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Surround sound setup reccomendations.

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I am starting my research into making a home theater/gaming center. But I also do not have a massive budget, and I am looking to get into it, then puchasing things one by one (or 2). 
I have a small/medium space of 13x21. But the primary direction is long not wide. Should I go smaller or larger and get things slower. Should I do something like 9.2, 7.2, 7.2.2, or something else? 
I am happy to go used and honestly would prefer it since lower price.
I dont have a "Budget", But I want to keep things lower.
Any reccomendations?

Thank you

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I would say placement is key, so before you pull the trigger on something massive like 9.2 make sure you have the space to put the speakers in their correct positions. I'm running a 5.1.2 setup, because I don't have room for more, but also because receivers beyond 7.2 tend to see a bit of a jump in price. I built it up piece-wise, so that's perfectly doable. The reason I mention placement is that adding surrounds was already nice, but putting them on their position in the Dolby spec substantially improved the sound stage for me.

 

Receiver-wise my recommendations tend to be Denon (running the X1400H personally), Marantz, Yamaha. My speakers are Dali Zensors (basically superseded by the Oberons now) and my sub is an SVS.

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Posted (edited)

I've seen people setup surround sound systems like crazy. In most cases, they eventually swap out old, full surround sound systems with soundbars. Honestly, a sweet soundbar setup would be way easier to set up and can be much less expensive. It also depends on your room size, for the channels. A 5.1 channel system is better for smaller rooms (like a bedroom), and a 7.1 channel system is better for bigger rooms (like a living room). I went the soundbar route, myself, because... well, I prefer some oomph, but not that much oomph. I also didn't want to deal with an extra huge box that controls everything, and has 20 cables coming out of it. So I went with a 2.1 soundbar system for my room.

 

Soundbar surround sound - 5.1 channel

 

Soundbar surround sound - 7.1 channel

 

vs

 

Surround sound system - 5.1 channel

 

So yeah, you get more speakers, but you can get 7.1 channel soundbar system. It has dolby surround built into it.

 

More info below on the pros and cons of 5.1 & 7.1 channel systems.

 

https://thehometheaterdiy.com/5-1-vs-7-1-surround-sound/

 

https://www.electronicshub.org/5-1-vs-7-1/

Edited by GeorgeMKane

The only stars that matter, are the ones you look at when you dream... ~ Keanu Reeves

Am I still to create the perfect system?! ~ Clu

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5.2.2 user here, and absolutely love it. Ceiling speakers for atmos is a larger deal then most would imagine. The ceiling speakers for good atmos content is arguably more immersive then the rears. 
 

A good receiver with good room correction is key. Not cheap, but worth it. 

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1 hour ago, LIGISTX said:

5.2.2 user here, and absolutely love it. Ceiling speakers for atmos is a larger deal then most would imagine. The ceiling speakers for good atmos content is arguably more immersive then the rears. 
 

A good receiver with good room correction is key. Not cheap, but worth it. 

would a 5.2.2 work with games? Just wondering

And also what receiver would you reccomend (for less then 600 dollars used hopfully)

 

Thank you for your feedback.

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1 hour ago, GeorgeMKane said:

I've seen people setup surround sound systems like crazy. In most cases, they eventually swap out old, full surround sound systems with soundbars. Honestly, a sweet soundbar setup would be way easier to set up and can be much less expensive. It also depends on your room size, for the channels. A 5.1 channel system is better for smaller rooms (like a bedroom), and a 7.1 channel system is better for bigger rooms (like a living room). I went the soundbar route, myself, because... well, I prefer some oomph, but not that much oomph. I also didn't want to deal with an extra huge box that controls everything, and has 20 cables coming out of it. So I went with a 2.1 soundbar system for my room.

 

Soundbar surround sound - 5.1 channel

 

Soundbar surround sound - 7.1 channel

 

vs

 

Surround sound system - 5.1 channel

 

So yeah, you get more speakers, but you can get 7.1 channel soundbar system. It has dolby surround built into it.

 

More info below on the pros and cons of 5.1 & 7.1 channel systems.

 

https://thehometheaterdiy.com/5-1-vs-7-1-surround-sound/

 

https://www.electronicshub.org/5-1-vs-7-1/

seeing how I have a large room, but split in half so my workable space is half.  so like 13x10.5 feet. (3.9x3.2 meters) and I do want surround sound. And I do have noise cancelling around the room (Floor, ceiling, walls) and a giant noise cancelling blanket in the middle. and is the difference between a soundbar and a full sound system.

And also thank you for your help.

 

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2 hours ago, tikker said:

I would say placement is key, so before you pull the trigger on something massive like 9.2 make sure you have the space to put the speakers in their correct positions. I'm running a 5.1.2 setup, because I don't have room for more, but also because receivers beyond 7.2 tend to see a bit of a jump in price. I built it up piece-wise, so that's perfectly doable. The reason I mention placement is that adding surrounds was already nice, but putting them on their position in the Dolby spec substantially improved the sound stage for me.

 

Receiver-wise my recommendations tend to be Denon (running the X1400H personally), Marantz, Yamaha. My speakers are Dali Zensors (basically superseded by the Oberons now) and my sub is an SVS.

would a 5.1.2 need a seperate reciever, or would I use a 7.1 reciever and use 2 channels for the top speakers. And also should I use satellite speakers instead of bookshelf or stand speakers as I have a small/medium room (10.5ft/13ft)(3.2M/3.9M). if so, how should it be mounted on the walls?

 

 

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26 minutes ago, IntermitentArach said:

would a 5.1.2 need a seperate reciever, or would I use a 7.1 reciever and use 2 channels for the top speakers. And also should I use satellite speakers instead of bookshelf or stand speakers as I have a small/medium room (10.5ft/13ft)(3.2M/3.9M). if so, how should it be mounted on the walls?

 

 

That's about the area I have my setup in. If it supports Dolby Atmos then a 7.1 receiver usually has two of the channels as "assignable" to be either be rears (for 7.1) or Atmos (for 5.1.2). You can choose that during setup.

 

Regarding satellites, my opinion is that if you're already going the AVR+speaker route then just get proper speakers and not the tiny things you find in the home theatre in a box stuff. Bookshelves are fine. How to mount them will differ per design I guess. You can also get stands, which is what I did. As an added bonus that makes them easier to position correctly, as in a 5.1 setup surrounds are supposed to be slightly behind you and not directly to your side if you follow the Dolby spec.

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1 hour ago, IntermitentArach said:

would a 5.2.2 work with games? Just wondering

And also what receiver would you reccomend (for less then 600 dollars used hopfully)

 

Thank you for your feedback.

If the game supports atmos, yes. If not, I have to admit, the upsampling my receiver does in its emulated DTS X (I forget exactly the name, but it up converts 5.1 to have height channels based on DTS X) is actually shockingly good as well. It doesn’t compare to audio that actually has height channels like Atmos or DTS X, but it’s way better then just leaving it to play back in standard 5.1; it really does a good job of the effect. 
 

Denon is imo the receiver you want to get. They have very good internals (amp, dac, whatever other stuff is in there) and if you get their better versions (would have to google to know which of todays current models have it) they have a very good room calibration tool. I would recommend looking at AVS forum and do some research there; that’s how I found what I wanted for my setup. 
 

I am rocking a X1600-H (I think, I have not thought about this in a while and am not home to look, but I think that’s my receiver), 3 JBL Studio 580’s for L C and R, 2 Studio 530’s for rears, and 2 Control X’s mounted to my ceiling about 1.5 feet in front of the couch for height. Was able to buy everything except for the receiver on sale, and I think I am all in for just under 2 grand. JBL has MASSIVE sales from time to time, I got the 3 floor standers and 2 bookshelves for 1300 shipped, and found the ceilings new on eBay for 99 shipped. Receiver was about 600… I already had dual BIC f12 subs. Not amazing, but I got them back in college and for the price they are great. But these days I don’t think they are ~180 bucks anymore, so likely better options. 

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3 minutes ago, tikker said:

Bookshelves are fine. How to mount them will differ per design I guess. You can also get stands, which is what I did. As an added bonus that makes them easier to position correctly, as in a 5.1 setup surrounds are supposed to be slightly behind you and not directly to your side if you follow the Dolby spec.

This is 100% accurate. I have my studio 530’s on speaker stands at about 10-15 degrees behind and to the sides of the couch. My left one is 4x farther away then the right one unfortunately due to my living room shape, but the tool in the denon receiver to do room correction (is it called audyssey 2 or something) does a great job of making that be a non-issue. 

Rig: i7 10700k @ 5.1Ghz, 4.8 Ring - - Z490 Vision G - - EVGA RTX 2080 XC Ultra @ 2025Mhz - - 4x8GB Vengeance Pro 3000Mhz 15-17-17-34 @ 3500MHz 16-19-19-38 - - Samsung 950 Pro 512 NVMe Boot + Main Programs - - Samsung 830 Pro 256 RAID 0 Lightroom + Photo work - - WD Blue 1 TB SSD for Games - - Corsair RM850x - - Sound BlasterX EA-5 - - EK Supremacy Evo - - XT45 X-Flow 420 + UT60 280 rads - - EK Full Cover GPU Block - - EK XRES RGB PWM - - Fractal Define S2 - - Acer Predator X34 -- Logitech G502 - - Logitech G710+ - - Logitech Z5500 - - LTT Deskpad

 

Headphones/amp/dac: Schiit Lyr 3 - - Fostex TR-X00 - - Sennheiser HD 6xx

 

Homelab/ Media Server: Proxmox VE host - - 512 NVMe Samsung 980 for VM's/Proxmox boot - - Xeon e5 2660 V4- - Supermicro X10SRF-i - - 64 GB ECC 2133 - - 10x4 TB WD Red RAID Z2 - - 10TB WD Red for expendable data - - Corsair 750D - - Corsair RM650i - - Dell H310 6Gbps SAS HBA - - Intel RES2SC240 SAS Expander - - TreuNAS + many other VM’s

 

iPhone Xs - 2018 MacBook Air

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I’ve done several home theater builds.

 

a few key questions.

 

1. what is your preferred price range for this initial phase? (More money equals higher quality, to a point with eventual diminishing returns)

2. Do you have pictures of your space (every room is different and most require some degree of creative engineering.

3. is your room a basement room up is there a room (or crawl space) under the room?

4. What height is the ceiling (does the room have a vaulted ceiling?)

5. are you comfortable installing ceiling speakers?

6. Are you comfortable running speaker cable from the front of the room to the back?

7. do you have a TV you’re planning to use?

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21 minutes ago, LIGISTX said:

This is 100% accurate. I have my studio 530’s on speaker stands at about 10-15 degrees behind and to the sides of the couch. My left one is 4x farther away then the right one unfortunately due to my living room shape, but the tool in the denon receiver to do room correction (is it called audyssey 2 or something) does a great job of making that be a non-issue. 

Room correction is awesome. I had them positioned a bit randomly on the sides (slightly in front even) due to furniture layout first and while it still added nicely to the sound, it was quite a revelation once I moved them to their intended positions. That was even after I added Atmos speakers (granted, upfiring) and it improved the experience greatly.

 

@IntermitentArach My setup is as follows: Dali Zensor 5 (L/R), Dali Spektor Vokal (C), Dali Spektor 2 (SL/SR), Dali Alteco C1 (Atmos), SVS SB-1000 Pro (sub), Denon X1400H. These things take a chunk of cash to build up, but I did this over time buying bits and pieces as you allude to in your first post. Priority wise I would say front, center, surround, Atmos. A subwoofer also adds a bunch to the experience, so fit that in where you prefer depending on how much you like bass and how far your choice of fronts already take you.

 

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Sound bars will never match a well built 5.1 system. It’s not even close. Buy used gear. Money goes way way farther.  
 

I tried to attach a link to a Phoenix Craigslist ad for a killer denon receiver for $400

DENON AV RECIEVER X2500H OPEN BOX
EXCELLENT CONDITION.

now for some speakers….

linn katan audiophile speakers very clean - $180 (Ahwatukee)

Very nice sounding speakers made in the UK check the prices of these online”

These would make great left and right channel speakers.

 Total so far: $580

Use these for your center and rear channels.

Atlantic Technology LCR Speakers - $100 (Chandler)

Good condition and sounds fantastic. Speakers sold more than $1000. I am asking just $100 for all of them. Spamming question like is it available or would you take $80 today will not be responded. Great price for high quality speakers.
271LR: 2-way Sealed box, Two 5-1/4" IMG Woofers. One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, 80 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB. 8 Ohm. $699 / pair USA 
273MC: 2-way Sealed box, Two 5-1/4" IMG Woofers. One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, 80 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB. 8 Ohm. $549 USA 

total so far: $680

This subwoofer for $129 looks good.

***Boston Acoustics VR2000 THX subwoofer - $129 (51st Ave & loop 101)

Monster 12” powered sub! 
Boston Acoustics VR2000 THX Subwoofer perfect working condition 
400W
AWESOME DEAL! 
$129 OBO
No scammers! 

Total cost : $809.  It will sound amazing and have a ton of power. Perfect for games, movies, music, rattling the fillings out of your teeth….Its a pretty darn good example. A high end denon receiver and beautiful speakers made in England, Denmark and the U.S. 

 

Anyway. That’s what I think about that.

 

 

 


 

 

 

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17 hours ago, dDave64 said:

I’ve done several home theater builds.

 

a few key questions.

 

1. what is your preferred price range for this initial phase? (More money equals higher quality, to a point with eventual diminishing returns)

2. Do you have pictures of your space (every room is different and most require some degree of creative engineering.

3. is your room a basement room up is there a room (or crawl space) under the room?

4. What height is the ceiling (does the room have a vaulted ceiling?)

5. are you comfortable installing ceiling speakers?

6. Are you comfortable running speaker cable from the front of the room to the back?

7. do you have a TV you’re planning to use?

1. my preferred price range for initial is something around 900-1000 (usd) Very happy to get used or refurbished
2. I do not have pictures on me, but it has a cement floor with a recycled cloth, tarp, then fake wood panel floor. A half cement wall and half Balsa wood, and a unfinished ceiling. no, it is not vaulted
3. It is a basement room, roughly 13x22x7 ft (3.2x3.9x2.13 meters) Though has been divided into a smaller room (13x11x7) and there is the unfinished ceiling, and i can run cables through.
4. 7 ft or 2.13 meters
5. Yes, I can install ceiling speakers
6. Yes, I can comfortable running long cables
7. Yes, I have a tv I am planning to use (43 inches)
 

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So here are some guiding principles.

1. The sound that hits your ears is a mix of sound from the speakers + reflections off of walls and floors.  Room treatment helps (a rug or carpet in front on the main speakers helps. There's not much that can be done about sound reflecting off computer monitors. Early reflections on the walls - draw an imaginary line from the main sitting position to each speaker. Then make an orthogonal 90 degree angle from that to the  nearest wall. Place sound treatment THERE. (bookshelves are awesome, sound panels help)
2. The front sound stage matters most. This would be left+right and the center channel. The center channel is optional. Most center channels suck and my take on the matter is if you're not using an acoustically transparent screen (think projector) and three identical speakers, you're often better off with only L+R speakers (and getting better L+R speakers).
3. Costs increase faster than benefits. MUCH faster. Used/refurbished can save A LOT OF CASH. Decent audio gear will easily last 10-50 years.
4. Bookshelf speakers tend to be MUCH better bang/$ especially if you're using a subwoofer.


Using $900 as a budget (and not including the cost of wires/cables, which should be like $20-30ish total)

L+R Speakers - Emotiva B1+/Elac Debut 2.0 5.2/Polk ES15/JBL Studio 530 $230-300ish - you might also be able to find GOOD parts on craigslist/facebook market place. You'll need to check models. AudioScience Review, Erin's Audio Corner and a /r/htbuyingguides are good starting places for "this is solid"

Subwoofer - SVS PB1000, SB1000, PB12, etc. subwoofer (used) pretty much anything [SVS, Rel, Hsu, Monolith] is GOOD - $300ish

Budget AVR - $150ish used (look for something supporting 5.1 with HDMI ARC, extra credit for 7.1 or 5.1.2/atmos, you should plan on using ARC mostly so 1080p vs 4K doesn't matter)


Side speakers - These matter less. If you can get it on sale for $70-80ish Sony SS-CS5. You might even be able to get away with "whatever you have lying around" If you want to throw $$$ at these - Elac OW4.2

 

Misc - Speaker stands, wires (go for pure copper, figure out how many feet you need first), a coaxial cable for a subwoofer - these are all a lot less critical. My SO has her speakers sitting near the edge of her TV stand thingy and it's fine. Be aware that anything "desk-like" can cause issues with reflections. Room treatment - Rockwool if you can. Rug. First reflections matter most.
 

-------

 

 

Future upgrade considerations
1. Second subwoofer. It's pretty easy to have gaps in the bass from sound waves canceling out in your room. Getting a second sub and fiddling with phase/distance HELPED me in my set up.
2. Atmos based AVR - Getting an AVR which supports more channels (so think 5.1.4 or 7.1.4). Be aware that these AVRs can be MUCH more pricey. A new Denon S760h (7 channels) is like $430ish these days. Going to 11 channels with a used AVR is like... $1000ish on its own.
3. Atmos speakers - on a budget, klipsch quintet satelite speakers mounted high up on a wall works reasonably well. These can be found for like $100ish for 4 and then maybe $10-30ish for mounting hardware. You can also go in-ceiling speakers. This is a preference thing.

-------

Things to do while walls/ceiling are open - run wires for a 7.1.4 set up. Just in case. This becomes a hassle later.

https://www.dolby.com/about/support/guide/speaker-setup-guides/7.1.4-hybrid-atmos-overhead-speaker-setup-guide/

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That’s awesome you have a basement to set stuff up in. The exposed beams will make it super easy to install overhead speakers. I’m jealous heh heh. Cmndr sounds knowledgeable. I respectfully disagree on a few points. And this is just my personal opinion. I think the center channel speaker is very important. It’s responsible for most of the dialogue in movies. I’ve heard estimates that in some movie genres the center channel is responsible for 50% of the sound and I believe it. It’s important to keep the center channel close to the monitor so that voices seem to come from the mouths of the people on the screen. I guess that’s kinda obvious to center the speaker and put it as close to the monitor as possible. My center channel and tv are mounted to the wall and the center channel is about 1 inch below the tv. (the tv is an LG oled G1. I’m really happy with it.) 

 

Also I think the rear speakers are pretty important. I’m using mirage omnisat V2’s. They seem like a good choice for rear speakers because they’re not directional and produce sound across a wide angle. They supposedly have the concept of 30% direct sound to the listener and 70% reflected. They might be an ideal choice for a low ceiling because they don’t have a focal beam for lack of a better term. 

I agree 2 subwoofers is really good. But first things first I guess….start with 1. One thing to keep in mind is that when a receiver has 2 pre outs to hook up 2 subwoofers, both pre outs put out the exact same signal so they are mono channel I guess you could say. Some people say subwoofer placement isn’t really that important because you can’t hear directionality with low bass frequencies it produces. So basically if you kept your eyes closed and someone moved the sub woofer  around the room, you would have a difficult time identifing out where the subwoofer was. I have always kept my subwoofer up front next to the left or right speaker. Right now I have 2 subs and they are both in front. One next to the left and one next to the right. I keep them both at zero degrees. On good subs you have the option to run the subwoofer 180 degrees out of alignment. Basically that means when the driver would normally be pulled back, it’s actually pushed forward. I did an experiment with 2 identical klipsch 10’s. I put them both on my coffee table facing each other and ran 1 at the 180 degree setting. As expected, they canceled each other out. When I flipped the switch and both were at zero degrees they produced normal bass. I think it’s best to run them at zero degrees and keep them up front on opposite sides of the monitor. I might be overthinking it but I like to keep them in a line kinda like they’re all on the same plane. When the woofers of the left  and right speakers move to create pressure waves the subwoofers will be in alignment so the waves are synchronized. I’m kinda guessing on that.

As far as speaker placement and all that, I would say stick to the standard layout as best you can. It sounds like you kinda have a blank canvas to work with in your basement. I would say copy whatever the denon a/v receiver recommends as close as possible. I’ve mixed and matched different brands over the years and haven’t really ever noticed anything bad happening when the center or sub were of a different brand from the left and right.  As long as they are high quality I think it’s ok. Obviously the left and right have to match. Same with the rear two. 
I have the low pass in my receiver set ton120Hz. Normally I think 80 is the way to go. But 1 of my subs is an 8” so I think it probably is effective in the 120hz range. The 8’s low pass is at 120 and my 12 is set to 80. My left and right speakers have 6” woofers so I don’t think they are strong in the 80 to 120 range so the 8 might compensate for that. It sounds pretty darn good so I think the logic is sound. No pun heh heh. 
I guess your next steps are to start buying some stuff.  The best order is probably receiver first then left and rights. That will get you up and running. I would buy a subwoofer next. Then a center then 2 rear channels. I think 12 gauge copper speaker wire works pretty well. If you search on amazon you’ll find there’s no good options in 10 gauge. If you look it up you’ll see with 12 gauge copper there is a 3db loss at 50 feet. That’s significantly better than 14 gauge. I studied it and went with 12.  I’ve bought 2 types of 12 gauge from amazon. I really like this stuff from amazon. The insulation is really soft and flexible.  Monoprice 103844 250ft 12AWG CL2 Rated 2-Conductor Loud Speaker Cable (for In-Wall Installation)

 

It’s like $110 but if you start to get into this stuff you’ll want a lot of cable. It might sound silly, like way too much but 100 ft isn’t as much as you think. I think I used more than that to get to my rear speakers. It was up through the wall across the attic then down through a wall. The wire doesn’t go bad and the value is great with a 250ft roll. I also recommend getting banana plugs. I freaking love them. 

FosPower Banana Plugs 12 Pairs / 24 pcs, Closed Screw 24K Gold Plated Banana Speaker Plug Connectors for Speaker Wire

 

these banana plugs are $26. I think it’s great to be able to simply plug the wires in rather than untwist the terminal then tighten it back down on the wire. It makes it easy to unplug and move things and tinker with speaker layout.

I guess just start looking for good deals on Craigslist. Buy stuff in a logical order so you can use it as you build and add to it. I think as soon as you get a good receiver and a left and right and a sub you’ll be hooked. Your basement layout sounds like an audio lovers dream. Are you looking at any equipment now? Do you live in a large city where there is a lot of used stuff being sold? 
 

 

 

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