How can you combine a stereo and a 5.1 set up and still have good 2 channel sound?

andreweast

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My brother wants to get a 5.1 set up and is thinking about going for the Q Acoustics deal at Richer Sounds, which seems fairly bargainous:

http://www.froogle.richersounds.com/package/system-savers/home-cinema-separates-bundle-deals/pah011463

Now, I don't have a clue about 5.1. Also, I'm eager to defend the cause of 2-channel and help him maintain a good stereo set up along-side all that paraphernalia for making explosions sound frightening.

So pardon my ignorance, but can you have a system where you can switch between 2 channel and 5.1 easily, using the same amps? The Q Acoustics speakers have had a good reputation in these parts since Gromit's Scalford revelation, so I'm wondering if my brother can get a Gromit-system alongside his 5.1 tomfoolery, and be able to switch between them.

I presume the problem is that the amp you get in 5.1 systems are completely pants. So what would he need to spend to get an amp that is decent for 2 channel but is switchable to 5.1?

Alternatively, he is wondering if it's better to just separate music and film. That way he could get a half decent 2 channel system of second hand classics, and then just run a cheapo 5.1 system separately. It would mean a room full of speakers, but might be better for the 2 channel cause.

 

mmar

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The arcam avr receivers are very well regarded for sounding good in both av and two channel

plenty of options , from single box solution to mix and match of av / two channel or hiend av separate pre processor - multi channel power amp essentially boils down to budget and how many boxes he wants or not as the case may be !

 

Dale Smith

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I had the same discussion with a friend, who binned the idea of 5.1 and just bought a stereo amp. I'd agree the amp is the issue. Clearly, with a 5.1 amp, your buying lots of processing, and other paraphernalia that is going to spoil your lovely stereo audio. Your also buying 5 amplified channels ( or 7 in the case of 7.1 ) instead of 2. I was once given a ball park of spending over a grand on a 5.1 amp, to get the same amplifier quality of a £250 - £300 hifi amp. which if you think about it is probably right. You'd need some kind of signal direct facility too, to bypass all the processing I guess.

Probably better off buying 2 amps.. or just watch / listen to films in stereo. ( Which is my personal choice )

 

Gizza

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Hello again Andrew, me again! I run both a 5.1 and 2 channel together. He could buy a decent pre and 2 channel amp or an integrated for the music and something like a Yamaha hifi receiver for the 5.1. When listening to 5.1, you simply feed the front left and right outputs from the receiver to the pre or integrated and run a centre channel and rear speakers from the receiver. Something like the Yamaha DSPE800 http://www.superfi.co.uk/P-4187-discontinued-yamaha-dspe800-home-cinema-processor.aspx, I think there is one in the classifieds here. The receiver amp powers the rear channels and centre channel in this model. There are phono outputs for the front left and right and the sub, so he'd need an active sub.Or he could buy an A/v receiver that has amps for all 5.1 channels, but still feed the front left and right channels to the pre/power or integrated 2 channel amp, rather than powering these 2 speakers from the A/V amp itself. He would also be able to add an active centre speaker if he wanted to.

 

Gizza

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Darn, just checked, there WAS a recent post in classifieds but it was asking if the unit was still for sale. It was however an old ad and the unit had been sold. Good product though, I used to use one myself and still have it, but am keeping it in case my B&K receiver packs in at some point.

 

cjr

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Downmix 5.1 to stereo. Run a good processor for the task. I have 3 systems around the house, 2 stereo & one 5.1. All used for stereo and AV!

 

Gizza

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Only just looked at the richer sounds offer, the system seems pretty good value, although I guess you wouldnt know until you heard the amp and speakers. I'm sure you could do a lot worse than Yamaha amplification, but yes, as another wammer said here, the 5.1 processor and such will be where a chunk of the costs are going. FWIW, the best 5.1 sound that I had was from a Meridian 568 5.1 processor, but this had no amplification at all and was essentially a 5.1 preamp. Stunning, and the preamp was wonderful, even for 2 channel. If he was happy to have just Dolby 5.1 and DTS and not the newer HD DTS and Dolby formats, you could go for one of these with active speakers all round, as active speakers seem to be very good vfm.

 

themadlatvian

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Buy a Yamaha DSP-A1 or DSP-AX1 second-hand for £200 or less.

Magnificent 7.1 sound. Superb 2 channel stereo also.

Both amps were thousands new, still very capable if you find a decent one.

 

paulf-2007

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Mine is a bit old school, I deliberately bought a dvd player ( albeit a denon top of the range ,plays sacd ) as it had component out to suit my 65" Panasonic plasma monitor. I use the analogue outs, fronts go to my tri-amped dsp crossover/horn speakers and rears go to a jap crap '80s solid state amp with rear ceiling mounted speakers. I only switch on the jap amp for films. For music its three lovely valve amps. All will be well until the panny packs up and then I will be probably be stuffed for using the old denon dvd too. So I will watch this thread with interest for the future.

 

mmar

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Buy a Yamaha DSP-A1 or DSP-AX1 second-hand for £200 or less.Magnificent 7.1 sound. Superb 2 channel stereo also.

Both amps were thousands new, still very capable if you find a decent one.
Agree the ax1 is a top quality amp for buttons wish I had kept mine !

 

AmDismal

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Buy a Yamaha DSP-A1 or DSP-AX1 second-hand for £200 or less.
I bought a DSP-A2070, top of the range Yammy, for about £30! Amazing bargains to be had in old-ish AV kit, and the Yamahas and Denons sounded pretty good. They had proper amps in them, too.

Buy something that was top of the range. These will have pre-amp outs and source direct, so you can bypass everything and send pure stereo to decent power amps if you want, although tbh they sounded OK.

 

andreweast

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Hello again Andrew, me again! I run both a 5.1 and 2 channel together. He could buy a decent pre and 2 channel amp or an integrated for the music and something like a Yamaha hifi receiver for the 5.1. When listening to 5.1, you simply feed the front left and right outputs from the receiver to the pre or integrated and run a centre channel and rear speakers from the receiver. Something like the Yamaha DSPE800 http://www.superfi.co.uk/P-4187-discontinued-yamaha-dspe800-home-cinema-processor.aspx, I think there is one in the classifieds here. The receiver amp powers the rear channels and centre channel in this model. There are phono outputs for the front left and right and the sub, so he'd need an active sub.Or he could buy an A/v receiver that has amps for all 5.1 channels, but still feed the front left and right channels to the pre/power or integrated 2 channel amp, rather than powering these 2 speakers from the A/V amp itself. He would also be able to add an active centre speaker if he wanted to.
Thanks for this Gary, and to everyone for all the helpful suggestions. I don't think he wants to spend much more than £1k so I guess the ideal would be if he could get a decent 1980s integrated for £200 (an Onix 21 is my favourite), and then run it in parallel to the Richers Sounds Yamaha/Q Acoustics bundle. I can't quite work out if this is possible, but I'm guessing from what you're saying Gary that some variation of this might be achievable.

The suggestion of actives is certainly appealing to him, but I would guess this will be above budget for something decent like Genelecs.

John's suggestion of the second hand Yamaha looks very much like it is worth pursuing; thanks.

- - - Updated - - -

I bought a DSP-A2070, top of the range Yammy, for about £30! Amazing bargains to be had in old-ish AV kit, and the Yamahas and Denons sounded pretty good. They had proper amps in them, too.Buy something that was top of the range. These will have pre-amp outs and source direct, so you can bypass everything and send pure stereo to decent power amps if you want, although tbh they sounded OK.
Ah, ok, this sounds like what we are looking for.

 

f1eng

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I also use my main speakers as the front channels. Afted some experimentation I decided that setting up my system as 4.0 or 4.1 sounded best to me. No centre speaker I tried is as good as my mains and if you set the system for either 4.0 or 4.1 (with and without subwoofer) you get most of the sound from the better speakers, with the centre channel being added as mono to the mains.

Works for me!

 

Tenson

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The important thing for a good stereo sound is having a good pair of main speakers. Even cheap amps are very good these days so don't go looking to blame the 5.1 amp just because it's affordable.

However, if I had £1K to spend on a 5.1 system I'd get active speakers all around. At the budget end they sound stupidly much better than passive speakers and they have good amps built-in. Add a 5.1 pre-amp. Consider a pair of Behringer Truth 2031A for the main speakers and Truth 2030A as centre. Then perhaps some Alesis Active520 for rears or more Truth 2030A. Processor can be anything really since most budget items are based on standard decoder chips and the amps are already in the speakers. Perhaps go used here, I just sold my Cyrus AV8 for £230.

So we have a total:

Behringer Truth 2031A (stereo pair) = £290

Behringer Truth 2030A (single, centre) = £130

Alesis M1 Active 520 (pair for rear) = £200

Processor (anything with 5.1 pre-amp outputs) = £200

Total is £820

No Sub you say? Well the LF can be sent to the main speakers, but if you want a sub for movie effects you could free some cash getting all parts used.

 

uncl_nigel

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I also use my main speakers as the front channels. Afted some experimentation I decided that setting up my system as 4.0 or 4.1 sounded best to me. No centre speaker I tried is as good as my mains and if you set the system for either 4.0 or 4.1 (with and without subwoofer) you get most of the sound from the better speakers, with the centre channel being added as mono to the mains.Works for me!
I did soemthing along the same lines when I could be bothered with surround.

When the processor packed in I just sold the excess bits and have used high quality stereo for film soundtracks ever since.

 

Pete the Feet

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Hello again Andrew, me again! I run both a 5.1 and 2 channel together. He could buy a decent pre and 2 channel amp or an integrated for the music and something like a Yamaha hifi receiver for the 5.1. When listening to 5.1, you simply feed the front left and right outputs from the receiver to the pre or integrated and run a centre channel and rear speakers from the receiver. Something like the Yamaha DSPE800 http://www.superfi.co.uk/P-4187-discontinued-yamaha-dspe800-home-cinema-processor.aspx, I think there is one in the classifieds here. The receiver amp powers the rear channels and centre channel in this model. There are phono outputs for the front left and right and the sub, so he'd need an active sub.Or he could buy an A/v receiver that has amps for all 5.1 channels, but still feed the front left and right channels to the pre/power or integrated 2 channel amp, rather than powering these 2 speakers from the A/V amp itself. He would also be able to add an active centre speaker if he wanted to.
This worked very well in the last house. All I did was move the left hand speaker to the left of the telly when watching a film. Didn't work so good in this house as I had to set up another set of speakers at the telly end of the house. With the DSP800 and its predessesor which packed in, you can use a better quality pre amp for the general stereo listening without any cable swapping.

I still have mine in the attic but I'm hanging on to it just in case I get around to setting up a cinema type room, but with only watching a couple of films a month and no telly it hardly seems worth the mither at the moment.

 

andreweast

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Buy a Yamaha DSP-A1 or DSP-AX1 second-hand for £200 or less.Magnificent 7.1 sound. Superb 2 channel stereo also.

Both amps were thousands new, still very capable if you find a decent one.
Looking into these a bit more. Do you know if they have a switch that will toggle between stereo and surround?

 

mmar

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Yes the ax1as do most av receivers has a direct two channel mode as well as a host of other effect modes

 

andreweast

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Ok, so if the simplest strategy is to go for a formerly top of the line av receiver and use this for stereo duties as well, the question would be...

If, according to Dale's point above, you need to spend £1k on a receiver to match the quality of a £250-300 stereo amp, then how much do you need to spend on a second hand topnotch av receiver to match the stereo performance of a classic budget 80s integrated amp such as an Onix OA21, one of the Musical Fidelity Class A amps, or at the very least a Creek 4140s2 (this being the kind of stereo performance that we are looking for).

 

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