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Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

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Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby lostinasia » 08 Dec 2015, 17:33

We're buying a new TV, and I also hope to buy a sound system to go with it (buying both at the same time may lead to cheaper prices). At the moment I'm leaning towards getting a soundbar, mainly because I don't have to think about it that much, but I'm not sure how wise or foolish an idea that is, whether in terms of quality or price. Our current "stereo" is a cheap bookshelf unit bought about fifteen years ago (broken tape deck, broken CD player, no idea if the radio tuner still works, but my Apple Airport Express plugs into it for rather crap sound), and I figure that old unit may as well go in the garbage. I don't want wires all over the place, and seeing as how we live in an apartment, the volume is never going to be that loud.

The sound system will of course be used for TV, but more often it'll be background music or podcasts playing. Stuff will be played from my computer via home sharing and an Airport Express or future Apple TV, or via Bluetooth from the devices we've got littering the place. We're not audiophiles in the least. At the moment most of my music is played through a little UE bluetooth speaker (which is a heck of a lot better than the bookshelf unit!), and seeing as how I'm fine with that I'm guessing almost anything will be a giant step up in quality.

Is a soundbar good enough for this kind of use, or should I start investigating speaker units? I'm not even sure HOW stereos are bought these days - last time I shopped for quality units was with friends back in the early 90s, when spending most of our disposable income on stereos seemed like a good idea.

Hoping to spend around 10,000, may go up to 20,000. Any tips?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby urodacus » 08 Dec 2015, 17:55

A good quality sound bar with HDMI input from the TV should also have an aux input at least for the airplay option you want.
You won't need more than that, and it's simpler.
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Re: Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby tango42 » 08 Dec 2015, 20:05

I hate my Pioneer soundbar. Bought it along with tv just because. I just can't get decent sound from it, and it doesn't sound like it is part of the tv. The tv itself gives a more realistic sound.

So I use my older surround sound and the soundbar just takes up space.

I always thought soundbars were for amateurs or people who don't know or care about sound and just buy whatever the salesperson recommends. In my case, confirmed.
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Re: Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby Taiwan_Student » 09 Dec 2015, 00:59

Is surround sound still being used in TV. I read in a Cnet article that it's on its way out. I'm really behind the times and only recently started enjoying good halfway decent stereo sound using three piece computer speaker set. Dual woofer plus two midrange speakers, one for the left and right channe. A less than 2000 option but it sound good enough for me. If there was surround sound programming, I'd consider it one day.
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Re: Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby tommy525 » 09 Dec 2015, 09:13

A sound bar could be good. I do suppose there are ones that are better then other ones. But another thing to consider that may be good. One of those stereos for iphones, and the such. You do need to make sure that your TV has an Audio Out jack though.

https://www.bose.com/products/speakers/ ... src=K22350

There are other brands that are still good and not as expensive.
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Re: Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby lostinasia » 09 Dec 2015, 10:03

urodacus wrote:A good quality sound bar with HDMI input from the TV should also have an aux input at least for the airplay option you want.
You won't need more than that, and it's simpler.

I always thought soundbars were for ... people who don't know or care about sound

Thanks for the pointers - the first two pieces of advice may be contradictory, except that I strongly suspect I'm one of those people that you write about!

I'm leaning towards a Philips HTL5140 sound bar, which seems to get quite good reviews.

On surround sound: I'm way out of my depth talking about this, but as best I can tell "true" surround sound involves speakers littered around the living room, and I'm not interested in going in that direction, even though such a route would give my cats a delightful new assortment of objects to knock over (I'm already worried about that with a flatscreen TV!). Apparently lots of the sound bars do a middling job of providing "fake" surround, and that's good enough for me. My main concern is whether sound bars are genuinely bad, or just middling, for music playback: classical, opera, pop, reggae, classic rock ... kind of everything, really, but too much of it unfortunately ripped to my computer at a low bitrate over a decade back. I have a strong suspicion that those low-bitrate tracks, currently not much of a problem, would become more so if I had a higher quality sound system - much as the grey-market DVDs I accumulated long ago will probably look a heck of a lot worse on a modern HDTV.
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Re: Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby Ibis2k12 » 10 Dec 2015, 16:17

Soundbars are usually at the bottom of my reccomended lists because:

a) They have to be placed below the screen level, so the sound generates from below the position of the screen that you're watching (you are usually looking 3/4rds to the top)*

b) Tweeters and domes are really tiny, and tiny speakers lack power (important for the low end, aka explosions, bass etc) and definition (important for the high end, such as voices and many musical instruments)

c) The soundbar has to be positioned right under the tv, which means it will lack any proper sound stage (the sound comes come straight in front of you, no immersion)

d) They look pretty in a living room, so most makers charge a lot of money for what is essentially a center speaker with a different form factor

There are some soundbars that claim to be able to reproduce sound stage and direction of a standard 2.0 or 2.1 setup, and some come with a subwoofer like the Philips HTL5140 to cover the low end, but a 2.0 or 2.1 setup will often give you better results for both movies and music, while costing much less.

For a 2.0 setup buy a pair of powered speakers, the bigger the better (improved low end). Edifier r2700 or 2800 are massive and give you treble and bass control, so they can either be delicate or knock off the walls (5500nt). Edifier also has the r1900, similar product, much smaller and more living-room-friendly, cost is under 3000nt.
They both sound pretty good for their price.
They're powered speakers, so you don't need a receiver, just plug them in the Tv / pc and you're ready to go.

For a 2.1 setup there are a ton of options here in Taiwan. Edifier, Ozaki, Js, Kinyo, Tc Star and many others. They all have cheap sets that sound pretty "meh" and are only good on a small desk to use as computer speakers, but they also have bigger setups that can fill a room. To use as a speaker set for my laptop I bought an Ozaki Wr690, and it turned out to be overkill, I don't know how anyone could use it above 60% volume, considering that at 50% it fills a 10ping living room to the point that my wife asks me to lower volume. Not amazing for music (small tweeter, so the highs are a bit muffled), but that double subwoofer can really push out a lot of low end. The 2 speakers are relatively small and easily fit next to a tv/monitor, the subwoofer requires a lot more space. Pretty good set considering the price point.
There are many good reviews for Edifier 2.1 sets and they have many available, but I've only heard the smaller ones under 2000nt, so hard to compare.
Again, powered speakers, so no need for a receiver.

If you want to go full 5.1, or at least you want to have a setup that will allow you to go 5.1 in the future, you have 2 options:
1) Buy a second hand receiver, as long as it supports hdmi and 5.1 you're good to go (other features can be useful, but not necessary)
2) Look for a Yamaha/Denon/Pioneer dealer and see if you can get a good price on one of the entry level models.
An entry level receiver with cheap bookshelf speakers will kick any 2.0 out of the water, and you can add a subwoofer anytime you want.
My 4.1 in the computer room is:

Receiver: Denon S500BT
Front speakers: Tannoy Mercury V1i
Rear Speakers: Singleton X-5
Subwoofer: Ozaki WR690

I'm currently not using a center channel because I still have to find one that will match the tone of the Tannoy in a proper way (and the center from Tannoy is fairly expensive, so I'd prefer to find a good alternative). The 2 front speakers are roughly 3m away from each other so I use a "phantom center" setup.
The Ozaki subwoofer is good enough for me, at 40% it makes my computer table tremble and my wife shouts at me.
The SIngleton speakers were a leap of faith. Rear speaker during movies basically only handle BOOMB BAM BLAST and SWOOOOSH, so they don't need to match the front ones and don't need to be expensive. I found those Singletons on Ruten for 1800nt and I thought:"Eh, let's try, they're supposed to have slightly better low end than the Tannoy, hopefully they'll work fine as rears", and they work PERFECTLY as rears. Hell, if I wanted to make a cheap 5.1 setup I'd buy 4 of them to use both as front and rears. My guess is that for most people their low end is good enough but a subwoofer is always a welcome addition.

Absolutely avoid home theaters in a box and Logitech stuff, it's all insanely overpriced. HTIAB should be considered only if you find a really good deal and you don't think you'll ever plan to upgrade.

http://www.tkec.com.tw/pt.aspx?cid=1131 ... pid=158609

At full price no way, but under 15000nt? Eh, that's not too bad. I'd take that over any soundbar, though I still prefer Receiver + bookshelf speakers OR large, powered speakers.
If you think that the 2 rear speakers will be annoying to place, then 2.0 or 2.1 is the way to go.

* = to further explain this, if you buy a 5.1 setup the center speaker will have the same issue of generating sound from below the ideal height, but having side and rear channels that generate sound all around you means that you are less likely to notice it. With a "phantom center" setup the sound is generated exclusively from the side channels, and since they're taller and easier to place you can have voices and sound at the right screen height.
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Re: Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby lostinasia » 13 Dec 2015, 16:45

Ibis2k12 wrote:Soundbars are usually at the bottom of my reccomended lists because ...

Thanks Ibis - tons of helpful advice there. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do, but you've certainly guaranteed I'll be thinking about it a lot more carefully!

I'm almost definitely not going to take the 5.1 route - at one level of course it's appealing, but I don't want to deal with the setup, and I'm fairly sure the cats would damage at least one of the speakers in short order. That, and I don't know how much surround sound there even is on the streaming/downloads that I'll probably use for most content.

Are there any chain stores here that sell a decent range of sound equipment like this? I assume the 3C/Yellow Box/燦坤 sell some stuff, but there must be better stores for browsing. I haven't looked too closely in those stores, but I had the impression their speakers were more for computers rather than home theaters.

A lingering issue: I'm not sure we'll have room for "real" speakers on either side of a TV.
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Re: Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby Ibis2k12 » 13 Dec 2015, 21:46

Here in Yilan all Sunfar stores tend to have quite a few models available for testing. Yellow Box not so much, but it depends from store to store.
Smaller 2.0 and 2.1 setups are made specifically with a pc in mind, so they're supposed to sit on a small desk, 60/80/100cms apart. There are some solutions though that come with larger domes/tweeters and will work for movies as well.

For sound the best advice is usually to ignore any advice, including mine (TA DAN!) because after you find the type of product that you want (2.0, 2.1 etc) then it's all a matter of personal preference. I've been to a high-end audio store in Luodong and heard some painfully expensive Made-in-Austra sepakers that made me think:"Eh, they're ok", and then as soon as I heard the sound of the Tannoy (1/10th of the price of the Austrian one) I told the owner to order a pair for me.
Try to listen to as much stuff as possible.
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Re: Buying a sound system - sound bar? Simple stereo? Or what?

Postby triceratopses » 20 Dec 2015, 15:04

off amazon
Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker $120
Polk Audio Monitor60 Series II Floorstanding Loudspeaker x 2 $200 x 2 $400
Yamaha RX-V377 5.1-Channel A/V Home Theater Receiver $250

for pretty good sound 10000 times better than soundbar

the problem is, they severely overcharge these things in Taiwan. last time i checked about 4yrs ago the receiver alone was 30k. i told the seller to go fuck herself and walked out
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