How do you start a holy war?

Simple, discuss the preferences and features of audio visual products with audio visual geeks. You can make the war truly epic if you make sure you focus on issues which actually have no entirely objective foundation.

I have for some months now been wondering about getting a Blu-ray player, maybe a PlayStation 3, maybe a stand-alone Blu-ray device. Basically, ever since Blu-ray won the hi-def competition I’ve been considering the options. Obviously, I can’t actually afford a stand-alone Blu-ray player or PS3 but hey, that shouldn’t stop me pondering endlessly about them. Initially the PS3 looked like a good deal, there weren’t many Blu-ray devices cheaper than the PS3 (on the face of it) and you got a games console to boot. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to afford any games, but still, the feature was there. Then two or three weeks ago I found a Blu-ray player (Sony) on Amazon for under £250, and the reviews seemed pretty positive. I guess since winning the format war, the demand is going up and hence prices are coming down. Add to that some checks on the PS3, where I discovered you have to start buying remote controls, etc. before it’s truly useable and the PS3 idea faded in the face of the newly reduced price Blu-ray devices.

In the background to all of this I had also been musing about getting surround sound. I’d balked at the idea of an all-in-one (DVD + Tuner + Speakers) because of the reduced number of input options and because we already had a DVD player we were perfectly happy with, but in reality had no where near the money required to buy separates.

I was reading through reviews of everything I could find, including the cheap Blu-ray player on Amazon, when I found a review from a guy in a similar position to me. He had a newish LCD TV, no Blu-ray, no surround sound. He bought a Blu-ray player and basically said ‘the picture is stunning, but because I’m still listening through the LCD TV speakers, the sound is shit and the movie experience is ruined’.

That decided it for me really. We’ve got something like 150 movies already and a surround sound system would greatly improve the enjoyment we get from those films, where-as Blu-ray would a) only really improve new movies that we could afford to go Blu-ray for and b) would still sound crap. Some more reading around and I realised that if we went for one of the new all-in-one systems, we’d also be getting an upscaling DVD player. Now upscaling doesn’t give you anywhere near the kind of image you see with true HD sources, but still, it does slightly improve the perceived quality of the image from regular DVD’s and would provide something our current DVD doesn’t provide.

So I was doomed from that instant, further checking showed me an all-in-one system for around £200 which was getting decent reviews (Samsung based) and had two pretty small rear speakers (more on that in a bit) which is essential considering the layout of the lounge. We popped to PC World to ‘just have a look at some systems’ and ended up coming home with the Samsung. Unpacking it and cabling it up (temporary speaker locations) took most of the night, but we still managed to watch a film and it totally, utterly, entirely blows away the experience of watching them with the TV speakers.

Forget speaker locations, the cost, or the quality of the system, compared to a regular LCD TV the sound is just amazing. It’s all around the room and the base is intestine-jigglingly good. We are so pleased with it. I fear our next door neighbours hate us more than ever, but we’ve promised ourselves we’ll go around and ask them how loud it is. Sometime real soon now[tm].

And so, on to the final point. If I was to admit where the centre and front two speakers were, the entire world of AV geeks would storm my house and re-model our lounge. However, there’s not much choice based on where the TV fits and where the walls are. They will just have to go where they have gone. The rear speakers I do have two options, neither of which will make the AV geeks happy but there you go.

Our sofa is against the back wall of the lounge. I can either hang the speakers on the wall above the sofa pointing into the lounge ‘past’ our heads as it were (so both pointing the same way), or I can hang them on the side walls of the lounge facing each other and directly at the sofa.

Which one is going to be best? The manual suggests pointing them at each other if you can’t have them located some distance behind the listener (which we can’t), but I’m wondering now if above us pointing into the room would be better or to the side pointing at us (and each other).

Any comments from anyone with a surround sound system in a non-optimally shaped room?

2 thoughts on “How do you start a holy war?”

  1. I am no AV expert – but assuming you’re both sitting on the bigger sofa to watch the TV, I would mount the rear speakers on the wall at ear level. So, say, about 12 inches above the back of the sofa … ish.

    I based this on where our rear speakers live (when they’re in use).

    The reason we have the TV that we have now is because it came with left / right / center and sub-woofer built into it. AND the 2 rear speakers were wireless.

    By wireless – I mean a transmitter on rear of TV sending sound to receiver behind the sofa with 2 wires running to the rear speakers.

    I am very happy with the sound we get from our TV. However, the wireless rear speakers are a bit susceptible to interference and technology glitches. So as a consequence they’ve fallen out of favour and are packed away because I can’t be arsed with them.

    Doesn’t change my suggestion of where to locate your rear speakers though.

    I am sure that most audiophiles believe that a proper 5.1 system will sound the best. And I have to say I went to one guys house who had spent a small fortune on his system and watched Saving Private Ryan and I was ducking behind his sofa … well not really but you know what I mean.

    But me – I just can’t stand the hassle of running wires around the room etc.

    So when I get a new TV I am gonna get me one of these http://www.digitalsoundprojectors.co.uk/

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