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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
New and looking for a good starter system? Read this.

Lately there are many new members looking to build their first home theater system (receiver and speakers along with a subwoofer) and are looking for the best setup that can be found for a good price.

Member Jungle Jack and myself have started to compile a list of what we think are good buys that can be had for what a so called decent Home Theater In a Box (HTIB) system would cost.
We highly recommend that you stay away from HTIB systems due to there strange hookup connections and lack of real power compared to what they are rated for. Have a look here for more info on this subject.

Generally a lot of newcomers want a great sounding 5.1 surround system but think it can be done for under $300 and that is very unrealistic. Room size as well as layout play a huge part in what a small HTIB system can do. Quality suffers and you end up needing to upgrade within a year because of the unsatisfactory results.
If this is a purchase that you want to keep for several years then be prepared to pay at least $800 and more ($1200) if your room is larger then a bedroom.
Remember this is about building a system that will not only sound good but last at least 5 years without the need to upgrade.
Due to prices fluctuating so much its very hard to keep a topic like this up to date but you can usually get a much better deal on a receiver & speakers Internet direct rather than your local big box store. This is because of you not having to pay sales people or rent on a large storefront.

There is also a new option on the storefront and that is the new 3D.
If you are just buying all new equipment then it may be a good idea to get a receiver, Bluray player and Display/Projector that are all HDMI 1.4 compliant, see here for more info.

Receiver:
Ok, now the serious part. You have to make a decision as to what you have for a budget. Be realistic and realize that $200 is not going to get you anything that will last.
Lets start with a receiver, The receiver is the heart of the system as it handles both the audio and the video and all of your components (DVD, CD, BluRay and satellite receiver) plug into it.
You need to realize that a receiver that is rated to output 75watts per channel and only costs $200 is not truly going to output that much (less than half in some cases) The industry still need to get some stricter standards with this regard and the consumer is often fooled by misleading numbers. A heavy receiver that has a large power supply is going to reach those mumbers much better so if it weighs less than 30lbs be aware.

You want a receiver that has at the very least High Definition Media Interface (HDMI) pass-through meaning that what ever is sent over HDMI is passed through the receiver without any processing or upconversion. You want the newest uncompressed audio formats Dolby TruHD and DTS Master audio decoding. Some sort of auto room correction is also a must have like Audessey MMAC or YAPO this corrects your sound through the speakers by EQing everything and adjusting for room delay (I wont get into to much detail here).
There are many manufacturers of receivers and this can get very confusing, The big players in this price range are (in no particular order) Yamaha, Denon, Onkyo, Marantz and Pioneer. They all have there pros and cons my personal favorite is Onkyo only because they seem to have the best options and features for the money in the past 3 years.

So the one question that seems to pop up from time to time is "is spending the money on a more expensive receiver worth it?" The answer is up to a certain point, Yes. Lower end models tend to use cheaper parts and lower quality DACs. The power supplies are small and dont supply the receivers amps with enough power to run all the channels at the same time causing distortion and poor quality sound and usually dont offer as many features like auto room correction, pre outs and useful surround modes.
More expensive receivers ($600-$1500) have high end DACs (giving the listener the best sound possible from movies) Large power supply, pre outs for hooking up external amps if needed and well designed auto room correction.

There comes a point where all your money buys you is more bells and whistles (but not always) and sometimes a name. But it is recommended that you do get the best your money can buy but only up to a certain point.

Speakers:
Speakers are also a very important part of the system as if you buy cheap speakers you can have the best receiver but ultimately if they are junk you wont realize how much your sound quality will suffer. If they are made of plastic and are only the size of a pop can dont expect much.
There is many options to go with here (too many to mention) but look for a speaker that is heavy and made of solid wood (MDF is fine), has at least a 5" mid driver and 1" tweeter and made by a well known manufacturer.
You have two main choices, a tower (floorstander) or bookshelf. Its very hard to find a good quality tower speaker for a budget of under $500 (speakers only) so you will need to be very cautious when shopping for them.
Bookshelves can sound fantastic and there are a number of good deals to be had.

More Below:
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Right now for a good receiver offering everything you need you need to be willing to spend about $450USD Again On line or what we call Internet Direct is the best way to get deals. Also looking for last years model saves you big bucks and there is usually very little difference between them.

Looking for a Receiver
Accessories4less is a great place to start looking for a receiver thats low cost but still going to give you some reliability.
You want to look for a receiver with a good Room EQ such as Audyssey MultiEQ XT
For the last number of years Onkyo has been the best receiver for features and in bench tests has preformed better than average for driving all channels with the internal amps without distortion. Look for models starting with the 6xx series and above.

Another place to look is Amazon or Newegg

Speaker packages
For speakers we highly recommend SVSound They have speaker and sub packages for every budget and are very good quality. A review of the SVS SBS-01's here
Chase Home Theater is another great option

Other less expensive options:
Fluance 5 speaker system
The Behringer B2030 monitors are also a great choice. Look here for a discussion about them. They can be found for under $300 a pair. and are also a great starter speaker.
If your looking for something small the Orb Audio speakers are also a good option.

Here are some other good speaker manufacturers: That make affordable speakers
Most of these can be found on line or in your local Big box store.
Klipsch
Polk Audio
JBL
and the list goes on...


If you still cant spend alot simply starting to buy speakers in pairs (2 at a time) you can build your system slowly while staying within a tight budget and in the end you wont be disappointed.

Sub's under $650
Elemental designs A3-300
SVS SB12NSD
HSU VTF MK2
Velodyne Impact10 sub
Elemental designs A3S sub


Now if your in Canada the deals are not as easy to find and if you dont want the hassle of shipping across the boarder and paying brokerage fees and sometimes more here or here are good Canadian sites too keep your eyes on for deals.
SVSound has a Canadian distributor called Sonic Boom Audio So you can still get them without any hassles.

Remember that you need to buy cables for connecting your speakers and components to the Receiver. DO NOT buy Monster or any other high priced cables as they do not make any audible difference.

What you will need for starters:
at least 2 HDMI cables one for the display and one from the BluRay/DVD player
a 100' spool of 14awg speaker wire

These are your best options:

Important note:
Keep in mind that room acoustics and dimensions will play a huge part in how your system will sound.
A room with lots of hard surfaces will reflect much of the sound and this is undesirable. This can cause allot of echo and even boomyness. There are many options to help get rid of this. Acoustic panels and "traps" can be built by hand or bought form places like GIK Acoustics and can make a huge difference.
A square room is the worst room dimensions you can have as this causes cancellation of frequencies and very poor sound in general. Ideally a room with non right angle walls is the best but not very practical so a rectangular room is the next best choice but stay away from dimensions that are 1/3 as wide as it is long.
 

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This is just what I have been looking for!
I have around $800 to spend. Until I read your post I had been looking at the Onkyo S9100THX ($850 on newegg and amazon). Is there any advantage going with the Onkyo 607 over the 606 you recommend (only $60 more)? Also, can you make suggestions in the "$800" range for book shelf speakers as I want everything mounted and out of the way.

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Really the only difference between the 607 and the 606 is the 607 has the new Dolby PLz hight channels that "simulate" objects falling. Personally not a big deal and the 607 has network firmware upgrade ability.

As I linked to above the SVS SBS-01's are about the best "bookshelf" speakers you can get for a small price and if you buy the 5.1 package you get a very good sub included for a total of $799. You will not find a better package deal.
 

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I would be left with no cash for a receiver if I purchased the speakers...:(
Hi,

I suggest starting a new thread in the "Theater System Recommendations". In the body, include what you want (e.g. 2.0 stereo system, bookshelf size), or what you want to use it for (e.g. 90% music, 10% movies), your max budget, room size, flooring type, what equipment (if any) you already have so far, and maybe a list of things that you have to have (e.g. video conversion). Do you want used equipment or new only?

Things like that. The more detail you provide, the better the recommendation folks here can give.

Just my 2 cents,
H
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hi,

I suggest starting a new thread in the "Theater System Recommendations".
Agreed, We will help find something that will work for you.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Sony is not a maker of good quality receivers. Lots of quality issues and way over rated.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Through many friends who have them (we have two at work) and have had nothing but issues and the many reviews throughout the net.
If you are happy with Sony thats fine They do make great displays and video cameras they simply dont compete with Onkyo/Integra, Yamaha, Marantz or Denon for receivers.
 

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For the record, my Sony receiver has given me many hours of sonic bliss for the past ten years that I've owned it. Same goes for two others I know with the same or similar model.
 

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I've owned at least three Sony receivers and all have been trouble free. Everyone is certainly entitled to his or her opinion but to state that "the big players in this price range are (in no particular order) Yamaha, Denon, Onkyo, Marantz and Pioneer" and ignore THE biggest player is inaccurate at best.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
and ignore THE biggest player is inaccurate at best.
Sony is not by any means a big player in the receiver field and I am by no means bashing Sony but just stating the general consensus that Sony does not make a great quality receiver particularly for the money. Most (but not all) here at the Shack will agree.
 

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While I love the shack, we can, at times, suffer from a little group think here.

I've had many Sony products, all which functioned fine, but I thought were overpriced for their specs, performance. For that reason, not reliability, I would suggest examining all other options as well as Sony.
 

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While I love the shack, we can, at times, suffer from a little group think here.

I've had many Sony products, all which functioned fine, but I thought were overpriced for their specs, performance. For that reason, not reliability, I would suggest examining all other options as well as Sony.
I agree, on paper at least, WRT contemporary AVRs. I don't know if I could do the same today, but when I bought my AVR I got a huge discount off MSRP.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Yet they're 5 of the top 10 sellers on Amazon and 3 of 10 at J&R...
Thats generally because most people are not well informed and Sony has a large following because of good marketing that does not mean they are the most reliable. Bose falls well into this great marketing idea as well, that does not mean that it is good quality.
Dont get me wrong here Sony makes "some" great stuff just not all of it.
This is another reason why I did not include HK in the list although an ok receiver for the price they dont offer as much for your money and a number of reports of poor reliability.
 

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Speaker packages
[*]For speakers we highly recommend SVSound, The SBS-01 5.1 speaker package including a very good subwoofer for under $800 is a fantastic deal and I would say impossible to beat.
A review of the SVS SBS-01's here
You might want to take a look at the speaker recommendations again. It looks like the SBS-01 package has been updated and now run $1055 minimum.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks, I will update that info but that is still a very good deal and still cant be beat for the price and quality.
 
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