What sort of receiver/speakers to buy?
September 12, 2005 4:49 PM   Subscribe

I have a decent DVD player and television but now I need to get a new receiver and speaker system. The more I look, the more confused I am.

Whatever I end up getting will be used for both DVDs and listening to CDs/radio.

I have a stereo system but it is at least 10 years old (maybe more, hard to recall) and takes up too much room, the two front speakers are four feet tall and over one foot deep and wide.

I bought this speaker system for my computer and it sounds tons better than my existing stereo system, but I don’t suppose I can use it for my home theater and computer both. Well, actually I guess since the optical input is not being used a 12 ft optical cable could work... only able to use one at a time of course. It might not be appropriate for a home theater system anyway.

I want to spend as little as possible right now. If that means getting a pretty good receiver and just the front speakers and adding later, or getting a good receiver and some so-so speakers that can be upgraded later, fine. But there are too many choices and I have no idea what to look for.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs to Technology (8 answers total)
If your room is reasonably small, then your computer speaker system will work fine for a home theater. The way I have it set up, is all my stuff goes into the TV, and the line outs from the TV are connected to my (2.1) Monsoon computer speaker system through a virtual surround processor I bought at CompUSA. This means when I'm listening to music I have to have the TV on, but fortunately I usually listen to it over the network (using my EyeHome media player) and that has a slideshow. The optical input will work fine if the speaker system has a way to switch over; if you have to unplug the optical input for the analog to work, it'd be more convenient to just get an audio switchbox.

Spending "as little as possible" right now would probably mean you end up with a cheap "home theater in a box" system. The one you already have probably sounds better, frankly.
posted by kindall at 5:03 PM on September 12, 2005

It is possible to switch inputs with a button, so I would not have to unplug cables everytime. And it is a pretty small room, I have most of my stuff in my bedroom, which makes for a packed room, but I want my computer in here and I want to be able to use the computer while I am watching TV or whatever, so...

I could probably get away with just getting a receiver, at least for the time being? I guess I just need to figure out what I need in a receiver if that's the case.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 5:29 PM on September 12, 2005

If you think the Logitech sounds good, and it has an optical input, why not use it? It decodes both Dolby Digital and DTS so it's pretty much ready to go for home theater. Optical cables are cheap: 25 foot TOSLINK optical cable - $21.38; 12 feet - $14.03.
posted by zsazsa at 6:19 PM on September 12, 2005

I guess I just need to figure out what I need in a receiver if that's the case.
Hook up your DVD player directly to the Logitech via TOSLINK. No receiver needed.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:30 PM on September 12, 2005

Well, if I get rid of my stereo system I still need a receiver or I won't be able to listen to the radio. I also liked the idea of having some other things (game systems and mp3 player) going through the receiver so I could use the speakers for those as well.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 7:53 PM on September 12, 2005

Obviously, good receiver, cheap speakers.

No idea what your budget is, I reckon I got a great buy getting this Yamaha, but others will be sniffy and think that's grossly inadequate.
posted by wilful at 12:14 AM on September 13, 2005

I still need a receiver or I won't be able to listen to the radio

Solution 1: Get a clock radio. Or a walkman-oid with an FM tuner and plug it into your speakers. Sure as hell cheaper than a receiver.

Solution 2: Is your speaker-set in a convenient place for both computing and watching tv? If so, stick with that for now. But then all you'll really be using the receiver for is switching.

If you're going to use the speakers you have, you say they have an optical input. There are plenty of receivers with an optical output, starting $300 or so (maybe less), BUT I don't know that they'll all take an analog input (or the tuner) and dump it digitally out the optical port. Someplace like Crutchfield knows though, or they'll have the manuals for download.

Within that constraint, it doesn't really matter which one you pick. You're unlikely to go wrong with a major-brand AV receiver in the $300 range -- provided it will send all audio out the optical port. They're all going to be 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 receivers that can decode Dolby Digital and DTS and have a shitload of inputs of different sorts. If you like blinkenlights, pick the one with lots of blinkenlights. If you hate blinkenlights, get one without. If you like silver or black, get the one in that color. Or get the one whose remote you like best.

If you're not going to keep using your logitech speakers, I'd get a pair for now, or a pair + center. Brands that get tossed around repeatedly as good values are Energy, Paradigm, PSB, NHT, B&W, others can chime in. You'd be looking in the neighborhood of $200/pair to start.

But if you're really broke, I'd just get a walkman if I really needed my radio fix.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:20 AM on September 13, 2005

I have been convinced to wait.

I'm going to pick up an optical cable to go from the DVD player to the speakers and leave it at that for now, it dawned on me earlier that the radio thing can be taken care of by my mp3 player. I hate being without a radio but my mp3 player has a tuner and line-out that I can use with the computer speakers when I wish.

I want rid of this old stereo but I do not have much cash on hand and with Christmas coming up... I was going to get something cheap, but I was comparing my speakers on my stereo with my little Logitech set by playing a few of the same songs (mp3s on the computer at 128 vs CDs) and the lossy-format mp3s sounded so much better through my computer than the CDs through the stereo. So now I am wondering what a better set than the logitechs would sound like.

I don't know anything about speakers and audio setups, but I can hear things with these speakers that I could not hear before - the same thing happened when I bought my i-river mp3 player. It came with Sammhein (sp?) earplugs and after ripping some mp3s from CDs that I own, I noticed I could hear things in the songs that I never heard before. That struck me as really strange, but I didn't think that much about it at the time.

SO I have decided that I should wait until I can get a nice receiver and some speakers better than what I can pick up at Best Buy or whatever. Does anyone have favorite audiophile-type sites that I could use to start learning more about what to look for down the road?
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 10:31 AM on September 13, 2005

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