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Best budget 5.1 HT?

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Old 09-23-2009, 12:35 PM   #1  
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Default Best budget 5.1 HT?

Hi everyone. I recently bought my first HDTV and I'd like to upgrade my audio experience too. I'm looking to buy my first 5.1 system, and I'm trying to decide between a HTIB or a "one piece at a time" component set-up. I've done some research, but I am no expert, so I'm looking forward to your feedback!

My current equipment: Toshiba Regza XV645U 40" LCD, Xbox 360 w/HDMI, Scientific Atlantic HD cable box w/HDMI, older Magnavox progressive scan DVD player (component only). I've been using the 360 as a DVD player because I'm pretty sure it upconverts to 1080p if you're using HDMI.

I want to future-proof my setup for Blu-Ray, even though I probably won't buy a Blu-Ray player for a few years.

The previous homeowner ran wires for two surround speakers under the carpet, along with an RCA cable for a powered subwoofer. They left the wires, which should make setup quite a bit easier for me.

Here are the options I'm considering, along with the pros and cons that matter to me.

HTIB option:
Onkyo HT-S3200
+ Everything in one box, cables, speakers, sub, receiver
+ $300 and free shipping from Newegg
+ Great audio quality for a HTIB
+ no proprietary connectors, so I can upgrade speakers in the future
- Doesn't decode HD audio codecs
- HDMI is pass-through only. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think HD audio can only be tranferred to the receiver via HDMI. So this means I can't rely on a Blu Ray player to handle those codecs and send the uncompressed PCM audio to my receiver. This may also make getting optimal A/V quality from my 360 difficult, because (to my understanding) the pass-through HDMI inputs don't grab the audio from the source, they just pass it to the TV, which can't handle 5.1 audio. So by the time it gets back to your speakers via an optical cable you end up with stereo instead of surround. Is that right? This is probably the most confusing audio issue I've come across.
- included subwoofer is non-powered, so I can't make use of existing RCA cable

"One piece at a time" option:
Pioneer VSX-519V-K receiver (under $200)
RC1 center channel from The Speaker Company ($50)
L and R mains: either the P5s from tSc ($70/pair) or Sony's SS-B1000 bookshelf speakers ($50/pair)
Eventually, two more bookshelf speakers for the L and R surround and a subwoofer.

+ tSc speakers seem to be great bang for your buck.
- The Pioneer receiver has only two HDMI inputs, so if I get a BD player, I'll have to connect the 360 via component.
- It also doesn't handle HD codecs...
+ but the HDMI inputs are repeaters, so I can let the player do the work and still be able to hear HD audio. I've read that unpacking those HD codecs isn't a standard feature on BD players yet, but I bet it will be by the time I buy one.
- more expensive. $300 won't get me a fully optimized 5.1 system so I'll have to go with just a center and two mains for now
+ (maybe?) ...but when I complete the set, the audio quality should be better than a HTIB, even an Onkyo HTIB.

too long; didn't read edition:
How important is pass-through vs. repeater HDMI?
Onkyo HTIB speakers vs. tSc vs. Sony bookshelf?


Thoughts? Suggestions? Are my assumptions completely incorrect? Are there other budget systems I should consider?
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Old 09-23-2009, 01:11 PM   #2  
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For the component you have now, the 3200 will work. But it is not future proof IMO. The receiver is HDMI passthrough and doed not support lossless audio (Dolby True HD/DTS HD) for BD or PS3. And you are correct, HDMI passthrough means that the receiver will only "pass" the video portion "through" to the display. You will still need a seperate audio connection (like digital optical) to complete the gig. So as you can guess, I am not a big fan of HDMI passthrough receivers.

IMO, a better and more future proof setup would be the Onkyo HT-S6100. It can be had here for only $450 and is well worth the extra $150. 4 true 1.3a HDMI inputs and 2 component inputs will handle all your connections now and when you decide to go Blue. And with $150 BD players on the market now, it will probably be sooner than you think. When you do, you will be in lossless heaven. And a better speakers with 7.1 support if you like.

http://www.accessories4less.com/make...e-BLACK/1.html
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Old 09-23-2009, 03:14 PM   #3  
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Thanks for the reply. That brought up a few other questions, though.

1. So receivers with HDMI pass-through need a separate digital audio cable to transfer 5.1 surround sound, and those cables cannot handle uncompressed HD audio. What about devices that don't have a digital audio out? My 360 only has HDMI and a proprietary A/V connector with component video and analog (red/white) audio. I was under the impression that the red/white audio cable would NOT give me surround sound.

Would it be possible to get 5.1 surround sound by plugging my 360 into one of my TV's HDMI inputs, then using a digital audio cable from the TV to the receiver?

2. Is there a big difference between Onkyo HTIB speakers and separately-purchased speakers from a specialty retailer?

3. Is there a noticable difference between a powered sub and a passive sub?
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Old 09-23-2009, 04:05 PM   #4  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cleveland Matt View Post
Thanks for the reply. That brought up a few other questions, though.

1. So receivers with HDMI pass-through need a separate digital audio cable to transfer 5.1 surround sound, and those cables cannot handle uncompressed HD audio. What about devices that don't have a digital audio out? My 360 only has HDMI and a proprietary A/V connector with component video and analog (red/white) audio. I was under the impression that the red/white audio cable would NOT give me surround sound.

1b. Would it be possible to get 5.1 surround sound by plugging my 360 into one of my TV's HDMI inputs, then using a digital audio cable from the TV to the receiver?

2. Is there a big difference between Onkyo HTIB speakers and separately-purchased speakers from a specialty retailer?

3. Is there a noticable difference between a powered sub and a passive sub?
1. That is correct, you would need a seperate digital optical/coax or ananlog connection. And niether optical or coax can support the higher bitrate associated with lossless codec.
In most cases, components that have HDMI outputs supporting DD 5.1/DTS will also have a digital optical or coax out. That is also the case with your 360 as they have an HDMI adapter that allows HDMI and optical out. It comes free with the Elite but is sold seperately with the other versions.

1b. Most likely not. It will output sound but it most likely will only produce PCM 2 channel/DPLII and not DD 5.1.. DD 5.1 is usually only for the TV's internal digital tuners (ATSC/QAM)..

2. Yes and no. That would depend on the speakers you are talking about. I have heard the speakers that come with the 6100 and 7100 on a few occasions and I was quite impressed for HTIB speakers in the price range. But you can definately find better if your willing to spend a little extra $$$. Comparing them to the Sony ones you mentioned above I would definately say the Onkyo's are a much better fit.

3. No doubt about that. In many cases, a huge difference. Like comparing that Onkyo sun to a lame passive Blose sub would be 1 good example.

Bottom line, if you have HDMI devices, HDMI passthrough is KAKA...
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Old 09-23-2009, 08:12 PM   #5  
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Indeed. Definitely go with the Onkyo 6100, even if you have to save up for a little while. It does everything you want, and more. The speakers are very good for an HTiB, and, as with the other Onkyo products, you can upgrade the speakers at a later date, if you wish to. This systems set itself up with the Audyssey system, and you can configure it as a 5.1 or 7.1 system. And, yes, the sub will blow you away. And it DOES decode ALL high def audio formats ( TrueHD, MasterAudio ).
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Old 09-24-2009, 07:51 AM   #6  
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Thanks to both of you for your responses. Honestly, I'm so glad I researched this, because there's no way I would have even thought there would be a difference in HDMI technology. If I had just shown up at a store I would have said, "Three HDMI 1.3 inputs? All right, we're good to go," and walked out thinking I got a deal.

This HDMI pass-through nonsense has sort of soured me on the Onkyo 3200 now.

I believe the Onkyo 6100 is a fantastic system. The thing that is bugging me about it is that I hate paying for features I'm not going to use. I'm not pulling up the carpet to wire for another two speakers -- my living room isn't that big anyway. The iPod dock is useless to me, because I'm not a member of the iPod nation and have no plans to become one. Onboard decoding of the HD audio formats is nice, but by the time I buy a Blu Ray player I'm sure that player will be able to handle that nicely.

If I can save a few hundred bucks by getting a receiver that doesn't decode HD audio and just receives it via HDMI from the device, that would be awesome.

That's why I am considering the entry-level Pioneer, the VSX-519. I have yet to find a better deal on a 5.1 receiver with full HDMI. And I can afford to buy it right now, with maybe a 2.1 setup. I'd pick up a center channel for Christmas and eventually finish it off with matching surrounds. I like the idea of being free to customize a bit.

This will be my first component system, and my HDTV's speakers are lacking (to put it nicely) so I'm antsy to get going!
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Old 09-24-2009, 08:04 AM   #7  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cleveland Matt View Post
Thanks to both of you for your responses. Honestly, I'm so glad I researched this, because there's no way I would have even thought there would be a difference in HDMI technology. If I had just shown up at a store I would have said, "Three HDMI 1.3 inputs? All right, we're good to go," and walked out thinking I got a deal.

This HDMI pass-through nonsense has sort of soured me on the Onkyo 3200 now.

I believe the Onkyo 6100 is a fantastic system. The thing that is bugging me about it is that I hate paying for features I'm not going to use. I'm not pulling up the carpet to wire for another two speakers -- my living room isn't that big anyway. The iPod dock is useless to me, because I'm not a member of the iPod nation and have no plans to become one. Onboard decoding of the HD audio formats is nice, but by the time I buy a Blu Ray player I'm sure that player will be able to handle that nicely.

If I can save a few hundred bucks by getting a receiver that doesn't decode HD audio and just receives it via HDMI from the device, that would be awesome.

That's why I am considering the entry-level Pioneer, the VSX-519. I have yet to find a better deal on a 5.1 receiver with full HDMI. And I can afford to buy it right now, with maybe a 2.1 setup. I'd pick up a center channel for Christmas and eventually finish it off with matching surrounds. I like the idea of being free to customize a bit.

This will be my first component system, and my HDTV's speakers are lacking (to put it nicely) so I'm antsy to get going!
I believe you would do much better with a model like the following which has all of the HD audio codecs and features the Pioneer does not.

http://www.accessories4less.com/make...eceiver/1.html
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Old 09-24-2009, 09:47 AM   #8  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cleveland Matt View Post
Thanks to both of you for your responses. Honestly, I'm so glad I researched this, because there's no way I would have even thought there would be a difference in HDMI technology. If I had just shown up at a store I would have said, "Three HDMI 1.3 inputs? All right, we're good to go," and walked out thinking I got a deal.

This HDMI pass-through nonsense has sort of soured me on the Onkyo 3200 now.

I believe the Onkyo 6100 is a fantastic system. The thing that is bugging me about it is that I hate paying for features I'm not going to use. I'm not pulling up the carpet to wire for another two speakers -- my living room isn't that big anyway. The iPod dock is useless to me, because I'm not a member of the iPod nation and have no plans to become one. Onboard decoding of the HD audio formats is nice, but by the time I buy a Blu Ray player I'm sure that player will be able to handle that nicely.

If I can save a few hundred bucks by getting a receiver that doesn't decode HD audio and just receives it via HDMI from the device, that would be awesome.

That's why I am considering the entry-level Pioneer, the VSX-519. I have yet to find a better deal on a 5.1 receiver with full HDMI. And I can afford to buy it right now, with maybe a 2.1 setup. I'd pick up a center channel for Christmas and eventually finish it off with matching surrounds. I like the idea of being free to customize a bit.

This will be my first component system, and my HDTV's speakers are lacking (to put it nicely) so I'm antsy to get going!

I hear ya.. But if you are serious about a good system, a good set of SS speakers are as important as the receiver. Not saying the 6100 speakers are the best or anything, but they perform very well with the receiver and for the $450 pricetag is unmatched. Adding mixed or matched cheapo speakers here and there is not going to yield a good SS system now or later and will probably cost about the same or more when it is all said and done. You can simply set the 6100 up as a 5.1 system and keep the 2 extra speakers as spares for replacements or 7.1 down the road. Many of the BD players now decode lossless internally and send it PCM anyway, but having the internal decoders is still a nice feature to have. You said you wanted to "future-proof your system" in your original post, so that is why I thought the 6100 would be a nice fit. You say you don't need allot of the features now, but you may down the road. For the $300 your were willing to spend on the 3200 or what you want to spend on the Pio and patching speakers, the extra $150 for the 6100 is well worth it IMO. Even if you need to save up a bit longer to get it. Christmas will be here sooner than you think. Just my ..
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Old 09-24-2009, 11:09 AM   #9  
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Loves2Watch: I was actually just reading about the Onkyo TX-SR507 in another thread here and thinking it might be a good fit for me.

The refurb you suggested, is about $80 more expensive than the Pioneer 519, but I'd be getting four repeating HDMI inputs instead of just two. That's a big plus, because although I only have two HDMI devices for now, eventually I'll purchase a Blu Ray player.

The other major differences I can see is that it decodes the HD codecs and it has a powered Zone 2, as opposed to just a pre-out. The Onkyo also has Audyssey room correction. I know Pioneer's MCACC is supposed to do a good job with that, but I think you have to step up to the 819 for that feature.

Bigloww: I don't plan on getting cheapo speakers. I've read good things about The Speaker Company's P-series bookshelf speakers and RC1 center channel on Don Lindich's Sound Advice blog. They're supposed to compare favorably to much more expensive speakers.

Review here: http://www.soundadviceblog.com/?p=838

Doing it one piece at a time may cost more in the long run -- that was why I wanted to know how the Onkyo HTiB speakers compared to individually purchased speakers. I'm OK with it taking longer to build a full set and costing a bit more over the long run, but only if the sound I end up with would be significantly better for doing it that way.
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Old 09-24-2009, 11:18 AM   #10  
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I just started looking at new equipment last week. I turned away from the Onkyo 6100 (the 6200 is now out, and available locally for less than $550) because I didn't want 7.1, nor did I really need it for a 11' x 17' room. Instead, I went for the Onkyo SR507 with a 5.1 speaker set (debating between the Klipsch HD Theater 300 and the Energy Take 5 Classic). I was not aware that the 6100 could be set up as 5.1. Now I'm wondering if that might not be another option. How would the Onkyo speakers compare to the others I'm looking at?
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Old 09-24-2009, 11:54 AM   #11  
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Originally Posted by fredw1 View Post
I just started looking at new equipment last week. I turned away from the Onkyo 6100 (the 6200 is now out, and available locally for less than $550) because I didn't want 7.1, nor did I really need it for a 11' x 17' room. Instead, I went for the Onkyo SR507 with a 5.1 speaker set (debating between the Klipsch HD Theater 300 and the Energy Take 5 Classic). I was not aware that the 6100 could be set up as 5.1. Now I'm wondering if that might not be another option. How would the Onkyo speakers compare to the others I'm looking at?
The 6100/6200 would still be the best bet for you now and those speakers sound much better than you would think...

FYI - Any 7.1 or 9.1 system can be used as a 5.1 system.
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