Looking for an Ideal Home Theater Set Up
December 20, 2009 8:12 AM   Subscribe

I recently, finally, purchased an HDTV (a Samsung, from the 6000 LED series). I'm totally new to this, but as the sound is not great from the TV itself, I'm wondering what a good, not bank-breaking (but doesn't have to be bargain basement either) home theater set up is.

Basically, right now I'm running the sound through a Linn Classik with a pair of Mission bookshelf speakers. This is OK, but as I understand it I'm missing a lot this way — not to mention that I'm running out of audio inputs. The other parts here are a Sci Atlanta DTV box (Time Warner) and I'm a Mac household. The last detail is that the TV etc. is stored in a quite large built-in piece of cabinetry, so there's room for hardware, but the room is not really set up to have, for example, rear channel speakers behind the viewer.

So I'm curious for tips on people's idea set ups. I've been looking at the best choices at CNET for example. An all-in-one Samsung blu-ray set up? An AV receiver with small Energy speakers? A soundbar? Use the existing receiver in some way? Thanks for helping school an amateur.
posted by dearleader to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You want at least something that outputs to 5.1 (five speakers + one subwoofer, aka surround sound) with an optical digital audio input and speakers for each of those channels. I'll defer to others as to how inexpensive you can go while maintaining quality these days. My set up is about six years old, with Yamaha receiver, some cheap Kenwood surround, center, and sub speakers, and some nicer Cambridge SoundWorks front speakers, and I really couldn't ask for anything more right now.
posted by The Michael The at 8:24 AM on December 20, 2009

I bought last year's model of this Sony "Home Theater in a box" system one year ago. It has 3 HDMI inputs, which is enough for my cable box, Blu-Ray player, and AppleTV. I also have a Wii, but since it doesn't demand HDMI, I have it connected to the TV's component inputs with the sound routed back out to the stereo input on the receiver.

The system also has a microphone that you use for audio setup, so you can find a good sound balance for the location of your seating.

Most audiophiles will scoff at such a system, but I've been pleased with the sound quality, and it gets plenty loud.

When I priced out buying a "serious" stand-alone receiver and speakers last year, they generally were a couple hundred bucks more expensive. Given my small living room, I decided to go with the "Inna Box" system for now, and invest in something bigger later on.

It will help us make suggestions if you can give us a ballpark for your shopping budget.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:00 AM on December 20, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the good suggestions. As for budget, sub-$1000 for everything would be ideal.
posted by dearleader at 9:19 AM on December 20, 2009

I would start with a good AV receiver and front stage speakers. Left, Right, Center, and subwoofer. You can add the rear speakers later on.
Take a look at Aperion Audio for some moderately priced, high quality speakers. I have used previous generations of their speakers and was fairly pleased with the sound quality.

A sound bar could be a good option, but I think you may need a square room to get the full effect.
They use sidewalls and rearwall to bounce the surround sound.

Home Theatre in a Box systems can be an adequate, inexpensive solution. I've heard some that sound pretty good, but others that sound terrible. One that did impress me with its overall performance for dollar was a Sony system.
posted by nickthetourist at 9:25 AM on December 20, 2009

Best answer: Audioholics has a host of HTIB reviews here and they also have a store with pieced together systems at a few different price points.

I really think the site is good for explaining a lot of things once you get the system too, speaker placement, calibration, etc.

I bought a subwoofer sight unseen (er, sound unheard) from an online-only retailer (Av123) based on the review I read and it was an honest and faithful representation of the actual product I have. I think they're one of the better review and general home theater info sites out there that is easily digestible by normal consumers.
posted by ijoyner at 10:03 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bought the Sony HTCT-100 soundbar to go with our Samsung HDTV; we didn't want to have to run wires everywhere, and the lower-priced wireless systems got dismal reviews. The setup is pretty simple too.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:47 AM on December 20, 2009

I would stay away from HTIB sets unless you intend on buying one and not upgrading, they're a waste of money.

All you really need is a center channel. You'll actually be able to hear voices without cranking the volume up. To go with that you'll need an AVR that decodes surround.

I would first upgrade your receiver to one that supports TrueHD/DTS-MA (most all now) and get a center channel speaker (either a new one or repurpose one you already have). It's going to make a huge difference- I was sitting on 3.1 audio for the longest time and didn't find going to 5.1/7.1 that much of an improvement.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:59 AM on December 20, 2009

I have no idea what the best sound setup for you is.

I do know one place you should go to research it, though: AVS Forum. When I bought my HDTV, Google brought me to some of their discussions. They had incredibly detailed info available, right down to closeup photos of the subpixel layouts of two unnumbered submodels for the model number for the model of TV I was looking at. I'd be surprised if their audio forums weren't equally impressive.
posted by roystgnr at 2:02 PM on December 20, 2009

Check out HSU Research. They're pretty cheap surround speakers, but are good quality. I use them and have been happy. The wife was against large speakers and I was against Bose's outrageous prices.

For a subwoofer, I don't think it gets much better than SVS .
posted by taz20075 at 5:30 PM on December 20, 2009

I purchased the Onkyo HT-S9100THX 7.1 Channel Receiver and Speaker Package over a year ago and have been very pleased with the quality of sound. At around $800 or so for a THX certified system that have several HDMI inputs, etc...

It is currently out of stock on Amazon and honestly may have been replaced with a newer model/system.

Good luck.
posted by bach at 8:18 PM on December 20, 2009

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