Surround Sound Help/Advice

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Forum topic by ajosephg posted 02-14-2012 04:06 AM 1616 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1880 posts in 3737 days

02-14-2012 04:06 AM

Topic tags/keywords: surround sound stereo speakers preamp

Seems like I’m one of the few people who does not have a surround sound system. But – I think I’m going to pull the trigger sometime this year.

What I want to know, is: Can I integrate the major parts of my OLD stereo into it. What I want to keep, if possible, is my Dynaco preamp (PAS-3) and amp (ST-70), and Altec Lansing Madera bookshelf speakers. Seems like I could use these components for the left and right front speakers, and add additional amplifier/s, center channel speaker, left and right surround speakers, and sub-woofers.

Or, would I be better off to sell the vintage stuff and start over from scratch.

Also like to know if there is an Audiophile website similar to Lumberjocks.

-- Joe

20 replies so far

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 3889 days

#1 posted 02-14-2012 04:15 AM

Wow, I’ve got an AM/FM/cd player in the shop, if I wanted stereo sound I’d have to get a second radio and tune it to the same station LOL!

Sounds like you’ve got a pretty nice setup already, what is the benefit of surround sound?

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View ShaneA's profile


7044 posts in 2775 days

#2 posted 02-14-2012 04:18 AM

Existing speakers should work as either front or back. You could just take the easy way out and get a “theater in a box” which will include all the needed speakers and equipment. Matching set, so to speak. They have them at all price points and quality levels. Good luck.

View KTMM (Krunkthemadman)'s profile

KTMM (Krunkthemadman)

1055 posts in 3370 days

#3 posted 02-14-2012 04:32 AM

Lots of good reading, and yes you can integrate anything you want, it just takes a little know how.

I can tell you that I have a fairly new Pioneer 5.1 system, I need to post the subwoofer I built for it. All of the satellite speakers on it were from other sets. Eventually I will build 5 audiophile quality replacements, but that will be after I complete certain projects.

Actually I’ll go post that subwoofer right now….

-- Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi

View BirkieBear's profile


2 posts in 2471 days

#4 posted 02-14-2012 04:40 AM

The PAS 3 is a tough call. Basically, you’d be feeding the preamplifier LR outputs of a surround processor into the LR inputs of the Dynaco, then onto your main LR amp, while feeding your center and surround signals to another amplifier(s). The PAS 3, while being an amazing piece, is probably going to be the odd man out here. Since any surround processor is already going to be functioning as your pre-amp, the PAS 3 will be redundant.

That being said, I’ve seen many fine surround setups that use old L+R amps and speakers for the mains. The tricky part is matching the levels so your LR mains sound balanced in conjunction with the surrounds and center. You’ll need to ensure that whatever surround processor you buy offers output level adjustment of all channels. Most decent ones do these days.

If you opt for a surround receiver vs. a separate surround processor and external amps for center surround channels, make sure it had preamplifier outputs for the main LR channels, so you can bypass the receiver’s internal amp, and pass the signals onto the ST-70.

Remember what I always told my customers: Good 2 channel is better than bad surround. If your room simply doesn’t lend itself to surround, stay with stereo. Simply tossing a pair of speakers behind the couch and calling it surround is a waste of money, in my professional opinion.

By the way, thanks for letting my first real post here be something that I can actually speak wisely about – unlike woodworking! :-)

-- At the end of the day, it's what you do, not what you say.

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2816 days

#5 posted 02-14-2012 04:53 AM

You can keep the Altec’s but in truth you would do best (from sound, expense and simplicity standpoints) to buy a 5.1 receiver / amplifier. (or 7.1 if you want two more speakers).

I recommend Onkyo and Yamaha. So many of the old school brands that were once top of the heap have digressed badly (Sansui, Sherwood, etc.)

The days of very low THD specs (and bragging rights) are long gone since it became general knowledge that the average human ear cannot discern (hear and identify) less than 5.0 % THD and certainly not less than 1% THD. You’ll see today’s quality equipment often with THD of .9% and that’s okay. Power (watts) are cheap these days, too since it is too easy for them to give you 100 (or 1000) watt design circuits that no longer have to be so esoterically flawless clean anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still spend any amount you want on preamps and power amps and tuners and speakers. There’s just not much cause to do all that to gain so little.

I am not aware of any major active forums for audiophiles. Hell, what’s to talk about anymore ? Tubes vs. solid state, vinyl vs. digital, what turntable cartridge was best, etc. were pretty much settled by the market eons ago.

I personally have the old school stuff intact in a studio for listening to stereo recordings, then a couple of home theater rigs off to themselves (one to a projector and another to a 60” flatscreen).

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View 559dustdesigns's profile


633 posts in 3344 days

#6 posted 02-14-2012 05:19 AM

This topic is alot like woodworking. When someone is setting up shop they could use that older table saw and other handme down machinery that is still working great. They could also go down to Woodcraft and Let the salesman sell them half the store. I’d reasearch as much as possible to find out what you want to achive.
There is a lot of really neat new things with home theater, Like Network Audio,streeming video (like the roku), blueray disk, 3d capability, Bluetooth and up to 11.2 surround sound channels. I would consider how easy it will be to run. Can your family run this system. Some of these new systems take a while to learn how to operate them. After you figure out what you want you can save a ton buying online. (My 2 cents) Good luck with your audio upgrade.

-- Aaron - central California "If you haven't got the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?"

View KenBry's profile


484 posts in 2624 days

#7 posted 02-14-2012 05:26 AM

Just something I learned while piecing together surround systems. You want to make sure all your speakers have the same efficacy ratings and ohm ratings. Otherwise one set severely overpowers the others.

I truly think you need to get a 5.1 amp (receiver ) to get the best out of any system. The technology in the new amps makes the set up a piece of cake.

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3737 days

#8 posted 02-14-2012 02:44 PM

Thanks all:

Sounds like new receiver/amp is the way to go. While I say I like the sound of tube amps, the reality is at my age (pushing 70) I really can’t hear the difference anymore. There seems to be some demand for old Dynakits, so I may try to sell them and pay for a good chunk of a new system. If you or somebody you know might be interested, let’s talk.

The “old” stereo is presently relegated to the office, so following Dave’s lead and leaving it there is another good option.

@KTMM: Thanks for the links, there is some good stuff there.

-- Joe

View KTMM (Krunkthemadman)'s profile

KTMM (Krunkthemadman)

1055 posts in 3370 days

#9 posted 02-14-2012 04:05 PM

I did post two of my speakers last night also. I can tell you that building your own is very rewarding, and you will know that the build quality is great. I plan to build new surrounds in the future, just not at the current time.

-- Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2823 posts in 3614 days

#10 posted 02-14-2012 04:22 PM

I’m staying 2 channel. Old school but I’ve got a 500 watt amp feeding two 1 ohm sda2 polk speaker units. Very old stuff but I love it.

Like the guys said, you’ll need a 5.1 system or greater. Basically it’s an amp with 5 channels to run 5 speaker sets.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View surfin2's profile


51276 posts in 3312 days

#11 posted 02-14-2012 06:26 PM

For music I’d keep what you have…

But for movies go for the surround…

Surround has to be set up exactly the way they say to get the best from it…

That means system, TV and seating….

If one of them is wrong the rest just won’t work/sound right...

-- Rick

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2816 days

#12 posted 02-14-2012 07:06 PM

To add to what KenBry pointed out: Most of you may know this, but for those who do not… If you buy individual speakers or scab together ones you already have, DO check the efficiency rating. It is expressed in dB. If one pair is rated at 89 db (one watt output measured one meter away) and another pair is 92 db (difference of 3 dB between the pairs), then the 92 dB is TWICE as loud as the 89 dB pair with the same power input. for every 3 dB difference, there is a doubling (or halving if you go the other way). Higher is more efficient and therefore has higher output with less power input.

Taken to extremes this is quite amazing. About 20 years ago I had some 2-way 8” Sony co-axials that were rated at 98 dB. My God ! They were as loud with a 25 watt amp as some Clarion 89 dB’s were with 200 watts. And clear !

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View bunkie's profile


412 posts in 3323 days

#13 posted 02-15-2012 08:01 PM

My vote is to keep the vintage gear if at all possible. The PAS3 and the ST70 are both classic designs. Having said that, however, unless they have been overhauled, I would replace the electrolytic capacitors in the signal chain, they do go bad after 40 or 50 years. Properly restored, the Dyna gear will sound sweeter than almost any modern surround receiver. Don’t sell it!

If your main speakers are good enough, you can dispense with the subwoofer entirely. And, I’ve found, using the same logic, you don’t need the center channel speaker either. Furthermore, the rear speakers don’t have to be all that great either.

I would consider replacing your Altecs. First, speakers do wear out mostly because the flexible parts and the adhesives go bad. Second, it’s possible to get much better-sounding speakers. I agree with everyone who has said that you should build your own, it’s great fun. I’ve been doing it for almost 40 years.

I second the suggestion to check out, I’ve been a member there (using the same handle) for almost 10 years.

-- Altruism is, ultimately, self-serving

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3737 days

#14 posted 02-15-2012 08:59 PM

Bunkie – I’ve updated the ST70’s power supply and bias circuits. Haven’t done anything to the PAS other than a few new switches. IMO there are no electrolytic caps in the signal chain, only in the power supplies. My PAS could use new power supply capacitors, because it has a slight hum. Amazing how they are still highly acclaimed. A PAS3 sold for over 300.00 (with shipping) several days ago on eBay. ST70’s go for about the same.

I guess I need to go around and do some listening tests. I’ve never actually taken the time to really listen to a good system. I’ve casually listened to at some at Sam’s Club and was frankly amazed at how good tiny speakers in 4 inch cubes sounds. They must equalize the heck out of the signal.

-- Joe

View Rick  Dennington's profile (online now)

Rick Dennington

6246 posts in 3371 days

#15 posted 02-16-2012 12:24 AM


I have a 6:1 surround sound…..4 outside mains….1 center speaker, and 1 subwolfer…The mains are Kenwoods (6 way speakers each one), and the center speaker ( 4” and a 6” speaker) and subwolfer (12”) are MB Quart, which are made in Germany….My t.v. is a 73” rear projection, and my den is 22’ wide x 38’ long…’s just like being in a movie house… should hear it when a train comes roaring through in a flick…..WoW…...!!!!!

-- " It's a rat race out there, and the rats are winning....!!"

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