What can the average enthusiest do to get A+ HT?

I've read enogh posts over the years, and seen, heard, read about, installed, designed, sold, built, and experienced enough home theaters(including bassic surround systems, dedicated theaters, etc) to want to put the question out to the masses/fellow enthusiests out there. I'm currious to hear some of the more informed/experienced HT junkie's(like myself) input on to what they think they can pass on the the rest of the AV world at large would be, to help everyone truely maximize the Ht experience at home!
I've come to the conclussion from my years of experience around this stuff, that most(better than 99%) don't have a clue as to what they're dealing with, when aspiring to get even remotely approaching world class HT from their set up! Especially people experiencing this for the first, even going at it the second/third times!!!
Is it the gear? Is it the set up?..the acoustics?..the tweeks?...the calibration?...what? And if it's any and all of these things put together, can someone help spell it all out/break it all down in a realateively straight foreward manner, considering the variables people are likely dealing with/encountering (perhaps including budget/space), what options they should thus be considering, and specifics that need to be attacked/approached!?
I'm just currious if people who are serious about getting the best HT possible with-in their means/budgets(even at the ultra expensive and ambitious end) truelly want to know what it takes, and what they can do to get something truely special in their life time in respect to AV!..and that's assuming they want to mostly "go it alone", as opposed to hiring professinoals to do the job. We're talking about "home projects" and set up's here!...just to be clear.
Thanks for any input, commments, info, perspectives, etc.
Here is my 2 cents.

Im gearing up to start on my DYI HT project, gonna built all the speakers/amplifiers/cables

Ive had lots of experience with Mid-priced HT gear, with no single component breaking the 1,000MSRP mark. Been through many setups in many rooms, and over the years the experience i have gained determined my goals on construction.

1) Pre-Processor, no Reciever. The benefits of outboard amplification is obvious to all who have heard.

2) 150WPC, all 7 amplifiers will be monoblocks and identical in every fasion.

3) All speakers will be identical. No "center" channel, no Bipole surrounds, all 7 speakers will be exactly the same. Every time i did the sound level adjustments, even with "Voice matched" gear the FL/FR did not sound exactly the same as the center, nor did the LS/LR BL/BR. Normally the f/l and f/r had more depth which the center and surrounds lacked.

4) Being identical speakers, the center channel cannot be a "full sized" speaker therefore neither will any of the other speakers, they will all be Monitors.

5) Full Range, even though they will be monitor size, they will be larger monitors, and im going to to my best to make sure they can all reach down to 45Hz -3db, i want the center and surrounds to be as close to "full range" as possible. None of this "down to 100hz" crap. All 2 way speakers

6) Dual Subwoofers designed with the goal in mind of reaching down to 20hz with no more than a -6db loss.
250rms Amps to power them.

7) Projector is a must in this setup. I want a good 100" screen minimum.

8) No integrated 2 channel. This will be in a room dedicated for Home Theater, not for music. Therefore all considerations for 2 channel will be ignored, im going for a seperate 2 channel system in another room. The focus of this will be HT and HT only.

9) Room treatments.

If i were to just go out and buy this same setup rather than build it myself, the requirements would not change, except i might go for a 7channel amplifier rather than 7 monoblocks.
The easiest way to achieve the finest sounding HT setup is to take the finest sounding 2-channel system and add a top-notch dvd-player. (and of course a large screen tv).

And perhaps consider adding a top-notch sub-woofer for the 16Hz to 24Hz range.

It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that spending say, $10k on a 2-channel system can easily reign superior sonics over spending the same $10k on a 5-plus channel 'HT' system.

Slappy- the idea of all monitors being the same is a great one! The best HT system I ever put together was 5 Totem Mani-2's (each with dual-isobarik internal woofers down to 28hz) powered by a a Theta Dreadnaught and Sim Audio Attraction processor- didn't even need a sub!
You have heard the technical stuff above. Synergy is the key to an awesome sounding setup. Everything needs to work together to acheive the ultimate sound. And most gear has a sonic style so they must all complement each other to produce the style of sound that you like. I prefer detailed but very smooth high end. So for example I choose High powered tube amplifiers. I also look for value in HT components I would buy the top of the Line Sony DVD for a lot less that the Higher end brands. I would spend more on Fine speakers and subs .
I agree with Stehno, especially as multichannel comes of age. The past three decades of experimentation have proven one unaltering conclusion to me as i have tried every conceivable speaker , processor and amp configuration : Just like an algebraic equation , you start with a small idea and build with a focus and end result in mind . Though I feel ultimately that the integration of the theatre { Visual presentation} can somewhat alter an end result , the basic tenent is best acomplished by following strict 2 channel pincipals and building the system around that. The next phase is considering a center. If it is not able to breathe and image then go phantom. Next is surrounds. Do you go 2 or 4. Oh , how about 5 now.... Ex you know. .... Wait , there is the height channel you can try.... now you have 7 in the rear. What ... a sub????? 8. I have been there and done it all . I have returned to the nest so to speak with just 2 lowly surrounds that took forever to dial in and submerge me in acoustical reality that satifies both theatre applications as well as provide a seamless , cohesive soundfield for multichannel. As I learned more about purist 2 channel audio in the other systems in my home the more I applied that knowlege to the theatre and the results were not open to debate. Less became more but it was a better , more focused less . The bottom line is that you can save lots of money with a plan .
IMHO, forget it. My current thinking is that I won't tackle that project until I can have a more money than the "average enthusiast" has or is willing to spend and can build a custom room from the ground up. The logistical problems and costs for A+ HT are overwhelming.
Unsound , life is short and one in a million get to ascend to the zenith of anything the first time out. The goal is synergy . Five identical monitors equidistant fron a single sweet spot properly calibrated and integrated with a very good and accurate sub can acheieve incredible results. Do seperates ; a quality processor and five channel amp { there is the Cal system just posted recently . They are out of business but the combo was good and the price is right. Scott Morris who does excellent repair work and was part of the Cal design team is your security if it ever fails }. Yes, the room is crutial and must be addressed though its not always necessary to start from the ground up. If you are serious , give Rives a call for a level one treatment . Add an excellent dvd player and you are in business . One mans A plus is another mans c minus. It is relative . I do not know how knowlegable you are in all of this but to jump from say ... a Yamaha dsp a 1 reciever to Wisdom Rush and Halcro is not fair to you as you did not earn your way there thus can not fully appreciate where you end up. But like i said , life is short so ... dont give up until you hit the lottery....start building your dream system today. Piece by piece, like most of us right here. I and many others are here to help you. Just ask .
Brainwater, thanks for your reply. My response was to the quest for A+HT. I have yet to hear a HT system that was less than $70K that I'd want to take home. I'd rather spend less and have a good two or three channel system. I have no aversion to video, quite the contrary. I just think that properly setting up 2 channels is difficult enough and have found even relatively expensive multichannel systems irritatingly distracting. I suspect that the equipment and rooms as we now have them are fundamentaly flawed to such a degree as to make them near well impossible to practicaly implement.
Unsound , you sound like an intelligent guy and I cant wait to see what you finally do . Keep us posted and good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!
$70K to get good results?!?!?! Somebody is doing something WAY wrong, especially if they are taking advantage of deals on Agon, Audioshopper and Audioweb!!!

Other than that, i agree with Brent. Keep it simple and pay attention to details. Most of the HT systems that i've seen were set up so poorly that throwing money at them would only make you poorer, not get better results. As a side note, if you can't get your mains spread far enough apart, skip the center channel speaker. Place the mains as best you can and then bring the volume up on your TV just a bit to anchor the dialogue. This works better than you might think. On top of this, it will save you from buying a cheap center speaker until you can find what you really want and can properly orient the system for best multi-channel operation.

More is NOT better, especially when all your getting more of is improperly set up junk. Sean

PS... Like anything else, getting your hands dirty and learning how to DIY can save you TONS of cash.
Brainwater, thanks for your well wishes, but, I wouldn't hold your breath.
Sean, those were dealers full list prices. I'm from Brooklyn, we don't don't pay list for anything! Still I find less money spent on 2 channel (I would consider three if stuff like the Mercury recordings catch on) out perform more expensive multi channel systems. I've yet to hear a system with rear channels that weren't an annoying distraction.
Unsound: I think we are comparing apples to oranges here. I'm talking about a dedicated HT system here, not multi-channel music. I know that some people have "hybrid" systems i.e. two channel music combined with multi-channel HT, but the two types of systems really are quite different from one another and require different speaker positioning for optimum results.

Other than that, i agree that most multi-channel music is a mess. Sean
Sean brings up an important point . Multichannel audio speaker set up is a bear to " dial in ". I mentioned utilizing two channel principals as the framework for multichannel speaker configuration but should have expanded a bit more. Thanks Sean. I should have obviously added that the addition of the center is A : critical to nail as the cohesiveness of the frontal stage can expand or collapse and B: forces the mains out some therefore relinquishing strict 2 channel ideology { this is why I have a dedicated 2 channel system as well } . This is not always a bad thing . I also think that multichannel has fantastic potential but so damn many factors must be addressed that without massive trial and error and a very good processor , most will not see its future . The difference betweenm my Lex Mc 12 and Meridian 861 processor was astounding and I cannot stress the importance of that revelation enough . I say this because the MC 12 is indeed a great processor . I am fanatical to the stage of hysteria in the pursuit of that " focus " in my multichannel room and suggest all who want to experience its insane beauty be so as well. Two channel audio is in and of itself a religon to many in its correct integration so imagine multiplying that obsession to detail to a processor , three times as many speakers and the room effects upon that same quest for perfection and you see the delimma. Our mission if we chose to accept it is .....staggering quite frankly but so much fun . I live for this stuff.
One final thought on this . Unsound brings up an all too familiar conception . He states that rear channel information when listening to music is an annoying distraction. This phenonenon exists in our generation and budding purist alike but we will fade into memory as the paradiagm shift is occurring right before our eyes. Dvd audio is soon to invade our cars and home theatres of the all too soon to be future and its going to be a freight train . I am glad that SACD got its foot in the door so quickly and effectively as it gave us a greater variety since dvd a seems to be headed for mainstream . Sacd s foundation is strong and should provide us with much to cherish for years to come . However , make no mistake about it : DVD audio is coming like a tidal wave . I have a surfboard under my feet and a sacd torch for a hat. ALOHA!! SURFS UP!
Brainwater, I agree that the future may permit the promise multichannel. Perhaps it will be better media, production/engineering, electronics, room correction, omni directional speakers, cabling, cost reductions or all of the above? Let me know when we get there. As of now, I think it's too expensive, fraught with challanges and ultimately dissapointing. It's worse yet for those who try doing it on the cheap with little effort. More often than not (always?) one ends up with a room filled with junk, wasted time and money all to achieve terrible sound. Let me know when we get there.
Sean, are you saying that movie sound engineers are doing a better job than music engineers? Or is it, that when watching video, one is so emersed in the visual presentation that one is less in tune with the audio, and there fore the audio is less critcal?
Unsound: Yes, i do believe that those doing the mixing for multi-channel video typically provide better results than what we get out of multi-channel music recordings. The primary reason for this is that movies have sounds from every direction whereas music is typically experienced with the band spread out in front of you. This is probably why Paul Klipsch wanted us to go to a 3 channel system rather than two.

As a side note, some of the worst multi-channel music recordings are those that are "antiques" that are getting re-mixed. Some of these engineers are going berserk twisting knobs and playing games with spatial info. The presentation becomes completely un-natural. Sean
Something you all might want remember,

This thread was origionally asking about anA+ HT setup, as in HOME THEATER.

Personally i think multichannel music is way too finiky to do, i find the surround speakers annoying. Give me nmusic in 2ch, leave the surrounds for theater.

Building an A+ HOME THEATER is one thing, however, creating a satisfying MULTICHANNEL MUSIC system is an entirely different beast.

Personally, MY HT will be built with Theater in mind from the ground up, with no consideration for Multichannel music, that is alot more headache than i think it is worth.

My MUSIC system will be built for Music only. 2 channels, thats all.

Its kinda like those new cell phones. You CAN put a camera in a phone, but you will suffer performance on both aspects.

HT, MTA (multi channel audio) and 2CH all use the same basic elements. Speakers, Amplifiers, Source, Etc. But that is where the similarity ends.

Think of it like a car. a HUM-V costs about as much as a Dodge Viper. Two very high performance vehicals, but the performance and intended use of each design was vastly different.

Keep it all seperate, unless you dont mind blowing a crapload of cash, pulling out your hair, and have years of free time to get a system that can do all three equally as well

Multichannel music systems and home theatre are the same beast if you can eleminate the screens effects on the center imaging. I have an eighty two inch firehawk on a hindge that folds back to the ceiling and when retracted , I have what ammounts to a dedicated multichannel dvd a sacd system . Drop the screen and its a home theatre. They can and do coexist quite comfortably .
Slappy, I can understand the reality that both you and Sean bring to point about video soundtrack vs. music playback, but, I don't understand the philosphy. If the recording engineers don't do their job, there is little we can do, to do it for them. If the recording engineers do their job, then our job would still be the same, whether there is video accompaniment or not. The medium is the same, the vehicle is the same, the load is the same and the desired speed is the same. The only difference I can think of is that in HT we now have the additonal challange of coordinating the sonic imaging and soundstage to placement and scale of a constant reference, the videoscape. Or visa versa, either way it seems daunting to me.
Brainwater, i saw that on yer pics, that is pretty slick dude.

I guess my point is this, Multichannel music is more of an audiophile thing than an every day joe thing.

HT is something designed for every day joes. The reason of the surrounds is to submerse you in the movie, and the point of the center is to basically for the most part, eliminate finicky speaker placement for imaging.

i dont know if im just sounding like an idiot here, but any idiot can make a surround sound setup sound better than the local cineplex.

It takes alot more effort and thought to pull off Multi-channel music, without making it sound annoying.

WIth Multichannel music, the focus is the music.

With HT the ocus is the movie, the surround sound gives a good "gee wiz" effect. With HT, you have basic "background music" and dialogue with some sound effects.

Yeah, you can spend a hoopla of cash on a HT system and make it good for everything, but when you are watching a movie the primary focus is visual, with audio a very close second, but second none the less.

Ive seen some pretty high cost HT setups, Nothing like Brainwaters, but close to the 80k mark. Ive seen alot of really crappy ones too, as well as plenyy of 10k HT setups.
My experience with DVD-A on the 10K and crappy HT rigs is a "neat effect" but nothing close to what you will get with a good 50K+ Surround setup.

I have a co-worker who is really into this stuff. Oddly enough he doesent like this website, i guess somone rubbed him the wrong way. Either way, his HT ran him about 6 times what my last HT rig cost me. We both used good setup, but his was way more expencive. For Movie performance his rig really diddnt sound better than mine. For 2 ch and DVD-A, you bet yer ass it sounded better than mine.

However, when movie performance comes in, the difference between the 50k setup and the 10k setupin my opinion is rather marginal, if not barely noticeable.

In the examples above, im talking about the audio aspect only, not video gear.

Af for the recording engineers job, for movies yer talking about different shots, different angles, changing angles, "gee wizz" effects, and visual bombardment. The sound must to the camera's perspective to create a realistic effect.

With Multichannel audio, they try to recreate the sence of being at a concert or a show, with a fixed point of focus, which is alot harder to pull off, because it is sustained and the illusion is far easier to shatter with bad engineering.

Just my thoughts on it. I think a HT can be real sweet, but if you dont care too farts about multichannel music, then creating a realistic surround experience is easier due to the chaotic nature of camera angles and quick effects.

A street magician can do a quick card trick and blow yer mind, but it takes a brilliant magician to pull off a trick that involves the audience giving prolonged focus of the matter at hand and still make it convincing.

Just my opinion. I dont claim to have golden ears, better than most, which is probably less than many on the gon, HT is just easier to make convincing than Multichannel audio. That is why i consider them different beasts.

same equipment, same ideas, but the difference in subject matter, and the difficulty to pull off mulitchannel compared to HT, just makes me think that they are different beasts.

Peace! :)
Slap - meister , keep us informed on your diy project. Sounds awesome!!
Will do Brainwater!

Buying a house in the next several months, right now it is still having the kitchen upgraded and hardwood(pergo) floors installed, that is one of the things that is kind of holding me back.

Im hoping to have my first set of speakers done in the next 3-4 months.

Will post pics of everything and keep an ongoing thread of my progress.