Hello again everyone.
I have been fighting with myself trying to decide whether I should buy a 5.1 Surround Sound System with "wireless" rear speakers or a more compact 2.1 or 3.1 system for quite a few months. I had looked into a couple of them but really didn't got into any of them probably because I didn't know what "next-gen" disc format I was going to settle with. Well, now that I have a PS3 and Blu-Ray, I decided to once again visit this question.
Now, why wouldn't I buy a 5.1 system?
1) My Living Room is small.
2) I don't want cables everywhere on the room.
3) Speaker placement.
Why wouldn't I buy a 2.1 system?
1) No Real Surround options out there
2) Underpowered systems
3) Lacking input/output options
So I basically weighted all the pros and cons and still decided with a compact system. These were the options (click the names to go to product web page):
1. Sony DAV-X10:
An elegant 2.1 BRAVIA system that supports Dolby EX, Pro Logic, Pro Logic II, DTS, and most important of all it has inputs to support my other systems (i.e. DISH box, or PS3, etc.) You can check the specs on the page posted, and as you can see, it is a good option. In fact, this was the one that was winning the ballots ;-) BUT there wasn't any in P.R. and I had to order it.
Also, the price (in Amazon.com) was in the range of $650.00 and that doesn't include extended warranties NOR shipping.
So next stop was:
2. Phillips Soundbar HTS8100
This one just screams... STYLE.
It looks good, and Phillips is known for their good "Ambisound" algorithm which simulates Surround Sound quite well... BUT it got eliminated quite quickly because it lacks Optical inputs and it was expensive as well (SEARS has it at $800.00!)
Next in line:
3. Samsung HT-X200
This option was up there with the Sony model in terms of input/outputs, sound quality and best of all, this one was quite cheaper than the Sony one. So of course it caught my attention. Went to SEARS and they had an old model on Clearance BUT they just had the floor model. I could had order it online but still I would have paid more than $400 with no extended plan :-(
So, I was again back to square one. Undecided, no system at home until ... I went to a local SAM's Club and saw:
4. (WINNER)Panasonic SC-PTX7
I had already read about this online and thought: "Maaaan... I don't want a "MP3 Jukebox" on my home!" But after listening to it and looking at the back of the receiver I noticed that it included everything I wanted. And best of all, the price with a 2 year extended warranty was just $350 (including taxes). The difference of this one, this is actually a 3.1 system (the front speakers also integrate the center module). And it does well with movies too, not just as a music jukebox, so I went with it.
I bought it without hesitation and took it home... then I forgot I didn't have an optical cable to connect my Playstation 3, so I went to my local Walmart, took a Phillips Cable, and went back home again. Opened the box, everything was in order (sorry I didn't took more pictures when I was opening the box) and started organizing everything in my Living Room.
I already had speaker stands that I used with my old cheapie HTIB that died so I set the new Pannies alongside the TV. Connected the PS3 to the Box and started to Rock out. First I put up a normal music CD on the drive. It sounded awesome right out of the box. I didn't even have to fiddle with the Bass settings, as it sounded A-OK. It does gives you options to equalize, add Bass Boost, even a pseudo surround sound effect but I didn't activate any of this.
Next, I tried ripping music from the CD in order to store some in the Jukebox. Ripping times are not quite as fast as in a PC but it was ok. Played the songs after ripping and they sounded good.
After this, I tried inserting a DVD full of MP3s and WMA files. The unit did found all of the MP3s I had and I could play them without problem. Still, I have to figure out how to "copy" from the DVD to the unit's HDD. But I guess I'll do this at a later time.
Finally, I turned on my PS3, put the Panny unit to "DIN" (Digital IN) and... nothing.
Not a sound!
Oooppsss I had forgotten to set the PS3 to output through the Digital port. Once I did this, aaaahhhh pure Bliss ;-).
Games sounded quite good.
Now I'm going to be hooked playing more Call of Duty 4 with more ooomph thanks to the richness of the Bass output from the subwoofer and the good sounding front/center speakers.
After testing COD and Ratchet and Clank, I put on the Black Sheep DVD (you can look at the review below) and enjoyed the movie with a 3.1 Sound Experience.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a cheap 2.1/3.1 system I definitely recommend this Panny unit or the Samsung HT-X200.
P.S. DO NOT look into the BOSE 3.2.1 or Cinemate systems. They are completely outdated (No optical input nor outputs, no HDMI, no upconverting to 1080p, etc.) They probably sound good but for the price, they are not really worth it (unless you are a rich guy that wipes his arse with $100 bills! ;-)).
Hope you enjoyed this.