Help Bill Build His Home System (long, a million questions)

Hey kids! I just bought a new house, and I’m in the process of filling it with overpriced electronic geegaws. I cannot fight this battle alone, though.

My house has been prewired for 7.1 surround sound, with the speakers already installed in the ceiling. Maybe 7.1 seems like i’m overdoing it, but the price jump was “only” 700 bucks (which amounts to an extra $350 up front for a deposit, the rest rolling into the mortgage) and I’m guessing when I sell the house in 3-5 years, 7.1 will be the laughable minimum.

The speakers are Proficient LCR-660’s (1" aluminum tweeters, 6.5" graphite woofers, 32Hz-22kHz FR, 92db, 5-125W). I’m hoping those are groovy, or else I’m beating up the Home Electronics guy. For what I know (which ain’t much), the freek range is tight enough, I can push 100W out of a receiver through those speakers with no problem (I’ve read that 100W is the minimum for premium quality sound).

And, um, that’s all I currently own right now (houses are expensive, yo) aside from my old 32" CRT TV that weighs more than I do and a fairly run-of-the-mill DVD/VCR, both of which are relegated to the bedroom.

I totally dug the TV threads that just went down, so thanks to everyone who threw in on those. I’ve been eyeing this ostentatious motherfucker and I’m hoping it will drop to around 3 large in a couple of months when I can afford it. All that crazy tech lingo makes my head spin. So, is it a good TV, a good buy, is it missing anything vital in terms of features, etc?

Now, I get that you want HDMI and upconversion to get everything in a pure digital signal so there are no quality logjams in your shit. I guess my biggest questions come right about now, in terms of receiver, subwoofer, DVD player, CD player, and whatever the Hell else I’m forgetting.

Research tells me Denon makes the phat receivers. But, like, I don’t wanna throw down $1000+ on the receiver alone. I’d like to hang around the 5 hundy mark, plus or minus, providing it isn’t a technological has-been. I might be missing something in terms of what I should look for, but I was thinking I’d need a receiver that:

  1. Pushes out 100wpc max with an average somewhere at an acceptable level. Am I thinking that out right, that most receivers provide not a true wpc average, just a maximum? And that you may as well aim for the max so you don’t accidentally blow your speakers, but you still want to keep an eye on average wpc (if you can get that info), and look for something as high as you can within the acceptable wattage range?

  2. Has all the inputs I might need. I’d like A and B outputs so that I can have the TV on and play tunes out on the back porch if I wanna at the same time, or the like. I’d dig on an input that connects my PC to the receiver. Do I need one that has a USB port, or can I get away with a more generic S or whatever aux input (my PC has an Audigy 2ZS Platinum card) connection from the sound cards audio (and, possibly, video) out(s)? I’d like to be able to play my eclectic and nerdy song library on my PC on the surround sound. Is that even a “can do” type thing? Also, the reciever itself needs to have video upconversion, so that my DVDs look HD-esque when I watch them. Is that right? Aside from obvious inputs from the CD player, TV, and PC, what other inputs ought I have?

The subwoofer. The clown at Ultimate Electronics (where I might very well buy my stuff from, as my agent for the house used to work there and was going to bust the employee discount on me) sez size does matter here, and less than 12" won’t give you what to want, what you really really want. Sounds okay to me. And, he added something about something with it, it as to have some ability to hit the really low lows maybe. I forget. Also, what wattage to do I want in it, the same as the other speakers? I’d like to throw down around 400 for the sub max, if possible.

DVD player. Oh, shit this confuses me. If the receiver is doing the upconversion, do I still need the DVD player to have a special digital out, so everything is being transferred as a single pure digital signal? Am I looking for an “S” out or whatever? I’m sorry I sound like a gibbering idiot about this stuff, I just really don’t know all that much. I’m not really concerned about a DVD recorder or any of that stuff, really. 200-300 bucks is my estimate, is that right?

CD player. Someone want to throw down on me what SACD is? Should I care? Is that hyper-CD stuff around these days, will it be very soon, etc. Is it a must-have, the ability for your CD player to play SACD? Should I just bust a 5-CD Sony or one of those 400-library jobbies, or something? How worth it are the DVD/CD all-in-ones? I haven’t seen any that accomodate more than one CD/DVD at a time, but maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough. I’d like something that is easy to deal with during a party, as opposed to running it all through a PC (in terms of snagging a CD and tossing it into the mix). 100-200 bucks here, if I even need it. I was thinking about copying all my CDs to a seperate dedicated HD in my old PC rig’s tower, but I don’t know if I have the memory or, more to the point, the fucking time to do that.

Anyway, whatever anyone knows about any of this would be appreciated. Even a linky-link to some site somewhere that explains this. My google-fu is weak, I’ve been pretty unsuccessful. Thanks.

Couple of general comments:

7.1 is nice but when I had a 7.1 setup I was disappointed with the lack of titles that supported the format (Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES). Maybe it’s improved but when I moved into my house two years ago I opted to go back to 5.1 for ease of wiring and haven’t regretted it.

Denon receivers are great. I’m not 100% positive but I’m pretty sure that my receiver can either do 7.1 or drive two additional speakers for other room or outdoor listening. Not both at the same time since it uses the same set of jacks. Probably worth checking into on whatever receiver you’re looking at.

Also, make sure that you have some form of component switching on the receiver. That TV you linked has two component inputs plus an HDMI input but by the time you plug in DVD player, cable or satellite HD box, and a console or two those inputs run out real quick.

Upconversion- typically handled by the DVD player instead of the receiver I believe. I’m sure there are receivers that do it but adding all of these features to the receiver is when you really start jacking up the price.

As far as subs go, I have one of these :) Awesome bang for the buck but their size and shape makes them a conversation piece to say the least.

One thing you didn’t mentioned- you’re going to want to get a nice fancy remote to control all of this stuff. One with programmable macros. I have one of these and love it but I think there is a new Logitech one out there now that seems quite popular.

A little birdie told me that the 3 LCD Grand Wega will be dropping in price very soon.

I’ll only comment on what I know about — the things that overlap with plain old stereo buying.

I’m not familiar with those particular speakers, but that frequency spectrum is definitely good enough (even if you weren’t also getting a subwoofer), and that sensitivity (if that’s what 92 db measures) is VERY good. Put 100 wpc RMS through speakers with 92 db/1w/1m sensitivity and you’ll be able to shake your windows without distortion, if you are so moved.

  1. Pushes out 100wpc max with an average somewhere at an acceptable level. Am I thinking that out right, that most receivers provide not a true wpc average, just a maximum? And that you may as well aim for the max so you don’t accidentally blow your speakers, but you still want to keep an eye on average wpc (if you can get that info), and look for something as high as you can within the acceptable wattage range?

The wpc specs given for many receivers is their maximum, a deceptive practice meant to make the thing seem powerful. It’s not very useful information. The measurement you want to judge power by is wpc “RMS.” I don’t even know what RMS stands for, but it means the power in wpc that the receiver can put out consistently without more than a minimum level of distortion.

The power handling listed for your speakers probably means RMS and not max, but you should check when comparing the speaker numbers to receiver numbers to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

CD player. Someone want to throw down on me what SACD is? Should I care? Is that hyper-CD stuff around these days, will it be very soon, etc. Is it a must-have, the ability for your CD player to play SACD?

SACD and DVD-Audio have a higher sampling rate (i.e., more detailed
and better sound, if all else is equal) than standard “red book” CDs, and they also make it possible to separate music into 5.1 or more channels. Most people seem to agree that the sound of these formats is significantly better than that of CDs (given that the engineers did a careful job mastering the disc for the new format).

I personally consider the multichannel thing to be corny and misguided for most music. Lots of 60s albums recorded in mono sounded like ass when gratuitously converted to stereo, because they weren’t arranged or recorded with stereo in mind and because they were converted in the easiest possible way, and in my opinion the same problems apply to the transition between stereo and multichannel. And I haven’t heard that studios have started recording specifically for multichannel, either.

More importantly than my prejudices, though…just in the past few weeks I’ve read on audio sites that:

  1. Last year, new vinyl LPs sold more than SACDs and DVD-Audios (DVDs-Audio?) combined.

  2. ABCKO’s hybrid SACD reissues of the Stones’ 60s catalogue, which were supposed to ring in a new age of the SACD, have now gone out of print and are being permanently replaced by a line of remastered red book CDs.

  3. Someone on the Net has been maintaing a list of SACDs that have gone out of print, so that hardcore audiophiles can grab copies before they become collector’s items. The list is already huge.

So the public seems to have rejected the high-resolution formats, and it seems unlikely that they’ll get a lot more support via new releases. They’ll probably hang around for a while as a specialty audiophile format with a small catalogue and high prices. So no, you don’t have to get an SACD player.

I’ve decided to imitate the plan of a lot of other folks and to buy an upsampling DAC instead, to wring more digital info and hopefully better sound out of the regular CDs that I already have hundreds of and that seem likely to remain standard for a long while. I’m still doing my research on upsamplers, though.

Good luck with everything; sounds like your house is going to be an oasis of luxury and, hopefully, vice.

Root Mean Square.

Lot of questions there. Let me preface this by saying this is a hobby for me now, not a profession, so everything is an opinion.

Not sure what you mean by upconversion in this context. They make a few dvd players that upconvert to 1080i that do a pretty good job. If your talking a receiver I highly recommend one that converts all the inputs to one component or hdmi out. In the 500 dollar price range most will do this. The advantage is ease of use, you only have to deal with using one input on your television. You can find Denon in this price range. If you can find somewhere to audition the receivers with the same set of speakers then that’s what you want to do.

As far as the subwoofer, size somewhat does matter as does power. However I personally went with a 10 in sub because of response time. The sub mentioned aboce is pretty nice, you might want to take a look at the line from hsu research.

Okay, that conversion by the receiver was what I meant. But, do I need a DVD player that has digital out, so that its signal can be converted to HDMI by the receiver, with no loss in fidelity (a risk I thought might be run if the signal coming from the DVD to the receiver isn’t digital)? Or do all DVD players these days have that anyway?

And, actually, I already have auditioned the Denon receivers with my speakers - the home electronics place that installed my speakers uses, demos, and sells Denon receivers.

Ah! That was the thing I was trying to remember. The guy at Ultimate Electronics pitched me a 12" sub that had a phase delay, so that the bass would hit your ears when the rest of the sound does.

Pretty much every DVD player that does 1080i upconversion will use a digital out connection due to copy protection issues. The rare upconverting via component players are a goldmine and can go for big prices on Ebay.

The real question is whether the receiver will have HDMI input switching. Most have component but I’m not sure how widespread HDMI switches on receivers are these days and whether they fit in your price range. If the receiver doesn’t support it you can still go direct from your DVD player to the TVs HDMI connection but that will limit you to just one device via HDMI unless you spring for an expensive switchbox. You can still get HD via component too though.

Also, its worth noting that if you are looking into getting an Xbox 360 that early word (unless its changed very recently) is they aren’t supporting HDMI or DVI connections at launch so high def on the 360 will be component only for a while.

Pretty much every DVD player that does 1080i upconversion will use a digital out connection due to copy protection issues. The rare upconverting via component players are a goldmine and can go for big prices on Ebay.

You can get a samsung upconverting player from amazon for 80 bucks that does it via component once you unlock it. I have it and I love it.

Model? And what’s the unlock procedure?

I actually took my upconverting player back and bought a higher-quality 480p player. Upconverting is BS – the source material only has 480 lines no matter what. Maybe if your TV has a really crappy scaler, it might make a difference, but on my Samsung DLP my DV-CP802 looks way better at 480p than an HD941 did upscaling to 720p.

(BTW, I’ve seen the 360’s DVD playback at a public demo and it’s beautiful. Very nice 480p, it’s many levels above the original Xbox.)

HD841. I think I paid 80 for it shipped. You can also flash it to play divx movies but I havent done that yet.

To unlock it you have to press like up 4 8 7 or some shit on the remote. You would have to check the avs forums for the exact method. The one thing that is really shitty about the player though is the included remote blows hardcore. Its ok for me as I dont use it but its a seriously shitty remote.

I actually took my upconverting player back and bought a higher-quality 480p player. Upconverting is BS – the source material only has 480 lines no matter what. Maybe if your TV has a really crappy scaler, it might make a difference, but on my Samsung DLP my DV-CP802 looks way better at 480p than an HD941 did upscaling to 720p.

This is a good point- upconverting doesn’t magically turn your DVDs into high definition. Although depending on the scaler used, many will have a marginally improved picture in 1080i even over a good 480p decoder.

i don’t think you gain anything really by keeping the signal in the digital realm. There is a high end system (50,000 +) that does this but the name escapes me at the moment. That’s why when you read a review they should spend some time talking about the converters being used and how good a job they do.

I would also just get a good 480p dvd player, the xbox 360 might be a legitimate choice, haven’t seen one yet :).

Response means something slightly different. A speaker creates sound by moving in and out. The bigger the speaker, the longer it takes to do that. So if you listening to something that has a lot of rapid firing bass response, the timing can get slightly off. It’s something unless it’s demonstrated you will probably never notice, but once you do it will bother you forever. So just don’t get it demonstrated and you will be fine. My fronts are full range , so I didn’t need the sub for more than reinforcement so could get by with the smaller. That may not be an option for you.

The suggestion about the remote is an outstanding one. That was the best thing I bought for my system for use of use.

If you could audition other receivers at the same time as the denon is the most preferable suggestion. For instance, when I was buying a receiver I went somewhere that had a denon, pioneer elite, yamaha and an onkyo unit all hooked up in the same room. Using the same set of speakers I could listen to the same source through all 4 receivers. It was very helpful in deciding which sounded the best to me.