Book Released – Affordable Home Theater

When I started this site, I promised I had a book in the works . After sitting on a halfway complete version for a a year, I decided to update it and turn it into a full-fledged guide to buying your own home theater.

In Affordable Home Theater, you’ll learn to:

  • Avoid common mistakes
  • Understand what each component does
  • Pick out parts based on a fixed budget

There’s a complete step-by-step method for buying everything you need for a home theater. Once you finish reading this book, you’ll have all the tools you will need to buy a home theater.

In an effort to stay focused on the needs of someone new to the field of home theater, this doesn’t dive into detailed nuance on the various differences between common parts. You won’t see an explanation of Type AB versus Type D amplifiers, or an analysis of different tweeter types.

What you will get is enough information to make good decisions. If you follow the steps in my book, you won’t overspend on any one item, or get something you don’t need. You won’t buy something that is overpriced and underperforming.

In this book you’ll find:

  1. Three Simple Rules for Buying Audio Products
  2. How to Plan a Projector Setup
  3. Reasons to Buy A Soundbar
  4. The Home Theater Planning Method
  5. Two Case Studies

The case studies will show you how I arrived at great systems on a small budget for $1000 and a projector based system for just $3000. Check out those two lists. If you want to know how to plan out a home theater with a fixed budget in a half hour like I did, you will want to read the book.

Take a look at Affordable Home Theater today on Amazon, and learn to create your own awesome home theater in an hour.

 

Vizio SB3820-x Review

I don’t think anyone who has read through this website thinks there is any doubt I believe buying a soundbar is a bad decision. I’ve explained, at length, in the past why a soundbar isn’t conducive to quality audio. But despite my pleading, the widespread interest in soundbars continues unabated.

So I decided to find a soundbar that I could test and see how it stacked up against some of the cheap speakers that I’ve reviewed.

I decided to go with the 38″ Vizio soundbar as it is currently the best seller on Amazon for soundbars. It is the sound bar that comes with the Vizio SB3821 and Vizio SB3851. If anything represents the zeitgeist on home theater audio today, this is it.

As promised, its much sleeker than a regular pair of bookshelf speakers. It is even smaller than a pair of Micca Covo-S mini speakers.

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Vizio Soundbar in between a pair of Dayton B652’s and a pair of Micca COVO-S

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Monoprice 8251 Review

The Monoprice 8251 speakers are a good looking and interesting pair of speakers, priced at only $80. The first thing I should note is they are BIG. They sport a small tweeter, a 4″ midrange woofer and a 8″ large woofer. The drivers themselves look pretty good with the grills off.

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Monoprice 8251 with a Micca MB42X on top

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Monoprice 8250 Review

The Monoprice 8250 speaker pair is a set of bookshelf speakers with 6.5″ woofers. They cost $40. They are incredibly similar to the Dayton B652 speakers I’ve mentioned numerous times here. In fact this review will basically be a comparison between these two very similar speakers.

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How I Conduct Detailed Measurements

One thing that is very important to me at Affordable Home Audio is that when I talk about speakers, I try and do so from as informed a position as possible. Within monetary restrictions, I talk about speakers which I can hold in my hands and test myself. An important part of any discussion of speakers is speaker measurements.

There were many techniques developed years ago for making engineering measurements of speakers. Gated sine, white noise response, all sorts of things made it possible to understand both frequency, temporal, linear and non-linear aspects of audio equipment.

These techniques necessitate the use of either very large spaces, like your backyard, or a very expensive anechoic room, in order to perform. Reflections in the room make it impossible to analyze speakers using these traditional techniques. Most businesses focusing in audio (the company I work for included), and university labs have an anechoic room for acoustic testing. Below is a great example of an anechoic chamber, made by Paradigm Audio.

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Why I’m Not Like Other Tech and Audio Writers

If you’ve read as much work from tech journalists as I have, you have probably noticed it kind of stinks. Most of what sites like Gizmodo, Engadget, the Verge, Ars Technia, CNET, et cetera put out are either just rehashes of company press releases, amateur analysis, second rate political opinion pieces, or some combination of the three.

That’s not happening here. Most tech writers are not technical experts. They are people who have degrees in finding, aggregating and condensing information from a variety of sources. They aren’t in any position to be an authoritative source on anything. They don’t, at a fundamental level, understand the things that they are reporting on.

Some outlets are obviously better than others. There are people who are experts on listening and know how to use laboratory instruments to understand a piece of electronics. Those people will give you measurements alongside their reviews and are people you should look to for advice and reviews. In addition to legacy publications like Sound and Vision, and Stereophile (two brands owned by one group), you should check out:

  • Average Joe Audiophile is run by a dedicated amateur who has been doing in depth frequency response measurements for a couple of years.
  • No Audiophile is run by another dedicated amateur who loves to open up speakers and review them for computer use.

However, as far as I can tell, there aren’t any people blogging about tech who actually have jobs in the field. I have worked on audio and acoustics problems in the air, on the ground, in your house, in your car and underwater. I’ve worked on them for every sort of customer. I am a dedicated enthusiast. I worked on acoustics and sound problems in academia. When it comes to working with sound, I’ve been there. My 9-5 job is working with sound. When I got my Master’s from Georgia Tech, I took classes in audio and acoustics, and worked on sound related problems for my research.

That’s what you get by reading someone like me. I know and understand audio products almost as well as the people making them. I could be doing those kinds of jobs if I wanted to change what I’m currently doing. And because you’re reading someone who knows their audio so well, you won’t be reliant on a non-technical person repeating information someone else tells them. I can give you straight, unfiltered opinions from an expert.

Keep watching this space, Affordable Home Audio is going to be an interesting place.

Pioneer Andrew Jones BS22, FS52 and C22 Speaker Reviews

I don’t know why this review has taken so long. I’ve owned the Pioneer Andrew Jones line of speakers for my surround sound for about 18 months, and I’ve been extremely happy with them. I’m certainly not the only one that feels that way. This line of speakers has been wildly heralded throughout the audio community. This line of speakers is one of the best bargains in audio, giving you great performance at an entirely reasonable price. There’s a reason I used one for the banner of this website.

There are three speakers in this line, each with their own specialties. They each serve a dedicated role in a home theater, and the differences are pretty standard for the industry.

The SP-FS52 Tower Speakers ($130 each) are the best of the bunch. These are tower speakers, which should be the best speakers in any home theater set up. With three large woofers in a four foot tall enclosure, this is no surprise. If you’ve never bought a pair of tower speakers, these are the best first pair of tower speakers you can buy. They will teach you how great large speakers can sound, and how they fill the room with sound. Compared to the bookshelf and center speaker, these will have more bass, have fewer floor reflections, and do a better job at high volumes. However, a pair of tower speakers costs twice as much as the smaller pair of bookshelf speakers.

The BS22 Bookshelf speakers ($127/pair) are a real bargain that make this line of speakers so popular. Bookshelf speakers can fit in almost any listening environment and are very versatile. They are about a foot tall, and are seven inches wide. You can use them in a modest sized home theater like mine without ever running into volume issues.

The C22 Center Speaker ($97) is quite adept as a center speaker, and comes with all of the benefits and issues inherent in a Mid-Tweeter-Mid design. If you’re buying the set for a home theater, make sure to get one as your center channel. 60% of a movie’s soundtrack comes through the center channel, so don’t skip out on one.

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Pioneer BS22 bookshelf speaker mounted as a rear surround speaker. Ghostbusters poster in rear
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Tower and Center speakers in my home theater

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