The last piece of the puzzle.

Well, the last 5.1 pieces.

My whole home theater setup has been pretty much complete since I got the projector a few months ago. I mean, with a screen that size in your apartment, “home theater” pretty well defines things.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement.

I added the final (for now anyways) piece to my setup this weekend – 5.1 sound!

Since I already had the video switching handled by the 8-port switchbox, I decided to pick up an audio-only solution for the sound instead of going for a full-on A/V receiver. I had to do a bit of shopping around, as most systems like that tend to include a DVD player. Since I’ve already got four different things that can play DVDs, I wanted to avoid getting a fifth one. I also wanted a unit that wasn’t too big, as I’m pretty much out of room in/on my entertainment center.

I finally found what I was looking for in the Yamaha CinemaStation AVX-S20. It’s got nice sounding speakers and a good-sized sub – all with wooden boxes. (No plastic, thank you.) The “control center” (what Yamaha calls the audio unit – I guess it’s not really a receiver) is small and handles pretty much anything you can throw at it. DTS, Dolby Digital, Pro-Logic II, and AAC Digital Surround are all supported, and it’s got a few DSP presets as well. It’s got two optical inputs, one digital coax input and a standard left/right audio connection. Yamaha’s Japanese page has a tad more info than the Engliish one, including the measurements for all the pieces, if you’re curious about stuff like that.

Even after choosing which unit I wanted, I had a bit of a time finding one yesterday. It originally came out in 2003 and it seems Yamaha is now phasing this system out (although it is still listed in the April 2005 catalog), so a lot of shops have stopped carrying it already. I lucked out and found one in the 5th shop I tried in Akihabara. Actually, I seriously lucked out since they’d marked it down to clear out the remaining stock. When I first noticed it about a month ago it was going for around ¥44,000.

I got it yesterday for ¥34,800.

It was a snap to set up and everything I’ve tried – games, movies and music – sounds great. When I first set it up yesterday, I had the speakers on the floor and the center one sitting on the sub. That was usable, but not great, so I went out and got speaker stands today. They were a bit pricey (especially when compared to the system) at ¥20,000 for four of them (front left & right, plus two surround channels), but they look very nice (I got the cherry ones to match the speakers) and have a good adjustment range (618-868mm) to get the speakers set at just the right height. Yeah, I could’ve found a cheaper solution than the manufacturer’s stands, but I like the way it all matches.

And besides, it’s not like they’re going to wear out and have to be replaced or anything, so why not spend a little to get something nice?

Like when I got my projector, I’ve been picking and choosing games and movies to give the system a proper testing. The final sequences from Equilibrium are even better in full surround, as are the good parts of the Matrix films. (I still need to pick up a copy of Swordfish. Yeah, it’s a cheesy movie, but it has the single-best surround sound moment ever done in a film.) Burnout 3 sounds absolutely gorgeous and the tunes in Katamari Damacy are even better than I’d remembered them.

Everything that I’ve got now sounds great (music too), but I also got this setup with an eye towards the future. The Xbox 360 comes out later this year and every game is going to support 5.1 surround, so I’m all set for that. The PS3 will as well, but it’s not due out ’til next year. No word on the sound capabilities of Nintendo’s Revolution, but I have a feeling they’re not going to lag behind the other two.

Now, what else can I test out in the meantime…. ^.^