A/V advice sought. Help me make a sound decision.
November 19, 2007 10:03 AM   Subscribe

A/V advice sought. Help me make a sound decision. My wife and I are the proud new owners of a Panasonic 50” plasma. Now we need to get the surround sound happening. I have high end equipment in another room that is, according to my wife, far too complicated to use. She wants to Keep It Simple. Watch tv, dvds, and listen to cds.

We have, or will soon connect a Direct TV DVR, DVD player, VCR, and an X-Box.

So here is what I’m thinking. The device switching on the TV is simple and the menu is easily readable from across the room so I want to do it there rather than at a set top box. And, the TV remote is not overly complex, perfect. I’m thinking running the a/v to the tv, then taking the 5.1 digital audio out from the tv to an amp of some sort for the surround.

I have rear speakers and a sub kicking around that are of decent quality. What I need is an amp, front and center speakers. I’m not looking for high-end stuff here. Already have that. The speakers need to be very narrow due to space available. But what I really need advice on is the amp/receiver/? The total cost must remain below $500.
posted by mrleec to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a great value (Onkyo, refurb) for about $100. Check the deal sites, if you 're looking for "decent quality" you shouldn't have any trouble staying below $500 for an A/V receiver.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:08 AM on November 19, 2007

Also, get a universal remote for your wife that does macros. Anything that requires switching sources is going to be a hurdle for anyone not technically adept.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:10 AM on November 19, 2007

I think this one is the one I'm thinking of from Sony. What it does is automatically switch to whatever device you just turned on. Dead simple.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 10:19 AM on November 19, 2007

nth'ing stupidsexyFlanders on Onkyo stuff. In my experience with it, it's relatively simple (take that with a grain of salt; I do concert audio), sounds good, and is well priced. Sony, I find tends to charge $400-500 just for the four letters of their name.
posted by frwagon at 10:34 AM on November 19, 2007

Onkyo again, picked up a 7.1 with HDMI for ~350 from Circuit City.

For simplicity pick up a Logitech Universal remote and program it. This should make it easier for your wife and friends to use the whole system.
posted by imjosh at 10:40 AM on November 19, 2007

If you want to keep it simple, my suggestion is to get a Harmony universal remote and use your existing equipment.

It's dead simple to setup (web based), and operation is based on activites, such as "Watch TV", "Watch DVD", "Listen to Radio".
posted by mphuie at 10:42 AM on November 19, 2007

I have a Harmony 880, and while the concept is great, the execution is poor. The web-based software is sluggish and the settings never "work" 100% as they are set to once the remote is programmed. I'd hesitate to recommend one.
posted by kcm at 11:07 AM on November 19, 2007

Yamaha rx 661 -- best bang for buck receiver with HDMI. It has 4 programmable "set it and forget it" output buttons. It has plenty of inputs for all the stuff you have.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 11:08 AM on November 19, 2007

kcm: I have had my Harmony 688 for 2+ years and have never had any problems. Both with setup and operation.
posted by mphuie at 12:11 PM on November 19, 2007

Response by poster: A little clarification. I want to only use the remote that came with the tv. It is programmable. I want to select input from the tv and pass the audio to an amp. Question is, what amp?
posted by mrleec at 1:19 PM on November 19, 2007

I don't think the solution you're going for will work all that well. Does the TV really have at least three digital audio inputs (for DVR, DVD, and XBox)? Also, if you want to watch the VCR, the TV will not send that audio digitally to the receiver, so you'll have to switch audio inputs on the receiver.

A dedicated programmable macro remote, like one made by Harmony, is really your best solution.
posted by pmbuko at 6:18 PM on November 19, 2007

I say get a Harmony remote, but... If you want to run all your audio to the TV so that it can do the switching, does it have enough audio inputs? I have a new Panasonic plasma and I don't think mine has many (if any?) at all. If you are sure your TV can do this then any amp at all will do, since you only need to take in one audio input and then put out sound. Onkyo are nice.

The more common way is to run everything (audio and video) to an AV receiver and use it to switch, and then run from it to the TV. You might have to run a few different connections to the TV (HDMI, Component, S-Video) and then it's a case of whether your TV can auto-switch to the active input. If not you need to switch the amp and the TV.

A programmable remote will do all this for you. You press "Watch a DVD" and it sets the amp, DVD player and TV to the right settings and sets up the remote to drive things how you want (so most buttons control the DVD player, but the volume drives the amp for instance). My wife thinks it is the best thing I have ever bought.
posted by markr at 10:49 PM on November 19, 2007

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