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Audio Advice for First Home Setup

jaybird81

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Dec 13, 2021
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Hello all, I just began reading through reviews and posts on this site a few months ago when I began to get an itch to significantly upgrade the sound setup in my family/living room. I would like to have a high quality listening experience for audio (CDs, phono, streaming) as well as an upgrade to the what I currently have for movies.

I am not the type to feel a need to upgrade to latest/greatest type technology when it becomes available. For example, I have a reasonably old LCF standard HD TV. I suspect I will use that until it becomes obsolete or I feel compelled by some currently unknown force to upgrade. I currently have an inexpensive all-in-one-home-theatre-in-a-box type setup for sound. I currently only have the front three speakers and sub connected (3.1).

Given the room layout (see pictures attached), the living room is part of an open floorplan where there is quite a bit of volume of space that gets filled with the adjacent kitchen and dining area. The living room is probably about 16'x16' with a 12' ceiling at the peak and closer to 8' at the exterior wall. I am currently thinking that at most I would be looking to setup a much improved 3.1 system. The different permutations there can get a bit tricky.

I was initially thinking that I might be working to a budget of 3k but I suspect that could change upwards, especially if elements can be added piecemeal after-the-fact (additional speakers, for example). I have no real interest in getting to a fully immersive setup of 7,9,11 channels. At most I would imagine 5.1 but probably 3.1.

Main questions/thoughts
1) Write ups on this website (and others) for the Revel brand speakers appear to be exuberant in their praise at their price point. I was considering the F36 speakers for fronts (currently around $1500) with a mismatched (brandwise) sub. My first thought would be to evaluate whether the center channel was necessary.
2) Receiver: Most all receivers are sized for more ambitious home-theatre setups. I suspect I am stuck with just having unused channels, which is ok, to get a quality receiver. Given the parameters above (speakers, room size, etc), are most of the receivers in the market going to be acceptable at providing good, clear, powerful sound? Are there particulars to avoid? I do not have a 4k tv (as mentioned) but obviously this is the type of capability to have in the future when a TV may be purchased. I am not a high-tech gamer; my child plays Nintendo Switch so it is not requiring the big processing power of the more advanced systems.

Each day I look at this stuff I have different permutations and thoughts in my head so any bit of feedback or recommendations from the universe that could inform this novice would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Triliza

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Looking at your space I think you need to decide if you will go for a 5.1.(2) or just a stereo setup.

I can't see for example where you'll place a center speaker, it won't fit under your tv. For surrounds, you'll either have to put them on stands slightly behind your couch, but maybe they will be a little bit intrusive and prone to trip over imo, or you can put them up to the wall near the ceiling at both sides of your couch, pointing at your listening position. Not optimal, and I don't know if they will look good with the wiring and all that. You can put 2 atmos speakers above your mains if you decide to go for a 5.1 system, although that depend if you watch any content with atmos.

If you think a multi-channel system is too much of a hassle, than you don't need a AVR and you can go for a stereo system, with some streaming capabilities if this will be also your main system for music. Since you are considering tower speakers, you may not need a subwoofer either, although of course it's nice to have one (or two).

So maybe it's best to decide first what you want/is possible in your space, and then you can allocate your budget better. If you can't make your mind, put something that resembles surround speakers on their place and see if you are alright with them being there.
 
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jaybird81

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Looking at your space I think you need to decide if you will go for a 5.1.(2) or just a stereo setup.

I can't see for example where you'll place a center speaker, it won't fit under your tv. For surrounds, you'll either have to put them on stands slightly behind your couch, but maybe they will be a little bit intrusive and prone to trip over imo, or you can put them up to the wall near the ceiling at both sides of your couch, pointing at your listening position. Not optimal, and I don't know if they will look good with the wiring and all that. You can put 2 atmos speakers above your mains if you decide to go for a 5.1 system, although that depend if you watch any content with atmos.

If you think a multi-channel system is too much of a hassle, than you don't need a AVR and you can go for a stereo system, with some streaming capabilities if this will be also your main system for music. Since you are considering tower speakers, you may not need a subwoofer either, although of course it's nice to have one (or two).

So maybe it's best to decide first what you want/is possible in your space, and then you can allocate your budget better. If you can't make your mind, put something that resembles surround speakers on their place and see if you are alright with them being there.
My initial thoughts were to create a much improved stereo system. Because it is a living space, I am not inclined to spend the money/alter the functionality to attempt to make it a dedicated immersive movie space.

It may seem like a nit, but management attached device audio and video through HDMI cables is less than optimal currently. I run cables directly to the TV with a fixed line out to the receiver/speakers. The TV is a choke on the number of HDMI inputs. Having a AVR with video inputs would help that as well as manage the audio channel splits. There are a handful of AVRs (stereo alone) that can handle this but it seems like an underserved market and the better approach would be an integrated amp for amplification and just continuing to have the device sound make it's way to the amp via the TV. The integrated amps would seem (to me) to be a better audio dedicated bang-for-your-buck. If so, is there a better approach for HDMI cable management, switching that would not rely on running every HDMI cable to the TV?
 

Triliza

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There are some two channel integrated amplifiers with hdmi input-output. Searching the forum:

Pioneer SX-S30
Denon DRA-800H
Marantz NR-1200
Onkyo TX-8270

The Denon was reviewed by Amir with not so great results. I don't know if any of the above choices would be a better choice instead of an AVR, something like the Denon X3700H, of course it'll cost you around $1200, which is alot of money to give for hdmi management.
 

VMAT4

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Buying a new TV with optical output for sound for about $700 might be a good way to go. You could then use the TV for HDMI management.
Then less expensive separates (DAC & Power Amp) could come into play. Of course your current TV may last a long time. Then you maybe able to use modestly priced electronics. But, then by buying a this TV, you'll require modest electronics to maintain a $3000 budget. But if you figure $650 for a miniDSP Flex and $600 for a Hypex nCore power amp if you add $400 to your budget you might be able to do it.

I noticed you have a rather open floor plan. That may open the door to omni-directional speakers. Which takes you in whole new direction.
 

RickSanchez

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A couple thoughts, just my 2 cents ...

Speakers
You're definitely thinking about this the right way. The best way to allocate your budget to get improved sound is by investing in some great speakers.


AVR
To get the most out of your speakers / setup you definitely want to invest in room correction. A relatively easy way to do that is by using the onboard room correction features of an AVR. As you mention, you may not use up all the channels on a high-end AVR. But typically the higher-end AVRs also come with better room correction capabilities.

As an example, look at these Denon AVRs. (I'm not promoting Denon, simply using them as an example.)
Both of these models come equipped with Audyssey MultEQ XT32. You can compare the different Audyssey versions here. My point being that yes, you're buying more channels than you need with this level of AVR, but you're getting a solid AVR with really good room EQ software. With a room layout as tricky as yours a good AVR will be a fairly easy way for you get all of your speakers dialed in correctly. And having those extra channels gives you the flexibility to add an extra sub or Atmos height speakers down the road if you want.
 

ThatM1key

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It's not a bad thing to not use all the channels. The less channels you use, the more power and even clarity your gonna get with your speakers that your using.
 
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