Will a REAL receiver make a big difference?

Discussion in 'DirecTV TiVo Powered PVRs & Receivers' started by jnelaine, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. jnelaine

    jnelaine New Member

    Dec 31, 2001


    Ok, I know this is a stupid question, but please be gentle - I'm a rookie with audio stuff!

    I currently have an HR10-250 DirecTiVo unit, but I only have a vanilla home-theater-in-a-box Panasonic unit (http://www.crutchfield.com/App/Product/Item/Main.aspx?i=133SCHT820&tp=195) to hook it up to. The Panasonic does not have a digital audio input, so I have to hook the TiVo up using regular red/white stereo cables. The Panasonic will convert this to Dolby surround sound, but I've never been impressed at all with the sound.

    I assume that getting a REAL receiver (like the Onkyo TX-SR705) will make a big difference, but I just want to be sure. I don't watch many DVDs, so I'm talking about the regular HD shows and sporting events that you get in primetime on the major networks. Do you think there will be a big difference when stepping up to a unit like the Onkyo (I will be keeping the speakers that came with the Panasonic unit)? If the difference only shows up when viewing DVDs with advanced soundtracks, I don't think I'll bother to make a switch.

    Thanks for your thoughts!
  2. Pictor Guy

    Pictor Guy New Member

    Apr 6, 2003
    Seattle WA
    I can't speak for sporting events since I don't watch but the movies that are broadcast in 5.1 you will notice a difference. But to be honest not many shows are. If you watch lots of premium channels then it may be worth it. I'm someone who's been spoiled by LPCM audio on Blu-Ray and Stereo sound for anything more than news channels is hard to listen to.
  3. coachO

    coachO New Member

    Nov 25, 2004
    It will make a difference. I have one TV setup without a sound system and then I have another with 7.1 ( just upgraded from 5.1).

    D* still sends my local channels in SD so they come with poor sound. I find I change to OTA which has digital sound even though the picture is not significantly different, even on news programs.

    I don't know the technical terms but the sound is easier to hear at lower volumes and you dont have the front speaker yelling at you. Then DVDs, especially blu-ray are awesome. I also was surprised how much more I like 7.1 versus 5.1.
  4. gcw07

    gcw07 Member

    Oct 30, 2007
    One thing to check out first would probably be if your speakers would even work with a stand alone receiver. I know sometimes those box set speaker and receivers are made so that the speakers only work with the box set. It isn't always the case, but since your not wanting to replace your speakers, it could make your answer really easy if they can't work with a stand alone receiver. Your link to what I assume is the Panasonic box set on Crutchfield isn't working so I couldn't figure out if the box set you got had speakers that would work or not.
  5. earthvssoup

    earthvssoup MST3K fan

    Dec 30, 2004


    Will a REAL receiver make a difference? Short answer: depends on how much you spend. The specs on your HTIB were vague. It says that the unit "creates" 5.1 channel surround. I'm guessing this means that it tries to emulate 5.1 when the show is only 2.0. Does it decode real 5.1 when available? The specs page says YES to a few codecs. If it really decodes these audio formats correctly, then you might not benefit from a new receiver. As you have observed, one potential place for improvement is in the type of connections.

    I used to have a super cheap Aiwa 5.1 home theater unit. It claimed to decode Dolby. I never really had anything to compare it to, so I couldn't tell if it was doing a good job or not. But it never really sounded good to me. We recently upgraded to one of the latest Sony receivers (4300ES) and 5 entry-level Polk speakers.

    +1 to what gcw07 wrote about matching speakers and receivers.

    We immediately noticed a difference! Our jaws dropped at the sound on DVDs, Blu-Ray, PS3 games, and even TV. The receiver displays which audio codec it is decoding, so unlike the old Aiwa we know that it is doing its job. Most HDTV displays as 5.1. Standard def TV displays as 2.0, for which the receiver can "emulate" various surround sound formats.

    There is no longer primary dialog bleeding through to the left, right, and surround speakers. This makes the overall sound much cleaner. On any HDTV show with a lot of gun play it sounds like bullets are flying around the room. The new Terminator TV show, for example, has good surround sound. For sports, especially football, you can hear the specific voices of fans in the surround sound speakers. The sounds of the game are all up front.

    So, yes. Many of the primetime HDTV programs have good surround sound.
  6. jnelaine

    jnelaine New Member

    Dec 31, 2001
    Sorry about that - I fixed the link. And like you pointed out, my current system uses a proprietary connection for the subwoofer, so at a minimum, I would need to replace the subwoofer. (I can't believe I didn't even think of this!) So it's now obvious that I also need to replace all the speakers.

    I'm hoping you hit the nail on the head here - I think the biggest problem with my current system is that it has to create 5.1 sound from a plain stereo input. I think if it just had a digital audio input I'd be perfectly happy. So I'm hoping that this one change (going to a digital input) will make a big difference even when watching network shows like CSI and LOST. I'm sure it will make a big difference with DVDs, but I don't watch very many movies.

    My fear is that I'm going to drop $800 on a new HTIB system and then not notice a big difference. But it sounds like you guys think that a REAL system will sound significantly better even when watching network shows and sports, right?

    Thanks so much for everyone's continued help!
  7. normychas

    normychas Member

    May 10, 2007
    I am also an audio rookie and was wondering if anybody had any suggestions for a good HTIB speaker system. I have a ps3 and a TivoHD and would like to run both over HDMI but could live with only running the ps3 over HDMI. Does anybody have a recommendation for a good system they like for a ps3 and an HDM? I also plan to keep my ps3 as the dvd player since i watch a lot of blue rays on it. Thanks
  8. earthvssoup

    earthvssoup MST3K fan

    Dec 30, 2004
    My opinion is that YES, a real receiver will make a difference. When I was doing my shopping, I kept reading and hearing that the specs on the HTIB receivers and speakers are very often misleading and sometimes flat out lies. Specifically, the speakers rarely meet the power output that they claim. This was one point that resulted in my looking into stand-alone receivers. After having done months of research, it became clear that the receivers included in the HTIB systems are generally extremely stripped down. A box system is very tempting b/c the price is low but you really do get what you pay for. You can always check out the highly dependable reviews at CNET.com.

    My recommendation--for what it's worth--would be to walk into a high end audio store like Tweeter and just ask a ton of questions. Ask to see the entry level receiver and speaker package. A good home audio store most likely will not offer many stripped down receivers. Just tell them that you're looking for a receiver that will decode the basic HDTV surround sound codecs, not the latest and greatest HD-DVD or 7.1 True-HD formats. First, they'll be impressed you said "codecs." And second, you won't end up spending your money on something that is essentially the same thing as you have now. Also, a good home audio store will help you pair your speakers and receiver.

    You will probably get a little sticker shock from a store like Tweeter b/c they'll show you the high end stuff but don't let that scare you away. They also carry good entry-level equipment. Don't be afraid to ask for a lower price than advertised, even if there is already a sale. You can always do your comparison shopping at other stores and online once you find the receiver and speakers you want. (Whatever you do, don't buy your speaker wire at the high end audio stores. Just go into Lowe's or Home Depot and buy the best kind they have, either 16 or 14awg. It will be about one-fifth the price of the wire from the high end audio store. And of course, monoprice.com has great prices if you can wait for the shipping).

    The quality of the sound depends ultimately on the sound offered by the program you're watching. For the Packers-Giants game yesterday the sound was great. Like I said before, they did a good job mixing the surround sound so that you could hear specific voices from the crowd as if they were sitting behind you. Some guy kept yelling, "come on G-men." It sounded like he was sitting a few rows behind me in Lambeau Field. I don't watch CSI, but I would imagine that it has gun play, car crashes, and other goodies that typically result in impressive surround sound. I know Lost sounds great in surround. I can't wait for it to return.

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