How To Set Up A Home Theater System For Beginners: Part II

 

Table Of Contents

  1. Part I: Introduction & The Receiver Conundrum
  2. Part II: Your Source, Speakers, and Vinyl 101 (You Are Here)
  3. Part III: Questions To Ask Yourself, the A/V Receiver, & Parts List
  4. Part IV: Putting It All Together

Let’s start with the basics.

Step 1

Determine your source.

For me it’s a PlayStation 4. I use that for Netflix and chill dog, DVD’s, as well as video games. That makes up the bulk of my entertainment. The other 20% is Bluetooth Streaming from my phone, a turntable if I want to spin some records, a CD Player if I want to play those, and a Super Nintendo for some nostalgia. 😀

This is the one I bought off of ebay years back.

So what is YOUR source?

My dad uses some weird box and I don’t know what it’s called off the top of my head. He also has Netflix that he can stream from that same box. I think what he has is a Dish Hopper Smart DVR.

Since he doesn’t play video games he wouldn’t have a use for a PS4, and since I have a PS4 I don’t need a DVR. Your source could also be something like a Bluray player, CD Player, Tape Player, XBox One, all or some of the above, etc.

For instance, I got my dad a really nice used Cassette Player off of eBay because his other one broke down and he really likes to play tapes from time to time.

So yeah..

Your source is the most important part of your chain right behind the receiver! Can’t do anything without it!

Step 2

Find Some Speakers

In my research, I found that you don’t actually need a receiver. So if you’re not wanting to spend a bunch of money right away, you could just purchase the right set of speakers and be done with it.

Let’s take a gander.

The No Receiver EASY Speaker Set Up

This would be an example of a set up that you could use if you just wanted to get your feet wet with a couple of active speakers like the Edifier R1280DB.

These have an optical input, coaxial input, as well as 2 pairs of RCA Analog Inputs and a pair of spring clips on both speakers. The spring clips require speaker wire. All you’re doing is connecting one speaker to the other so that sound is coming out of both. Pretty simple. We’ll get into wires more in a bit so don’t fret.

This is the set up I was strongly considering before settling on a receiver based set up.

So I first take an optical cable and plug it in to the back of my PS4 (the output). Run the other end into the optical input on the Edifier and you’re pretty much done. Now all audio will play through the speakers.

For your turntable, make sure it has some RCA Analog males. Most turntables come with them nowadays.

Before we go any further, let’s discuss Turntables and what they require!

Vinyl 101 – Turntable Components

I still have my Audio Technica AT LP60 from 2014 and it runs like a dream! I would simply plug the male ends into the RCA Inputs on the Edifier. Now I’m listening to vinyl through speakers. Pretty cool. No hassle necessary. No Receiver required. Takes no time at all to get up and running.

The LP60 also has phono preamps, which is super important as well. For a turntable set up to work, 4 components are needed:

  1. The Turntable. This translates the music in the grooves into a faint electrical signal. If you play a record and it’s not plugged into anything, you can hear music but it’s extremely low and essentially useless.
  2. A Preamp. This takes that faint electrical signal from the turntable and boosts it to line level, similar to what 48v phantom power out of an Audio Interface does for a condenser microphone. It basically ensures the sound will get loud enough. Related: What does an Audio Interface Do?
  3. The Amplifier Receiver. This powers whatever speakers you have an sends the audio to them. Keep in mind the Edifiers above don’t need one of these (hence the EASY moniker). But for passive speakers, a receiver is definitely a must as they need some sort of separate amplification.
  4. The Speakers. Speaking of, this is the final component in the chain. The speakers basically take the audio signal and deliver it to you, the excited listener. 😀

That’s basically a Turntable set up in a nutshell.

Stylus.

The Dilemma

My dilemma was deciding on a set up with a receiver or without one. This also may be what you’re debating on as well.

As cool as the Edifier set up was, I had this weird urge to own a Receiver. I wanted to be like my dad because my dad is awesome.

He has an Onkyo receiver, and a 5.1 set up with some super retro cool Bowers & Wilkins DM302’s from 1997 for the left and right channels. He also has the center speaker to match, a sub-woofer for those sick action movies, and 2 rear cabinets that he custom built for the surrounds.

How sweet is that? We’ve been listening to his set up since we moved in to the house in 2000. He’s still rocking speakers from 20+ years ago and they sound absolutely brilliant.

Stereophile thinks so too.

As with most small monitors, placement of the DM302s is everything if you want to make them sparkle. First, you have to compromise between bass extension and mid-range clarity. For me, there’s no contest—it’s mid-range clarity every time. I wound up with the speakers about 20″ from the wall, about 6′ apart, and angled in so that the front baffle was all I saw as I faced them. Having said that I had to compromise bass reinforcement to obtain greater mid-range clarity, I must add that the DM302s sounded remarkably full-bodied for a speaker their size—amazingly full-bodied. Don’t let the posey fool ya; these guys aren’t wimps. Wes Phillips, Stereophile (1997)

The problem with the Edifier set up is that it’s limiting.

I’m in an apartment now, but if I ever wanted to add to the system, I can’t really do that without a receiver.

Let’s delve deeper into the Receiver set up.

 

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