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Author Topic: Some basic home theater questions
Carey Barber
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 143
From: Newport News, VA, USA
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 01-21-2007 03:19 PM      Profile for Carey Barber   Email Carey Barber   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I used to have a REALLY crappy home-theater-in-a-box. Well, it has officially died and I would like to get an inexpensive but decent receiver and DVD player.

I still have the speakers from the H.T.I.B. and they are sufficient for my needs right now, so I will not be buying new speakers. My TV is adequate but nothing special.

I had a couple questions:

1. Is Dolby ProLogic worthwhile at all? Is it a reasonable alternative to true Dolby surround or should I insist on the real deal? How much difference in price are we usually talking about?

2. If I have a separate DVD player and surround receiver does the DVD player itself need to be specially designed to output Dolby Digital or is it just the receiver itself?

3. Any other advice or words of caution would be appreciated. My budget is pretty limited so I will not be going for top-of-the-line, but I would be willing to pay a little more or wait a little longer if it meant that I would not be buying garbage.

thanks,
Carey

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Tristan Lane
Master Film Handler

Posts: 444
From: Nampa, Idaho
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 01-21-2007 06:09 PM      Profile for Tristan Lane   Email Tristan Lane   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Carey,

To answer your question regarding pro-logic:

Digital will sound better than pro-logic due to the discreet 5.1 output, rather than a decoded stereo signal.

It is next to impossible to find a new HTR that only decodes pro-logic. Receivers come either in a stereo configuration, or with digital decoding. From there you can get into 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 channel digital decoding.

A simple dolby digital capable receiver will work for your needs. I would suggest Sony for a low-cost solution. KLH makes cheaper digital receivers, but their amplifier circuitry is crappy and I've never seen one that doesn't have some sort of interference noise when decoding digital signal. A 5.1 Dolby Digital / DTS receiver from Sony can be had for under 200 bucks.

In regards to the DVD player - Most, if not all DVD players have either a coaxial or optical output for the digital audio bitstream. Simply connect the DVD's digital audio output to the correct input on the receiver. Also be sure that the input is enabled or selected on your HTR.

I've seen many instances where my friends will invite me over to watch a movie on their new "DTS-ES" "7.1 channel reciever" - only to point out to them that they are still running in stereo Pro-logic. A lot of people don't understand that the digital audio passes through a separate cable - A cable they didn't purchase, or never bothered to hook up.

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Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

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From: Denver, Colorado
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 - posted 01-21-2007 07:05 PM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
You don't need to purchase a special cable for "coaxial" digital audio. Any standard RCA analog cable will do, be it a video cable or half of a stereo audio cable, though the cables are pretty much all the same.

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Frank Dubrois
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From: Cleveland, OH
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 - posted 01-21-2007 09:51 PM      Profile for Frank Dubrois     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sony receivers are crap unless you go high-end. Check ebay for a Pioneer Elite amp. They are very solid, good sound amps. If you want to buy new, try out Yamaha. Still cheap, just different sounding. Any cheap RCA cable will connect Digital Coax out to your new amp. Toslink cable is overrated. You wont get any interference using it, however, wait until you go high end to buy that. Stay away from Monster Cable. Its overpriced CRAPOLA. No matter how nice your amp is, your going to be severely limited by your HTIB speakers, consider an upgrade. Klipsch makes a nice set. Since you didn't specify a budget..its hard to recommend, so if you can be more specific, we can help more.

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Paul Mayer
Oh get out of it Melvin, before it pulls you under!

Posts: 3832
From: Albuquerque, NM
Registered: Feb 2000


 - posted 01-21-2007 10:24 PM      Profile for Paul Mayer   Author's Homepage   Email Paul Mayer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We've had several threads on this over the years - brands like Denon, Onkyo, and Outlaw have all been mentioned as being "best bang for the buck" makers of home theater receivers. I've personally spec'ed and used both Denon and Outlaw in several installations and have been happy with both.

Even the cheapest DVD players seem to have digital audio outs these days. Yes, both the player and the receiver need to have the digital audio capability - as mentioned above it is just an RCA or optical cable with the appropriate connector.

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Carey Barber
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 143
From: Newport News, VA, USA
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 01-22-2007 08:46 AM      Profile for Carey Barber   Email Carey Barber   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Frank -- I was hoping to only spend about $200 on a receiver. I know that limits me, but I have seen quite a few that cost less than this.

As far as the DVD player, they are so cheap now that it does not even really matter.

You mentioned that lower-end Sony receivers are to be avoided...Why is this? Some of the ones I have seen in my price range were Sony and I thought they might be a good deal because it is at least a name brand...

I have done a little bit of online searching but I am not very comfortable buying something I cannot see. I like being able to really look at the product in a store. Perhaps I could find one I like at a store and then find it cheaper online...

Another thought...What are you opinions about these mega-electronics stores like Best Buy and Circuit City? Are they also to be avoided when shopping for this stuff?

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Tristan Lane
Master Film Handler

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From: Nampa, Idaho
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 - posted 01-22-2007 12:24 PM      Profile for Tristan Lane   Email Tristan Lane   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Carey,

I figured your budget would be in the $200 range, that is why I suggested the Sony recievers. I personally don't feel they are "crap", but you can't expect much more from a 200 receiver.

If you can find a suitable Yamaha or Onkyo in your price range, then this would be a much better choice over a Sony.

Best Buy and Circuit City would probably be one of the cheapest stores - Just don't get roped into any extended warranties or service plans by the pushy employees.

Definately look in-store and then shop online for a better deal.

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Scott Jentsch
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From: New Berlin, WI, USA
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 - posted 02-08-2007 11:01 AM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Carey,

If your HTIB was "crappy" as you say, then the speakers were probably the most skimped-on part of the entire system. Without replacing the speakers, you may not be happy with whatever source components you select.

That said, however...

I've been a big fan of Yamaha receivers. I've had three RX-V series units myself, and have helped family and friends buy probably a dozen or more over the years. They present very good performance and a great bang-for-the-buck. I spent four hours evaluating two Yamaha receivers and two Denon receivers in a closed environment, and had a very hard time distinguishing between the Yamaha's and the Denon's, so it came down to price and features.

I know that Yamaha also produces an HTR series which is less expensive than the RX-V series. I see those models in the big box electronics stores, whereas the RX-V seems to be found in the specialty shops. I have no idea what the difference is between them.

If you're into decent quality and a decent feature set, I think it might be difficult to land a receiver for under $200, but who knows? Yamaha's HTR-5930 lists for $230, and Amazon has it for $165. I tend to like a decent on-screen display and auto-calibration, which usually aren't available on low-priced receivers, but if that doesn't matter to you...

Do yourself a favor and don't get a $29 DVD player from the grocery store. Basic DVD players, like the Sony DVP-NS55P can be found for around $50-70, and upconverting players, like the Panasonic DVD-S52 can be had for less than $100.

If you do have some money for speakers, I suggest taking a look at Boston Acoustics bookshelf speakers. Circuit City is now carrying Boston Acoustics, and their prices are decent. I've always liked them, and have two home theater setups with Boston's all around, my two pairs of in-walls are Boston's, and so are my pair of outdoors.

Even their smallest bookshelf (before going into the Micro line, which is more expensive and much smaller), the CR57, is going to sound better than the speakers that came with your HTIB. I have these as my surrounds in my living room, with CR67's up front. I almost went with 57's all around, but wanted a little more bass response without having to buy a subwoofer. The result is very good for both music and movies. I don't have a center channel, but I haven't missed it either. If the imaging is right, you don't necessarily need a center, and you can always add one later if you want.

Speakers are an individual taste, though, so listen to them first, preferably in a closed environment and with music and movies that you're familiar with.

So, let's add it up.

Yamaha HTR-5930: $165
Sony DVP-NS55P: $65
Boston Acoustics CR57: $180 (pair)

Even if you just replace your front left and right speakers with something that cost more than 25 cents to produce, and saved those for using as surrounds to be upgraded later, your investment before cables and surge protector would be $410.

I think that's a pretty low price of admission for a decent replacement for a "crappy" HTIB!

As far as cables go, a lot of people like monoprice.com for cables, but I've never used them. The most important thing is to have good connectors and a reasonable gauge of wire for the distances you're covering. Coaxial digital audio cables "should" be 75-ohm cables (like video cables are), but anything will probably work just fine.

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Steve Guttag
We forgot the crackers Gromit!!!

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From: Annapolis, MD
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 - posted 02-08-2007 12:27 PM      Profile for Steve Guttag   Email Steve Guttag   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
S/PIDF coax cables presume 75-Ohm and would be good for 30-feet. Using other than proper 75-Ohm cables will come off that length. With tyhpical systems using cables 6-feet or less...it most any cable will indeed work. I just don't dismiss the use of proper cables as fast as others here.

Steve

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Carey Barber
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 143
From: Newport News, VA, USA
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 02-09-2007 07:33 PM      Profile for Carey Barber   Email Carey Barber   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks for all the info...

I ended up getting an Onkyo TX-SR304 receiver. (5.1 with 65 watt per channel). It was about $200.

I also bought a powered subwoofer because my old HTiB only had a rather weak un-powered sub. Big improvement.

For now, except for the sub, I am using the same speakers that came with the old HTiB. They are pretty low-grade, but perhaps not as poor sounding as you might expect.

My next step will be to replace some speakers with better ones (at least the LCR speakers if not the surrounds). But, that will have to wait for another day.

Again, thanks for the input.

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Ed Alvarado
Film Handler

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From: Fort Worth, TX,usa
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted 05-26-2007 03:22 AM      Profile for Ed Alvarado   Author's Homepage   Email Ed Alvarado   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
anybody use home projectors?

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Adam Martin
I'm not even gonna point out the irony.

Posts: 3629
From: Dallas, TX
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 - posted 05-26-2007 03:55 AM      Profile for Adam Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Adam Martin       Edit/Delete Post 
Not for audio, but there are several threads here that discuss video projectors.

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Greg Anderson
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Ogden Valley, Utah
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 - posted 05-26-2007 10:13 AM      Profile for Greg Anderson   Author's Homepage   Email Greg Anderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Remember that sometimes you can use the coaxial Dolby Digital hook-up to send audio from the DVD player to the receiver and still not get 5.1 audio. You might only be getting really good Pro-Logic surround sound. Check your DVD player set-up and make sure it's sending Dolby Digital through the Dolby Digital output. Some players are, by default, sending a mix-down until the user selects otherwise. That's why it's nice that a lot of run-of-the-mill THX-certified DVDs give you a lot of audio test tones. Use them!

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Frank Dubrois
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From: Cleveland, OH
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 - posted 05-27-2007 03:07 PM      Profile for Frank Dubrois     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Ed Alvarado
anybody use home projectors?
Absolutely. I saw Best Buy has a close out on Sony Model: VPLHS60. I don't know if the closeout is still going (it was up to last week anyway) for $1079. Thats an outstanding price for that projector. You can do research on all brands of video projectors here:

Projector Central

I bought the VPLHS51 when it came at a price of $2699. It's only 720p/1080i, but for the price, you simply can't go wrong.

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Scott Jentsch
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 996
From: New Berlin, WI, USA
Registered: Apr 2003


 - posted 05-30-2007 11:23 AM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I concur on the performance of the VPL-HS51. I bought one right after it came out a couple of years ago, and it was the perfect balance of price and performance.

I do admit to longing over some of the new 1080p projectors, like the Sony Ruby and the Panasonic. Having an HD DVD player makes one want more resolution, but my wallet keeps telling me that it's not in my best financial interest! [Smile]

$1079 is an excellent price for the HS60! My biggest issue with the HS51 is the light output, so you need to have an environment where you can control the light completely to get the best performance from it.

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