Newbie Needs Help On AV v Stereo, Multi-Room and How Much To Spend

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Guest
I'm new to HiFi and AV.  I hope you experts can help me to decide what kit to buy.  Frankly I'm bewildered by all the different options and hope that you can give me some simple, straightforward advice. 

The kit I already have:

TEAC CR-H100 CD/Tuner/Amp

TEAC MD-H100 MiniDisc player

Sky Plus Satellite Box

JVC DR-M10SEK DVD Recorder

iMac & three iPods (one for each of the family)

I'm just about to go and buy a Panasonic 42" HDTV plasma .

What I want to be able to do:

1. Enjoy movies to their full potential in my lounge.

2. Listen to my favourite classical and jazz CD's in one of three places: lounge, kitchen-diner and patio.

3. Play my iTunes library in the same three locations.

4. Allow anyone to drop their iPod in a dock in the three locations for charging and listening.

5. Listen to digital and FM radio in each of the three places.

6. Ideally I would like to allow the occupant of any room to be able to choose to listen to/watch and control any of the sources whist people in other rooms do something else e.g. wife listens to her iPod in the kitchen, kid watches some TV/DVD in the lounge and I get a really high quality rendition of my favourite recordings somewhere else.

I have some questions:

1. If you have a surround sound system for your TV, will music sound any good on it or should you have a separate stereo system for music? 

2. Is there any real benefit to having a surround sound system?  Does it really sound that much better?

3. If buy a separate amplifier and speakers, how much would I have to spend to improve on the sound quality of my little TEAC system?  Would I notice a big difference or is the improvement expensive stuff brings only marginal?  I was startled to find that you can spend anything from a few hundred quid to the price of an expensive car on hi-fi equipment.  I'm sure there must be diminishing returns as you climb up the price ladder but where are the big jumps in audio quality?

4. Can you tell the difference between a 128kbs AAC encoded playback from an iPod and the original CD on a decent hi-fi?  If you can, how marked is the difference?  I'm trying to work out if I need t buy another CD player or not.

5. How would you recommend I tackle the multi-room audio problem?  There seem to be loads of options from WiFi like AirTunes, purpose built wire systems with wall mounted panels and all sorts.  I've also thought of just buying a couple of Bose Sound Docks and carting them around.

6. Is the SkyPlus box OK to use as a DAB radio or would you recommend a purpose built device?

Thanks!

 
G

Guest

Guest
Thanks analoguekid.  I notice on your picture you have a flat screen above a fireplace.  How warm does it get up there?  I understand that temperatures exceeding 90F shorten the life of the display.

 
G

Guest

Guest
tis only an electric fire, atm, one with a hot air blower, so doesn't gert hot at all, was advised against putting it above gas or real fire

 

andrew1810

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Jul 20, 2005
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Hello,

I'll work through these as best I can:

2. Listen to my favourite classical and jazz CD's in one of three places: lounge, kitchen-diner and patio....3. Play my iTunes library in the same three locations.
For this you have a few options:

1) CD player in each room, however having to continuously carry a CD with you would get annoying.

2) Put an ipod dock in each room and simply plug your ipod in. This would work, but controlling the ipod would be awkward and for the price of the better dock you can buy a proper audio streamer.

3) Get a Sonos, its all configured ready and in the basic kit you get a fancy remote and 2 base stations, one plugs into the PC and the other goes in the room with speakers plugged directly into it.

Drawback of this: its VERY expensive (£1000 for 2 rooms)

4) Get one of the alternative streaming devides (in price order):

  • Netgear MP101 - very cheap, but now discontinued so you would have to buy from eBay and also a little unreliable. Also won't play AAC files so you would need to re-rip to MP3 or WMA. Also rubbish software, but I have a way around that problem. Wireless b only
    Philips Streamium SL50i - Small and well made, easy to use, but only does MP3 and again poor software. The screen is also too small and lacks a backlight so it is difficult to see from any distance away. Wireless b and g
    Terratec Noxon - Very small and cheap at about £100. Doesn't come with software, but that gives you freedom to try others. Can also play internet radio without the PC being switched on as long as you have a wireless broadband router. Downside - again, only MP3. Wireless b and g
    Apple Airport - Will play AAC, about £100, doubles up as a wireless access point. Problem is that it has to be controlled by itunes, no remote or screen and if you had three, they all play the same music!
    Roku Soundbridge M1000 - looks good, but I had reliability problems. Sound quality isn't as good as the Squeezebox (below) £180. Wireless b only
    Slimdevices Squeezebox2 - The pick of the lot, doesn't look like much but it has the best sound quality by a long way. Plays anything you throw at it and can be linked in to read your itunes library. Loads of plugins available including one which will play BBC radio streams (the others don't), £190 Wireless b and g
    Philips Streamium all in one - Convenient to use, works out of the box, built in speakers. Problem with this is that you would need to re-rip your CD's, no internet radio and it is expensive (£600 for 2 rooms)

The best of the lot is the Squeezebox by some margin, but it is quite expensive. If you didn't want to spend much and don't mind re-ripping your music, go for the Terratec.

These can all plug into your existing hifi/home cinema, or if there isn't a hifi in the room would need either an amp and speakers or active speakers (I can suggest some if needed)

4. Allow anyone to drop their iPod in a dock in the three locations for charging and listening.
An ipod dock in each room would allow this, but the better way around it would be to charge in a central location and I assume all of the tracks from all ipods are on the main PC.

In this case, just get each person to put all of their tracks into a playlist and browse from this playlist on one of the streaming devices above.

5. Listen to digital and FM radio in each of the three places.
All of the devices have internet radio capabilities, but with the exception of the squeezebox, they lack the mainstream ones such as BBC.

One option would be to put a Tivoli DAB radio in each room which doesn't contain the main hifi and plug whichever device into that. That would give a small setup (The tivoli has built in amp and speakers) which would have DAB, FM and access to all of the CD's

6. Ideally I would like to allow the occupant of any room to be able to choose to listen to/watch and control any of the sources whist people in other rooms do something else e.g. wife listens to her iPod in the kitchen, kid watches some TV/DVD in the lounge and I get a really high quality rendition of my favourite recordings somewhere else.
Thats easy enough to do on anything except the Apple Airport.

Each wireless device is completely independant so can all play different, or the same tracks and they all have their own volume control. The Squeezebox is the only one which supports synchronised playback across multiple rooms.

The remotes are all fairly basic, but do the job.

The Squeezebox and Roku both have web interfaces (the roku a basic one, the Squeezebox an advanced one) so they can be controlled from a PC, or a PDA.

4. Can you tell the difference between a 128kbs AAC encoded playback from an iPod and the original CD on a decent hi-fi?  If you can, how marked is the difference?  I'm trying to work out if I need t buy another CD player or not.
On a high end hifi there us a difference, but if you encode in either FLAC, or as you have an imac and ipod I would suggest AIFF, then these are lossless formats and should sound identical to the CD.

These formats are only supported on the Roku and Squeezebox though, but if you encoded in AIFF, they would play on the ipod (but they take up about 25Mb per track so you do need a large hard disk if you have a lot of CD's)

I think thats everything covered, but let me know if there is anything else.

Thanks

Andrew

 
G

Guest

Guest
Thanks Andrew!Squeezeboxes for me I think.  I just tried downloading the Slimserver and tried a client on a windows laptop and mac simultaneously playing different music.  Sounds great to me.  Only snag appears to be that you can't play tracks purchased of the iTunes music store.Only thing to do now is work out if I need a surround sound system or normal stereo or both and how much to pay for em.  If anyone can help on that I'd really appreciate it.Cheers

 

andrew1810

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Jul 20, 2005
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Northumberland, , Un
Sadly as yet none of the players manage tracks from the itunes store, the only way around it is to burn them onto a CD and then rip them back off again.

Did you have a budget in mind for the hifi/home cinema?

I would suggest spending more on the hifi side and then you can get a cheap home cinema set for very little second hand.

 
G

Guest

Guest
So one should definitely have a separate hi-fi for audio and not bother trying to play music through the home cinema system right?  If so, I could afford £750-1,000 at the moment.  Is that going to get me anything worth having i.e. better than my TEAC?  Is there another jump in quality just beyond my budget?Cheers

 

andrew1810

Wammer
Wammer
Jul 20, 2005
104
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Northumberland, , Un
To get the most from music, I would suggest a separate hifi amp, but this doesn't mean two whole systems...for example this could be one way around it:

Squeezebox into hifi amp into hifi speakers

DVD player into AV amp into hifi front speakers and a set of rear speakers.

This way you would only need to add a hifi amp to the setup and get the best of both worlds. You would need an AV amp with pre-outs on for it to work, but I think a few people around here have tried such a system so hopefully they'll be able to help.

Andrew

p.s. If you decide to go down the squeezebox route, drop me an email and I'll see if I can undercut the online stores a bit

 

JamPal

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Jul 19, 2005
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HiFi Trade?
  1. No
HalfDiminished wrote:

So one should definitely have a separate hi-fi for audio and not bother trying to play music through the home cinema system right?If so, I could afford £750-1,000 at the moment. Is that going to get me anything worth having i.e. better than my TEAC? Is there another jump in quality just beyond my budget?Cheers
What Andrew said.. AND..

For £750 to £1k you will get some serious 2 channel re-production. Second hand or ex dem and you will go even further up the chain..

Brand new look at:

Naim - Nait5 (for pacey rythm) - £800.00

Unison Research - Unico (For a taste of hi end at a sensible price) - £900.00

Rega - Mira (Musicality and impress your mates bass - with the right speakers) - £550.00

Or some of the new Arcam amps, A big Rotel
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or even a decent Marantz.

All of the above will kick the living daylights out of music through an AV amp.. if you are happy to go second hand there are even more bargains to be had.

Enjoy.
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Hawk

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Jul 25, 2005
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HalfDiminished wrote:

So one should definitely have a separate hi-fi for audio and not bother trying to play music through the home cinema system right?  If so, I could afford £750-1,000 at the moment.  Is that going to get me anything worth having i.e. better than my TEAC?  Is there another jump in quality just beyond my budget?Cheers
I definitely support the view that music sounds infinitely better through a good two channel set up. Id recommend you get yourself a demo to hear for yourself. As good as the Teac is at what it was designed to do, it can be seriously bettered, but id warn that further jumps in performance always seems to be available just above pretty much any budget
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this accounts for alot of the upgraditus that is about at the moment... and every other moment!

Hawk

 

wolfgang

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Jul 29, 2005
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If you are willing to set aside a budget large enough for 2 totally separate systems, one for stereo and AV, why not spend it all on one set of toys that actually could do both equally well.

 

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