Home Cinema Upgrades
Over Christmas, the amp I had connected to my TV decided it didn’t want to play anymore. This meant for the past few weeks I’ve been suffering with the rather lacklustre sound from my TV’s built in speakers. There was only so much of that I could take, and with all these movies I’m planning to watch, I thought it was probably time to upgrade anyway!
My old Yamaha AV receiver had served me well. It was an ex demo model, and did everything I needed it to in terms of sound and connectivity.
Up until now, I’d only been running 2.0 stereo speakers, and they’d been sitting next to each other with the TV on top for no other reason than laziness. My speakers are actually really old. I won them in 1997 an internet competition from Ministry of Sound as part of a Pioneer RMX9 home stereo system. The rest of the setup is in my mum and dad’s attic somewhere due to being entirely dead technology (anyone remember MiniDisc?). The speakers, however, still work perfectly, but to make better use of them I moved them apart and placed them on a couple of cheap speaker stands from Amazon.
Next up, was obviously a new AV receiver. I got my last one from Richer Sounds, so thought it would be a good idea to go back and see what options were available to me and actually speak to someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Lots of people seem to be going down the soundbar route, which obviously has the main benefit of being an all in one very neat and tidy package, but I like the idea of building my own system over time.
After chatting to the guys in Richer Sounds, and looking through what they had in store, I came home with a Pioneer VSX-932, which is capable of doing far more than I’ll ever need, but should at least future proof me for several years at least.
Capable of doing 7.2 surround sound with 4K and a whole load of Dolby things I had to Google once I got home, this was definitely a significant step up from what I had before! Although a little taller, it’s around the same size as my old Yamaha, but with the heat vents on the top, rather than the sides, it means I wouldn’t be able to place anything on top. I did have a very old Panasonic Blu-Ray player, but it was sooooo slow to load things, and with increasing amounts of things being available to download in HD and 4K, there’s no real need to have an ageing player anyway.
Setup was surprisingly easy. I took the opportunity to neaten everything up with new speaker cable and I fitted banana plugs to keep it all tidy and secure. Little side note, but due to an EU directive, all AV Receivers sold here have little plugs in the speaker terminals that have to be pried out before the banana plugs can go in. This is to stop people on mainland Europe trying to connect power cables to speaker terminals apparently.
After everything is plugged in, I then connected the setup microphone so the system could set individual speaker volumes and crossover frequencies, as well as connect to my WiFi network etc for software updates and streaming services. It was remarkably straightforward and easy.
The upgrade didn’t end there... whilst on the way home from buying the AV receiver, I ordered a subwoofer, meaning I would now have 2.1 sound. I purposely didn’t get a huge subwoofer, purely because I only have a small flat, so it’s unnecessary. With that being said, I immediately noticed the difference in sound. I suddenly had far more depth for both music and movies.
But wait... there’s more...
I had done a fair bit of research by this point, and much of the advice I’d seen said that the centre speaker is the most important, because that’s where most of the dialogue or vocals come from.
I looked at all the various options and brands at the various price points, and listened to loads of reviews. I was able to narrow it down to 3 choices, all of which were supposed to sound amazing, but ultimately there deciding factor wasn’t sound, but look! This might sound dumb, but my flat is mostly monochrome, so I didn’t really want funky coloured speakers demanding my attention, which meant the eventual winner was the Elac Debut C5.
Designed by acclaimed speaker designer Andrew Jones (who used to work at Pioneer, so there’s a little connection to my other speakers, if only loosely), this thing sounds amazing. Super clear and bright. I love the build quality and features like the woven cones on the woofers or the monochrome colour scheme. It’s an MTM (Mid/Tweeter/Mid) arrangement, and all housed in a substantial enclosure, with two bass ports on the rear, either side of the gold plated terminals.
At the moment, I’m favouring the look with the fabric grille fitted, purely to make the speaker disappear a little bit more. It should be heard, not seen, right?
So that’s my setup as it stands right now. It’s currently 3.1, which is infinitely better than what I had before, with more depth and a wider sound stage. Watching movies has now taken on an added dimension, with sounds coming from more than just in the direction of the TV itself.
At some point I would like to add a couple of rear speakers to get 5.1 surround, but I’m in no hurry, because that will involve some serious speaker cable routing around my living room.
i do want to upgrade my TV pretty soon. I currently have a 32” Samsung, but I’d like to get maybe a 40” 4K TV of some description. I don’t need any bigger than that really, but again, there’s no real hurry, as i don’t have any 4K content. Of course, when they release Star Wars in 4K, I may change my mind! Haha!