First apologies for taking so long to get back to you. I have returned
from a brief vacation and was unavoidably detained. That being said,
let's see how we can help design your system a little more
conventionally and with all the function you desire.
A standard Home Theater system uses either a Preamp/Processor or an
integrated AV Receiver. The advantage of a pre/proc and separate amps
is the same as it would be with a higher end stereo system: the amps
have a separate power supply and chassis and large drains on the
amplifier needs do not effect the preamp current supply. All in all,
it should have less noise being in separate chassis with separate
power supplies and you most often can buy much more powerful
amplifiers either in 5 channel designs or 2 channel or even mono amp
designs. An ideal, though costly solution is to have a separate mono
amp located close to each speaker in the system (or even two channel
if you bi-amp your speakers). You have dramatically less power loss
and less high frequency loss in a length of line level cable than in
speaker cable. You want you speaker cables to be as short as possible
for maximum fidelity.
So, if your budget allows, choose a pre/proc and separate amp(s). I
would not be using the Systemline amps for the Home Theater / Stereo
listening system. Use that to distribute the signal to the less
critical rooms. Design the system first to satisfy your audio / HT
needs and then consider the system distribution.
The heart of the system is the pre/proc. Let's look at one of my
favorites: Sunfire Theater Grand III:
This particular device has a number of features I would be looking for
for your system. They introduce it as:
"Like its predecessors, the Theater Grand III is foremost an
audiophile-grade preamplifier. Bob and his team designed it to produce
a warm and engaging soundstage both your movie and music soundtracks
will be smooth and dynamic. The Theater Grand III features numerous
surround modes including Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro
Logic II, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS Neo:6, and user-configurable all-speaker
stereo. It also includes an incredible new digital implementation of
Bob's wildly successful Holographic Imaging, which substantially adds
to the acoustic space of any stereo recording.
The control system on the Theater Grand III takes into consideration
the needs of the modern AV system. The Theater Grand IIIs remote is a
powerful new preprogrammed and learning LCD-based design (click HERE
to see it). The Theater Grand III includes an RS 232 communication
port to allow easy operation from any custom control system, as well
as an IEEE-1394 (Firewire) port for future expansion. The Theater
Grand III also includes an AM/FM tuner with 40 presets, an
eight-channel input for DVD-Audio or SACD, eight balanced XLR outputs,
a Phono stage, and much, much more. We urge you to see one right away
at your local Sunfire Dealer..."
As most better pre/procs, not only will it do 5.1 or 7.1 or even 9.1
for Home Theater, but it also will take stereo sources and assign them
to just the two front mains, mains and subwoofer or use a digital
program to add ambience to two channel material and present it to all
of your HT speakers to simulate halls, jazz clubs, stadiums and other
venues. What is important is that YOU tell it what speakers to use and
how to set them for each input. A CD player can be set to use the
mains and sub crossed over at 40Hz, while the HT setup can use 6
speakers and sub set to cross at 80Hz (the THX standard). As a matter
of fact, this unit also has "Full-time digital downmix (that) provides
accurate two-channel output for tape recording, digital outputs, and
second zone from multichannel digital sources.." So anything here can
be listened to or routed in stereo.
As they mention:
"Second zone can play sources independent of the main zone ..."
So here you can take this feed to the Systemline and send either what
is being heard in the main room to your other areas, or a second,
Read about all of the features on the page above and then take a look
at the owners manual here:
As you will see on page 12 off the manual, not only are there numerous
audio inputs, but composite, S and Component video inputs as well.
What happens here is that the output of the pre/proc goes to your
display device as well. When you switch from DVD to Satellite, for
example on the pre/proc, the appropriate signal is routed to your
video display while the audio is adjusted how you prefer for that
Now, even with the myriad of inputs and outputs offered here, you only
have one set of 7.1 analog inputs - which can be set as 5.1 if you
desire. These are commonly used for SACD which is not available as a
digital signal from your player. Every other source you will have
should have a digital output, which is highly preferable to use, or an
analog 2 channel output.
You might recall I spoke a bit about the problem with bass management
in SACD. Let's take a look over here for a moment:
This person had the same confusion:
"Q: I have two questions about my Yamaha C920 DVD player and Yamaha
RX-V530 receiver. They are connected via 6-channel analog for DVD-A.
They are also connected via digital optical fiber. I just added the
C920, a DVD-A capable player. Previously I had a DVD player not
capable of DVD-A.
Here are the two questions:
1. Bass management: should I use the DVD player's or the receiver's
controls to choose large/small/LFE output, etc.?
2. Speaker delay: same question as above -- use the DVD player's or
the receiver's controls?..."
"A: First off, let's clarify a few basics.
Digital Connection, via toslink or coax, between your DVD-A Player and
Receiver is used primarily for allowing your Receiver to decode DVD-V
DD / DTS Soundtracks or for listening to DTS and/or normal CDs using
the DAC's in your Receiver.
Six (6) Channel Analog Connection is used for high resolution formats
such as DVD-Audio or SACD.
Unfortunately, neither your Yamaha C920 DVD-A Changer nor your Yamaha
RX-V530 HT Receiver apply digital delay compensation or bass
management out of their analog outputs/inputs, respectively, for
DVD-Audio. So the answer is, neither units will provide bass
management or digital delay compensation for DVD-Audio.
Some Receivers do offer bass management and/or digital delay
compensation on their analog six channel inputs, but at the expense of
converting the analog signal back to digital to process and then back
to analog again. This is usually undesirable as it will result in lost
resolution or added noise. Since there is no agreed upon standardized
digital output for DVD-A or SACD you have only the following options
presented in the table below..."
Do look at this chart.
One of my favorite companies came up with a solution for this and you
will find a good review here:
"The first generation of DVD-Audio players hit the marketplace around
mid-2000. While the sound quality to many was a big step up from its
direct predecessor the Compact Disc, the players themselves lacked the
features that customers have grown accustomed to for multi-channel
sources, namely bass management and time alignment.
For Dolby Digital, DTS, and in some cases PCM, our preamp/processors
or receivers can redirect bass as appropriate within the system so
that speakers which might be lacking in the bass department can be
helped out by the subwoofer. They can also add requisite delays across
the speakers so that the relative times for coincident sonic events
remain coincident (the sounds from all the drivers reach your ears at
the same time). Both of these functions are usually performed in the
digital domain, and the algorithms to perform the operations on the
data are well established. But, DVD-Audio and multi-channel SACD don't
have standardized digital outputs at the time of this writing, so for
the most part, our processors or receivers cannot do bass management
or time alignment on these sources...
...At the time this review is being written, second generation
DVD-Audio players are being released which include bass management -
however it is not highly flexible, which is something we've grown
accustomed to over the past few years as our processors have matured.
Further, Sony's multi-channel SACD players also contain rudimentary
bass management. In both cases, this amounts to a single crossover
frequency available - and regardless of whether this is the right
option for your system or not, that is all you get.
So, bass management is the ability to low-pass any speaker to the sub
and have the remaining frequencies go to the speaker. With DVD-A and
SACD players, no can do...
...Enter the people from Outlaw Audio and their cleverly named ICBM-1.
The Integrated Controlled Bass Management device is designed to fill
one of the holes that is missing for first generation and second
generation DVD-Audio players, namely bass management. If your
multi-channel DVD-A or SACD player has no bass management capability,
or you find the options not palatable or compatible with your system,
the ICBM-1 is designed to help you out..."
Read the entire article for much more info.
And this as well:
Home Theater Boot Camp: Bass Management
Outlaw will tell you a bit more about the ICBM here:
And while you are at Outlaw, take a look at their 950 pre/proc
(probably the best low priced pre/proc on the market), their
multichannel amps and their receiver. They make excellent,
surprisingly low priced products. And armed with some of the
information above and in the manuals you will read, you can begin to
decide on what features are must haves for your system and which can
By the way, I was an early Beta tester for Harmony Remotes. I love
mine and it is tweaked to the nines. There is nothing I can not do and
do better with just this one cell phone sized device that I can do
with the 11 remotes it replaced. It did take me a few weeks to tweak
the XML to *exactly* what I wanted my system to do, but almost
anything can be done. Not so with something like the Pronto, for
example. The Harmony is Smart State and always knows what is on, what
is off, and what inputs and outputs are selected. You can choose an
ACTIVITY and have it turn off unused component and on the ones needed
and switch to all the proper ports. You can not do this with macros
since you would need a separate macro for each of the possible From
Activities and TO Activities. Not possible with a reasonably complex
"In terms of video switching RF may be the way to go i.e.
modulating all the TV signals (DVD, VHS, CCTV, HTPC) to RF. Then the
only difficulty is tying up the TV channel and the audio source. A
more expensive alternative is a Kramer video switch which integrates
with the Systemline to do both tasks."
You want to keep all of your video at the highest possible resolution.
Either you have a display device with enough and proper inputs for all
of your sources, or you use a pre/proc to route the signals. Never go
to RF. It is the lowest common denominator of video quality. Always
use component where possible, S as a second choice and even composite
I think I have covered a lot of ground for you here. Let me provide a
list of favorite spots around the net where the experts hang out to
help and where you can get lost for days in the various discussions.
Here are my favorite sites:
A subscription publication, but there are two free for the download
and he is the most unbiased reviewer I have ever read. Very
Home Theater Spot
Home Theater Forum
Home Theater Guide
My favorites for bang for the buck. Outrageously good products
Home Theater Magazine
Finally, a link to a few good pre/proc reviews:
Guide to Home Theater
So, Dave, I hope this has been helpful. In reality, the title of your
question: "Surround sound "combiner" required" really has the answer
that what you need is a pre/proc or AV Receiver. These ARE combiners.
And bass managers, time delay devices, signal switchers and routers.
And now I hope you begin to see that the longer you can keep your
signal in the digital domain, the better the end result will be. The
only time for 5.1 analog outs is SACD/DVD-A and the only time to use
any other analog output is when no digital is available. The right
choice in this critical component should solve ALL of the audio and
video possibilities you desire.
If anything requires clarification, do let me know. And good luck with