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Questions, questions and more questions from a confused Newbie

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esanthosh

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Jan 22, 2010
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Coimbatore
Long post... You do need longer attention spans and lot of time to waste on this. Sorry! :)

Let me start with things I am not confused about:

  • I would have separate setup for Movies and Music.
  • I need a good music setup and only a decent movie setup.
  • There will always be better setups and upgrading would be a never ending process.
  • Each person's ear is different and auditioning combos is the best way to figure out what I'd eventually like.
  • I would like to stay within budget for the most part. I can delay gratification... for sometime at least :eek:

Movies

What I have

Practically, nothing that is even remotely hi-fi :) --> A Panasonic 29" CRT, Sanyo DVD Player, Tata Sky.

Room Size : 15' x 15' x 10' (Height) with only sofas, TV stand and a Bay window behind TV

What I like
  • I usually watch less of TV
  • I watch limited no of movies - It could be movies from Kurosawa or Bergman or the latest Korean horror movie that Hollywood would eventually kill by re-making.
  • For those movies I like, I will have the DVD. But for many others I am "trying", it would be anywhere between a decent BD-Rip to a crappy AVI / MOV / MKV.

What is my budget

I am looking to spend not more than 30-50K (excluding TV and cables, speaker stands etc.,). If advised otherwise, budget can be extended to all inclusive Rs. 80-100K - but only in small steps - AV Receiver + Fronts now, rest later.

What should I do?
  • Obviously my TV needs an upgrade.
  • I'd need to switch to a better DVD player. Or should I go for a Media player which can support a DVD? or build a HTPC?
  • Would a HTiB like Philips 3571 or a Onkyo 3200 be enough? Or should I go for a good system which can be built in phases because I'd obviously feel sorry for having spent on a "low end" system later on?

Music

What I have

  1. Mostly portable audio - Cowon S9, Sansa Clip+. A few headphones and IEMs.
  2. Have a PC with onboard sound and Altec Lansing 251 speakers. Have not cared to upgrade since I've carried my audio portably so far. A Nuforce uDAC will be added soon for Headphone use.
  3. I have CDs of music I often like to listen to. For others, I mostly have FLACs. When it's MP3, it would be 70% in 320kbps. The rest would vary - a few old ones are in 128kbps, some are VBR, some are 192kbps - 256kbps. But let's say - all the music I'd repeatedly listen to is either in CDs / FLAC / 320 kbps.
  4. I got old Cassettes, some of which contain "rare" singles (ok not so rare, but the one hit wonders).
  5. We got older LPs in our house ranging from Carnatic to old Bollywood/Kollywood movies.

Room Size: 16' x 11' x 10' with PC, cupboards and lots of congestion :)

What I like

  • I am not an audiophile. I can describe music in mono-syllables like Good, Bad, OK, Hmmm... but not too much in terms of whether there was a mid-bass hump or a recessed mid.
  • I listen to stuff like Opeth or Tool. Of late, I've turned my attention to Western Classical music. This is say, 60-80% of my listening time
  • I do not listen to Pop / Electronica / Hip-hop etc., But, I do listen to Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Nine Inch Nails, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Sepultura, Alice In Chains or rarely a few minutes of Meshuggah etc., For Nostalgic purposes, those Bon Jovi / Aerosmith songs could be played once in a blue moon.
  • I am mostly an albums guy. I usually listen to an album from start to finish [or] trimmed versions with a one or two songs cut out.
  • I like hearing out smaller details hidden among layers of music.
  • Based on headphone and IEM experience, I'd say I prefer clarity, sound stage, instrument separation.
  • I do not like boomy bass.
  • I usually listen at lower to normal volumes, but if I turn up the volume, I'd hate to be shrilled out.
  • I do not know if too much of an analytical setup would bore me especially since I am not a professional, just a pure listener.
  • Let's say my theoretical setup would be one in which I close my eyes and "figure out" the stage where the orchestra / band is playing. I mean - where each instrument section (or band member) is placed; the ability to concentrate on each instrument if I choose to. But then, it requires a solid source, a great recording which is as close to original as possible and something which reproduces music faithfully. The journey towards it - could however be in a series of measured upgrades through my life. I am only looking for a decent beginner's set-up which can give 25% of that.

What is my budget?

My budget is about Rs. 50-75K for Amp and Speakers. If I could get a source within that, it'd be nicer, but not necessary. I can stretch this especially if I spend lesser for Movie 5.1 setup. I am open to used route too.

What should I do?

  • Should I build a Music HTPC? If yes, what should be my configuration (Budget Rs. 50K + 10-15%)?
  • Would I be better off with a dedicated CD player?
  • I would need a Cassette deck shortly after finalizing the setup. Turn Table is not a must for now.

Warning: I have never done anything besides "installing" a DVD drives, a RAM, and Graphics Card. So, if I were to build my own PC from scratch, it would be an adventure filled with mistakes, misgivings and lot of learnings.

MusiPC - Options and Questions:

  • Since it would not be used for anything other than music, I guess a good Mobo and Processor, 2GB RAM, 1 TB HDD should be enough.
  • A nice looking cabinet with Remote control would be needed.
  • Silence is golden for the PC. No or negligible noise!
  • Sound card - Asus Xonar Essence STX or Emu-1616m? or go for a DAC like DacMagic?
  • What kind of PSU should I look for? 400W / 450W or higher?
  • What should I do to ensure that noise levels are down?
  • Since I probably need a display to select songs, should I go for one of those 7" USB Monitors (even a cheaper Chinese one?).
 

svenkateshsmart

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Hi,

Let me skip the music part and go about the Movie part, as you mentioned you wanted a decent system.

1. Decent AVR = Denon 1610 (around 25K????) or Denon 1910, around 38-40K with bill and warranty.
2. Brands like Wharfedale, Jamo, depending on your taste.
3. WD TV live or Xtreamer.

The above should take care of most of your needs. An HTPC would be of course a one-stop solution for everything, but then you may need to extend your budget a bit.

Yes, you would of course repent later if you settle down for a small HTIB packages, so I would recommend you adding speakers on an incremental basis.

Regarding DVD player or HD media player, you should have a HTPC or some other source to play your DVDs if you want to completely exclude a DVD player from your setup.

Regarding TVs, there are really good ones around and again you need to choose between Plasmas, LCDs, LEDs (above budget). Also, whether you want to go for a full HD or HD-ready. A few VFM TVs are PV8, LG - 32LH60YR, LG - 32LH60YR.

So, I would recommend you to go on an incremental basis, but if you are stubborn that you will not change your current preference towards movies later:eek:hyeah:, then I would suggest that you settle down with a good HTIB.

Cheers,
 
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srikarkav

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Hi,

Since you are in Coimbatore you should take a look at Audire systems for your music needs.They enjoy a high reputation.There is a review by venkatcr here in the forum too if you search around. If you are looking to get a stereo system and a HT at the same time, compromise on components is inevitable.So go easy and get one at a time.You won't regret later.

cheers,
sri
 
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esanthosh

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Location
Coimbatore
Regarding TVs, there are really good ones around and again you need to choose between Plasmas, LCDs, LEDs (above budget). Also, whether you want to go for a full HD or HD-ready. A few VFM TVs are PV8, LG - 32LH60YR, LG - 32LH60YR.

So, I would recommend you to go on an incremental basis, but if you are stubborn that you will not change your current preference towards movies later:eek:hyeah:, then I would suggest that you settle down with a good HTIB.

Cheers,

I'm a lazy person as far as upgrades go (VCR -> DVD skipping VCDs ;)). I think moving from CRT to FullHD would be fine :)

Thanks for the suggestion about Amps and Speakers to get me started. I'd audition both HTiBs as well as Denon / Marantz with Wharfedales etc., to decide which would suit me better.

Regarding taste in movies, nothing is ever fixed in stone. But, for the past couple of years, I have preferred to take a break from regular stuff and watch something a bit more interesting, that's all :)

Since you are in Coimbatore you should take a look at Audire systems for your music needs.They enjoy a high reputation

Thanks for pointing out. Will pay them a visit.

If you are looking to get a stereo system and a HT at the same time, compromise on components is inevitable.So go easy and get one at a time.You won't regret later.

cheers,
sri

Good point to ponder. Instead of two decent to good systems, it does not make sense to end up with two poor ones. So, let me go slow on one of them :)
 
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argho

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Chennai
Your budgets are quite decent.

My suggestions :

Movies :
---------
From what you have described about movies, a HTiB like the Onkyo 3200 should be enough.

Else, you could look at :
- Denon 1610 AVR ~ Rs 25 K
- An inexpensive 5.1 speaker package (eg Polk RM6750) ~ Rs 25 K

Alternatively, as you have mentioned that you are willing to start with just fronts, you can mate the Denon 1610 with excellent Bookshelves for fronts (Wharfedale / Polk RTiA1) for ~ Rs 15 K. If you go down this route, you will soon need to add a sub, and you should budget Rs 20-25 K for that.

Music
----------
Instead of a HTPC, I would suggest that you look at the WD TV.
- It is not expensive ~ Rs 7 K
- It has optical and HDMI out
- It plays a very wide range of audio formats
- You can connect any USB drive to it

You can rip all your CDs to flac and store them on a drive connected to the WD TV.
 
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srikarkav

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Hi santhosh,

I endorse argho's WD TV plan too. I got it recently and i am enjoying this smart little player no end. You don't even have to stir out of your chair, man! All you have to do is to push some buttons on your remote and you can go from movie to movie,movie to music,music to your photo albums.Cause all are in you hard disk.Makes you a couch potato for real.:lol: Should be alright as long as you do some sort of exercise in the mornings right?

cheers,
sri
 
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esanthosh

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Makes you a couch potato for real.:lol: Should be alright as long as you do some sort of exercise in the mornings right?

Exercise? What are those? :D

Well! I was just checking a bit on Audire. While they seem to make good systems, they may not be good for my wallet :)

Here's my newbie doubt - I was considering the WD / Xtreamer for movie system. But, would an all-round player beat a dedicated HTPC with a good sound card in terms of music?
 
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argho

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Here's my newbie doubt - I was considering the WD / Xtreamer for movie system. But, would an all-round player beat a dedicated HTPC with a good sound card in terms of music?

I think it depends on the quality of the DAC used.
If you were to use the optical / hdmi output from the WD player, and use either a dedicated DAC, or the DAC in a AVR, my guess is that it would beat a HTPC sound card.
 
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moktan

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i would suggest that you get in touch with mr. sandeep nair of audire and inquire about the callistoes (bookshelves or FLs)...
you could then pair it with an amp (Toping Tripath 2020) that psychotropic has been waxing eloquent about here...http://www.hifivision.com/amplifier...ripath-2020-amplifier-versus-nad-c320bee.html...

the speakers i have mentioned are very sensitive and while it doesn't have earth shaking bass (which you don't have much need for anyway) it has pretty much everything that you may need to enjoy the kind of music that you listen to...
should fit nicely into your budget too...
 
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esanthosh

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My ears are trained to CRT TV sounds + PC Speakers. So, my N00b-ish impressions may be far off the mark :indifferent14:

Auditioned some AVR + Speakers:

  1. Denon 1910 + Polk - TSI300 Fronts, TSI100 Rears, CS10 Center, PSW125 Sub
  2. Yamaha Amp (?) + Paradigm SE Speakers
  3. Marantz 3053 + MA Radius 45
  4. Yamaha + Klipsch
  5. Yamaha + Onkyo
  6. Marantz 5001 ? + MS (5XX?)

The last 3 were auditioned at homes with the HT setups at least 3 years old. I made a mistake - I should have been observing how they pare with Movies, not with music. But then 5.1 mixes of Opeth corrupted me :rolleyes: For casual listening of music, Marantz + MS was decent. Still, I have not heard anything close to "my" sound signature yet.

For movies, I did not observe too closely. But Paradigm failed to impress (again setup issues?), Marantz + MA was decent, Polk's sub was too boomy (Fast and Furious demo, I ran out the same way soon after), With MZ + MS, I was able to sit through the same F & F demo, though some "punch" may be lacking for some. May be I just like the Marantz sound.

I am about to audition - Wharf 10.X. If it works out, well then ... :licklips:

For music, I auditioned at two places:

  1. Pioneer DVDP + Marantz PM8003 + MA RX-6
  2. "Temperamental" Marantz CDP + so-so Passlabs Amp + Audire IO2
  3. Same as [2] + Audire EM2.5
  4. SACD + Pre-Amp + Under construction Audire Seraphim at low volume

MZ + MA was the first time I listened to something "musical". It may be just the DVDP, but there was something "lacking".

IO2 was much more musical to my ears. After rattling their ear drums with my Prog CDs, the same setup was connected to EM2.5. EM2.5 was still better. And then, as promised Sandeep showed me their higher end model just to give an "idea".

Finally, I was listening to something close to "my" signature. After it handled both the acoustic and the heavy passages of Opeth very well with good resolution, details, separation, bass - all at low volumes, I thought I found "my" speaker. I slowly turned around to pop the question, having no idea about the price (or the model name). Well! it turned out to be a million rupees. Between maintaining decency, arranging a gang of 20 to steal the speakers and asking for 90% discount, I chose the first ;)

I realize that the demands I place would not be met until I stretch the budgets. I'd still end with decent systems, not the "best" till I continue upgrading every component in the line... for years to come :rolleyes:

I am thinking of setting up both HT and Music systems slow....ly over a period of time, one at a time so that I do not have to deal with goons chasing me around for interest.

HT:

  • Bought XTreamer, will shortly get an External HDD
  • A good 42" LCD TV
  • Marantz SR6004 AVR
  • Wharfedale - 10.6, 10CS, 10DFS, SW150 if I like them ... or more auditions with the Amp.

Music:

  • Audire Callisto / IO2 / Usher S520 or better
  • Topping TP20 / Audire / NAD / Lyrita?
  • Improve PC as a source or get a CDP
  • Cassette Deck (+) much later... TT
 
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iaudio

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Esantosh, I beleive we have similar preferences and priorities!

For the music setup, I think you should go for the topping tp20 with sensitive bookshelves/floorstanders.
For source, a cdp would be a no compromise guaranteed method. A music PC would be great, but there are so many variables one has to figure out to get it right. Its sad that your DAC does only USB, else you could have added a media player or dvdp for music duties through coaxial or optical.
For the movie set up, since its not a priority you may be able to do with HTIB( I feel I could). But just in case, do an audition and if you find it lacking, get an AVR which can handle HD audio through HDMI( no need of upscaling). I see that you have already got the xtreamer. So it would be good if you can get an AVR which does HD audio.
I would upgrade the TV later on only.
 
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esanthosh

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@iaudio

My plan is similar, only slightly different due to my constraints.

  1. Get a decent set of speakers for music - 20-50K
  2. Pair them with Topping TP20 for the time being - 5K
  3. For PC, my current config is decent for a Music only PC. The fans need to be made silent and hard disks must be changed. I only have 2 x 160GB, which may not be enough for all my Music rips anyhow. I am thinking of adding a WD Caviar Green 1 TB as second drive and re-use my current backup HDD (Seagate) for OS and programs. Yes, uDAC unfortunately has only USB In, but right now it could be used as the source to the Amp via RCA out - 6-7K
  4. I could later on add an Amp, CDP and other sources (+ a DAC?) little by little. If the speakers are invested right, every upgrade would make my ears happier until the next component in the chain is upgraded.

For HT, there are three major components as far as my setup is concerned: TV, AVR and Front FS. While I am not too bothered about a 5.1 effect now, I might be tempted and worried if I get a HTiB and wanted more. That makes two upgrades, not to mention losing some money in the re-sale. Instead, If I first upgrade the TV, it will improve the PQ and keep me interested for the next few months. I can then think of a BD player, an AVR and Fronts.

Why hurry? Feel the evolution bit-by-bit as and when wallet thickens and desperately needs some thinning. What say? :)
 
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esanthosh

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^ Actually, they will be in separate rooms. HT will be in the hall so that all can enjoy.

Music setup will be in my room, protected by barbwire fencing and guarded by hell's angels so that others do not spoil their hearing due to my music ;)
 
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venkatcr

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Music setup will be in my room, protected by barbwire fencing and guarded by hell's angels so that others do not spoil their hearing due to my music ;)

What about a couple of Doberman's and mustachioed Hariyanavi's as spelled out in the Godrej lock advertisement? That will really protect you music. :)

Cheers
 
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esanthosh

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What about a couple of Doberman's and mustachioed Hariyanavi's as spelled out in the Godrej lock advertisement? That will really protect you music. :)

Those are only for my yet unfinished CD rack. I am thinking of a "musical land mine" at the entrance of the room as additional protection. I just need to finalize the "explosion" part of it ;)
 
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