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Surround Sound

Undead ScottsmanUndead Scottsman Death GroupieRegistered User regular
Okay, I just recently got a nice chunk of money (Thank you, Alaska!) and am looking to buy a surround sound setup.

I currently have a JVC 42" LCD TV (Model # LT-42P789) with a Digital Audio Optical Out. I also have an Xbox 360 (Hooked up through HDMI; I also have a 360 optical audio adaptor), a PS3 slim hooked up through HDMI, and a Wii hooked up through component.

Now I'm a bit of a cheapass, so I don't want the super high-quality, top of the line thing. (After all, I only bought a 42" TV). I just want something that will sound good. I'm also unsure how to hook everything up: Should I have the audio go to TV through HDMI and then from the TV to an AMP through optical, or should I just wire in everything straight through optical.

And does the Wii do surround sound? How would I wire that in? Also, what kind of speakers are recommended (Again, I just want them to sound good; I don't need them to be theater quality or anything. If it wasn't for the surround part, I'd be happy with the speakers in my TV)

As you can tell, I'm a complete idiot when it comes to this stuff, so any help is good. I'm hopefully looking at a max in the $300-$400 range for the whole kit 'n kaboodle.

Also, I see a lot of super cheap HDMI cables on Amazon. (Some for as low as a penny). I know I don't need to spend $40 on a cable, but how cheap is too cheap?

Undead Scottsman on
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Posts

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Sounding good can be pretty subjective.
    Cheap cables will do a fine job for what you need. You need CL2 rated to safely run them behind walls.
    You need to give us an actual budget.
    You need a receiver + speakers. You can buy them all together and make it easy, but spend more, or you can buy them separately, spend less, and probably get a better product.
    With a receiver, everything plugs into that and then one HDMI cable (with the right receiver) runs to your TV. Its really a very simple setup nowadays.
    You don't need a 7.1 system, 5.1 is great, you can also consider going with a 3.1 system which will let you put more money into the quality of the speakers and still fake pretty well surround sound. The center channel is the most important (period).
    Do you know how you plan on running the wires?
    Consider buying a Harmony universal remote. They are pretty fucking phenomenal.

    Easy answer, Onkyo. Greats speakers however can last generations, so thats something to consider. I spent about 700 for what I consider to be a good and worth it surround system. My receiver will last awhile, but my speakers will be upgraded first chance I get enough expendable income.

    www.monoprice.com

    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
  • nlawalkernlawalker Registered User
    edited October 2009
    I'm going to chime in on a couple things because I just spent a couple days in another thread figuring out a few specific points you mention:
    Should I have the audio go to TV through HDMI and then from the TV to an AMP through optical, or should I just wire in everything straight through optical.

    Your TV will only output Dolby Digital 5.1 to your receiver through the optical if you are getting an over-the-air HDTV signal (ATSC). If the audio comes in from HDMI (like your Xbox does now), all it will send to the receiver is stereo. You need to get a receiver that supports HDMI, so you can do HDMI from the 360 to the receiver and then HDMI from the receiver to the TV, or you need to output both HDMI and optical from the Xbox, so you can send the optical straight to the receiver and the HDMI straight to the TV. The standard cables bundled with the 360 don't let you do this - the plug is too large and covers up the HDMI port. Microsoft did this on purpose because they want you to spend $50 on their branded HDMI cable + special low profile plug that will let you get optical out at the same time. If you don't get an HDMI receiver (you really should, they're common now), instead of spending the $50, just remove the plastic shield off of the out-of-the-box component cable (see here).
    And does the Wii do surround sound? How would I wire that in?
    Also, I see a lot of super cheap HDMI cables on Amazon. (Some for as low as a penny). I know I don't need to spend $40 on a cable, but how cheap is too cheap?

    The Wii does Pro Logic II surround sound, meaning that it doesn't send separate signals for all the channels. Put simply, it tries to mix all the channels together onto two signals (your red-white RCA plugs) and let the receiver figure it out. Send the audio from the Wii to the receiver with the red-white plugs and put the receiver in Pro Logic II mode (PLII game mode, if the receiver has it), and configure the Wii for surround sound (can't remember if it has a distinct setting for sound).
    Also, I see a lot of super cheap HDMI cables on Amazon. (Some for as low as a penny). I know I don't need to spend $40 on a cable, but how cheap is too cheap?

    Cables = Monoprice.com, always. A 6' cable will run you a couple bucks. HDMI is a digital connection, unlike component. There have been some arguments here about whether or not this means "it works or it doesn't." The truth is this - with a component (analog) connection, the connection could always theoretically be better and your picture sharper: you could have better shielding, lower impedence, etc. This is obviously annoying, because then you have to make a value judgement on how much you want to spend. With HDMI, the connection is digital, so it's either going to be perfect, or it's going to be totally borked in very obvious ways.

    -SPI- wrote: »
    Not enough facepalm in the world for the cavalcade of fuckmuppetry this game's launch has been.
  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    You need a receiver + speakers. You can buy them all together and make it easy, but spend more, or you can buy them separately, spend less, and probably get a better product.

    The cost part of this must be a mistake. To correct it...you will spend more money buying receiver and speakers separate in almost ALL cases. However, they will usually be heads and tails above the all-in-one package deals, especially considering that usually the "receivers" in the package deals are not usually true receivers...they generally have very few inputs.

    subedii wrote: »
    I hear PC gaming is huge off the coast of Somalia right now.
  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Scrublet wrote: »
    You need a receiver + speakers. You can buy them all together and make it easy, but spend more, or you can buy them separately, spend less, and probably get a better product.

    The cost part of this must be a mistake. To correct it...you will spend more money buying receiver and speakers separate in almost ALL cases. However, they will usually be heads and tails above the all-in-one package deals, especially considering that usually the "receivers" in the package deals are not usually true receivers...they generally have very few inputs.

    I was typing fast and either gave wrong information or confusing information on this point. I'll try again.

    You can buy a HTiB (home theatre in a box, all in one kind of deal) and, depending on the product (Onkyo is a great choice in general for entry level type stuff), you will get a good set up. If you take the time to shop around and buy pieces at a time, you could wind up with a better system for the same amount of money. Thus, you could spend more for less quality if you buy a HTiB. Potentially.
    Yes, there are some fucking horrible HTiB with dirty nasty in a bad way receivers. Stay far far away from those. Know what you're buying.

    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
  • Undead ScottsmanUndead Scottsman Death Groupie Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Okay, I'll try and answer everyones question, and clarify a few things

    Pricerange: I mentioned 300-400 bucks in the post, but I guess I didn't make it prominent enough.
    Setup: So do you recommend doing "HDMI from consoles to receiver, receiver to TV" or "HDMI from consoles to TV, optical cables from consoles to receiver"? I don't mind doing it the second way.
    7.1: Yeah, I wasn't planing on 7.1, 5.1 is fine for me. I do want 5.1 though, as the speakers behind are the big part of the reason I want this.
    Wires: Honestly I was just going to cheap out and run them across the walls, rather than in them. (I'm in an apartment anyway.) I figure there isn't enough voltage running through them to be a fire hazard.
    Over the Air: I don't have cable, and aren't planning on getting it anytime soon, so Over-the-air doesn't matter. The only things I'll be using are the PS3 and Xbox 360 (and maybe the Wii.)
    Special 360 cable: I already have this, sadly. (I really didn't do my research and thought the 360 had a proprietary plug that went to HDMI, rather than just being a normal HDMI cable on both ends.) But on the bright side, I have an optical adapter that will work with the HDMI cable. Go ahead and give me the dunce cap though. :P

    Going by what everyone said, I found a ONKYO HT-S3200 5.1-Channel Home Theater System w/ speakers for $300 bucks at newegg. It seems to have everything I want, but for the same price they have ONKYO 5.1-Channel Black Home Theater Receiver TX-SR507 which doesn't have speakers. The speakers specifications are complete gobbily-gook to me, and I can't really tell if the stand-alone box worth more to me than the one that comes with the speakers, so unless someone tells me this is a stupid move, I think I'll grab the S3200

    I think I'll need two 30ft cables for the rear speakers. Only issue is that I can't, for the life of me, figure out what kind of cables are used for that. I don't know what that those speaker connections are called.

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  • ruforufo Registered User
    edited October 2009
    If you can, you're best off grabbing the audio through HDMI - you'll have the option of high-bitrate/lossless audio, which is considerably more awesome than Dolby Digital. (Yes, even on cheap speakers.)

    Personally I don't like the HTiB system you linked, rather specifically because it doesn't do HDMI audio decoding. I have the grandfather of the received you linked and I'd highly recommend it, but you'd kind of want to spend several hundred dollars on speakers, or at least be wanting to upgrade later - else it would be a bit of a waste.

    I have a rather discerning friend who's recently taken to frugality - he really likes this Sony HTiB he picked up recently. I know it does HDMI audio decoding, and he thinks it sounds decent enough. Can't say I've heard them, but he does his research.

  • Undead ScottsmanUndead Scottsman Death Groupie Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Looking at it, why wouldn't I be able to get high-bitrate/lossless audio through Optical?

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  • nlawalkernlawalker Registered User
    edited October 2009
    Optical doesn't support the new formats (DTS HD, Dolby TrueHD).

    -SPI- wrote: »
    Not enough facepalm in the world for the cavalcade of fuckmuppetry this game's launch has been.
  • Undead ScottsmanUndead Scottsman Death Groupie Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Am I going to notice the difference?

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  • travathiantravathian Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    I think I'll need two 30ft cables for the rear speakers. Only issue is that I can't, for the life of me, figure out what kind of cables are used for that. I don't know what that those speaker connections are called.

    edit: I guess I should explain. You just buy bare speaker cable by the spool. Then you terminate it based on what the speakers/receiver has. In your first link, you'd just use a wire stripper to remove a bit off the end of the cable, insert into the speaker port, and press the locking mechanism down. With the 2nd receiver, you'll install these below on the ends of the cables that go to the receiver. If you move and the cables are too long/short, then make knew ones. You can get a spool of 100' of good cable for less than what you'd spend locally on a single pre-made cable.

    http://www.monoprice.com/products/search.asp?keyword=Speaker+Terminals%3A+Binding+Post+and+Spring&x=18&y=11

  • Undead ScottsmanUndead Scottsman Death Groupie Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    travathian wrote: »
    I think I'll need two 30ft cables for the rear speakers. Only issue is that I can't, for the life of me, figure out what kind of cables are used for that. I don't know what that those speaker connections are called.

    edit: I guess I should explain. You just buy bare speaker cable by the spool. Then you terminate it based on what the speakers/receiver has. In your first link, you'd just use a wire stripper to remove a bit off the end of the cable, insert into the speaker port, and press the locking mechanism down. With the 2nd receiver, you'll install these below on the ends of the cables that go to the receiver. If you move and the cables are too long/short, then make knew ones. You can get a spool of 100' of good cable for less than what you'd spend locally on a single pre-made cable.

    http://www.monoprice.com/products/search.asp?keyword=Speaker+Terminals%3A+Binding+Post+and+Spring&x=18&y=11

    Yeah, the TV engineer I work with explained it to me. Thanks for the link though!

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  • ruforufo Registered User
    edited October 2009
    Am I going to notice the difference?

    I don't have a hugely kick-ass system (a slightly older Onkyo model receiver, a subwoofer that came with my first HTiB and an inexpensive but highly-regarded-on-AVSforum set of speakers) and I do actually notice a surprising difference... although it's not that regular Dolby Digital sounds bad, it's just that lossless audio sounds far more ass-kicky.

    I'd describe it as "something you won't miss until you've heard it" - usually the way most audio improvements are.

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