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Subject: Hey, Audio Electronics Geeks rss

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Andy K.
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As mentioned in my other recent thread ("Hey, Digital Photo Geeks"), I'm moving houses in a couple of weeks. One of the things I'd like to do shortly after I move is upgrade my stereo system, and I need some advice and answers to stupid questions. Despite loving music and playing music and collecting records for ever and ever, I'm willfully ignorant of the electronics side of audio. So first I'm just going to tell you a little about what I'm looking for and my particular situation.

My audio equipment is quite old (all bought in the early 90s) and some of it is starting to fritz out, particularly the tuner/receiver. (The dual-cassette deck died a while back.) In the front room/living room of the new house I plan to have my stereo and TV set up. This room has some built-in shelves (sweet!) that are not large enough to hold the floor speakers I now own. Besides which, they're old and crapping out themselves.

So, I am in the market for a pair of bookshelf speakers and a receiver/amp and CD player. I do not watch TV much at all. I do, however, watch movies. (Thank you, Netflix.) I am NOT interested in a surround-sound set up. I intend to use only two high-quality bookshelf speakers.

Whatever receiver I buy MUST have a phono-in and I hope to use the speakers/receiver for audio-out from the DVD-player while watching movies.

Still with me? OK. Here's a few questions:

1) If I purchase a stereo (good ol' 2-channel) receiver, will this be able to decode the 5.1, 6.1, 7.2, whateverthehell audio coming out of a DVD or HD-DVD player and translate it into stereo output without losing all those extra channels or too much quality? (I have seen that a few 2-channel receivers are still being made.)

2) If I purchase a 5.1, 6.1, 10.5, whateverthehell receiver (because that's now the vast majority of what's being made), will the receiver allow me to jam all that audio into simple stereo channels without losing too much quality?

3) Any recommendations for receivers? Price is of course a question, but I would like to buy good to very-good quality components that I'll be happy with for a long time. (Here's hoping for a good tax return!)
 
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Philip Johnson
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ACK ACK wrote:


1) If I purchase a stereo (good ol' 2-channel) receiver, will this be able to decode the 5.1, 6.1, 7.2, whateverthehell audio coming out of a DVD or HD-DVD player and translate it into stereo output without losing all those extra channels or too much quality? (I have seen that a few 2-channel receivers are still being made.)

2) If I purchase a 5.1, 6.1, 10.5, whateverthehell receiver (because that's now the vast majority of what's being made), will the receiver allow me to jam all that audio into simple stereo channels without losing too much quality?

3) Any recommendations for receivers? Price is of course a question, but I would like to buy good to very-good quality components that I'll be happy with for a long time. (Here's hoping for a good tax return!)


1. This is going to depend more on your other components. In all likelihood you'll be reduced to using a simple stereo output on your DVD player, which, IMO, is an unacceptable loss in quality. You may be able to find a 2 channel that works for you, but your options will be a lot wider if you go with a more modern receiver.

2 . Yes. Essentially any 5.1, 7.1, etc receiver will give you the choice of using 2, 2.1, 3.1....speakers and can compensate pretty adequately. How well the speakers and receiver sound will depend highly on your ability to tune the receiver. Receivers with some sort of ability to "auto-tune" themselves to adjust the speaker levels relative to each other may be the way to go, or you can hire someone to come set your system up for you.

3. This again will depend on what other components you want to use. You don't mention having an HDTV, but if you are thinking of using an HD-DVD player you may indeed have one (otherwise the HD-DVD/Bluray player is pretty much useless). Is simplicity of wiring important? One option provided by some receivers is the ability to plug in any sort of audio/video connection, and run just one cable (usually HDMI) to your TV. These are mostly in the mid to high end range of the price spectrum.

With regard to specific manufacturers, I've been quite happy with Onkyo's products for some time. They produce a variety of models depending on your needs. Denon has some good receivers too, but tend more toward the high end. Whatever you do, do not buy one of the cheap-o home theater in a box setups, as they usually have mediocre speakers and ALWAYS have a sub-par (in one way or another) receiver.

If you have any aspiration to upgrade your setup at some point down the road you're probably best served by spending more on the receiver to give yourself more options down the road. When buying new electronics, I try to see if I can ever envision myself using a particular feature, regardless of whether or not I can use it at the moment. If I think there's a good chance that I'll use it down the road, I usually go ahead and spend the few extra bucks now to avoid upgrading later.
 
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