Please help me with home theatre / Stereo setup! ( what is the best sound bar / surround sound system )

Hi guys! I really really want to incorporate a great stereo / home theatre setup.

After doing tons of research, I am leaning towards getting a Kef LS50 W, for my stereo setup. And just getting a seperate really good sound bar with rears and sub woofer. How does that sound? That way space wise it should work really well.

Have already tried the LS50W, and right now I have the Elac Arb 51, which I really love, but don't feel like spending too much on an expensive DAC, so selling that for the Kef.

But I guess the two different options are incorporating the stereo into an AVR with home theatre by pass, or getting a seperate sound bar with rears and bass. I think seperate sound bar with rears will be a bit neater and simpler.

Could someone please tell me what the best way forward would be? And what are the really good sound bars with rears, for the price? Its a shame that its so difficult to get both good stereo and surrond.
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
Musically and for cinema, I feel the HT-Bypass option will always win as you are just doubling up on speakers and as yet I've not heard a good soundbar solution outperform a standard cinema which has basic speakers and amp.

So, as you are looking to use the Kef LS50W you could look at something like the Kef R3 which are a true 3 way speaker paired with the AudioLab 8300A which should give you are far bigger sound than the Kef LS50W on their own. You would then be able to look at the Yamaha V6A. Now for a centre, you have a couple of options, if space is a premium, you could try the system in phantom mode which would just use the Kef R3's for the front L/C/R speakers. If however you wanted to use a centre, then thanks to the way Kef works, you could use almost anything from the Kef range. So the T301 (enabling wall mountability) or Q250c (for freestanding) would be fine as solutions. As for the Rears, staying with the T, Q or even R's will be fine for balancing and with a woofer, just look for one that fits the room as you do not need to stay with the same manufacturer to make this work. in fact in most instances, staying with the same brand will create a negative experience

If you are looking at wireless rears, you could even use Yamaha's Musiccast wireless speakers in place of traditional ones

Again, if you move down the wireless soundbar option then Denon's Home 550 with matching surrounds plus woofer will give you a very good soundbar solution all be it not to cheap. This will then allow you to use the Kef LS50W or LS50W II as you have mentioned yo wish to use

I do however feel the HT-Bypass system will be the best option and as to whether to use the system in phantom mode or not will be down to personal preference although I expect it will still outshine the soundbar path by a significant margin
 
Musically and for cinema, I feel the HT-Bypass option will always win as you are just doubling up on speakers and as yet I've not heard a good soundbar solution outperform a standard cinema which has basic speakers and amp.

So, as you are looking to use the Kef LS50W you could look at something like the Kef R3 which are a true 3 way speaker paired with the AudioLab 8300A which should give you are far bigger sound than the Kef LS50W on their own. You would then be able to look at the Yamaha V6A. Now for a centre, you have a couple of options, if space is a premium, you could try the system in phantom mode which would just use the Kef R3's for the front L/C/R speakers. If however you wanted to use a centre, then thanks to the way Kef works, you could use almost anything from the Kef range. So the T301 (enabling wall mountability) or Q250c (for freestanding) would be fine as solutions. As for the Rears, staying with the T, Q or even R's will be fine for balancing and with a woofer, just look for one that fits the room as you do not need to stay with the same manufacturer to make this work. in fact in most instances, staying with the same brand will create a negative experience

If you are looking at wireless rears, you could even use Yamaha's Musiccast wireless speakers in place of traditional ones

Again, if you move down the wireless soundbar option then Denon's Home 550 with matching surrounds plus woofer will give you a very good soundbar solution all be it not to cheap. This will then allow you to use the Kef LS50W or LS50W II as you have mentioned yo wish to use

I do however feel the HT-Bypass system will be the best option and as to whether to use the system in phantom mode or not will be down to personal preference although I expect it will still outshine the soundbar path by a significant margin

Wow, thanks for all the advice. I really appreciate it. Just one question why would one need a stereo amp and a intergrated reciever?

My main concern about getting a stereo amp and HiFi seperates is, will that sound as good as an active Hifi system? But I dont know as much as you, so I will assume it does.

And if an avr has home theatre bypass, I suppose the integration works very well? Okay, I think I am going to go down this route then! Thanks for the info
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
Because the stereo amp will deliver a much more musical experience over that of the AVR. So when using the system in AVR mode, the Audiolab would become the Yamaha's power-amp and use all its feature like room eq, single remote, etc... as well as sending either L/C/R or L/R signals to the Kef R3's and then when you wish to listen to music, you would just rely on the Audiolab alone switching the Yamaha off and enjoy excellent musical sounds

I have a simple illustration of how to connect the two (although its the baby 6000a in the image), the principle is still the same

Connection other electronics. If you are going to connect a Blu-ray player (something like the Pana 820 as a minimum), then getting something similar to the one mentioned means you can send an analogue signal to the Audiolab for CD's and then connect the HDMI to the Yamaha for the Cinema side.
 

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Because the stereo amp will deliver a much more musical experience over that of the AVR. So when using the system in AVR mode, the Audiolab would become the Yamaha's power-amp and use all its feature like room eq, single remote, etc... as well as sending either L/C/R or L/R signals to the Kef R3's and then when you wish to listen to music, you would just rely on the Audiolab alone switching the Yamaha off and enjoy excellent musical sounds

I have a simple illustration of how to connect the two (although its the baby 6000a in the image), the principle is still the same

Do you think an Athem avr can do the job of both? I believe quite a while ago someone was telling me I could use it to replace my Dac for my Arb-51, since it has a very high quality one in it, and that it is surprisingly musical. But I guess, it can't really replace a dedicated stereo amp.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Integrated stereo amps are always going to give a better music reproduction than relying on an AV amp. There are AV amps available that do a good job of both home cinema and stereo music from the likes of Arcam, Anthem and NAD. They are more expensive and have good room correction features onboard such Dirac. They do come with a reputation of being difficult to set up and use correctly, certainly if you are not very good at computer work such as myself.

I've gone down the route of using an AV amp that has pre-outs and an integrated stereo amp as that is a lot easier to set up and use.

The KEF R3s are a good shout as they are a very good speaker, I have the previous model R300s. More adept at home cinema and a wonderfully music speaker with a terrific stereo image. Highly recommended.
 
Integrated stereo amps are always going to give a better music reproduction than relying on an AV amp. There are AV amps available that do a good job of both home cinema and stereo music from the likes of Arcam, Anthem and NAD. They are more expensive and have good room correction features onboard such Dirac. They do come with a reputation of being difficult to set up and use correctly, certainly if you are not very good at computer work such as myself.

I've gone down the route of using an AV amp that has pre-outs and an integrated stereo amp as that is a lot easier to set up and use.

The KEF R3s are a good shout as they are a very good speaker, I have the previous model R300s. More adept at home cinema and a wonderfully music speaker with a terrific stereo image. Highly recommended.

Ah nice. That all sounds good. Will all be a bit pricey, but probably well worth it. Will try to get it all used and hopefully that will bring down the price.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Ah nice. That all sounds good. Will all be a bit pricey, but probably well worth it. Will try to get it all used and hopefully that will bring down the price.
I will always upgrade, replace my AV amp around my stereo amp as that's the way I have it set up and I love the performance of my Rega stereo amp. It's horses for courses and a one box solution my suit space and expectations better than another box in the cabinet. The stereo amp and AV amp works very well together though.

Bad time to be looking at any make of AV amp because prices are remaining so high because of supply problems as a result of the pandemic. Likely to get worse as well with a lot of South East Asia countries going in lockdowns with a surge of Covid cases.
 
Can, I just do an HDMI out, or optical out from TV to the AVR?

One thing is that Yamaha AVR doesnt do dolby vision, so would it be possible to just route the audio out of the TV into the audio equipment? I think the price range of that AVR is acceptable. I don't wanna pay like 1.5 grand for that!
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
I use an old Arcam AVR600 at home, but for music feel the DAC isn't good enough to match my speakers or source (it never was good in this department), but when using it in stereo direct mode along with the DAC I own, I'm completely happy (I've not heard many system under £15k/£20k better it yet). So I see nothing wrong in using a capable AVR for stereo so long as you understand that you are still compromising somewhere and yes you can pull it back, but then you are going to have to spend quite a bit more to do so.

I build myself a Media Server for Music and Movie. It uses a tri-boot system enabling me to keep my music/movies/and basic operating system separate. For music, It's a very stripped down windows 10 system with nothing installed other than what is needed and every other background program/process that can be stopped without causing it to crash has been stopped/removed. I plug this into my Teac UD-501 with nothing other than the DAC basic's running. No upsampling/no messing, just whats needed (same for the software on the PC which only uses kernel drivers) and then it's piped into my old Arcam which musically using this was really surprises me on its ability. For movies, I'm not as bothered and it delivers everything I need. It was a few years in getting there, but It sound fantastic to my ears and most of my toys are oldish now with the Media Server being the newest (although off the shelf with me building it still didn't give me much change form £2k+, but I wanted it to be fanless without using water which in turn ended costing a little more than I wanted. Even the HDD are on absorption racks within the casing which took me forever to find)
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
Can, I just do an HDMI out, or optical out from TV to the AVR?

One thing is that Yamaha AVR doesnt do dolby vision, so would it be possible to just route the audio out of the TV into the audio equipment? I think the price range of that AVR is acceptable. I don't wanna pay like 1.5 grand for that!
Depending upon the age of the electronics you use, you can use the ARC or eARC from the TV if the amp also has one of the two options. eARC will allow for more information to be transmitted. But if your has neither, the optical will still be fine for most broadcasts via streaming and TV. Just be aware that many TV's will not convert HDMI signals inputted into it which are then sent to via optical to be 5.1. These are in many cases dropped down to 2 channel PCM
 
Depending upon the age of the electronics you use, you can use the ARC or eARC from the TV if the amp also has one of the two options. eARC will allow for more information to be transmitted. But if your has neither, the optical will still be fine for most broadcasts via streaming and TV. Just be aware that many TV's will not convert HDMI signals inputted into it which are then sent to via optical to be 5.1. These are in many cases dropped down to 2 channel PCM

Ah right, never knew what that ARC stuff meant. Nice.

What would really save me money is if I could just match a pair of Kef LS50Ws with a AVR and surronds.

I know the K3 would be better, been looking at some reviews. But i would save money and some desk space if I didnt have to use two boxes.

How easy / difficult is it to do that whole home theatre by pass thing in a AVR with active speakers like Kef LS50w. Ideally I would like to do it like you do.

But living in London, and having to pay for a mortgage, now also need a new motorbike / e bike, all of that is putting a serious dent in my wallet. If I can save a grand, and still get great stereo and big surrond, I think that might be better.

I do think you are right though, I bet an AVR and speakers will be much better than sound bar and seperates. Do you know where I can find a list of AVR with HT bypass? And if Kef LS50w will play nice with that? Also Kef LS50w are now a lot cheaper with II out. Once upon a time I was going to buy the Buchardt s50, but my wallet has been seriously light as of late.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I can find a list of AVR with HT bypass
The AVR needs pre-outs. It's the stereo amp that needs HT by-pass.

 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
Here is a really useful website with an array of integrated stereo amps which have HT-bypass. Its updated every so often, so it may not have everything, but as you'll see, there are a number available to you both new and old

As for using this system, you have to ensure the AVR you are buying has pre-outs for the surround sound. not all do and as far as I'm aware the Yamaha I mentioned earlier is the cheapest new unit you can get (even though its quite difficult to get with the chip issues going on like all avrs)

If you are looking at Kef's LS50W, then why not look at an older pair of LS50's where they originated from. They're a few years old, but are still a capable stereo speaker (however I feel the R300 are better if you are looking at the second hand market), if moving to the R3's is a step to far with your commitments

As you're budget is tighter, why not concentrate on the stereo side first, purchase a cheap digital to analogue DAC for the TV and build your system as you go along. This will enable you to vastly improve your TV's sound whilst allowing you to enjoy music from your other mediums.

So, have a look at that list or stereo integrated amp which you can use the HT-Bypass option and when you come to adding the remaining parts of your system, you know that so long as your avr has pre-outs for surround sound, the system is going to work
 
The AVR needs pre-outs. It's the stereo amp that needs HT by-pass.


OMG, thank you for enlightening me. I was wondering why on earth I just could not find that feature on any AVR. For goodness sake. Can one just plug in their Active speakers like LS50w or ARB-51 into the preouts? Or is a stereo amp with HT bypass mandatory
Here is a really useful website with an array of integrated stereo amps which have HT-bypass. Its updated every so often, so it may not have everything, but as you'll see, there are a number available to you both new and old

As for using this system, you have to ensure the AVR you are buying has pre-outs for the surround sound. not all do and as far as I'm aware the Yamaha I mentioned earlier is the cheapest new unit you can get (even though its quite difficult to get with the chip issues going on like all avrs)

If you are looking at Kef's LS50W, then why not look at an older pair of LS50's where they originated from. They're a few years old, but are still a capable stereo speaker (however I feel the R300 are better if you are looking at the second hand market), if moving to the R3's is a step to far with your commitments

As you're budget is tighter, why not concentrate on the stereo side first, purchase a cheap digital to analogue DAC for the TV and build your system as you go along. This will enable you to vastly improve your TV's sound whilst allowing you to enjoy music from your other mediums.

So, have a look at that list or stereo integrated amp which you can use the HT-Bypass option and when you come to adding the remaining parts of your system, you know that so long as your avr has pre-outs for surround sound, the system is going to work

The reason i don't want the LS50 is because I have read many times, despite it being a great speaker the reaosn it gets mixed reviews is, its very difficult to pair the right amp with it. That its quite finicky. Also, apparently the LS50 W out performs the LS50, since its got a perfectly tuned amp.

Is it possible to just add an active speaker like LS50w to an AVR with pre-outs? And that it would work as one might? I think ideally, I wouldn't need a stereo amp, and could just jack in the LS50W into the AVR. And then I could connect the LS50w direct to my computer for music.

LS50W are quite forward, I like the ARB-51, they are an easier listen, but I think I need a really expensive DAC to get the best out of em. LS50 W are just amazing for certain types of music, though.
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
With any speaker. You really have to make your own judgement and ignore everyone else’s comments as sound is so suggestive. I only mentioned the LS50 (which I thought you may have heard somewhere along the way and enjoyed), hence why you was looking at their evolved variation LS50W. The LS50 were critically acclaimed by most who heard them in the right environment and even though I always thought they didn’t have the deepest bass, the accuracy and detail of those speakers are quite remarkable. I used to pair them with the Teac AI-501DA which on paper shouldn’t have been a good partnership. But I thought they sounded great together and I never heard any complaints from potential buyers who heard them together

So even though you have dismissed them because of reviews, I would always say, trust your own ears as you may find that even the LS50W don’t fit your ear if you haven’t heard them. As I said, sound is so suggestive

As for pairing the an active speaker with and AVR via it’s pre-out. Sadly this isn’t the same as using an integrated stereo amp with HT-Bypass as the speakers with their build in amps will ignore any setting it has done plus you will have to match volume to volume on both devices. You will have two lots of processing plus a lot more going on and you may never get them sounding just right plus unwanted feedback as they were never designed to work that way

If you are going to use the HT-Bypass, my suggestion it to look at passive speakers not active as the LS50W are

I hope that clears a couple of things and steers you to creating your dream stereo solution which can also double up as a simple cinema solution
 
With any speaker. You really have to make your own judgement and ignore everyone else’s comments as sound is so suggestive. I only mentioned the LS50 (which I thought you may have heard somewhere along the way and enjoyed), hence why you was looking at their evolved variation LS50W. The LS50 were critically acclaimed by most who heard them in the right environment and even though I always thought they didn’t have the deepest bass, the accuracy and detail of those speakers are quite remarkable. I used to pair them with the Teac AI-501DA which on paper shouldn’t have been a good partnership. But I thought they sounded great together and I never heard any complaints from potential buyers who heard them together

So even though you have dismissed them because of reviews, I would always say, trust your own ears as you may find that even the LS50W don’t fit your ear if you haven’t heard them. As I said, sound is so suggestive

As for pairing the an active speaker with and AVR via it’s pre-out. Sadly this isn’t the same as using an integrated stereo amp with HT-Bypass as the speakers with their build in amps will ignore any setting it has done plus you will have to match volume to volume on both devices. You will have two lots of processing plus a lot more going on and you may never get them sounding just right plus unwanted feedback as they were never designed to work that way

If you are going to use the HT-Bypass, my suggestion it to look at passive speakers not active as the LS50W are

I hope that clears a couple of things and steers you to creating your dream stereo solution which can also double up as a simple cinema solution

Honestly that really explains a lot. Thanks for the info. This really helps going forward in what to do. I was a bit confused aout a few things. So appreciate it. I may give the Kef R3 a shot then, if I am going passive may as well check that one out.

I did really like the LS50W for music, but even just on their own, they werent great for movies for some reason. Like my ARB 51s are a lot better for movies.

I guess the best option is going to be what you originally suggested. I feel, even though i want amazing movie surround, its easier to be pleased in that sense. But when it comes to music, its just a lot easier to be picky isn't it? It just feels like its easier to be satisfied with movies, like it doesnt impact your enjoyment of it as much. But better stereo sound really does allow one to enjoy music more.
 

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