Do 5/6/7.1 amps handle 2.1?

Protoplasm

Novice Member
I fear this is the most retarded (and possible long) question ever, but my reading and searches still leave me uncertain so apologies in advance for my stupidity.

While I can twist the wife's arm into a 42" TV, the wiring necessary for a proper 5.1 setup is a no go, at least in the short to medium term.

With that in mind, I figure I need a 2.0/2.1 setup or something else that doesn't require the wires. To that end, I have looked at the Yamaha and Marantz soundbars as a substitute for proper 5.1 surround. They get good reviews but seem very expensive, and the position of both TV and viewer in our living room puts me off.

Can I buy a 5.1/6.1/7.1 receiver/amplifier (such as the Onkyo SR605) and use it with only 2.0 or 2.1? I'm assuming it will work, as in sound will come out, but will I be losing out on a lot of extra detail because the amp will be assuming the presence of all the speakers (as opposed to missing out on the full full surround sound experience, which I know I obviously will be)?

I would prefer to spend less than £500 in total, though I can stretch a bit if needs be. I have been looking at amps which provide HDMI audio support thinking that would be good to have, but that's just my gut feeling from what I've read -- ie I'm probably wrong and don't mind being told so.

Any advice is much appreciated.

PS. My setup: I have the TV itself, Sky+, Apple TV and PS3 and I want to add a CD player (or a DVD player to cover both instead).
 

BazMan

Active Member
Short answer: Yes.



Can I buy a 5.1/6.1/7.1 receiver/amplifier (such as the Onkyo SR605) and use it with only 2.0 or 2.1? I'm assuming it will work, as in sound will come out, but will I be losing out on a lot of extra detail because the amp will be assuming the presence of all the speakers (as opposed to missing out on the full full surround sound experience, which I know I obviously will be)?

You can set up the receiver/amp to work with however many speakers you have, from 2 to 7 (or more) - ie it won't "assume" you've got 7 speakers if you tell it you've only got 2 or 2.1 - and it will send the relevant signals to the relevant speakers. As you quite rightly say, you won't get the full surroundy thing, but you'll still get a decently impressive sound even with 2 or 2.1 speakers (and usually much better than the TV's own speakers.)

At least if you do get a 5/6/7.1 receiver, you have the potential for adding more speakers in the future when budget (and wife) allow.

HTH :thumbsup:
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Whilst the short answer is yes, the longer version is that if you don't intend to add surround sound speakers, it's pointless - you end up paying for processing and amplification that you can't use, whilst sacrificing sound quality. With your tight budget, you could do a lot better by setting up a 2.1 system without the option for 3-5 extra channels you won't use. You also don't need HDMI for sound in a 2.1 setup and by buying a DVD (/ Bluray) player with full onboard decoding and stereo outputs you don't need amplifier-based decoding either.

The only issue is connecting the subwoofer in a 2.1 when you have a pure stereo amplifier. What you need is either an amplifier with pre-out and power-in or a subwoofer with "high level" (speaker) connections.

Your dealer should be able to help you set up a decent 2.1 system including CD/DVD.
 

Protoplasm

Novice Member
@Mark.Yudkin : Ack, replied to Bazman before I saw your reply as I didn't refresh the page. I really struggled to find (by hunting online rather than going to a dealer) a decent 2.1 setup but then perhaps I was being stupid about how one achieves the .1 ...

I get the feeling I need to go away and do some more reading!
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
You get from 2.0 to 2.1 by adding a suitable subwoofer - the way we all did it before it was called 2.1 and subwoofers were for music rather than films.

If you want to read up on this, you'll need to look at the hi-fi magazines rather than the A/V magazines. A dealer remains your best bet.

One option for you might be the Arcam Solo Movie 2.1, which gives you a decent amp and CD/DVD player in a single box. Then you just need to add speakers.
 

Protoplasm

Novice Member
One option for you might be the Arcam Solo Movie 2.1, which gives you a decent amp and CD/DVD player in a single box. Then you just need to add speakers.
You seem to have confused me with this chap! :)

It sounds daft but I think the thing throwing me with the subwoofer was the type of connection required etc. as I'm pretty clueless about the stuff -- biwiring my current speakers is about as technical as I have got -- but I'm wrapping my head around that.

I'm coming to the conclusion that I may be best off starting with a better (given my budget) 2.0 setup -- maybe move to 2.1 or 3.1 a little later on. It's just finding an amp best suited to my outputs and the right balance of small speaker vs. power/quality (space and wife being an issue I'd ideally like something under 200mm in height).
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
No: he has more money than sense, but I gather that this is above your budget.

If you go the stereo route (2.0/2.1), you cannot then go 3.1 - as for 3.1 you need the full A/V setup. Hence you do have to make a choice.

Many DVDs with surround sound also have a 2 channel mix, and all players will downmix to stereo. Unless you have serious off-axis seating issues (you sit very much to the side or close to one of the stereo speakers), the centre channel is not as critical as some here will have you believe (especially when they all start objecting to this remark, but see my sig) - consider all of your stereo music sources and older films.

---

BTW, biwiring speakers is a complete waste of money (baîamping is a different story, but way over your budget). Speaker cable with 1.5mm diameter or above is sufficient. All biwiring can do is give you extra conduction area, but getting thicker cable is cheaper than running a pair of thinner ones!
 

Protoplasm

Novice Member
Thanks for all the advice Mark, I appreciate it.

I shall have to weigh up the pros and cons of going 2.0/2.1 and restricting my possibilities of going beyond that if circumstances change.

One thing my wife complains about when watching movies is making out dialogue over background noise and I had hoped that the separate centre channel could help in this regard? Is this another schoolboy error?

Re: Bi-wiring. Oh well, you live and learn!
 

rwniel

Novice Member
Perhaps you could 'negotiate' a compromise with the wife and go with a 3.1 system - the additional (centre) speaker is there specifically for dialogue. As Mark said, it's not an absolute requirement but most of the objections from surround systems tend to be about the rears and having wire running between them (since they're usually the furthest speakers away from the amp). Perhaps you could tempt her with some more discrete options like those from Orb-Audio. Most av amps/receivers tend to look like big bricks (again not very wife friendly for the most part); I would look at models such as those from Cambridge Audio - the Azur 540 v2 for example. Flat speaker cable like the Ixos XHS133/233 can also help in some instances.

Robert
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
A centre speaker will only help with DVDs having a centre channel in the first place - stereo TV broadcast, for example, will not be assisted. How much of your watching is with surround sound sources? The answer to this may also help you decide whether to go 2.1 / 3.1 or re-open discussions with your better half about 5.1.

You need speakers that reproduce speech accurately. As well as avoiding low quality speakers, this also means avoiding speakers that give a "lush, smooth and warm" sound, since with films this translates to "muddy, unclear and tiring" dialogue.

A centre channel can improve or worsen dialogue comprehension. The problem of putting a speaker where the TV screen is tends to lead to use of a small, flat centre speaker. However it can help when the stereo speakers are unable to properly render speech or create an accurate sound stage impression.
 

Protoplasm

Novice Member
My wife probably watches 90% stereo TV and I probably watch about 20% stereo TV vs. DVD/Apple TV/Blu-Ray.

To make matters more complicated, because of budget and space (and WAF) constraints, I also want to accomodate the playback of music (audio CDs, AAC/MP3 etc) in the same system (probably about 10% music listening vs 90% TV viewing), so I'm looking for that non-existent blend of good music and movie sound in one setup.

I had been toying with the idea of the Onkyo 506, Tannoy Mercury F1 Custom bookshelfs (and possibly centre too) and an as-yet undecided sub.

Despite my budget not stretching to the really good stuff, I'm also conscious that the room is not really large enough or well-laid out enough to get a very good sound-stage, so it's hard to figure where the best balance of equipment lies. I know I can't have everything, I am just not sure what the best compromise is.

Also bear in mind that our current living room setup is an old Sony CRT (TV/DVD sound only via built-in speakers) and a poor quality mini stereo system. Almost anything should seem like a big improvement...
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
The first thing to do is hook up the CRT TV to the current mini stereo. Your Sony CRT should have an analogue out (pair of RCA connectors) on the back, which you can hook up to a spare input on the current stereo using a shielded stereo RCA lead. This will cost very little and you'll get immediate performance improvements with both TV and DVD. We've always run our TV's this way (nearly 25 years), and our DVD player this way for 4 years - before going surround sound - it works well.

Check the manual for your Sony TV to see how to cut the internal speakers when using external speakers. If the TV is really old, it may just put out a fixed signal and you simply turn down / mute the TV sound. My current CRT can be suitably configured in the menus.

In any case, the improvement this should yield ought to assist you in convincing your wife to support further improvements.

---

My recommendation for you, given the facts you've posted, your wife's decoration and TV watching preferences, and the obvious desire for domestic harmony, is to stick to stereo. Blending good music and cinema is possible, but not at your budget and with your other constraints. You'll probably get more from stereo than from surround sound when you can't place rear speakers. OTOH, perhaps the above will lead your wife to reconsider surround.
 

Protoplasm

Novice Member
That is sound advice (pardon the pun) excep that while the Sony TV has the outputs (and I believe the Panasonic I am hoping will arrives soon does, too) I don't think the wife's manky old Bush mini stereo has any inputs at all and, even if it does, that's on its way out (fluctuating volume) and needs to be replaced which is part of the reason for wanting to combine the two areas of listening.

Thanks for all your help, Mark. I may well end up sticking with stereo. I certainly don't think I'll get the wife to go for full surround (felt I was pushing it getting the 42" TV) but a man can dream, eh.
 

Max N

Active Member
I would echo mark's recommendation. Your budget would go a lot further if spent on two channels. The jump up from the built-in speakers in the TV to a stereo setup is the biggest jump. Subsequent jumps to 2.1, 3.1, 5.1 are diminishing returns.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
felt I was pushing it getting the 42" TV, but a man can dream
Any time I moot a large TV (107cm - 127cm), I get an immediate No, even with the help of all 3 children. I'll probably try again in a year or so.
 

McFaber

Well-known Member
Any time I moot a large TV (107cm - 127cm), I get an immediate No, even with the help of all 3 children. I'll probably try again in a year or so.

Mark, with kit like yours, you and your kids ought to be trying harder....:D

I tried to convince my other half that a 50" would be the way to go, she wasn't having any of it for years, it wasn't until I splashed a serious amount on a 42" Fujitsu.... she said, 'You should have got the bigger one'......Cheers for letting know this, luv!...:rolleyes:
Though, I did cross the line a while ago using surrounds that could be used as main speakers in my local cinema....:suicide:...she wasn't impressed....:mad:

I suppose you gotta draw the line somewhere!
 

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