It’s time to upgrade to my first “real” home theater system. This will be replacing a Logitech system whose wireless rear speakers died after a couple of years. We’re not audiophiles by any stretch, but want something that will sound good for movies and games, and hopefully last for 10 years or more. I’ve done some research, primarily on Cnet reviews and avsforum, but it’s a bewildering morass of info out there, so figured I’d check in here to see if anyone could help narrow it down.
My budget is roughly $600-800 for everything, but that has some flexibility on either end if there’s a chance to go a bit lower without sacrificing significant quality, or go a bit higher for a major improvement in quality. Going through Costco would be nice for the peace of mind from their indefinite return policy, but if their speakers are lower quality than those for similar prices elsewhere, then it’s not worth it. I’m open to either building piece by piece or going the HTiB route, again based on whichever results in the best bang for the buck (with an HTiB, I would want one with a real receiver, and I already have a PS3, so wouldn’t want to spend money on another blu-ray player).
Here are a few of the options I’m weighing:
1: Do nothing now and wait for some crazy deal when Black Friday rolls around.
2: Pioneer VSX-31 Receiver + JBL CS6100BG 5.1 Package Deal for $800 at Costco. Both of the components seem to be pretty high quality from the few reviews I’ve found, and of course the return policy is a huge plus.
3: Onkyo HT-RC230 receiver + Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III Package Deal for $800 at Sam’s Club. I always hear people saying that Bose is overrated and overpriced, but the in-store demos I’ve heard sound great to my untrained ears.
4: Onkyo HT-RC360 Receiver for $250 at Fry’s. Seems like the best bargain I’m likely to find on a quality standalone receiver, fitting with the rule I’ve seen that the receiver should be about a third of your total budget. The room is a bit of an odd space, being rectangular but with the entire left wall open to the dining room, so the automatic-configuration Audyssey system on this receiver sounds valuable to me. It’s got good reviews, and is discounted from $550 MSRP, and I have a rain check on the price that’s good for a month. This might be combined with either:
A) Pioneer SP-PK21BS speaker set for $400, based on glowing CNET review; or
B) JBL piecemeal options at Costco – Tour Bookshelf 2-pack for $60 X2, Balboa center for $60, and ES150PW sub for $250. This would total to $430, but I can’t find reviews of the individual speakers and am more going on the general guideline I’ve seen that you get better quality with individual speaker purchases than on packages. I’d also be concerned with the wireless receiver in the sub breaking, and might consider a different sub with those speakers.
5: Something else entirely if anyone has better ideas, since I’m still mostly in the dark about what to look for to get the best deal.