Help choosing A/V Receiver, two surround zones [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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07-17-2006, 11:38 PM
So I'm putting together a new system, and I've got a ton of questions. I've got a somewhat meager amount of money to spend on a new system, right now I'm looking to spend under 1000 bucks max. I need a new receiver, and I'm looking to have two zones of speakers, one for my PC and one for my TV.

Now, I have two JBLs I bought off ebay a long time ago, LXE990s, I know nothing of them but they sound alright, done me well. Also got a few Infinity Sterlings I've been using for surround. I'm looking to get a voicematched set of speakers for surround, maybe a sub, and maybe some rear speakers to set up a second surround zone. Because I listen to a lot of MP3s off of my computer, I would like to have good mains for at least stereo output from my computer, and have been shying away from the idea of buying one of those powered 5.1-in-a-box packages for PC, and would like to have my setups share the same sub (presuming of course I get one.)

So here are my questions. First off, for the say 200-500 range, are there any A/V receivers I absolutely must consider or steer away from? Right now the most attractive receiver in the range as far as cost vs features is the Pioneer VSX-816, but I've heard some mixed things about Pioneer and could certainly spend more money on something that was higher quality or provided two zones of surround I could switch between.

Second off, what is the best way to run these two areas of surround? Both would be used for a lot of music, CD and MP3 primarily, DVDs and console games on the TV, more games on the PC. Should I look into getting a seperate audio only receiver for my computer perhaps, or are any of these powered 5.1 in a box systems actually decent quality, good for music and won't sound tinny with a little POS 75 watt plastic sub?

And finally, what sort of speakers should I look at? I've been eyeing these Infinity Primus speakers, it would be nice to get some sort of "voicematched" system, I'm thinking of getting some of the 150s as surrounds/mains for my desktop. I've heard some good things about JBL, Klipsch and Polk Audio in my price range, I'm particularly attracted to these JBL S38s, but they are probably outside my budget if I intend on getting decent surround speakers or a more quality receiver or a decent sub. My budgeting is fairly flexible, but I would like to spend as little as possible. As much as I love music and high fidelity systems, I've been doing fine for years with my JBLs and Sony MDR 7506 headphones, I'm not all that picky, I just want something good for the price.

07-18-2006, 12:31 AM
I am currently using the Pioneer VSX-816 in a secondary system for music-only. It's a great little receiver for $300. You could certainly get away with that receiver or even the THX certififed model that is right above this one...I think it goes for about $400. One thing about going with Pioneer at this price range is that you get a nice selection of bells and whistles for a fairly low-cost. The performance is fairly good as well with all things considered AND they are well-made.

One thing to consider though would be checking online for a refurbished Pioneer Elite receiver...I found mine for under $500. This way you would get a much higher quality from the Pioneer line and it would be still in your price range.

Two areas of surround? Hmmm. Not exactly sure what you mean by this... To my knowledge most receivers allow you to have 2 zones, but they are in stereo mode. Essentially you have speakers A and speakers B and you can set up your second set of stereo speakers into another rooom to get the effect there. I have not come across any receivers that actually enable you to get 5.1 into two zones. Therefore I would maybe look into a solid 2-channel amp or receiver for your PC or even a 5.1 system in a box to save some money.

Really the bottom line rests with what you want to sound the best....with your price range doing 2 systems might be a bit tough and you don't want to skimp out on your selection of speakers.
Have you considered going with something like a full PSB speaker system?

You can get this mini-system for $500. This covers your fronts, surrounds, center, and sub. Not bad for that price!!!! The benefit here is that in time if you decide to upgrade you could replace the fronts with floorstanding speakers and use the old front speakers as a second pair of stereo speakers. Or add those floorstanders now to the system ...they are $329. This puts you almost around $850 and you still need a receiver, which would only leave you $150. So perhaps go with just the 5.1 system for now, add the receiver ($500) and there is your package for now. This does not however solve all of your problems, but at least gives you something for the time being and enables you to easily upgrade in a short while.

07-18-2006, 01:24 AM
Sorry, guess I wasn't very clear. I am trying to set up two areas of 5.1 sound, or possibly a 5.1 and a 7.1. I play games and sometimes watch movies on my computer and think it would be very nice to have a surround setup there, but the problem is finding a good way to have a solid home theater system on my TV *plus* some sort of system on my computer that can do solid stereo for music as well as surround for gaming and movies. Most recievers dont seem to support multiple surround zones, I think some of the more expensive ones might.

I've looked at a few speakers today, and i'm thinking that thee Advents or Athena Auditions might be a better purchase then the Infinitys, but the problem is that I don't know how I'm going to power everything. Reciever supports 7.1 out to speakers, or 5.1 + a second zone of stereo off of the back speaker ports, so if I wanted to have a second surround field I'd have to stick with the RCA seperately powered 5.1 in a box stuff for my computer, and then I don't really know what I'll do with my existing speakers, as they probably wont fit with PSBs or anything else I'm looking at. Maybe what I'll do is 5.1 on the TV with a new set of something like the PSBs, have a secondary output to stereo to the JBLs I have now on my computer for music, and a seperate 5.1 system just off the computer.

Thanks for the suggestion, I think seeing as how my focus is going to be primarily music and most of that is in MP3 quality I'll be pretty happy with my JBLs for music on my computer, and then something like these PSBs would probably be a nice treat to set up for watching movies and playing games and CDs.

Oh, and back to the receiver, I haven't looked much at the Elite line, the VSX-1015 was very highly reviewed and I was considering upgrading to it, but I'm not sure how much I care about THX certification or any of the other changes that come moving up a step or two. I think I'd really only be interested in spending more in the name of noticably higher quality sound out of the sort of speakers I'm looking at, reliability, or helpful functions like video upconversion to component or some sort of multi zone support.

07-18-2006, 03:21 AM
Sounds like a solid plan...hopefully you can stay within budget if that's a concern...or add a few bucks and really hook it up.

07-18-2006, 12:29 PM
I would forget about two zones of 5.1 using one receiver. The only receivers I'm aware of that are capable of powering two 5.1 zones simultaneously are way out of your price range. There aren't that many that can do multichannel Zone 2 connections using the analog preouts either. Plenty of models that can do multizone two-channel connections, but obviously that's not what you're looking for. You could also explore what options, if any, are out there for multizone digital outputs. Either way though, you'll still need an extra multichannel amp/receiver to make it all work together. Might as well just get an entry level receiver for your computer and leave the home theater setup to focus on the main speaker set. Check with a local audio/home theater installer and see if they have any options that fit what you're looking for.

07-18-2006, 02:08 PM
Another problem with dual-zone receivers, especially in this price range, is that they tend to be rather confusing to control, both from the remote(s?) and the front controls. Two seperate receivers will be much more convenient.

07-20-2006, 01:15 PM
the big Denon avr5805 is one of a very few recievers that will handle two 5.1 set-ups, unfortunately it is priced well above most of our heads ( $6k )!!! Why not put your money into a receiver with a ethernet or USB connection? Check out JVC RX-D302 , msrp $449.95

07-25-2006, 01:51 PM
the big Denon avr5805 is one of a very few recievers that will handle two 5.1 set-ups, unfortunately it is priced well above most of our heads ( $6k )!!! Why not put your money into a receiver with a ethernet or USB connection? Check out JVC RX-D302 , msrp $449.95

For $6K you could buy 2-3 smaller, yet still very fine receivers. Heck you could buy 2 very nice seperates systems from Outlaw and still have spare change to buy some decent Revel or Axiom speakers.