View Full Version : OT (completely) Audio Setup

05-29-2012, 06:31 PM
I thought about posting this on an AV forum, but I decided I would hit up the ol' trust-worthy think tank. I am looking for advice on setting up some better audio to go with my 32" LCD television. It's nothing too fancy by today's standards, but a good TV. Anyway, I listen to a lot of classical organ music and it just doesn't sound very good coming from little laptop speakers - no bass. The TV speakers are not really any better.

So, can you guys give me some recommendations on a good AV reciever and speaker setup? I'm looking for something that does a reasonable job handling classical music but nothing fancy. I'm looking for a mild improvement and something cheap. I know there is a wide variety in quality and price, so I'm primarily looking for something in the low end. Maybe a pair of bookshelf speakers and a sub? I bought a pair of bookshelf speakers from Polk Audio for my sister (they were cheap ... $99 for the pair, I think) and they performed well for the money. I'd like something along those lines. What do you guys think? I tried doing some Google research, but there are so many opinions and information that it was all a little overwhelming. I'm no audiophile ... just want something simple and cheap! :)

EDIT: Hit enter too soon and messed up the title ... supposed to read "OT (completely): Audio Setup"

05-29-2012, 07:03 PM
Have you checked out "Sound Bars"
It seems all the new TV you need one for decent sound.
The TX are too thin and small for decent sound.
Progress. :-(
I was over at a buddies place who restores old Radios. I sure love the sound from the 16" speakers. ;-)


05-29-2012, 07:08 PM
Have you checked out "Sound Bars"
It seems all the new TV you need one for decent sound.
The TX are too thin and small for decent sound.
Progress. :-(
I was over at a buddies place who restores old Radios. I sure love the sound from the 16" speakers. ;-)


:o What are TX?

I'm not a fan of sound bars. I've heard a few demos at Best Buy, etc and they always sound sort of ... "flat". I suppose there are some good ones out there, I just don't know enough. Wish I had some 16" speakers ... my soon to be father-in-law has two 16" commercial Peavey speakers he got out of a bar setup with his TV and they sound great.

Mike Burch
05-29-2012, 07:14 PM
Of all the "classical" instruments, the grand organ places the highest demands on one's stereo gear. It has such a huge frequency range and dynamic range as well.
So take a deep breath and get a really decent stereo.
Basically, the bigger the speaker cone, the better the bass response. Smaller speakers can reproduce low frequencies, but to do it in a balanced fashion they have to move more air, i.e., the cone excursion is greater, so the distortion is greater too.
So get the biggest speakers you can afford, preferably not Japanese (they are all aimed at the pop market, where the volume of the boom is much important than what it actually sounds like), and check out the box's mid and high-range drivers too, by listening before you buy. Take a favourite CD to your audio shop, or better still ask if you can try your chosen gear out at home for a few days.
Audiophiles are all barking mad, so you can expect to get as many conflicting opinions are there are posters on this thread!

05-29-2012, 07:17 PM
These days there's so much duplication of function that it's hard to avoid. The tv might well have the full audio processing capability in it, and you would probably be hard pressed to find any sort of amp or receiver that didn't also have the same full-surround functions. Since the last several years, you haven't been able to buy based on quality- it's all features and looks.

I know you can buy speakers and receivers separately, and you can also buy a package deal which has all the speakers with it. You might want to visit a showroom and sit for a while with the various systems. Usually you'll find several rooms, with one system set up in each one. The systems are usually fairly affordable, and if you find one that appeals to you it might be the way to go. If you want to mix and match by selecting your own speakers and surround sound receiver, you will probably pay more- you may or may not like the final result anyway after using it for awhile.

There's no guarantee that any of them are any better than any other these days. Yamaha has consistently made a good product- maybe they still do. There are makes out there that I can't even pronounce, let alone have heard of. In the long run, they are probably all non-scottish- in other words, crap :)

There is a lot of personal preference (or conflicting opinions) involved. My personal preference in terms of speakers is to go with a two-way system instead of three-way, and often it will have an 8 inch speaker and dome tweeter. Add a sub to handle the low end, and spend some time placing the speakers to give you the best sound. There is no end to this, and you sure can spend a lot of money.

05-29-2012, 07:22 PM
Of all the "classical" instruments, the grand organ places the highest demands on one's stereo gear. It has such a huge frequency range and dynamic range as well.
So take a deep breath and get a really decent stereo.

Thanks for the advice. Don't think I can afford a really good setup right now, maybe I can pick up a decent reciever and low end speakers and then add to it as I go?

:) There are only two pipe organs in the world with 64' stops. They resonate at 8.18 Hz, well below auditory range. All we hear are the overtones but the feeling must be incredible. Just for kicks, I started looking for a sub that could reproduce such an amazing effect. Found a speciality maker in the UK that makes a powered sub for just such a task. IIRC, he wanted about $12,000 for the speaker. :eek: Guess I'll have to forgo having that kind of low end frequency response. :D

05-29-2012, 10:15 PM
when I bought our first HDTV some years back it too lacked in the audio. I had a choice of going crazy or giving it a little kick which has been quite satisfactory when I consider the investment.

I could go and buy a typical AV setup and to me it would be a waste of money considering the house I live in is 100 years old and most rooms are less than 15' in the longest dimension. I then gave in to the really cheap solution which was to bring home a subwoofer from a yard sale for a total investment of less than $20.

The bottom octaves have really changed the character of the sound, disregarding its still 2 channel and a sub, I really don't care about adding rear channels or a center speaker for dialog.

05-30-2012, 12:20 AM
Thanks for the advice. Don't think I can afford a really good setup right now, maybe I can pick up a decent reciever and low end speakers and then add to it as I go? :D


As mentioned before, everyone has an opinion and many conflict as to brand etc...

The only thing I will say is to spend your money FIRST on good speakers then on the electronics later. View it like buying a very expensive machine tool or welder and then using very poor tooling or bad welding rods.... No matter how good the equipment the finished product will be poor.

Now for the equipment recomendation..... I very much like planar speakers like Magnepan etc.... Not cheap but very good sound reproduction. Just my opinion, YMMV

05-30-2012, 12:55 AM
I agree, A good set of speakers will make a cheap stereo sound good, but the best sound system mony can by will sount bad with cheap speakers.

05-30-2012, 12:58 AM
Thanks for the advice. Don't think I can afford a really good setup right now, maybe I can pick up a decent reciever and low end speakers and then add to it as I go?

:) There are only two pipe organs in the world with 64' stops. They resonate at 8.18 Hz, well below auditory range. All we hear are the overtones but the feeling must be incredible. Just for kicks, I started looking for a sub that could reproduce such an amazing effect. Found a speciality maker in the UK that makes a powered sub for just such a task. IIRC, he wanted about $12,000 for the speaker. :eek: Guess I'll have to forgo having that kind of low end frequency response. :D

I highly recommend going to a thrift store and picking up some old stereo receiver for $20. Maybe speakers too if you can check instore that they are not blown yet, But yea, I would buy good speakers before I bought an amp, those old stereo receivers did quiet well IMO.

Might not be the best sound, but it is the best value.

05-30-2012, 01:31 AM
:o What are TX?

TV but my fat fingers and fried brain got in the way LOL


Paul Alciatore
05-30-2012, 03:23 AM
I am/was a professional TV engineer, not an audiophile so my advise is probably more pragmatic than some others in this area. I do have over 45 years of experience designing and installing monitoring systems for professional use in TV and radio stations. I recently set up my own "system" for both TV and music in my home office area and I wanted a combination of quality and economy (I have a very thrifty mother and my budget was not deep).

In my experience, the speakers are the most critical element in any audio set up. So, what I did was first go to Best Buy and do a comparison test of the speakers available there. They have a nice setup where you can instantly compare up to 10 different speakers with a selector switch. Try to go at a time when they have limited staff so you will not be bothered by a salesman telling you why you only want the expensive ones. The ones I compared ranged in price from about $75 to perhaps $500 a pair. There are even better speakers available but even the $500 was out of my range so that test was good enough for me. By going to a store where the various speakers are set up with a switch to drive them from the same amplifier and the same audio source you are comparing the speakers only; the other elements are out of the equation. You can read the specs on speakers until your eyes go red, but in the end, you will be happiest with speakers that sound best to YOUR ears. After listening to various types of sound on all the various speakers available there, I wound up with a pair that cost about $100 and I am very happy with them. Frankly, I thought they sounded better than most of the more expensive ones.

Then I needed a power amplifier and a pre-amp for my old turntable. I am in the process of transferring my old 33s to CD. The pre-amp I choose was about $30 and it has excellent specs. as well as the proper de-emphasis characteristic for records. You really do not have to pay a lot today for good quality. But you can pay an awful lot more for just a very small increase in the quality after that point. And the purveyors of such equipment will be very willing to take your money. I had an old tube type power amplifier which had fairly good quality sound, but it was best suited to heat the room in winter. I sold it on E-bay for almost $200 to one of those audiophiles who loved the "tube sound", which is actually a bit of hiss, and that financed my whole project here with some left over. If I recall correctly it cost me about $60 in kit form, about 40 years ago. In it's place I purchased a new, solid state, class T amplifier for about $20 on sale. I actually bought two because they were so cheap. It has 20 Watts per channel and in truth, that is quite enough to drive speakers for personal use in almost any home setting. In fact, at only half way up on the volume control my wife often complains that it is too loud. Yes, I know that they sell 50 and 100 and 250 Watt per channel amplifiers and the know-it-all audiophiles will swear by them. But again, years of professional experience have told me that there is very little improvement with each doubling of the price and those power levels are just a waste of money as you will almost never use them. In fact, this $20 amplifier had better specs than some professional equipment I have used over the years. And if you conduct a double blind test of a low end solid state amplifier against a high end one at reasonable listening levels, you will find even the most discriminating of those audiophiles will be hard put to tell the difference. Only when they know which one they are listening to will they be able to describe all the minute differences that make the $500 or $1000 amp so much better. Believe me, I have put them on the spot with such a test and they can not tell until the identity is revealed to them. Of course then they will insist that they could hear it all along. And they will be very irritated at me for showing them up. Often they will refuse to believe you are telling them the truth when they actually pick the cheaper system as the best by far.

My ears may not be as good as yours so you may wind up with better speakers than I did. But I can assure you that this procedure will produce a very good system for your ears, for a rock bottom price. If your ears are happy, that is all that counts.

Stuart Br
05-30-2012, 10:11 AM
Paul has made some excellent points above.
One of my hobbies is Hi-Fi, (wait for flame) and at this point in time my hi-fi system is worth more than my home shop.... although the margins are narrowing :-) That does exclude media, CD;s vinyl, etc. If I take that into account, the home shop has a lot of catching up to do.

Built in speakers in TVs are generally of very poor quality, even when you are paying for a good display.
My advice would be to set a budget first and go and listen to some systems at a reputable dealer. It is your ears that need pleasing not the salesman's pocket. As Paul said speakers are the most variable element in sound quality and it is down to personal taste. Amplification is not so much the issue apart from that you need one.
DON'T be tempted to listen to any high end systems out of your budget or you will be hooked and you will end up spending more money.


05-30-2012, 01:56 PM
Thanks guys. I'm going to head to Best Buy today and take a gander. I do have an old Sony reciever from my soon to be father-in-law. Maybe I can use that until I save up for a better one. He said everything works on it except the tuner. I'll just look at picking up a pair of bookshelf speakers?

I guess that's the other question I should ask ... apart from brands, how many and what kind of speakers should I get? Just a pair of two way bookshelf speakers or one of those 5 piece sets or a pair with a powered sub or ... ? I think having good bass is important for organ music.

05-30-2012, 02:19 PM
I have been involved in recording studios for over 15-18yrs now, both on the recording side and engineering side.
I really love great audio, and am willing to pay for it, to a point.

There's also the other side of the "snake oil" in audio products.
You can pay hundreds of dollars (if not thousands) just for "audiophile" speaker cables and other interconnect cables!
Crazy stuff.

I have spent many thousands of dollars on my living room audio system, which stems from my recording studio experience, but I love what I have.

I tell people don't jump into audio buying going the expensive route right off the bat. Get something reasonable, yet decent quality.
You can always upgrade if you want. But if you find you're satisfied without spending an arm and a leg, why go further?

I know my parents think their crappy Panasonic boom box sounds great, so spending large amounts on an audio system would be lost on them.
You need to know your satisfaction level.

Also, don't discount buying used items off CL. There are deals to be had out there at a fraction of the cost of buying new, but you need to do some homework when you're looking.

There are only two pipe organs in the world with 64' stops. They resonate at 8.18 Hz, well below auditory range. All we hear are the overtones but the feeling must be incredible.

Along with my audio system that includes a pair of subs, I have installed in my floor joists two ButtKicker transducers. Then don't make any sound, but rather the vibrate whatever they are mounted to to simulate low bass notes. Many of those theme-park rides have these built into the seating for the shaking effects. They are rated down to 5Hz, and I don't doubt it. It would also depend on the amplifier used to power them, and the recorded material being played. You may not hear that low, but you sure as heck can feel it.

The ButtKickers allow for 'feeling' the low end without having to have excess audio volume to get to that point normally.
I know some people also mount a few of these under their outdoor deck to augment smaller outdoor speakers that don't have much bass response.

Accurately reproducing low end takes a LOT of good power.
And good power is not cheap.

Many think I'm nuts for having what I have in my living room, and I admit I'm probably on the deep end for most people.
It's not about sheer volume levels, but rather accurate reproduction and sound quality at all volume levels.
A bigger system running without a sweat will almost always sound better than a smaller system running at the ragged edge.
Movies in my living room are fantastic. :)

Daron Klooster
05-30-2012, 02:32 PM
As someone mentioned earlier, getting a subwoofer is a "must." A system that combines all the frequencies into one speaker will distort and lack detail. The best result in any stereo/audio setup is to send each frequency range (highs, mids, and lows) to their own speaker.

The only word of caution I have about the "old" Sony receiver is that if it's really old, the power supply might not be what it used to be, which can also cause distortion even when running through top-quality speakers. Once you settle on the speakers you want, it won't take long before you figure out if that's an issue or not. :)

05-30-2012, 05:57 PM
Don't forget that when you piece together a system including a sub, you run the risk of overlapping frequency ranges. Without a proper crossover your main speakers will be producing some of the lower range while the sub is doing the same. It's easy to get the system to sound 'boomy', or otherwise 'not right'. Some such thing might sound 'good' to start with, but may quickly become tiring. An equalizer can help, but most often it can't solve this problem, and proper crossovers with variable turnover points, etc are rare to find.

On a budget, I'd strongly suggest looking at the complete systems, not separate components. They have been engineered to work together, and so generally avoid the 'mismatching' problems. You can have a heck of a good sounding system if you mix and match, but you can also have a mediocre sounding system after having paid a lot of money for it. Better to have an 'ok' sounding system with a lot less cash outlay, especially if you're not in the audiophile class.

If you do go with separates, then choose your speakers carefully, as has been suggested several times, then consider adding a powered sub that has at least some crossover adjustments. If you go for a passive sub, it will need an amp and some means of tailoring the frequency response, and now you're into a can of worms. But you should also look at the back of your tv- it may have signal-level outputs for a sub and surround sound, and it probably does have all the surround sound processing in it. If that's the case, you just need amps and speakers, and you do everything including volume from your tv remote. That usually includes selecting the mode based on what it is you're listening to, usually movie formats, but sometimes includes classical music.

As I mentioned before, it's easy to duplicate functioning. If you buy a complete system, it's probably going to have all the 'sound processing' that your tv has. You would use one or the other, but not both together. It might come down to using the one that's easiest to understand and push remote buttons for. How many complicated remotes to you have, or want to have- and do you want to have yet another?

Gone are the days when you would walk over to the stereo, turn it on, then set the volume and sit back and enjoy. You damn near need a license these days to operate the system. :)

Mike Burch
05-30-2012, 07:35 PM
The advice of Paul and others to spend your money on good speakers first is very sound (no pun intended!). Crap speakers will always sound awful no matter what drives them.
And when listening in a shop, don't be on a hurry. Many speakers sound OK at first, but become tiring after half an hour or so.
I'm surprised to see you say that there are only two organs in the world with 64' stops. That could possibly be the case for an open diapason, i.e., a 64'-long open-ended pipe, which certainly is rare, but the are surely plenty of instruments with a 64' stopped diapason, i.e., a 32' pipe with the end closed off to make it sound an octave lower.

05-30-2012, 08:35 PM
I'm surprised to see you say that there are only two organs in the world with 64' stops. That could possibly be the case for an open diapason.

You must be an enthusiast, too! I just started learning about pipe organs. Have a friend that built his own very tiny pipe organ using copper plumbing pipes and a computer controlled gizmo to play it. He got me interested in how these amazing instruments work.

There is the 64' Contra Trombone in the Sydney Town Hall Grand Organ and then the 64' Diaphone Dulzian in the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium organ. I don't know much about the Sydney Town Hall Grand Organ, but I became interested in the (sad) story of the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium organ. The Diaphone Dulzian stop includes a true 64' pipe which can be played with the 42 and 2/3' fifth extension/mutation pipe to reproduce the sound of a 128' pipe. Similarly, one can make acoustic fakes of 64' stops using a 32' stop and a 21 1/3' fifth extention and these are common in big organs, from what I understand.

05-30-2012, 08:36 PM
I hooked up a pair of powered speakers like computer speakers and it sounds resonable and cheaper than anything suggested so far!

Roland make some model MA 15D powered speakers for studio type monitoring, They would sound good too at about $150 a pair.

05-30-2012, 08:44 PM
For the sub, you could always build it...

I have one in the family room, a commercial "grey box", which takes the line level sub output from a Sony 5-channel audiovisual amplifier (5 x 100W), the sub's only 30W but it fills in the bass end quite well (at least, once I adjusted the crossover in the amp) although the main speakers aren't too bad themselves ("Eltax" twin-5"-woofer column speakers). The speakers came from Eblag for 30 the 5 (2 main, 2 rear and an on-the-tv centre speaker), the amp from the same place for 70, so a bit of shopping around can pay off :)

In the Grown-Ups' Lounge, I have a pair of Bowers and Wilkins DM2 speakers from the 70's - they came out of the BBC Radio 3 monitoring suite, where they listened to off-air broadcasts to check the sound quality on... Organ music! Although they don't sound "loud", people think they've been struck dumb, cos they can't hear *themselves* speak... The bass goes low, too - they came with the original charts, which show 'em at 3dB down at 22Hz and tailing off slowly - and all from a 6" bass speaker! It sounds smoother and deeper than the commercial sub, very much so - the sub is a bit "one-note-bass", great for explosions in movies, crap for organ music!

So... to the subject of DIY.
The B&W's are "transmission line" speakers, using a long folded path from the rear of the speaker cone to put its radiated sound in phase with the front at low frequencies - the upside is smooth, deep bass, the downside is physical size and complexity of the carpentry, but they're within the capabilities of a half-decent carpenter if he wants to build a *real* sub-woofer - seek online and ye shall find :)
I've seen a few that are designed to fill that useless gap behind the sofa, might be perfect for your needs? I'm told they go down below 10Hz with the right speaker chassis, some of the serious ones are "mass-loaded" and I guess this could be a DIY proposition too?

Dave H. (the other one)

05-30-2012, 09:24 PM
I had bought a 42" LCD HDTV (Toshiba) a few years ago but never upgraded the old Sony receiver (not an "AV" type) that I was feeding with two RCA type wires off the TV to ml old Hafler 200 bookshelf speakers. The Sony finally quit just before Christmas, so two weeks later I bought a Denon AVR-1912 at Best Buy.

I bought it home, bought some HDMI cables, moved stuff around, added a pair of Infinity Sterling SS-1000 speakers, a Polk 10" powered sub-woofer and now have and simple, cheap system that actually sounds better than most of the store-bought package deals. The receiver cost me $500, the Haflers were bought in 1988, the Infinity's were $50 (new in box) off Craigslist, the sub was a free cast off from my youngest son, and he also gifted me the Polk center speaker. The HDMI cables are the only thing that drove me over the $650 mark, total.

Is it Class A audiophile? No. I go listen to my buddy's Logan Martin/Rotel/ADC system when I need that. Does it sound better than the cost? You bet it does!

05-30-2012, 09:52 PM
I could consult with some of my neighbors, here. Almost every one of them seems to be "dyed-in-the-wool" audiophiles. It's not unusual for them to start playing a number in the middle of the night, early in the morning, or when you're trying to enjoy a nice relaxing afternoon.

The music they listen to is tailor-made to be played on their stereo setups.
No organ music.....primary instruments are usually a jack-hammer, large hollow log, or a slow-firing machine gun. The systems favored are easily purchased at WalMart or the local wrecking yard, and the speakers are usually the only thing that anybody spends money on (some are as big as manhole covers, and about as heavy). Of course, they use 10,000 watt pre-amplifiers and heavy duty Chinese lamp cord to tie things together. They most frequently find homes in cheap Korean or Japanese economy cars, for reasons I'm still not aware of. Using fuses or fusible links is something they frown upon and running a Pep Boys economy series car battery completely dead (with the engine running) is the only thing that limits their concerts...well, that, and the local police.

I personally would simply use the RCA jacks on the TV, connected to a reasonably priced pre-amp with a built-in graphic equalizer. But that's me. When I get time, I'll ask the "experts".

05-30-2012, 10:11 PM
I would suggest a cheaper route - an estate auction/sale. Many older folks spend the money to enjoy the finer things in life and leave behind very nice/lightly used AV equipment. Even if you spend $100 to get $1k+ of equipment, its well worth it.

My living room setup COST me a bit over $1k (some new, some used from friends). My garage setup MADE me $195, as I bought two complete good quality home systems at an auction (auctioneer is paid to clean out estates and needs things GONE). $5 filled my pickup with Kenwood, Sony, and Bose which was sold inside of a week. I kept a matching Kenwood receiver and disc changer, a pair of Bose bookshelf speakers, and one of the subs bc it all fit on a small cart with my old iMac.

05-30-2012, 11:01 PM
I recently picked up a Onkyo TX-NR609. Great receiver. 5 HDMI in, plus VGA, and your generic Component, composite, s-video, and optical inputs. The receiver is on the network and can connect to a bunch of streaming services like Pandora. 7.2 channels. All this for A bit over $300. It even has an iPhone remote app to act as a remote control.

It is very versatile. Allows you to adjust for mismatch is audio and video. Has a little microphone that you move around the seating area to figure out the optimal levels for the channels.

For my speakers I have Pioneer fronts and center with a 8" Polk sub at the front. On the sides of the couch I have Bose 401, In back above the couch is a couple old Bose 100's and on the floor is an Audiosource 10" Sub. Nothing special about the bose, really didn't pay for them.

Sounds great.