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Home Theater on the Cheap

FFFF Once Upon a TimeIn OaklandRegistered User regular
edited May 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
Like, really cheap.

I have:

An HDTV
Digital TV Receiver (Motorola vip1200 box that comes with AT&T u-verse)
Wii
PS2 (mostly used as a DVD player)

I want:
Blue Ray player at some point
Speakers
A receiver to bring this all together

I can't seem to figure out:
What to look for in a receiver
How the crap all this stuff goes together once I get a receiver, and possibly a Blue Ray player. (i.e. does the HDMI connection from the motorola box go to the receiver, and then from the receiver to to TV? Or should I use the S/PDIF connections?)

Huh...
FF on

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    RaynagaRaynaga Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    How it all goes together depends on your receiver - if its a good set then everything to the receiver and then a single hdmi to the TV works wonders. There are several in-depth threads over in Moe's Tech Tavern, I'd highly suggest running a search in there.

    Raynaga on
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    SkyCaptainSkyCaptain IndianaRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I use an $80 surround sound system from Phillips in my house. It works great and I haven't had any complaints about the quality of sound from guests I have over for movie nights. I have audio from the xbox going through hdmi to the tv and then to the surround sound system through component cables. I have audio from the blu-ray player going through coaxial to the surround sound.

    I could just leave everything going through the tv since all the cables do pass through the dolby surround sound signals.

    SkyCaptain on
    The RPG Bestiary - Dangerous foes and legendary monsters for D&D 4th Edition
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Audio can be a fairly personal thing that is hard to judge on reviews alone. Odds are, I would not like the &80 Phillips kit mentioned above.
    That said, a great place to start is with an Onkyo kit.

    Improvolone on
    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
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    DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    FF wrote: »
    Like, really cheap.

    I can't seem to figure out:
    What to look for in a receiver
    How the crap all this stuff goes together once I get a receiver, and possibly a Blue Ray player. (i.e. does the HDMI connection from the motorola box go to the receiver, and then from the receiver to to TV? Or should I use the S/PDIF connections?)

    Sounds like you want a Home Theatre in a Box (HTiB), with these usually the more you pay the more (and bigger) speakers you get and the more feature-laden the receiver.

    Typically HTiB systems fall into 2 categories: (1) HT Receiver with speakers [this lacks your blu-ray player] (2) an integrated audio decode/amplification unit/bluray player with speakers [these may not have additional A/V inputs for other devices]. There are HTiB systems that have a dedicated blu-ray player and a multi-input HTR, but they're less common (and more expensive).

    If price is an overriding determinant (to the expense of flexibility and performance) just go to a deal aggregator site (like dealnews, dealzon, techbargains, or the fatwallet forums) and wait and see what comes up.

    As to how to set it up, you don't need to worry about that until you have some gear to work with. Ideally you want everything outputting via HDMI into your receiver, and then your receiver outputting HDMI to your tv. The only time you need to get SPDIF or component cables involved is if the devices lack HDMI or you've run out of HDMI ports on the receiver.

    Djeet on
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    FFFF Once Upon a Time In OaklandRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I think that's what I'm going for. My main concern has been, in researching this, I've been finding different instructions/opinions on how these different components all play with each other. It sounds like the way to do it is try to find a receiver (or box set) that will have at least enough inputs for everything I have/want. And then have pretty much the receiver --> TV be the only connection to the TV.

    FF on
    Huh...
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    DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    A wrench in the works to a single hdmi connection from receiver to tv is the wii and PS2, those are both (at best) component cables. So that means you will need upconversion of analog signals to HDMI on the receiver, OR in addition to running the hdmi from receiver to tv (for the u-verse box) you will need to run component from your receiver to tv to handle video signal from wii/PS2. OR you could run component from u-verse to receiver to tv if your receiver has sufficient component inputs to handle that.

    Djeet on
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    BackstopBackstop Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    The vast majority if HDMI receivers do up-convert other inputs to HDMI, but it is a thing you should check on. I highly recommend you do that, as you would not have to dick around with changing the input on the television every time you switch from Bluray to Wii or what have you.

    What's your budget? You might do best by watching craigslist or eBay for the speakers and hit "doorbuster" sales or refurbished places for the BD player and receiver.

    Backstop on
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    FFFF Once Upon a Time In OaklandRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    In all honesty, my budget is pretty low. Paying over $250-$300 is probably not going to be something I want to do yet. Just for the receiver, Blue-Ray player will come later, or I might just go with a PS3.

    I don't suppose there's the chance of finding a relatively modern receiver (upconversion/hdmi/other misc inputs) that's not some huge honker of a box? Hell, I don't even care about 5.1 surround since I don't think the room is big enough for it to matter.

    It just seems like everything is so much more fancy than what I really want.

    FF on
    Huh...
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    zilozilo Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Go browse around Onkyo's website, I'm pretty sure their entry-level box kits are what you want. I've owned 2 over the past 10 years and they're great for the price.

    zilo on
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    jefe414jefe414 "My Other Drill Hole is a Teleporter" Mechagodzilla is Best GodzillaRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I have all of my electronics (blu-ray, Xbox 360, laptop, etc) going into my TV (HDMI or component) and a single optical audio cable going from my TV out to the receiver.

    Edit: When you say cheap, how cheap is cheap?

    jefe414 on
    Xbox Live: Jefe414
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    FFFF Once Upon a Time In OaklandRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    jefe414 wrote: »
    I have all of my electronics (blu-ray, Xbox 360, laptop, etc) going into my TV (HDMI or component) and a single optical audio cable going from my TV out to the receiver.

    Edit: When you say cheap, how cheap is cheap?

    Actually, I never thought about doing just that. That may be more in line with what I want to do right now.

    As for cheap...well. See; My Avatar.

    FF on
    Huh...
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    DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    jefe414 wrote: »
    I have all of my electronics (blu-ray, Xbox 360, laptop, etc) going into my TV (HDMI or component) and a single optical audio cable going from my TV out to the receiver.

    Chances are good your tv is not passing multichannel audio to the receiver. If you have a stereo setup that doesn't matter, but if you have a multichannel setup then in that case the receiver is putting out matrixed audio.

    Djeet on
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    jefe414jefe414 "My Other Drill Hole is a Teleporter" Mechagodzilla is Best GodzillaRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Djeet, I am most certainly no audiophile. I read up on what matrixed audio is but I don't really understand. It passes a stereo signal to my receiver then turns it into 5.1 surround sound using DTS? I mean, when I have it set to surround sound, it IS surround sound so I guess I don't understand the problem (is there a problem?).

    jefe414 on
    Xbox Live: Jefe414
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    DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Movies and games encoded in Dolby DTS, AC3 and the HD codecs, have 5.1/6.1/7.1/etc channels of sound (multichannel) in the soundtrack. So if you have an HDMI or SPDIF (edit: or digital co-ax) connection from the playing device (game console, dvd, blu-ray, etc) to the receiver, then the receiver can decode the audio signal and send out 5+ discrete channels of sound individually to each speaker.

    These same games/movies have a stereo (2 channel, red and white RCA-terminated cables) soundtrack so if you connect the playing device to the tv/receiver with those cables you will get that soundtrack.

    Matrixed audio (e.g. Dolby Pro-Logic) means a 2 channel (stereo) mix is interpretted by the receiver. The receiver makes guesses as to what sound to output to center, rear left, rear right and the sub (and any other speakers) and outputs sound to the respective speaker.

    What does it mean? In movies and games any soundtrack that had channels of sound that went specifically to the fronts or specifically to the rears either some channels are squashed together, or some channels are dropped.

    It's not a problem per se, but when playing back a DTS, AC3, or other multichannel-encoded audio stream there are literally different sounds coming out of the speakers if you have a setup that does a true multichannel decode vs. a system that processes a stereo audio stream to generate sound from 5+ speakers.

    Djeet on
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    ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    The upconversion you are requesting is a feature that will drive the minimum price of your receiver up. Make sure you understand what upconversion you're looking for:

    resolution upconversion - simply the process of converting signals to 720p, 1080i, 1080p, or some combination of them. May be offered on HDMI only, or HDMI and Component.
    A/D upconversion - the process of converting your analog signals to digital (and usually resolution upconversion as well). THIS is what you want if you are trying to do one HDMI cable from your receiver to TV. Without this, your Wii/PS2 connections would require a separate analog cable to your TV as well as the HDMI. This is also the more expensive feature of the two upconversions.

    Many people see upconversion, say "oh sweet one cable" and then spend two hours trying to figure out why their shit won't work at home.

    Scrublet on
    subedii wrote: »
    I hear PC gaming is huge off the coast of Somalia right now.

    PSN: TheScrublet
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    FFFF Once Upon a Time In OaklandRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Scrublet wrote: »
    The upconversion you are requesting is a feature that will drive the minimum price of your receiver up. Make sure you understand what upconversion you're looking for:

    resolution upconversion - simply the process of converting signals to 720p, 1080i, 1080p, or some combination of them. May be offered on HDMI only, or HDMI and Component.
    A/D upconversion - the process of converting your analog signals to digital (and usually resolution upconversion as well). THIS is what you want if you are trying to do one HDMI cable from your receiver to TV. Without this, your Wii/PS2 connections would require a separate analog cable to your TV as well as the HDMI. This is also the more expensive feature of the two upconversions.

    Many people see upconversion, say "oh sweet one cable" and then spend two hours trying to figure out why their shit won't work at home.

    So...would something like this be what I'm looking for in terms of A/D upconversion?

    FF on
    Huh...
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    ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    No. That receiver is listed here. Yamaha is calling the A/D upconversion "Analog Video to HDMI Upconversion". They seem to be calling the resolution upconversion both "HDMI to HDMI Upscaling","Component Video Upconversion", and "S-Video Upconversion". Or maybe the component/S-Video is referring to A/D as well. Either way, no that unit won't do it.

    I'm not sure you'll get the Analog-to-Digital for less than $400 but I could be wrong. I haven't really skimmed through lower-end models (or really any models) in awhile.

    Scrublet on
    subedii wrote: »
    I hear PC gaming is huge off the coast of Somalia right now.

    PSN: TheScrublet
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I know my Onkyo was under $400 bought two years ago and can put everything over HDMI.

    Improvolone on
    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
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    ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I know my Onkyo was under $400 bought two years ago and can put everything over HDMI.

    Then you got a good deal because the Onkyos don't do that until the 600-series, and that series does NOT retail that low. I know my 606 cost around $420 when I got it. The 608 is at $500 (tho there may be some shaved off savings at some online retailers).

    Scrublet on
    subedii wrote: »
    I hear PC gaming is huge off the coast of Somalia right now.

    PSN: TheScrublet
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Well then yay.

    edit: Wait, fuck me running, I might be wrong... my old TV didn't have HDMI and I've yet to set it up on my new TV...

    Gah!!!

    Improvolone on
    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
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