After untold hours of research and deliberation, I’m finally beginning to finalize an audio setup for a dedicated HT room. A few facts before I get into things:
1. The room is relatively small:13 feet X 14 ½ feet.
2. Although movie sound is the priority, I also want top-notch stereo and SACD/DVD-A music sound.
3. My current HT experience is limited to a 5+ year old Dolby Pro Logic system: Yamaha receiver and low-end Polk speakers.
4. Video duty will be handled by DLP front-projector to a 88” screen.
5. I am trying to build an easily upgradeable audio system – especially in the area of digital processing.
6. I have a budget of $5000 to spend on audio (receiver or preamp/amps, and speakers).
7. My component rack is the back of the room – so a 14+ foot run is required to get the signal to the front 3 speakers.
8. I have hired a HT company to help me out – and I’m letting them choose the video equipment. For audio, though, they are suggesting a Yamaha RXV3300 receiver + NHT Super Audio speakers. I’m sure this would be a fine system, but I really want to try to squeeze separates into my budget instead of a receiver – and they don’t offer separates in my price range.
That said, here is the audio setup I have in mind.
Speakers: Onix Rocket HT Package: RS750 mains, RS200 center, RS300 surround: $2314. Rationale: from all reports, the best HT package for the money. I’m holding off on a sub for the time being.
Amps: 5 Norh LeAmps - $1295. Rationale: I honestly don’t understand the allure of huge 5-7 channel HT amps. I get the convenience factor, but isn’t the point of separates to be, well, separate? Given my setup (components in the back of the room), I would prefer two separate 3 channel amps so I could locate one amp in the front of the room to drive the main speakers and center channel and alleviate the 14+ foot speaker cable run. Plus, this lets me plug the amps into two different power circuits, rather than a single monster sucking 15 or more amps out of a single circuit. I couldn’t find a 3 channel amp in my price range (the Odyssey HT-3 looks ideal – but out of my league), so the LeAmps seem like the next best thing (albeit maybe TOO separate).
Which leaves about $1400 for a preamp. As far as I can tell, I don’t have many choices in this price range. The Outlaw 950 ($900) is one obvious contender – and what I’m leaning towards. It even leaves me some money to spend on cables. On the used market, the B&K Ref 30 is around that price since the B&K Ref 50 came out. The Outlaw has more digital processing features than the Ref 30, but not the looks or the pedigree. The Marantz AV9000 is also a contender – either used or new.
Unfortunately, I have not heard any of these components (preamps, amps, or speakers) – so I’m relying totally on internet reviews, specs, and forums like these. So I’d appreciate your thoughts on the following:
· How do you think an Outlaw 950+LeAmps+Rockets system will sound?
· What other HT preamps should I be considering?
· Are there other amps I should be considering?
· Am I being too harsh on mega channel amps? Is a 14+ foot speaker cable run no big deal? Is a 14+ foot unbalanced cable run just as bad?
· Given that I’m a newbie at this stuff, am I making this a little too complicated for a first system? Should I go with a simpler receiver based system and start tweaking from there?
· Any other thoughts or experiences you want to share are appreciated.