Upgrade for TrueHD and 5.1= Better sound or worse?

Hi, I am a newbie that is just putting together my first system.

I have a pair of Usher BE 718's, a Squeezebox Duet, a Tube Audio Design Dac and Preamp and Tube Audio Design (actually solid state) monoblocks.

I will likely purchase Anticables, Lessloss power cords and GIK Room panels.

I am also in the process of buying a Blu ray player. I have an old Harman Kardon AVR 230 from 2004 (no HDMI).

First of all, how would True HD sound on a 2 channel system with the Blu ray player doing the processing? Would it still be a "HUGE" improvement?

I am thinking about the following upgrades:

Onkyo receiver that processes TrueHD through HDMI (about $300 either used or refurbished)

I added the cost of 6 pairs of interconnects-- even through Blue Jeans, at least $190. May as well just spend the extra $100 and get it through HDMI.

That is unless i can just use 2 channel analog outs to my pre and get 90% of the improvement (don't neccessarily really need the surround sound, but also thinking about it.

Purchase rock bottom cheap surround speakers, center and sub. Thinking like about $100 per speaker used, or about $400 and all Blue Jeans speaker cables.

Will use only for home theater/Blu rays. Will this be a huge degradation in sound quality, or will the surround sound and Onkyo receiver be a huge upgrade?

If i use 2 channel, all music goes through the DAC. Would this be better sound using the 2 channel analog outs, or better to use an Onkyo receiver with monoblocks connected to the pre-outs.

Also will buying $100 speakers for surrounds, center and sub a waste of money?

Cost of upgrade:

Onkyo receiver $300
4 speakers $500 ($400-$425 plus shipping)
3 sets of speaker cable, 1 subwoofer cable $110

total cost: $910
minus cost of 2 pr interconnects $60(Blue Jeans) or $200 (anticables)


Thanks for your help.
I found there is a noticeable improvement in the Lossless HD sound over standard dolby 5.1. I have a combo audio/video system with the priority on digital and vinyl audio.

For movies regardless if True HD 5.1 or regular dolby 5.1 the front three speakers are key and the center the most critical(if present). Therefore, you need to match a center to your tiny dancers. the front three should be the same brand or very similar sounding (timbre). This is because, on movie sound mixes, the same sound is often in 2 of the 3 of the front speakers at the same time. Mismatched speakers make that sound less natural/believable. And primarily this sound is voice. My estimate (and often quoted online)....more than 75% of a 5.1 movie audio comes out of the center speaker unless you are watching only Action movies.

Yes, for movies, the surrounds can be basic, as those are for effects and timbre match is not critical, as it timbre mismatch is less noticeable given the types of sounds sent to those channels.

Also if you going to use your 2channel amp + speakers you will need a AV Receiver that has pre-outs for the Left Right channels ( I do this ) Not sure how common that is for a $300 AVR? Maybe the Onkyo you mention does?

I think, your $500 budget (for Center, 2 surrounds and Sub) is tight especially needing to match or near-match your Usher speakers. More realistic budget would be (minimally): Center at $450, Sub $2-400 (SVS or Hsu), $1-200 surrounds (used or ID brand) = ~$750-1150

matching center @ $1k
possible match @ $450

You could also just have a 4.1 set up. Usher Front Left + Right and 2 surrounds + sub, But the AV Receiver still needs to have pre-outs to connect your current AMP/PreAmp. The AVR will process/send all Center signals (of a 5.1 mix) to the front L/R channels.

HTH, ed
On second thought, the Usher center speakers are rated 4 ohm. That is usually not a recommended match for a basic AVR. Higher end AVRs can drive 4 ohms no prob but look into the particular Onkyo you are considering.
Thanks for the help Edomusica.

My primary motivation here is the upgrade to the Lossless codecs.

The big question i really have is how it would sound if i just connected 2 channel analog outs from a Blu ray player, and if 2 channel TrueHD is a huge improvement over regular DVD 2 channel sound.

That said, i've never had a surround setup and am trying to see if it will provide a large upgrade that can be done at a reasonable price. My concern was whether buying cheap surrounds would "ruin" the sound.

It sounds like i would be best off not purchasing a center. But i don't know how a receiver would do 4.1.

I am thinking about the Onkyo 606 or 706, i have seen it refurb or here on the Gon for about $300. It seems like a decent receiver and about the same or better than the HK 230 receiver that i bought new for $379 in 2004. I have used the HK to drive the Ushers and they sound ok.

However, with 4 channels, i'd probably need more amplification, and my ss monoblocks are rated for 185 watts at 8 ohms and 200 at 4 ohms.

And finally, I believe the Ushers are 8ohm speakers and i guess less than $200 per speaker is a more realistic budget.

On the 4.1 question, you would use Phantom center mode or something like that. And for movies, quality of surrounds not critical at all. Mostly effects, foot steps, bullets richoceting, crowd noises, etc.
Also will buying $100 speakers for surrounds, center and sub a waste of money?

Frankly yes. It kind of defeats the effort to get trueHD surround sound, which won't be all that different from regular Dolby Digital or DTS. I think you will be disappointed with it. FWIW I'd stick with your AVR230 and just feed it digital out of the BD player and get matching used 718's and a sub to make a 4.1 system. Alternatively keep saving and then upgrade your mains and move the 718's to surround role. Use Phantom for center channel and keep the speakers slightly closer together than you might do normally - and you'll be fine for one or two listeners in the sweetspot. (IMHO skimping on speakers in a surround system will leave you dissappointed and you'll want to upgrade again only too soon).
Ok, just realized that i only need 3 pairs of interconnects, not 6 pair. And that a center channel is really not necessary for 1 or 2 listeners.

So which is true? Swampwalker says that surrounds are for non critical sounds. Whereas Shadore recommends i spend almost $2000 on surrounds??????

So $100 is probably too low. And i meant used, on a really good deal. I could get decent used sub for less than $300-$600, (if i get a REL, could use as double duty in 2 channel.) and about $300 for a pair of surrounds.

Seems like i could probably get by without the HDMI receiver upgrade.

Anyone else heard blu ray True HD with only 2 speakers through analog outs by the way? Thanks!!
You sound understandably anxious to put together a system. Lets say you've spent your budget and the results are only slightly better than two channel. Can you imagine what that disappointment might be like?

I'm leaning towards Shadorn's suggestion. Have patients and wait for this latest iteration of HDMI and room correction receivers to show up on the used market. This would open up your player selection as well as saving on interconnects.

I have a small HT space and the upgrade from 5.1 to 7.1 was substantial. The size of the room shouldn't dictate 2.1, 5.1, or 7.1, it's the size of the speakers in relation to the room. 7.1 is not overkill it's what surround is supposed to do. Those unusual "surround" speakers used in typical 5.1 setups will blur the 7.1 setup. I have no experience with dissimilar speakers but after watching and listening to my receivers room correction work I would suggest you rethink your upgrade path.

Also, while these new receivers do a wonderful job of matrixing even monaural into 5 and 7.1 there still isn't much in the way of up to date media out yet. You have plenty of time.

I am with Swampwalker. if you are not going to have a dedicated HT 5.1 system to create the uber immersion experience, then decent speakers will suffice for the surrounds. I suggest, if/when you have a source and AVR that can provide 5.1 from DVD or blueray, use the 2 speakers you have now to hear firsthand the type of sounds sent to the surround channels. you program the AVR for 5.1 even though you don't have all the speakers cable your speakers to the SR/SL channels, and play the DVD. Then listen: go to action scene(if there is one) and normal vocal scene. This way you hear the sounds and then you should be able to determine how much you want to spend on the surround speakers. I went with used very small satellites that are completely different brand and design and they work well for surrounds. They cost 5% of the front 3 speakers cost. I listened to large bookshelves as well and decided not to use them.

On the TrueHD, there is just more sound information than regular DD audio due to the higher bit/sampling rates. So it's like comparing SACD to CD. Regardless of the number of speakers, you will be receiving higher quality sound. No way it will sound worse. And with your speakers you should hear the difference compared to Dolby Digital.