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Where should I start for research / recommendations?

Totori

Novice Member
Hi...

I am completely lost =) I have zero clue where to start. I have not had anything audio related in the last ten or so years.

I've finally got a space I can call my own and am looking to get a better sound system for my living room. I currently have nothing but my TV.

My primary use for this will be video games (more on the music side of games as I play JRPGs, not the gun shot and footsteps side of games). My secondary use will be music/movies. I want to feel immersed in my games.

I have absolutely no idea where to start and no idea what I want or need. My budget is somewhere between $800-$2,000 CAD, I'd obviously prefer to spend less, but I really have no idea what you get in terms of money. I also live in the middle of nowhere, so I cannot really go test things out. I'd like to order from someplace online in Canada or someplace from the US where I wont get hit by duties or huge shipping prices.

What should I do in this situation? Any recommendations or links to something I can read that might help me get a bit more knowledgeable?

Thanks =)
 
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BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Will the gaming be on a desktop computer, or will it be in your living room on the TV?

Next what are the dimensions of the room?

As there space limitations in the room? Meaning are you more likely to prefer small Satellite speakers, bookshelf speakers, or floorstanding speakers?

Next, think about the features you might want? Do you need a Optical input to connect the TV to the Stereo? Do you need a USB-PC port to allow you to connect your computer to the audio system?

Next, Surround Sound or Stereo? If you sink all your money into a Stereo you get better equipment, but there are likely some connection issue, though they can be resolved. If you put your money into a Surround Sound system you get, obviously, Surround Sound, better control of a Subwoofer, and easier connections for Video watching, but your money is spread pretty thin. You are buying many amps and many speakers for the same price you would have sunk into two amps and two speakers at the same budget.

Next specifically what will be connected to the Audio System? Game boxes, cable boxes, TV, CD Player, Turntable, etc.... Do you feel you have any need for Network Streaming of computer audio files or access to Internet Radio?

Getting back to the specific equipment, what specifically do you need? By this I mean a list of components your require this budget to buy you. For example, certainly an Amp and Speakers, but do you need a BluRay, a CD Player, a Turntable, or other?

Think about these things and answer my question, then we will have enough information to move forward.

Again, not knowing the specifics of your needs, I can only guess, but consider this system simply to give you starting perspective.

Yamaha RN500, AM/FM, 80w/ch, DAC-2xOptical, 2xCoaxial, Network Streaming, Internet Radio, etc... at US$550 -

Yamaha R-N500 Stereo receiver with networking and Apple® AirPlay® at Crutchfield.com

Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 Bookshelf, 6.5" bass, 40hz, etc... at US$450/pr

WHARFEDALE DIAMOND 10.2 BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS (PR) at Music Direct

That brings the total to US$1000/set.

Again, this is simply intended to illustrate to you the possibilities.

The one thing the above system is lacking is a direct USB connection between your computer, assuming you actually need this, and the audio system. That can be added easy enough a well within your budget -

AUDIOQUEST DRAGONFLY V1.2 USB DAC at Music Direct

But again, you need to refine and define specifically what your needs are. From that, we can point you toward equipment.

That should get you started.

Steve/bluewizard
 

MIFF INFIDELIUS

Established Member
I think the important decision to begin with would be to decide whether you'd want something like a somewhat basic home cinema 5.1 or a nice stereo ( 2.0 L&R speaker or 2.1 L&R + sub )

and then making sure you could comfortably accommodate 5 speakers and subwoofer as to get the most of it, or whether you'd rather go the ( perhaps ) simple way of a stereo setup.

Both 2.1 or 5.1 should be able to immerse you well and many forum members here even watch films in stereo & subwoofer settings and is really down to the choice. Some prefer full cinema some can do easily without the surrounds.

The benefit of less speakers laying around , eg. stereo, is that you could afford speakers much higher in range and ( while not set in stone ) enjoy a better quality then splitting that budget between 5 speakers and subwoofer that can alone set you back $500 if we'd go for an average one.
 

Jeff Tolbert

Novice Member
Just a guess here since I'm just a new member on this forum and not an expert, but since you mentioned JRPGs I'm guessing that a two speaker (or 2.1 system) would be the way to go. Many Japanese games, and RPGs specifically, do not rely on heavy use of surround sound in the same way that first person shooters do. This is of course a generalization, but I think many would agree.

I'm biased though because I am not a big fan of surround sound systems. I would suggest looking into a really good 2.1 setup.

Setting up a 2.1 system will probably mean getting the following
  • a receiver
  • two speakers (bookshelf or floorstanding)
  • a subwoofer
Once again guessing, but most JRPG gamers seem to be console (as opposed to computer) gamers. So if your setup is basically a PS3 hooked up to your TV, I would not get side-tracked thinking about extra inputs and features for your receiver. Unless you are hooking up a lot of different devices you don't need 4 HDMI inputs and AirPlay functionality. What you really need is a way to take the signal from your PS3 and TV and amplify for your speakers, not so much of a full video conversion center. Just something to think about.

I don't know nearly as much about this stuff as most of the people here but I would say get a fairly inexpensive receiver and spend your money on some nice speakers.
 

Totori

Novice Member
Holy, thanks for the replies!

Will the gaming be on a desktop computer, or will it be in your living room on the TV?

Living room on T.V.

Next what are the dimensions of the room?

Not sure, nothing to measure with (just moved in), but it seems big enough.

As there space limitations in the room? Meaning are you more likely to prefer small Satellite speakers, bookshelf speakers, or floorstanding speakers?

I don't think I have space limitations unless the speakers are really, really big

Next, think about the features you might want? Do you need a Optical input to connect the TV to the Stereo? Do you need a USB-PC port to allow you to connect your computer to the audio system?

Next, Surround Sound or Stereo? If you sink all your money into a Stereo you get better equipment, but there are likely some connection issue, though they can be resolved. If you put your money into a Surround Sound system you get, obviously, Surround Sound, better control of a Subwoofer, and easier connections for Video watching, but your money is spread pretty thin. You are buying many amps and many speakers for the same price you would have sunk into two amps and two speakers at the same budget.

Next specifically what will be connected to the Audio System? Game boxes, cable boxes, TV, CD Player, Turntable, etc.... Do you feel you have any need for Network Streaming of computer audio files or access to Internet Radio?

This is where I start to really not know. I do not know what features I need/want. I do not really know the difference between Surround Sound and Stereo to be entirely honest. I want to feel immersed in my games as I said before - what setup would I want for that?

I will be connecting the system primarily to a PS3/PS4/other console. Maybe something else down the line, but the primary use will be those. I generally use the consoles for my bluray and music too.

Getting back to the specific equipment, what specifically do you need? By this I mean a list of components your require this budget to buy you. For example, certainly an Amp and Speakers, but do you need a BluRay, a CD Player, a Turntable, or other?

I generally use my consoles for BluRay/etc, I don't think I need anything else.

Another couple questions I have:

* What are these Soundbars? Are they an option or are they only there if you don't have the space?

* If I go with Stereo, will I be able to generally use the same products for future expansion if I wanted to switch to surround?

* Is there some sort of good FAQ about the differences in speaker types and stereo/surround that I can read about in easily understandable knowledge?

Thanks so much^_^
 
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BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
So, no CD Player, no BluRay player, all those functions are being provided by your game box?

With your budget on the high side (~$2000) you can get a pretty fair Surround Sound system. There is no denying the immersive effects of Surround Sound for movies. In short Surround Sound surrounds you with sound.

On the lower end, as seen in my example, you can get a very nice Stereo system. (~$800).

Keep in mind I have and favor a Stereo system, as you get much better sound quality for your money. I also favor Floorstanding speakers over Bookshelf/Sub partly because there are few to no stereo amps that have internal Electronic Bass Management. At the same time I do recognize the value of Surround Sound for movies. I just choose quality over quantity. But remember on the high side of your budget, you can get a pretty decent Surround Sound system.

Most AV Receivers do have Electronic Bass Management; in the simplest term this means internal to the amp, you can control the crossover not only to the Sub but to the Front speakers as well. With a typical stereo system, the Front and Sub are always going to be running in parallel, there is not way to limit the frequencies that go to the front speakers. That makes integrating the Sub and Front more difficult as you are limited to the manual controls built into the Sub.

On a Sub you typically have THREE controls - Volume, Crossover Frequencies, and Phase. In case, for the moment we need not be concerned with Phase. This is just my self-invented method, but I would start with the Subwoofer set to 80hz, then with the volume essentially off, bring the volume up until what you are hearing sound reasonably balanced. Leave the Volume Setting at this new level, turn the Crossover down as low as it will go, then gradually bring the crossover frequency up until you feel you have the best blend of Front and Sub. Leave the Crossover at this new setting, and bring the Volume down and back up again, trying to find the best balance. Then repeat with the Crossover. You are trying to zero in on the best balance of sound, the best blend of the Sub and Front speakers. I don't imagine it would be necessary to run through this process more than about 3 times to find the best Blend of the Front/Sub, and the best blend with your personal taste.

I doesn't seem to me that you are looking for over-hyped over-amped bass, so I would recommend Floorstanding where the Bass and the rest of the frequencies are already blended together by expert engineers back at the speaker factory.

Again, just to illustrate the possibilities, in floorstanding these have caught my eye -

Polk Audio TSx440T (Cherry) Floor-standing speaker at Crutchfield.com

Polk Audio TSx550T (Cherry) Floor-standing speaker at Crutchfield.com

Difficult, at least for me, to find a place to audition these speaker, but I would expect good things from them. At US$700 to $1000/pair, they would leave you plenty of money for a good Stereo amp, and would bring you in well under budget.

This next speaker is one model series above the TSx listed above, though not the latest model, it should also be an excellent speaker -

Polk Audio RTi A7 (Cherry) Floor-standing speaker at Crutchfield.com

If you want a little more crispness and presence in the Voice range, then consider the Klipsch -

Klipsch Reference RF-62 II (Cherry) Floor-standing speaker at Crutchfield.com

Klipsch Reference RF-62 II (Black) Floor-standing speaker at Crutchfield.com

Klipsch Reference RF-82 II (Cherry) Floor-standing speaker at Crutchfield.com

The horn Mid/Tweeter really has a presence that cut through the clutter. A very common speaker, and should be easy to audition. I'm not sure about the prices, they don't seem very consistent. But the RF-62 in cherry at $399 each, and the larger RF-82 at $499 each are exceptional deals.

As far as an amp, I would still recommend the Yamaha RN500, it has an internal DAC with Optical and Coaxial connections, 80w/channel, and the Computer Network Streaming (DLNA & Apple Airplay) is a real bonus, especially if you have a lot of digital music.

An alternative to the Yamaha RN500 would be the Onkyo TX-8050 with a similar feature set -

Onkyo TX-8050 AM/FM/Internet radio receiver at Crutchfield.com

The TX-8050 is an older product that has been on the market longer which accounts for its lower price.

The external DAC, found in either of these units, on its own would sell for about US$300. -

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 (Silver) Stereo digital-to-analog converter with asynchronous USB input at Crutchfield.com

The nearest Yamaha Reciever without DAC or Streaming would be the R-S500 -

Yamaha R-S500 Stereo receiver at Crutchfield.com

As you can see, if you add a DAC to that, you are spending more money and don't have Streaming.

Now, if you decide to go the Surround Sound route, you don't need floorstanding speakers; bookshelf/Sub are a more functional choice. Good bookshelf will still do a very good job for music, and for movies the Sub will add real weight to the sound tracks.

In Home Cinema Recievers, you really need to spend at bare minimum $500 -

Yamaha RX-V677 7.2-channel home theater receiver with Wi-Fi® and Apple AirPlay® at Crutchfield.com

Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A730 7.2-channel home theater receiver with Apple AirPlay® at Crutchfield.com

Yamaha RX-V775WA 7.2-channel home theater receiver with Apple AirPlay® and included Wi-Fi® at Crutchfield.com

Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A830 7.2-channel home theater receiver with Apple AirPlay® at Crutchfield.com

Denon AVR-X3000 7.2-channel home theater receiver with Apple AirPlay® at Crutchfield.com

Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A1030 7.2-channel home theater receiver with Apple AirPlay® at Crutchfield.com

If you spend say $750 to $850 on the AV Receiver, that leaves about $1200 for speakers. Other brands are possible, but I favor Yamaha, Denon, and Marantz, though there are Cambridge, and NAD in your price range.

So, let's see if we can put together a speaker system. Again, at this stage I'm more illustrating the possibilities than making recommendations. As soon as you decide the direction you want to go, we can get down to more specific recommendations.

FRONT -
Polk Audio TSx220B (Cherry) Bookshelf speakers at Crutchfield.com

CENTER -
Polk Audio TSx150C (Cherry) Center channel speaker at Crutchfield.com

REAR/SIDE -
Polk Audio TSx110B (Cherry) Bookshelf speakers at Crutchfield.com

SUBWOOFER -

Polk Audio PSW110 (Black) Powered subwoofer at Crutchfield.com

Polk Audio PSW111 Ultra-compact powered subwoofer at Crutchfield.com

Polk Audio PSW125 (Black) Powered subwoofer at Crutchfield.com

Which Sub you choose will depend on budget and the size you need. For simplicity, I will use the middle Sub at $299

So, we have this -

$300/pr = Polk TSx220 (Front)
$230/pr = Polk TSx110 (surround)
$200/ea = Polk TSx150C (center)
$300/ea = Polk PSW111 (Sub)
------------------------
$1030 = Total

The same thing could be done with Infinity Primus or Klipsch RF speakers, and possibly a few other good speakers at a very similar price.

Combine those speakers with the AV Receiver of your choice, and you should have a very good system.

If you want to boost the above AV system, then consider smaller floorstanding in front -

Polk Audio TSx330T (Cherry) Floor-standing speaker at Crutchfield.com

These would add about $200 to the overall system price listed above for a new total of about £1230/set. That still allows you a substantial amount for the AV Receiver while staying under your maximum budget.

So, as your see, it is as I originally said, you can get a AV Surround system that would be undoubtedly good near the top of your budget. But at near the middle of your budget, you can get a pretty stunning Stereo system.

These Polk RTI-A7 are very good at about $1000/pr and the Yamaha RN500 at $550, still leaves you well shy of your highest suggested budget. The RTi are one model line above the TSx, and should be extremely impressive with very deep bass down to 30hz or a bit less at -6dB -

RTiA7 - Floorstanding | Polk Audio®

In the Polk TSx series -

TSx | Polk Audio®

TSx550T - Floorstanding | Polk Audio®

TSx440T - Floorstanding | Polk Audio®

TSx330T - Floorstanding | Polk Audio®

The TSX550 have response down very close to 30hz or a bit less at -6dB. The TSx440 have response down to about 35hz at -6dB, still reasonably good. the TSx300 has response down to about 38hz at -6dB, which is still decent for music.

The original suggestion of the Yamaha RN500 ($550) and the Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 ($450/pr) bookshelf will give you good bass down to 40hz and with a total price of about $1000, which puts you very much on the lower end of your budget.


You can get a Surround Sound system for a few hundred less, by going to a lower AV Receiver, and you will probably be satisfied. But you really shouldn't go less than about $500 on the AV Receiver.

The AV Receiver will have simplified connection (HDMI, Optical, Coaxial), it will have Network Streaming, and it will have internal Electronic Bass Management. But you can't expect a $500 AV Receiver to be the equal of a $500 Stereo receiver, which is why I suggested an AV Receiver in the $750 to $850 range.

To some extent it gets down to the size of the available space, and how you want to and are able to use it.

Any of the system I outlined would be a very good system. So, the only thing left to do is to narrow down your specific want and needs. Once you know what you want, then you can get what you want.

Again, I suggest either a Stereo with Digital Inputs and floorstanding speaker, or an AV amp with a bookshelf/Sub combination.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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