Pondering 5.1 surround-sound systems

I was looking at what DVD/Blu-Ray 5.1 systems I can get on my credit card points (because this is not something I want to or can afford to spend Real Money on).

Some options include (eg the highest-specced ones I have enough points for):

Samsung HTD5300 5.1CH 3D Blu-Ray Home Theatre System — which gives the impression of looking ugly and perhaps being under-powered, with piddly little speakers, though it does claim to be 1000W. Has an iPod dock. FM-only tuner; I like to listen to AM, but that’s not fatal, as I can use another radio or listen online.

LG HB806TGW 5.1ch 3D Blu-Ray Home Theatre System — 850W. Aesthetically pleasing. Only has FM tuning. Seems to be able to playback off USB. No mention of an iPod dock.

Panasonic Home Theatre System SC-BTT370GNK — Aesthetically pleasing. Appears to only have FM. Includes iPod dock.

I’m pondering three questions:

1. (Most importantly) which might give the best sound? They seem to retail in the $400-700 range, so I know they’re not going to be as high fidelity as $1000+ systems, but that would be out of my budget. Of course it’s become impossible to search the web for reviews of consumer electronics, because Google tells you about eleventy billion web sites which claim to have reviews, but in fact merely announce when you visit that you can “Be the first to review this product!”

All things being equal, I’d probably lean towards the Panasonic.

2. CEC appears to be a technology that allows devices to control one another via HDMI cables. If my Samsung TV has AnyNet(which is their version of CEC), would a Panasonic Blu-Ray receiver with VieraLink (which is their version) or an LG with SimpLink be able to control it?

3. Hmm, I wonder if the two with iPod docks are compatible with my (relatively ancient) fourth-generation iPod, which I got in 2005 and is still going strong? (Panasonic lets you download manuals, but that part of their web site appears not to be working.)

Anybody got any advice for me?

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7 Replies to “Pondering 5.1 surround-sound systems”

  1. Gosh, that’s a difficult question. After reviewing your options, 1,2 and 3, my advice is to go for Option 4: Change to a credit card with a rewards program that gives you cash-back.

  2. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for shops) the only way to know which one sounds best is to listen to them all. That’s good if you’re shopping around and carrying a DVD with you, but bad if you’re trying to choose from credit card points options.

    If you can find a shop that stocks all three of them, try picking up each unit. Buy the heaviest one because it will probably have the heaviest (and therefore most capable) power supply.

    Pay no attention to quote power figures unless they state the number of channels driven, the frequency range across which the power can be generated, the level of distortion at that power level and whether it is RMS power. Their 1000 W rating will probably be at the peak of a sound wave and therefore for a fraction of a second, at very high distortion, when one speaker is being driven and the others are silent. That’s not useful. And the sensitivity of the speakers (how much sound they make with that power and whether they introduce distortion at that power level) is also important and won’t be stated. That’s why you have to listen.

    My personal rule based on experience is to buy nothing from LG and only buy Samsung if there’s no other option. With phones, I avoid Panasonic but with other stuff they’re quite good. Especially plasma TVs. So I’d buy the Panasonic among that list if I couldn’t listen to it, and probably still would if I could listen.

  3. Having bought a 7.1 AV Receiver which connects all my devices, I had the best of intentions to get all the necessary speakers to replace my faithful pair of Tannoy’s but the cabling necessary has kept me looking for a wireless speaker solution. I’ve looked at a lot of speaker options and the cheap packages just don’t measure up to the quality stuff.

    Sorry not much help, can you build your home theatre in stages?

  4. Skip the Samsung, ours has been repaired twice and is now broken again. Shame, as the TV we bought with it has been faultless.

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