Home Theater A/V receiver advice needed

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by macsamurai, Jul 24, 2007.

  1. macsamurai

    macsamurai TiVoSamurai Too!

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    Dec 30, 2001
    Brooklyn...
    Although I am quite the geek when it comes to many things, when it comes to a/v, I'm mostly clueless.

    Our current setup consists of the following:

    Samsung 42-inch HD Plasma
    TiVo S3 HD w/ 2 CableCards
    TiVo S2 (single tuner) w/ TimeWarner digital cable box
    Samsung upscaling DVD player
    DLO iPod HomeDock Deluxe
    6-year old Technics a/v stereo receiver

    Just pre-ordered the new TiVo HD lite, which will replace the old S2 and the cable box, so within a few weeks, we'll be all-HD on 4 tuners and close-enough to HD with everything else.

    We have all our audio running through the receiver right now (hooked up by a friend, and I couldn't duplicate it on my own if I tried), but we're still using our old pair of Polk Audio speakers. It's a small room, so surround sound wasn't high on the priority list until now.

    Now, aside from wanting better audio quality across the board, we really want to minimize the alarming bundle of cables that live between the media stand and the wall. HDMI gives us that opportunity - with the right receiver.

    We bought new speakers - the Sony SA-FT3H 5.1 Channel Flat Panel Speaker System, with Four Flat Speakers, One Center Speaker and Powered Subwoofer.

    We haven't taken them out of the box since we got them, because they'd be a waste on our current receiver. So now we're ready to buy a new receiver and we're scratching our heads trying to figure out what's best for us.

    The plasma has one HDMI input. the DVD and both TiVos all have HDMI outputs. The iPod dock has S-video and RCA audio.

    We're looking to spend under $600 if possible - for a receiver that can handle and switch between the 3 HDMI audio and video sources natively - and seamlessly, has an am/fm stereo tuner, s-video and component i/o for additional devices we may dig out of the closet and 5.1 surround sound to make use of our new speakers.

    I'd love to hear any suggestions or advice you may have. Thanks!
     
  2. JimSpence

    JimSpence Just hangin'

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    Binghamton, NY
  3. ChuckyBox

    ChuckyBox New Member

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    Oct 3, 2005
    Here's the problem: any receiver you buy that has either 3 HDMI inputs or 2 + upconversion of component is going to be far, far better than your new speakers (or probably not a very good receiver if it is <= $600*).

    So if I were you, I'd take the speakers back and get a better set, get a less expensive receiver that doesn't have HDMI switching, and a separate HDMI switch for switching the video (and a programmable universal remote that can control all the switching -- if you don't already have one).

    This unit would be a good choice for the receiver.

    Speakers are a personal choice, but if I were you I'd spend my money on the fronts and center, then pick up a used sub and some cheap surrounds when my budget allowed.



    *By this I mean that a receiver that costs < $600 AND has 3 HDMI inputs is likely to be suspect. HDMI switching is still a bit of a higher-end feature on most receiver lines.
     
  4. jjg247

    jjg247 Member

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    Oct 1, 2002
    If you can hook up one source with something other than HDMI look up the reviews for the ONKYO TX-SR605. It only has 2 HDMI inputs, but the output enables you to run a single cable from the receiver to the TV. CNET and Sound & Vision gave it excellent reviews. Haven't had the chance to hook mine up yet though. Cost is incredible I got it from J & R for $399 w/ free shipping.
     
  5. macsamurai

    macsamurai TiVoSamurai Too!

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    Dec 30, 2001
    Brooklyn...
    Thanks, jjg247! I've been looking at the Onkyo receivers. I'll take a further look at the 605. Only 2 HDMI inputs isn't the end of the world (and that seems to be the norm?). We use the DVD player least of all, so that can just use component. As long as I can pass both video and audio from the two TiVos over a single HDMI cable (per TiVo, of course), and components and S-Video for everything else - with just a single HDMI cable going to the TV, that will go a long way toward cleaning up the cable mess and streamlining the setup.
     
  6. jlb

    jlb Go Pats!

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    Burlington, VT
  7. jbernardis

    jbernardis Active Member

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    Oct 21, 2003
    Princeton NJ
    Beware of the single cable video hookup from your receiver to your TV. Many TVs (and sammys are notorious for this) do not support 480i over HDMI. If you have any 480i sources (remember VCRs or even your Tivo if you are runing in native mode) you may need to run a separate video line to your TV and do video switching there.
     
  8. richsadams

    richsadams Well-Known Member

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    Jan 4, 2003
    First, congrats on ordering the new TiVo HD! :up: A lot of us will be interested in hearing how you like it compared to your S3...and I suspect many of us will be kicking ourselves for buying the S3 when it first hit the market. :mad:

    Good advice above and have to agree with ChuckyBox...speakers are the most important investment in your sound system even if you're not an audiophile.

    It looks like you can pick up the Sony speakers you've mentioned for $199 at Circuit City. That's about the minimum price you should expect to pay for one reasonable loud speaker for a small room. A good rule of thumb is to spend as much as your budget will allow on speakers and then the rest on a receiver.

    Since you're on a budget I'd recommend that you simply return your Sony speakers and purchase an all-in-one "home theater in a box" system that includes the loudspeakers and receiver. They've come a long way recently and at least you'll know you're getting a setup that's matched and balanced. Pairing your Sony's with a $600 receiver will likely disappoint you and you won't be able to find a receiver in that price range with much if any of the HDMI features you're looking for...and if it has them they will have cut corners elsewhere.

    The Onkyo HT-S990THX Home Theater System is probably one of the best on the market right now. It's a full 7.1 THX Certified surround sound system (you can opt to use the two left/right side speakers or not) that would be suitable for any moderately-sized living room. It also has iPod docking facilities. With a little research you should be able to pick this system up for $800 to $850. The C|net review is here.

    With regard to connections you have a choice. Besides HDMI you can also connect TiVo (S3 or HD) via Component (YPbPr) directly to your TV or a receiver with very little if any difference in PQ (picture quality)and your DVD player via HDMI (or again, Component). If you want to go with all HDMI connections I'd also go along with ChuckyBox and get a separate HDMI switch for switching the video and run your TiVo and your DVD player through it. I'd also recommend using TiVo's and your DVD player's optical audio output to a receiver.

    Hope that helps and keep us posted! ;)
     
  9. BBURNES

    BBURNES Member

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    Jun 23, 2004
    St. Louis, MO
    I was in the same bind as you...

    4 components with HDMI outputs into a plasma with only one input. I didn't want to buy a separate HDMI switching unit even though it could be programmed into a single remote later. Plus I wanted to seriously upgrade the digital features.

    While this receiver is a bit more than $600, in my opinion it is the best value in the market. 4 HDMI inputs/switching at 1080p, upconverting, THX, the latest Dolby and DTS decoding, iPod, USB, iLink and XM support. I picked mine up for about $1,000.

    Here is a link:
    http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/pna/v3/pg/kuro/product/details/0,,2076_310069789_310985784,00.html
     
  10. captain_video

    captain_video Member

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    Feb 28, 2002
    If you're on a tight budget then you might want to consider holding onto your existing receiver, get yourself an outboard HDMI switcher, and invest in better speakers. The Japs are good at building electronics but they still have a lot to learn about building a decent speaker system, IMHO.

    I'd echo the sentiment to go with a good set of front and center speakers and add some rear surrounds as your budget permits. When you have the money saved up consider upgrading your receiver. Built-in HDMI switching is still pretty sparse on most units but more are coming out as time goes by.

    I haven't kept up with the latest mainstream A/V gear lately, but receivers by Marantz, Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer and a few others tend to get consistently high marks. Getting one in the price range you indicated with HDMI switching might get a bit tricky but there may be a few out there if you look around. I'd check out a local Home Theater salon to see if they have anything to offer in the low end price range. You can always find some good bargains on ebay if you know what you're looking for.
     
  11. richsadams

    richsadams Well-Known Member

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    Jan 4, 2003
    Hey there...good advice. :up:

    I know you mean well...but "Japs" is a racial slur and quite offensive to many.
     
  12. ChuckyBox

    ChuckyBox New Member

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    Dude, check out this link. Have a look at some Denon refurb dealers. You can get a ton of receiver for not so much money. Like these guys have the 2307CI for $479. It's 100W x 7 channels. It will switch 2 HDMI, and do analog upconversion to HDMI. That a great price for a really good entry-level receiver. But you will need some pretty good speakers to get the most out of it.

    I wouldn't hesitate to buy a refurb -- you get really good bang for your buck and the unit might have a little scratch on it, or have been run for a few minutes. Denon gives you a 90-day warranty to figure out if it works, and you can get another 3 years for $40 from the web site (other dealers will probably have similar offers).
     
  13. jlb

    jlb Go Pats!

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    Dec 13, 2001
    Burlington, VT
    I agree with ChuckyBox.

    I used to work part-time on the weekends at a high-end home theater store and we always had a very well stocked shelf of used consigniment pieces. All the equipment would get thoroughly checked out before being put on sale.

    This could be a good way to go.

    I would also look for a receiver that has Autocalibration. If you are not happy about the prospect of using a calibration disc to tweak the receiver settings (very important for the best balanced sound), a receiver that does it automatically (with a mic) is a great way to go. My next one will have that.
     
  14. drew00001

    drew00001 New Member

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    Jan 13, 2007
    I read a Cnet article within the last few days that says there is a Onkyo receiver that it the most future proof with respect to the new Dolby and DTS audio formats. I have no experience with Onkyo, so I cannot say one way or another whether Onkyo sells a good product.

    I am currently looking to upgrade from a Sony STR2000ES. The sound quality is great at mid to high volumes, but I live in a condo and rarely have the opportunity to benefit. At this point, I am most impressed with the Dennon HDMI switching units. They seem to have the best sound quality for the price, even though some of them are very expensive. Before buying, I will wait for Dennon's new line, which should have the new Dolby and DTS formats (I don't have a HD or Blu ray DVD player now, but admit I will eventually buy one . . . hence, I would prefer to futur proof an expensive purchase.

    side note: I agree with others who wrote that you should return your speakers. Sorry. ;)
     
  15. macsamurai

    macsamurai TiVoSamurai Too!

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    Dec 30, 2001
    Brooklyn...
    The speakers are not top of line, for sure. But they are still a step up from where we are now :) In a 500sf apartment, with neighbors on both sides of us, super high-end audio is kind of wasted. Friends of ours have these speakers and we listened to them in their space, which is similar to ours and they were good enough for our needs. Then again, since they are still in the box, we could always swap them for something else in the same price range if we find something better.

    Onkyo does have a great rep and we have a few Onkyo components in storage from our old stereo setup that we were very happy with, so I suspect we're going to end up with an Onkyo now as well. I'm still trying to make sense of the 605 vs the other models and what the pros and cons of each are.

    Thanks, everyone, for your feedback!
     
  16. JTYoung1

    JTYoung1 Member

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    Aug 13, 2006
    Jacksonville...
    The Onkyo 705 and 805 both have 3 HDMI inputs, I believe the 805 upscales to 1080p over HDMI. The Yamaha 861 upscales to 1080p over HDMI too, but only has 2 HDMI inputs.

    Also I recommend getting a better set of speakers.
     
  17. macsamurai

    macsamurai TiVoSamurai Too!

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    Dec 30, 2001
    Brooklyn...
    Out of curiosity, those of you who are urging me to get better speakers than the Sony set we picked up... may I ask why you find them inadequate? For $200, they seem like a pretty good deal and they sounded fine to us in our friend's apartment. The reviews online for them are decent as well.

    http://www.circuitcity.com/ccd/prod...FEED->PRODUCTS&cm_ite=1 PRODUCT&cm_keycode=67

    http://reviews.pricegrabber.com/surround-speakers/m/12073979/

    What am I missing? Remember - it's a small apartment and we keep the volume level pretty low, all things considered. The system will only be for AM/FM (mostly NPR talk and news) and TV/DVD. We have a Bose unit that we use for iPod/iTunes audio and my husband generally has his headphones on at the computer when he's jamming out with his bass or guitar.
     
  18. bilbo

    bilbo New Member

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    Dec 7, 2004
  19. macsamurai

    macsamurai TiVoSamurai Too!

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    Dec 30, 2001
    Brooklyn...
    We have an old pair of Polk bookshelf speakers now, which we are replacing.

    New Polks would be fine, but for one thing: their size. In our case, the smaller we can go, the happier we will be. Plus - with the sets you list, we'd still need a subwoofer. That doubles the price.

    I totally agree that there are far better speaker systems than the Sony system we picked up on a whim, but there will always be something better than whatever we buy, no matter how much we spend :) The question is... is it better *for us*. Unless there is something notable about the Sonys that should make us run away from them, my gut tells me they will be sufficient for us. When we buy a bigger apartment, we'll buy much bigger/better speakers ;)
     
  20. bilbo

    bilbo New Member

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    Dec 7, 2004
    mac,

    i'm not a home theater expert, but i think a general rule of thumb some people use is to match your receiver with speakers that cost 2-3 times the price of the receiver. and i'm just going off of some of the previous comments where people are telling you you might need a $600+ receiver that will have 3 hdmi inputs (and it was insinuated you would be buying a receiver that is way better than your speakers).
     

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