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Old 07-31-2012, 04:11 PM - Thread Starter
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I have a new Samsung 60" LED and I am looking for an audio receiver and speaker set to complete my mini home theater. I recently bought a Bose home theater system from Costco. After a week, one of the speakers stopped working. I plan to return it to Costco for a full refund. I do not plan to buy another Bose system.

My wife doesn't care for the look of large speakers, so I have to go with a satellite speaker system. The room is rather large. We will be sitting about 20 feet away from the TV, so it has to have a nice full sound.

I am deciding between these 3 systems on the Costco website. I welcome any and all recommendations. I am curious if anyone has any of these systems or their components and, if so, what you think of their sound quality and reliability:

Pioneer 7.1 Channel A/V Receiver & JBL 5.1 Speaker System w/ 8" Powered Subwoofer, $599
Can be found at:
http://costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11683587&whse=BC&Ne=4000000&eCat=BC|90607|80|2190&N=4047273&Mo=14&pos=2&No=0&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&cat=2190&Ns=P_Price|1||P_SignDesc1&lang=en-US&Sp=C&ec=BC-EC37917-Cat80&topnav=

Pioneer Elite VSX-40 7.1 Channel Elite A/V Receiver 3D Ready with JBL Cinema 500 5.1 Speaker System, $599
Can be found at:
http://costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11763355&whse=BC&Ne=4000000&eCat=BC|90607|80|2190&N=4047273&Mo=14&pos=2&No=1&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&cat=2190&Ns=P_Price|1||P_SignDesc1&lang=en-US&Sp=C&ec=BC-EC37917-Cat80&topnav=

Harman Kardon® White
HKTS-16-WQ 5.1 Channel Home Theater System with Pioneer VSX-821K Receiver ($399)
Can be found at:
http://costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11758069&whse=BC&Ne=4000000&eCat=BC|90607|80|2190&N=4047273&Mo=14&pos=2&No=4&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&cat=2190&Ns=P_Price|1||P_SignDesc1&lang=en-US&Sp=C&ec=BC-EC37917-Cat80&topnav=

Thank you,
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Old 08-01-2012, 08:50 AM
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Do you have to buy at Costco??? Can you just return it get your money back and buy elsewhere?

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Old 08-01-2012, 09:19 AM - Thread Starter
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I would prefer to buy at Costco because a) I like their return policy, gives me peace of mind b) i got my annual "bonus" check from them, which would cover most of the cost.

But if you or others feel the systems are woefully inadequate, then I would consider buying elsewhere. I can always stock up on groceries at Costco and buy the stereo somewhere else.

Thank you,
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:22 AM
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What is your budget??? $600 OR can you go $1k?

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Old 08-01-2012, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your reply. I could go up to $1,100. I would prefer of course to stay closer to $600. So I guess it depends on what I would be getting for the extra $$.

Thanks again,
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:11 AM
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Ok first off you can get much better equip if you buy things from different companies. However this will cost more. So here are a few options that will be way better than the stuff at costco.

Onkyo HT-S9400THX for $600. This is an unbeatable system for the price. And don't worry about being a refurb I own a refurb Onkyo receiver and its great no issues at all, I also have family members who bought the older version of this system as refurb and no issues there either. http://accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/ONKHTS9400/Onkyo-HT-S9400-THX-7.1-Ch-Network-Home-Theater-Receiver/Speaker/1.html

OR.... If you need small speakers. Hsu Research Ventriloquist set for $550 + about $20 for the extra speaker. You can also buy a single speaker to make it 7.1 which I would either do 5.1 or 7.1 cuz 6.1 is pointless IMO. http://hsuresearch.com/products/performance2.html
You would also need a receiver with this setup: Onkyo TX-NR609 for $310 http://accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/ONKTXNR609/Onkyo-TX-NR609-7.2-Channel-3-D-Ready-Network-A/V-Receiver/1.html
Total of $890

OR... Check out Polk Monitor series speakers 2 - Monitor 40s (front l&r) for $170 http://newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882290202, 4 - Monitor 30s (surrounds) for $240 http://newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882290200, Monitor CS1 (center) for $100 http://newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882290210 .... You also need a sub for this setup so BIC America F12 for $200 http://amazon.com/BIC-America-F12-475-Watt-Subwoofer/dp/B0015A8Y5M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343909331&sr=8-1&keywords=BIC+F12 . You also need a receiver for this setup so Onkyo TX-NR609 for $310 http://accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/ONKTXNR609/Onkyo-TX-NR609-7.2-Channel-3-D-Ready-Network-A/V-Receiver/1.html .
Total of $1,020

The choice is yours, I'm just trying to give you some options.

Shawn
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Old 08-02-2012, 06:05 AM
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Also here is another option... And if in your shoes this is exactly what I would buy BIC America FH6-LCR 7 of them. http://acousticsounddesign.com/core/view_BigProduct.cfm?pid=1765&sc=33. You can tell acousticsounddesign that you are an online-shashki Forum member that will give you a discount and just ask them flat out what is the lowest price they can give you 7 of these shipped to your house. I'm guessing around $700 for all 7 of them. Then the same BIC F12 sub from the above post and the same Onkyo Receiver from the above post. That would be a total of $1,210. I know that's stretching your budget but trust me it will be worth every penny.

I own the more expensive BICs the Acoustech Platinum series with towers and center each having dual 8" woofers and surrounds with 6.5" woofers plus all of them have the same 1" aluminum dome tweeter set back in a 6.5" square horn that the FH6-LCRs have. The horn loaded tweeter sounds amazing crystal clear highs and mids and voices stand out so well even a whisper. It sounds like the person is in the room talking directly to you.

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Old 08-02-2012, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi, Flicktguru,

Thank you for your replies and all the helpful information. I appreciate your taking the time to put the info and the links together.

My wife would prefer that we get smaller speakers, so I think I am limited to either the Hsu Performance 2 or the Polk bookshelf speakers.

Between the Hsu and the Polk speakers, do you have any sense as to which one sounds better? And how are each of them in terms of reliability? I will be using this system both for watching movies as well as listening to music.

Much appreciated,
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Old 08-02-2012, 09:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi, Flicktguru,
One other question for you. I was checking out the reviews for the Onkyo HT-S9400THX. It got a lot of positive reviews. However, one person said the following:

"After a few days they called to tell me I needed a new HDMI board and it was going to take 10 days to get the part. The guy said this is a very common issue with Onkyo receivers and he pointed to a stack of them he had in for repair behind the counter."

Of course, I won't base a decision on the word of one person. But I was curious if what he said was true, that Onkyo receivers tend to have this issue with the HDMI board?

Please let me know when you have a chance.

Thanks,
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Old 08-02-2012, 12:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joebruin77 View Post

Hi, Flicktguru,
Thank you for your replies and all the helpful information. I appreciate your taking the time to put the info and the links together.
My wife would prefer that we get smaller speakers, so I think I am limited to either the Hsu Performance 2 or the Polk bookshelf speakers.
Between the Hsu and the Polk speakers, do you have any sense as to which one sounds better? And how are each of them in terms of reliability? I will be using this system both for watching movies as well as listening to music.
Much appreciated,
joebruin77

I'm sure the Polks would sound better than the Hsu but if size is a huge factor then maybe you need the Hsu. I mean the Monitor 40s are large speakers and shouldn't be mounted to the wall. Now the 30s are capable of being used as front l&r speakers as well and they are much smaller and can be mounted on the wall. Reliability, I can't say that I've heard either way about either speakers. Either of these systems will be better than a normal HTiB.

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Old 08-02-2012, 12:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joebruin77 View Post

Hi, Flicktguru,
One other question for you. I was checking out the reviews for the Onkyo HT-S9400THX. It got a lot of positive reviews. However, one person said the following:
"After a few days they called to tell me I needed a new HDMI board and it was going to take 10 days to get the part. The guy said this is a very common issue with Onkyo receivers and he pointed to a stack of them he had in for repair behind the counter."
Of course, I won't base a decision on the word of one person. But I was curious if what he said was true, that Onkyo receivers tend to have this issue with the HDMI board?
Please let me know when you have a chance.
Thanks,
joebruin77

I know Onkyo has had a couple issues but not sure that its a likely thing to happen. I've personally owned 3 Onkyo receivers all refurb units and never had any issues with them. I had a 5.1 then a 7.1 pre DTS HD MA and Dolby TrueHD, and now I have the 809 7.2 receiver.

Also if you buy the refurb unit it could be one that was sent back just cuz a husband bought it and the wife didn't like the size or number of speakers OR maybe it was sent back cuz of the HDMI board problem which if it was then it would be fixed correctly before they resell it. The 9400THX really is a great all in one system it sounds good and all speakers and sub are sealed for easier placement opportunities. and all speakers can be wall mounted if you wish to do so.

I'm a huge Onkyo fan so that's what I recommend, but if you wanna look at another company of receiver I suggest Denon. But for the HTiB stick with Onkyo if that's the route you choose over Polk or Hsu.

Shawn
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Old 08-02-2012, 02:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi, Flickhtguru,

Thank you for your replies. I appreciate the information.

One last question. How does the Hsu Performance 2 satellite speaker system compare to the Bose Acoustamass 6 Series iii system? Is there any website where they show the statistics and ratings of these speaker systems?

Many thanks,
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Old 08-02-2012, 02:27 PM
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You're seriously crippling your potential for getting best sound for your budget by shopping at Costco. Costco has a terrible speaker selection. They don't even have a very good receiver selection. Honestly, I wouldn't use Costco for anything more than TVs or appliances when it comes to electronics. Save that bonus you have for something else. There's tons of better ways to use it at Costco.

Here's just one example of how to better stretch that $600 budget. At the very least get the receiver and speakers. You can always add the sub later. The S426 HCS 3s with dual 5.5" mids and large ported cabinets play pretty low frequencies anyway:

http://amazon.com/Denon-AVR-1312-Channel-Theater-Receiver/dp/B004U403S6/ref=sr_1_1?s=aht&ie=UTF8&qid=1343941977&sr=1-1

http://newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1CZ0CD7192

http://vanns.com/shop/servlet/item/features/549114852/

The above comes to only $568 including shipping. However, if you live near a Fry's like I do, they have the S426 HCS 3 for an amazing $200, and will match Vann's price on the SUB 210. For me the S426 HCS 3s and SUB 210 came to $327 with tax, which is roughly 9% in my area.

Note that Fry's website shows a much higher price on the Jamo speakers and pricing in store may vary depending on your location. Klipsch owns Jamo now, and covers them with a 5 year warranty. They also sound great. If you don't believe me check the positive reviews on them.

The actual matching sub to the S426 HCS 3 is the 250 watt SUB 260, but it's 8" like the SUB 210, is hard to find in the US, costs $100 more, and the 200 watt SUB 210 is plenty adequate unless your living room is large. Also, part of what you're paying for on the SUB 260 is a more expensive stylish matching cabinet, and subs can be hidden anyway.

The HT manager at Fry's said they can't keep the S426 HCS 3 set in stock, and at the in store price they sell them at and sound quality they have, I believe it. They had to open a box and set them up for me to hear them because they'd sold the demo set. After I bought mine they had 8 sets left and said all of them and the demo they just set up would probably be gone by the end of the month.

I seriously advise looking for component/speaker set alternatives to HTiB. Convenient yes, full range sound, NO. Not even the more elite name brands like Definitive Technology offer decent sounding home theater speaker kits in that price range, and that's without receiver. They lack depth and warmth to the midrange, sound very digital, and the subs often lack adequate power.
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Old 08-02-2012, 02:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi, Hi Def Fan,

Thanks for the tips and the links. I will check them out.

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Old 08-02-2012, 03:17 PM
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No problem Joe. I own those speakers and they are quite good. I'd have bought them even at Newegg's price. On the receiver I opted for the Yamaha RX-V371, last year's model of the RX-V373. I'd have preferred Denon, but in the lower priced receivers, Denon lacks the audio inputs I needed. I use my PC with my entertainment system, so I wanted something with two optical audio inputs. The RX-V371 has dual optical AND dual coaxial for digital audio inputs.

For a basic home theater setup with just TV and satellite or cable though, the Denon would be a good choice. It's not quite as high in wattage, but you won't likely notice because Denon uses high quality discrete channels, so the wattage goes farther than with some amps that have high wattage spec but don't sound like it. Those speakers also have a pretty good SPL (sensitivity) rating, so they offer good volume for the wattage you put into them.
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hi Def Fan View Post

You're seriously crippling your potential for getting best sound for your budget by shopping at Costco. Costco has a terrible speaker selection. They don't even have a very good receiver selection. Honestly, I wouldn't use Costco for anything more than TVs or appliances when it comes to electronics. Save that bonus you have for something else. There's tons of better ways to use it at Costco.
Here's just one example of how to better stretch that $600 budget. At the very least get the receiver and speakers. You can always add the sub later. The S426 HCS 3s with dual 5.5" mids and large ported cabinets play pretty low frequencies anyway:
http://amazon.com/Denon-AVR-1312-Channel-Theater-Receiver/dp/B004U403S6/ref=sr_1_1?s=aht&ie=UTF8&qid=1343941977&sr=1-1
http://newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1CZ0CD7192
http://vanns.com/shop/servlet/item/features/549114852/
The above comes to only $568 including shipping. However, if you live near a Fry's like I do, they have the S426 HCS 3 for an amazing $200, and will match Vann's price on the SUB 210. For me the S426 HCS 3s and SUB 210 came to $327 with tax, which is roughly 9% in my area.
Note that Fry's website shows a much higher price on the Jamo speakers and pricing in store may vary depending on your location. Klipsch owns Jamo now, and covers them with a 5 year warranty. They also sound great. If you don't believe me check the positive reviews on them.
The actual matching sub to the S426 HCS 3 is the 250 watt SUB 260, but it's 8" like the SUB 210, is hard to find in the US, costs $100 more, and the 200 watt SUB 210 is plenty adequate unless your living room is large. Also, part of what you're paying for on the SUB 260 is a more expensive stylish matching cabinet, and subs can be hidden anyway.
The HT manager at Fry's said they can't keep the S426 HCS 3 set in stock, and at the in store price they sell them at and sound quality they have, I believe it. They had to open a box and set them up for me to hear them because they'd sold the demo set. After I bought mine they had 8 sets left and said all of them and the demo they just set up would probably be gone by the end of the month.
I seriously advise looking for component/speaker set alternatives to HTiB. Convenient yes, full range sound, NO. Not even the more elite name brands like Definitive Technology offer decent sounding home theater speaker kits in that price range, and that's without receiver. They lack depth and warmth to the midrange, sound very digital, and the subs often lack adequate power.

Good recommendation except for the receiver. I'd go for the Denon AVR 1612 for $199 because it has Audyssey MultEQ room calibration. The 1312 has no calibration at all.
http://crutchfield.com/p_033AV1612/Denon-AVR-1612.html?search=avr_1612&skipvs=T

$20 off if you enter promo code 3A172 at checkout

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Old 08-02-2012, 08:37 PM
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Good recommendation except for the receiver. I'd go for the Denon AVR 1612 for $199 because it has Audyssey MultEQ room calibration. The 1312 has no calibration at all.
http://crutchfield.com/p_033AV1612/Denon-AVR-1612.html?search=avr_1612&skipvs=T
$20 off if you enter promo code 3A172 at checkout

Then you just calibrate manually via the receiver's distance settings don't you? My Yam RX-V371 doesn't come with a calibration mic either, but I find it's manual settings that dial distances in within 6" works plenty adequate. Measuring manually is not that hard either. Those cheap calibration kits aren't much more if any more accurate either.
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Old 08-02-2012, 09:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hi Def Fan View Post

Then you just calibrate manually via the receiver's distance settings don't you? My Yam RX-V371 doesn't come with a calibration mic either, but I find it's manual settings that dial distances in within 6" works plenty adequate. Measuring manually is not that hard either. Those cheap calibration kits aren't much more if any more accurate either.

I too have an RX-V371 and it sounds great with a "manual" calibration. It's a little more work but certainly gives you the same results for the receiver class. Speaker calibrations are nice but if you move from dead center, the sound will change, even with a mic cal.
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Old 08-02-2012, 11:40 PM
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Speaker calibrations are nice but if you move from dead center, the sound will change, even with a mic cal.

Exactly, it's for an exact spot, but most don't stay in one exact spot for everything if they buy their receivers for multi purpose use like I did. That said, my HT listening position does happen to near exactly measure out in those half foot increments anyway.

Speaking of multi purpose use by the way, I know a lot of people rave about Denon and Pioneer, but they skimp on digital audio inputs with their entry level units. Frankly I don't get how a manufacturer can justify giving you multiple HDMI ports, yet only two digital audio ports in this day of people connecting PCs, laptops, and game consoles. We're WAY beyond just TV and Sat/Cable audio inputs now.

Honestly I'm not even sure I'd like the sound overall better with a Denon or Pioneer, given I use my system for gaming, music and TV, besides movies. I think what it comes down to is personal preference. A lot of people might say Yam sounds flat and Den more alive, others might just say Den is more geared toward a digital HT sound. I wanted a receiver that doesn't excel at just one thing, but is above average in overall use, and that's what I feel I got. I also wanted natural but not dull sound.

To me a receiver is a lot like a TV. Some prefer what they call "vibrant" colors. When I see what they mean by it I say, "Oh, you mean over saturated colors"? In sound I prefer natural to "dynamic" or "digital". If I can hear the receiver processing the sound, it's distracting and less immersive.

By the same token I don't want something as completely neutral as a Harmon Kardon, which Pioneer leans more toward than Denon. I'd say Yam fits right in between the type of sound Den and Pioneer have. The icing on the cake is it's feature rich for it's price range too. Then there's Onkyo, whom also have entry level receivers with lots of digital audio inputs. I prefer the sound of the Yams though, esp the bass and mids, and in low end receivers, Yam blow Onkyo away on distortion level and wattage.
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Old 08-03-2012, 01:04 PM
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The jamco speakers you said you saw at frys for 200, is that in the store. Cause I have one near me but the add has the price much much higher. So if you can let me know that would be great. Cause newegg only has then for 249.
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Old 08-03-2012, 03:47 PM
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The Jamo s426 package is $150 at Fry's starting today thru next Thursday. They are on the page below.
http://frys.com/ads/page6

Those are in store prices in the ad. Take it to the sales counter if you need proof.
Quote:
Then you just calibrate manually via the receiver's distance settings don't you? My Yam RX-V371 doesn't come with a calibration mic either, but I find it's manual settings that dial distances in within 6" works plenty adequate. Measuring manually is not that hard either. Those cheap calibration kits aren't much more if any more accurate either.

That's not even close to the same thing Audyssey can do. Audyssey EQ's your speakers for the room from up to 6 listening postions. All you are doing with the Yamaha 371 is setting speaker distances, not any EQing. Audyssey also EQ's the subwoofer.

Big difference, I've had receivers with and without Audyssey and I highly recommend getting a receiver with Audyssey MultEQ or higher.

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Old 08-03-2012, 10:44 PM
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As mentioned the Jamo S426 HCS3 set should be $150 through this week's Fry's ad. In the ad they are at the bottom middle part of page 6 . The ad doesn't mention them by brand or model, but you can tell by the pic it's the S426 HCS 3s. I highly recommend calling your local Fry's before heading in though. This week's ad is twice the normal size (8 page vs 4), so they're bound to be getting lots of shoppers and that set sells out fast. AFAIK you can if you wish buy them at the sale price in store and wait for them to get in stock should they run out though. Only problem with that is you won't be able to listen to them first if the demo set is sold too.

As for Audyssey calibration, OK, so it matches EQ to your room and can set multiple positions too. I get by manually on that too. I use all of 2 positions, which vary in distance by only one foot. My RX-V371 has a 7 band equalizer for all but the sub channel. I also have a pretty good ear for setting volumes, distances and EQs. I'm sure it's loads more convenient, but I'm not sure it would be all that much better sound wise unless you're pretty bad at adjusting the settings manually.

I also find it odd that Audyssey mentions manual calibration options and a common feature most receivers have, dynamic volume adjusting. I'm also skeptical with all that digital filtering whether you'd maintain the warmth of a more analog sounding receiver like Yamaha. Perhaps why they chose YPAO vs Audyssey, which is less feature rich, but probably colors the sound less.

Those that rave about Audyssey seem to generally be the ones that prefer a setup that leans heavily toward or is exclusive to a very digital sounding HT environment, and that's all good and fine, except not all of us buy our receivers for HT exclusively, or a digital vs analog sound for that matter. Like I said, pretty happy with my manual settings. It's also enough to juggle TV, AVR and BD remotes, without having to as well do more button tapping every time you change position slightly.

So unless Audyssey caters to the more natural, simplistic, warm side of sound vs digital, and adds a way of tracking your body position, I can't see it's going to be all that necessary or better than my manual adjusting set-it-and-forget-it method. To each their own, but the one thing that makes me cautious most is I'd have to give up the brand that has the sound I like just to gamble on whether it's worth it. That in itself tells me it isn't. Just the fact that in their description of Audyssey's features they tell you how to manually calibrate tells me it's more a gimmick than a necessity.
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Old 08-04-2012, 05:42 PM
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That's a nice critique of the Audyssey system and something that I agree with as well, even though you put it more eloquently, and politely, than I could. I've been struggling a bit with the eq settings on my V371. Do you mind if I ask what your settings are and what do you use as an audio source to "check" your settings?
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Old 08-04-2012, 06:05 PM

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To throw this in, if you are sitting 20 feet from the speakers, you are sitting about 12 feet too far. You will shortly find out that the separation between channels will be too much. Especially if you plan on using it for surround sound.
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Old 08-04-2012, 10:30 PM
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^^^^ that's interesting. we sit about 10' from the fronts with the R/L a little bit more than 6' apart from each other. The sides are about 3' to either side of the couch. Separation sounds good with nice definition, but we usually set the volume at -25dB for comfortable listening. However, the speaker sensitivity is only 81dB which is why I'm looking for something around 89-90dB in bookshelves.
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Old 08-05-2012, 06:05 AM

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Then you should be fine with it with your speakers at that spacing. The problems lie when people are outside of the sound foot print, or the foot print is too large that you do not actually hear it how it should sound. We went with bookshelfs for our speakers, since they fit the room nicely, and we did not see the need for large speakers since it is 100% tv audio, not music.
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Old 08-05-2012, 10:08 AM
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^^^^ that's how we are as well. Bookshelves for the WAF wink.gif. I'm just looking for a little more clarity/definition/sound but keeping the same footprint. The speakers that came with my HTiB sound quite good for our listening environment I'm just hoping for something a tad bit better (Polk 6750s?) that will fit on the existing stands.
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Old 08-05-2012, 10:52 AM

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I went with the Klipsch RB-41 II reference speakers for my fronts & surrounds and the RC-42 II for center. Still looking for what sub I am going with due to looking at two different. Our room is only 14x16, but open to the dining and kitchen, but do not see a problem with how it will sound after completely set up, due to seating arrangement, etc.. I would not over think too much like some tend to do. Go with what you like and then crunch the numbers.

We went to a local place that has been around 37 years in our town and worked the numbers and room size, etc. with them. They agreed also that the Klipsch speakers we chose are going to work, so I am trusting them, since they have set up plenty of rooms that are like our main area.

I am still sticking with the sound bar for regular tv viewing, and when we switch on the theater, sound bar goes off. It actually works out great having the dual setup.
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Old 08-05-2012, 12:38 PM
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Our family room is a tad bit bigger with a cathedral ceiling but with the couch and chairs, it's quite intimate and the sound fills the room. We use our HTS for everything. OTA and movies. Cost, as usual, is a factor. I agree about over thinking wink.gif It comes down to personal preference like it does for a lot of HT components. There's always something better and an opinion to go with it.
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Old 08-05-2012, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Otto Pylot View Post

That's a nice critique of the Audyssey system and something that I agree with as well, even though you put it more eloquently, and politely, than I could. I've been struggling a bit with the eq settings on my V371. Do you mind if I ask what your settings are and what do you use as an audio source to "check" your settings?

I'll get to the settings I've used thus far in a minute, but first, a bit about tweaking in general and Audyssey. It's very hard to give advice on EQ settings because it depends entirely on the speakers you have, flooring material, size and shape of the room they're in, personal preference, furniture in the room, and perhaps most significantly, whether the system is set up for one listener or several. The more carpeted and/or fabric surfaces, the less you have to tweak, because those surfaces absorb frequencies that can otherwise cause unwanted reflections. The less tweaking needed the better, because you're basically applying a digital filter that changes not just the sound shape but quality. My system is set up for a solo listening position. I sit 6.5' from my fronts and center, 5.5' from my surrounds, and 8' from the sub. A solo position setup affords me the luxury of aiming the fronts and surrounds straight at my head. Just sitting on axis to the fronts and surrounds can make a huge difference in whether you need to do a little tweaking, or a lot.

As for my EQ settings and testing gear, my way is keep it as simple as possible, and just use my ears. My apt is very small and mostly carpeted. Due to my sitting position, distance from my speakers, the way I face my speakers, and how well my speakers and amp match, I have no problems with unwanted reflections or muffled frequencies. Honestly, the only thing I've done so far is drop the 63Hz band on my sats to 0. For the center and surrounds, that is because they can't actually play that low and I want to achieve some level of cutoff vs them trying to play full range. My fronts with their 5.5" mids and large ported cabinets actually can play that low, but I prefer not to have them overlap the sub, which can create muddiness in the bass. I set my sub cutoff at 100Hz, and volume at 40%. So far I have yet to encounter any sound sources where I need to do further adjusting. When I stream net music I just put the receiver in Straight Enhanced mode, which makes compressed music sound fuller without unbalancing the frequencies.

The last thing you want to do is start bumping EQ bands until you hear some frequencies more than you should and/or more than the recording (if it'as a good one) intended them to be. Now there's times I think I want to bump the 16kHz band on my sats a bit, but then I find it's the audio source, eg: the way a given TV broadcast varies from one commentator to the next as far as their mic setups, speaking voices, etc. It's also that in going from Ti to soft dome tweets, there's some adjusting to the softer vs harsh highs. I DO find when there's good source material that these tweets are plenty capable of good clarity and range in the highs though. I can't stress this enough, DO NOT and I mean DO NOT ever use a worst case scenario to adjust your EQ, you WILL regret it. Listen to a large variety of source material, set your speakers on axis if you can, and get your distance, positioning, etc dialed in before you do ANY tweaking. Also take into account how the very BEST source material sounds and know that if it's already satisfactory, any tweaking may compromise that. I use my system for multi purpose use. I know full well that means some small compromises here and there, but the goal is to achieve an overall average that is acceptable.

Here's the thing with Audyssey, and this is not to be taken for granted. It tends to take into account more than just room config but also average human hearing science. Problem is, not all human ears hear the same, there can be quite a difference. From what I've read, Audyssey strives to account for anything that might be keeping you from hearing certain frequencies as well as others. In doing that however, it can't help but color the sound. Not one concert/movie is going to be recorded the same or sound the same. They all have little nuances in soundstaging. Even just using dynamic volume leveling can drastically change the way they were engineered to sound.

I'm not saying all movies/concerts are recorded well, certainly not, but even when you go to a concert that is immaculately mixed and amplified, chances are you are still going to notice minute differences in how well you can hear some frequencies vs others just due to the venue, your positioning, the audience, etc. There are so many factors that add up to natural sound which Audyssey attempts to compile and digitally restructure in an attempt to perfect something that can't really be perfected. It's a lot like the way a lot of retro audiophiles still prefer the analog sound of records to digital music because digital music erases so much of that analog warmth. I'm not THAT into analog, I still think a good digital recording gives you much better dynamic range and clarity, but the fact is it's really hard to get a sound that has the best of both worlds. I firmly believe too much tweaking, manual or not, only leads to a more digital sound. A lot of it depends on you, the listening environment, and your gear though.
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