audio receiver help
September 18, 2010 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Need help selecting an audio receiver to integrate with a piecemeal existing setup.

I loves me a variety of audio and video stuff - probably too much - but looking at receivers on the net fills me with dismay and confusion. I would like to know what equipment I need to go buy to make this work.

1) My sources include a DirecTV receiver, a late-model Apple TV that streams media, Wii, PS3 (surround sound DVDs more often than games), and maybe occasionally FM radio.

2) I have 3 disparate speaker sets. This is the annoying requirement: The A speakers are a set of Tannoy System 6 NFM IIs that require crossover input (i.e., separate cables for the treble and bass cone for each speaker). I am irrationally attached to these - they were a gift, and I love the way they sound when they get properly crossed-over inputs - so that's non-negotiable. The B speakers are a pair of generic outdoor speakers for music on the patio. The C speakers, yet to be purchased, are a set of 5.1 or 6.1 surround sound speakers, and I suppose the Tannoys could be the main L and R in this speaker set, though I'd prefer my surround sound equipment to eventually be a matched set.

The proper receiver will handle these different speaker arrangements gracefully; I will never need to be using more than 1 speaker set at once, though the ability to do so would probably be a minor bonus. (Jazz on the patio 24 hours a day!)

3) I am not an insane audiophile. I expect the equipment will be able to handle a 192kbps mp3 with not much additional loss of fidelity, because that's about as good as my ears are. I think you'd have to hunt to find something that wouldn't fill this requirement, and I'd really be delighted to avoid having an audiophile-type debate in the comments, tyvm.

4) The easier it is to control this device, the better. A remote is probably required, RF preferred over IR. If it had a video out of some flavor for an onscreen control panel on my TV, and that onscreen control panel actually showed good user interface; or if the remote had a nice screen that helped me make this work (my patio is in RF range of this device) that would be a major plus.

5) If the recommended equipment or combo of equipment you suggest costs a lot more than $1000, please help me understand why it costs so much, because that seems like a lot to me.

6) If the right answer is to place an active crossover in the speaker lines for the Tannoys, please help me understand what is the right piece of equipment for that.

7) All things considered, I think I might prefer equipment that wasn't very large.

8) If the equipment you're recommending can do all the above and can be had with surround sound speakers that are designed for it, that's a definite bonus.

I've been dithering over whether to post this for a while, because I realize this is sort of an eccentric and annoying set of requirements, and because among the audiophiles I've consulted, the main response has been "If you care that much about this, you should already know what equipment you want," with a liberal sprinkling of "Why don't you consider an option that requires sourcing of out-of-production vacuum tubes?" thrown in for bad measure. I expect better from AskMe, so thanks for reading.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry to Technology (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A good, modern HT receiver should accomplish most of this. The right model will even have the ability to bi-amp your Tannoys. Realize it may not necessary to power the tweeter and woofer separately. You may instead be able to wire the binding posts together with a short piece of speaker wire, or bi-wire from one output.

One difficulty is that you want to attach multiple sets of speakers (existing stereo, surround, etc.).
If it were me, I'd use the Tannoys as the front L/R speakers and try to find a matching center channel speaker and rear speakers that coordinate fairly well.

Another idea is to use the Tannoys in a separate system running off the receiver. This may require an outboard amplifier and a receiver with audio preouts. Many nicer receivers will have preouts for up to 7 channels of audio. In my own system I have bi-passed the internal amplification for the front L/R speakers and used the audio preouts to send signal to an outboard amp.

My recommendation for a good full function receiver is Pioneer Elite. Their VSX-32 or VSX-33 should do what you want.
Other brands to consider: Yamaha, Denon, Marantz
posted by nickthetourist at 8:35 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: nick: The speaker inputs can indeed be bridged, a la this, and in fact the bridges are included with the speakers; I assume that they work better when they're not bridged this way, but in fact have no basis for this assumption.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 8:54 PM on September 18, 2010

Are you talking about bi-wiring or bi-amping? Bi-wiring you can do with any, AVR just connect two sets of cable, bi-amping will require additional hardware, an active crossover and another amplifier.

The 3rd zone will be the limiting factor, I would start the search there. Also, you want to research whether the 3rd zone is powered (sometimes you will need a separate amp to do so), and sometimes the 3rd zone will take 2 channels away from 7.1, this may be a factor if you intend to do 6.1 surround.

Also, almost no mainstream AVRs support RF remotes.
posted by wongcorgi at 3:18 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The lower end Onkyos actually do everything you want, although when you add in a second (powered) zone and bi-amping, you lose channels on your main surround sound setup. The newer TX-SR6xx series have something around 5 HDMI inputs and several component inputs and upscale component to 1080p for output over HDMI. All at well within your budget. (generally around $500ish for that particular series)
posted by wierdo at 9:45 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Protocols: powering the tweeter and woofer independently will result in higher sound quality, but since you don't seem to be concerned with audiophile sound I wouldn't worry so much about it.
The main thing is to be sure your receiver has enough RMS power to satisfy the speakers. For example, if your speakers are rated for 100 watts, it is usually best to have a receiver/amp capable of outputting 100 watts.

And concerning RF remotes, you may need to buy a separate universal remote with an RF option. Logitech has some nice options, but they aren't cheap. You can easily spend $300+ on one.
posted by nickthetourist at 12:24 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So this has been helpful: what I'm trying to do is have a surround sound setup where the front two surround speakers are bi-amped, but I don't lose the other surround speakers in the process; and that I have a powered Zone 2 as well. Still looking for a receiver that'll do that - feel free to chime in - but at least I know how to name what I'm trying to do now; thanks for the replies.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 1:15 PM on September 19, 2010

Response by poster: The Onkyo NR-1008 appears to be able to do everything I could possibly want (my current TV won't do 1080p; the 1008 upscales to 1080i also), and squeaks in at $1018 at Amazon. No Pioneer or Marantz receiver can do bi-amping with a powered Zone 2, and the Yamaha that can do it is their highest-end model, which is very expensive. The Onkyo TX-SR508 actually does everything specified above but its interfaces and remote appear to be considerably less graceful and it is only 80W; it costs $250.

One area of confusion was that I did not understand the difference between "Surround R/L" and "Surround Back R/L;" I do now. You generally lose the Surround Back speakers if you are bi-amping. Our TV room is too shallow to have surround back speakers, so that's fine.

The way I figured this out was by downloading manuals and looking at speaker setups. The Yamaha manuals were the nicest; the Onkyo manuals are quaint and amusingly Japanese; and the Pioneer manuals are simply annoyoing.

Problem solved, guys: it appears to be a question of how much Onkyo amp I want to buy, which has generally been the prior consensus on every AskMe about receivers that I have ever read. Thanks for the help.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 3:06 PM on September 19, 2010

Something to keep an eye out for is closeout models. If I remember correctly this is the time of year that new HT receiver models are being introduced and older ones are being discounted. Time it right and you could get yourself a nicer unit for less money.
posted by nickthetourist at 6:52 PM on September 19, 2010

Response by poster: In case others stumble upon this question, I am a big fan, now, of my new Onkyo NR-1008; which is awesome.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 1:30 PM on October 23, 2010

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