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[Gaming Audio] Astro MixAmp presets + Best Audio Gear Guide + Headphone Reviews  (Read 229307 times)

Offline MisterWicked1

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You have your MixAmp or Sound USB dongle or even your controller headphone output.

And you want to be able to use high impedance studio/audiophile headphones for improve immersion and be able to hear footsteps, then you need a headphone amplifier to powered them correctly.

Your audio chain will be like this:
MixAmp / Sound USB dongle / Controller[Headphone Out] -> [RCA or 3.5mm In]Headphone Amplifier
Headphones ->  [Headphone Out]Headphone Amplifier


Options:
Schiit Magni, Monolith Liquid Spark, JDS Atom, Topping L30 (defective don't recommended)

New Top Recommendation: iFi Zen Can - $139usd

Why?:
  • Class A circuitry amplification, available on $400usd or above
  • 3.5mm Input for ease integration -back view-
  • XBass, is a Bass Boost made over the analog realm, meaning no DSP. Is subtle, it will give the explosiones body on open back headphones
  • 3D, this is a big one... disregarding its name, doesn't add false 3D reverb, like most digital processing that ruins sound cues positioning and stereo imaging. This effect is also made over the analog realm it; what it does is expanding the soundstage of your audio and increasing the Low Midrange and Low Trebble frequencies, both are where you can find footsteps in your games. The major disadvantage on a middle ot low performance DAC (device that outputs sound) is its narrow soundstage, getting a bigger soundstage implies get a high performance DAC, this headphone amplifier can fix it, very unique feature it works pretty well

I'm falling in love again with my MixAmp using this headphone amplifier with the 3D tuning on. Is amazing.

So there you go, is a very good option, pretty handy it does have Balanced inputs and Outputs if you are going even further on HiRes audio, with balanced DAC's and headphones.

Cheers!

Using this over the ARC?

Offline AMG

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Using this over the ARC?
Not quite. This is only an Amp, a pretty darn good one, though, still needs a DAC.

If you have a good pair of high impedance headphones and want to start building up your next level audio gear, this AMP is a great first step. Because is going to improve whatever DAC you have already, like: control headphone output, USB soundcard or a mixamp.

Eventually you can get a better DAC like: SMSL M100 ($95usd) and your'e set!, that combo will give you ARC levels of performance, a bit more analytic, wider soundstage and more control bass. If you want to play music or have a open headphones use XBass and it will deliver you a very nice low end, explosions will sound better yet quicker and not splashy. 3D will help you to localize footsteps better and with your music it will improve vocals.

Then, if you want to try a different DAC, like going a step further... you can change it for a Topping E30, EL DAC II or Topping D30 Pro (amazing wide soundstage).

If you want to keep going down into the rabbit hole, try more hungry headphones, balanced jDACs this small Amp is ready for it.

Offline AMG

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I have to add though, if you use Mayflower as DAC and feed this Amp with xBass and 3D... sweet jesus... for music is a true delight.

Soundstage is widen, detail, bass is faster and more controlled, reminds me to my $1200+ DAC/Amp stack.

Offline MisterWicked1

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I have to add though, if you use Mayflower as DAC and feed this Amp with xBass and 3D... sweet jesus... for music is a true delight.

Soundstage is widen, detail, bass is faster and more controlled, reminds me to my $1200+ DAC/Amp stack.


Sounds, good but at the same time sounds like it would be a wiring mess for me 😂 with the go xlr, arc and all the stuff hooked up. I wouldn't mind getting a more controlled sound stage

Offline AMG

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I know!, cable mess is my biggest pet peeve, is not way around when doing streaming and hires audio.

Offline K9ozzy

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    Sennheiser headphones are currently on sale.  With Sennheiser's headphone division being sold off to a hearing aid company and what uncertainty that brings, I had to buy "my" holy grail of gaming headphones.  I ordered the HD800s for $1399.  I've always wanted these, and at $300 off, I had to pull the trigger.  I have HD660s, and love them, but yall know how bad that urge can be, and I know I'd always regret not getting the 800s, especially if they start jumping in value.  Those paired with my Drop AAA Thx 789 and Schiit Loki will be my end game.......I think 🤣

Anyways yall check out the sales they are having

Offline AMG

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You won't regret it, go for it HD800S are amazing.

That's a pretty good audio gear, wondering what DAC are using though.

That's the thing on getting high performance headphones... all your chain has to be up to par to avoid funnel performance.

Most definitely when upgrading your audio the main thing that make a big change is a headphones. Hands down is the item that will change your sound experience, but these most likely required and AMP and that's why almost goes hand to hand. The one you have is pretty much endgame for most enthusiast, clean, fast, transparent and precise.

IMO the DAC is the last thing you have to change, is like the icing in the cake but still pretty important. Fortunately we are living in a times were Chi-fi is taking over and we can get $90, $200 or $700 DACs that 10 years ago the ones that equals performance will cost 300, 600 and 1600 respectively.

UPDATE: I check your DAC... my man, even a $90 SMSL M100 MKII will make more a change that a 1K dollars headphone in your chain, that MixAmp is holding your audio performance back heavly, like a big bottleneck. Get the HD800S ir they are really on sale, don't fall for the FOMO Sennheiser headphones are not disappear, its consumer electronics segment will continue strong (interview with the Director of Sennheiser Consumer Division).
« Last Edit: 12:08 PM - 06/19/21 by alanmcgregor »

Offline K9ozzy

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I hear ya, but I just couldn't pass up the sale,  and the new company may very well continue to make the products, but in a profit driven world, may start cutting corners here and there.   I feel that if sennheiser's headphone division would've have been turning greater profits, they wouldn't have sold.  I could be completely wrong.

Ah.....sigh.......the Astro Mixamp.....sigh......don't get me started.   Toy indeed.  Sound quality bottleneck....absolutely.   Necessary evil for pretty much the only decent chat option..."I" feel so.  I'd love nothing more than to spend some good money on a quality Dac and still have my chat.  I've tried the whole going through my controller thing,  and I hated it.  That mixed with my Apex caused me to have to use a ground loop isolator and the controls were aggravating, and I just couldn't ever seem the ratios/mix right. It just sounded different if I remember correctly. Now I will admit this was the time I was trying to use the Sound Blaster X7, so that might have been part of the issue. I was also using an Xbox One controller (I don't know if the Series X controller makes any difference) and it was well over a year ago, so I don't if there has been advancements to the chat features.  I'm always willing to try it again if you have any advice.

Now to admit a guilty pleasure, and it's probably redundant to some extent.  I use the dolby surround option turned on on my Mixamp......and I have Dolby Atmos enabled in my audio settings on my Series X.  I have phenomenal sound stage and positioning like this. It also gives me some crossfeed (I believe is the correct term) where I can hear a gunshot that's to my right, in my left ear, but to a lesser extent depending on how much I turn.  I CAN NOT DO STEREO IN PUBG due to the lack of crossfeed. I absolutely cannot stand hearing gunshots to my far right and only in my right ear and no sound in my left. Then when you turn 180 it's like flipping a switch for the gunshots to change ears completely. I hate it. 

I play Pubg almost exclusively and 99% of the time with friends. If this weren't the case I'd already have a nice Dac to pair with my other stuff.  Unfortunately due to microsoft's refusal to open up the usb chat to other companies, I feel limited to the Mixamp


Offline AMG

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Create your own Hi-Res "MixAmp" - XBox One, XBox Series X/S

Items:
A. Turtle Beach Headset Audio Controller Plus.
B. Y Male 3.5 mm to female Microphone and Headphone Splitter.
C. Y cable adapter 3.5mm Male to L/R Male RCA or 3.5mm male to male extension.
D. Hi-Res Audio device, with analog inputs, can be: Headphone Amp or DAC/Amp device or a DAC + Amp Stack.
E. Xbox One controller.
F. ModMic Uni or ATGM2 mic.

Prep: Setup XIM to 500Hz or lower, enable audio support.

Setup:
1. Install Turtle Beach Headset Audio controller to the Xbox One controller which is already plug in the XIM Hub.
2. Connect Y Headphone/Mic Splitter to Turtle Beach Headset.
On the Headphone In, connect the Y cable adapter 3.5mm to RCA(C) or 3.5mm extension
On the Mic connect the boom mic(F)
3. Connect the RCA(C) plugs to RCA L/R/3.5mm to the analog input of your Hi-Res Audio device.

Results:
+ Be able to use high impedance studio headphones.
+ You can mix Chat/Game on the Headset adapter.
+ Hi-Res DAC/Amp gets feed it by an analog signal, without amplification avoiding distortion.

For Extra Functionality:
+ EQ add a Schiit Loki, between headphone output and DAC or Amp Input.
+ More inputs add Little Bear MC5, allows to hear on your headphones a mix of: game audio, chat audio, mic monitoring, music from your phone/tablet you can control each volume independently.

Offline Roman_M

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Create your own Hi-Res "MixAmp" - XBox One, XBox Series X/S

Items:
A. Turtle Beach Headset Audio Controller Plus.
B. Y Male 3.5 mm to female Microphone and Headphone Splitter.
C. Y cable adapter 3.5mm Male to L/R Male RCA or 3.5mm male to male extension.
D. Hi-Res Audio device, with analog inputs, can be: Headphone Amp or DAC/Amp device or a DAC + Amp Stack.
E. Xbox One controller.
F. ModMic Uni or ATGM2 mic.

Prep: Setup XIM to 500Hz or lower, enable audio support.

Setup:
1. Install Turtle Beach Headset Audio controller to the Xbox One controller which is already plug in the XIM Hub.
2. Connect Y Headphone/Mic Splitter to Turtle Beach Headset.
On the Headphone In, connect the Y cable adapter 3.5mm to RCA(C) or 3.5mm extension
On the Mic connect the boom mic(F)
3. Connect the RCA(C) plugs to RCA L/R/3.5mm to the analog input of your Hi-Res Audio device.

Results:
+ Be able to use high impedance studio headphones.
+ You can mix Chat/Game on the Headset adapter.
+ Hi-Res DAC/Amp gets feed it by an analog signal, without amplification avoiding distortion.

For Extra Functionality:
+ EQ add a Schiit Loki, between headphone output and DAC or Amp Input.
+ More inputs add Little Bear MC5, allows to hear on your headphones a mix of: game audio, chat audio, mic monitoring, music from your phone/tablet you can control each volume independently.

how do I link this:

 Astro MixAmp tr pro
 Shiit loki+
 Jds atom amp
 
 *+ Little Bear MC5*


Headphones - bayerdynamic dt 990 pro
 Microphone - atgm2
 
Xbox series X

 Insignia hdmi Audio extractor

?
Eve Spectrum 4k/144hz ✓ Xbox series X ✓ Xbox elite series 2 ✓ Jds ell dac 2 ✓ Jds atom amp ✓ Insignia audio extractor ✓Bayerdynamic dt 990 pro 250 ohm ✓ Audio-Technica ATGM 2 ✓ASTRO Gaming ,  MixAmp Pro TR ✓Shiit loki mini ✓iFi Zen Can ✓ Varmilo MA87 Koi with EC switch V2 Wired Mechanical KeyboardMA87MCu2W/WR2BnGJv ✓ ZYGEN NP-01G Esports Mouse (Glossy) ✓ BOSE SPORT EARBUDS BLUE ✓ Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 XB ✓ HyperX Cloud Mix ✓

Offline AMG

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My current main headphones are: Sennheiser HD560S I have it for 3 weeks, waiting for the Sennheiser + Drop PC38X.

Sennheiser HD560S


First impressions: AMAXING

Doesn't sound like a typical Sennheiser (narrow and midrange focus) it sound like a DT880 and the HD800S have a son, better bass, treble is sharp without being bright or tiresome and wide soundstage yet you can distinguish precisely every sound cue position.

I owned the Sennheiser HD800S, this HD560S reminds me its clarity with a smaller soundstage (yet bigger than HD600 and HD6XX) is like a small brother that's awesome for gaming, for wide stage games, like PUBG, Escape of Tarkov, Squad where you still need precision I will take any day HD560S over HD800S, no matter if both were at the same price, which is not HD800S are around $1600 USD vs $199 USD of HD560S.

If you play these games... get them, NOW before they are discontinued.
« Last Edit: 01:08 PM - 06/29/21 by alanmcgregor »

Offline AMG

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DAC: S.M.S.L M100 MKII - $93.99 USD


AMP: MYPIN Headphone Amplifier with Bass Boost, 16-600Ω - $32.99 USD


Total aprox: 126.98 USD

Bass, explosions, rumbles: ★★★☆☆
Middle, footsteps detection: ★★★★☆
Treble, sharp sounds, ambient noises: ★★☆☆☆
Sound-stage, how wide the sound is: ★★★★☆
Sound-imaging, how easy is to localize sound cues: ★★★★☆

Advantages:
+ highly portable, with a USB bank you can use on the go with your phone or tablet. The Headphone Amp is a DAC/Amp by itself, but SMSL is has way more resolution.
+ Scalable you can upgrade the headphone amp for a $90 or above and the sound will improve.
+ SMSL DAC with an active speakers can be use on TV it will be better than any soundbar.

Gaming Audio Gear Performance Chart
From lowest to highest performance


This entry-level stack surpass a $130.00 MixAmp, $160.00 SBXG6.
Where 0 is our frame of reference, something that all of us have hear our controllers audio out. The next values are performance points up to 900 = GODLY we have Topping D70S ($650.00USD) DAC it uses dual AKM chips pro performance to deliver a HUGE and realistic sound-stage, powered by a A90 Amplifier ($500.00), these combo, with a $700+ headphones will give you the experience of playing a theater cinema, complete gaming immersion. There are higher and more expensive DAC and Amp, those are meant for music, and audio design it won't improve Gaming experience and some even make it worse. Price doesn't correlate audio performance.


Thanks for your time!
« Last Edit: 02:19 AM - 06/30/21 by alanmcgregor »

Offline K9ozzy

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Create your own Hi-Res "MixAmp" - XBox One, XBox Series X/S

Items:
A. Turtle Beach Headset Audio Controller Plus.
B. Y Male 3.5 mm to female Microphone and Headphone Splitter.
C. Y cable adapter 3.5mm Male to L/R Male RCA or 3.5mm male to male extension.
D. Hi-Res Audio device, with analog inputs, can be: Headphone Amp or DAC/Amp device or a DAC + Amp Stack.
E. Xbox One controller.
F. ModMic Uni or ATGM2 mic.

Prep: Setup XIM to 500Hz or lower, enable audio support.

Setup:
1. Install Turtle Beach Headset Audio controller to the Xbox One controller which is already plug in the XIM Hub.
2. Connect Y Headphone/Mic Splitter to Turtle Beach Headset.
On the Headphone In, connect the Y cable adapter 3.5mm to RCA(C) or 3.5mm extension
On the Mic connect the boom mic(F)
3. Connect the RCA(C) plugs to RCA L/R/3.5mm to the analog input of your Hi-Res Audio device.

Results:
+ Be able to use high impedance studio headphones.
+ You can mix Chat/Game on the Headset adapter.
+ Hi-Res DAC/Amp gets feed it by an analog signal, without amplification avoiding distortion.

For Extra Functionality:
+ EQ add a Schiit Loki, between headphone output and DAC or Amp Input.
+ More inputs add Little Bear MC5, allows to hear on your headphones a mix of: game audio, chat audio, mic monitoring, music from your phone/tablet you can control each volume independently.


Alan,  I'm going to try this method so I can eliminate my Astro mixamp and get the full potential of my equipment.  I will need a DAC or DAC/AMP combo, and was hoping you could recommend one.  Below is what I'll be using if it'll help in making recommendations.  The Amp can be swapped out if need be.  I'm a Soundstage/imaging and positional cue whore, so that's extremely important to me.  I would also like something that will give me 3d or surround sound effects (I know and I can't help it). I'm not concerned with the price.

Xbox Series X
Sennheiser HD800s
Drop AAA THX 789 amp
Schiit Loki
Turtle Beach Headset Audio Controller Plus

I'd also like to know more about this " Little Bear MC5".  Does it replace the
Turtle Beach Headset adapter?

I did get the HD800s on sale for $300 off. I love them and thanks for the recommendation Alan.

 Hears my short review:

SENNHEISER HD800S REVIEW:

Pros:

Amazing clarity to the point that it can even be too good at times (see cons).
 
Best and largest soundstage I have ever experienced in a headphone. Very airy and immersive.

Paints a very clear and atmospheric picture of the game.  Even better when outdoors in games.

Positional cues are outstanding, and the ability to determine the distance of sounds is superior to my previous headsets.

Precise audio, fast response,  and great separation of the sounds. They never feel muddled together or hard to indistinguish.

Very comfortable and cooler than my Sennheiser Hd660s.

Deeeeep earcups, and I can wear them all day.

Cons:
Headband adjustments could be stiffer or lock in place better. Any little touch seems to make the adjustments change/loosen. I have to resize/adjust them everytime I put them on....everytime.....even if I just lift one earcup to hear someone in the room with me better.

The Soundstage is so huge and airy, I do feel like I have to increase the volume quite a bit to hear the details that used to sound closer and easier to hear because of the smaller soundstages of my previous headphones (HD660S, AKG K702 Pro).  This in turn can make loud or high pitched sounds be too loud sometimes. But on a side note, because of the increased clarity of the HD800S, I am hearing very small details that I have never heard before.  This effect tho is also why I feel I can determine the position and distance of sounds much better than before, I guess it's a trade off and is my guess as to whether it could possibly be remedied with a different Dac or Amp.

I feel like I'm always trying to find the perfect balance between chat and game volume. This could also potentially be due to the incredibly huge soundstage and possibly remedied with a different setup.

You can hear the imperfections/limitations of the game audio and/or your equipment.  I do think my Astro Mixamp is a major contributor of this.

Some sounds like brass/shell casings hitting the floor, glass breaking ect. can be a little sharp at times. I feel it is another a trade off tho, because I also can hear footsteps better than with any other headset I have had because of this increased clarity of those types of sounds.  Also feeling like I have to use them at an increased volume most certainly contributes.

Final thoughts:

   My endgame FPS headphones. I was skeptical that they could be "that much better" and i was worried I would have serious buyer's remorse, but I was quickly relieved after playing several rounds of Pubg (Xbox Series X), and confident I had made a great purchase. It's almost a feeling of relief knowing I wont be consumed spending countless time looking, reading, researching, and watching reviews on what my next attempt at finding "The ones" would be. Im hearing details in games I haven't before.  My games feel more immersive and the HD800S have helped me be somewhat more competitive.  My Pubg stats have improved some since I started using them, and I enjoy playing pubg even more now.  Here is my rough attempt to describe the difference I have noticed between the HD800S and other headphones I've used. On Pubg, if I used to be able to tell an enemy was at my 6 o'clock to 7o'clock and roughly 50ft to 80ft away. I can now tell he is at my 6:20ish and 70-80ft away. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I do feel the clarity, soundstage, and positioning is that good. This has been a fun advantage cause I can more precisely tell where and how far the enemy is from a blind corner or over a hill.  I've also been able to more accurately "pre-aim" and track a yet to be seen enemy before engaging, which in turn, seems to have decreased my reaction time if ever so slightly. I also hear people trying to sneak easier than before, and can more precisely tell where in buildings they are. It's also easier to tell which cover someone is hiding behind in the more cluttered areas. Shots and explosions in the distance seem more natural and in turn easier to determine how far away they are.  The HD800S's imaging is the one area I feel is significantly better than all others.  It creates such an impressive atmosphere and clear detailed image in my head of the map, what's going on, and where it is as the round progresses. It constantly impresses me how much of a mental picture they paint.
    Due to the cost, I can't personally recommend these to anyone other than serious gamers who mainly play competitive first person shooters.  If you play first person shooters as much as I do, and willing to pay that much for headphones, then they are worth the cost . I know everyone's situation is different and I agree with Alan that there're plenty of phenomenal sounding headphones out there that are a far better value than these and that are much friendlier on the wallet.  These are well into the "cost vs diminishing returns" category.   Please take my descriptions with a grain of salt, and although the performance gains of the HD800S over all of my previous headsets are obvious.   Most of these gains are not significantly better than some of the best headphones out there that are half the price or cheaper.  The HD800S seems to take what many of the headphones out there each do great, and combine that into one package.  The price tag for these which is most of the time 3 to 4 times the price than other highly rated headphones, does not return 3 to 4 times the performance increase.  We are talking small percentages, but noticeably enough that it has made me enjoy gaming even more, and that is worth every penny. Oh, and im better than average on Pubg......on a good day 🤣

Offline Spankie Flanker

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hello, can someone here help with some settings within my audio setup please?

Offline jerrylee

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Sorry for the late reply.

These recommendations applies also on PC.

However on PC you can squeeze even better sound quality because you are able to access to higher sample rates, better encoders like DSD (if your DAC supports it) and some exclusive hardware that needs drivers in the background like the Sennheiser GSX 1000 which is like a MixAmp do it right.

Beginners guide for Home Theater System

So I got many questions on my DM's and some request about making like a Beginners guide for Home Theater System, cause many of you really want to dig on that platform of high sound quality and on current COVID era going to the movies is still a risk and uncertainly, besides be able to enjoy current streaming entertainment series and movies.

Is a wide subject, I will try to do it as condensed and brief as possible yet informative. I would like to start to answering this FAQ.

1. A Home Theater Multi-Channel System (called from now on HTMCS) is better than a good DAC and audiophiles for gaming?
- For competitive, serious FPS gaming: No, and is not suitable. High quality Stereo imaging is faster and more precise than a HTMCS, where the speakers generates sound waves that travels in to the room bouncing all over, instead of the speakers going directly to your eardrums (headphones). Besides the fact that, if you play on a competitive scenario a Mic for team-com is a must and it can't be done on a loud HTMCS presence dominating your surroundings

2. A HTMCS offers a better immersive experience than HiRes DAC + Audiophile Headphones?
- "Doing it right", yes absolutely. However, this "Doing it right" means going for above $1800 USD solution to reach a point where you can say: my HTMCS is as good or better than my HiRes DAC/Headphones. Anything below that you will be better with your HiRes DAC/Headphones - no doubt!.

3. What about Soundbars and Home Theater in-a-box Packages (HTIB)
- Soundbars are pretty good, when need something better than your TV Speakers, if you are going for any modern ultra-thin display these comes with pretty weak speakers due the form factor.

Only very expensive soundbars above $2000 USD can arguably give you a sound level compared to a simple multi-channel system, a decent HTMCS will single handed overpass any expensive soundbar, but in essence what you are paying for a quality soundbar is minimalist and practicability and no messing with cables and installations.

Home Theater in-a-box Packages, these are All-in-One solution, not bad is like buying a pre-assamble PC, where a HTMCS is more like building your own piece by piece. HTIB are cheaper (from $700 USD, includes speakers and AV receiver), practical to install brands like Onkyo give you pretty good solution bang per buck that will satisfies the majority of needs, for music listening, videogames and movies. However just like with a prebuilt PC there isn't much pieces that you can swap, improve, upgrade or grow up because most likely the speakers that came with the package are made to be powered for the included AV Receiver (AVR in short).

AV Receiver is
our "DAC" that also process video signal, is the brain of your Home Theater System it will decodes audio signals to stereo, surround like: Dolby Digital, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, video like HDR/Dolby Vision, handles resolutions like: 1080p/4K/8K, on a different refresh rates: 30Hz/60Hz/120Hz and handling image processing tech like VRR, FreeSync, etc.

AVR's on a HTIB are most likely basic, well built but where the product cut corners/cheap out is on the quality of the speakers included.

Good quality Speakers are not cheap and are a good investment, its technology doesn't change much and can last up to 15 years.

On the other hand AV Receivers, are expensive (above $800 USD) and they upgrade every year or so, upgrading connection technologies or goodies and sometimes big leaps that makes your AVR obsolete for a newer video equipment.

Keep in mind:
Good Quality Speakers + Cheap AVR performs better than Good Quality Expensive AVR + Cheap Speakers.

So, we can say if you want the best Theater Multi-Channel experience for your home you have to built it, piece by piece starting by choosing how many speakers aka channels you want. Focusing your budget on get the best speakers you can afford little by little, being your Front L, R and Center the most important, and then getting AVR that can handle the sound decoding and video processing that you want.

Building a Home Theater System can be a very daunting and expensive endeavor, yet rewarding like a building a swimming pool for your house -no kidding, if you are ok with a bath-tub settle with headphones, if you prefer a jacuzzy go for a HiRes and Audiophile headphones, if you want a pool without messing too much get  prefer a soundbar or basic HTIB these are like a Inflatable swimming pool. Funny Analogies yet kind of accurate.

One thing is very important if you go for the HTIB route or getting a AVR is to make sure it has a good accurate and precise Room Sound detection technology, every house is different and you need to treat a room specifically to get the most of your Home Theater.

5. What is Dolby Atmos, and why is so cool.

A channel means a Speaker, before surround technology put sound frequencies on each speaker, if the sound in your game or movie came infront the front speaker will sound, if goes back the surrounds will sound, left, right, center etc.

Dolby Atmos is a different paradigm, this technology uses every speaker to create a sound object in a 3D space, using several speakers to reproduce that sound entity, pretty cool. Dolby Atmos specification requires at least a couple of Height Channels (Speaker in the ceiling) in order to render this 3D sound space and the objects in it.


However, to enjoy Dolby Atmos your sound source should be decoded in this format. For TV and streaming only Disney+ and a few titles on Netflix or Prime comes with Dolby Atmos and of this bunch most are intended for Dolby Atmos 5.1.2. Only 4K Blu-ray can offered full Dolby Atmos Decoding up to 7.2.4.

What all this numbers mean?.
5.1.0 (5 Channel System)
5. is the # speakers at ear level.
.1 is the # of subwoofer in the system.
.0 is the # speakers for the height channels (Dolby Atmos and DTS:X)

So a 7 channel system is can be read like: 7.1 (all speakers at ear level) or 5.1.2 (5 at hear level, 2 for DAtmos).
9 Channel system: 9.1 or 5.1.4, yes this means more speakers in the ceiling and implies a powerful AMP or AVR that can process 9 channels, and you can go bananas on these 11. 13 etc. A good 9 channels AVR goes from $1200 or above, yep only the unit, without speakers.

Worth to mention: 5.1.2 for Dolby Atmos is what all the media content developers are using for streaming, movies and videogames. Getting more channels is intended for bigger rooms and audience, so everybody can get a good soundfield reproduction no matter where they are seated.

The importance of a good quality Subwoofer (SW)

The Sub is a big woofer that reproduce very low frequencies, but on reality is the girt that tights your sound experience together, it brings body to the sound waves it shakes you, hits you and moves you... is like a rumble feedback gives life to your home theater system. Don't cheap out on it and if your AVR supports it and you have a big room getting a second one might be a very good option.

6. Recommendations
A) If you want better sound than your weak TV speakers, I recommend to go for a pair of Bookshelf speakers with built-in amp and a subwoofer out, and get also a sub-woofer. These combo will give you far better sound quality than any expensive (two times) soundbard or a cheap home theater.
Power Monitors (Speakers) + Subwoofer.


B) If you want a Home Theater System and don't want to break the bank, check Onkyo HTS solutions, and that's pretty much it. Sometimes Yamaha also releases bundles but are rare.


Klipsch another good quality brand, also offers HTIB but these don't come with a AVR, only the speakers.

C) if you want to build your own Home Theater System without breaking the bank, and it will be better than any HTIB of $800 USD, pretty much at the same level of a $2000 USD system for about half the price, including Dolby Atmos capability:

Get Klipsch 5.1 HTIB speakers (around $350 - 450 usd) + 2 bookshelf speakers ($99 USD - 130 USD) + AV Receiver from $350 to $500 USD, Onkyo, Denon, Yamaha, Sony (highly recommended for easy to setup) for 7.1 or more channels and dolby atmos support. These speakers are very well made, it sounds fantastic and are very affordable.
Klipsch 5.1 Reference Theater Pack - Includes a powerful subwoofer, satellite speakers for your surrounds or heights(DAtmos), and well built center speaker for vocals

Klipsch Bookshelf Speakers - use it for your front L and R speakers

7.1 AV Receiver, my recommendation:
Sony STR-DH790 or Sony STR-DN1080

Both are very easy to setup, it has a great room tune/detection, Dolby Atmos, offers WiFi and Bluetooth support and eARC which is very important if you are watching streaming content from your TV and want Surround Sound on your speakers. Price around: $500 USD. Sony STR-DH790 it's a reduced version of theDN1080, it also offers Dolby Atmos but it has a weaker amplifier, is great for a small room and it can drive easily these speakers, this ones is around $350 USD.

When you go for a higher on quality on an AVR you are paying for more channels and more powerful amp, and if its possible an amp for each channel, or the option to use a separated amp. While these two AVRs are great for entry level if you want audiophile quality you need to go higher, next tear.

Hence my Top recommendation is: Sony STR-ZA1100ES (ES means Elevated Standard = Audiophile grade)

Best bang per your buck this one doesn't have wifi or bluetooth built in, but it compensates on sound reproduction quality and circuitry its DAC and Amplifier it has the same performance of a $2000 AVRs individual amps for each channel (7), is built like a tank, offers eARC, 4K at 60Hz all HDR, HLG, Dolby Vision processing, Dolby Atmos 5.2.2 and it has a DSP option that creates two virtual channels (surround back) so it sounds like a 7.2.2 system. You can find it from $700 USD on sale.

Yeah I know only Sony Receivers, I'm not trying to push this brand... but Sony goes the extra mile to make sure your first AVR setup turns to be a very easy and pleasant experience, what in other cases was very daunting and most likely required to hire a professional.

Marantz does have a high end AVR Receivers but are more intended for critical music listening, meaning aren't as "fun" or well tune out of the box for movies and videogames, offers DSP's(Equalizer) that can help you. Marantz AVR's goes from $1100 USD up to $3200 USD. The ZA1100ES sounds pretty similar to a $2200 USD marantz one, that's why is my value recommendation.

If you can afford Marantz, go with it you get more channels. Denon are also from the same brand than Marantz, is a cheaper version, I can't recommend those because they are know to have overheat issues. Personally, I had a bad experience with one so I don't feel comfortable to say go and buy a $1500 USD AVR that might brakes in a few months. Marantz, is worth it I own one (SR8012) loved it, sold it due moving to another place.


WARNING: HDMI 2.1 4K/120Hz
I don't recommend to spent in a $1500USD or more AVR 2020 model, currently there is a big issue with HDMI 2.1 support, is a very well known issue and it can't be fixed by a firmware update. If 4K/120Hz is a must for you... wait for 2021 or 2022 models to make your investment, VRR and Freesync Premium Pro is also very uncertain.

If you are OK with full 4K 60Hz support, get any 2018 - 2020 model. In all honesty that's what our current AAA titles can run in resolution mode. If you want 4K/120Hz for a fast phasing shooter, like CoD, my man...  you shouldn't play on a TV on the first place or using a HTS, go with gaming monitor and a good pair of cans.

D) No budget constrains capability to grown and upgrade. Get the best speakers you can afford from Klipsch, Sony, Elac, etc. Your AVR should have at least 9 channels and pre-outs so you can add an external amplifer for your speakers for better results, and dual independent subwoofer outs. Brands for your AVR: Sony ES lineup, Marantz, Yamaha Advantage lineup.

E) For those who are looking to build a dedicated Theater Room for your home, unlimited budget, then you shouldn't look at AVR's, you need to separate these, just like we do with gaming DAC and Amps, you need a dedicated DAC and a dedicated AMPs for every your channel in your system. You are not building swiming pool, is more like your own beach.

That was a lot, sorry and I appreciated the time you invest if you get here.

P.S.
What about those expensive Bose Products?.
I don't hate Bose, I'm actually consumer of their products, I own a nice set of Bose Speakers for my PC, but in all honesty you can built something better (for less money) by choosing the pieces than getting from Bose, is like Apple. :D


Thanks for this guide, Alan!

How the sound of the headphone output of a HTS compares with a dedicated DAC + AMP combo? Have you tried this?