How To Put Together Your Own Audio System *Tutorial*

Discussion in 'OT Technology' started by Ronin, Nov 30, 2005.

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  1. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    New to the scene? Always been wanting to build one but didn't know how to go about doing it? Get ripped off lately?



    Ronin is here to help


    In Home:

    First, despite your knowledge of home theater, you need to figure a few things out:

    1)Budget, it is important to have planned a budget and set your sights on a price bracket for what you are prepared to spend.

    2)Application, what is the intended purpose of this sound system?

    3)Don't fall for marketing ploys and spiced up jargon. If you don't know about home theater a salesman will pick up on that quick and run with it. So be a careful shopper and look at ALL of your options before that final transaction is made.


    Let’s talk about how to work your budget into a home theatre system. There are a few ways to go about doing this.

    One option is to spend your whole budget on the first blow, getting every component you need.

    The other one is buying a few things to start off with using that same budget. You then purchase the rest of your system as more money becomes available, and I highly recommend taking this option if you are a bit tight on money. The end result is much better. And you will be a lot happier with the fact you don't need to go to Regal Cinemas to watch a movie, or to that annoying friend who smells like cheese but has a cool set up.

    You should take some time to consider how you wish to divide your money.

    Once you have that figured out it’s time to think about what you want to get out of your system.

    What will the speakers be used for mostly?

    If it’s going to be playing mostly music then I highly suggest going the route of dividing your budget and starting off with a high quality 2-channel set up to begin with.

    If they will be pumping out a lot of movies then some things are important to consider. Keep in mind the fact that 60 percent of the movie soundtrack will be going through your center channel, so spending a bit more money here is important. The center channel will be handling the dialogue, so you want those words to be clear and defined. You will also have to look at your room and figure out the best way to place rear speakers, and if you wish to run 7.1, where to put the side speakers. You may need to reorganize your room to better accommodate the new additions.

    Now you have a budget in mind and you know what you want to get done. But what components to use? Where can you get good deals? How do you go about shopping for said components?

    Your budget should be divided into probably something like this:

    Percentages are of total budget

    15.5% for receiver
    20% for Left/Right speaker pair
    20% for center speaker
    20% for subwoofer
    7.5 %for DVD player (I don’t stress a lot of money on this component, differences are minimal.)
    13% (Rear speakers, IMO, are for ambience and encompassing effects, pin point precision and detail is less important as in the front. Argue if you will, but I don't really care.)
    This leaves you 5% for cables and wiring and leeway for non exact pricing. You may also find it handy to cushion some more money for things such as stands and wall brackets.

    The numbers are my personal method of ratio to a system. Other people may feel differently. I also left out things such as amplifiers due to their costly nature. I feel the above ratios will get you ample performance for an every day set up. Depending on the importance of certain things and your money restraints you may find it fit to alter things. IE: you want to spend 800 on your front speakers, bass isn’t very important to you so you decide to spend only 600 on the subwoofer and get better rears or a better receiver or turntable.

    The average internet user isn’t going to be striving for ultra high-end equipment, and if they are, they most likely already know how to get their equipment and what to choose (unless they just have a lot of bling and don't know where to spend it ), so I will be aiming the following information at the average person that doesn’t have a huge budget.

    The first component to look at is the Receiver. This is the basis for any home theater.

    If you are not already brand savvy then the following list will help you become more accustomed to some makers of Receivers. For general mainstream audio these are the big 4.

    Yamaha www.yamaha.com
    Denon www.denon.com
    Marantz www.marantz.com
    Onkyo www.onkyo.com

    Each company is solid and out of the 4 you will find something to fit your needs. I personally favor Yamaha. For Onkyo, Denon, and Yamaha receivers I suggest using a service such as www.pricegrabber.com . Marantz will be a bit harder to find, pricegrabber directs to a couple models. You can also search for models via Google.com.

    As far as DVD/CD Players go, the same companies stand.

    The next part of your system is the Speakers. There is a large quantity of different companies to look at. I suggest auditioning them when possible.

    As far as companies go I suggest:

    Paradigm www.paradigm.com
    Bowers & Wilkins www.bwspeakers.com
    JBL www.jbl.com
    Definitive Technology www.definitivetech.com
    Axiom www.axiomaudio.com
    Polk www.polkaudio.com
    Mission www.mission.co.uk
    Athena www.athenaspeakers.com
    Alpine www.alpine-usa.com



    Give them a look on these sites, see what’s in your budget. Audition them if you can.

    www.pricegrabber.com
    www.google.com
    www.ebay.com
    www.audiogon.com
    www.tsto.com


    On speakers like the Paradigms you most likely won’t find them on an online dealer or get good price cuts so finding a dealer or ordering them used are going to be what you have to do most likely. www.audiogon.com and www.ebay.com are good places to look. I ordered a pair of used paradigms via ebay and am quite pleased.

    Subwoofers. Just about everyone enjoys a good subwoofer, it really adds that lovely impact to your experience. The previously mentioned speaker companies will have subwoofers, and in addition to those take a look at:

    HSU www.hsuresearch.com
    Rocket www.av123.com/products_category_brand.php?section=subwoofers&bra nd=10
    Outlaw Audio www.outlawaudio.com
    SVS www.svsound.com

    Need cable? Don’t worry yourself in spending a lot on cables by companies like Monster.

    www.bluejeanscable.com
    www.bdcable.com



    On A Tight Budget?




    A tight budget could mean you only have about 200-1000 dollars to spend, depending on a person’s definition of 'tight'.

    HTIBs (Home Theater In A Box) are going to be one of the things you are looking at. The consensus is that Yamaha makes some of the better ones, and Onkyo is right up there to. If you are on a 200-300 dollar budget I strongly suggest buying a receiver and matching it with an upgraded speaker pair. Remember, www.pricegrabber.com is your friend. Think of HTIBs as the easy alternative. And pairing seperate components as the harder yet more rewarding alternative.


    Let's look at the Yamaha HTR series.

    http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_attrib.php/page_id=73/form_keyword=yamaha HTR/rd=1/sortby=priceA

    I suggest getting the 5830.
    Now for a pair of front speakers, I suggest JBL Northridge, they’re cheap and provide decent output, I've listened to most of the line and for a basic home theater they are quite sufficient. If you are in a large room and think you need big speakers then be prepared to spend at least 300 dollars a pair.



    Bookshelf:
    http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=2929417


    Floorstanders:
    http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=1770852

    That puts us at about 320 with shipping (receiver + bookshelfs) or about 490 if you decided on getting floor standers.

    You should be sounding quite a bit better than the satellites you'd normally get in an HTIB.

    Your next step is to find a subwoofer and center channel speaker followed by your rear speakers.

    I suggest staying with JBL for your speakers. (Possibly Velodyne for your subwoofer)

    Now you can weigh a long term project against a short term one. Whatever is most important to you.

    Staying cheap and getting it done quick
    Or
    Spending a little bit more and taking your time.

    The important thing to know is that you have options.

    The last thing I have to mention is that when ordering online be aware that ordering from some places will not allow you to get a warranty. Normally when certain things such as Yamaha receivers are ordered at deep discount you will not be getting them warrantied, so if you want a warranty it is important to find an online dealer that will sell you a warranty.


    Car Audio

    Head Units now generally have a large number of standardized features such as the ability to read MP3s.

    Many people will argue what head units are better, and that you should get "This" over "That". It pretty much comes down to preference for the most part.

    Pioneer http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/pn...6_4035,00.html
    Alpine www.alpine-usa.com
    Eclipse www.eclipse-web.com
    Nakamichi http://www.nakamichi.com/flash.html

    Take a look at each manufacturer, see what fits into your budget and see if you can demo them or if you know anyone who owns a model you are interested in.

    www.woofersetc.com
    www.pricegrabber.com
    www.thezeb.com
    www.onlinecarstereo.com

    These places offer some low low prices and a wide selection.


    Now you have a head unit in mind and you want to find some speakers. First off, don't worry about equal quality speakers in the front and in the back. Music is 2-channels, your rears will be for ambient effect. You will want a much higher quality set of fronts. I also suggest that unless you are doing a simple install or have done it before that get some help or have it professionally installed. Generally an authorized install will help your warranty.

    As far as brands go for speakers there is a wide selection of different things to choose from, of course as usual, auditioning is the best way to go. And if you want better than a simple stock replacement then you will want Components.

    Morel www.morelusa.com
    Seas Lotus www.seaslotus.com
    Boston Acoustics www.bostonacoustics.com
    CDT Audio www.cdtaudio.com
    Dynaudio www.dynaudio.com
    Focal http://www.focal.tm.fr/accueil_en.htm

    www.woofersetc.com
    www.pricegrabber.com
    www.thezeb.com
    www.onlinecarstereo.com
    www.mobilesq.com

    The basic info still applies for subwoofers, except now you are getting into 3 basic categories: SQ, SPL, SQL.

    SQ=Sound Quality, may not be the loudest but will offer very clean and clear bass response.

    SPL=Loudness is the primary concern of an SPL driver.

    SQL=A balance of both SQ and SQL.

    SQ subwoofers include Image Dynamics IDMAX, Seas Lotus SW.

    SQL subwoofers include Resonant Engineering XXX, Adire Audio Brahma, JL Audio W7.

    SPL=Most of what is made by MTX, Digital Designs, and Kicker. (Adire Audio Brahmas get incredibly loud as well)


    Sound Deadener is another very important element of Car Audio.

    And as much as I could elaborate I will point you to this very handy web site:

    http://www.sounddeadenershowdown.com

    Ontop of the regular sound matting, you will probably want to put (in some areason) a thicker road noise cancelling matting. Tacmat is a good one and Elemental Designs has recently come out with TekLite or eDead v.4. I have ordered both, equal thickness, Tacmat is wider, Teklite is a much better bang for your buck.


    Starting To Build The Car Stereo

    It is important to know that just adding a decent CD/MP3 Player will greatly improve the sound of your car. So that is the place you want to start. What you get will depend on budget, higher end will be Alpine. Eclipse or Nakamichi, lower will be either Alpine or Pioneer most likely.

    The next step after the CD player is to get upgraded speakers. Upgrade the front ones first or perhaps only the front ones. Then the rears.

    The reason is because music is 2-channels, the rears are just there for ambience.

    When installing speakers you will need to choose between either kick panels or door mount installation. People generally feel kickpanels are the best choice.

    Getting an amp to power aftermarket speakers is a very good idea, a seperate amplifier is leaps and bounds better than the amplifier in a factory deck. The sound produced by the amplifier will not only be much louder but more accurate and far more dynamic.

    The next step is to find a subwoofer-amplifier combo. You may be turned off by how many people ride around with large quanitites of bass emitting from their vehicle but there are many subwoofers designed to provide superior sound quality as opposed to loudness. You will have seen the breakdown in the above opening section to Car Audio.

    If done properly you will be both pleased and surprised at how good an in-car sound system will sound.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2006
  2. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    ty, should be done sometime this weekend

    any contributions are much appreciated
     
  3. mdaniel

    mdaniel S is for Shiksa

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    What's your opinion on Harman Kardon receivers? AVR-435 for example?
     
  4. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    my harman kardon receiver exploded

    you dont want my opinion :mad:

    it was pwnage while it lasted though, HK3480.

    As far as looks go they are nice looking but I dont think they're anything extraordinary. if you were to buy one make sure u get a good deal online, they have high mark ups.
     
  5. mdaniel

    mdaniel S is for Shiksa

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    Is it OK to get small rears satellites that bottom out around 100-120Hz? Right now I'm planning to get JBL floor standing speakers for the L/R (Northridge E80 or E90) and Northridge center and sub. But for the rears, I want something as small as possible to mount on the walls. If I tell the receiver they're small speakers, anything under a certain frequency will get redirected to the L/R and sub automatically, right? What's the smallest you'd go for the rear channels?
     
  6. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    you should be fine with rears that only go down to 100-120.

    A lot of the surrounds I've seen dont go much farther than 70-90 anyway.

    All redirected low frequencies go to your sub

    Im not exactly sure how your receiver works but lets think hypothetically.(im not sure whether its just a large/small, or selectable hz)

    Settiing your speakers to small will free your mains from bass, this will increase effiency, the subwoofer will handle these frequencies a lot better then your mains will.

    Large refers to the fact they have a large frequency response. I suggest setting all of your speakers to small, this will make them more mid bass effecient. If you start googling there is a lot of talk about the fact you should only set your speakers to large when they can extend low (ie 20-30hz region) and do it well. The JBL northridges are probably not cut out for that. And this is important to keep in mind, just because they are rated down to say 40hz (just a number im throwing out i didnt check), doesnt mean they are going to be pulling off 40hz tones in your living room with fervor. If they are handling 120hz on up though they will be able to do a lot more free'd up from the bass.

    So this is what I'd do:

    Set all speakers to small, and bring the crossover to your subwoofer right up to the crossover point of the mains. IE, everything is set to small, crossover point is at 120hz. Set the crossover point on your sub to 120hz.

    I'd try some tracks out on this setting using variated volumes, find your limitations, if you feel you want to tweak arouind then go ahead, but just be careful, dont open a track at full volume with ur bass gains up and everything set to large.:mamoru: If you want to do some simple music bass testing then here are a couple songs with some decent bass lines: (no idea what you like to listen to so im just gonna throw out a mix of stuff)

    Three Six Mafia - Late Nite Tip
    Smashing Pumpkins - Thirty-Three
    The Postal Service - Such Great Heights
    Gorillaz - Last Living Souls

    those songs generally have rolling notes (they roll along along a band of frequencies) thats a good way to check for holes in your frequency response. And they are easy to find, which is another reason I recommended them.

    For checking out other things (sometimes its fun to listen to see if you can find certain subtelys in music:

    Seal - Love's Divine -the storm sounds at the beginning of the track should sound recessed, and seals voice will sound like its echoing in a large area.

    Not sure if you can find it, I can e-mail it to you if you want me to: The Connecticut Early Music Festival Ensemble - Vivaldi, Flute Concerto in D you can hear the wooden nature of the flute, a distinct sound.

    and for shits and grins I have another piece with a pipe organ that gives off bass extending down to 16hz if you want that 2 (it came on my HSU test CD). I also have some other test tracks if you are interested.



    The smallest id go for rears? Hm thats sort of an odd question to me? How low of an extension would I require? 100-120hz would be fine, that would meet the small crossover point.

    Sorry if my post is a bit extended, I wanted to make sure everything was covered


    If someone on this board happens to read this and can explain octaves and how they are involved with crossovers in lamens terms then please do. It's a bit confusing to me and I would have trouble explaining it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 2, 2005
  7. MSIGuy

    MSIGuy om nom nom nom!

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    I disagree on the "Whatever you do, don't buy BOSE."

    Bose stuff isn't bad, its just not as good as they make it out to be. Some of their systems are really easy to setup, and small on space, which alot of people like.
     
  8. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    Im not going to recommend speakers based on looks

    if there is a reason besides looks someone should get bose let me know.
     
  9. mdaniel

    mdaniel S is for Shiksa

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    Thanks for you response. I think what I was getting at with this part is driver size and count. ie. I've seen single 3-4" drivers, two way speakers with a 3-4" woofer, two way with dual woofers, etc. I'm guessing 2 way would almost be a must but dual woofers might not make much difference if they're set to small. Not that I'm going to get much bass out of 4" driver anyway, no matter how many of them there are.
     
  10. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    just get a 2-way, dual woofers would help increase sound output, whatever you feel like spending money on. I do not have hands on experience with all of the products that are easily available, so it's hard to tell what to EXACTLY expect from what you get. Going with the dual woofers may be benefical to bring the volume of your rears up so you can hear them easier amongst sounds of your mains.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 3, 2005
  11. MSIGuy

    MSIGuy om nom nom nom!

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    Well, they have good customer support, they have alot of speakers that are small in forum factor (not the same as looks :ugh: ), and they are readily available in a large ammount of places.

    Not saying they're great, or that you can't do better, just that alot of people won't notice the difference in sound, and would trade the price savings for the ability to take them back to a local store if need be.

    You're attitude of "they're utter and complete shit, avoid them at all cost" is just silly.
     
  12. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    I didnt say theyre shit, I said don't get them.

    I think Bose takes advantage of their marketing and makes people think theyre getting something a lot better than they are (not that using marketing is bad, Bose has awesome marketing)

    "Better sound through skillful marketing."

    I am going to reword my comment in the original post.
     
  13. twistid

    twistid Banged By Super Models Moderator

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    a lot of companies have a good mark-up, bose has an outstanding mark-up... you realize they make all their money from marketing their name, and paul harvey off of satelite speakers that cost them less than $2 to produce. that wave tech is old as the hills, and a lot of companies have used it... some still do, but if you listen to bose... they come up with it, and are the only ones who use it. a $300 aiwa from wal-mart can produce a better sound expirence. i'd only suggest bose to someone who work the oil fields, or some similar job... where the guys become tone deaf, from all the loud noise... or someone who listens to talk radio, and the light sounds of jazz.
     
  14. MSIGuy

    MSIGuy om nom nom nom!

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    Much better.
     
  15. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    I am bumping this so I dont forget to update it, I should be updating it/finishing it up this weekend
     
  16. itr452

    itr452 VTEC motherfucker, GOT ANY?

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    Good shit ronin! i'll drink to that, but there's a few suggestions out there that i'd recommend. Again it's just my preference, and i wont shit on this thread, because i think you almost nailed it on the head with regards to components.

    Some stuff you left out:

    Speakers: Athena, Energy, Mirage (basically, API)
    or look here: http://www.tsto.com they have good prices on some decent shit, like Mission speakers, no i'm not affiliated with them, but they got good prices


    Subwoofer: SVS

    Receiver: Panasonic SA XR series (run it all the way through digital, up to the speakers and you wont believe your ears)
    Also, if you're using analogue plugs, take a look at the JVC RX-201 or RX-301's digital receivers again. Ultra efficient and for the price, excellent

    DVD player: Cheap toshiba 3680 or whatever versions are out there now are the best bang for the buck, and are extensively modded because they serve as an excellent platform. They go for about 60'ish at hhgreg.com or other retailers

    Speaker Cables: Element cable or go cheap like me and get a spool of solid core magnet wire and make your own speaker cables for less than a dollar.

    That's my UBER cheap choices.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2006
  17. itr452

    itr452 VTEC motherfucker, GOT ANY?

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    As for bose, they're not as good as people purport them to be. Cmon man, look at the late night advertisements, if you dont think they turn around and mark up their speakers due to their marketing, you've gotta be kidding yourself. Just look at those commercials, they bring their 3-2-1 system into some family's home and joe schmoe and his family are sitting there watching a movie with some annoying dude asking them how it sounds...... And to nobody's suprise, they're astounded by the excellent imaging and deep soundstage. This is in comparison to their TV speakers.

    It's a joke, a sick perverted joke only bose knows about. They also prey on the average dude being pussywhipped and having to get something that falls along the WAF. There is a reason why they get slapped with the label "no highs no lows, gotta be bose"

    I walked into a bose store last week for shits and giggles. I commented that the crossover for the sub (bass module) was way too high and that i could hear the dialogue of the movie without the cubes. He caught on and told me that "everyone's just jealous because they want to be what bose is". In financial terms, fuck yeah, awesome marketing and nailing the ignorant consumer as being a respected brand does sell speakers. But for the price, i'd opt for anthony gallo's speakers. They're small, they're pricey, but there's one difference........ they sound good, and they're not grossly overpriced.
     
  18. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    i wouldve made my original post more anti-bose but i always get bitched at for it

    i will be taking your add ins and probably putting them somewhere in the thread, i want to add in more options for set ups etc.
     
  19. itr452

    itr452 VTEC motherfucker, GOT ANY?

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    cool shit ronin, excellent writeup! i'm not trying to jack this thread at all! just trying to contribute too! :cool: :cool: :bigthumb:
     
  20. StealthMode

    StealthMode Active Member

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    Awesome writeup! Been wanting to redo my home theater for awhile now, as mine sounds pretty bad compared to what it used to, and I just don't have the funds to go all out. This helps me out a lot. :bigthumb:
     
  21. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    edited, should be finished unless you think it needs something else

    sticky?

    edit: stickied, excellent, if I think of anything in the future I will add it to the original post :o
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2006
  22. CodeX

    CodeX Guest

    How do you not even mention Harman/Kardon and Infinity? I have the AVR635 HK reciever and a full 7.1 Infinity Prelude setup and it is the best thing I have ever heard...
     
  23. emorphien

    emorphien New Member

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    I know you had a bad harman kardon experience, but I'd include those in your list of standard brands.

    FWIW I've had better experience with H/K than Onkyo.
     
  24. Moistfly

    Moistfly Anal Bum Cover

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    0% of your budget dedicated to room treatments ftl ... I know in some situations it's not realistic but so many people would be so much happier with their final product if they'd budget for even a basic treatment
     
  25. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    most good room treatments are highly expensive which dont fit into the "on a budget" criteria this thread is for, not to mention this edu is outdated and ive started a new EDU to replace these 2 old ones but i have very little time to actually get around to it. so its partially complete :hs:

    It should be finished before christmas as winter break is coming up.

    I should have recommendations and price ratios for systems ranging anywhere from 500-50k when im done with the new EDU, its going to be massive
     
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