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Sound solutions for a multimedia system

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November 12, 2007 9:57:30 PM

I'm starting to get my ducks in a row regarding a new gaming, DVD and music-playback, and hopefully DVR-capable PC, and I'm curious what sort of options I have for sound. My space is very limited here, so I assume I am going to want to go with a 2.1 setup of some sort, unless there are solid wireless options available. On the music end of things, I am looking to play mostly classical vocal music. I've found that with my current setup, older CDs like my 60's Solti recording of the Verdi Requiem sound sort of hollow. I really want to resolve this issue in particular.

I'm also curious how well a computer speaker combo would compare to a Bose 2 speaker setup purchased 4-5 years ago. Should I consider using the Onkyo amplifier purchased for use with those speakers, in combination with some newer components, instead of buying new computer-specific speakers?

What sort of difference would I notice with a new sound card over my SB Audigy (1)?

Thanks for your time.
November 13, 2007 7:53:21 PM

I use my computer for the music source, Country not Classical but both C words :)  , and am running it through my receiver in a 2.1 configuration, i.e., 2 bookshelfs and a sub. Just got a HT Omega Claro Plus+ sound card and really impressed with the quality, it's based on the C-Media CMI8788 chipset that is designed first for music and videos although will do well with games as opposed to Creative that is designed primarily for games. Several good reviews of this card that details the differences with Creative. Have an older Denon that doesn't have an optical in but once we move planning on upgrading the receiver. Also using a program called SRS Audio Sandbox that enhances the audio and presents a noticeable difference. There's a trial version. Using your receiver and Bose will be better than any PC speakers. While the audio is good I don't think you'll ever get the quality you would with a CD player or turntable connected directly to the receiver but still very good I digitized my music collection, which of course means I have to use the computer as the source but whatever sound quality I sacrifice is worth the convenience, ease of finding the music I want at any given time, and the ability to easily create playlists.
http://www.srswowcast.com/about_us/wmptechlog.asp?lnkID...
Related resources
November 14, 2007 7:50:18 PM

To connect mine to the my receiver I had to get a Ground Loop Isolator to eliminate static, I think it was something like $15 or $20 at Radio Shack and it fits between the computer and the receiver, has a set of RCA cables at either end. You'd need a Y extension with the single end to go into your sound card, not sure what the size is but it's long and skinny and the double end would RCA. Connect the RCA plugs into the Ground Loop Isolator (GLI) and then run from the GLI into the receiver like any other source, e.g., Tape Deck or CD player. You don't need to put a lot of money into the GLI. The computer just becomes another audio source. When you want to use the computer just switch the receiver to what ever source you have it connected to. My receiver is about 15' to 18' from the computer and no problem with sound quality. Looked for the manual of your receiver but couldn't find it. The manual will tell you if you can connect a sub and if so, how. A sub makes an amazing difference for both music and movies. If you don't want to invest a lot of money, Circuitcity sells Velodyne, which specializes in subs. When I got mine a number of years ago did some research and found the only difference between those sold at Circuitcity and audio specialty stores was the case, wiring and speakers cone was the same. In addition to enhancing the bass the other advantage is that if they are powered, the Velodynes are, your using less of your amp for base freeing up power for mid and higher ranges. You can get a 10" for about $225 and a 12" for $325. If it 's a fairly small room, the 10" would work but if you have the money the 12 would be better. It's a piece of equipment you won't replace unlike upgrading a receiver or speakers so it's a really long term investment. To hear the difference a sub makes go to any audio store or Circuitcity, they have listening rooms that Bestbuy doesn't, and take one of you CDs in and ask them to play it with and without the sub, I think you'll be amazed at the difference it makes. Your receiver doesn't have an optical connections you could use with the sound card, in fact I've been looking and only surround receivers seem to have them not stereo receivers but the RCA connection will work fine.
http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Velodyne-10-VRP-Series-S...
http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Velodyne-12-VRP-Series-S...
November 18, 2007 7:49:31 PM

I just checked over the link I provided on my receiver. The "Bass Management" option has a "no" next to it. Does that mean I can't add a subwoofer to it, or just that I can't control the playback for one from the receiver? It also isn't certified for any of the new standards. Is this something that would be handled by the sound card and not the receiver?

I'm starting to wonder about using this setup.

Does anybody have an opinion on the differences between the new generation of sound cards and my Audigy 1? I'm a sound quality over volume sort of person. Nothing is going to get played all that loudly if that is a factor.
November 18, 2007 9:51:50 PM

Read the following reviews, they give pretty good detail what the sound card will do
http://www.elitebastards.com/cms/index.php?option=com_c...
http://www.bjorn3d.com/read.php?cID=1051&pageID=3082

Your Onkyo is a stereo receiver, you can only attach and listen to 2 speakers at one time and it will not process surround sound, for this you'd need a suroundsound receiver. The receiver does not have a separate sub output and I don't think the 2nd set of speaker connections would work for a sub but you'd have to check the manual. As I said, connecting the computer to your receiver just means it becomes another audio source like a CD player, turntable, or tape deck. If you are not satisfied with the quality of the sound when using your CD player, it's likely the quality of your speakers, especially if they're bookshelf speakers because the woofer in a bookshelf will always be smaller. To enhance the quality of your sound on this system, the first thing you'd want to do is get is a good set of speakers, this is what you hear and if you can afford it, a new surround sound receiver as well as a sub. You could get a decent Onkyo surround sound receiver starting at about $300 with an optical in and sub out, it would be 5.1 meaning you could have 2 front speakers, a center, and 2 rear as well as a sub A 7.1 would let you add 2 more rear side speakers. If this is for movies or gaming, I'd go with a 5.1 speaker system although I'd get one of the subs mentioned above, usually the subs that come in a set aren't that good. If you primarily want to listen to music, I'd get a good pair of bookshelves with the sub. You could get one of these set ups for about $800 to $1000. Onkyo makes good lower cost receivers and personally I think Polk makes good lower costs speakers but speakers really come down to what sounds best to you. If you don't have the money for a new sound system, then I would suggest you get a good sound card, the Bluegear if you're budget is tight and the HT Omega Claro if you can afford it, and get a good set of computer speakers. I've seen computer speakers with wireless rear speakers but have no idea how they sound. I have an older set of Creative Itreague with a sub that sounds pretty good but haven't looked at computer speakers for a while so I'd deffer to others but again regardless of where you buy them it's a good idea to listen to them first.
November 20, 2007 8:47:06 PM

Right. I understood what you meant about the computer just being another input, but from what you were saying earlier, my receiver isn't really modern enough to support what I'm looking for in a sound system. I'd really miss having a subwoofer. Even my little $50 pair of speakers has a sub, and the difference is huge.

I think a separate sound system may be too pricey for me when combined with the rest of the computer I'd be building. In that vein, I've been looking at the Klipsh Promedia 2.1 set that has been highly reviewed all over. My concern is that many of the positive reviews revolve around the power of the system when I am far more interested in quality at medium to low volume levels.

I'd love to try a 5.1 system, but I have no idea how I would make that a reality in this place. It's about 1.5 times the size of a typical dorm room, and I sit in 3 different places over the course of a day. Do 5.1 systems allow you to set up presets for individual speaker volumes? For much of the day I'd be sitting in front of the front speakers, and the rest of the time I'd be right next to one of the two rear ones. I couldn't just set the system up for balance ahead of time and let it go.

Regardless of what speakers I'd be using, would I be able to use them for my television as well? If so, how would that work if I was also using the computer? Is it possible to switch sound devices on a TV without having a separate receiver as we have been discussing?

I'd love some more opinions/recommendations on this subject. I still feel like a total novice, and would like to get it done right the first time given my poor health.

Thanks all.
November 21, 2007 10:55:49 AM

Looks like at this time only you and I are interested in this subject, I to would like to hear what some others have to say. Unless you read reviews from audiophile sites, you're likely to get a lot of discussion regarding power out put, for a lot of people, load is important, which if you care about audio quality, simply is not the case. The problem reviews written for audiophiles is that most of the stuff is beyond what most of us mere mortals can afford. Again, the only real way to judge a set of speakers is to listen to them. The speakers I think sound best may not be what you think is best, which doesn't mean one of us is right and the other wrong, we just hear things differently. With a better receiver or sound card, in the latter case the software, will allow you to adjust the volume of the rear speakers but almost always as a set, not individually. As a rule you cannot run computer speakers through a TV, the TV doesn't have the power to run them. A lot of TVs now let you hook up regular speakers but there going to have to be pretty efficient, i.e., take relatively little power to driver them., and usually more efficient speakers are more expensive. But efficiency does not necessarily mean they produce better quality sound. If you don't have the money at his time for a decent audio system, about $800 to $1000, I think you'd be better off investing in a good audio card, e.g., Bluregear or HT Omega Claro and a good set of computer speakers, either 2.1 or 5.1. With a 2.1 the software that comes with either of the above mentioned cards will let you simulate surround. If you get a 5.1, you can always use the software to switch to using only the front speakers when you're sitting next to one or both of the rear speakers. In addition to the 2 reviews I suggested, would also suggest you read up on the C Media chipset. I'm not an engineer and often don't understand a lot of the technical stuff in these reviews but I can understand enough to get a pretty good idea if something will do what I want. At least for me, focusing on function/output is more important than how it gets there. Finally, when you have the money, get a new audio system. An $800 - $1000 system will give you a good starting point and over the years you can build up a really nice system. Getting one of the Velodyne subs should mean you won't have to replace if for years. A good solid Onkyo receiver, $300 range, should be able to handle higher quality speakers. At least my upgrade path was first to upgrade the speakers when I had the money and later the receiver. Doing it this way means you initial high dollar out lay is with the initial system, after that you outlay for a better set of speakers or receiver will not break the bank. Unless you have a bunch of money, you need patience
November 22, 2007 9:49:56 PM

While I agree with most of what g-paw said, I would up grade to a slightly better reciever that allows a sub. If you forgo surround, they are cheap. Seeing that you sit in 3 different locations, surround would be difficult to set up anyways.

On another note, I have always felt Bose is over-rated. Sadly, speakers are generally a field where you get what you pay for. Klipsh, while usually getting good reviews for their sound, bass being a plus, generally are not realiable from most reviews/experience I've had.

Giving your budget would help with advising your situation.
November 22, 2007 10:23:07 PM

KingLoftusXII said:
While I agree with most of what g-paw said, I would up grade to a slightly better reciever that allows a sub. If you forgo surround, they are cheap. Seeing that you sit in 3 different locations, surround would be difficult to set up anyways.

On another note, I have always felt Bose is over-rated. Sadly, speakers are generally a field where you get what you pay for. Klipsh, while usually getting good reviews for their sound, bass being a plus, generally are not realiable from most reviews/experience I've had.

Giving your budget would help with advising your situation.


Agree, you'd definitely want a sub conneciton on the recievier but a $300 Onkyo would have one. I think Onkyo makes good entry level receivers, like Denon as well but generally will cost you more. Also, you're right about the speakers but one advantage of a sub is that you can easily get by with bookshelf speakers because you don't have to be as concerned about the woofer. $800 to $1000 won't get you a high end system but it will be one you can build on and will sound pretty good if you choose the parts well. Also agree with you about Bose, never really heard a set of Bose that impressed me but again, speakers are really subjective, e.g., for less expensive speakers I've always liked Polks.
November 22, 2007 11:22:14 PM

Speakers are subjective. Polks are rich, but I prefer the punchy bass and bright highs of a quality JBL. To each their own...lol.

Yamaha also makes good quality receivers that tend to have more goodies for a lower price. I love my Onkyo though...
November 22, 2007 11:22:28 PM

I'm looking to put together a computer system in the $1500-$1700 range, monitor and sound included, so I'd be wary of blowing 2/3 of that on sound alone. How long does a $1000 system last? If I was going to pay that for a sound system, I would want a really long lifespan out of it.

I've heard similar concerns with Bose. My speakers have served me well in an environment where they are usually only used at very low volume levels at night. I don't know how they'd stack up to even a mid-range set of computer speakers that would be several years newer, nor to any other sort of speakers.

My sensitivity to different speaker setups is extremely limited by experience. I know a ton about the quality of performances on my opera CDs, but not so much about the relative quality of the playback compared to better/worse systems unless those differences are glaring, as I have not really done any of this type of comparison. I know I would love to be able to use speakers to replace my TVs built-in sound. I noticed a huge difference just with my $50 Altec Lansings over that, but I don't know how viable it is to use a set of speakers for more than one use at a time. I could probably be pretty comfortable hearing sound from my non-TV speakers for DVD playback only, with the TV taking the job for regular programming if it had to work that way.
November 22, 2007 11:34:13 PM

What do plan to use your computer for the most? Gaming would require a different route than would music. I was not knocking your Bose, just an opinion. They would most likely be fine. If you like their sound, keep them by all means.

I'm guessing since you're in a relatively small room you could get excellent sound for a lower price. Even a low-end sub sounds great when it doesn't need to be pushed. Hell, my $600 12" Polk sub struggles with the low end opening shot of Star Wars III. The low end sound of the big ship coming into view at the very beginning pushes so much air outta' the thing it sounds like it's rattling! Pisser that is...lol
November 23, 2007 12:11:01 AM

Yeah, I knew you weren't knocking them, and I wouldn't really care if you were or not. I'm glad you're helping out.

I game, listen to music, and want to watch DVDs with this system. It would be nice to assemble something that can achieve any of those things reasonably well, but I'd choose music over gaming quality if I had to make that call. What exactly is the difference between music and gaming sound systems?
November 23, 2007 9:54:38 AM

If you wanted to focus on gaming, a lot more money would be devoted towards a graphics card(s) and such is the main difference. For both you'd want the best sound possible.

I would go with an Intel 775 board, a decent Core 2 cpu you can always upgrade later, at least 2gb of RAM, a good sound card with an optical out, a nice monitor for movies, and a solid mid-range graphics card. There should be plenty left over for a decent receiver and some quality bookshelf speakers and a smaller sub. Of the brands I'm familiar with, Polk Audio and Boston Acoustics are nice rich sounding speakers good for classical and the like. Obviously try to listen to them before you buy.
November 23, 2007 11:54:52 AM

As for the life of a sound system, it will last years and as mentioned before, easy to upgrade, e.g., new speakers when your in a position to get them even if it's 3 or 5 years. My current system for listening to music is about 12 years old. I bought my step son this Velodyne for some some work he did for us and I was just thumped into submission after a couple of hours of he and his kids playing Guitar Hero. :fou:  Currently $260 at Circuitcity. I'd suggest you get a sub and either a Onkyo or Yamaha reciever, 5.1 would be sufficient if it has the options you want, with optical in and sub out, my preference would be Onkyo. Try your Bose and if it sounds good great, easy enough to upgrade your speakers later. I think you'll initially be happy because the sound will definitely improve. Then you can connect computer, TV, CD player and turntable if you have one.

http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Velodyne-10-VRP-Series-S...

Agree with KingLoftusXII, you'll have plenty left over for your computer. To save a bit you could go with AMD given how you're using the machine. If you're getting a sound card, would suggest the Bluegear for $100 given music is your priority, will still work well with games. One advantage of AMD is you could put the savings into a better video card for gaming. but again, AMD will sacrifice some performance but not sure it will be too noticable given how you'll use it.
November 23, 2007 11:23:28 PM

Let's say for the moment that I would get a receiver and sub as you suggest. I found this Onkyo at Amazon, but haven't looked around: http://www.amazon.com/Onkyo-TX-SR304S-Channel-Theater-R...

How would the sound work with the TV? I know I could play sound through the speakers by way of the receiver, but what if I'm using the receiver for something else, like the computer? Would the TVs built-in speakers kick in?
November 24, 2007 12:41:29 AM

For $70 more I'd go with the TX SR505 rather than the SR303. Has HDMI, High Def connection if you eventually get a high def TV, more component inputs, 10 watts more power, 75w, and is 7.1 if you ever decide to go with that. Here is a comparison
http://www.circuitcity.com/ccd/compare.do?poids=178863,...|0||accm_grs_mgn_dllr|1&link=ref

The reason I think it's worth the extra money is that you will be using this for years, 5 or more years, the 505 is more future proof. You don't want to be thinking of upgrading your receiver in 3 years or so. This is like your CPU/mobo, this is what drives the system and everything runs through it. If your listening to music and want the TV audio as well, it will come through the TV. The TV will only go through the receiver if you set the receiver so the TV is the source. Usually if I'm listening to music and say have a ball game on the TV and want to hear the TV, I just grab the remote and switch from the computer to the TV, generally don't want both the TV and music at the same time but if you do, just turn up the volume on the TV. As for the sub I'd go with one of these. The 10" would work fine, the 12" would give a little bit deeper range. Personally, I'd put the money into the receiver rather than the sub If I had to chose.
http://www.circuitcity.com/ccd/compare.do?poids=92859,9...\

If you went with the 505, $229, and the 12" Velodyne, $359, total $590 it leaves you with $900 to $1100 for a computer. If you went with the 10" Velodyne that gives you an extra $100, $1000 to $1200. Figure about $275 for a good 19" monitor leaving about about $900 for the computer. With that you could either do the Intel KingLoftusXII suggested or AMD. AMD would be less expensive allowing you more for the audio and video card. For sound the audio card is important and for gaming the video card is more important than the CPU. The AMD X2 5000+ Black Addition is supposed to be really easy to overclock and saw it on sale for around $130 at newegg.
http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/10/22/budget_overclock...

If you decide to go with the receiver and sub and let us know what combination you're going with, we can spec the computer if you're not sure of what parts you want.
November 24, 2007 1:59:07 AM

I already have a budget hi-def TV that I received as a gift around 2 years ago now. Here's a link: http://www.maxentusa.com/_coreModules/eShopping/productDetail.aspx?productMasterID=15. It doesn't have HDMI capability, so I wasn't thinking too hard about making sure I had that option available.

I may have undersold my interest in video/gaming performance somewhat. I'm trying to build a balanced system here, but one with one of those nice mid-range 22" monitors (http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16824001096). That being the case, I want to make sure my video can keep up with the resolution needed there. I am a Photoshopper and gamer as well as a music lover, so balance is key.

I'm still not 100% sold on buying a primo sound card or receiver given that I don't have room for more than a 2.1 setup. The space here isn't really room-crossing wire-friendly either. Is it worth spending a bit extra on a card that can support 7 or 8 channels when I won't use more than 3? Another option I'm considering loosely is to continue using my existing speakers and receiver for just the TV, and the computer speakers for the rest. Maybe this is a bad play. I'm not sure.
November 24, 2007 2:43:37 AM

I would skip the SR505 and stick with your original choice. At $150 it's not a large loss if it needs to be replaced in a couple years. While the SR505 has HDMI switching, it doesn't support Dolby HD and DTS HD, the latest formats found on Blueray/HD DVD, so it's already lacking and would need to be upgraded just as soon as the SR304 would.

Overall, perhaps the receiver route is the wrong one. The money spent on it could be put towards some excellent computer speakers that would fit your needs better. We may be trying to make things more complicated than they need be. If you build a good gaming system, it will be able to do everything else with ease. Just add nice speakers...
November 24, 2007 2:51:37 AM

Well, I'm glad we're going over all of this. It may be overly complex and it may not, but it's an interesting and informative conversation regardless. The real kicker for me is getting a sense of the relative values of different options. For instance, how much better is a system going to sound with my Bose speakers, the SR304 receiver, and a sub like the one recommended compared to, say, the computer speakers I threw into the mix? Is it a 20% difference? 50? Is it a matter of what works on one not working on the other?

I wonder the same about sound cards. What is the functional sound difference between an old and new card? I know these are subjective questions, but if you could give it a shot I'd appreciate it. Maybe you could describe a situation whereby the old card would fail and the new one would succeed or something like that.
November 24, 2007 3:13:38 AM

A separate receiver, sub, and speakers are going to sound better than a sound card and computer speakers, for sure.

As for the sound card issue, when I upgraded from my old Soundblaster Live! to an Audigy 2 a couple years ago, I did notice a sizable difference, especially in the area of subtle surround sounds when gaming. It was enough to make me upgrade my speakers as well.
November 24, 2007 12:23:13 PM

Agree with KingLoftusXII about the receiver, the SR303 would meet your immediate needs so would go with the 10" sub, which would come to $400 leaving $1300. After paying $300 for the monitor it leaves you $1000 for the computer given a $1700 budget.

You're really dealing with 2 sets of questions, which are really separate but will impact the answer to the other. First is upgrading you audio system. Will the receiver and sub significantly enhance the quality of the music you listen to? Yes. Is there any way to quantify this enhancement? No What is the cost of enhancing your audio? You'll have $400 less for the computer. Is the cost worth it? Only you can answer that. Can you build a good system for $1000? I would say yes. Is it a system you would want? You have to answer that.

I'd suggest you do the following. Ideally, go to Circuitcity with a CD you think will be good to test the system by listening to it. It's not likely they'll have your exact speakers but listen a set of Bose that come as close as possible to yours, both spec and price wise. Decide if you think the sound quality is worth $400. If there is no Circuitcity, go to a Bestbuy or audio store and listen to a system that would be equivalently priced to what you're getting. If you want to buy the audio upgrades, then build a $1000 computer, keep in mind $300 is already gone on the monitor.

I can appreciate you dilemma. I'm looking at getting a new car and have narrowed it down to a Mazda Speed3 or the new Accord Coupe. The Speed3 has tremendous performance as well as better carrying capacity for the money, the Accord is a more comfortable, refined car with a really good sound system. Which will I get? Don't know but would love someone to make the choice for me. Sooner or later I'll have to bite the bullet and decide. The sooner I do, the sooner I can quit agonizing over it and start to enjoy what ever I end up with.
November 24, 2007 1:38:37 PM

Go with the Accord.

Since he's in a small space, a $300 sub is probably overkill.
http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Polk-10-Subwoofer-PSW10/...
While low-end Polk stuff is not the best, I would think this would be more than good enough for a small area and would embarrass any sub coming with a computer speaker set.
November 24, 2007 2:37:57 PM

KingLoftusXII said:
Go with the Accord.

Since he's in a small space, a $300 sub is probably overkill.
http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Polk-10-Subwoofer-PSW10/...
While low-end Polk stuff is not the best, I would think this would be more than good enough for a small area and would embarrass any sub coming with a computer speaker set.


The reason I think the 10" Velodyne would be worth the money is that he will likely not think about upgrading the sub for 15 plus years and it would easily handle a 30' X 30' room unless he wanted to use it as a vibrator as well, which my idiot stepson is doing with this sub. :)  He has it next to the couch and cranked to about twice the volume he needs to. Sounds like one of those idiots that you can hear the thumping 3 cars away with the windows up. I just see a sub as a component you're just going to have to replace. The sub I have for my surround sound system is 15 years and planning on using it until it dies. I don't know the OP's situation but I'm guessing he'll eventually be moving into a bigger place eventually
November 24, 2007 7:12:16 PM

It's extremely hard to guess where I will be within any number of years. I'm disabled and in a little place next to my parents' so I can have some independence without having to use more energy than I have on surviving... If a treatment suddenly works for me I could wind up anywhere. If not, I may be here for many years. There is no knowing really on that front.

So my understanding is that if I want to use my computer and the TV at the same time I need to let the speakers play both simultaneously. Is there no way to use the built-in TV sound when the speakers are being used for another device? I use the TV often with my computer. If I can't arrive at a convenient solution for using both, that would be a deal-breaker given the circumstances.
November 24, 2007 11:14:18 PM

Squidmaster said:
It's extremely hard to guess where I will be within any number of years. I'm disabled and in a little place next to my parents' so I can have some independence without having to use more energy than I have on surviving... If a treatment suddenly works for me I could wind up anywhere. If not, I may be here for many years. There is no knowing really on that front.

So my understanding is that if I want to use my computer and the TV at the same time I need to let the speakers play both simultaneously. Is there no way to use the built-in TV sound when the speakers are being used for another device? I use the TV often with my computer. If I can't arrive at a convenient solution for using both, that would be a deal-breaker given the circumstances.


Sorry, I wasn't clear. You can listen to both the TV and the computer or any other audio component at the same time, you'll be using the TV speakers for the TV and the audio system speakers for the computer. If you want to try the set up we've been discussing, do the following. Connect the TV to the receiver, the receiver probably has a connection for TV or video. Then get a Groundloop Isolator, will prevent any static from the computer and is $17 at Radioshack, and a Y converter $3 at Cyberguys,. Plug the Y converter into you sound card and the other end into the groundloop isolator and then plug the groundloop isolator into the receiver. Looks like you can hookup to 4 components on that receiver. $20 unless you need a longer cable to connect the computer to the groundloop isolator. See how you like the set up. If you like it, then test the sub/receiver. If you get the receiver and say the Bluegeara sound card I suggested, you'd want to connect the computer to the receiver using the optical connection in which case you won't need the graoundloop isolatorBest, using the optical connection means you're going digital to digital, otherwise you're going analogue to analogue. The best scenario would be to test them at your place but most places have a 15% restocking fee but you might be able to negotiate that. Of course if you buy it online, you'd have shipping charges so if you're doing this, best to buy locally. Otherwise, like I said before, you could always go out to the store. I think KingLoftusXII and I would agree you'll like the enhanced audio quality but ultimately you have to decide. As for which sub, the Polk KingLoftusXII suggested would work in a small room although my preference would be the Veoldyne, I think it would given you cleaner sound but either would be a significant improvement. Physically they look to be the same size but you can put a sub anywhere in the room, usually it's recommended it go in a corner but if that doesn't work, really not a big deal, especially in a smaller room. If space is a real issue, you could always put it in a closet and just open the door when you want to use it.

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2...
http://www.cyberguys.com/templates/SearchDetail.asp?pro...
November 26, 2007 3:40:06 AM

"I am looking to play mostly classical vocal music."

I'm like you, I have a big system in my basement but don't use them most of the time. I use my mini system for relaxing.

If you can find a Nakamichi dealer take you best CD and try lestening to one of their system. But the price will make you gasping for air.
November 26, 2007 4:09:44 PM

I had a friend over the other day with more experience with sound, and he thought it would actually be a piece of cake to connect surround sound here. It seems I had completely overlooked the drop ceiling, and didn't know how surround was configured. I also didn't consider the option of mounting speakers on the walls themselves. Now I'm going to see if I can find out a bit more about it. If I can set up multiple configurations for different spots in the room on the same system, I may very well change gears here.

I still don't really follow how the TV would use its own sound but also go through the receiver. Wouldn't one cancel out the other?
November 26, 2007 7:36:31 PM

The TV has its own amplifier and speakers this is why you don't need a receiver to play it, just turn it on and you have sound. Most TV's today also have audio out jacks, the red and white RCA jacks, which allows you to connect the TV to a receiver. Depending on the TV one of the TV set ups is to use both the TV onboard sound and the receiver at the same time if the receiver is set to play the TV. If you just want to use the onboard sound, then set the receiver to a different component. If you just want to use the receiver when watching TV and not the onboard sound, you can just turn the TV sound down to O, so low you can't hear it. Depending on the TV there may be other ways to hook the TV to the receiver. You'll have to check the manual that came with the TV to see what your options are. Again, the TV is just one more source for your receiver and if the receiver is set to a different component, it will play that component but the onboard TV sound will still work. If you don't have the TV manual and post the make and model, we might be able to find it on line.

I think most people would agree the that the most important component for determining quality of sound are the speakers, this is what you hear, and as KingLoftusXII said, the better the speakers, the more expensive they are, which doesn't mean you need a pair of $10,000 speakers for a system to sound good. I think the 303 Onkyo and 10" Velodyne would be a good place to start. Given you want to built a good medium price computer as well, you might be better off using your Bose for now. Then when you have the money, say $500 to $600, look at buying the surround speakers. If you decide on buying the entire surround system, then build a computer for around $600, probably best to go with AMD at that price point and upgrade it as money permits, e.g., upgrade the monitor, sound card, and CPU down the road. Again, both audio systems and computers are easily upgradeable if you start with the right components. I would guess for most of us with pretty good audio systems it has taken us years to build them up.
November 26, 2007 8:58:49 PM

You make good points all around. Here are the specs for my TV: http://www.maxentusa.com/_coreModules/eShopping/productDetail.aspx?productMasterID=15

My understanding is that routing the sound through the TV would reduce it in quality by a ton as opposed to connecting from the cable box to the receiver. In addition, won't the TV's sound controls apply if I have the TV connected to the receiver, and hit mute or any volume control? This is my concern.
November 26, 2007 10:34:40 PM

Squidmaster said:
You make good points all around. Here are the specs for my TV: http://www.maxentusa.com/_coreModules/eShopping/productDetail.aspx?productMasterID=15

My understanding is that routing the sound through the TV would reduce it in quality by a ton as opposed to connecting from the cable box to the receiver. In addition, won't the TV's sound controls apply if I have the TV connected to the receiver, and hit mute or any volume control? This is my concern.


No problem connecting the TV to the receiver, it has 2 sets of RCA connectors. The sound from the cable box would be better especially if you can use an optical connection but then you'd have to also connect your DVD player and VCR to the receiver. If you run the audio from the TV, you won't have to worry about connectiing the DVD player and/or VCR to the receiver. I've done it both ways and it's a pain to have to set everything to the receiver. I really care a lot more about music than TV and movies so if the TV sound isn't all it could be I can live with that for ease of use, especially given my wife watch a lot of TVs and if it involves more than one 2 buttoms she's calling me to set it up. The surround sound is in our family room and I have a 2nd sound system in the basement with my computer and this is where I listen to music. Finally, you're best off connecting using optical (digital) connections rather than analogue when you can. The problem is I think the 303 only has one optical connection while the 505 has 2. Likely your cable box, DVD player, and sound card, at least if you get a good one, will have optical connections so even with the 505 you'll only be able to connect 2 of the 3. If it were me, I'd do the computer if I had one, the DVD if I had 2 connections but again for me music always takes precedent when there are trade offs. To get 3 connections on a receiver you're looking at a lot more money.

Found this on page p48 of the TV manual, page 18 tells you how to connect the TV to a receiver.

A small display window appears upon selecting the
option to change. Use to change the setting.
When set to VARIABLE, audio output is affected by
the monitor’s internal audio controls. When set to
FIXED, the audio output bypasses the monitor’s
internal audio controls. After achieving desired
setting, press key to confirm setting and return
to previous menu.

It sounds like if you set it to variable, you'd be able to mute or turn the volume all the way down and still use the receiver although it could be the opposite. Any way one way or another you should be able to use both the TV audio and the receiver.
November 26, 2007 11:18:54 PM

Hmmm... if it bypasses the internal audio controls, would that mean that I wouldn't lose signal quality? It sounds that way, but I'm not sure.

I plan to use my computer as my DVD and music player already, so that would leave me with just 2 connections that I would need, namely, the computer and the TV (or cable box). I may be able to track down where this TV came from and see if the store knows the specifics for which setting I'd use for which purpose.

What is it about computer speakers that makes them specifically computer speakers, anyway? If they are optimized for computer use, maybe it is worth considering them since I'm using the computer for 3 of my 4 primary uses anyway. If not, I'm going to keep pursuing this other idea for a while. I do have some time to investigate, so that's a plus.
November 27, 2007 10:20:39 AM

As for using the Variable or Fixed settings, if you can't get an answer from the TV mfg, it's easy enough to try one and then the other given it looks like you use the remote to fix the settings. I've had stereo systems for 40 years, I was an audio system protege :)  , and I still have to do a trial and error for some connections, especially with the new surround receivers. I suppose you could also google these settings and get an answer.

Basically speakers create sound by pushing air and if I remember correctly there are 2 basic designs, one electrical and the other using air in an enclosed space, don't remember what the latter is called. The former is more efficient, i.e., you don't need as much power to driver them, but that doesn't mean they necessarily sound better. Given today's receivers and the speakers in your price range efficiency is not a major issue. Using a receiver means you have more power, e.g., the 303s produce 65w per channel, vs the power produce by the audio card to drive computer speakers, this varies but checking the specs should tell you. In addition, the speakers are larger than computer speakers and can push more air. Very good, more expensive computer speakers can sound better than really cheap system speakers but better quality system speakers will always sound better. I would guess your Bose would sound better than reasonably price computer speakers. But keep in mind if you go with the receiver, you can always upgrade the speakers in the future, which will definitely give you better quality sound. Upgrading would be speakers starting at $500 to $600 to $1000. The above explanation of how speakers work is very simplistic, I'm not an audio engineer and it's been years since I've looked at buying audio equipment given I'm very satisfied with my current set up, although I do plan on getting a new receiver once we move into another house in a year or so and will start doing research when I'm closer to buying. The receiver also affects sound quality but again an entry level Onkyo, Yamaha, or Denon receiver would be an improvement over what you have now. Keep in mind it's not hard to put together a ten, 20, or 30 thousand dollar audio system so we're talking very entry level, which doesn't mean it won't sound good. Kind of the difference between a Porche 911 Turbo and a Miata, they're both sports cars and both can be fun to drive but there is obviously going to be a significant difference in performance. But if you want a sports car it would be foolish not get one because you can't drop $90,000 for a Porche.
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