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New house, how to do sound (my education left off in 1990 or so)


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#1 Linwood

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 09:17 AM

New house, no speakers, no wiring for speakers, three nice TV's, one in a great room, one in a den.

 

The TV's (new LG OLED) have decent speakers for built in.

 

But in the den (primarily a TV room) and great room I may want to do something better.

 

In the old days (you know, a couple months back before I moved) I had an AV Amp, wires run to speakers in walls.  All video/audio sources went into the AV Amp, you picked what you wanted to watch, the sound followed.

 

My impression is all the new wireless speakers don't work that way.  There appears to be no "amp" involved to serve not so much as amplifier, but as the cross connect between all the sources and speakers.

 

Almost all the articles I read start with a presumption you know how newer setups like Sonus work, and discuss Google or Amazon integration, not the fundamentals -- what connects to what and how?

 

Can someone give me a 50,000' overview of where one starts today? 

 

My impression is it's backwards from before, now the TV is just a device feeding the speakers?  Somehow?  So I might put Chromecast into the TV and take audio from the TV (fiber?  Bluetooth) to a speaker(s) and the speaker routes it to the right rooms? 

 

Basically -- if you had nothing but some TV's (and chromecast or similar)... where do you start?  Not so much asking brand or specific recommendations, but how does all this fit together now if done well?  Where do you put the brains for the cross connect aspects?

 

And... should I start wireless?  I'm not afraid to run wires, I did so for almost all ethernet stuff so far.  But there is a certain appeal to not cutting more sheetrock.

 

Thanks in advance.

 



#2 LarrylLix

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 12:45 PM

Get a dozen Google Homes minis and full size Google Home boxes. Get an A/V amp that supports Chromecast.

 

Google app now reveals the speakers can be paired for stereo sound, and my Onkyo A/V turns itself on and lights up the room perfectly synchronised with my GH Minis. I can't even detect a phase shift. Don't know how they do it. Hook the amp into the in-wall, in-ceiling speakers.

 

The whole thing will cost you 1/4 the price and 1/4 the space of a Sonos system and in different houses I can't tell the sound quality apart. If anything I would say the little GH minis sound better than my son's $400 each, speakers with less bass muffling, and crisper highs without the quantising noise I hear at the top end of digital equipment, like CDs.

 

Then, with some subscription you can create all your play lists ad have your HA hooked into it to play automagically or interrupt at your vocal command.


Edited by LarrylLix, 24 June 2019 - 12:46 PM.


#3 Linwood

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 01:00 PM

Google is smart enough to take 4 mini's and do surround sound? 

 

How do you handle a subwoofer? 

 

It's really that surround sound I miss, watching a movie and hearing things behind you.  The actual audio quality from the TV's is pretty good, surprisingly.  And I'm not much of a music person, so listening to pandora (etc) is not high on my list, or if it is, a mini is adequate.  It's movies I want to improve the sound for.

 

That said, it would be nice if I'm listening to music to have it play in all rooms, something I have yet to see how to get a set of google mini's to do.



#4 LarrylLix

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 10:58 PM

You would need a Google Home Max for better bass. Not the biggest woofer for Atmos sound etc.. I use a couple of Boston Accoustic dual 8" towers and a powered 15" subwoofer for that shake the floor sound from video explosions.

 

These 1000 Watts of Onkyo powered A/V  speakers are all on the Google Chromecast system too. Chromecast is built in to my receiver.

 

I have considered turning my back speakers off at times. So many times we had had to pause movies to find the ringing phone or what smashed in the other room, only to rewind the movie and find it in the track.



#5 Linwood

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 07:31 AM

But I still don't understand how I get 5.1 or 7.1 sound like this.  From what I read I can get stereo from two max speakers (I can get it from one, but only 5" apart), something about putting them in a group.  But how do you get (let's say) 5 max speakers to be left and right rear, left and right front?   Not to mention subwoofer.  What does the 5.1 decode?

 

I'm not asking how I can get good sound, I'm specifically asking if I can get real surround sound with the right number of speakers. 

 

My impression (maybe I'm wrong) is that a lot of the sound bars and such are advertising 5.1 sound, for example, without actually putting speakers behind me, just trying to play games with one bar and acoustics (and maybe a woofer). 

 

Or am I confused?



#6 LarrylLix

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 08:16 AM

Music does not use any  Dolby  or surround sound functions, and it best just heard in normal stereo configurations. Any attempt I have heard to create phony surround sound just adds noise and confusion to the music. I believe my latest Onkyo A/V receiver has finally cut off the Dolby decoding functions when it detects a music source. Previous units has attempted to create hall effects with delay techniques. That just makes a noisy music track.

 

Video supports various levels of Dolby encoding built in and your A/V receiver would do that, activating whatever speakers it is hooked to, in whatever Dolby decoding method it is capable of. The GH speakers would not be involved. I don't think this is any different than the Sonos system except for the price difference.

 

With the new Dolby Atmos, sound positions are specified, with no speaker placements in mind. There are no "channels". Your receiver then figures out the best sound mix with the speakers you have 3.0, 3.1, 5.1, 5.2, 7.1, 7.2, 9.1 etc.. Without a capable receiver there is no "surround sound". I doubt any of these self-powered speakers can do that. Some central intelligence is required, so far.

 

One negative is  the small GH speakers are never going to pump out 100 Watts of sound from each speaker. Maybe the larger GH speakers might. I know Sonos can put out a lot of sound.

 

I think I understand what you are trying to get at but it seems that your A/V system is good for music via Chromecast but the GH speakers are not going to be useful for video surround sound playback. My son is big on Sonos throughout his house but video playback never involves them. He  needs equipment in many cupboards to support that system, with ceiling and wall speakers requiring amplifiers and Sonos receivers everywhere.


Edited by LarrylLix, 25 June 2019 - 08:17 AM.


#7 Linwood

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 08:36 AM

@LarrylLix,yes, I really don't care about pure music much.

 

And at present I have no Amp (well, I have a 3-4 year old Yamaha somewhere boxed up with some wired speakers). 

 

And I definitely don't need 100 watts.  My hearing is very good, and doesn't need (nor enjoy) loud volume. 

 

But when I watch movies, I want the surround sound experience if I buy a set of speakers.


I think what I'm missing is how I ... for want of a better word... route the output of an amp to the right speaker if I am using something like google's.

 

Now some googling has shown wireless speaker sets with a hub that seems to do the decode and handle this, essentially taking the place of the amp and the wires (e.g.  Enclave Audio CineHome HD 5.1 Wireless Audio Home Theater System).   I get how those work, they basically are exactly that, a classic setup just with some RF links substituted for wires.

 

But I keep reading (and you seem to imply) about ways to use other, individual smart speakers (e.g. google max)  to do the same thing.

 

But... I'm guessing it's not the same thing, it is at most stereo?
 

PS. I don't know why I have a variety of fonts in this post, I tried to remove without success. No emphasis intended.



#8 LarrylLix

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 12:13 PM

I would say for good movie sound forget Sonos and GH speakers. You need a proper decoder with modern smarts inside a smart receiver. My son is a big fan of Sonos, spent porbably around $3-4K so far and he doesn't even try to integrate Sonos with his A/V. It wasn't made for that but things are changing.

 

The newer Dolby Atmos takes a computer to convert a 3D location into a level mixes to position that object using your supplied speaker positions. Phase shift and volumes are all calculated based on the distance measurements it did via live testing. I doubt that will ever happen with a WiFi based speaker. They just figured out how to synchronise them within a tenth of a second.

 

Heck for the price of one Sonos speakers you have half a full smart A/V paid for and as for sound quality? It's just another mid-priced  bookshelf speaker AFAIC, and I can hear the distortion at the high frequencies of CD music even though I am deaf over 5KHz now. Doesn't sound possible but it drives me crazy listening to scratchy smashes instead of symbols and violins. :)



#9 pete_c

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 04:23 AM

I am happy here with my older setup which is:

 

1 - zoned audio via Russound zoned amps and wired in wall speakers and Russound keypads / Omnitouch screens / HS screens for control

2 - TV setups are sub zones using 5.1 or 7.1 set ups with AVRs.  Mixture of a variety of types of speakers.

 

My automation is autonmous mostly from AV stuff and I am using KODI (Gb NIC) boxes as STB's these days. 

 

Media is streamed locally to AVR to HD 4K TV or in the case of zoned audio I have the audio streamers connected to zone

 

 

No wireless anything here relating to audio or video except for one audio source which is currently an Amazon Dot.



#10 Linwood

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 08:46 PM

So I broke out an old Yamaha amp and a set of Klipsch speakers.  Wired of course.

 

It was a real mess in a new den, wires going everywhere, but I have definitely forgotten how good real surround sound can sound with movies that include it.  The built in speakers on my LG OLED are not bad, but it's a whole different world.

 

So for that room I think I can hide most of the wires under a rug, behind furniture, etc.  The amp connects via an HDMI/ARC which I had never used before (in the past I always fed sources into the amp, not the TV, now everything is in the TV).  That worked much better than I thought, it just magically controls the amp, switching it on and off, selecting the right input (well, selecting an input that is really the HDMI output/ARC).  Very nice.

 

For the main other room, basically a great room with a pool table and piano and not a lot of furniture, it is not so easy to hide wires, and the TV is on an external wall which makes it a real pain to run wires to/from (I got lucky and had coax and utp there from the build).  

 

After a lot of reading, it would appear that most of the "smart" speakers seemed aimed at the 1-2 channel audio market, and most of the surround sound setups are, well, surround sound.  Sonus seems the exception, in that it appears you can mix and match with one (some?) of its setup, where the center/left/right comes for surround sound, but you can combine it with other individual sonus speakers for surround speakers.  Not that the surround sound setups are not (in some cases) smart, integrated with Alexa, Google, etc., but rather than most do not seem to be of the kind where "buy a bunch of the same smart speaker, and via software arrange any way you want". 

 

Like software defined networks.  Lots of smoke and mirrors and hype, not (yet) nearly the flexibility that the concept promises.

 

I'm thinking of something like this, because I really care only about home theater: 

 

https://www.amazon.c...=gateway&sr=8-1

 

(If that link breaks, it is a Enclave Audio Cine Home HD 5.1 Wireless).

 

If I understand it, the center speaker is the hub. I can mount it right under the TV, might not even need to go back into the wall if I can get it close enough to hide the wires.

 

Each other speaker can go somewhere in the room with power only from a wall socket.  I think I could even put them up over the cabinets in the kitchen for more separation and less visibility. 

 

I like this better than a sound bar as the left/right can get a lot more separation.

 

I also got the bad news that my nice new OLED LG's are not WISA compatible, they are 2018 models, and that comes in 2019.  WISA is apparently a new wireless standard that's supposed to be more accurate.  So I run fiber or HDMP to the TV, I can deal with that.

 

I'm guessing in 5 years or so you just order 10-20 speakers, scatter them anywhere you like, leave the house (to not be deafened by the test tones) and say "Hey google, tune up my stereo", it will figure out where everything is, and then you can get any kind of sound in any room from any source.  OK, maybe 10 years. 

 

But am I right, that for wireless surround sound (if one doesn't care much about pure audio-without-video), the state of the practical art is mostly like that enclave?   Not specifically, but more its general approach?



#11 LarrylLix

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 12:06 AM

Careful with that ARC feedback. Many, many report that it just doesn't work reliably from any TV, and it isn't likely you will get modern Dolby sound via ARC. Most switch to the fibre optic output on the TV back to the amp.  It is claimed it was an old standard for stereo only, and will not support the high frequency required to support good Dolby sound. I find this really hard to believe and there is so much bullshit out there about HDMI cables and Dolby, it is hard to sift through what is real anymore.

 

I just know that my 1 year old 70" Samsung LED TV doesn't support ARC via HDMI no matter what the manuals say and reading the analysis info on the receive,r only Dolby 5.1 is supported at best via the optical cable..



#12 upstatemike

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 12:27 AM

I recently updated my old Sony TV that was HDMI but it predated ARC. I used it with a Sony A/V receiver but this was no problem because all sources are plugged into the receiver anyway. My new TV has Netflix and such built right into the TV so I needed ARC to ensure sound and control get directed appropriately. Major problems until I realized old TV was also using old HDMI cables. Got new cables and all is good.

 

I have soundbars, Sonos equipment and so on but only a full surround receiver can deliver a satisfactory surround experience as far as my ears are concerned.



#13 dgage

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 12:36 AM

So I have a home theater subwoofer business with large 18” and 24” subwoofers (soon to add 12” inwall subs) so I know quite a bit about setting up home theaters. I also like and use Sonos Connect Amps to drive external speakers. However, the Sonos system is completely separate from my home theater setup as they are for different purposes. I use the Sonos when I just want to listen to music in the background or in different rooms.

Someone mentioned 2-channel music but that is again, a different purpose as true 2-channel music listening is usually for audiophiles wanting to listen to music in a dedicated environment with a chair in the sweet spot so they can listen to how the music was performed/mixed in the studio with voices and instruments at various point in the room. Sonos need not usually apply.

And I wouldn’t recommend wireless setups if you want a good movie experience as if there is any delay(latency) in the wireless speakers, the sound will suffer. If even one of the speakers gets out of phase by a couple milliseconds, the sound could be greatly affected. And wireless signals could also be affected by the environment such as other wireless devices or even the microwave. I’d be greatly surprised if you found a wireless system that works 100% with no flaws. It might exist as I haven’t looked but I’m in IT as well and know wireless systems and how many things can affect a wireless network.

I’d recommend going with a recent home theater receiver to do your decoding (Dolby or similar) and add a simple 5.1 system though not necessarily a home theater in a box as the quality isn’t usually as good. A 5.1 system done well is better than a mediocre 7.1 system. And one other thing you’ll need to decide when buying your receiver is if you plan to put in Atmos (overhead) speakers, which really can provide a really nice enveloping effect for movies (most recent movies support Atmos). So if you see 7.1.4, the .4 is the number of speakers the receiver supports for Dolby Atmos decoding though if you just have one set of seats, you’d only need 2 speakers overhead.

#14 Linwood

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 02:02 PM

@LarrylLix, so your ARC comments got me wondering, and experimenting, it does appear I am getting what appears at least 5.1 channels.  More precisely, when I put the amp in "straight" mode, it shows which speakers are alive.  From a movie it shows all 5 (can't recall if it showed the SW), but if I stream pandora it shows only the front.  It shows the decoder as Prologic+. for movies and PCM for straight audio.

 

That means the ARC is passing it correctly?   The amp is too old for things like atmos.

 

But I realize I have a whole different issue in another room.  I have a living room (too small to be called a "great" room) that is 16x30, kitchen and bar at one end, and at the other end is a pool table with TV on the short wall.

 

I was originally thinking I needed a 5.1 setup there, typical setup, but it occurs to me that may be a bad idea.

 

This room is more of a game room,  Imagine the typical home theater setup, there's always the couch in the center of all the speakers -- well here that's the center of the pool table.  The typical use will likely be a sporting event on in background, not really the center of attention.  Maybe news.  Maybe a movie, but likely if so just as background noise, there is no good place to sit and watch a movie. 

 

The room is also acoustically bad, lots of tile and hard surfaces, not enough sound absorption, and a long (30') area. 

 

I want the TV to be clear and understandable (especially voices).  It won't be an environment for an audiophile, more like one for a sports-phile.

 

How do I do this?

 

Should I just put a center/left/right and leave all the sound at one end?   And just accept people at the far end will not hear very well?

 

Should I mirror the left/right (and maybe center though not sure where I put it) back in the room?  So it doesn't have to be so loud at the front to hear in the back?


Or do I actually put the usual 5.1 setup? 

 

What kind of setup is best for multi-purpose game-room type places? 



#15 pete_c

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 04:40 PM

I tinkered here with the ARC connection and decided to only use one HDMI ==> AVR (with ARC) and put the rest of the HDMI sources to the television.

 

Works better for me.

 

Had a friend that configured a sort of sports bar finished basement.  Pool table et al.  She just put multiple TV's there on multiple walls for a view from different areas.  There was no concern about sound at the time.

 

Way long time ago configured the basement rec room which was long in to two sections.  Once section was for movie watching with the AVR and surround sound...the room was long at 30-35 feet and sectioned one side for TV viewing at around 15 feet to couches et al.  The other section was just a card table and had a smaller LCD TV on the wall.






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