Monday, November 29, 2010

Home Theater Surround Sound on the Cheap

Black Friday 2010 I made the jump from 2.1 sound in my home theater to 5.1 surround.

I have been thinking about up grading to surround sound for as long as I've had my projector.  For my old set-up I used a pair of Klipsh 2.1 computer speakers for sound.  Although they produce great sound,   I really wanted to move up in the sonic world.  An additional advantage to upgrading was that my old-set-up used no receiver.    Without a receiver there was no easy way to switch between components besides actually unplugging the speaker and HDMI cables from one device and connecting them to another.  This inconvenient for me and really inconvenient for my wife.

Although I'd love to have world class sound in my home theater, I really don't have the budget to afford anything really nice for something that is essentially a luxury item.  To make things even more challenging, my wife wasn't convinced that surround sound would really be an improvement over the computer speakers.  I was undaunted.

While reading Black Friday sales flyers,  I came across this Pioneer VSX-820-K 5.1 surround receiver.  While normally $300 Best Buy had it on sale for $200.  With 4 HDMI inputs, solid power output and a standard array of other features, it had everything I was really interested in.  Just before Thanksgiving I took advantage of a deal at Cub and purchased a $200 gift card for Best Buy and also received $40 in Cub gift cards for free.  So for effectively $160 I was able to get $200 of cash for Best Buy.  This allowed me to save a little bit on the receiver.

I was originally planning on buying a basic cheap set of surround speakers for the $250 to $300 range.  I had looked around online earlier in the week and had found some interesting speaker sets, but nothing that seemed to be a really good deal.  After picking up my receiver at Best Buy, I was looking at the speakers that they had.  Again nothing too exciting when looking at the surround speaker sets, but strolling down the book shelf speaker isle netted me and interesting find.  On sale was a pair of Polk T15 book shelf speakers.  They were normally $100/pair and on sale for $50/pair.  It occurred to me that three sets would give me my five surround speakers with one extra.  I also remembered that I still had an old 12" sub that really wasn't doing anything at the moment, but worked reasonably well.  So for $150 I had my surround speakers.

Installing everything took all of Cars, Up, and half of Master and Commander.  Once finished, I ran an auto calibration with the special microphone included with the receiver.  Everything sounded great.

My wife is amazed at how much better it sounds than the old 2.1 computer speakers and is glad I went ahead with it.  I am very pleased with the results as I believe that the sound I am getting could have easily cost me three to four times as much as the $310 plus tax that I ended up spending.

I am looking for great Blu-Rays or DVDs to test out my system, so if you have any suggestions please post below.