The $2500 challenge. What would you build? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 02-05-2014, 10:33 PM - Thread Starter
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If there's a better place for this please let me know. I just joined the forums today.

 

I see a lot of HTIAB hate around here, saying you can buy better systems if you piece it together yourself.  I'm going to pick up Samsung's F8500 64" plasma and I want to put together a surround system worthy of the great plasma visuals.  I've got about $2500 to spend.  The advice of "pick out each individual component" sounds pretty intimidating.  I could use some pointers with regards to picking out a set of speakers (and it sounds like I'm spending about $500 to get a solid receiver, so we've got about $2000 for speakers).

 

Primary content will be a quality blu-ray player, Netflix, and downloaded movies at pretty high bitrates.  I have a Roku box so no part of this setup needs to be "smart" or wireless.

 

What would you do for $2500 worth of audio, including receiver?

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post #2 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 07:27 AM
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I would think you'd be better off posting this in the speakers and subs forums, BUT I'll tell you what I did. You obviously can buy different items than I did but just wanted to show you what type of stuff you can get for approx $2500.

I bought BIC Acoustech speakers: 2 - PL89 Floor Standing Towers, 1 - PL-28 Center, 4 - PL-66 Surrounds from acousticsounddesign.com all 7 speakers were $980 shipped.

I bought 2 Outlaw Audio LFM-1 Plus Subwoofers ON SALE from outlawaudio.com, 2 subs for $998 shipped.

I bought 1 Refurbished Onkyo TX-NR808 Receiver ON SALE from shoponkyo.com for $563 shipped.

So I have a really really nice 7.2 system for $2541. I never truly measured but I should be getting 16-18hz to 22-24khz +/-3db according to the specs of my stuff. This is way better than any HTIB, and it sounds better than the local Movie Theaters, so we never go to the movies anymore, we buy blu-rays and watch at home.

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post #3 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 09:07 AM
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Some questions that may impact your choices...

 

1) How much stereo music do you plan on listening to on your system?  If you do much music listening then you will want better front left and front rights than what you would need if you were only going to watch movies and tv on the surround system.

 

2) Are you looking at this as a temporary "startup" system with the intent to upgrade to more/better speakers/components over the coarse of the next few years or is this the system that you will use for the next 5-10 years?  This will affect your purchasing strategy.

 

If this is a "startup" system that you plan to add to/upgrade over the years then you might want to go with a cheaper receiver (i.e. less bells an whistles while maintaining good "to you" sound quality) and focus more of your budget on the speakers.  The reason for this is that speakers don't really go obsolete while receivers do.  So, you are accepting that you will be replacing the receiver in the next few years, therefore it makes sense to spend less on it now as that would result in less "wasted" money in the long run.  As for the speakers, I would focus on quality over quantity, starting with the front left, front right, and center channels, followed by the left & right surrounds, and then the subwoofer.  I would not bother with the rear surrounds at first and would use the money saved on the other speakers.  Adding the rear surrounds later (or upgrading the fronts down the road and moving the old fronts to be used as new surrounds) is always an option and results in less "waste".

 

On the other hand, if this is the system that you intend to use for the next 5-10 years with no upgrades in the meantime then you might spend a bit more on the receiver in order to get all of the latest features.  That way it isn't obsoleted as quickly as a cheaper receiver will be.  Note: With the way things are today, even the most expensive receivers will be obsoleted (i.e. lacking features that the newer models will have) in a few years, but there is a balancing point where spending too little on a receiver can shorten its lifespan by too much whereas spending too much on a receiver can result in less bang for your buck.

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post #4 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 10:56 AM
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Given a budget of $2500 for a new surround system (assuming you are starting from nothing), I would recommend the following...(Note: all pricing and recommendations are based on paying MSRP.  If you can get the same/better quality for less then great, but I wanted to keep this simple)

 

The minimum I would spend on a 5.1 speaker setup (not including the receiver, speaker wire, cables, etc.) is $1200.  An example of what you could get for this price point is the Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 set consisting of 4 small satellite/bookshelf speakers, a matched center channel, and subwoofer.  Polk, Boston Acoustics, and Cambridge Audio have similar speaker packages around this same price point.  If what you are looking for is primarily a good sounding, small home theatre system for watching movies and tv then this would be a good starting point.  However, if you are planning on listening to a good amount of stereo music then I would suggest going with bigger front mains and a center channel that is matched to them.  There isn't really a maximum that I would spend on the speakers, so that will be dictated by what is left after purchasing the receiver and accessories.

 

For the accessories (speaker wire, HDMI cables, speaker stands/mounts, etc.), I would expect to pay approx. $200.  You might be able to do it for $100 if you already have enough HDMI cables and/or don't need stands/mounts for all of your speakers.  Or, you might choose to spend as much as $300 on the accessories.  With a total budget of $2500, I wouldn't spend more than that.  For now, let's just use the $200 figure.

 

For the receiver, the minimum I would spend is $600.  At this price point, your options for a new receiver include the: Denon AVR-E400, Sony STR-DN1040, and Yamaha RX-V675.  These are at the upper end of these companies' "mid-tier" line of receivers, one step below there high end lines, have most of the features you might want, and are among the best in value.  This is what I would call my bottom threshold.  With a total budget of $2500, the max that I would spend on the receiver would again be influenced by the cost of the speakers and accessories.

 

Based on the minimum price of the speakers being $1200, the accessories costing approx. $200, and a minimum of $600 for the receiver, the current total price with tax would be around $2100.  This leaves us with $400 of wiggle room.  How you spend this extra $400 will depend on your answers to the questions I asked in my previous post.

 

You might choose to put it all towards the speakers, increasing your speaker budget to $1600.  If your a music lover this might mean going with some larger bookshelves or even some cheaper/discounted floor standing speakers for your fronts (ie. Polk TSx330T, Klipsch Reference RF-42 II, etc.) and a matching center.  If your main interest is movies and tv then you might bump up the size of all 6 speakers (5.1 channels) by the same amount.

 

You might choose to put it all towards the receiver, increasing your receiver budget to $1000.  At this price point, you are into the high end lines (though not at the top of them).  Options include the: Denon AVR-X3000, Marantz SR5000, NAD T 758, Onkyo TX-NR828, Pioneer Elite SC-71, Sony STR-DA2800ES, and Yamaha RX-A830.

 

Or, you might choose to split the extra $400 between the speakers and receiver which would put you at the entry level model for most receiver manufactures' high end line, while also giving you a couple hundred more to spend on speakers.

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post #5 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 10:59 AM - Thread Starter
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1)  I'd listen to Spotify from time to time, but I'd likely be more interested in excellent television and cinema audio.  Besides, I don't think I'll have high-enough quality audio sources to matter much.  

 

2)  I'm of the opinion that I should be VERY pleased with $2500 worth of audio. So while I might upgrade one day, I would expect $2500 to get me a pretty complete system.  Let me be clear: i WANT to be an audio snob!  However, I don't know if I'd be able to spot differences between $2500 and $10,000 systems.  Heck, I still think Bose acoustimass sounds good (hiss!).  So I feel like $2500 should get me an 'end game' quality system, with the possibility of adding more later (especially 2 more channels for 7.1 or 7.2).

 

3) What features do I need in a receiver?  I don't even know where to start here.  I'd probably want something that can handle 7.1 audio, plenty of power to drive reasonable "theater style" volume in a house without waking neighbors.  I don't think I care about wifi or 'smart' features for anything since my TV and roku handle that.  Most of the high-end receivers I see have extras I don't care about so I'm looking to you to tell me what I might find important

 

4)  I honestly don't see myself shopping for a center channel, then a separate sub, etc.  While I don't have to do a home theater in a box, I would probably be interested in a matched speaker "set" like the goldenear cinema series.  I just don't know enough to tell if the speakers I'm buying are a match or not.  

 

Basically I want to spend a decent amount of money without making a completely beginner mistake (like buying a bose set off the rack at Best Buy).  Before posting this, I actually thought I might just pick up Onkyo's top in-a-box set, but it sounds like even that wouldn't be the best use of my money.

 

And if you know of a specific place I should go to learn all of this, I'm happy to dig in and research.  I don't expect everyone to jump to my rescue with free knowledge but I'll take it if you're handing it out!

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post #6 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 11:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post
 

Given a budget of $2500 for a new surround system (assuming you are starting from nothing), I would recommend the following...(Note: all pricing and recommendations are based on paying MSRP.  If you can get the same/better quality for less then great, but I wanted to keep this simple)

 

 

This was an extremely helpful post, thank you!  It gives me an excellent starting place to shop.  Can I ask: What am I getting by bumping up to a higher receiver?  I don't know where the extra money helps and that's where my knowledge area is weakest.  Also, assuming I'm just an average shmoe who is used to Bose speakers and 5.1 audio, am I going to be completely blown away by this system? You mention that it's kind of entry or mid level, and I know many people on these forums make it a lifelong process to add to their systems, but how is my $2500 system going to sound compared to my local cinemark experience?  There's so much subjectivity here and this forum makes me feel like $2500 is the kiddy table : )  I love you guys though.  

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post #7 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by moonpuncher View Post

There's so much subjectivity here

That's the problem. You can ask twenty different people and you'll get twenty different answers.

1) I would recommend visiting some different theater stores and demoing some different speakers. Keep in mind, a good set of speakers will last you for years, so don't skimp now.

2) Receivers can get expensive quickly without adding a whole lot of extra value. They quickly become outdated as technology moves forward; so don't get caught up in the more expensive must be better mentality.

3) I hate HTIB and would avoid them like the plague (see initial statement)

4) Room size and layout would help a little

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post #8 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 12:58 PM - Thread Starter
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That's the problem. You can ask twenty different people and you'll get twenty different answers.

1) I would recommend visiting some different theater stores and demoing some different speakers. Keep in mind, a good set of speakers will last you for years, so don't skimp now.

2) Receivers can get expensive quickly without adding a whole lot of extra value. They quickly become outdated as technology moves forward; so don't get caught up in the more expensive must be better mentality.

3) I hate HTIB and would avoid them like the plague (see initial statement)

4) Room size and layout would help a little

 

This is excellent info!  What exactly is the problem with HTIB?  Is it just that they're cheaper? I mean, if someone offered an HTIB for $2000 is it still somehow bad?

 

For room size, I'm interested in buying a house soon, and will actually base a big part of my decision on the potential for a kickass home theater.  What am I looking for? We're talking Texas so no basements.  Main things I want are a big flat wall where I can mount my plasma and space speakers out, maybe a 17x17 area, no intrusive fire place, etc.

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post #9 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 01:05 PM
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I'll try not to offend the HTIB guys; but these type of systems generally cater to the masses. They are designed as a one size fits all band aid; which is usually accompanied by poor FR and less than optimal subwoofer performance. Now I'm not saying there aren't scenarios and budgets where they have their place; but based on what you're telling me, I think you'd be better served to steer towards piecing something together. For all but the smallest rooms I'd recommend at least bookshelf speakers mated to a nice sub.

I speak from experience here. Years ago I started out purchasing less than optimal equipment to fit it in the budget. Well I spent way more in the long run after selling my less than optimal stuff to upgrade to better equipment. Doing it right the first time will always cost less than the other road.

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post #10 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 01:09 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm excited to put this together but I don't trust my ears because I don't quite know what I'm looking for.  Something tells me if you showed me several speakers $500 each, I wouldn't know the difference.  So I'm more afraid of making a common newbie mistake.  Let me make sure I have it right.

 

1.  Spend about $500 on a good receiver; spending more would probably not get me significant return

2.  Splurge on a subwoofer, and really go all out on the l/r fronts for music

3.  Probably don't have to spend as much on the rear surrounds, if push comes to shove

 

Is it a good idea to buy matched speakers? (same series/level for all speakers)?  I know GoldenEar and NHT both had sets that looked nice.  

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post #11 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 01:20 PM
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Well your ears are all that matter. If you are happy with a HTIB setup, then that's all you need. smile.gif

That's the beauty of demoing numerous systems. I think you'll be surprised at how well you spot the differences after just a few demo sessions. For example, tweeters and horns sound entirely different. Some love a horn, some a tweeter. Some like a more laid back speaker, some want a "brighter" sound.

1) $500 will buy you a very nice receiver. I would recommend looking for one with XT32. This will help you out a ton in the tuning department. Make sure it was enough inputs and outputs. Is 3d important?

2) You got it. IMO, the sub is one of the most important pieces in a HT (for movies). There is a huge difference between a good and bad sub. Keep in mind that the mains need to be able to keep up with the sub; hence the need for decent quality mains. When you are working with tiny mains that need to be crossed at 120+ hz, the FR suffers, the sub output needs to be backed down, and localization becomes an issue.

The front soundstage needs to be matched for sure. You can get away with different surrounds if you couldn't match them for some reason.

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post #12 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 01:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moonpuncher View Post
 

1)  I'd listen to Spotify from time to time, but I'd likely be more interested in excellent television and cinema audio.  Besides, I don't think I'll have high-enough quality audio sources to matter much.  If you play music CD's in your CD/DVD/Bluray player or even if you just listen to songs you bought off of itunes then you will definitely notice the difference in using small $150/each satellites vs. $300/each bookshelves or floor standing speakers as your front mains.  The size of the surround speakers does not matter as much and the center channel should be matched to your fronts.

 

2)  I'm of the opinion that I should be VERY pleased with $2500 worth of audio. So while I might upgrade one day, I would expect $2500 to get me a pretty complete system.  Let me be clear: i WANT to be an audio snob!  However, I don't know if I'd be able to spot differences between $2500 and $10,000 systems.  Heck, I still think Bose acoustimass sounds good (hiss!).  So I feel like $2500 should get me an 'end game' quality system, with the possibility of adding more later (especially 2 more channels for 7.1 or 7.2).  Based on your experience (Bose), I have no doubt that you would be VERY happy with a $2500 system, pretty much regardless of which brands you go with.  All of the receivers I mentioned in my post and almost all of the receivers you will find in the $600 plus price range are at least 7.1 channel receivers.  However, with your budget I would prioritize getting 5 good speakers and a sub over getting 7 above-average speakers and a sub.  In my post, I used the example of purchasing a good 5.1 surround sound set of speakers where the fronts and surrounds are the same size.  This would sound better than an above-average 7.1 surround set in the short term.  Plus, you then have the option to purchase two larger sized front mains in the future, which would sound even better when listening to music and moving the smaller speakers that you had as your fronts to the rear surround positions, killing two birds with one stone.  Since your receiver can handle 7.1 or 7.2 channels, the old speakers still get used so none of your money is going to waste.  Whereas, if you buy the above-average 7.1 channel set to begin with, then upgrading the fronts at a later date would mean you have two extra speakers that aren't being used any more, plus the speakers that you don't replace would still only be above average rather than good.  Btw, I currently have a 7.2 channel receiver, but only have enough speakers for a 5.1 channel setup. and am still debating whether to buy small speakers to fill the missing channels now or save up and buy better fronts instead.  And, in my situation, I don't really have the option to move my existing fronts to the rear surrounds because my existing fronts are old, fairly cheep floor standing speakers that I bought back in 2000 when I was in college and 5.1 was the best you could get.

 

3) What features do I need in a receiver?  I don't even know where to start here.  I'd probably want something that can handle 7.1 audio, plenty of power to drive reasonable "theater style" volume in a house without waking neighbors.  I don't think I care about wifi or 'smart' features for anything since my TV and roku handle that.  Most of the high-end receivers I see have extras I don't care about so I'm looking to you to tell me what I might find important.  Most of the receivers that I mentioned in my post have the following features, which I would consider vital to me (though you might not care about a couple of them)...7.2 channels (which I am still working on filling the last two channels and the second sub), at least 6 HDMI inputs, all of the latest codecs (except DTS NeoX, which is only found on 9.2 channel receivers), at least 100 watts per channel with 2 channels driven with no more than .09% THD, 3D passthru (I have a 3D tv), analog upconversion and upscaling (so I can connect older devices that don't have HDMI such as a Nintendo Wii and still be able to pass the video thru to the tv without running additional cables), at least 2 HDMI outs (nice to have if you want to watch HD sources on another display whether it be in the same room or a different one; beats buying a separate splitter which will also need to be upgraded when required by updates to the HDMI standards, less HDCP handshake issues, fewer remotes/UI's to deal with), and 4K passthru and upscaling (I don't currently have a 4K display, but it's nice to know that if/when I get one, I won't have to upgrade or bypass the receiver to get 4K video to the display).  They all also have the smart features that you don't need, but you can't get a receiver with the rest of the features that doesn't also have these, so you can't really save money by trying to find one without them.

 

4)  I honestly don't see myself shopping for a center channel, then a separate sub, etc.  While I don't have to do a home theater in a box, I would probably be interested in a matched speaker "set" like the goldenear cinema series.  I just don't know enough to tell if the speakers I'm buying are a match or not.  Purchasing separate speakers these days isn't nearly as complicated as it sounds.  Most manufacturers use matching model numbers on speakers that are intended to be used together, the only difference being the first and last letter or two.  For example, with Definitive Technology, their main bipolar speaker line comes in 3 sizes: 8040 series, 8060 series, and 8080 series.  If you look at the model numbers of the individual speakers, they are as follows: BP-80X0ST (front mains), CS-80X0HD (center channel), and SR-80X0BP (surrounds); where "X" takes the place of the 4, 6, or 8.  So, if you purchase two of the BP-8040ST's to be your front mains then you would purchase the CS-8040HD for your center, and either two or four of the SR-8040BP's to be your surrounds (depending on whether you are using 5 or 7 channels (not including the subwoofer).  Occasionally, they will do something goofy like they did with their ProMonitor line where the model number on the center that matches with a given set of surrounds is one step higher than the one for the surrounds (i.e. ProMonitor600 surrounds are intended to go with the ProCenter800 center channel, while the ProMonitor800 surrounds are intended to go with the ProCenter1000 center channel, etc.)  If in doubt, I recommend looking the speakers up on Crutchfield.com.  They usually include that sort of information.  If your local Best Buy has a Magnolia Theatre then the guys in there can usually help with this sort of question.

 

Basically I want to spend a decent amount of money without making a completely beginner mistake (like buying a bose set off the rack at Best Buy).  Before posting this, I actually thought I might just pick up Onkyo's top in-a-box set, but it sounds like even that wouldn't be the best use of my money.

 

And if you know of a specific place I should go to learn all of this, I'm happy to dig in and research.  I don't expect everyone to jump to my rescue with free knowledge but I'll take it if you're handing it out!

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post #13 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 02:23 PM
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This was an extremely helpful post, thank you!  It gives me an excellent starting place to shop.  Can I ask: What am I getting by bumping up to a higher receiver?  I don't know where the extra money helps and that's where my knowledge area is weakest.  Also, assuming I'm just an average shmoe who is used to Bose speakers and 5.1 audio, am I going to be completely blown away by this system? You mention that it's kind of entry or mid level, and I know many people on these forums make it a lifelong process to add to their systems, but how is my $2500 system going to sound compared to my local cinemark experience?  There's so much subjectivity here and this forum makes me feel like $2500 is the kiddy table : )  I love you guys though.  


My terminology might be confusing.  Think of it in terms of car manufacturers.  Toyota makes Toyota.  Toyota also makes Lexus, which is generally considered higher end than Toyota.  Same goes for Honda/Acura, Nissan/Infiniti, Ford/Lincoln, Dodge/Chrysler, etc.

 

Spending $600 on a receiver from either Denon, Marantz, NAD, Onkyo, Pioneer, Sony, or Yamaha will get you a the best Toyota/Honda/Nissan/Ford/Dodge they make, but it won't get you a Lexus/Acura/Infiniti/Lincoln/Chrysler.

 

Spending $800 to $900 will get you into a low-end Lexus/Acura/Infiniti/Lincoln/Chrysler, which is usually better than the best Toyota/Honda/Nissan/Ford/Dodge, but how much is debatable.

 

Spending $1000 to $1500 plus gets you into a middle-of-the road Lexus/Acura/Infiniti/Lincoln/Chrysler, which is better than the best Toyota/Honda/Nissan/Ford/Dodge in pretty much every category, but if all you use it for is to commute to work and get the groceries then it's not necessarily the best use of your money.'

 

Spending ~$2000 gets you into the top of the line Lexus/Acura/Infiniti/Lincoln/Chrysler,

 

Beyond that, you are talking separate preamp and power amps.  You can spend upwards of $3000 a piece on the separate amps ($6000 total).  This is akin to buying a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bugatti, etc.

 

You can use the same analogy for a set of speakers.  Except a full set of speakers is generally double the price of a receiver of the same quality at this price point and the ratio becomes more lopsided in favor of the speakers as you go up from there.  If you look at my previous post, you will notice that my numbers loosely followed this.  I suggested $600 for the receiver and $1200 for the speakers as the minimum I would spend for each.  Had you said your budget was $3000, I might have suggested $800-900 for the receiver and $1600-1800 for the speakers, with $300-400 going towards the accessories.  If you had said that your budget was $10000, I probably would have suggested spending $1500-2000 on the receiver, $7500-8000 on the speakers, and $500 on the accessories.

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post #14 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 02:48 PM - Thread Starter
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You guys are awesome. This was a tremendous help.  I can see a few of the receiver features you like aren't as important to me, but some of the others are.  That'll help me shop and I have a good price range guidance from you.  I was confused before: I thought when people talked about picking each speaker out individually, they were going with totally different brands and being way more complicated than necessary.  My budget will likely be from $2500-$3000 and it sounds like I can get a pretty amazing living room cinema experience with a $2500 hand-picked system and new Samsung plasma.

 

Thanks this was a kickass crash course.

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post #15 of 21 Old 02-06-2014, 09:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Quick question,

 

How do you recommend I test out speakers to purchase?  There's a best buy magnolia store nearby and a Fry's in Austin I can go to.  Those are probably my best bet for a good selection. Do I bring a blu ray of my own to try out?

 

Also, I was looking at Polk Audio, and they have some great floor/front speakers (RTIa5).  But when I looked at their surrounds, they were really cheap small $129 satellites.  Is that normal to spend much less on surround speakers? I was assuming the surrounds would cost just as much as the fronts.

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post #16 of 21 Old 02-07-2014, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by moonpuncher View Post
 

Quick question,

 

How do you recommend I test out speakers to purchase?  There's a best buy magnolia store nearby and a Fry's in Austin I can go to.  Those are probably my best bet for a good selection. Do I bring a blu ray of my own to try out?

 

Also, I was looking at Polk Audio, and they have some great floor/front speakers (RTIa5).  But when I looked at their surrounds, they were really cheap small $129 satellites.  Is that normal to spend much less on surround speakers? I was assuming the surrounds would cost just as much as the fronts.


The term "surrounds" or "surround speakers" can have multiple meanings.  In its most general meaning, it refers to any speakers you are using for your surround channels.  However, it can also used to describe a specific style of speaker.  In the latter case, it usually refers to a small speaker (either satellite or small book shelf), which can easily be mounted on a wall or placed on a shelf and is designed specifically to be able to reproduce mid-high frequency sounds.  They generally do not produce much bass and rely on your subwoofer to fill that in.  They are called "surrounds" or "surround speakers" because that is their best use.  So, unless you are going with a smaller setup (which is perfectly fine for some rooms and for some people) you would not use them as your front mains or your center channel.

 

This does not mean that you have to use "surround speakers" as your surround speakers.  While, your surrounds should generally be a bit smaller (and are usually cheaper) than your fronts, their is a proper proportion.  As your fronts get bigger, so should the rest of your speakers.

 

As an example, you mentioned possibly using the Polk RTi A5's as your front mains.  If you look those up on Crutchfield.com and scroll down to where it says "Additional Features", you will notice that it lists the suggested center (CSi A6) and surrounds (RTi A1 or FXi A4) that you would use with these fronts.  Some folks would not necessarily put the RTi A1 in the "surround speaker" category.  While it is certainly capable of performing that role, some folks might actually use it for their front mains.  So, it falls into a multi purpose category.

 

To show you what I mean about proper proportions and how your surrounds should increase in size as your fronts do, take a look at the Polk RTi A9 on Cructfield.com.  Notice that they recommend using either the RTi A3 or the FXi A6 as your surrounds.  So, we went from RTi A5's to RTi A9's for our front mains and they are suggesting stepping up from the RTi A1's/FXi A4's to the RTi A3's/FXi A6's as our surrounds.  Also, note that with the smaller fronts, there was little to no price difference between the front mains and the surrounds.  However, with the larger front mains, the price difference between them and the suggested surrounds is much more significant.  The bigger you go, the more this disparity will grow.

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post #17 of 21 Old 02-07-2014, 08:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Excellent!  So it sounds like people tend to go down a step or two in product lines for the 'surrounds'.  Crutchfield is useful, the polk audio site didn't lay things out that plainly.

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post #18 of 21 Old 02-07-2014, 08:56 AM
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As for where to do your testing...

 

I can't comment one way or the other on Fry's because we don't have them where I live (about 45 miles west of Washington, DC).  However, we do have several dozen Best Buys in the area, most of which have Magnolia Theatres in them.  At your price point, I think you would be able to find most of the equipment that you would want to test there.  For some reason, the ones in our area (and possibly all across the US) have a very limited selection of Polk speakers (they only carry the lower end Polks and don't put them in the Magnolia Theatre) and they don't have the ES line of Sony receivers (Sony's high end $800 plus receivers) in store.  If it's the same where you are then you might try the Frys to see if they have a better selection of Polk speakers in order to give them a fair shake.  Same goes for Sony receivers and a lot of the lesser known, but higher end speaker brands.  In my case, if I want to try out Polk speakers or Sony receivers I have to drive about an hour and a half south to either Charlottesville or Harrisonburg, VA where the closest Crutchfield stores are.  There is a Sony store a bit closer in Tysons, but it's hard to do a fair comparison of different brands unless they are sitting right next to eachother.

 

Ideally, when testing receivers you will want to listen to each of them connected to the same set of speakers.  And when testing speakers, you want them playing the same content from the same receiver.  I don't know if they will let you play your own disc/thumb drive media on their equipment (I'm guessing not), but they usually have some samples of both music and movies that they will demo for you.  I would start by selecting any brand of receiver at the low end of your price range and have them play stereo music to two speakers which you might choose to be your front mains. Listen to a few different types of music with that same setup to get a feel for how it sounds.  If your first choice sounded mediocre to you or you noticed that it was definitely missing bass then try a slightly bigger/more expensive pair of speakers with the same receiver and music.  Once you find a pair of speakers that sound pretty good to you, start trying out various other receivers at the same price followed by the more expensive ones.  After a while, you should be able to narrow it down to a few different receivers that you like for playing music.

 

While you are testing the receivers out, ask which center, surrounds, and sub they recommend for the fronts you are using (or look it up on Crutchfield.com to see what they suggest).  Using only the receivers you had just decided you liked for music, have them demo a movie with the same fronts and the recommended center, surrounds, and sub.  Repeat until you have narrowed your receiver selection down to no more than 2 or 3 choices.  Subtracting the cost of the cheapest receiver you like from your total budget, see if you have enough left to step up to a more expensive set of speakers.  If so, try those out both in stereo mode for music and in surround mode for the movie clip.  Repeat for a couple different brands/styles of speakers.  After a while, you should have narrowed both your receiver and speaker selection down to 2 or 3 choices.  Great, now go home and sleep on it.

 

Crunch the numbers and, assuming that you have a couple receivers at different price points as well as a couple speaker sets at different price points, figure out if you can afford your top selection of each.  If not, then figure out which combinations you can afford.  Research pricing online to see if you can find a better deal elsewhere.  The next time you go to the store, test out only those combinations you can afford.  Does the ultimate result sound better when combining the cheaper receiver and more expensive speakers or the more expensive receiver and cheaper speakers.  At this point you should be able to decide what you want.  Now you just need to figure out where to buy it.

 

Hope that helps.

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post #19 of 21 Old 02-07-2014, 09:14 AM - Thread Starter
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It helps immensely.  Fry's has a much bigger selection (the stores are gigantic) but I"ll try them both out.  You guys have given me a great set of 'rails' to keep me from straying too far outside the lines.  Now comes the fun part!  

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post #20 of 21 Old 02-16-2014, 07:13 PM
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Onkyo txnr626... $500
Klipsch rf62 (x2) $800
Klipsch Rb41. $270
Klipsch sub12. $400
Klipsch rc52. $300

I am a salesman at fry's electrronics. .. i sell that system all the time... If ur in the Chicago area... i would gladly demo it for you... Once u hear it u'll be sold...
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post #21 of 21 Old 02-17-2014, 08:40 AM
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Assuming $500 for a receiver, for $2000 you can put together a respectable 5.1 speaker system.

You might consider internet direct speakers from Ascend, HTD, Arx, EMP Tek, Hsu, and subs from Hsu, SVS, Outlaw.

Depending on the specific models, you could put $1100-$1400 into the fronts/center/surrounds and $600-900 into the sub.

Speaker preferences can be very subjective. The majority of these internet direct companies offer a trial period.

There are numerous threads and reviews on products from these companies.
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