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Old home theatre equipment to PC?

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June 13, 2011 3:00:19 AM

Hello Toms.
It's been a while since I've last asked you for help, but here I am. My budget can sway between $50-$250.

So, I have a Panasonic SA-HT440 home theater system, with a missing sub-woofer and remote.
I also have a Samsung PS-WX40 sub-woofer, two PS-FX40 front speakers and a PS-CX40 center speaker, all rated at 3 ohms..
My computer has a SONAR X-Fi audio card, Realtek® ALC889, 7.1 channel Audio (integrated audio on the Foxconn Bloodrage LGA 1366 mobo).

I would like to know what I need to set up a full 5.1 (or even possibly 7.1) sound system with the equipment I have. I'm not interested in being loud enough to wake the neighbors, but I would like decent quality sound. Possibly a S/PDIF connection if it's within my budget, the ability to connect to a 50" plasma that may or may not be in my near future and a Xbox/PS3., and, if need be, I will buy a new sound card.

You can also go straight to my Photobucket album for more pictures.
http://s162.photobucket.com/albums/t276/anamaniac_trash...

        Panasonic
Spoiler


        Samsung
Spoiler



Sorry for making this such a bandwidth hungry and boring post.

Travis Beane

More about : home theatre equipment

June 13, 2011 3:01:42 AM

I'm no audio professional, but I do have a few tools, a knack for electronics (so I tell myself), and a local hardware store to buy copper wire. :) 
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June 13, 2011 5:09:07 AM

your situation is pretty simple.. that receiver isnt going to work with a digital input unless that 'digital transceiver' area is actually an optical sensor that would pick up a fiber optic cable.
(not something but for imagination)

so you will need a new receiver.
something with a digital input (or even more than one if you dont feel like switching the cable wires for the dvd/bluray .. xbox .. television box

maybe the sonar x-fi card sounds better than the digital to analog convertor in the receiver?
if it does, then you would want to use analog connections to the soundcard.

you really shouldnt be using 3 ohms with the receivers of today.
they are ment for 8 ohms (but some are safe for 6 ohms .. and those that can handle 4 ohms will specifically say it)

at first thought.. you can wire up two speakers in series (any 3 ohm speaker with a 4 ohm speaker) to equal 7 ohms.

so, having a look at the ohms from the panasonic speakers..
the panasonic center is 6 ohms and could be wired up by itself (but the receiver might blow the speaker from too much power, your gamble of chance)
i'd say wire it up in series with the samsung center channel to equal 9 ohms IF the new receiver doesnt have a volume adjustment for the center channel (or if the receiver does have a volume adjustment, but the center isnt loud enough)

then take the two samsung front speakers with the surround speakers to wire them in series (one panasonic and one samsung per channel) to equal 7 ohms.

that is front and center accounted for.. and the only speakers remaining is the subwoofer and the front speakers for the panasonic.
you could wire up the two front speakers in series to equal 6 ohms.. but that is only one rear speaker.

i dont recommend using the center speakers for a rear speaker, since the speakers are obviously different.. you dont want to mix the rear left with a different rear right.. it is highly annoying and would ruin the experience.

i can say without a doubt that there are quite a few programs that you can view with only front speakers and still get a wider soundstage that is better than some of the rear surround sound effects they try to push onto people.

other times, you would be really missing out without the rear speakers.
but usually this is only for bass anyways.. believe it or not, the rear audio in movies usually isnt atmospheric enough to say you would be totally disappointed.
most of the time, the rear sounds are obnoxious level-unmatched sounds that simply exaggerate the existance of the rear speakers.


that subwoofer wont get any use without an amplifier for it.
the new receiver will have a pre-amp connection for a subwoofer amplifier.. much like using the soundcard outputs for an amplifier.
the subwoofer wont output any audio at all, and it might put more stress on the soundcard than ever intended.. meaning it could break the soundcard, so dont mess around.


your budget is only high enough to grab a used receiver off ebay.
and it isnt a far-fetched request.. because people with more money are upgrading their 5.1 receivers for a new one that supports the new surround sound formats.
this might mean 7.1 or 9.1 speaker connections for their new receiver.
a real opportunity to get a good receiver that sounds good (and cost like $300 - $500 when new) for the simple fact that the DAC inside only supports 16bit 96khz
maybe 24bit is supported.. but not generally said or spoken about.
you might feed the receiver 24bit audio and it trims the bitdepth down to 16bit
nothing but a question.

but for dvd watching and satellite or cable HD channels.. it should be enough.

MAYBE if you are lucky, you could get a receiver that does 6.1 and turn on the rear center channel and use that extra speaker combo for a rear channel speaker.
but, i wouldnt really suggest turning on the rear speakers when there arent any connected.
and
i wouldnt suggest you looking through the receivers for sale to find out if you can turn on only the rear center surround.
you'd be wasting too much time.

all you have for speakers is midrange and tweeters.
you still need woofers to complete a 3-way system.

subwoofers arent desired because bass comes from each of the 5 channels.
meaning.. each speaker should be 3-way with a 12 inch woofer to get down into the 20hz area
(even if you have to cut your sealed box and put in a port and stuff it with polyfill to get the box 'close' to 20hz area.. mine is tuned to 28hz because that is as low as i could get with the sealed speaker cabinets i had)


if you take any advice from me.. use 3-way speakers (even if each channel has its own built in subwoofer built into the speaker cabinet)
dont use a subwoofer from the LFE channel.. because if you have the subwoofer in front of you and the bass is supposed to come from the rear speakers.. it is going to sound stupid.


you always have the option to wire the spare speakers (each one per channel) wired in series with the other two speakers wired in series.
it would equal a 10 ohm load and would be less louder than the center speaker.
so you would probably want to turn down the center speaker a little bit.. or disconnect the third pair of speakers.

if you dont know already,
there are two ways to wire more than one speaker per channel.
one method harms the amplifier, the opposite way doesnt hurt the amp.
wiring the cords positive to positive (and negative to negative) will put all of the stress onto the amplifier.
but
if you wire one speaker positive to the receiver.. then the negative of the speaker to the positive of another speaker.. then the negative from that speaker to the negative of the receiver, it cuts the stress in half (and the output will be less)
it is safer because the positive to positive decreases the ohms.. and the positive to negative is series, and it brings the ohms up.
always better to go up a little bit than to go down.. because going down could cause the amplifier to see the connection like you are touching the positive and negative outputs together directly.

now check this out,
if you connect a WHOLE BUNCH of speakers in series.. the same electrical short can happen, but it is because the positive rail let out all of its electricity while screaming as loud as it could.. and the electricity never made it back in from the negative wire.
meaning both situations were like a human bleeding until all of the blood ran out and the person dies.

but dont get scared, because it takes like 20 or 30 speakers (maybe more sometimes) to bleed out the electricity.

PA systems do this on purpose.. they hook up a bunch of speakers in a long chain and let the electricity bleed out.
but, the electricity from the PA amp is like 70 volts
the electricity from the receiver amplifier is probably like 10-20 volts.
maybe it is less.. because i remember touching a 9 volt battery with my fingers and feeling the voltage.
havent done that since i was a child.. and i dont know if it is because i am simply bigger, or if the batteries are cheaper.
so with that said, my receiver can zap me.. and my 10-20 volts is what i guess.
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June 13, 2011 5:45:21 AM

Thank you for your guidance. I'll need a bit to decipher your post though.
Now were did I hide my Captain Crunch decoder ring?
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June 14, 2011 4:32:49 AM

I'm looking at different ways to wire the speakers, possibly adding resistors etc, and now it just dawned on me to go browse how much it'd cost me to build the system form scratch.

Granted, the center piece for the Panasonic is rated at 225W, the surround at 90W, the front at 110W, and Samsung side/center/sub at 133W.
What confuses me however is that Panasonic states the center speaker at 6 ohms, but it says directly on my speaker 4 ohms.   @_@
From further research, I have the base of the SC-HT440 home theater system base, but some of the speakers from the SA-HT940

It does appear I will have to expand my budget however. Paying off the car can totally wait, right? :) 
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June 14, 2011 10:09:41 AM

those power ratings seem exaggerated.
i have never heard a consumer panasonic radio play 225 watts of audio.
that would be LOUD, and the chassis of the player doesnt support the size needed to match the components used during the time.

chances are, those numbers are peak values that a speaker can handle for short zaps of power.. and the constant wattage rating is probably half (or even 1/3rd) that number.
compare all of the hundreds of receivers that are 90 - 110 watts per channel.
then have a look at the few 200 watts per channel stereo amps.
even the high powered theater amps are about 100 watts per channel.

i really dont see it happening, especially looking at the size of the dvd/amp combo.
to sell something like that in the market would be unfair, unless the entire market was ready to show their version of more power in a smaller package.

to offer more volume for people who cant get enough loudness from a 100 watt per channel amp, they offer 200 watts per channel.
very rarely you see 250 or 300 watts for an 8 ohm load.
more commonly, you see 250 - 300 watts for a 4 ohm load (and these amps are sold as 'premium' components)
they translate to 125 - 150 watts per channel at 8 ohms.. and the market sector for these products are still roughly for people who have larger rooms that are having trouble filling the room with sound.

if you dig deep enough, you will find amps that are like DJ amps for the house.. but with lower distortion values.

it seems like you cant connect the samsung subwoofer up to the receiver, since adding a resistor is going to suck up the power going to the sub.
if you connect the 3 ohm sub to the 6 ohm output, they receiver will fail or go into protect mode (or severely distort all of the speakers until it fails).
maybe you can get a second samsung sub that is 3 ohms and wire it up in series to keep the amp safe.

to be honest, i have gone back and forth between stereo (with rear channels cloned using the prologic feature) and actual surround sound with independant rear speakers.
i really havent heard much from the rear speakers that is heart-felt.
for music, it was worth it to use individual channeled time delay.. it helped fill the room with music and let me hear more details.
but the only time i have ever been impressed from REAL surround sound from the rear channels has been from the bass.
the midrange and treble just isnt high class.. there isnt any ambience that makes you feel like you are in an acoustical environment.
you get a better sense of acoustics with the front speakers or the front speakers cloned.

cameras dont record the rear audio, and all of it is fake (or very fake sounding if it was recorded).
even most of the bass is fake sounding.. could be the compression, but generally.. if the front speakers arent working in tandem with the rear speakers.. then the room wont light up and glow with ambient sound.
and that is the key major point.. to setup your system as a blank palatte and let the sound producers drop in some audio that fits in every household.
if the room doesnt light up with ambience, then there is nothing but fake and perhaps annoying sounds.

i really really think you could use that system and make it work for you without feeling like you are missing much.
but
maybe you have to try it for yourself to see where i was getting at.
i have had my comcast digital cable box on to watch television shows for like a whole year.. and the only time i was ever giving applause to my audio from the rear speakers was an episode of 'fringe' where the whole room lit up with ambient thunder from a scene where it was raining.
maybe i have a lack of carpet and upholstery to thank for the extra ambience.. and it is probably true, since the vocals can generally sound realistic and 'open-aired' with carpet and upholstery and high ceilings.

i have sat and listened closely to the 5.1 audio from television shows.. they sound more realistic and less far-fetched when the receiver was in prologic mode with the rear speakers playing the same thing as the front speakers.
it was much better, in fact, that i assume this is the way we are supposed to listen to the audio until upgrades in the recording process happen.
i bet there are bandwidth limitations with the dolby digital 5.1 structure.
and maybe DTS was better because more bandwidth was available.
but
the new surround sound formats are supposed to be limitless, other than sample rate and bitdepth.

weird to say that sample rate and bitdepth are the key factors to determine bandwidth.. and then say that there are different streaming requirements.
like.. dolby digital used 640 kbit/s
dts used 1509.75 kbit/s
and neither of them are used to their maximum.. it says DVD's are usually 754.5 kbit/s for dts
dolby digital on the television is usually 448 kbit/s

not a big deal or a reason to post.
so with that said.. let me show you the comparison between my 100 watt per channel (600 watt) receiver
and your '850 watt' receiver.
the specifications state that your receiver consumes 90 watts to get the job done.
and the specifications for mine state that my receiver consumes 265 watts to get the job done.
your amp uses 175 watts less from the wall outlet.. but claims to be 250 watts more output.
it just isnt going to happen without multiple step-up transformers and volume levels that are dangerous.
maybe your amp can somehow be re-wired or pushed into distortion to create those numbers.. because the numbers are for 10% harmonic distortion.
my amp does the wattage at 0.09% harmonic distortion.


i am only posting this so you dont think your speakers can handle more power than they actually can.
maybe you buy some generic receiver that does 200 watts per channel and you blow the speakers.

and i also wanted to say, get a subwoofer on there that will work safely and hookup the tv with the stereo jacks and dont worry about missing the rear audio for now, just throw the receiver into prologic mode.

as for the xbox360 or ps3 .. you are going to want rear speakers to keep you alive and help you score points in the video games.
if that alone is enough for you to build a whole new setup.. i hope your game has better rear channel audio than all of the ones i have played.
9 out of 10 games i have played dont have highly positional audio.
sure, if there is action behind you it will come from the rear speakers.. but most of the time you already lost before you spin around to defend your score.
and other times, the left and right is hard to distinguish.. so all you know is that there is something behind you and you dont know if it is 4 o'clock or 8 o'clock position that you need to spin around to.

not really worth taking out a new loan or not paying your car payments.
although, most of us who have been around with dolby digital since the 1990's are well-aware that an improvement is due.
and since i havent heard bluray audio.. i dont know if the improvement is there or not.
but
i know that television and video games are still pathetic.
not many music discs come with surround sound.. and that means better speakers, not a new surround sound system.

i just dont think you should stress over it since you have a movie player that works already.
i found a 3 ohm samsung subwoofer on ebay for $19.99
probably best to spend the 20 bucks and get further ahead on your car payments until you make the switch to bluray.
and if you want surround sound with your video games.. have a look at the surround sound headphones.
they work when they work, you just have to weed through the ones that are inferior.
i'd say find one that has review after review about accurate sound positioning and grab 'em for $150
maybe use 'em to watch television too.
the $150 for the headphones, and the other $50 for a second 3 ohm subwoofer .. you are good to wait while you save up the money for the overhaul.

and obviously.. if you dont have the xbox or playstation yet.. the headphones arent needed.
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June 15, 2011 1:17:32 AM

A mixture of gaming, 30MB FLACs and bluray videos are my main uses, in that order. I use my PS3 for Blurays/NetFlix, someone else uses the PS3/Xbox for gaming, and I use the PC for gaming and music. I do a little competitive FPS on my PC once in a while, and I am currently awaiting Battlefield 3.
There hasn't been any surround sound headphones that have yet to catch my interest, and I've already sunk way too much into my headphones. :) 
Thanks for the helpful words.
DVDs, been a while since I've watched one of those.

P.S. The car payment was a joke, this just means I don't pay more off early. ;) 

Travis Beane
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June 15, 2011 2:51:12 AM

Travis Beane said:
A mixture of gaming, 30MB FLACs and bluray videos are my main uses, in that order. I use my PS3 for Blurays/NetFlix, someone else uses the PS3/Xbox for gaming, and I use the PC for gaming and music. I do a little competitive FPS on my PC once in a while, and I am currently awaiting Battlefield 3.
There hasn't been any surround sound headphones that have yet to catch my interest, and I've already sunk way too much into my headphones. :) 
Thanks for the helpful words.
DVDs, been a while since I've watched one of those.

P.S. The car payment was a joke, this just means I don't pay more off early. ;) 

Travis Beane


well consider this then..
those headphones are connected to the amplifier that has a dolby decoder in it.. it is the dolby decoder itself that has dolby headphone virtual surround.

my 9 year old receiver has dolby headphone technology.
i have used it with a movie, and compared it with the CMSS 3d from the xfi cards.. the dolby virtual surround was a lot more like listening to surround sound speakers.
the back to front sound effect was a lot more smoother, meaning there was more audio from the sweep from back to front without any gaps that CMSS 3d has.

if you are going to get a new receiver, and you already have some expensive headphones that sound good, then a receiver with the dolby headphone virtual surround might be a thing to consider.
you could get the receiver and use the headphones until you have the money for the speakers.
or
you would always have the option to use the headphones and still get surround sound.. maybe for late at night, maybe for improved sound clarity.
the panasonic receiver doesnt say anything about having the virtual surround for headphones.

and it seems like you already have some speakers, so the receiver would be the logical first choice.
buying used for 5.1 can save some money pretty easily.. but the bluray audio wont be supported.

maybe you can sell the old system for money towards the new system.. or are you going to keep it for a garage setup?
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June 22, 2011 1:10:12 AM

Best answer selected by Travis Beane.
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June 22, 2011 1:10:27 AM

Thanks, I have a lot to think about. :) 
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