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DPChallenge Forums >> General Discussion >> Home Theater experts! Where to upgrade?
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05/08/2011 10:01:07 PM · #1
I've started to wonder if I should upgrade portions of my home theater system. I have a great TV (Samsung 61" LED DLP), but my receiver and speakers are getting pretty old and probably didn't cost a ton to start with (they are both from undergrad days). My receiver is a Pioneer VSX D409 and has to be 15 years old. My speakers are Mini Advents and I bet they weren't a ton to start with (but they seemed to sound good). The center speaker is a Sony SS-CN550H which, I bet, was $99.

The reason I'm thinking I need to upgrade something is that I'm having to turn the sound louder and louder to get clear dialog (no old person jokes, please!). I've got the center speaker jacked on the amplifier, but it's still hard to hear the dialog while the sound effects and music suddenly blare to life.

Where should I upgrade? A better center speaker? A newer receiver? Better speakers overall? DPC always has so much expertise and I'm sure there are home theater people out there who are more than willing to chime in.
05/08/2011 10:18:42 PM · #2
Great forums site for asking questions and reading up on opinions: http://www.avsforum.com/

Personally I am a Pioneer Man, the Elite stuff is amazing, but costly. However there regular line is pretty amazing to. The Pioneer VSX 1120-K is a great unit, probably find it for around $600 (you can get a bluetooth adapter) so your ipods stream to it over air.

05/08/2011 10:26:37 PM · #3
Personally I've always found AVS Forum to be impossibly dense to pick through to get to the info you want.
05/08/2011 10:36:04 PM · #4
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

Personally I've always found AVS Forum to be impossibly dense to pick through to get to the info you want.


OK well then here is my opinion...

First, depends on what you want to spend of course.

However, there are lots of units in the Pioneer line that will work. If your upgrading, go 7.1 (you can find Pioneer units at around $250-700)

Next, speakers, they dont need to be top of the line, but make sure that they are all the SAME speaker (you can buy kits that work for most people that have 7 speakers and a sub)

Get heavy gauge wire, always cut all your wires to the same length then coil the extra dont trim it.

Blu-Ray! only way to go, PS3 has it built in, or you can get a stand alone.

The HDMI cable will supply the video and audio to the new receiver crystal clear.

All the new Pioneer units have there own sensor for setting up the the levels, so it should work out great.

05/09/2011 03:27:19 AM · #5
Set yourself a budget and stick to it, Home Theatre and Hi-Fi can be expensive.

Decide if you want to go the route of a seperates system or a all-in-one package.

There are a load of decent receivers out there, Pioneer, Marantz, Denon, Sony, etc. For most users either a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup will suffice.
5.1 with give you 4 surround plus a sub plus a centre speaker.

A 7.1 system splits the surround and rear channel information into four channels. In other words, side sound effects and ambience are directed to left and right surround channels, and the rear sound effects and ambience are directed to two rear or back channels. In this set-up the surround speakers are set to the side of the listening position and the rear or back channels are placed behind the listener.
Whilst my Pioneer is capable of 7.1 I find 5.1 is more than enough for my needs.

Speakers are probably the most important part of the set-up and you should, if possible, have all the same make. Again there are a load of decent speaker makes out there but they all sound different. Another area you can spend a lot or a little.

Dont get hung up and pay out for expensive speaker cable . Unless your into H-Fi I doubt you will notice that much difference between the heavy gague stuff and the smaller/thinner cable, plus the smaller/thinner cable is easier to hide.

Add a Blu-Ray and your good to go.

If your not into seperates then there are some very decent all-in-one systems on the market - Samsung, Sony, Panasonic etc.
With these you get a speaker package plus an amp/Blu-ray player. These are more than capable of providing a decent soundstage.

The size of your room will also be a factor as to what is practical etc.

My advice would be to go to a dealer, tell him your budget, and get him to set up some systems for you to listen to and if possible get a home demo.

Also note that whilst receivers are great for movies/tv etc they are not at their best when playing music through them, that is why I have a seperate system for my Vinyl/CD/MP3 etc.

05/09/2011 07:39:12 AM · #6
Originally posted by Sevlow:



Add a Blu-Ray and your good to go.


if you have plans for bluray make sure the receiver you get is compatible with the various types of HD audio (DTS-HD, etc). Most new ones are.

spend you money on the center speaker, then the front, and you can cheap out a little on the rear surrounds. and get a decent sub woofer. Also don't be afraid of the home theater in a box set-ups, some are surprisingly good, so long as you aren't an audiophile, just do your homework on them, you do do get what you pay for.

Message edited by author 2011-05-09 07:42:03.
05/09/2011 10:59:43 AM · #7
This is great advice, but is avoiding the question of where to upgrade first. Looking at my system, where do people think the defecit is that causes the dialog to be poor quality? By what people are saying, it sounds like I might get the furthest by getting a three speaker package (if that's possible). Two fronts and a center. I suppose I could get all five in a package too. I already have some small rears and a stand-alone subwoofer. My receiver, as old as it is, does have Dolby and DTS decoding.

I do have a Blu-Ray already.

Message edited by author 2011-05-09 11:00:29.
05/09/2011 11:30:36 AM · #8
I have a couple of home cinema set ups at home - the main one has a set of Canton speakers driven by a Denon AV amp. Middlishly expensive and below a certain volume dialogue is problematical.

On the other system I have one of the all-in-one sound-bars (Denon FS3) and the dialogue and actually the whole sound experience is better (I was surprised, that setup was about 1/3 the price). It is in a much smaller room though.

More isn't always more.
05/09/2011 12:06:05 PM · #9
You really cant just get one thing its really more of two things.

You want the new receiver that can push either 5.1 or 7.1 (id go the later) (since your receiver is 15 years old, good place to start)

Then you want the speakers to match that system (either 5.1 or 7.1)

Dont chince out on the wire, you dont need monster cable as its branded and a waste of money, but you can get spools of heavy gauge wire cheap.

1) Receiver
2) Speakers and Sub
3) HDTV :)

Just read your post, if your receiver does have DTS (it will do alot of blu-ray audio tracks but not all, thats 5.1

So, if your ok with that, then go:

1) Speakers and Sub (get the 7.1 and just hold the other 2 speakers until you upgrade the receiver)
2) Receiver
3) HDTV :)

Message edited by author 2011-05-09 12:07:48.
05/09/2011 12:15:55 PM · #10
Doc, one speaker company to check out is Aperion Audio. They are internet only (unless you live near Bend OR!), and have great speakers for a great price, with a 30-day, return policy, no questions asked. And a one-year upgrade policy. I have 2 sets of Aperions, and absolutely love them. The center speaker is definitely critical, and depending on whether you listen to music or watch movies, that'll drive choice of front speakers. And a good receiver is also key (where you can adjust output levels on each channel independently).

Aperion Audio

Message edited by author 2011-05-09 12:16:28.
05/09/2011 04:46:16 PM · #11
Originally posted by paulbtlw:

I have a couple of home cinema set ups at home - the main one has a set of Canton speakers driven by a Denon AV amp. Middlishly expensive and below a certain volume dialogue is problematical.

On the other system I have one of the all-in-one sound-bars (Denon FS3) and the dialogue and actually the whole sound experience is better (I was surprised, that setup was about 1/3 the price). It is in a much smaller room though.

More isn't always more.


I saw soundbars and will have to look to see if my old receiver would even have the proper outputs to connect to one. :) That might be something to look into.

Brownsm, I live 2 hours from Bend and I've been meaning to go over there for a photoshoot. Maybe I'll stop by. :)
05/09/2011 07:50:54 PM · #12
Photography and audio at the same time... my condolences - I have had to run them serially over the last 20 years since I cannot afford to run in parallel :-( Best advice from above is to set a budget and stick to it no matter what you hear... that last 5% is co$tly. Did I mention stick to it no matter what :-)

I have been out of audio for a long time now so nothing to add as value but generally buy good speakers matched to good pre/power amplifier. Rest can come and go to a point. I still love my very old cyrus/mission setup... but it don't do surround [does amazing records with a serious turntable attached :-)].
05/10/2011 05:16:44 PM · #13
I'm a big confused on whether you can use a speakerbar with a dolby receiver or if it's only meant to hook straight into your TV? Could I use one as the front right and left and center speaker and then use my own rear speakers and subwoofer?
05/10/2011 05:20:52 PM · #14
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

I'm a big confused on whether you can use a speakerbar with a dolby receiver or if it's only meant to hook straight into your TV? Could I use one as the front right and left and center speaker and then use my own rear speakers and subwoofer?


Mine takes a range of inputs but I use optical, it detects the 5.1 signal, decodes and then tries do reproduce via projection and timing variance trickery.

It certainly does project excellent lateral sound - I'd be lying if I said it gives you much behind, but to be honest lateral effects - left to right broad sweeps etc - are much more effective.

However, the dialogue is really crisp and seems to not be muffled or dominated by the other channels in a way that I've had with more elaborate systems.
05/10/2011 06:12:37 PM · #15
Originally posted by paulbtlw:

Originally posted by DrAchoo:

I'm a big confused on whether you can use a speakerbar with a dolby receiver or if it's only meant to hook straight into your TV? Could I use one as the front right and left and center speaker and then use my own rear speakers and subwoofer?


Mine takes a range of inputs but I use optical, it detects the 5.1 signal, decodes and then tries do reproduce via projection and timing variance trickery.

It certainly does project excellent lateral sound - I'd be lying if I said it gives you much behind, but to be honest lateral effects - left to right broad sweeps etc - are much more effective.

However, the dialogue is really crisp and seems to not be muffled or dominated by the other channels in a way that I've had with more elaborate systems.


The crisp dialog sounds like what I want, but I just am a bit worried that somehow things will get screwed up when you add the other speakers. On your model can you turn off the simulated surround effect?

It turns out my receiver has optical outs (pretty good for such an old reciever). Also turns out I'm currently using them. LOL. Sometimes the back of the electronics get neglected once you get things working and you forget what's there.

I'm thinking of maybe this soundbar ZVOX 550 Soundbase. It's actually a base for the TV and not a bar, per se, but I have a DLP so it's not going on the wall any time soon. I don't need a soundbar with a subwoofer since I already have one.
05/10/2011 06:59:19 PM · #16
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

Originally posted by paulbtlw:

Originally posted by DrAchoo:

I'm a big confused on whether you can use a speakerbar with a dolby receiver or if it's only meant to hook straight into your TV? Could I use one as the front right and left and center speaker and then use my own rear speakers and subwoofer?


Mine takes a range of inputs but I use optical, it detects the 5.1 signal, decodes and then tries do reproduce via projection and timing variance trickery.

It certainly does project excellent lateral sound - I'd be lying if I said it gives you much behind, but to be honest lateral effects - left to right broad sweeps etc - are much more effective.

However, the dialogue is really crisp and seems to not be muffled or dominated by the other channels in a way that I've had with more elaborate systems.


The crisp dialog sounds like what I want, but I just am a bit worried that somehow things will get screwed up when you add the other speakers. On your model can you turn off the simulated surround effect?

It turns out my receiver has optical outs (pretty good for such an old reciever). Also turns out I'm currently using them. LOL. Sometimes the back of the electronics get neglected once you get things working and you forget what's there.

I'm thinking of maybe this soundbar ZVOX 550 Soundbase. It's actually a base for the TV and not a bar, per se, but I have a DLP so it's not going on the wall any time soon. I don't need a soundbar with a subwoofer since I already have one.


Yes, you can toggle between Surround, Wide Stereo, Stereo and Mono - but why would you? I use a subwoofer but no other speakers, the soundbar does the lot (and came with a subwoofer) - and actually I don't have an AV between it and the sources. Satellite and AppleTV go direct into the unit via optical. PS3 goes in by regular audio jacks - I don't get surround support with that source since the soundbar will only take two optical ins.

Message edited by author 2011-05-10 19:00:09.
05/10/2011 07:08:16 PM · #17
Originally posted by paulbtlw:

Yes, you can toggle between Surround, Wide Stereo, Stereo and Mono - but why would you? I use a subwoofer but no other speakers, the soundbar does the lot (and came with a subwoofer) - and actually I don't have an AV between it and the sources. Satellite and AppleTV go direct into the unit via optical. PS3 goes in by regular audio jacks - I don't get surround support with that source since the soundbar will only take two optical ins.


I guess I would in my case because I would continue to use my actual rear speakers and would worry that the simulated surround would interfere with the sound of the actual rears.

I do like the idea of these though. Could make things clean and neat which is always a bonus. I could then move my Mini Advents to be rear speakers.
05/10/2011 08:27:21 PM · #18
Call this guy...Toby Speakers None finer
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