Home Theater catch-all

It's not so much that I need a second HDMI video output, as much as I need the HDMI audio decoded to the second zone. I have a very open space style layout with a connected living room, dining room, and kitchen, and a big outdoor patio. Right now I have 5.1 surround in the living room right in front of the TV, and my "Zone 2" audio is sent to the recessed kitchen/dining room speakers and my outdoor speakers through a separate amp. I've made that work using the stereo analog output from my TV directly to my second amp, with the digital output from my TV going to the primary 5.1 receiver. However, that configuration results in the digital audio sent to the primary receiver being downgraded to stereo, and a noticeable delay/echo in the analog audio being sent to the secondary amp. Many of the receivers are unable to decode the HDMI/digital audio in the TV feed to that second zone, instead they will only send analog audio sources to that second zone, which is what I'm facing here.

Getting the right receiver upgrade should allow me to lose the TOSLINK digital audio connections from my PS3/PS4/TV, and allow everything over HDMI to the new receiver, and hopefully allowing that new receiver to process any of the digital sources correctly for 5.1 in the living room and correct stereo output to Zone 2 or even breaking up my Kitchen/Patio to a Zone 2/Zone 3 configuration.

I may just take the whole family over to Video Only for Father's Day and pick up something in person that I can install in one day.

This probably won't work for you because it requires replacing basically everything, but Sonos would do what you're looking for pretty easily. You'd run a Sonos 5.1 setup in the main room, running optical in to it*, then you can group that with other Sonos speakers in other zones, and it sends the TV audio (or whatever music service you're using) to all the grouped areas.

There is also a device that will let you do that using pairs of existing speakers, so you could do the Sonos 5.1 setup in the main room, and continue to use existing speakers in the other zones.

*First limitation is that the Sonos soundbar solutions only have a single input, and the two current ones are optical only (the not yet released compact soundbar can do either HDMI via ARC or optical with a provided adapter).

Disclaimer: I work for Sonos. Not trying to shill for them, but what you're trying to do is kind of what Sonos is built for.

It's not a soundbar, but I was looking to replace my bluetooth pc speakers and happened upon the new Scosche Boombottle MM speaker. They have good range, 12 hours on a charge, and can pair up (if you own two, naturally) to play in stereo. I like being able to position them around the room for movies (bluetooth enabled tv required). They fit in a cup/bottle holder, and they're also magnetic. Retail $129 suggested, but til 6/17/18 they're on sale at Costco for an introductory price of $69.99 each. I've been happy with them as an all-round speaker replacement so far.
IMAGE(https://the-gadgeteer.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/scosche-bottleboomwirelessspeaker-2.jpg)

Does anyone have thoughts on the Denon AVR-S730H?
Its currently on sale for $199, seems like a steal at that price, albeit being an older model.

WizKid wrote:

Does anyone have thoughts on the Denon AVR-S730H?
Its currently on sale for $199, seems like a steal at that price, albeit being an older model.

No experience with that model, but Accessories4Less is legit. Quick shipping too. I bought most of my home theater stuff from there.

billt721 wrote:

When my second Denon receiver died 2 months out of warranty (first one lasted a bit over a year out of warranty -- I suspect that the humidity here in Hawaii isn't great for electronics), I decided that I'd back away from worrying about brands and just get something from Costco, where I can return it forever (not all items, but AV Receivers still have lifetime returns).

I was waiting on a Pioneer to show back up in stock, but eventually just went with a Sony and I've been surprised at how happy I am with it. I expected to notice differences in sound quality between Sony and a highly regarded brand like Denon, but I can't. Realistically, that probably just means I'm not one of those people who can hear the differences, but that's fine with me.

... and now just over 3 years later the Sony has died. Well, not entirely, but it's on the way. The internal surge protector tripped. A factory reset eventually got it working again and that lasted for all of 1 evening before it failed again. So I tried to see if Costco would take it back. They don't explicity list AV receivers in their 90-days-only return policy for most electronics, so I figured it was worth a shot and indeed, they're happy to take it. Given that, I think I'll stick with them since I've had 3 receivers fail over the last 15 years (3 different houses, different setups, but all in Hawaii). So...

Costco currently has:
Yamaha TSR-7850 - $380
Denon AVR-S650H - $350
Denon AVR-S750H - $430

Anyone have any thoughts on those models?

Edit: System is used mostly for streaming tv and pc games via Nvidia Shield Pro (2019) to an older panasonic plasma and 5.1 speaker setup. Will likely upgrade to a 4k tv sometime in the next few years, but don't really have anywhere to add more speakers, so I'll probably stick with the 5.1 setup.

Edit2: Crutchfield has the Denon X1500H for $300. I'd lose the ability to return via costco but the 1500 has a 3yr warranty and is cheaper.

I have had very good luck with Yamaha. The only problem I have had was one that overheated after an extremely long, 6+ hours, of watching concert dvd's at concert levels. Overheated and had to have the amp rebuilt. That avr is in the bedroom now and is over 10 years old. Current main room is another Yamaha.

All of that said, I am looking to upgrade to Marantz when I switch to 4k sometime in 2020.

In your circumstances, I'd probably do the 650H unless you have 7 speakers or are interested in Dolby Atmos. $50 extra for a lifetime warranty and local replacement strikes me as a great deal.

It looks to me like the Crutchfield receiver might be a generation back, with slightly less capable electronics. It does have 7.1 and Atmos, but it doesn't have eARC, and uses kind of weaselly language about its 4K support. (specifying it as "passthrough".) I suspect the Costco receivers will do a proper GUI on top of a 4K signal, but the X1500H may not.

eARC sounds like a pretty good idea to me if you're a gamer, because it puts the TV first in the signal chain instead of last. You send the video directly to the TV, so that whatever lag the TV has is your display lag. Then the signal goes through to your receiver, and on eARC (as opposed to the earlier ARC) can pass through unmolested by the TV, so the receiver can do whatever magic it can do without being interfered with.

My wife dislikes seeing all my electronics, so she finally convinced me to let her get a closed cabinet for them. I've had it for about a year now, but I'm finally looking at installing some cooling in there. It's not huge (35"x18"x12"), with one shelf, and two 2" holes in the back half full of wires. I've got a PS4 slim, DVR, Switch, and two small amps in there. The DVR spits out a consistent low-ish amount of heat, as do the amps. When it's running, the PS4 puts out a good amount, and if I leave the door closed, the fan runs like a hair dryer until I open it, then it ramps down to normal.

I'm about to add an Xbox One X, so I'm thinking it's finally time to add some cooling fans. I'm looking at a Coolerguys setup, with their power supply and fixed temp thermal controller. I'm just not sure what size to go with. I'm assuming bigger is probably better, so I'm looking at the 120mm ones. I think I probably want one intake and one exhaust fan. The kit comes with one, and I can add another fan and mount, but I already have a spare 120mm fan from an old PC cooler, with the right connector for the power supply. The mount itself is about $14, which seems high.

Any reason I shouldn't just screw the fan directly to the backing board of the cabinet? That seems like it'd work fine, since it'll be in the back and I don't care about it being pretty.

Any reason I shouldn't just screw the fan directly to the backing board of the cabinet? That seems like it'd work fine, since it'll be in the back and I don't care about it being pretty.

After thinking about it a minute, you could drill smooth holes the same size as the fan holes (you could use the fan itself as a template), and then use flathead bolts with nuts on the other end. Get four bolts, long enough to go through the cabinet back and the entire fan, poke it through the fan holes (going all the way through will be much easier), and tighten down the nut. You can bring a fan to the store to size the bolt and nut. Make sure the threads on the bolt go down past the exterior holes on the fan, so you can tighten the nut down snug, and that should do a perfect job.

Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. I just wasn't sure if there was something I was missing that'd make it a bad idea.

Chaz wrote:

Any reason I shouldn't just screw the fan directly to the backing board of the cabinet? That seems like it'd work fine, since it'll be in the back and I don't care about it being pretty.

How solid is it? If it's one of those flimsy cardboard backings and the fan balance is off at all, the vibration could get annoying. No way to know for sure though until you try it.

I'm pretty sure it's about a 1/8" solid board (or MDF or something, but not that super flimsy cardboard stuff). But I'm assuming that if it's causing vibration when directly mounted to the board, it'd also cause vibration if I was using one of their mounts.

I have a closed media cabinet under my TV with a ton of equipment in there. I bought a couple of these AC Infinity fans, one for each side and they work perfectly to help cool the cabinet. At low-med setting the fans are inaudible and it provides enough cooling that I don't hear the trubo-jet fan of my PS4 Pro kicking in. At full speed there's definitely an audible hum, but it's very faint.

Chaz wrote:

Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. I just wasn't sure if there was something I was missing that'd make it a bad idea.

Should be fine, as long as you can find parts the right size.

Hell, it's not a high-stress linkage, it will take almost no load, so you could probably hack something together with skinny zipties or even shoelaces. But bolts will be much cleaner, and won't sag. Just don't overtighten and crack the fan. And use a bolt with a large head if your plywood is thin.

Fans went in fine though it was annoying positioning them. I wanted to get them as close as possible to the corners, so had to position them from the inside, then transfer that to the outside. Then my usual measure once, cut five or six times problems, but I eventually got it.

They're not inaudible, but they're quiet enough. So far, they've only been spinning up for a minute or two at a time, so they seem to move enough air to cool things down quickly, and it definitely feels cooler in there than it did before. I still wonder if there's enough airflow from the bottom shelf to the top. There's a small gap between the shelf and the doors at the front, and a pass through hole at the back that's half full of wires. I might wind up drilling a few extra holes through the shelf just to let a little more air move around.

Might be too late now, but a push/pull setup, with intake at the bottom and exhaust at the top, would probably work pretty well.

Yeah, that's what I've got set up. Intake at the bottom right, exhaust at the top left.

A lot of those shelves are on pegs and have some front-to-back slide; if you pull it as far forward as you can, that'll probably give you enough airflow.

If you can feel exhaust airflow on the top fan, that air is coming from somewhere; it could be the shelf underneath, or it could be via the front door. In either case, the top should stay fairly reasonable. But watch the bottom; if the shelves and door are really tight, the lower fan may not have enough oomph to push much air inside. That's harder to feel with your hands, since you have to measure from the 'pull' side.

Tossing a thermometer in there for an hour or two when whatever's in there is being used might be a good idea.

The middle shelf is actually screwed in, so sliding it isn't an option, and there's not a lot of wiggle room anyway. The top shelf is where the two wire holes are, so between those and the drawers above, I'm sure it's getting air to cycle through.

The bottom shelf is where I've got more questions. There are gaps between the front of the shelf and the doors, and the doors themselves, since they're sliders that don't really fit tightly. So maybe there's enough air flow as is, or maybe adding a hole in the back for that shelf would help without messing up any airflow. But I do have a small thermometer I can stick in there to see how it's doing.

The tiny remotes that HDMI switches and audio systems and similar devices have tend to get lost in my house due to kids. Is there a nice large programmable remote that can be programmed to replace any LED remote commands or failing that has anyone seen a good DIY way to make those small remotes larger by mounting them on a larger shell or something?

I was going to be lame and just Velcro strap them onto a slab of plastic so they are less likely to get lost but I’m sure there is a better solution out there.

I've been using Logitech Harmony remotes for...lord over a decade at this point. They're not perfect, but they're the best option I've found for universal remotes.

They use a web or mobile app to set up, so no having to type in codes off a list. First, you use the app to find all your components by brand and model number. Their database is pretty damn comprehensive, and I've never had it not contain anything, even more off-brand HDMI switches, but if it is missing, you can add it.

Once you've added all your stuff, you set up activities using a wizard. Say you want to set up "Watch TV". It asks you what devices you use to do it. Then it'll walk you through what input you need your TV to be on, what input on the switcher, etc. If it's relevant, they'll ask you what device you use to change channels, volume, etc. You do that for each thing you want to be able to do (watch a streaming device, play a console, etc). Each activity gets assigned to an activity start button.

After everything's set up, all you do is hit the start button for the thing you want to do. Hit Watch TV, and the remote turns on all the components you need, sets them all to the right input, and can even set it to a default channel if you want. If you want to do something different, you hit that Start button. The remote remembers what's on and what's not, turns on anything that needs to be, turns off anything you don't need, and changes inputs. At the end, you hit the one Off button, and it turns everything off. You can also customize the buttons on the remote to map commands to the buttons you want.

It does sometimes take some tweaking to get things right, but it gives you a ton of freedom to tweak. For example, my TV takes about 20 seconds to start and be able to change inputs. At first, the remote wasn't changing inputs because it was trying to send the command before the TV was ready. I was able to go into the TV settings in the remote app and add a 22 second delay on startup, so now the remote knows that if the TV is powering on, it waits 22 seconds, then sends the input change, but also that if the TV's already on, it can send it immediately.

There's a bunch of options for form factor. Some of them are standalone that just do regular IR signals. I've had a few of those over the years, but the one I have now and like best is basically this one. It's got a little hub, then a regular remote. The hub connects via wifi, and is what actually sends commands, and can do it via IR, bluetooth, or (I think) wifi/RF. The remote or a phone app connect to the hub wirelessly to relay commands. The nice thing about this setup is that the remote doesn't need line of sight to anything. My setup has a solid-door AV cabinet, with the TV and soundbar off to the left. I've got the hub inside the cabinet, then one of the included IR blasters on top of the cabinet. The hub controls everything in the cabinet with IR, then the blaster controls the TV and soundbar. It even connects to the Amazon Fire Stick via bluetooth. The remote is just the right size, takes a single watch battery, and lasts forever, and you can always use the phone app if you lose it.

Getting one of these set up exactly right does usually take a bit of fiddling, but gets you 90% of the way there really quickly, and the end result is worth it. Right now, my setup has three devices running directly into the TV, then another three on an HDMI switch, with everything in the cabinet. If I didn't have this thing, it'd be a nightmare, but this makes it usable. It's on my short list of "if this broke, I'd buy a replacement that day without thinking about it."

A Harmony remote would really simplify this living room setup.

Yeah, I'll add another voice to the love of Harmony remote setups. I have the Harmony Hub, and I've integrated it completely with both IFTTT and Alexa for complete control of my home setup. Harmony and IFTTT handles basically any of the commands that Alexa can't handle natively. I can listen to music through my surround sound in any of 3 locations in my house, either individually or simultaneously with different inputs sent to each location if necessary. It's a slick and awesome setup, but it took me at least a month of fiddling to make it "just right", and every now and then an update from any of the platforms will require me to re-do some of the configuration and setup. For example, I just had a firmware update on my Yamaha receiver that added a bunch of new Alexa commands so I had to remove the Yamaha skills and re-add it in Alexa, while there were no changes on the Harmony or IFTTT setup.

pandasuit wrote:

A Harmony remote would really simplify this living room setup.

I picked up a Harmony 665 remote on Boxing Day. Good idea. Still configuring it all. Didn't feel I needed the hub for this room.

TBH the other thing that would simplify this living room setup would be if I had a soundbar with built in 4k/60hz/HDR HDMI switch. When I looked around at boxing deal sales all the HDMI sound bars had very few HDMI ports and price tags that are out of my range. I honestly don’t care about amazing sound as long as it is better than the crap TV speakers but I want 4+ HDMI inputs. This is my kids living room and it’s mostly focused on console gaming.

I’d probably settle for just a 4k/60hz/HDR HDMI switch if I could find a reliable one with enough ports supported by the Harmony remote and I can solve the sound issues another way. When I look around at reviews I’m not finding any stand out devices. I’m looking at the Kinivo 550BN right now.

Any good 4k/60hz/HDR HDMI switch models I should consider or a good source of reviews? I like RTINGS for reviews but they don't cover this sort of thing.

The TV in our family room is a Samsung UN55NU6900 which supports 4k HDR but only has 2 HDMI inputs. I'm currently using a GANA B071G4NXNH HDMI switch I had laying around which is fine for 1080p or 4k/30hz but not 4k gaming.

The traditional way to handle that is with a receiver and discrete speakers. There are many many many solutions in that space. Denon makes many great units, for example.

Totally agree with Malor. Your best bet here is definitely a dedicated receiver and speaker setup rather than a soundbar. That's likely going to be a little more money, but it's definitely worth it in the long run.

I figured that would be the response. Thanks. If I end up trying to solve the sound issue soon I'll consider a receiver. It still seems like overkill just to get more HDMI inputs and basic sound though.

For now I ended up ordering a Kinivo 550BN to try. If it doesn't work I can return it. If I end up getting a receiver eventually I can use the Kinivo in my office.

The Harmony remote has turned out great. I have all the devices in this room in a cabinet with an IR repeater. I really like having a room where most of the technology is hidden from view.

So I think I'm going to finally do my big upgrade, get a new TV.. my receiver currently doesn't even have HDMI 2.0 (that's ok because my TV is nearly 10 years old).

I was going to get a new receiver.. but turns out my speakers are over 15 years old. They aren't bad, as decent speakers are built to last, but I was actually thinking of getting rid of the receiver and speakers and just going to a sound bar.

While cost is one reason... its really more a matter of convenience and need.

1) I live in an apartment.. so having some massive sound system is kind of a waste.
2) Also because apartment, I don't really need to use the space a receiver takes
3) Wires... getting rid of my speakers and flipping to a good soundbar with wireless just cleans up the living room

The original need for a receiver was because a) TVs didn't have as many inputs back then b) ARC and Smart TVs were just starting when I bought my equipment so everything had to go through a receiver if you wanted multiple inputs. My TV doesn't have an ARC input, nor does my current receiver support it. c) Also, soundbars of the quality one can get nowadays simply didn't exist for any reasonable price.

Right now my likely require inputs are: 2 Consoles (a switch and one of PS5 or Xboxoxoxox), some sort of streaming device (Roku or whatever) and a cable box (yeah haven't cut the cord yet). Pretty much every TV I am looking at has enough inputs.

For Soundbar, I'm looking at the high end Q90R Samsung soundbar. So am I better off spending that kind of money on a good soundbar or around the same amount on a new receiver and speakers?

Carlbear95 wrote:

So I think I'm going to finally do my big upgrade, get a new TV.. my receiver currently doesn't even have HDMI 2.0 (that's ok because my TV is nearly 10 years old).

I was going to get a new receiver.. but turns out my speakers are over 15 years old. They aren't bad, as decent speakers are built to last, but I was actually thinking of getting rid of the receiver and speakers and just going to a sound bar.

While cost is one reason... its really more a matter of convenience and need.

1) I live in an apartment.. so having some massive sound system is kind of a waste.
2) Also because apartment, I don't really need to use the space a receiver takes
3) Wires... getting rid of my speakers and flipping to a good soundbar with wireless just cleans up the living room

The original need for a receiver was because a) TVs didn't have as many inputs back then b) ARC and Smart TVs were just starting when I bought my equipment so everything had to go through a receiver if you wanted multiple inputs. My TV doesn't have an ARC input, nor does my current receiver support it. c) Also, soundbars of the quality one can get nowadays simply didn't exist for any reasonable price.

Right now my likely require inputs are: 2 Consoles (a switch and one of PS5 or Xboxoxoxox), some sort of streaming device (Roku or whatever) and a cable box (yeah haven't cut the cord yet). Pretty much every TV I am looking at has enough inputs.

For Soundbar, I'm looking at the high end Q90R Samsung soundbar. So am I better off spending that kind of money on a good soundbar or around the same amount on a new receiver and speakers?

For your use case sound bar definitely seems like the right choice. You can check out Rtings.com for soundbar reviews, they've covered the Q90R there.