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  1. #1

    Sounds system for Main Room - What to look for

    So, for a while i've had this sound system for my living room, and I thought it was amazing when i 1st got it. It has 5 speakers, which i hooked up as you would expect around my living room for (What i thought) was surround sound.

    It wasn't until i got this soundbar with rear sub/speaks for my bedroom that I found out it was all a lie! I now have a better idea of what I've been missing all these years, to the point i almost enjoy watching movies in my bedroom over my living room.

    So the real question, what should i look for? What is the specs i should look for for the best possible sound in my living room? What is expected to last for 5+ years? I keep seeing DTS Virtual and Dolby Atmos. I don't know what these means, or which one should i focus on?

    It's hard to look up reviews and stuff now a days, as everything is pretty much an ad that is setup to look like an article, so i come to BG to see if you guys have any tips on what i should look for, what isn't worth it, etc.

  2. #2

    Disclaimer: I set up my 5.1 system about 10 years ago, and haven't used it in the past 4 years because we're in a new house with an unfinished basement, and my wife doesn't want speakers all around the living room. So my speakers and knowledge are a little out-dated. But I'm getting ready to finish my basement, so I'm starting to look into it all again.

    For real-world reviews, check out AVS Forum. You'll get discussion ranging from the low-end entry level stuff, up to the audiophiles that need perfection.

    With your traditional 5.1 setup, you have 5 speakers (center, left/right, and 2 rears) and a subwoofer. Dolby Atmos, as I understand it, is intended to add ceiling speakers to give you sound everywhere (like realistic sounding rainfall for example). DTS Virtual I just looked up now, and it seems to be more about the software than the hardware. It bounces sound off the walls/ceiling to make it sound like there are more speakers than there are. This is how soundbars claim to give surround sound, by bouncing the sound to make it seems like there are more speakers. To do Atmos or DTS Virtual, you're going to need an A/V receiver that is rated for those. You'll need a receiver anyway to do surround sound, but how far it can go will depend on the receiver.

    As far as brand quality, again this is 10 year old knowledge. I have a Denon receiver and I've loved it. They've always been a strong competitor. Yamaha has typically been cheaper, but I think they get decent reviews. If those trends hold true today, I'd say to go at least Yamaha for entry level, or go Denon or Onkyo for mid level. I can't speak much to higher end equipment since I went with Denon.
    For speakers, I have JBLs and they've also been great. Two floor standing speakers, a center channel, and two bookshelf speakers for the rear (and an awesome Epik brand dual-18" subwoofer, until its board burned out and the company is out of business so I haven't gotten it repaired). Polk Audio is also a big trusted name. I felt like they were a little pricier though and something like JBL can give comparable quality for cheaper. Those are the only two brands I'm familiar with, and there are a ton out there. So again, for myself, I'd just steer towards that mid-range with well known brands.

    For my upcoming plans, I have a couple projects in mind.
    My living room on the main floor is where my wife doesn't want my current system set up, so we're using a soundbar. It's much better than the TV speakers, but still lacking. I'm thinking, due to the space, I want to go with ceiling speakers here. Since I'm planning a theater room in the basement, I don't need to go too high-end here. I'm thinking of starting pretty low actually, and I can always upgrade easily in the future once I have the cables run. Monoprice has some very affordable ceiling speakers that actually get decent reviews. I'm looking at their "Alpha" series because it has a traditional rectangular style center channel, angled towards the listener. Then I'd just get the round ones for the corners. Roughly $300 to try it all out (not counting the receiver I already have, and a subwoofer) seems worth it.

    With my basement being unfinished, this is where I'll really build out a good system. I haven't dug into it too much yet since I'm just in the planning phase, but I'll likely go with an Atmos setup. I can use my existing 5.1 system and add a couple ceiling speakers into the mix. Or I may go with all new in-wall speakers to save space, plus a couple ceiling speakers.

    That probably doesn't provide a lot of answers as far as what specs you want, but you'll definitely be able to get that from AVS Forum. My own recommendation in general would just be to steer away from boxed surround systems, where the receiver and speakers all come in a package. Assuming that's what you have, it's always going to be like you described, great until you hear a real system. Buy a good standalone receiver that can handle DTS / Dolby / whatever technology you're looking for, then buy the speakers separately. Get decent sized speakers, not the tiny ones that you'd find in a box set. And for a good sub, I'll always stick with at least 12". Once you have all that, it's all in the configuration on your receiver. Things like setting your low frequency crossover so that all the lows go to your sub, so that your other speakers can focus on mids. And setting the volume for each speaker so that they maintain an even level at your listening position (some receivers come with a microphone that you put in your listening position during setup and the receiver auto-adjusts itself).

    Hopefully everything I typed here is still valid today. The technologies may have advanced a bit, but I expect the basics to hold true.

  3. #3

    Thanks for the info, i will check the AV fourms as well.

  4. #4
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    Yabby, if you want, I can ask for details from my dad on his set up. He had a custom sound system done in his house, has speakers in the ceiling, and I know it's going through some form of receiver, and it sounds great. He also went fancy and has them also connected to his Echo, so he can switch between TV and streaming music on his sound system. I know he dropped a pretty penny on it though, may possibly be overkill for what you're wanting.

  5. #5

    That would be great, just letting me know what system he got (Brand/model). Money really isn't a big issue, so long as it doesn't creep on the 5k mark. I guess what receiver he got would be the most important part based on what I'm learning from other forums.

  6. #6

    There are a few questions you should definitely ask yourself which may or may not save you money in the long run also

    What are you going to used the system for? what are your sources of audio?

    Are you looking to future proof and does your tv have e-arc?

    Are you looking to use the system for gaming?

    Size of the room?
    enough freedom for separates and to run wires?

    I will def look towards atmos and upward. Its like going from 1080p to 4k HDR for your ears.

    Atmos set ups that use upward firing speakers work very well but needs specific room dimensions to work well.

    There are a few 7.1.4 soundbars that have rear speakers from samsung and lg that save space and is easy peasy to set up and sound amazing in the right conditions.

    Ofc if you have the money and can wire then separates are always better.

    New consoles coming soon with higher refresh rates and at the moment there is no pass through options for these and VRR. Are HDMI 2.1 receivers available yet? I am not sure

    Compatibility issues needs a good looking at.

  7. #7

    Quote Originally Posted by Takiwaki View Post

    What are you going to used the system for? what are your sources of audio?
    Movies and Video Games. Playing FF7R is what really made me take notice of the issue. I started playing the game in my bedroom and was enjoying how the sound moved around me, then i moved to the living room and noticed the issue.

    Currently, the TV is doing Optical Out for my sound, I do have e-arc but I'm not using it because of my receiver/blu-ray player. When I change sources on the TV, the sound system lowers the volume every time, which is super annoying, so I changed it back to Optical.

    Quote Originally Posted by Takiwaki View Post
    Are you looking to future proof and does your tv have e-arc?
    I do have e-arc, and I'm hoping the system I get will last 5+ years. I tend to upgrade to the latest/greatest for long periods of time. I'm not a fan of having to upgrade every 2 years. I know i will miss out of certain things has tech moves forward, but I'm ok with that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Takiwaki View Post
    Size of the room?
    enough freedom for separates and to run wires?

    Atmos set ups that use upward firing speakers work very well but needs specific room dimensions to work well.
    The living room is about 600 square feet, maybe a little bigger. With the current system, I have already run wired rear speakers that I have mounted on the wall, which point to the center of the room. I'm hoping to not have to re-run the wire, but it isn't a big deal if i need to.

    As for Atmos, I really got excited when i read how it works, but sadly i think my living room might not be right for it. I have cathedral ceiling, so I'm not sure how well it is going to work with bouncing sound around.

  8. #8

    U can mount speakers to the ceiling for atmos

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    Yabby, according to my dad he has everything going through a Denon receiver. He said his was on the cheaper end, so not their lowest end models, probably around middle of the road. Asking if he remembers how much he paid for it. He also needs to look up the speakers as they are ceiling mounted, so the name isn't visible but they were about 300 dollars a speaker.

    He just got back to me and said it was about 600 for his receiver. So I think for everything it was around the 3k mark for his.

  10. #10

    Holy shit, i'm looking at some of their high end stuff, fucking A that is expensive, but based on what I'm seeing they are way more than just an audio receiver. Thanks for the info, this looks like the path I might be taking.

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    Yeah, Denon is usually considered one of the more higher end companies. I remember when I worked at Fry's, and that was pretty much our top of the line, and the stuff we sold, was considered the low end Denon line at most AV specialist stores. I actually have hearing issues in my left ear, so super high end stuff is a waste of mine, but my dad's setup is something I really like and when I get my own house eventually, the kind of setup i'd like to do since it sounds clean and crisp, can tie into smart devices like echo's, and extremely inconspicuous. If you were to walk into his living room, you'd think there is no speakers at all.

  12. #12
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    I live in apartment so I have to keep noise moderately low during the evening hours. In 5 years of living there, I've only had the neighbors knock twice? for it being too loud. I sometimes don't realize how loud it can actually get. I wish I was in a house so I could get a truly bombastic setup. Just for reference, what I'm running. Aside from your receiver being Denon I'm not really recommending anything. Just whatever you do (as I'm sure you know), don't buy Bose. It's crap. Anyone who insists their Bose singular speaker or even surround sound can outdo a conventional setup is an idiot.

    I have Polk Blackstone TL3 speakers: https://www.polkaudio.com/en-us/home...tone-tl-series

    It's full surround sound with satellite speakers. They're sleek, not in the way and blend in. The aesthetic is secondary, but if you're paying decent money for something, you want it to look nice.

    For a receiver I have a Denon AVR-X1200W. It's WAY more than I need for the apartment, but a good receiver will make all the difference in the world. This one is a few years old now, but it has everything modern it. Atmos, HDMI 2.1 etc. If you buy a good receiver now, chances are you'll probably never have to buy one again. I've had 3 through the years, and mostly just upgraded for convenience sake.

    Pioneer is (or was when I got mine about 15 years ago) lauded as a pretty good brand also.

    If you do go the wired route, just do your best to hide wires. I run mine under the rugs.My guests would never know that they're there, but I always see the outline of them. Better than the wires going everywhere.

    There's a lot to it, but most equipment I've tested, if I wasn't satisfied, I was able to return. Never be afraid to compare a couple. It's not a small purchase, so you want to make sure you're happy with your money spent.

    Good luck!

  13. #13

    Ok, i think i have an idea of what I'm going to get.

    Reciver: Donon from Costco https://www.costco.com/denon-avr-s75...100505535.html

    All speakers I think i'm going with Polk:

    Center: https://www.polkaudio.com/en-us/cent...l-speakers/s35

    Front L/R: https://www.polkaudio.com/en-us/floo...ing-towers/s55

    Back L/R: Mounted to the walls: https://www.polkaudio.com/en-us/bookshelf-speakers/s15

    Ceiling L/R: https://www.amazon.com/Polk-Audio-Ce...5615199&sr=8-3

    I have to go with Ceiling speakers mainly because of this style of my living room won't allow those Atom speakers that bounce sound.

  14. #14

    Just an update on my {cheap} system. I bought the Monoprice Alpha Dual 5.25in for my center channel, and four Alpha 8in Angled for my fronts and rears, and their 10" slim subwoofer to fit behind my couch. All of that using my 10 year old Denon AVR-3808CI receiver. Then I spent the past two evenings in my attic running all the speaker wire to where I wanted it. Doing this in the summer was a bad choice...


    I would say that the monoprice speakers are a "you get what you pay for" kind of deal. Not great, but not horrible (and I'm still hoping for some improvement after the break-in period). They're a definite upgrade over just TV speakers, or over the soundbar I was using. Totally worth it for what it is, a living room that won't always be the main viewing area when I finish my theater room. But that won't be for another year or so until I get the rest of my basement finished. I'm already drooling over the Atmos setup that I'm starting to plan though...

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