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evencoil
2008-08-12, 00:25
i know next to nothing about how audio equipment works, have nothing, and would like to set up my first system, centered around a squeezebox (how exciting, eh?). the main question i have is about what type of receiver to buy to hook a squeezebox classic into (and perhaps also my tv/dvd player, but that is a distant second concern). Is it important to get a receiver that can take a digital optical or coax input from the squeezebox or is analog as good? i've noticed that even expensive 2 channel receivers usually do not have digital inputs while almost all 5 and 7 channel receivers do. this is confusing to me because i was under the impression that 2 channels are all you need for music while more channels are used for home theaters. (so, my reasoning goes, if digital inputs help music quality then really expensive 2 channel receivers should have digital inputs...). Can someone set me straight? thanks!

Khuli
2008-08-12, 01:36
The minimum requirement is just an amplifier and speakers - no need to get anything too fancy unless you really want to!

Analog outputs are just fine, and 2 channels are all you need. Some receivers will enable music to be played on 5 or 7 speaker systems (all speakers working), while some will restrict it to stereo (2 speakers only + bass). Technically stereo is the most authentic reproduction, but ultimately it's all down to user preference.

Ideally try to find a local store where you can hear it, and see what you like.

Howard Passman
2008-08-12, 02:30
...on your budget and personality. My recomendation is to start with two channel unless you have visions of a home theater in the near future. Your $$ will go further toward quality sound that way. Plus if you like most people, the system you start with isn't the system you'll end up loving in the end. I wnet throught three or four iterations before I was satisfied. Some folks never hit satisfaction and other just like to change equipment like clothes.

With the SB you don't need to go too hi-fi because the box itself will become the weakest link in the chain. While the SB is good, it still isn't as good as a high end CD player or transport. Of course if you plan on buying a very good CD player or transport et al, then the better two channel set up you buy, the happier you'll be.

Starting out you can go as simple as the SB and a pair of powered speakers. The Audioengine A2 or A5's are fairly popular and work pretty well. Might be a good starting point for under $600-700.

Which ever way you go, enjoy the music on the way.

Howard

Skunk
2008-08-12, 05:56
My recommendation would be stay away from the home theater in a box systems that come with five small speakers, a subwoofer, and receiver. I haven't heard one that sounds good anyway.

I use what is known as an 'integrated amp', a two channel amp with multiple inputs for analog sources (and a volume control and subwoofer output). The digital output from the SB goes to a separate D/A converter, which feeds analog to the amp, and the DVD player also feeds an analog 2ch signal to the amp. Movies sound great on my 2.1 system and I don't miss the awkward rear speakers I used to have.

The good thing about an integrated is there is no signal processing, so you don't have to worry about A>D conversions or redundant D>A conversion. If you feed a cheap 2 ch receiver an analog signal it will probably convert the signal back to digital to perform bass/treble/other DSP, unless it has a special bypass or analog direct mode.

So for good sound with music, and a poor man's home theater as a bonus, I'd go with an integrated two channel amp with either a decent set of bookshelf speakers paired with a sub, or a set of floorstanding speakers if space and powers-that-be allow it.

Pale Blue Ego
2008-08-12, 06:59
Starting out you can go as simple as the SB and a pair of powered speakers. The Audioengine A2 or A5's are fairly popular and work pretty well. Might be a good starting point for under $600-700.

I would 2nd this suggestion. This solution is simple, sounds good, and the powered speakers can be used in a 2nd system (bedroom, garage, kitchen, or at work) if and when you get around to building a home theater or more elaborate component system.

And if you have the Squeezebox system in the same room as the TV/DVD, you can also plug those into the powered speakers.

An alternate suggestion would be to wait a month and buy the Squeezebox Boom, which will have amps and speakers built-in.

iPhone
2008-08-12, 08:27
i know next to nothing about how audio equipment works, have nothing, and would like to set up my first system, centered around a squeezebox (how exciting, eh?). the main question i have is about what type of receiver to buy to hook a squeezebox classic into (and perhaps also my tv/dvd player, but that is a distant second concern). Is it important to get a receiver that can take a digital optical or coax input from the squeezebox or is analog as good? i've noticed that even expensive 2 channel receivers usually do not have digital inputs while almost all 5 and 7 channel receivers do. this is confusing to me because i was under the impression that 2 channels are all you need for music while more channels are used for home theaters. (so, my reasoning goes, if digital inputs help music quality then really expensive 2 channel receivers should have digital inputs...). Can someone set me straight? thanks!

The reason 5 and 7 channel AV Receivers have Digital In is because most are going to be used with DVD players that have Digital Out for HT surround sound. Expensive 2 channel receivers are not for HT and will probably not have a DVD player hooked up to them so why waste money on a built-in DAC.

The first thing to do is decide what your system is really going to be used for, listening to music or watching TV or Movies. The other possibility is that it will be for both. If just for music listening, then decide if it is going to be serious listening or background music. If it is going to be for music and movies, decide which would be the priority.

If background or causal music listening only, the easy way is an SB3 and AudioEngine A5's self-powered speakers. If serious music listening only, then put most of your money in main speakers then the electronics (Integrated Amp or nice 2 channel receiver). If an equal amount of music, TV, and DVD movies then check to see how good your DVD player is and buy an AV Receiver at least a level above the DVD player. As said elsewhere, stay away from HTIB (Home Theater in a box). On surround sound, the most important speaker is the center channel. It is also important that all speakers have the same phase and are coherent and time aligned (first order Xovers). If not it is just surround noise as the speakers are canceling and fighting each other instead of working as a total sound field with multiple driver points.

Just a suggestion from somebody that has been in audio over 30 years, for music listening put most of your money in you main speakers. For a great HT experience, put most of the speaker money in the center channel. My experience and reasoning for this is what good are great electronics if the speakers are not up to the task of taking advantage of superior components. Then in the future (if you want to) upgrade the other equipment over time. The investment in the better speakers to begin with will get to a point that the equipment upgrades could use better speakers so again put money into better speakers then the equipment one has (only if making this a hobby).

Goodsounds
2008-08-12, 10:22
..

With the SB you don't need to go too hi-fi because the box itself will become the weakest link in the chain.
Howard

This is an interesting comment, care to explain further?

andynormancx
2008-08-12, 10:45
i've noticed that even expensive 2 channel receivers usually do not have digital inputs while almost all 5 and 7 channel receivers do. this is confusing to me because i was under the impression that 2 channels are all you need for music while more channels are used for home theaters. (so, my reasoning goes, if digital inputs help music quality then really expensive 2 channel receivers should have digital inputs...). Can someone set me straight?
No one has explicitly answered this particular point. Home theatre receivers don't really use digital inputs for quality reasons. The main reason is because it is far more convenient to have a single digital connection that can carry all 5/7 channels than it is to have several analogue links to do the same job.

In theory it also means that you can save on the number of multi channel decoders (the bit that converts the digital signal to 5/7 outputs), because you can just have a decoder in the receiver. In theory however this never happened as many DVD players ended up having decoders included as well as the receivers. If home theatres didn't use digital connections then every DVD player would need to have a decoder and multiple analogue outputs.

Howard Passman
2008-08-12, 13:33
This is an interesting comment, care to explain further?
I might be getting in to trouble here, but I'll try to explain myself :-)

While I like my DUET receivers very much, they are absolutely not on par with my CD player or the capabilites of the rest of my stereo. Even with someone who doesn't care what their stereo sounds like can be shown very quickly the difference between a good CD player or transport and the SB. Having not heard the Slim Transport I can't vouch for that, but that's not what we're talking about here.

Some of the differeneces you can here are longer decay times for things linke pianos, bells, cymbals, etc. Some of the tonal differences are snare drums that sound artificial (of course leave out some lower quality digitized devices used on some records), horns that don't have the right timber and on and on. I know this may start a little skirmish, but there's a lot of this you can really hear if you try a little. Even my wife can hear things that I point out and she could care less.

How good does your equipment need to be to start hearing these things. As iPhone said, start with your speakers. None of the rest matter if you don't have good drivers to work with. The catch with speakers is none of them are be all, do all devices. A speaker that is excellent for head banging rock more than likely will be a poor performer for Jazz. A set that sounds good for acoustic guitar stuff like James Taylor may or may not sound good with Jazz or Rock. Bi-polar speakers (my favorite for Jazz) may not work in your room or with your source material.

Anyway, if you want the most pleasing listening experience possible and you want to do what I did (most may not), which is make a long term expenditure, then you will have to spend time listening to many, many speakers. Most stores will let you take them home and try them out as long as you don't damage them or lose the packaging, etc.. It can actually be fun searching for the perfect sound for what you listen to the majority of the time.

Well, that's my take. You can always find the opposite arguement and I would bet you will. So I will stop now and allow that to begin :-)

Howard

BTW, "too hi-fi" is a hard term to quantify. I would start the arguement that you could spend as little as $3k-$4k on a two channel stereo and out perform sonically the SB with the right source. The source itself could easily cost half of that again and up.

evencoil
2008-08-12, 16:05
wow i didn't expect so many (and so thoughtful) replies. thanks. i think what i'm gearing towards is the integrated amp route. i forgot to mention two things in my original post. one is that i have two rooms i split my music listening time between about equally and i want to set up a 2 channel system in each (so I need 4 speakers total). i think this also supports having an integrated amp (or receiver) as that way i can easily switch output between the rooms, or have it in both at the same time. i also didn't mention my budget which is a pretty paltry (to an audiophile, anyway) 1K for the integrated amp and 4 speakers...so I'm really not looking at terribly high quality stuff, I just want a decent first set-up. would greatly welcome any other comments or advice anyone has :D

Goodsounds
2008-08-12, 17:33
Evencoil,

Good luck to you, enjoy your music and your new equipment (when you get it)!


Howard,

I'm not in to tossing garbage over the fence, so no need to duck. You explained your views, that's fine. I thought your comments were off the mark to give to a newbie, but hey, no problem, play on!

evencoil
2008-08-12, 20:07
My recommendation would be stay away from the home theater in a box systems that come with five small speakers, a subwoofer, and receiver. I haven't heard one that sounds good anyway.

I use what is known as an 'integrated amp', a two channel amp with multiple inputs for analog sources (and a volume control and subwoofer output). The digital output from the SB goes to a separate D/A converter, which feeds analog to the amp, and the DVD player also feeds an analog 2ch signal to the amp. Movies sound great on my 2.1 system and I don't miss the awkward rear speakers I used to have.

The good thing about an integrated is there is no signal processing, so you don't have to worry about A>D conversions or redundant D>A conversion. If you feed a cheap 2 ch receiver an analog signal it will probably convert the signal back to digital to perform bass/treble/other DSP, unless it has a special bypass or analog direct mode.

So for good sound with music, and a poor man's home theater as a bonus, I'd go with an integrated two channel amp with either a decent set of bookshelf speakers paired with a sub, or a set of floorstanding speakers if space and powers-that-be allow it.

i read this again and had another question. in your system you have a SB feeding digital to a D/A converter which then feeds analog to an integrated amp (right?). I'm still unclear...will I suffer much audio quality by not having a separate D/A converter and just going SB analog to the integrated amp? it seems from the previous discussion that the answer is no...but I want to make sure. thanks!

Skunk
2008-08-12, 21:20
You won't suffer any loss from running the SB analog output into an integrated amp that doesn't do digital signal processing.

If you get a digital amp/home theater receiver you'd just need to use the direct or bypass mode, to avoid A/D conversion. Or in that case you could probably use the SB3's digital output if there is a digital input, which also wouldn't lose any quality but would depend more on the quality of the D/A converter in the receiver.

FWIW I sometimes have a hard time even telling the difference in sound between the SB3 doing D/A (sending analog), vs. the external D/A. IMO you'd need to spend more than your speaker and amp budget to significantly better the SB3's D/A performance. Obviously others disagree :-)

RE: the amp. I think some here have used the Audio Source four channel (two stereo zones) amp that's around $100. http://www.amazon.com/AudioSource-AMP-100-2-Channel-Bridgeable-Amplifier/dp/B00026BQJ6

aubuti
2008-08-12, 21:24
wow i didn't expect so many (and so thoughtful) replies. thanks. i think what i'm gearing towards is the integrated amp route. i forgot to mention two things in my original post. one is that i have two rooms i split my music listening time between about equally and i want to set up a 2 channel system in each (so I need 4 speakers total). i think this also supports having an integrated amp (or receiver) as that way i can easily switch output between the rooms, or have it in both at the same time. i also didn't mention my budget which is a pretty paltry (to an audiophile, anyway) 1K for the integrated amp and 4 speakers...so I'm really not looking at terribly high quality stuff, I just want a decent first set-up. would greatly welcome any other comments or advice anyone has :D
1K of what currency? If it's US$, then an SB3 (or Duet) and 2 pair of Audioengine 5s would likely be the best way to go. If your talking Euros or pounds you'll have a lot more leeway....

Goodsounds
2008-08-12, 21:25
Evencoil, you've focused in on some of the other comments that I found to be a bit off the mark, given the information in your question.

Rest assured that many, many happy owners are using analog (ie, RCA plug) connections directly from their SB units to their stereo receivers, preamps, powered speakers and what not, and are enjoying fine sound quality (no more or less than the standard of the signal being sent to the SB). The external supplementary equipment that was mentioned is irrelevant for someone in your situation with a limited budget. Get a 2 channel receiver, be sure to try out speakers with the kind of music you like, and go from there.

If you listen to internet radio stations, pay attention to the sound quality of their signals- you will find the lower quality streams are not worth listening to. When you rip your CDs, pay attention to your approach and file settings to be sure you are getting the quality in the files that you want to have. There is a lot of information on this website to help you profit from the experience and know-how of the many knowledgeable people who visit here.

Howard Passman
2008-08-13, 02:02
Evencoil,


Howard,

I'm not in to tossing garbage over the fence, so no need to duck. You explained your views, that's fine. I thought your comments were off the mark to give to a newbie, but hey, no problem, play on!

Goodsounds

I think you may have misunderstood. My last post was in response to your question and not to the OP. I hope he understood that. I never want to discourage anyone form enjoying music. I think my original comment to the OP was well within his needs for now as I mentioned the Audioengine products.

Howard