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vonzevon 18th April 2007 11:46 PM

Audio Newbie Questions on Virtual Surround
 
Hi.

Here's my question:

Current:

Two JBL TLX-181 Floor standing speakers with 10” woofer, 10” passive radiator, midrange and tweeter, about 9 years old

“TLX Movies” – Two surround speakers and center speaker. Matches the floor standing speakers.

Nakamichi A/V 300 Receiver, about 9 years old. 5.1 Channel.
Nakamichi 6 CD Changer, about 9 years old

Toshiba 32” CRT TV, about 9 years old.

Toshiba single disk DVD Player.

My wife doesn’t want back speakers, so currently I use the receiver for stereo CD music only and no home theater surround sound for the TV (TV speakers only).

Goals:

Add 46” LCD flat panel TV around the end of 2007, move old TV and DVD player upstairs.

Put my CDs in closet and play 24 GB of MP3 on my main system.

Have reasonable home theater on my new TV (doesn’t need to be perfect, just not laughable). I am not an audiophile, but want something that is reasonably good.

Mainly I want o watch DVDs and listen to music.

Considerations

Wife doesn’t want any speakers in the back of the room. While “ugly” (to her) she says I can keep my current speakers.

Budget: Not counting the TV or stand, about $500-800 for new audio equipment is fine.

Thoughts

I checked into all sorts of DVD players with HDD or USB Host. I read the manuals and think many would have trouble with this many MP3 files or have poor interfaces. Other devices seemed expensive or complicated. The guy at the local Audio Visions store gave me great advice: just use a laptop with Windows Media Player (which I currently use on my desktop and like a lot) with 1/8” mini to RCA, and on top of that my wife can use the laptop when I am not listening to music. (laptops go for about ~$550 now that would be fine for this considering my wife was wanting one anyway to check e-mail and forums.). I’ll just make sure the new stand is large enough for this and the TV has a PC input. I have a wireless network.

For the “front-only” surround sound, I would like some kind of virtual system (yes, I know these are not as good as a “real” surround system, but remember no back speakers are possible). I looked into:

· Pioneer “Front Stage Surround Advance (2 speakers simulate 5.1)
· Yamaha “Virtual Cinema DSP” (2 speakers simulate 5.1)
· Harmon-Kardon – Dolby Virtual Speaker (2 + optional woofer simulate 5.1)
· Onkyo – Theater Dimensional (2 or 3 speakers plus optional woofer simulate 5.1)
· DTS Virtual – 2 speakers simulate 5.1

Do any receivers take advantage of all 5 speakers in a front-only virtual set-up? (One of the cheaper Pioneer HTIBs has this feature, but I didn’t see it on their component receivers).

Onkyo e-mailed me I could try A+B for front speakers plus the center. He didn’t mention if I should do it with Theater Dimensional or not.

I thought about something like Denon S-301, but it’s out of my budget and am told component systems are better for future flexibility. If someday the format HD wars are settled I’d want HDMI 1080p possible.

If possible, I’d like the components from same brand, and a 5-disk DVD changer (the kind that rotates). I definitely need a new DVD player because the old one will go to the bedroom with the old TV. As far as the receiver, I can buy one if there is a compelling reason (Is HDMI support worth it? Or some feature that allows virtual surround sound).

Any thoughts?

-- Thanks

dangus 19th April 2007 02:06 AM

Any surround speakers would be better than nothing:
in-wall, or in-ceiling surround speakers
surrounds on the floor behind potted plants or furniture, bouncing off the walls.

The DVD players I've used to play MP3s would be great for playing music in the workshop or basement, where you want to just chuck a CDR in and have music all day, but they don't show full filenames or display ID3 tags.

An older Pentium 1 computer would have enough power to play audio, and should consume less power and need less cooling than most current CPUs. You can get industrial embedded PC CPU boards off eBay quite cheaply. Advantech is a good brand and quite common. Not many have TV-out, but if you're running HDTV it should be able to handle VGA. Or you can use a parallel-port LCD alphanumeric LCD display. MPXPLAY is a player program that runs under DOS with modest CPU requirements and has a lot of great features, although I'm not sure how convenient it would be with a very large library.

vonzevon 19th April 2007 05:52 AM

Thanks Dangus,

(I LOVE Vancouver Island! Might get a work project that'll get me out that way again.)

I'll check into in-wall options. I have zero handyman skills, but could pay the guy down the street to do it for me if not too complicated. Wife will start to object if too expensive.

Ditto for wall-mounting current speakers with wires out of sight. But I can inquire and it may solve my problem. Fortunately, we own so don't have to ask a landlord.

"The DVD players I've used to play MP3s would be great for playing music in the workshop or basement, where you want to just chuck a CDR in and have music all day, but they don't show full filenames or display ID3 tags."

With 25 GB in the library, even as mp3 thats a lot of disks... and I'd lose being able to see them all at once like Media Player 11 (for example, sometimes I'll like to hear the original version of a song, than a live version, then one or two covers by other groups).

There are some USB Host compatible DVD drives out there, but they also hit size limits (but could maybe do half the collection). User Interfaces were ugly though.

I did just do an experiment using my work laptop 1/8 mini in the headphone jack to RCA phone inputs in AUX. It sounded terrible compared to CD. The mp3 files were encoded by Windows Media Player 11 at 256 kbps and sounded exactly like the CD to me on my PC system, so I don't think the source files were the problem.

I guess the next step is to research if there is a better way to connect the PC to TV.

I could get a "iPod Ready" receiver,. but I really don't want an iPod. I don't like earbuds and really just listen to music in 1 or two places. Plus, I heard so much bad things about the battery, why have a battery to be stationary. I looked into "non-portable iPods" and there doesn't seem to be such a thing. Maybe something like Mvix? http://www.mvixusa.com/product.php?p...60&page=photos

Thanks again for your ideas!

vonzevon 21st April 2007 07:00 AM

Just to give an update, I think I resolved most of my issues, after a LOT of research.

Playing MP3 Library on A/V Receiver:

I found out some JVC and new Sony receivers come with bluetooth USB or media ports. This is what I decided on: "Logitech Wireless Music System for PC". It's a close-out item so I got it for $40 on-line. This way, I can use Media Player 11 on a PC and stream it to my A/V receiver. Post a reply here if you would like to to let you know how it works out.

Virtual Surround Sound:

I found out every company out there has A/V receivers that do Virtual Surround Sound with 2 speakers. It took forever to research this because each company has their own name, as do Dolby and DTS. The best promise was Onkyo TX-SR575, which seems to have 5 speaker up-front virtual surround sound (but literature was inconsistent). But......

WIFE RELENTED AND SAID I CAN PUT BACK SPEAKERS IN BACK! So I can have a "real" 5.1 system. Brother in law is coming over tomorrow to help string wires through the basement under the family room.


So, I think I can stick with my Nachamichi receiver. The reasons for buying a new one (no virtual mode, no USB/PC connection) seem to have been solved. Maybe someday (planning end of 2007) when I get a HD TV with HDMI I may upgrade, but that isn't compelling now. And I may be perfectly happy without HDMI.

So thanks for the suggestions!


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