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Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-03-2004, 11:50 PM   #1
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Need Help Buying Stereo

I haven't bought a stereo for 25 years and don't have a clue what I'm doing. The one I have now consists of a receiver, 2 big speakers, and a CD unit I bought to replace the turntable years ago. The receiver quit working. I will probably continue using the speakers and the CD. So I'm looking for a stereo receiver (or whatever would be best for what I want to do). I want to run the audio of the TV, VCR, DVD, and CD through the receiver (which I've never done). So I guess I have these questions:

1. Can someone point me to a half-way decent receiver in the $200-$350 range? What brand is best? What's a good online store, etc.?

2. My old speakers seem OK, but I might buy new ones if it makes sense to do that. Is there any reason not to use 25 year old speakers? If so, what speakers would you recommend? I'd be looking to spend $200-$350 on a couple of speakers if I'd likely get improved performance by buying.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 03:42 AM   #2
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

I haven't bought in 15 years myself, but I occasionally peek at whats out there.

I'm amazed at the sound of today's "bookshelf" systems, but I don't know if they have enough inputs for all your wanted connections.

Do you want to be able to shake the house? Do you want the latest surround sound for movies? Do you want one remote to control everything?

I suspect new speakers would sound noticably better to a non-audiophile than 25-year-old paper cones, but I'm not sure.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 03:55 AM   #3
 
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

Bob,

I am an audiophile and spend a lot of time reading reviews, building amplifiers and such. Last year there was a lot of stir in the audio community about a Panasonic digital receiver that was very inexpensive and outperformed serious audio gear. I have a link where you can buy this at a variety of stores well within your price range.

http://www.dealtime.com/xPO-Panasonic_SA_XR25

As far as speakers, your old speakers are probably fine. What I would do though, is pull off the grills and see how the drivers physically look. Sometimes foam surrounds were used around the outside edge of the drivers. This can rot and if you gently poke a pencil eraser at the edge and the foam crumbles or the pencil pokes through - then the foam has rotted - the speakers are then no good. But the foam can be replaced in the drivers also and you may have someone in your town that can do this for around $40 a Driver.

If the surrounds are intact and not foam - The speakers are probably fine. Sometimes one is foam and the others are not.

I hope I have explained myself completely. Feel free to ask more questions.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 05:24 AM   #4
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

If you need speaker too, is it worth getting all those little surround sound speakers? How do you figure out where to put them? How do you deal with all the wires? We currently use a boom box for music and radio but would like better sound for both music and tv.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 05:38 AM   #5
 
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

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If you need speaker too, is it worth getting all those little surround sound speakers? *How do you figure out where to put them? *How do you deal with all the wires? *We currently use a boom box for music and radio but would like better sound for both music and tv.
Not in my opinion. With surround sound there is an immediate Oh Wow effect! - But to my ears after a while it is a bit annoying. Like the reverberation stuff they used to do on 1960's AM radio Broadcasts.

I still believe in a decent 2 channel set-up. Stereo Receiver and 2 speakers. - Less wires also. With surround sound the wires are usually run inside the walls and speakers mounted there also. Popular for movies, BIMHO not for Music listening.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 06:02 AM   #6
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

I recommend Ascend Acoustics; what I use (www.ascendacoustics.com). If you just want two speakers, get a pair of CBM-170s. These are audiophile speakers, for a budget minded price.

I have the full 5.1 setup though, with a HSU sub, and my wife and I really enjoy the theatre like experience in our home.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 11:58 AM   #7
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

I've found the same thing with surround sound. A lot of people start out liking it, and later decide that 3 remotes and a bunch of wires and boxes laying around isnt worth the trouble. Hence I usually suggest that new buyers dont overspend. If you have a room to dedicate to it, its a lot more fungible. If you just want tv sound out to your stereo and no surround sound funny business thats easy. Check the back of your tv for "variable audio out" L/R connections. Plugged into any audio in on a receiver, these will let you hear the tv sound and control the volume with your regular tv remote.

The good news though is, as mentioned, even pedestrian stuff sounds pretty darn good these days. In the old days I remember wading through THD figures and all sorts of stats. I think almost anything from a company you've heard of will outperform not only your old rig but almost anything that was considered "pretty darn good" back when you bought your old receiver. I'd pass on the $99 plastic piece of junk with "Sony" scratched on it and sold at target, but other than that anything is probably ok. I'm also still skeptical about any speaker that fits in the palm of your hand, but if you like the way it sounds...

I've generally bought most of my speakers and other audio stuff from Cambridge Soundworks. You may live in an area where they have a store and you can peruse. Go to www.cambridgesoundworks.com and look up 'retail stores'. They have an internet outlet: www.hifi.com which has packages of speakers, also bundled with receivers and dvd players if you need them. Check out the clearance/open box areas online and instore for some pretty good deals.

Their products arent always top of the line OR cheapest, but I dont think you can go wrong with their stuff. Their PC speaker systems are excellent for the price.

The only other advice I can give is to NOT go cheap on your two main front speakers, as with current materials they'll last you 20+ years and this is where all of your music and most of your tv sound will come from. DO go cheaper on your center channel, surrounds and subwoofers if you get them. Ok, you audiophiles can quit throwing bricks at me now. Mostly dialog comes out of the center channel, mostly side and rear noise from the surround speakers, and all a subwoofer does is go "boom" and rattle your innards.

Other good places to look are your nearest costco or sams club...they sell a lot of packages that are decent sounding and reasonably priced.

You can also go here http://www.fatwallet.com/c/18/ and search for "receiver" and "speaker" for a wide variety of sometimes very good deals, along with color commentary on the product offerings. A quick check there turned up this one:
http://shop3.outpost.com/product/407...H:MAIN_RSLT_PG
which was considered pretty good by most people who bought it. Probably a step up from your old setup for $77 plus shipping.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 01:38 PM   #8
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

Same sentiments here about surround sound. Cool at first, but not worth maintaining. (Then again, my old Dolby Pro Logic rig required an external amp for the center channel and really needed an amp for the rear channel to be decent.)

I have a question to throw in. Many movies these days have overbearingly loud soundtracks with low dialog. I've found with many of them if I turn on surround sound and turn up the center channel (a boombox at the moment) I can hear the dialog without being blown away by mood music. The question is does anyone know of other ways to compensate, preferably with only 2 speakers?
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 01:40 PM   #9
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

I've noticed that as well and it really ticks me off.

Some DVD players have a capability called "dialogue enhancer" that lets you turn up the "center/dialogue" channel...even on a two speaker setup. As a punting strategy, get a half decent $50 speaker and hook it to the center channel output, put it on top of the tv, and crank it up.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 03:07 PM   #10
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

Thanks for the help. This is exactly what I was looking for. I have a couple more questions: Years ago a guy told me to use heavy lamp cord instead of speaker wire, especially for long runs. He said speaker wire is really flimsy, and heavier wire = better sound. Is that true? I tried it, and it seemed better to me, but it's hard to measure. The reason I ask is that a lot of receivers now seem to have the RCA audio connectors that wouldn't allow me to use heavy lamp cord, plus, with my current speakers I just shove the bare wires into a hole with a clamp thingy (don't know what it's called). So....
--Is heavy lamp cord really better, or is that bunk?
--If I get a receiver with RCA jacks, can I just cut off one end of the RCA audio cable, strip the wires, and shove it into my current speakers? Or is there a way for a novice DIYer to put an RCA jack on one end of the lamp cord I have?
--Cut-Throat, I looked at the speakers, but I'm not 100% sure what to look for. Along the outside diameter of the woofer it does appear to be styrofoam because it is spongy (and very firm). But it springs right back when I press on it and seems OK. Can you tell anything from this picture?

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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-04-2004, 03:49 PM   #11
 
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

For years I had an older hi(ish)-end audio rig. I sold it cheap when I ERed and moved.

Last year I bought an all-in-one Korean made receiver, 6 DVD changer , surround sound system w/ sub-woofer. I think the costs was around $275. For the price, it sounds and works great.

I agree that the surround sound isn't worth the extra complexity.

The only problem we have is that sometimes DVD playback fails (freezes) intermittently. This usually occurs towards the 1/2 half of a movie.

The system has a terrific feature called 'dynamic range compression'. This essentially normalizes the sound so that there isn't big difference between loud and soft parts.

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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-05-2004, 01:00 PM   #12
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

Thanks Cut-Throat! I'm trying to find that receiver new. So far they're all refurbished, but I'm continuing to search. I'll find one somewhere.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-05-2004, 01:05 PM   #13
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

I buy electronics refurbed all the time. Generally they're returned items or had one small problem. Most factory refurbs I've bought were probably better evaluated and tested than they were when new, as a tech usually goes over it rather than just running off an assembly line.

I've bought all sorts of consumer electronics, and I've bought vacuum cleaners 100% refurbed. I cant remember any refurb ever failing within a reasonable service life.

Good way to save 1/3-1/2 on your purchases.

Some of my best deals come from the local sams club, who has set up a "clearance" shelf in the back corner of the store. Anything returned but in "good open box" condition, "last one" iitems, or anything going out of season ends up on the shelf where its marked down progressively every couple of days.

Most refurbs and all these sams club clearance items carry the full manufacturers warranty.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-05-2004, 01:07 PM   #14
 
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

Bob,

I agree with TH on the refurbs. I use a Refurb Computer. If the product comes with a guarantee, the refurb should be no problem. Will save you a few bucks too.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-05-2004, 01:09 PM   #15
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

You guys convinced me - the order is going in.
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-05-2004, 01:30 PM   #16
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

Haaahaaaaa! We fooled him Cut-Throat!

Our stock in Amalgamated Refurbishing and Institutional Bad Stereo Receivers is going to shoot to the moon!!!!

We're RICH! RICH I tell you!!!

Baaahaaaaaahahahaahahaha!
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Most of our electronic equipment...
Old 11-05-2004, 11:19 PM   #17
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Most of our electronic equipment...

... has been "refurbished" at pawnshops & garage sales.

Seriously. If you haven't checked a half-dozen pawnshops in your area for the receiver you're seeking, give them a call. You may be pleasantly surprised and you'll certainly be happy with the price.
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Re: Most of our electronic equipment...
Old 11-06-2004, 10:45 AM   #18
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Re: Most of our electronic equipment...

Quote:
... has been "refurbished" at pawnshops & garage sales.

Seriously. *If you haven't checked a half-dozen pawnshops in your area for the receiver you're seeking, give them a call. *You may be pleasantly surprised and you'll certainly be happy with the price.
Hey Nords, I haven't been to the big city for a few weeks, but I have a visit to the pawn shop on my to-do list. I have never stepped foot into one. Should be interesting.
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Pawn-shop procurement list:
Old 11-06-2004, 10:43 PM   #19
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Pawn-shop procurement list:

DVD players & VCRs
Stereos & boom boxes
TVs (of varying quality)
All kinds of gaming peripherals, especially PlayStation:
entire machines, extra memory, extra joysticks
Power tools (especially contractor-grade!)
Tool sets
Videos & DVDs
Jewelry
Gold coins (if you know what you're looking for)
Golf clubs & other sporting equipment
Musical instruments

It's kinda like a grown-up GoodWill gimmefest...
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo
Old 11-07-2004, 01:41 AM   #20
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Re: Need Help Buying Stereo

This has been an interesting thread. I too have a 20+ year old receiver, a Kenwood, that I still use with a couple of large speakers. I was thinking of "upgrading" to the surround sound with the bookshelf speakers (easier to place) and a new receiver. My receiver works well enough, but channel search is SO slow, you wouldn't believe it. Must be run by a commodore 64...
Anyway, you guys pretty much talked me out of the whole rig. I'll check my speakers as suggested and forget about surround sound.
Pawn shops are interesting as well. I've never been in one, but my friend has started getting some stuff from them. I'll have to go with him soon....

Great thread, and as usual, reasonable and economically viable advice, just like I need !

Regards,
-Pan-
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