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Backyard Theater - Outdoor Movies

Backyard Theater - Outdoor Movies  




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Author Topic: AV Receiver vs. Mixer vs. passive/powered speakers  (Read 13123 times)
schloodog
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« on: May 28, 2014, 11:13:11 am »

Hi All

I've been doing the BYT setup for 3 years now.  In the past, I've used most of my inside gear to drive audio to outdoor wall-mounted speakers on my deck:
  • Denon DVD
    Denon AVR-4520 receiver
    B&K CT600 multi-zone amp
    Panasonic PT-AR100U projector
    B&W Weatherproof speakers (sound has always been from behind the audience)
*HDMI cable from DVD to projector outside
*Optical Out from DVD to AVR-4520 (to multi-zone, which drives the outdoor speakers)

So ... time to upgrade, as I want to simplify setup outdoors and create better sound.  The current screen is a 12' inflatable ... which I'll figure out a better solution eventually (permanent retractable??).

My biggest challenge is audio.  I have lots of knowledge indoors, but no knowledge outdoors (mixers, powered vs. passive speakers, etc).  The space isn't terribly large ... 50' from screen to seating ... which can accommodate ~40 people.

Right now, I've trenched 14-gauge wire from the deck (ground 0 for projector / AV / power) to a weatherproof box in the back of the yard (2 front, 1 center, 1 passive sub).  I've never considered a passive sub, and no idea how it sounds / works in the space ... can I run an active sub over my 14-gaurge speaker wire?Huh

I have an old Denon AVR-4802 receiver that I would like to use for my outdoor AV receiver.  I would also like to use my laptop as my source.  We played 1 movie this weekend with this setup, temporarily moving my outdoor speakers from the deck to the screen, and connecting them to the weatherproof box in the back of the yard.  HDMI from the laptop to the projector, 3.5 jack from the laptop to the AV receiver.  Speaker out from receiver to weatherproof box on deck.  The amp does not have HDMI inputs, so I can only get stereo from my laptop via RCA jacks.  The sound was passable, but I had the receiver turned all the way up, and I lost a lot of low-end range.

So .... I want to leave my current speakers mounted to my deck ... maybe use as surround speakers if I get ambitious.  I'd like to purchase 3 speakers dedicated to the theater (2 front, 1 center); either JBL Eon or Evid 6.2 ... happy to take suggestions.  I'll address the sub at a later date.  This is where I have a ton of questions, and don't even know where to start! 
The speakers I want are powered ... do i need a mixer, or can I pass the signal from the receiver's pre-amp out? 
How do I get better quality sound from my laptop?  Not happy just passing stereo through an RCA jack ...
What else am I missing?

I've read a lot of posts on this site, and some stuff I understood ... some stuff was a foreign language to me.

Thanks for any help, and your patience!  I just would like to do this right the next time through ...
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Sparge
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« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2014, 05:56:50 pm »

Right now, I've trenched 14-gauge wire from the deck (ground 0 for projector / AV / power) to a weatherproof box in the back of the yard (2 front, 1 center, 1 passive sub).  I've never considered a passive sub, and no idea how it sounds / works in the space ... can I run an active sub over my 14-gaurge speaker wire?Huh

I would not attempt to use that 14-gauge wire for an active sub.  It's probably trenched in next to the other 14-gauge wires for the L/R/C speakers, right?  The hotter speaker-level signals from those other channels will be inductively picked up on the unshielded wires carrying the lower line-level signal for the sub.  In other words, an active sub on those wires would likely pick up crosstalk from the other channels.

The question about passive vs. active (which is not just about subs) is usually a matter of convenience or distance.  With active speakers one needs to run both a shielded cable to carry the signal and electric power to each speaker.  Sometimes it's more convenient to just run speaker wires to passive speakers (no AC power needed).  Sometimes the distance is too great between the amplifiers and the speakers that it's not practical to run heavy gauge speaker wires that far.  In those cases, the distance can be extended by going to shielded cables carrying line-level signals and using active (powered) speakers.

The speakers I want are powered ... do i need a mixer, or can I pass the signal from the receiver's pre-amp out?

If the speakers you want are powered then why did you trench in 14-gauge speaker wire?  Speaker wire would be used with unpowered (passive) speakers.
 
How do I get better quality sound from my laptop?  Not happy just passing stereo through an RCA jack ...

You will not get better sound from the headphone jack of a laptop.  It is what it is.  You might (carefully) try turning it up a bit to see if that helps.  If your receiver supports HDMI then you could use that output from the laptop for better sound.


To be honest, it's hard to make recommendations because you're kind of all over the place right now.  We can't recommend gear until you know exactly what you want to do.

So, let's start at the head end with your player...

You say you want to use your laptop.  The laptop has HDMI that you use for video, but you've been taking the audio from the stereo headphone jack.

It sounds like you want 5.1 (or at least 3.1) sound with a left, right, center and sub.  I run 3.1, by the way.  You're not going to get that from the laptop's headphone jack.  You're going to need to use the laptop's HDMI connection for both audio and video.  It sounds like your older Denon AVR-4802 doesn't have HDMI inputs?

So, some options are...

1. Buy an AV receiver or preamp that has HDMI inputs and can decode the Dolby/DTS soundtrack from the HDMI connection of your existing laptop.

2. Give up on using the laptop as your player and purchase a DVD/Blu-ray player with either 5.1/7.1 analog outputs -or- an optical output for digital audio assuming the AVR-4802 accepts optical audio.

3. Give up on the idea of decoded 3.1 sound (left/right/center/sub).  You would end up with stereo (L/R), no center and possibly a subwoofer but it wouldn't be a true "movie" subwoofer in that it would not be playing the decoded LFE track from the movie's soundtrack.

4. There may be some third-party sound device that connects to the laptop via USB and can offer 5.1/7.1 decoded audio.  Someone else will have to chime in here.  I don't use a laptop for my BYT.

It's important to nail down the decision on the player first as it will affect your other equipment choices.  For instance, if you get a player with decoded analog outputs then you would not need a receiver but would need a mixer.  If you go the mixer route then you need amplifiers of some kind.  Etc, etc.

-Sparge-
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Lincolntech
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« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2014, 11:18:13 pm »

Also, even if you did get a receiver with HDMI, you still may not get 5.1 from your laptop. My laptop has HDMI, but the sound card only supports 2 channel stereo. There are usb decoders available with coax and toslink connections.
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deman_3000
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« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2014, 12:50:11 pm »

I've always used a AV receiver with surround sounds speakers that I retired from my home system. Worked great.
Then I picked up some older, larger home stereo speakers and a center channel. They sounded good too but started to become more and more stuff to haul out for a movie night and I really didn't get much from having more speakers set up.
So I went to a set of B-52 Matrix 200amp speakers running off my Turtle Beach sound card on the laptop. 

http://www.turtlebeach.com/product-detail/sound-cards-accessories/amigo-ii/32

I've never really noticed a difference in the division between the speakers for surround sound on my old setup. But since I do some DJ work with my laptop, I picked up the sound card ($30) for the improvement in sound quality. It does make a difference when connected to 4x Mackie Thumps and cranked up for 300-400 people.   
If you use the headphone port on you laptop and amplify that through an AV received, you have amplified BAD sound.... lol. The better quality sound you put through the amp the better it will sound... simple.
 
You will hear a big difference with the sound card for sure.

I also make it simpler sometimes and just use a blu-ray player connected straight to the speakers and projector.
And I still pull out the AV receiver with someone wants to have move/game/music video night. Makes it easier to just hit a button to go between each device. But I do that every rarely.
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pistolero56
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« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2014, 03:39:22 pm »

Ive done a few movie nights with the 3.5 mm jack from my laptop to a mixer and powered speakers, It sounds good to me and no one has ever complained, then again i  am not an audio expert. My laptop sound is set up at 24 bit 48000hz and it goes up to 96000hz  but ive read that its not necessary to set it that high.
I also have a "sound card" its a behringer interface uc202 that says it puts out 48khz of high quality audio. I cant hear the difference.
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The Rusty Trax Theater
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schloodog
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« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2014, 05:32:20 pm »

Thanks for the initial feedback.  Sorry ... kids and summer sports got the better of me, and I haven't had much of a chance to do much with the backyard system.  Regardless, it's time to get this done before football season starts.

As far as my sources, I will continue to use my laptop (HDMI out), + I have a dedicated DVD player with HDMI outputs, as well. 

I will upgrade my receiver to one that accepts HDMI inputs, and has an HDMI output to the projector (receiver recommendations appreciated).   Sad, 'cause the current Denon is a beef of a receiver, but old enough that it as no HDMI inputs

If I continue with the route above, I will be looking at passive speakers; I've already trenched burial-ready 14-gauge wire.  Was looking forward to the EVID 6.2's, as I heard great things about them ... but they are active and I'm not going to go that way.  So, back to examining passive speakers that will be powerful enough to drive sound in an outdoor setting (again, speaker recommendations appreciated.)
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