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  1. #1

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    Default And it begins...

    So today I decided to start my first serious build thread. At this point, I have collected enough gear that needs to be set up properly in order to perform well. Before, with my HTiB systems and associated package speakers, things like speaker placement didn't make much of a difference. Also, the DACs in my game consoles were not up to the task so from now on I will be using the $1799 HP Digital Entertainment Center z560 as my primary source.

    The receiver I am using right now is the Denon AVR-5800. Original owner paid over $4k including tax at a high-end store when it first came on the market. Now I understand that this is not the best solution and that there are better sounding units if one were to go the separates route. However, this is the first receiver in which I am able to discern little details in the sound that I could not hear before. I am planning an upgrade to a Parasound HALO C1/C2 with the associated A51 or A21 amplifiers in the future.

    My speakers are the Definitve BP10B (modded by Trey!), a Polk DSWPro550WI sub, and a custom-built 15" Dayton Titanic MKIII with the 1024W Dayton Audio plate amp in which I experimented a GREAT deal with cabinet damping materials and basically tweaked the heck out of it. It was through the build of this sub that I realized small changes in Polyfill and even cabinet spikes could make a difference in the sound.

    For video I have the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080UB projector, the Toshiba HD-DVD player, HP Digital Entertainment Center z560, and four game consoles - the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Super Nintendo. Those who have seen this setup say that the video quality is excellent, with a quote from forum member Polrbehr "I felt like I was in a bowling alley" and my neighbor who said the picture was "so sharp".

    The screen is a 100" DaLite Model C w/CSR - I noticed something about it today that I couldn't believe. With the screen rolled down, the sound was more focused and clearer. With the screen retracted, the sound was harsher and literally painful to listen to! So this big projection screen right in the middle of the wall actually made the sound better to my ears! As a result, when the projector is not being used I will still have the screen rolled down, of course.

    My other sources are the following:

    DVD-Audio Player Panasonic DVD-F65
    CD Player: Onkyo DV-CP500
    XM Radio: Samsung NeXus 25
    Tape Deck: Aiwa
    DVR: Panasonic DMR-E95HS
    VCR: JVC HR-S9911U, HR-S7000U
    HD-DVD: Toshiba HD-XA1
    DVD: Samsung Single-disc DVDP
    Music Server: HP Digital Entertainment Center z560
    Gaming: Nintendo Wii, SNES, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
    2nd PC: Apple Mac Mini with Snow Leopard and Win7

    Starting today, I will upgrade ALL of my cables. Remember a while back when I posted about installing six 20A dedicated circuits and using a 12AWG power cord for my sub? Well, I noticed back then that power cords made a difference on the sub but I didn't hear much of a difference when swapping other cables. Specifically, the sub was quieter with the 12AWG power cord and that the peaks were more dynamic. The old power cord on the sub was an 18AWG computer power cord. My best guess is that the old cord was simply too thin for the 10A plate amp. With that out of the way - I am going to change every single cable and report back on the difference.

    To be continued...

  2. #2

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    This is where you should be starting: http://www.polkaudio.com/forums/show...ght=treatments Mount them a foot or two off the floor so you don't have to worry about flood damage.
    "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Face View Post
    This is where you should be starting: http://www.polkaudio.com/forums/show...ght=treatments Mount them a foot or two off the floor so you don't have to worry about flood damage.
    I already purchased two of these and plan to have them behind the speakers:

    http://www.parts-express.com/pe/show...number=260-515

    The other thing I noticed is that power makes a big difference in a quality A/V system. Before the dedicated circuits, having a hair dryer on the same circuit would cause noticeable interference. Now, after having 12-2 BX cable to the exact location of components (the sub, for example) and not having any lights/appliances on the same circuit made a difference.

    I have the dedicated circuits run into a separate breaker panel made by Murray with AFCI breakers on three of the circuits. I purchased a separate grounding bar for the panel. I also made sure not to use any wire-nuts and connected ALL of the 12-2 BX to the outlet screw terminals directly.

    Next, I found out that component video cables (Y/Pb/Pr) perform better when they are cut to exact lengths instead of using the whole 6ft. length. As there is sawdust everywhere in the downstairs rig and the room is currently in need of work, I set up the system upstairs using the following components:

    Source: HP Laptop via HDMI
    TV: Sony KD-34XBR960
    Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR702
    Speakers: Onkyo SKS-HT500
    Sub: Onkyo SKW-100
    Power: APC BX1500

    In the attached picture you can see that I cut the blue component video cables to shorten them and then terminated the ends with quality connectors from Parts Express. This is the first time I paid over $2 for a solder-type connector, usually I go for the RadioShack connectors which were of poor quality.

    To be continued...

  4. #4

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    Not trying to derail as you've obviously given your build a great deal of thought, but given that amount of thought, you really don't want to use that foam stuff as it simply isn't dense enough.

    I've come to believe proper room treatment is 50% of the equation.

    Face's suggestion to read http://www.polkaudio.com/forums/show...ght=treatments is spot-on.

    Instead of foam, learn about OC (Owen's Corning) 2'X4' 703 and 705 fiberglas panels or Roxul mineral wool for do-it-yourself, or visit www.gikacoustics.com and www.realtraps.com for high quality pre-mades.

    I promise you that (if done right without foam), room treatments are the single biggest sonic-improvement tweak you can make.
    Last edited by inspiredsports; 01-14-2012 at 09:39 PM.
    VTL ST50 w/mods/RCA6L6GC/TlfnknECC801S
    CJPV-5 w/mods
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    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020/Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9/Vibrapods/MIT Shtgn AC1 IEC's/MIT Shotgun 2 IC's/MIT Shtgn 2 Speaker
    PSAudio Cryo PwrPrt Prem/ExctPwrEP15A
    Wlnt SDA 2B TL/Oak SDA SRS II TL-Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Cust SDA ICs/Mortite/Dynamat Extreme/TFLF Rings/FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by inspiredsports View Post
    Not trying to derail as you've obviously given your build a great deal of thought, but given that amount of thought, you really don't want to use that foam stuff.
    Is the foam in the link I posted not good for room acoustics? I used it in the build of my sub and it improved the quality of the bass, however, it also reduced output. I liked the results because I prefer my bass to be quiet instead of boom boom bass. So I don't mind that the output went down while the sound quality increased.

    I personally think that power was the single biggest improvement in my rig, in terms of both picture quality and sound quality. When using video sources such as composite video and S-video, quality power reduced the amount of interference and video noise. This was most noticeable on cable and like I stated before, the hair dryer interference was the #1 change that I noticed.

    But also, going from a lower-quality video connection to a higher-quality connection also made a decent picture quality difference. Most noticeable was on the movie Moulin Rouge! in which a change from component to HDMI improved the picture greatly. Now I do have to give credit to the Epson projector because the video processing is top notch, but I didn't think a component video signal could be much worse than HDMI. Now, HDMI is used whenever possible because the picture quality difference over HDMI is quite huge.

    Attached are pictures of the breaker panel install when I started. I now have a total of 8 dedicated circuits and will post pictures when the panel is done. This old picture shows four circuits installed.

    To be continued...

  6. #6

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    That foam is only effective at high frequencies.
    "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Face View Post
    That foam is only effective at high frequencies.
    I am having difficulties with the high frequencies right now. When I changed the terminals in my speakers from the crimp-on quick disconnects to Kester solder, I got a lot more high frequency sound accompanied by harshness and listening fatigue. At first, I turned the Treble down -2dB on my receiver and listened in Stereo mode, but I wanted to listen in "Pure Direct" mode without any processing.

    So today while fishing wires through the walls I decided to change the wire to see if it would make any difference. Now everything isn't set up completely, and there is sawdust everywhere, but I did this just to test out the new speaker wire and wall plates. I used the most expensive low voltage speaker wire I could find at Home Depot that was in-wall (CL2) rated. It looks like ordinary lamp cord with a UL marking on the wire. Add the cost of Leviton wall plates (the binding posts were $6.97, and wall plates were $1.29) and just for speaker connections alone the total cost came out to over $10.

    I turned on the system with the Home Depot speaker wire and noticed that some of the harshness was decreased. Not a significant difference, and quite honestly after spending $100+ I am a bit disappointed that the speaker wire didn't make much of a difference. But I liked the Leviton wall plates and will continue to use them in the future - their binding posts look like something you would find on an upscale speaker, and not on an AVR.

    This is what the basement looked like before with the old 16AWG generic speaker wire nailed to the molding. As I only had a single source hooked up, everything else was on the floor:

    I replaced the generic wire with 12AWG CL2 in-wall speaker wire.

  8. #8

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    Before room treatments, I'd have to say speaker cables and power upgrades made the biggest sonic improvements to my rigs. The "blackness" of clean power is amazing.

    I'm more of a 2-channel guy (even though we have 5.1's and big plasma's in 2 rooms) so I cant be sure about this, but am thinking you may not get the results you want from any spooled speaker wire versus engineered cables from a reputable company. I do understand that may involve too much budget for multi-channel with long runs.
    Last edited by inspiredsports; 01-14-2012 at 11:07 PM.
    VTL ST50 w/mods/RCA6L6GC/TlfnknECC801S
    CJPV-5 w/mods
    TT CJ Sonographe SG3 Oak/Sumiko LMT/Grado Wood Plat/Sumiko PIB2/The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020/Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9/Vibrapods/MIT Shtgn AC1 IEC's/MIT Shotgun 2 IC's/MIT Shtgn 2 Speaker
    PSAudio Cryo PwrPrt Prem/ExctPwrEP15A
    Wlnt SDA 2B TL/Oak SDA SRS II TL-Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Cust SDA ICs/Mortite/Dynamat Extreme/TFLF Rings/FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by inspiredsports View Post
    Before room treatments, I'd have to say speaker cables and power upgrades made the biggest sonic improvements to my rigs. The "blackness" of clean power is amazing.
    Power upgrades I agree with. Big difference if you have high-end video components in just the interference / noise reduction alone going to dedicated circuits. But speaker cables, not sure. I went from regular 16AWG speaker wire to 12AWG, CL2 in-wall rated speaker wire and didn't hear much of a difference. There was a little more bass, probably because of the thicker wire, but overall the sound was mostly the same. Also, a little less harshness as noted above.

    Right now I am concerned about equipment stacking due to the heat. As I am looking for a good deal on a Parasound HALO C1/C2 and amp, I looked at the heat dissipation requirements and see that the A51 and A21 amplifiers need a good amount of spacing above them to function properly. I was planning to put the C1 or C2 (whichever I end up getting) on top of the amp but that would cause problems with the amp of course.

    Parasound's website shows a picture of a P3 stacked on top of an A23 amplifier, but of any A51 or A21 amps in a rack. Does anyone with experience with these amps know how hot they get and if I could place one under, above, or below a C1/C2? Thanks!

    BTW, In the temporary rig upstairs that is holding me over right now, I have many components stacked:

  10. #10

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    No matter what the marketing folks do in terms of pretty pics of stacked components, heat is the enemy. I wish someone could invent a high cfm, small footprint, 1db fan.
    VTL ST50 w/mods/RCA6L6GC/TlfnknECC801S
    CJPV-5 w/mods
    TT CJ Sonographe SG3 Oak/Sumiko LMT/Grado Wood Plat/Sumiko PIB2/The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020/Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9/Vibrapods/MIT Shtgn AC1 IEC's/MIT Shotgun 2 IC's/MIT Shtgn 2 Speaker
    PSAudio Cryo PwrPrt Prem/ExctPwrEP15A
    Wlnt SDA 2B TL/Oak SDA SRS II TL-Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Cust SDA ICs/Mortite/Dynamat Extreme/TFLF Rings/FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
    GIK panels

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by inspiredsports View Post
    No matter what the marketing folks do in terms of pretty pics of stacked components, heat is the enemy. I wish someone could invent a high cfm, small footprint, 1db fan.
    I had a pair of 92mm computer fans on top of my old receiver driving the rig:

    However, they were only useful if the amplifier is at the top of the stack, not below, or in between.

  12. #12

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    Default Update on progress...

    So over the weekend I removed the old, water damaged molding and cut off the rotted portion. I replaced the last part to the right and you can see the color difference where I sawed the end off. Apparently this molding had already been replaced before we moved in by the previous owner but after a few years the water caused it to rot.

    Also, I installed new electrical outlets and two speaker wall plates. The right wall plate can be seen in this camera angle but the other one is hidden by the left speaker. I used high quality Leviton wall plates with their heavy-duty binding posts. Fished the speaker wire behind the walls, and ran it to the A/V stack. This is my first significant speaker wire upgrade.

    I will be updating this thread as I get things done. Now have 9 dedicated circuits, wall plates, and speaker wires hidden. Although the pics do not show, fishing the in-wall speaker wire was a lot of work!!

  13. #13

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    Dedicated circuits installed. Arc-fault breakers used as per code for living spaces, the rest are ordinary breakers. I had to use 15A breakers on the top right (first four circuits on the right) because code states that if the only outlet is a NEMA 5-15, a 15A breaker must be used. Even though all of the wire is 12-2, the circuit has to be rated for 15A due to the outlet used.

    If someday I decide to purchase NEMA 5-20 outlets for those four dedicated circuits, I can do so without having to run new wire. Yes, due to copper prices 12-2 wire is expensive but I don't see the point of running 14-2 for 15A circuits and 12-2 for 20A circuits only to have to replace the 14-2 with 12-2 wire someday I need to use 20A devices such as a high-current amp or other audio gear that draws a lot from the wall. So I used 12-2 for everything and therefore, it's future proof.
    Last edited by Serendipity; 01-16-2012 at 03:58 PM.

  14. #14

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    And now the latest update:

    Acoustic Treatments!!
    polkaudio RT35 Bookshelves
    polkaudio 255c-RT Inwalls
    polkaudio DSWPro550WI
    polkaudio XRT12 XM Tuner
    polkaudio RM6750 5.1

    Front projection, 2 channel, car audio... life is good!

  15. #15

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    ...where? The rug?

  16. #16

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    Nice thread serendipity, keep up the good work!
    DARE TO SOAR:
    “Your attitude, almost always determine your altitude in life” ;)

  17. #17

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    Thanks TechnoKid!

    It's all starting to come together, wall plates and room furnishings are giving it a nice touch!

  18. #18

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    Is that the HD-XA1? I'm debating picking one up to replace the 360 HD-DVD player so I can sell the system. I'd be curious on your thoughts if it is.

  19. #19

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    Yes, it is a Toshiba HD-XA1. IMO, the picture and sound quality is leaps and bounds better than the Xbox 360. I had compared the original 360 (launch) console to the HD-XA1 and the Toshiba blew the Xbox away.

    Specifically, if you are using the analog (stereo) connection, the better DACs in the HD-XA1 sound much better than the Xbox with its silly little A/V cable. You can't even try different cables on the Xbox, because it's proprietary and molded onto the connector.

    On the video side, over HDMI the HD-XA1 absolutely blows away the Xbox 360 on component. Not even close. Much sharper, detailed picture with better color rendition and less video noise. Also, I found that the subtitles were clearer.

    Go with the HD-XA1, you can't go wrong!!

  20. #20

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    Sorry, didn't read the whole thread. Are you planning to do any sound treatments (acoustic panels) on those wooden walls?

  21. #21

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    Yes. I am planning on making my own acoustic panels.

  22. #22

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    Wall plate added today for the sub. I used fish tape to bring the cable from behind the wooden walls, drilled a hole and cut the mounting location, then mounted the plate in a single-gang, low voltage electrical box. Also ran a dedicated circuit from the breaker panel to the sub, the outlet is right behind the sub.

  23. #23

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    Latest Addition: Harmony 1100 Universal Remote!

    I like that this thing allows control of the system via IR or RF (using the Harmony remote extender, sold separately). This is cool because I have outdoor speakers connected to the downstairs receiver using the Zone 2 outputs; instead of running back inside I can just purchase the Harmony remote extender and control the volume from outside, without having to go back inside to adjust the Zone 2 level.

  24. #24

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    More cables to try out. I like the short HDMI cables pictured below because they are just enough to connect one component to another without having excess slack. This makes it easier since you don't need to coil up all that extra cord. Standard 6' HDMI cables were too long and made a mess before.

  25. #25

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    Back panel of the Denon AVR-5800. I haven't had a chance to clean up all the cables, since I am constantly swapping cables back and forth. If I zip-tied them like before, I would have to cut all the zip ties to change something simple like an RCA cable.

    The Denon AVR-5800's back panel makes it easy to connect everything and is great for a nice custom install. Speaker outputs are on the left and right, so they don't interfere too much with the other cables. As I am only using 2 channels, only the Front Left and Front Right outputs are connected.

    For the inputs, I tried to use optical and coaxial as much as possible since the Denon does a good job of converting digital sources to analog. When I tried using the ordinary analog cables (Stereo L/R), the sound was not as good. Specifically, the PS3 sounded better when connected via optical instead of regular analog.

    I am trying new configurations right now. Updates to follow...

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