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Old 11-20-10, 11:47 AM   #1
phantomcow2
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Very basic question about stereo audio receivers.

My parents have asked for my help setting them up with a better speaker system than what comes stock on their TV. They'll use it for movies and TV, but almost primarily music. I thought I'd set up a 2.1 system with some floor standing Polk Audio speakers that have a cherry wood finish on them with the matching subwoofer.

I use my PC and it's Creative X-Fi along with my Klipsch Promedia 2.1's for everything, so my experience with home audio is very minimal.

I see no shortage of 2 channel receivers they can buy, but one thing isn't clear: does a "stereo receive"r normally include another channel for the subwoofer to connect to? A low frequency channel?
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Old 11-20-10, 12:13 PM   #2
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Subwoofer data is "extracted" from the other channels. It is provided as a separate output from the receiver (assuming it really is as labeled, 2.1). Many subwoofers can also be connected directly to the L and R outputs so that they can extract their own signal, but if the receiver provides a subwoofer output then you should use it. If the receiver has a subwoofer output is may also provide an adjustment to set the crossover. However an adjustable crossover isn't really necessary as most do a pretty good job.

There is also a separate LFE (Low Frequency Emitter) channel which may be present in the audio from DVDs and other digital sources. Some receivers provide a separate output labeled LFE but most simply channel it into the subwoofer. The reason I mention this is that some receivers provide only a subwoofer output but may label it as sub/LFE or even just LFE.
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Old 11-20-10, 12:26 PM   #3
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Great response. Thanks.
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Old 11-20-10, 12:45 PM   #4
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One additional piece of advice. Depending on budget and wiring options, consider 5.1. If your parents have a movie or TV source with digital audio output, typically via s/pdif or optical cable, it will significantly enhance the viewing experience for movies and sporting events. That would include most cable systems (even if not hi-def), perhaps many over-the-air digital broadcasts (I'm not sure because I don't watch much OTA material any more), and certainly DVDs and BlueRay disks. The format is typically Dolby Digital and decoding this requires the code be in the receiver. Conventional 2-channel stereo can also carry surround-sound via several different matrixed mechanisms. I've even heard very good surround-sound on pre-recorded VCR tapes. As you probably know, with a subwoofer you don't need the traditional big main L and R speakers. So even a cheap 5.1 speaker system can sound great for DVDs. But for music you probably want better speakers anyway.
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Old 11-20-10, 02:24 PM   #5
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5.1 system is only good if you're willing to put some money into it and watch 5.1ch DVDs.

If the speaker system is for music, you should really get one that has at least 3 different speakers for different ranges. Lots of 5.1ch systems lack tweeters and not having this high range speaker can be quite perceptible with music, but not so much with movies.

Even most of the "good" makers don't offer tweeters on their speakers and simply double the mid-range speakers. Sure, it's loud, but they don't have a good range.
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Old 11-20-10, 03:13 PM   #6
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I appreciate the suggestion for a 5.1, it's something I did think about. We concluded that a stereo setup is better than a 5.1 because:

They're not big movie watchers. They subscribe to Netflix, but they don't really seek to be "in" the movie. My parent's don't watch sports and they subscribe to only the most basic cable; this should give an idea of what they're about.
THe majority of the use these speakers will see is for music, and rest assured none of what they listen to is encoded in DTS
This setup will be in their living room. They don't want anything mounted on the walls (which is why I found floor standing speakers), and they definitely don't want 5 speakers placed around their room.
They aren't technologically inclined. A 5.1 is more to go wrong, and when it does, they'll get frustrated and not use it at all.

So I was thinking I'd set them up with the following:
http://www.amazon.com/Sherwood-RX410...0277290&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Polk-Audio-Mon...0287363&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Polk-Audio-10-...0287419&sr=1-1

Except that they'll get the cherry colored ones.
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Old 11-20-10, 03:15 PM   #7
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Oh and while my mother isn't a professional musician, she's been involved with music her entire life and has an ear tuned to good sound. I'd rather them spend money on two decent speakers than five mediocre ones that reproduce explosions from movies well.
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Old 11-20-10, 03:18 PM   #8
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you want to make sure that the satellites are 1/3 to 1/4 of the power of the sub-woofer.
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Old 11-20-10, 03:21 PM   #9
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you want to make sure that the satellites are 1/3 to 1/4 of the power of the sub-woofer.
For the stereo? Are you saying that my choices aren't adequate?
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Old 11-20-10, 03:44 PM   #10
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For the stereo? Are you saying that my choices aren't adequate?
yeah, the speakers should be 1/3 to 1/4 of the power of the sub-woofer.
I don't know the specs, but you should double check to make sure.
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Old 11-20-10, 06:12 PM   #11
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if they are really into music see if there is a b&w or paradigm speaker dealer near by. a little pricey, but real good stuff.
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Old 11-20-10, 06:15 PM   #12
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if they are really into music see if there is a b&w or paradigm speaker dealer near by. a little pricey, but real good stuff.
They're definitely not looking to pay for what those run. Like many things, the market for audio equipment shows strong diminishing marginal returns. Ie. the 200 dollar speaker isn't twice as good as the 100 dollar speaker, and the 300 dollar speaker is even less than three times as good.
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Old 12-01-10, 12:51 AM   #13
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They're definitely not looking to pay for what those run. Like many things, the market for audio equipment shows strong diminishing marginal returns. Ie. the 200 dollar speaker isn't twice as good as the 100 dollar speaker, and the 300 dollar speaker is even less than three times as good.
As someone who bought B&W's in high school, i have a comment or two

- Diminishing returns in HiFi/Home Theater performance is similar to cycling. There's barely acceptable ($100 walmart bikes), there's dramatically better ($500-$1000 entry level mtn/road), then there's marginally best ($2k and up). Spending $250-350 on an entry level loudspeaker from brands like Paradigm, B&W, Energy, PSB, etc, will give them something that's special.

- If aesthetics are important (as it sounds like it) a smaller, nicer finished speaker on a wooden stand will probably work better than the tall Polks you linked.

- Consider no sub. Subs are great for lots of gaming, movies, etc. But if they're doing lots of music listening, some news on TV, and an occasional movie, I would suggest buying something like the Paradigm Atom, instead of the big Polks and a subwoofer. If they're unhappy with the low end you can always add one, but for a lot of music, and (to really generalize a lot) music most middle aged parents listen to doesn't need a big sub booming. Especially a cheaper model that will probably be more muddier than musical.

- Do some proper positioning. Make sure the speakers aren't flat against the wall, most don't perform as well there. If they're for a TV, try to keep them even, or infront of the TV a little, turned in slightly.

- Common advice is to expect 5-10% of the budget for wiring. Monoprice is great if you don't need something immediately. Sounds like you'll need some RCAs, speaker wire, and maybe an RCA subwoofer cable.
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Old 12-03-10, 05:12 PM   #14
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Seveal problems with those links provided...
1) That Sherwood unit is stereo only. No sub speaker line. Worse, no TV output. This was designed for stereo music only with inputs for phono, tape, and aux. 2 Speakers appear to ne the only output.
2) Polk towers. Do they have the space and acceptance (typically called "spouse approval factor") for towers.

Also, you never stated what type TV the have. Newer where HDMI connection is available, or older CRT?

(Dinners ready, will give suggestions later.)
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Old 12-03-10, 08:38 PM   #15
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OK, I'm back...

Based on your links, it is apparent that you are wanting to keep it as simple as possible. I will try to maintain that, but each component will be a little more.

Before I start, HTIB (HomeTheater In A Box) There are some that are OK, but generally better to build from scratch to avoid the compromises. Plus, they usually come 5.1 or 7.1 and with your only requiring 2 or 2.1, may be able to upgrade those components and stay within the HTIB "value".

RECEIVER:
The Sherwood just flat out does not meet your stated needs - nor does their next higher model as I looked at their web site. Generally, with all manufacturers, keep away from all "stereo" receivers as they typically are designed for. Look for their "home theater" receivers which will generally be 5.1 or higher. Nothing says you have to use it as a 5.1, and I currently use my Yamaha RX-V765 (beyond budget) 7.1 receiver as a 3 (no sub). I have a sub, but prefer it off. The other advantage of a "home theater" receiver is that they will have video output(s) (component, composite,s-video, HDMI) to the TV. If HDMI is available, some will allow straight through bypass of the receiver for "regular" TV play, but those may be higher end components. With any that you choose, go to the manufacturers website and download the manual and review set-up diagrams.

Three low end receivers to consider, typically reduced to around $200-225 are the Onkyo Tx-sr308, Yamaha RX-v367. and Pioneer VSX-820. Those are baseline, and as you go to the next model up, can include Denon and Harmon Kardon.

SPEAKERS:
With primary interest in music, you may be able to get by without a sub using either floorstanding or and intermediate size bookshelf. Looks for a lower frequency range of around 45hz. Smaller bookcase speakers will be in the upper 50's and virtually require a sub. Few if any musical instruments go below that 45hz range. Synthesized sound in movies is a different story. While subs will go down to the 20 and 30's, the crossover can be set around 80, allowing the bookshelf to focus more on the midrange.

Not generally a big fan of Polk, and the M20 is their lowest line. You typically will find some sales on Polks, currently offering free sub on $499+ orders. Crutchfield has the next line up - floorstanding Tsi300 for 199 ea. and for $129 add the Tsi10 center channel to get the sub. That would really be a complete system as the center channel plays the audio "speech/dialog" on TV and why typically set under the TV rather than to the side. The general rap on Polks is that they have marketing tuning - cranked to in your face standing out vs others in the showroom (they all do this to a certain extent) but it becomes tirirng after extended listening.

Others to look at were suggested earlier. Paradigm, B&W, Energy and PSB - particularilly if limited to bookshelfs. Something like the Paradigm Atom or Titan come to mind. I would particurally lean this way as you state your mother has an ear for music. That makes it even more difficult. Perhaps a store that allows in-home testing? Definately bring your own music for auditioning, but realize they will have the room tuned. Go into Best Buy Magnolia Center and look at the precise setup - speakers set out from wall with sound deadening material.

Another possibility is Mail Order and two stand out. Ascend Acoustics and Aperion, plus a couple others. Both offer 30 day trials, and Aperion includes shipping both ways. In an AV forum, there was actually a thread - Does anyone NOT like their Ascend speakers. That was when their highest line - and possibly out of your general price range - was the CMT-340. Major complaint was their finish. The CMB-170 $298/pair may be an option - but honestly, would look at entry level Paradigms as both would require a sub.

Of course the third option is DIY. That is what I did as I built my SR-71's but that is a totally different animal.

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Old 12-04-10, 10:58 AM   #16
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Whatever you do, make sure you get a pair of these cables (those reviews can't be exaggerating)
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