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Take a quick glance at my AV profile and you can see 3 things that may change how you answer this:
1. I need more audio support (not enough audio inputs on HT amp)
2. I have a matched system that is conveniently 1 remote capable
3. I'm a MAC user.

If I just add a Bluray HD player I have one more audio and HDMI or component source that the HT won't support. I've see HDMI switches that would maybe solve this. Are there SPDIF switches? Any "smart" switches?

Should I consider a new HT amp that supports more inputs and throughputs to simplify connections to the display? And a stand-alone Bluray player.
harman/kardon AVR 254 ($400 at newegg)
Pioneer VSX-918V-K ($350 bestbuy)
Yamaha RX-V563BL ($420 bestbuy) RX-V363BL ($220)

The SciAtl cablebox/DVR has eSATA support so I could add an external drive for more storage.

Or should I build a media center computer. That will still need an amp.
 

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If I just add a Bluray HD player I have one more audio and HDMI or component source that the HT won't support. I've see HDMI switches that would maybe solve this.
Not exactly.

Should I consider a new HT amp that supports more inputs and throughputs to simplify connections to the display? And a stand-alone Bluray player.
Yes, your best option.

harman/kardon AVR 254 ($400 at newegg)
Pioneer VSX-918V-K ($350 bestbuy)
Yamaha RX-V563BL ($420 bestbuy) RX-V363BL ($220)
From this three options I suggest AVR 254 ... the other two don't have the DTS HD or TrueHD decoder need it when watching BluRay movies (unless you're happy with DD only).

I also recommend to take a look at this ... they're considered the best bang for the buck :yes:
 

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I agree with Skirt_chaser as far as getting a receiver with DTS-HD and True-HD. The one he suggested is a good bang-for-the-buck from what I can see. As far as upgrading to Bluray, I never knew what I was missing until I hooked up a Bluray and found my movie soundtracks come alive. I have two Pioneer Elite receivers an 84 and 94 which both are considerably more expensive than the model you are considering, I also have a cheaper model, a Sony STR-DG720 which is lacking DTS-HD and True-HD. My father's HT has the Denon2708 version receiver--if memory serves me, it only has 3 HDMI inputs.

My Sony receiver is hooked up to a Sony Bluray BDP-S350 with exact same speakers (7.1 set-up with powered subs) as the Pioneer Elite 84 receiver. When playing standard DVDs there is no noticeable difference in sound quality between these systems. When playing Blurays, there is a night and day difference. The bass is tight and crisp, the center channel is clearly seperated, and the surround backs and left and right speakers are amazing. Since both of these systems are installed in rooms of about the same size and with the exact speakers, Bluray player; the difference is the receiver.

I paid big bucks for Pioneer receivers with all of the bells and whistles--most of the stuff I have no idea how to work and if it does not auto-select what it is supposed to do, I never touch them again after they are set-up. Some of the expensive features that I think are pretty useless are the 1080i signal processing. I have up converting and Faruda (sp) processing--with standard DVDs and a non-upconverting DVD player, this seemed to have an improvement on a 120" projector screen--on my 47" flatscreen, the difference cannot be noticed--big waste of money. Now, most Bluray players automatically upconvert standard DVDs to 1080i and have their own signal processing anyway. There is something called 24fps, which is supposed to have something to do with letting you lock in to 24fps the way films were originally recorded--to me, it is also practically useless.

My advise, if this is your primary HT set-up, is to get the best receiver you can afford and hook it all up with HDMI cables in/out. Get a receiver with as many HDMI inputs as you can (the high dollar ones let you rename them to whatever you want). Another nice feature, seperate PreAmp outs (not the ones with little bars you have to remove from the preamp to the main amp). I found seperate preamp outs indispensible in my Dedicated home theater when I had to add two additional speakers to the front (my Klipsch in-wall speakers just could not reproduce the midranges with enough impact in my rather large home theater--so I used my old Pioneer AV reciever to biamplify, or add another set of much larger speakers (JBL Control Monitors).

I have a little experience with HDMI switchers. My father's original system (before the 2708 receiver) had one of these. It was remote controlled and had to be visible for the ir beam to hit it. The switcher system was professionally installed when he purchased a new TV. Basically, it was a box about the size of an old cassette case with a mess of HDMI wires coming out of the back sitting on top of his receiver. He did have it controlled along with the entire system with a Harmony programable remote. It seemed to work ok, albeit with a slight buzzing/clipping noise and a delay between inputs--it also looked a little cheesy. The clipping noise is what eventually led my father to purchase a receiver with more inputs for HDMI switching. The noise resembled the sound you get when you plug or unplug AV components without turning off the system first. I would not recommend one of these, instead, apply the additional money to a better receiver.

Hope this helps
 

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I
--most of the stuff I have no idea how to work and if it does not auto-select what it is supposed to do, I never touch them again after they are set-up....
:rubeyes: .....You don't know the fun you're missing tweeking your HT equipment :bigsmile:
 

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Sounds like $400 for Bluray (but that can come later) and $300 to $800 for tuner/amp.

Sheesh! Did I just date myself by calling it a tuner/amp? I mean digital audio processor!

Reading online reviews it seems the Onkyo amps are a little slow on switching sources. Pioneer and Sony seem to be a decent blend of user friendly and feature with good to very good audio. Any video concerns with Sony, Pioneer, Denon? There are a few bargain basement units, but lets face it: any brand that Wally's carries ...well, 'nough said.

Harmon Kardon, Bose and Klipsch all have great reputations. Bose is pricey for the feature set, I think there's a little brand name pricing there.

So, my final choices seem to be the H/K that's on sale at newegg and the two Yamies. Both Yamahas are listed as having Dolby Digital and Dolby DTS. So no real difference there. The big differences between the Yammies is 5.1--7.1 audio and active video upconverting (which any Blu or DVD player will do). I have an irregularly shaped theatre room that is not conducive to the extra surrounds. Similar features and one is half the price of the other.

The H/K which has all the stuff I want (inputs, throughputs, upconvert) and way more features than I need BUT only 50 watts per channel. Is the HK going to make enough noise? Current Panasonic is rated at 63 front, 34 rear surr, 113 cent, 121 sub. Should I also replace the panasonic speakers (yes, I will someday, but immediately?).

Thanks for the sound advice.
 

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Either a new receiver or consolidation of your other devices.

A PS3 would make a good media center and Bluray player combined. At the same time it could eliminate your DVD and/or CD player freeing up inputs. The PS3 can stream AAC encoded MP3s, pictures and movies from your Mac. If you could get a hold of an older PS3 you would also have a SACD player and PS2 game support (which would eliminate your PS2).

Adding a eSATA drive to your cable box will just allow you to record more from cable. If that's all you would use it for then that would be a good option. Using the "Copy to VCR" option in the sci/atlanta box will only output 480i video over s-video or composite.

The Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K is much better than the 918. It is a bit more expensive but will allow a lot more flexibility for future upgrades. It has 3 HDMI 1.3 inputs rather than 2 HDMI 1.2 inputs, HD Audio decoding, better auto EQ calibration, a 1080p video scaler, analog to HDMI conversion, source renaming (rename the inputs on the display) and better build quality.
 

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I used to tweak all my high-tech gizmos. Every couple of years I am always updating or upgrading--not just my stereo/HT, but computers, phones, cars, and game systems platforms. I just don't have the time or inclination any more. I guess I am probably on my 10th receiver now and about the same with my smart cell phone, game system, and computer.

Before, I used to spend hours and hours researching all of the features and different models to purchase. When I finally made a choice, I thought it was an informed decision and the latest technology. Whenever I received a new component, I used to be so excited, I would spend hours and hours drooling over and reading the manuals and tweaking the system for the best operation and output. That was then, this is now. I guess I just got old, or maybe too desensitized with all of the constant format/technology changes.

I guess if you put it into perspective, 8 years ago I purchased my first windows smart phone. I spent hours and hours reading the 1" thick, 270 page book figuring it all out. When my carrier was bought out, and my phone was no longer functional, the new smart phone I had to purchase came with another huge book that had to be read--which I did sort of unwilling. That phone kept breaking (a motoralla MPX220) and finally was recalled and a different model substitute was given. I never read the book to that one, I just kept pushing buttons to figure it out--it no longer created the emotional interest in my inner "gizmo" brain center. Several phones later, I never read any of those books either. When I needed it set-up to access my email--that is what the ATT's tech support help is for.

I guess that is kind of where my current home theater set-up is. I know what I want it to do. I know what looks and sounds good, and I just want it to do it all by itself--at a reasonable cost. I think I overspent on some of my components (Pioneer Elite receivers and Samsung Bluray) just so that they would be smart--so I would not have to. I did spend hours and hours setting them up (had no clue as to what most of the stuff was for)--and then tossed the book in the file cabinet never needed again until I tried to add an HDMI PCM stream when I added a bluray.

I guess I am more interested in watching movies with a high-quality picture and amazing soundtracks than I am with the nuts and bolts of putting it together. I still have no clue as to what most of the features of my receiver do. There are fifty bilion different sound/movie decoders that seem to do nothing (as far as I know). I know when it selects everything by itself, movies and audio look and sound great.

Appathetic I know, but I guess it is sort of true. This new kind of thinking is not just with me, but exists with the rest of my family and I find it almost everywhere in the younger generation. Nobody, and I mean nobody in my house will take the time to read an operators manual for anything. From grandma/grandpa, wife, to the kids, I am the person they always go to for set-up and problem troubleshooting. Not to be more negative, but about the time I truly figure out how to work a component, it will be obsoleted--or break. I have found electonics have a very short life and need constant attention to operate at peak--this is not just with HT, but computers, phones, etc. Electronics are not made the way they used to be, I just recently got rid of a Sony Trinitron TV I have had for over 30 years--it works flawlessly, but in rearranging components, my garage now has a flatscreen which I seriously doubt will last half as long as the Trinitron. Stuff just is not designed to last--and if the durability doesn't kill it, the "planned obsolence" from the manufacturer will.

I find my computer updates itself automatically about once a day. My new bluray players and my Pioneer Elite receivers have RJ45s for internet updates. My Samsung bluray player, when it arrived new in the box required an update to make it work correctly--and it was brand new! The entire industry is so changing that even the manufacturers know when they produce products that they will need software updates just to continue working. I am just tired of fiddling with everything to make it work--I just do not have the time or inclination.

I am also tired of the 10 billion remote controls--so I use one of the Harmony technology Monster remotes that operate by activity, turning on all devices and setting all inputs/outputs to what I want the system to do.

The KISS principle applies; Keep it Simple Stupid.
 
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