Cheap home theatre solutions
June 4, 2010 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I keep buying low-end home theatre systems and they keep breaking. Maybe I'm not actually buying the right thing?

I don't know anything about this stuff, and I'm actually probably using the wrong words for things. So sorry. I hope someone can wade through this and school me.

Over the past six years, I've gone through four low-end home theatre systems that look like this. Every time, the DVD player quits working after a year or two. One time I took it into the shop, and they told me that it's not worth fixing a DVD player that cheap.

So this is frustrating. I keep buying this whole system, even though only a small part of it keeps breaking. As for my current system that's on its way out the door, I never even used the speakers that came with it. I just kept them in the closet and plugged System #3's speakers into System #4.

A unit that doesn't have a DVD player in it - and therefore doesn't have any moving parts - would be less prone to failure, right? Also, I now have two working sets of surround speakers, so I don't need to buy a third.

But when I go looking for a standalone receiver, there's a huge jump in price. Is it not possible to buy a simple unit that I can plug my own AV sources and speakers into, for a price comparable to these systems with built-in DVD player and speakers? It would be great if I didn't have to spend more than $100 or $130.

My needs are small. I have a Wii, Roku, and Airtunes, all of which I have connected to a manual RCA switch that goes into my current system.

posted by roll truck roll to Shopping (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Coby is total junk. You're just wasting your money with that. I'm surprised you get a year or two out of it.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:11 AM on June 4, 2010

You get what you pay for. Motorized, mechanical parts will always fail before anything else on consumer electronics, and when you're buying low end stuff, a one or two year lifetime sounds right.

Buy a cheap standalone DVD player of the $25 kind and keep the stereo separate. As long as the stereo components have no moving parts they will last for many years, and just replace the cheapo DVD player as necessary.
posted by MillMan at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2010

Here, try some of the receivers here. The Sony STR-DH100 looks like it might be awesome.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2010

And by "awesome" I mean "meet your needs."
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:14 AM on June 4, 2010

A unit that doesn't have a DVD player in it - and therefore doesn't have any moving parts - would be less prone to failure, right?

Yes. We have a separate JVC receiver that is almost 10 years old. It takes some switching/converting, but it works great with the standalone dvd player (and now the BD player) we use with it.

Can you use a separate dvd player with the system? Does it have an aux input or anything? We have (in another room) a Panasonic DVD home theater and we configured it "off-label" to also be an audio receiver for our satellite dish.
posted by getawaysticks at 11:14 AM on June 4, 2010

You don't need a brand-new $500 receiver. Good receivers will last a very long time and you can pick them up used for not a lot of money ($100 or less on craigslist/ebay/etc) from people who are upgrading.
posted by 0xFCAF at 11:16 AM on June 4, 2010

That Sony STR-DH100 is 2-channel, not surround.
posted by paulg at 11:29 AM on June 4, 2010

Onkyo makes some incredibly good receivers for the money. Find a used Onkyo and you should be able get great sound and reliably for next to nothing.
posted by contraption at 11:35 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

My Onkyo receiver is 7 years old and still powering my HT set up just fine. I'm using the Xbox as my DVD player, and I also have a Wii running through it along with DISH TV. I think I paid $300 for the receiver new back in 2003. The 5.1 speaker set up is Cambridge Soundworks, purchased new back when I bought the receiver.

So I'm seconding the Onkyo recommendation.
posted by COD at 12:32 PM on June 4, 2010

Yeah, a used Onkyo, Denon, Marantz, or maybe Yamaha receiver is probably your best bet. Check eBay, but you could get lucky if you watch Audiogon long enough.
posted by paulg at 12:43 PM on June 4, 2010

As others have stated, you get what you pay for (esp. with a brand like Coby).

The cheapest, easiest solution is to buy a home theater set-up that comes with a standalone receiver, not a DVD player. Something like this for $100 will meet your needs. You will need to buy a new DVD player and go ahead an get a major brand like Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, etc. You'd probably end up paying about $150.

What type of connections do your current speakers have (not counting the subwoofer)? I've always been curious about the ones that come with DVD players. Are they RCA jacks or are they bare wires? If the wires are bare, you can go ahead and buy a 5.1 surround audio receiver like this Sony for $128 or this Sony for $190 and use the speakers you have. If the speakers use another connector, you probably won't be able to use them with a standalone receiver. Again, you'd have to buy a separate DVD player.

I'm not sure what your money situation is, but spending the extra $$ now will save you some headaches later. Going either of these routes will definitely yield products that will last beyond 9 months.
posted by puritycontrol at 12:51 PM on June 4, 2010

I would check on your local craidslist for a used receiver for home theater. I've seen them in my area for $25-100. Bargain with them. You don't need anything ultra powerful or fancy. I would pay about $50. Once you have that you can just get use the speakers you have and add an inexpensive dvd player and ou are good to go. Make sure you get the manual with the receiver. Also, you might be able to buy a dvd player and plug it in to the Coby you have now. Are there any extra input jacks on the back? If you sell any old /extra speakers you have on craigslist for $5-10 a set it will help to pay for the receiver. Good luck.
posted by mikedelic at 4:47 AM on June 5, 2010

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