Audio Novice Needs Help

james589

Novice Member
Hi all,

This is my first ever post on here so I hope you'll be nice to me :)

I'm looking into adding some sort of sound system to my home cinema set up but I'm stuck with where to even start. There's so much advice out there that I'm absolutely swamped. To that end, I thought I'd consult the experts!

A little bit about my current set up:
TV: Samsung UE37D5520 37" LED HD
Sky+ HD box
Mac Mini - this acts as a dedicated media centre and stores a lot of films and TV shows which we watch through the TV via Plex.
Xbox 360 - We don't play a lot of games, but this also serves as our DVD player as I got rid of my PS3 (and the 100+ Blurays I had!) a while back to help fund our wedding.

Our living room is a reasonable size, probably 16' x 12' or slightly larger. We moved in late last year. The house is a 1930s semi (so I'm semi conscious of neighbours in terms of loudness of bass!) There is wooden flooring (but we have a rug which I've read may help absorb sound?!), and our sofa/armchair are probably located 8ft or so from the TV screen. I noticed when we moved in that what appears to be coaxial cabling have been left around the room and is neatly wired around the skirting board currently - so rigging up a 5.1 system wouldn't be too difficult assuming the wires are in good working order (untested but they look ok).

What I want:
A system which doesn't cost the earth (max budget is circa £500 but I'd like to spend less if possible) but offers high quality, room-filling, warm sound and full compatibility with my current set up. An added bonus feature (but not a necessity) would be Bluetooth/Airplay functionality to allow me to play music from my iPhone/iPad through the system without needing the TV on. The alternative would be to push music from phone/tablet to my Mac Mini and through speakers, so there is a workaround.

As I mentioned, there do appear to be existing optical cables dotted around the living room but they're not obtrusive so I wouldn't mind not using them at all or having a wireless set up if that exists currently. I've been wondering whether sound bars would be sufficient for what I'm looking for (I like the fact that many seem to come with Bluetooth functionality), but from what I'm reading, it seems like for the price of a quality sound bar which offers a good imitation of surround sound, you could pay less for a better quality actual surround sound set up.

My TV is about 3 years old now and was high-end when it was bought (it is a Smart TV with full HD), so I'm hoping it will be compatible with even the latest sound systems. I'm not looking to replace this currently, as it works well and is more or less the right size for the room.

Hopefully people can suggest something which would fit well into my existing set up. Space isn't a huge issue but something not overly intrusive would be nice. I currently have everything on a triple shelved glass stand which fits neatly in the corner of the room so wouldn't want say two huge floor standing speakers which would require me to re-arrange this.

Look forward to hearing your suggestions and please tell me if I've omitted any key information.

Thanks in advance,

James
 
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PSM1

Distinguished Member
There is a reasonable amount of choice around your budget so you need to make a few choices to narrow it down.
A soundbar will be an improvement over your TV speakers but do not expect it to give ou surround sound no matter what the marketing blurb will tell you. So if you want surround sound then an AVR and speaker set will be the way forward.
You do not seem to have a big requirement for musical ability and considering your budget as well you are probably looking at a sub/satellite speaker set with the AVR.
The cheapest option would be something like the Yamaha 199 which is an AVR and speaker set bundled together for around £200 but this does not have auto setup. If you want auto setup the you would need to look at something like the Yamaha 375 or Denon X1000 or Sony 840. You could then pair these with a speaker set like the Boston Accoustics Soundwares.
 

james589

Novice Member
There is a reasonable amount of choice around your budget so you need to make a few choices to narrow it down.
A soundbar will be an improvement over your TV speakers but do not expect it to give ou surround sound no matter what the marketing blurb will tell you. So if you want surround sound then an AVR and speaker set will be the way forward.
You do not seem to have a big requirement for musical ability and considering your budget as well you are probably looking at a sub/satellite speaker set with the AVR.
The cheapest option would be something like the Yamaha 199 which is an AVR and speaker set bundled together for around £200 but this does not have auto setup. If you want auto setup the you would need to look at something like the Yamaha 375 or Denon X1000 or Sony 840. You could then pair these with a speaker set like the Boston Accoustics Soundwares.
Thanks for your response. Given that the use of the system will be almost exclusively TV and movies, I'm definitely leaning towards a surround sound setup. Ultimately, they would only occasionally used for music - I have a Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini in another room which I use for that. I'll take a look at the systems you recommended.

Just so I'm clear, the AVR is a box that all the speakers connect to which interfaces with the TV? When you say auto-setup, could you give me a high-level overview of the setup process and what that would entail? i.e. would I be able to do it or is it better to (presumably pay more and) get an AVR with auto-setup?

There's another thing that I'm not quite sure about because I have zero experience in this - as I mentioned, I play a lot of movies and TV from my computer and a lot of these have surround sound... The Mac Mini is connected to my TV using a HDMI cable. Will I get full benefit of the sound by just connecting the AVR to my TV or would it be beneficial in anyway to take the computer audio straight through the AVR? I think what I'm asking is whether my TV is able to take the HDMI audio inputs and retain all of the quality when output through the AVR or whether it is better to link devices directly to the AVR (if that is even an option)?

Thanks,

James
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
The AVR (AV Receiver) is the box that all the speakers connect to,
Auto set up is a mic that connects to the AVR that you place in the listening position. It then plays some test tones and from this it works out the distance each speaker is from the listening position and then adds a suitable delay to each so they provide the sound at the right time. It then works out the relative volume of each and balances them so that all speakers sound the same volume. Lastly, most will also do some form of room correction to account for any issues you may have i.e. if a particular frequency is reinforced or reduced. The first 2 bits can be done manually with a tape measure and SPL meter. The room correction bit can not be done without the autosetup or other calibration software.
AVR are designed to have all sources connected direct to them via HDMI if possible so I would route everything to the AVR and then one HDMI from AVR to TV. Going through the TV often causes problems and can limit the sound quality that can be achieved.
 

james589

Novice Member
Great, thanks for that. The Yamaha 375 looks good and certainly has a lot of positive reviews - seems well priced too (found it for £150). Would the Boston Soundware 5.1 speaker set be your recommendation or are there others that I ought to consider as well?
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
Given you budget I would look at the Monitor Audio Vectors which I have seen for around £300 (used to sell for over £700).
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
I've given a similar answer to someone else, though my response was geared toward a Stereo system, though I did touch on a possible Surround Sound system as well. Now I just have to wait for my DSL connection to start working again, before I can actually post.

I'm clueless about speakers...help!! | AVForums

Perhaps there is something there that might help you.

Steve/bluewizard
 

spyder viewer

Well-known Member
I noticed when we moved in that what appears to be coaxial cabling have been left around the room and is neatly wired around the skirting board currently - so rigging up a 5.1 system wouldn't be too difficult assuming the wires are in good working order (untested but they look ok)......


..........As I mentioned, there do appear to be existing optical cables dotted around the living room but they're not obtrusive so I wouldn't mind not using them at all or having a wireless set up if that exists currently.

James
Welcome to AVForums!

Coaxial cable is not really compatible with audio speaker feeds, you also mention optical cable which would also be quite hard to incorporate into a budget system. Acceptable cable is £1-2 a metre.

the MA vectors are a well-regarded system but they are at the end of their manufacturing life so they are starting to become harder to find and eventually may start rising in price.

Monitor Audio Vector AV Black 5.1 Speaker Package - Monitor Audio - AudioVisual Online - Home Cinema and Hifi Specialists

Just to clarify, the audio/visual signal will come from your pc into the AVR. The AVR will extract the sound and process it and pass on the video to your tv which in these circumstances will act a bit like a monitor.

If you also want to watch broadcast tv and also want that sound to come through your AVR then you will need to be able to pass back the audio. Now it may be that what you have will do that (I'm not knowledgeable enough) hopefully, someone will clarify that for us both!
 

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