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Topic # 159822 13-Dec-2014 19:41
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My father-in-law has asked me for advice about a soundbar he is considering buying.  I don't really know anything about soundbars so I figured I would turn to a crowd of people who probably do.

The deal he's been offered is the Pioneer SBX-N700 from Noel Leeming for $799.  I checked their website, but they have no record of the product.  It doesn't even show up on Pricespy.  In fact, the only place I've found that mentions it is Pioneer's NZ website - http://www.pioneernz.co.nz/nz/products/42/99/161/SBX-N700/page.html

I
 asked him what he's wanting it for.  He said it was mostly to make his classical CDs sound good.  He has a stereo at the moment, which is perfectly fine, but it's over 20 years old and he's worried that it will give up the ghost when he retires (sometime next year) and he wants to replace it before then.  The other reason for buying a soundbar is to improve the sound from his Panasonic 42" LCD TV.  He has Sky and a DVD player (which he doesn't use much), but mostly it's watching TV, and he's having difficulty hearing it properly (especially dialogue).  He lives in a rented flat with awkward space, making a full 5.1 setup difficult.  Hence, he's keen on the soundbar approach because it's simple and fits easily into his space.

I pointed out to him that to play back his CDs via the soundbar he would either have to connect the DVD player to it and play them back through there, or rip his CDs to USB, or to his iPhone and use bluetooth - neither of which is really conducive to high sound quality (i.e. being able to hear individual sections of the orchestra).

So I eventually come to my questions:
1. Anyone know anything about this Pioneer soundbar?  Is it a good audio option for things like listening to music and enhancing TV sound?  How does it compare with other approaches?  How does it compare with other soundbars?

2. If this soundbar isn't a recommended option, what would you recommend?  A different soundbar?  A different setup?  My inclination would be a more modest soundbar just to improve the TV sound, and then a semi-decent stereo for listening to music, rather than an all-in-one approach.  But is that feasible within an $800 budget?  

Lots of questions I know, but I'm keen to hear what people think about this.

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  Reply # 1197069 13-Dec-2014 21:20
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I've heard the soundbar you're referring to, and it's fine for TV, not particularly good for movies (due to a sub-par sub *hurhur*) and poor for music...
Its real reason for its place in the market is its network playback of audio and video, as well as the front facing USB port.
I don't believe you can train his Sky remote to control the volume... so he'd effectively be bringing ANOTHER remote into everyday use.

Having said that, most soundbars are piss poor for music... so, yeah.

If he has a larger room and enjoys higher volumes, he may want to look at a 2-channel amp with an optical port built in.
That way he could use his existing speakers, or add new ones.

Or.
A 2-channel mini-system with an optical port...
Like this:
http://www.harveynorman.co.nz/tv-and-audio/audio-and-home-theatre/mini-and-micro-systems/denon-hi-fi-micro-system.html
It's highly rated for its music playback ability, you can play back TV audio, it plays CD's and add a sub if he feels the need for a 'movie experience'.
The DM Denon's are very well regarded, and if you add a Harmony remote it will be straight forward and enjoyable for him to use.

TLD

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  Reply # 1197079 13-Dec-2014 21:55
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What is the existing system?   My Rega speakers are exactly 25 years old, and other items are definitely more than half that age, but I have no intention of changing any of it.  If the gentleman is approaching retirement age, there's a good chance his high frequency hearing is none too flash, which should be a consideration.  I found one of those hearing frequency range sites after a chat in another thread this week, and my hearing trails off above 7Khz.   I bet there will be other people on this forum who have worked in noisy environments, and who have similar hearing problems to look forward to.




Trevor Dennis
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  Reply # 1197625 15-Dec-2014 11:04
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Im currently running one of these from Avalon Audio

http://www.avalon.co.nz/tv-speaker-system/483-onkyo-ls-b50-.html

Finding it great for movies and music, gets great reviews, bit cheaper than the Pioneer. I went from 5.1 Onkyo Amp + Welling Floorstanders to this setup and although not as great sound wise it wasn't a complete disappointment, and I am quite fussy when it comes to my sound quality.

 

 

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  Reply # 1197678 15-Dec-2014 12:18
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Thanks for the responses.  I've emailed my FIL with some advice.  I tend to agree with Dunnersfella that a soundbar (being an all-in-one type device) isn't going to be very good at music, and that was certainly my first instinct.  Not sure if this would still apply to something like the Polk soundbar, but the Denon micro hi-fi looks very nice for the price.  

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  Reply # 1197691 15-Dec-2014 12:33
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Lizard1977: Thanks for the responses.  I've emailed my FIL with some advice.  I tend to agree with Dunnersfella that a soundbar (being an all-in-one type device) isn't going to be very good at music, and that was certainly my first instinct.  Not sure if this would still apply to something like the Polk soundbar, but the Denon micro hi-fi looks very nice for the price.  


Given your father-in-law already has an audio system, if it's even half-decent and he cares about sound quality for music he's going to be disappointed by the sound produced by soundbars. (BTW, can you confirm what product he does feel is bound to die soon?)

I sought advice re soundbars here a few months back (http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumId=34&topicId=151570) - while I'm impressed with the product my in-laws bought (this model here), and it is surprisingly effective for TV and movies, it's music performance could be described as adequate.

If he's after a single product to do all roles then a small but decent system such as the Denon linked to above would be a good bet. Personally, my primary issue would be a lack of substantial bass, but there's always the option to add a small sub later on to fill out that bottom end (esp for movies etc) - something s/h on TM would do the trick I'm sure.



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  Reply # 1197715 15-Dec-2014 13:18
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Thanks.  I went to Harvey Normans at lunch and had a look at the Denon system.  It looks pretty nice, and has good volume (though it's hard to really test it in a noisy showroom, without any equivalent CDs, with less-than-knowledgeable salespeople).  If it were up to me, that's the road I'd go down.  It remains to be seen whether FIL agrees.  I'm also advising him to wait until the usual Xmas/New Years sales roll around (especially as it's not an urgent purchase), and see what further discounts may appear.  Currently, it's only discounted by about $50 - I'm sure HNs will be able to do better than that.

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  Reply # 1197720 15-Dec-2014 13:25
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I can't fathom the hate for the sound-bar setups.  I have been looking at one as an option for music and to make TV a bit nicer in a space I don't have a lot of room.  Admittedly I have not had one set up at home, but looking at the higher end Denon and Klipsch systems ($1000 ish) with a sub woofer, I have been nothing but impressed with the sound out of these things in the showroom at least. Must be even better in a smaller room, they simply sound incredible.  Yes I am sure the surround sound part is not as good as a 5.1 or larger sound stage, but as a replacement for a standard 2 sp stereo and for TV viewing with limited cabinet space I can't fault them. All the usual inputs including Bluetooth for streaming, I am not sure why everywhere I look they are rubbished.  

/confused




   




Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, then always be the Batman



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  Reply # 1198119 15-Dec-2014 21:58
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Soundbars?
Really, they're sweet for TV / movies, and they really are spot on for most people.
Home theatre geeks, will, of course, disagree... as they want power amps, multiple subs, true surround sound etc.
The beauty is their simplicity (the TV remote can control the TV volume / mute functions of the soundbar), easy mounting of the soundbar on a shelf, attach it to a TV wall bracket or just hang it on the wall, add in the powered wireless sub and only one cable to plug into the TV...
I can see why they're popular to be honest, heck, I'd put one in my parents home!

Would I recommend it to my parents for music though?
Heck no!
The Denon will be spot on for music, add a sub and movies will be pretty cool too... add a Harmony One or Harmony Ultimate and you're sorted!




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  Reply # 1198256 16-Dec-2014 09:07
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FIL rang last night to discuss my advice.  It sounds like he's still going to go with a soundbar though.  I urged him to go look at the Denon at Harvey Normans, which he's going to do today.  I think he's either confused about its size (he reckons he will have to move to a smaller place when he retires, and won't have space for more than a soundbar) or is confused about the setup.  Apparently, when he spoke to my wife he mentioned that he didn't really understand what I was describing - it seems like the soundbar is nice and simple, and therein lies the appeal.  My concern is that he's telling me he wants something for music, and will be disappointed with the results after spending (in relative terms) a lot of money.  Hopefully he will look at the Denon today and realise that it's not large at all, and will be nearly as simple as a soundbar.

The soundbar he's leaning towards, though, is the Panasonic HTB-680 - http://www.panasonic.com/au/consumer/audio/soundbar/sc-htb680.html  It's cheaper than the Pioneer (and $100 cheaper at Noel Leemings than the independent store he went to in New Plymouth).  On a features basis it seems mostly comparable to the Pioneer, though the Panasonic has one HDMI input which the Pioneer doesn't.  This leads me to a technical question some of you may be able to clear up:

FIL has a MySkyHD box, a DVD player (non-HDMI), and the TV (Panasonic TH-P42U20Z) which has 2 x HDMI inputs (1 x ARC), and digital optical output.  Does the following connection arrangement seem right?

MySKYHD --- HDMI --- Soundbar (input 1)
DVD --- COMPOSITE --- TV
TV (ARC) --- HDMI --- Soundbar (output 1)

With this arrangement, I presume we would set the TV to HDMI 1 to watch Sky through the soundbar, with sound outputting to the Soundbar and video outputting to the TV.  And then to watch DVDs, set the TV to AV1 - would the sound come through the soundbar, or would it default to the TV (or would we need to use digital optical output for the DVD?  Would that digital optical output come from the TV or from the DVD - which probably doesn't have it)?

For the Pioneer unit though, there isn't an HDMI input, so the arrangement presumably would be like this:

MySKYHD --- HDMI --- TV (HDMI 1)
DVD - COMPOSITE --- TV
TV (ARC) --- HDMI --- Soundbar

In this arrangement, FIL would simply choose the correct input on the TV (as currently), but would the output of sound via the HDMI ARC connection on the TV pass all audio through to the soundbar (including that from the DVD connected via composite)?





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  Reply # 1198912 17-Dec-2014 10:25
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In the immortal words of Star Wars - the saga continues...

My FIL seems to be cast adrift in a sea of options, uncertain anymore what he really wants.  He went to Harvey Normans to look at the Denon system, but the salesperson had never heard of it, and instead tried to sell him on a Yamaha setup - http://www.harveynorman.co.nz/tv-and-audio/audio-and-home-theatre/home-theatre-systems/yamaha-5.1-channel-home-theatre-system-en-2.html

I
 don't know anything about this model - it certainly looks nice enough - but it's the complete opposite of what FIL told me he wanted: small, compact enough to fit in a smaller lounge sometime in the future.  He didn't want a 5.1 setup because wiring speakers around the room was going to be difficult in his current place, and may not be feasible in a future place.  But now he seems sold on the Yamaha idea (a testament to the selling power of HN's New Plymouth salespeople). To me, this unit seems like overkill for his needs - while it will probably be fine for music and movies, he will need to play his CDs through his DVD player, or add a separate CD player, or play it back from an iPhone or USB drive.

Without researching the specs of both the Yamaha and the Denon, I'd be inclined to say that the Denon is at least as good as the Yamaha, for a similar price (but with CD player included), a smaller footprint, and simpler operation.  In fact, having just done a quick Google on the Yamaha model, I can't find any reference to it anywhere, other than on the Harvey Norman NZ website, which makes tracking down detailed specs difficult.

I'm not sure what happens next.  I think he will go back to the independent store in New Plymouth and have another look, but I think he's reaching saturation of information, and may well end just purchasing the first model he sees next...

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  Reply # 1198984 17-Dec-2014 11:47
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Could always just go Bose and it would be the end of it :) spare $1999 laying around ??

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  Reply # 1198994 17-Dec-2014 11:58
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Lizard1977: In the immortal words of Star Wars - the saga continues...

My FIL seems to be cast adrift in a sea of options, uncertain anymore what he really wants.  He went to Harvey Normans to look at the Denon system, but the salesperson had never heard of it, and instead tried to sell him on a Yamaha setup - http://www.harveynorman.co.nz/tv-and-audio/audio-and-home-theatre/home-theatre-systems/yamaha-5.1-channel-home-theatre-system-en-2.html

I
 don't know anything about this model - it certainly looks nice enough - but it's the complete opposite of what FIL told me he wanted: small, compact enough to fit in a smaller lounge sometime in the future.  He didn't want a 5.1 setup because wiring speakers around the room was going to be difficult in his current place, and may not be feasible in a future place.  But now he seems sold on the Yamaha idea (a testament to the selling power of HN's New Plymouth salespeople). To me, this unit seems like overkill for his needs - while it will probably be fine for music and movies, he will need to play his CDs through his DVD player, or add a separate CD player, or play it back from an iPhone or USB drive.

Without researching the specs of both the Yamaha and the Denon, I'd be inclined to say that the Denon is at least as good as the Yamaha, for a similar price (but with CD player included), a smaller footprint, and simpler operation.  In fact, having just done a quick Google on the Yamaha model, I can't find any reference to it anywhere, other than on the Harvey Norman NZ website, which makes tracking down detailed specs difficult.

I'm not sure what happens next.  I think he will go back to the independent store in New Plymouth and have another look, but I think he's reaching saturation of information, and may well end just purchasing the first model he sees next...


The delights of providing advice to relatives! I typically have similar issues with my inlaws who ask for advice then ask the same from many other sources including shops; much of the advice is wrong or targeted at selling them particular items that aren't best suited to their needs, and at best it just results in them being confused and making an impulse purchase just to get the thing done and dusted.

Perhaps get him to make a list of his desired features and requirements, and then give a rough score as to how well each of the main options address these. This may make him realise a 5.1system is inappropriate due to its size, wires etc, and the soundbar is a too big a compromise given his interest in music (and current ownership of a separates stereo).



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  Reply # 1199002 17-Dec-2014 12:16
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Yep, when it comes to relatives (and close friends) it's one of either two things - either they don't ask for any advice, or they never stop!  Both are equally frustrating...

I more or less did what you suggested at the start, asking him what he was trying to achieve, and then getting him to prioritise those things.  Despite prodding in different ways, he wasn't clear himself on what was important, though I took away from it that he wanted to focus on good quality music sound.  Based on my knowledge of his activities, he would probably spend more time listening to music than watching movies, but spends more time watching TV (esp. sports) than either of the other two.  It struck me that music ranked #1 in importance, though TV was more common (but simpler to improve).

He started out wanting something compact and unobtrusive, but he seems to have forgotten that now.  He quotes all the bells and whistles of these new products he's been sold on, but doesn't really know what they do (much less use them).  Bluetooth is a mystery (despite using the technology for his cellphone headset, he doesn't understand what it is or how it can be used in other ways), he doesn't use his iPhone beyond making calls and receiving txts ("but it's important to have a modern cellphone!").  He spoke breathlessly about things like Miracast, Wifi, Eco mode, and a dozen more marketing gimmicks, ignoring the core requirements that it produces good sound and is easy and reliable to use.

It's an eternal frustration that he seems highly susceptible to marketing and sales pitches.  This is despite an earlier career in electronics sales (when a hi-fi stereo was the peak of technology!) he seems unable to realise when he's been sold to.  Unfortunately he lives in another town, so I can't easily go along with him to temper his purchase impulse.  I fully expect to get a call in a day or two from him proudly telling me about his latest purchase, at which point I have to do my best not to sound too dismissive or scathing of his new toy.

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  Reply # 1199548 17-Dec-2014 22:21
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If he buys something and likes it, happy days.
If he buys something and doesn't like it, change your phone number.
It won't matter if you recommended it or not, just change your phone number.
It's easier that way.

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