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Discussion Starter #1
Hi. I'm looking for some suggestions to help me narrow down my options for HT. There are so many choices out there, it's hard to know where to start. I have some constraints in budget and in floor plan and in objectives that must be accommodated too.

My current system is 2-channel, the result of entropy acting on a 5.1 system over time. My primary objective is to end up with a new tube-based 2-channel system for CD, FM, and vinyl, and a separate HT 5.1 setup for TV/DVD/Blu-Ray/games. I want to deal with the HT only in this topic, as I have good ideas already for my 2-channel system.

I have a Panasonic 58 inch 1080p plasma TV with HDMI inputs. I have a PlayStation 3 that has HDMI output that serves me for both games and Blu-Ray movies. I've got a budget Sony DVD/VCR combo deck that has optical output for DVD sound, RCA for VHS, and component for video. My Verizon FIOS STB has HDMI, component, RCA, and optical outs. My main speakers are Pinnacle BD-1000s.

What I'm after:

A modest setup. An AV Receiver that has HDMI inputs to accommodate my PSP3 and FIOS TV, plus other standard inputs for the DVD/VCR, and an HDMI output to go to the TV. I want to be able to use the AVR to switch between the input sources and to direct the sound, basically. I do not plan to use CD, tape, or phono inputs, or an FM tuner, because all of that will be handled by my 2-channel setup.

Constraints:

1) Due to the orientation of the room and location of doors, I cannot have a free-standing sub-woofer. There is no place I can put one. I can manage only the front pair, center, and surround pair.
2) I need HDMI inputs on the AVR (at least two, preferably three) and an HDMI output to go to the plasma screen.
3) I have an Infinity center and two Bose surrounds that I will use if possible (if they sound OK).
4) I need new main front speakers for HT, as I don't want to use the BD-1000s. I have virtually no floor space left for additional speakers, so they must be small footprint pedestal types or wall mountable.
5) My budget is $1200 (one of the reasons why I prefer to reuse my existing center and surrounds). So that amount needs to buy an AVR and front speakers.
6) Probably other constraints that don't occur to me right now. :dunno:

Which AVRs and main speakers might fit those constraints?

Thanks
 

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First, welcome to the Forum!

At the risk of sounding flippant, virtually every manufacturer of receivers and speakers has models that will meet your requirements, so it’s tough to make a specific recommendation.

Regarding speakers, being a two-channel guy, I know you know there’s no substitute for personal auditioning. Your best bet is to go to a local store and hear some speakers for yourself. Anytime I’ve bought speakers or headphones based on someone else’s recommendations, half the time I’ve been sorely disappointed.

One big problem I see, your speaker requirement seems highly problematic: You have no room for a subwoofer, so presumably you’ll want full-range speakers as an alternative. It’s going to be a challenge to get decent bass with small-footprint towers, bookshelf-sized or wall-mounted speakers, especially with your budget requirements. There’s no free lunch, deep bass requires big speakers. Maybe you could find room for a high-performance mini sub like the SVS SB12 Plus – it’s only 14” square, but it would blow out your budget.

As far as a receivers go, as noted everyone makes one that will fit your requirements. So I’ll make some suggestions that I gave to some friends a few years back who were making their first home theater receiver purchase, that perhaps you haven’t considered.

Something that few people seem to consider when shopping for their receiver is the remote. IMO the remote is a make-or-break deal because it's a major (if not the major) factor determining whether your viewing experience is enjoyable or an exercise in frustration. The receiver's remote should ideally be able to control all components in your system. Not necessarily every single function of ever component, but at least the main functions that you need when you sit down to watch a TV show or movie. If not, you have to constantly sift through a handful of separate remotes. Not fun at all. Believe it or not, a good, logical and easy-to-use remote is often difficult to come by. As you probably know, this situation is so bad that there is a whole "cottage industry" of after market specialty remotes, that people buy separately to make up for their mediocre stock remotes.

Here are some of the features I look for in a remote:

Buttons that are grouped and colored or sized by function. A black remote with rows and rows of tiny look-alike black buttons is bad enough in a well lit room. Dim the lights for viewing and you'll find the thing to be practically worthless. Back lighting is a nice feature if you can find it. Having key buttons like the volume controls use larger buttons than the rest, to better help them stand out, is also welcome.

A button-by-button learning function. By that I mean the ability for your main remote to learn specific commands from other remotes, typically by butting them head to head while the main remote "learns" a signal from the source remote. All receivers' remotes these days have pre-set codes for various components, but inevitably there is some function you will want that the pre-set code didn't give you - a display function, a closed captions button, etc. If the remote can learn individual commands you can get any additional functions you want or need.

Basic receiver controls like volume and mute always on-line. Often called a "punch through" function, this is a no-brainer feature that some remotes don't have, or it's something that you have to tediously program one source at a time. It’s a pain in the neck if you have to endlessly toggle between "Source" and "Amp" modes to control say, volume and then the play functions of the source component (i.e., DVD player). IMO not having volume and mute always on-line, or at least being able to program it in, is a deal breaker, just like the learning function.

Macro function. If you want to watch a movie, you have to power up the TV, power up the receiver, switch it to the DVD input, select Dolby Digital playback, etc. That's a lot of buttons to push on the remote just to get everything up and running. A "macro" function lets you program and then activate all those steps to a single button. Trust me, you don't want to be without macro capability.

There are other things to consider with a good and well-thought out macro function. For instance, they should have their own dedicated buttons on the remote, or else have a switch that turns the macro function on and off. Some remotes just piggyback the macros on the input select buttons (i.e. the buttons that select the source component you want to use), so any time you try to change inputs - say from satellite to DVD - the macro will run and (since it's already on) the system will shut down.

Another thing to consider with a macro features is the number of commands it lets you program. Up to 10 commands is a good number - better too many than not enough.

Source control selection that's separate from the input select buttons. Handy if you want switch between say, the DVD player and TV, so you could (for instance) do a quick color adjustment. If the only way to change from controlling the DVD player to the TV is to use the input select buttons, obviously you'll change the input.

Ease of remote programming is another pet peeve of mine. I've seen receivers that had a separate manual for the remote! That's pretty ridiculous. From what I've seen, as one example, Yamaha typically requires fewer steps to program than many other remotes.
Another “for instance” – maybe they’ve corrected this, but a major gaffe of the Harmon Kardon brand that caught my eye a few years ago, they only gave you five seconds to press the next button in a programming sequence (like if you're programming a macro sequence). If you’re too slow, the remote goes out of programming mode and you have to start all over. This means you have to be very familiar with the programming functions before you start, and have all your "ducks in a row" as far as the sequence of buttons you will have to push. By contrast, Yamaha gives you 30 seconds, plenty of time to regain your footing should you at some point in the process get lost or flustered. And that's not hard to do when you're looking back and forth between the buttons on the remote and the directions in manual.

Which brings us to some other things to look out for:

A user-friendly manual. Home theater is complicated enough as it is, so you definitely don't want a manual that makes things even worse. Back in the days of two-channel stereo, manuals were typically less than a dozen pages. Today it’s not unusual for the manual of even a basic receiver to run over 75 or even 100 pages. So you want a manual that's easy to navigate.

At the risk of sounding like a second-grader, pictures, pictures, pictures - that's what you want in a manual. Once again - maybe things have changed, but a few years ago Harmon Kardon was especially bad about this. They would only have pictures at the front of the manual for the remote control, and the front and rear panel layouts. The other 40 pages were a dreary and tedious sea of black ink and small fonts, and you had to constantly refer to the pictures way back at the front of the book. The section on programming the remote, for instance, only referred to button numbers: " Press the Program Button (#25) for three seconds." Trouble was, you have to turn back 30 pages to refer to the picture to find out what Button #25 was, while you're going through all the programming steps! Hurry, only 5 seconds before it exits programming mode!

Needless to say, you'll find that a manual with lots of pictures and illustrations makes navigating both the manual and your receiver a much more stress-free experience.

I’d suggest deciding on a price range and then digging into some on-line manuals that all the manufacturers have these days.

Regards,
Wayne
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hello Wayne. Thank you for the welcome. You've given me some excellent grist for the mill. In fact, it is information of this type that is even more valuable to me than specific component recommendations at this stage... although this stage is going to be painful if I take too long to study my options since my old Onkyo has seemingly bitten the dust permanently.

$1200 for a budget is an arbitrary figure that I plucked out of the air. I want to see if it is possible. It was based on my observation that there are a number of AVR's with multiple HDMI inputs in the sub-$500 range, the fact that some decent bookshelf type speakers can be obtained for $500 to $800 a pair, and an assumption that I'd reuse my Infinity center and Bose surrounds. I also have a Velodyne CT-100 powered subwoofer that I can use if I can figure out how to safely run the cable to it past a doorway. However, it would end up being about a 14 foot cable run from the AVR, and I am concerned that might be too long.

Bottom line, if it took me double that arbitrary budget number to get back to a good but modest HT 5.1 setup, I'd still have enough to finish my 2-channel plans, albeit with some compromises there too.

I agree it is always best to audition equipment, especially speakers, and I plan to do that. But I like to have an idea of what I want to audition first, then locate the dealers in the area who sell that equipment.

I might decide to use the Pinnacle BD-1000's in my HT setup. They have good sound. And then I would be looking for smaller, pedestal mounted speakers for 2-channel, where I believe I'd have some good options.

I've been pretty satisfied with my Onkyo TX-DS777, but it concerns me that it only lasted 10 years. It has always run pretty warm. It may be that it doesn't get enough air circulation in the cabinet, even though the cabinet is closed on the sides, but open front and rear. And it may not be a big expense to have it repaired... I'll have to take it someplace to get an estimate. Even so, I want the HDMI inputs so if the TX-DS777 repair cost is reasonable, it will find a new home powering a smaller setup in my bedroom.

P.S. I like the Rotel RSX-1550 a lot.... but it isn't in my budget range. :heehee:
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Probably going with Denon 3310CI. For speakers, either B&W CM-9 plus CM-C2 center, or 804S plus HTM3S center. I'm not sure yet which surrounds and subwoofer.

An astute observer may notice that this blows my original arbitrary budget by several multiples, even before you add in interconnects, speaker cables, surrounds, and subwoofers. My budget is now 11k.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I listened to the B&W CM9 and the 804S again, and I've ruled out the CM9. I was pleased with the CM9 and CMC2 center speaker for movies, but when it came to stereo, the 804S simply blew away the CM9. So much more precision and clarity in the 804S, as well as a clean, uncluttered, and very three-dimensional sound stage.

I'll be going to listen on Thursday to the 804S with the HTM4S and HTM3S centers, powered by a Rotel RSX-1550.

Are there other A/V amps in the same class as the Rotel that would be worth auditioning?
 

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Hello,
Number 5, Parasound makes some excellent amplifiers and are probably the closest analog to Rotel.
Parasound's Halo line really are excellent and were designed by John Curl. The Halo A51 is an absolutely awesome 5 channel amplifier. Kinda spendy though.

I cannot fault you for preferring the 800 Series over the CM Series. The 800 Series are truly World Class Speakers and will provide you with years of sonic bliss.
Cheers,
JJ
 

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You could check out some of the new D-Class amps (ICE) like Wyred4Sound or D-Sonic. Bel Canto and PS Audio are other companies that sell ICE amps. I am a HUGE fan of the ICE amplification now. It's got massive amounts of power, runs incredibly efficiently, runs pretty cool temperature-wise, dynamics of a typical solid state, neutrality in the top end, authoritative mid and low end, and speed throughout all the frequency spectrum.

I know Pioneer Electronics is using ICE amplification in their Pioneer Elite receivers, too.
 

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Hello,
B&O's ICE modules really are starting to gain a foothold in the market. My Martin Logan Vantages have 200 Watt ICE amps to drive the woofers and they sound great.
Bel Canto's and Wyred4Sound's ICE amps are really nice sounding products. What is crazy is Jeff Rowland is offering virtually the same amp for 4700 Dollars!
Here is a link to the article which discusses how closely related these amps are: http://www.audioholics.com/education/amplifier-technology/clone-amplifiers

I would caution about using 4 ohm speakers with Pioneer's ICE powered AVR's. Multiple reviews and measurements of the SC-05 and SC-07 have shown they really have problems driving 4 ohm loads.
As long as the speakers used are 6-8 ohm nominal, the Pioneer's are excellent AVR's. I also greatly respect the amazingly low jitter levels in Pioneer's current HDMI AVR's. Truly excellent engineering.
Cheers,
JJ
 

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Jumping in: if you'd like to save a little money without meaningful compromise on performance, check out the amplifiers from one of the forum sponsors, Emotiva. I use them and can highly recommend them. Click the link at the top of the page and check out their multi-channel amplifier offerings.

BTW, Wayne's post above on choosing gear is excellent and can apply to any equipment choice, not just HT receivers. Well done!
 

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In all honesty, I would be leery about regularly using a 4ohm load on ANY receiver, really. While some are able to handle it, it really seems hit and miss.

Also, when I got my D-Sonic amp, I talked to the owner, Dennis, and he stated that they were essentially identical to the Bel Cantos amps. You might find, ICE amps don't vary too much in general. The reason for this is because B&O just sells the amp blocks essentially completed and then the companies just put a chassis on them (over simplification, but you get the idea). The only one company that doesn't really do that is Wyred4Sound. They actually receive the amp blocks and modify them slightly. So if there's any variation amongst most of them, Wyred's amps ought to sound the most different of all the bunch.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
4 ohms is less resistance than 8 ohms right? And I've heard that there used to be 16 ohm speakers available, which would be even more resistance. Seems like it would be easier to drive 4 ohms than 8 or 16 since it is lower resistance. I'm guessing that I'm missing something. Can someone explain to me why it is harder to drive speakers that have lower resistance? Thanks.

five
 

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Resistance for speakers actually works slightly opposite of what you would think. If you want to think about it this way...

It's similar to running water through a water hose. If you have a wider hose, which is kind of like a 4 Ohm resistance, the pressure built up for a flow of water, which would be the energy current, will not build enough pressure to spray very far. If you reduce the size of the hose or simply reduce the opening of the hose you create more pressure. This allows the water to spray further.

Performance for a speaker is dependent on how far you can push the speaker driver to produce sound. More resistance with the same amount of energy means pushing the driver farther.

I hope this helps!
 

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Like Jon said, it's a bit counter-intuitive. Probably an overly simplistic explanation, but keep in mind that 0 ohms is a dead short, and as you probably know, a dead short will destroy an amplifier. When you have a dead short you have maximum power flow (wattage, amperes) because there is no resistance - i.e., nothing to hold it back, as it were. The amp’s power supply is not designed for totally uninhibited current delivery. It will overheat and either shut down (if it has protection circuitry) or go up in smoke (if it doesn’t).

So as you can see, the lower in ohms you go with speakers, the closer to 0 ohms you get. The amp delivers more power, but it is working harder to do it. Which is fine, if it has been designed to withstand the demand (load). This is why if you look at amplifier ratings, you’ll see them deliver more power with lower impedances. The more resistance that is added to the amp, the less it has to work, because that’s an easier load. So it puts out less power.

Regards,
Wayne
 

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In all honesty, I would be leery about regularly using a 4ohm load on ANY receiver, really. While some are able to handle it, it really seems hit and miss.
Thats really a good point. Even though most mid end receivers boast the ability to drive 4ohms there are very few that do it without distortion and unreliability. Even THX certified receivers dont always live up to what they are advertised to do. The Onkyo 805 v/s the 806 is a perfect example. Both are THX Ultra certified however the benchmark tests at Secrets said that the 805 was a powerhouse (the best they had ever seen in its class) and was stable even down to 3.2 ohms where the 806 failed even the 4 ohm load within 5 seconds of the start of the test. 4ohm speakers sometimes dip well below that into the 3 ohm area and that is very hard to drive if it is sustained for long periods of time.
 

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Hello,
Indeed. It had to have been laziness on THX's part or Onkyo not telling them about the changes to the TX-SR806. Especially considering the TX-SR807 is THX Select2 and not Ultra2 like the 805 and 806 and the 806 & 807 share the same amplifier section. I have been railing against Onkyo decontenting the 8xx Series after the 805.

The TX-SR805 is a receiver I constantly recommend to people due to its stellar amplifier section. However, I always make clear that the 806 and 807 are not nearly as good. The TX-SR805 to me, is one of the greatest values in Home Audio history. I honestly feel that way. Because, in addition to the 805 sharing virtually the same amplifier section as the 1700 Dollar TX-SR875, the TX-SR805 also had Audyssey's MultEQ XT rather than regular MultEQ which the 806 and 807 have.
Cheers,
JJ
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Hello,
Number 5, Parasound makes some excellent amplifiers and are probably the closest analog to Rotel.
Parasound's Halo line really are excellent and were designed by John Curl. The Halo A51 is an absolutely awesome 5 channel amplifier. Kinda spendy though.
Spendy, yes. $4500 for a new Halo A51. It looks like a beaut. But I still need video capability too. The Halo P7 pre-pro is $2k and doesn't have HDMI inputs or outputs. I gather that XLR connections are desirable, but I'm not sure how you'd use them.

Can a pre/pro from another manufacturer could be paired with any other brand of amp?
 

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Spendy, yes. $4500 for a new Halo A51. It looks like a beaut. But I still need video capability too. The Halo P7 pre-pro is $2k and doesn't have HDMI inputs or outputs. I gather that XLR connections are desirable, but I'm not sure how you'd use them.

Can a pre/pro from another manufacturer could be paired with any other brand of amp?
Hello,
One good thing to know is that the Parasound HCA-2205AT is almost identical to the A51 and is available for under 1500 Dollars used. The differences between the two amps are 2kVA vs 2.2 kVA Toroidal and 150,000 vs 164,000u of capacitance. Beyond the faceplate, the rear end is almost identical and the amps are truly almost identical. The only true advantage is the A51 has XLR's as the power ratings and specs are ridiculously close.

I would pick up a used HCA-2205 and grab an Onkyo PR-SC886 from Accessories4less or Shoponkyo for under a grand. For under 2500 Dollars, you will have a killer combo.
And indeed you can mix and match almost all manufacturers products as you please. The only time that is not true is with a few esoteric British Companies (Naim, and Linn) which do make it difficult to incorporate other companies equipment. Meridian can be difficult to mix and match with as well.
Cheers,
JJ
 

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Hello,
B&O's ICE modules really are starting to gain a foothold in the market. My Martin Logan Vantages have 200 Watt ICE amps to drive the woofers and they sound great.
Bel Canto's and Wyred4Sound's ICE amps are really nice sounding products. What is crazy is Jeff Rowland is offering virtually the same amp for 4700 Dollars!
Here is a link to the article which discusses how closely related these amps are: http://www.audioholics.com/education/amplifier-technology/clone-amplifiers

I would caution about using 4 ohm speakers with Pioneer's ICE powered AVR's. Multiple reviews and measurements of the SC-05 and SC-07 have shown they really have problems driving 4 ohm loads.
As long as the speakers used are 6-8 ohm nominal, the Pioneer's are excellent AVR's. I also greatly respect the amazingly low jitter levels in Pioneer's current HDMI AVR's. Truly excellent engineering.
Cheers,
JJ
Jack....not to take issue with your belief regarding Pioneer's ICEamp implementation. However, as a Pioneer ICEamp AVR owner (SC 05), I've seen and heard about the alleged "issues" with them driving difficult loads. I happen to disagree.

From a personal standpoint, I'm driving 7 channels with mine. My speakers run between 4 Ohms to 6 Ohms. The SC 05 drives them with aplomb. No issues whatsoever. The SC 05 amp section is very dynamic, with loads of headroom. I've seen some SC users driving Maggies with their AVR, too, with no untoward issues.

David Vaughn, a respected reviewer at UltimateAV did a review (http://www.ultimateavmag.com/avreceivers/pioneer_elite_sc-05_av_receiver/) using all 4 Ohm MK speakers and was duly impressed, too.

With due respect to Audioholics, there's been more than a little debate at other AV sites that they don't understand how Pioneer implemented the ICEamps. And, certainly Pioneer hasn't been forthcoming in letting us peak inside the kimono with what they did, either. I do believe that Gene was a little frustrated that he couldn't get so much as a peep from Pioneer on what they did. But, although his testing didn't mirror what was heard in the real world, I'm of the belief that either the ICEamps don't lend themselves to traditional testing procedures, or that the lack of information regarding how they were implemented may be more the case.

No matter, what myself, and many others have found, at least with Pioneer's ICEamps, unless you've got a huge room, using 4 Ohm speakers don't present any problems for them.
 
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