that for sah's first system he has to comprimise and that bringing his entire system to the best level that he can afford as a first step will bring him the most enjoyment now. Then when the upgrades occur sah can concentrate on the one-at-a-time approach.


Speakers first is the rule for everyone. Match them to your room and musical tastes then get an amp that will drive them, fine tune the sound with wire.

If I were starting out building my home theater from scratch today, then this is what I would do:

(01). I would buy my speaker package first. And that means I would buy my speaker package this year. Concentrating solely on the speakers allow me the opportunity to invest in quality instead of just sticking to a price point. Investing in quality now will do nothing but pay off BIG dividends next year when I am finally ready to buy a receiver.


(02). I would buy my receiver next year. Again, doing the "one component at a time" approach allows me the opportunity to invest in quality. So, instead of getting a $500.00 receiver next year, then why not go ahead and get one the costs about $1,000.00. That way, you will end up with a receiver that's going to get the optimum performance out of the speakers that you're going to select this year. That would be what I would do.

But now, if I wanted to do everything all at one time, then this what I would start out with:

Speaker Package: Polk Audio -- About $500.00.
Audio/Video Receiver: Harman/Kardon AVR-225 -- About $500.00.
Television/Monitor: Panasonic CT-27SX12 -- About $600.00.
DVD Player: Toshiba SD-2800 -- About $130.00.

As you can see, you can put together a whole home theater system for less than $2,000.00 (something that I thought was impossible even over a year ago), and then when the upgrade bug finally hits you, you can always upgrade a piece at a time later on when your budget allows.

Regards and Good Luck.........

If you stick with a 2 channel system (my recommendation) you may be able to afford seperates up front( there are some nice value pieces advertised right here on Audiogon). Perhaps an intergrated amp as a compromise. You seem to be planning a long term upgrade approach. Thats fine, but having pieces is not having a system. Unless you see the most fantastic bargain you might as well hold onto your money till you can afford the system you want. More often than not the pieces that are useless by themselves will be depreciating with out use. A reciever may have the most bang for the buck, but it will certainly make it more difficult to pursue an upgrade path. At the sake of being redundant. IMHO, as you already have sources, think room, speakers, power, control and wires in that order. Good luck!
This has all been great advice. I really do appreciate all those who have responded. As an update, I'm continuing to do more research and narrow down what I really want. I've really liked the comment about knowing the room. I'll keep you all updated. Feel free to offer more advice or suggestions. Thanks,

If you want quality, dont go cheap. First dont buy home theatre in a box. Save your money for a while and get a good receiver and good front speakers. Wait till you save some more $$$$$ and get a sub.Save more, get a center channel save, save,save get rears. The PSB image line is real good, and not expensive. For wire go to Home Depot and Get their 12 or 14 guage wire off the big spool its pennies a foot and good. Also check out the RCA gold banana plugs $5 a pair , in the same aisle as the wire. And when you save a real lot of money, Get a RPTV or a Plasma. Nuff Said!