I've written quite a few entries here where I briefly touch on my home theater and audio setup, but never fully laid out all the pieces. Hopefully some of you are interested enough to read this.
Currently my setup is fine, and yet I continue to find ways to tweak this or improve that. I bought a soldering iron this past weekend; for no real reason I decided tonight I should solder all of the banana plugs onto the speaker wires (they were previously attached using the Monoprice no-solder technique described here). The best thing about soldering is these things are never coming off so I can unplug these things by just tugging the wire without worries. Was it worth it? I guess it gave me more soldering experience. :)
Without further ado, lets get to the components.
Considered by many to be the centerpiece of the home theater, I don't think I slacked here. However, I place less importance on the TV than on most of the other stuff to come. The TV I purchased in January 2008 is a Samsung LNT4071F 1080p LCD. I'm quite happy with it. The colors are great, it has a great contrast ratio coupled with good black levels, and looks sleek. My only complaint is related to the triple ball effect (TBE) you can sometimes see when watching certain programming. I won't bore you with the details, but you can read the FAQ thread at AVS Forum if you are interested. (sidenote: AVS Forum should be one of your required stops when buying any new piece of AV equipment.)
I consider this to be the most important piece of my setup, and I tried not to skimp here. My current receiver, funded by that wonderful $600 economic stimulus check this past June (thanks US government!), is the Onkyo TX-SR705 (and the requisite AVS Forum FAQ). I have nothing but praise for this receiver- it supports up to a 7.1 setup, can power 8? speakers at up to 100 watts/channel, has 3 HDMI inputs which I have yet to really take advantage of, THX™ Select2™ certification, and supports every audio codec currently in existence. It shouldn't go out of date anytime soon.
One of the cooler features is the built-in audio calibration. There was a noticeable difference before and after the first calibration, and it is very good at determining speaker distances, relative levels, and performs automatic equalization at a much finer level than you could tweaking even a 7 or 9 control equalizer.
Speakers (and subwoofer)
I bought a bundled set for my first big foray into the 5.1 world (I had been living in the 2.0 world for quite some time). This bundle was the Harman Kardon HKTS-18. The bundle included 4 identical satellite speakers, a center speaker (which has a slightly different case to accommodate its horizontal orientation, but is otherwise identical to the satellites), and a powered subwoofer.
For a first set, it meets my expectations. They definitely outperform any bookshelf stereo system set of speakers. My only complaint is their limited frequency range- when listening to them with the subwoofer disabled, the crossover frequency is higher than I expected. This is due to their rather small size (4 x 4 x 10 inches). However, this drawback is mostly recouped by the well-performing subwoofer.
The subwoofer? Far larger than I thought when I first ordered it online. It looks more like an end table than anything else, but the 200 watts coupled with the 10 inch driver have probably made the occupant of the apartment below me unhappy more than once. This is a component I don't think I will be replacing anytime soon.
I currently have a Yamaha DV-S5950. This is perhaps the only product I would not recommend from my current system. For what I paid, it does not quite live up to what I expected. I actually use component video cables rather than an HDMI cable because the deinterlacing is so terrible and produces jaggies and stair steps (the use of HDMI forces the player in progressive scan mode; component cables do not force this switch).
If some good deals pop up around thanksgiving or during the Christmas gift rush, this component will likely become a Blu-ray player or a PS3.
Bits and Pieces
Obviously you need a lot of stuff to get everything all connected. I can't give Monoprice enough credit- I have yet to receive a crappy (or even below expectations) product from them. I needed quite a few things which I ended up getting through them:
- 2 HDMI cables
- 2 digital optical audio cables
- 1 digital coaxial audio cable
- 1 subwoofer line-level RCA cable
- 100 ft of speaker wire (14 gauge)
- 7 pairs of solder-type banana plugs
I would recommend every single one of the above products without exception.
One of the things every home theater junkie or audiophile does is upgrade. No one is ever perfectly happy with their setup for eternity, and I'm sure I will be no exception. As I mentioned above, going from DVD to Blu-ray player is the most likely next step.
Beyond that, upgrading either the center channel (which would benefit movie watching) or the left and right channel (which would benefit music playing) is probably the next step. Because I listen to a lot of music, the left/right upgrade is a bit more probable. Then I would have two speakers to throw in the back to complete my 7.1 setup...but my current apartment has no room for that.