Home Theater Experiences

I have recently moved into a condo. In the house I used to live in, I generally listened to the tv through the tv speakers (Sony Bravia). I listened to music through my “stereo” (klipsch bookshelf speakers, Polk subwoofer, old Yamaha stereo receiver). Sometimes I would simply hook up the tv so the sound came through the stereo. I always intended to set up a “home theater”, just never got around to it. So now I want to do it.
My priorities are this;
[li]Ease of use.[/li][li]Expense.[/li][li]Ease of use.[/li][li]Sound Quality.[/li][/ol]

My plan is this;
[li]Get a new receiver (something on the low end, about $300).[/li][li]Get a center speaker.[/li][li]Using the Klipsch speakers & Polk subwoofer, set up a 3.1 system (rear speakers would be a huge pain to wire).[/li][/ul]

My questions;
What features are necessary to make this easy to use? What feature do you wish you had? What feature did you get by accident that now gives you a boner? (a figurative boner, I am not interested in the fleshlight you have hooked up to your system).
I have Apple TV, so technically, I don’t think I need an “internet ready” receiver. However, would such a receiver make things simpler?

When I upgraded my system, part of it was to include HDMI. One of the nice things about HDMI is that it carries audio and video. What I didn’t know is how tightly it integrates the systems it connects. It’s nice that when I turn on my blu-ray player, my receiver automatically switches over to that input. I like that when I turn off my TV everything attached to my receiver shuts down as well. I typically* don’t turn off my TV until I’m ready for bed, now I don’t have to hunt around for three remotes. One power button…everything is off (there’s various settings to control what happens when).

*Typically. The only time it’s annoying is when I’m trying to listen to music. Then I have to turn the TV off and then turn the receiver back on.

If you’re happy with what the Apple TV provides, then you don’t need an internet-ready receiver.

My suggestion for making things easy is to make sure you can hook up all (or most) of your components via HDMI. Then you only have to deal with a single cable for wiring audio and video to each component. Do NOT buy the crazy-expensive MonsterWTF HDMI cables, though.

One tip to look for: see if your TV supports HDMI ARC (audio return channel.) This will allow a single HDMI cable to carry A/V to your TV as well as audio from your TV, allowing you to pipe over-the-air signals (or builtin Netflix or whatever) from you TV to the stereo. Your receiver needs to support ARC on one of its HDMI inputs for this to work.

For ease-of-use, you might also want to see if your receiver supports HDMI CEC (consumer electronics control.) This lets you do yet another thing over HDMI: it gives you some control of components from another. For example, I have my TV configured to turn on my receiver via CEC (which turns on my subwoofer and other stuff) when I power-on the TV.

I used to have an old Onkyo receiver that had a “late night” mode. It was awesome. You could flip it on and then crank up the volume so you could hear dialogue but some frequencies would be modulated so it wouldn’t disturb the neighbors.

I upgraded to a Yamaha receiver, but its “adaptive DRC” is nowhere near as good. In fact, I can’t even tell if it’s doing anything. I can’t watch movies like the Avengers anymore because there are too many sudden explosions and shit for me to adjust the volume up and down manually. So I’ll have the volume at a comfortable level for the quiet parts and then some asshole in a rubber suit will burst through the ceiling and the speakers blow out my apartment’s windows.

To take that one step further. About a week before you pull the trigger on all the equipment, think about all the HDMI cables you’re going to need and head over to Monoprice.com and buy them there. Then, since they’re going to be like 10% of the price you’d pay at Best Buy, even after shipping, it’s worth it to pick up like 1 or 2 extras and maybe even a 10 or 15 foot microHDMI->HDMI in case you’d have want to send video from your phone.

You’ll be able to do all that for what it would cost to get one cable at Best Buy.

A friend of mine included a computer in his setup. It didn’t seem like a good idea to me at first, because how much would you really use that? Once I saw it though, it was a pretty handy (and centralized) way to play media that isn’t easily available otherwise (videos and MP3s come to mind). Add a wireless keyboard/touchpad, and you have a fully capable internet browser and even some games if you want.

It wouldn’t have to cost much either, since you wouldn’t really be doing any heavy lifting with it. A few hundred bucks tops I would think.

If you want true 5.1 sound, I’ve got one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Rocketfish-Universal-Wireless-Speaker-RF-WHTIB/dp/B000VEP3XO and it works pretty well. You just have to have a high enough end receiver that you can setup the delays right so the rear speakers aren’t sending out sound way too late. My Yamaha receiver with the YPAO microphone set it all up perfectly for me automatically, and was a $300 ish receiver.

I just got a new Onkyo 7.2 receiver and switched everything over to HDMI so I can take advantage of all of the HD codecs and eliminated several component and composite cables. My favorite part of my theater is the Optoma projector though.

Question about a subwoofer in a condo: don’t the downstairs neighbors hear the bass as well as you? And wouldn’t that piss off the neighbors?

I’m looking to do something similar to the OP in my apartment, so I’ll follow along to this discussion.

Depends on the building, of course. The place I live in now is a giant old building (1930s vintage) and everything is brick and concrete. You could parade a marching band through my apartment at 3am and nobody would be the wiser.

Last place I lived was apparently constructed out of cardboard and spaghetti, and the lady downstairs would bang on my ceiling every time a mouse farted.

I’ve been unhappy with HDMI ARC. Specifically, part of the HDMI standard is that the display component (the TV in this case) tells the source component what kind of audio it can handle. My TV (a 2011 Panasonic plasma) tells components it can handle 2 channel audio only, so that’s what gets sent via ARC to the 5.1 capable home theater receiver. Spent hours trying to fix this - no setting on any component would sucessfully get 5.1 from the source to the TV to the receiver over ARC. I finally had to bite the bullet and run separate digital audio cables from each component back to the receiver.

I had that issue on my setup (certain components only - Xbox 360 I am looking at you). Disabling all audio to the TV on the receiver fixed in on my yamaha. That is to say, one option was to send audio signal to TV + use receiver, and one was receiver only, and the receiver only fixed the issue. Xbox 360 HDMI is still screwed up though- if I don’t power everything on in gods perfect sequence then the Xbox 360 will send only in stereo.

Yeah, that would have worked for me as well, but it meant you could only get audio through the receiver, and I didn’t want to have to turn everything on just to watch Jeopardy.