Looking to set up a good dedicated music set-up. Help please :) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 09:18 AM - Thread Starter
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So I am looking to set up a 100% music system for my room, which will be run off a computer.

Currently I just have some random stuff I put together. Running 50% flac files and 50% 320kbps MP3's off my computer via foobar2000 and toslink to a 10 year old kenwood AVR 5.1 receiver. 100W per channel, solid receiver was about 700 bucks 10 years ago. Has full 5.1 line inputs, 5.1 pre-outs, weighs 35 lbs. I picked up some junk Polk Audio bookshelfs on boxing day this year for 60 bucks, they are the M10 bookshelfs. Currently just sitting on my desk to the left and right side of my monitors.

So I am looking to start upgrading this system, one thing at a time. Where should I start? My budget is flexible, probably $1000.00 max for each upgrade. Would prefer much less though.

So my first question is, how far/where do I place my speakers. Obviously 2 ft away from me on my desk is not good positioning at all. Should I try to put them like 8 ft away or what? My room is about 12x12, and I have a "L" shaped desk.

Do stands do anything useful ? Or is just sitting them on a bookshelf or table or w/e just as good?

Should I get a USB DAC, audiophile sound card, or integrated stereo amp?

Should I upgrade to a 2 ch stereo amp?

Subwoofer?

Towers or bookshelfs?

I am thinking that my first upgrade will be speakers, considering they are pretty much the cheapest speakers you can buy.

I can go to the states to pick things up, I have somewhere I can ship things too. Note anything I need to buy in the states has a 13% duty charge on it when I bring it into Canada and $10.00 per item for shipping.

Another question, how much improvement would some type of room treatment do? I basically just have bare drywall walls all around the room, with a 3'x5' window on one wall, and a door on the other. I am not really interested in buying specific room treatment stuff, but I could do things like hang blankets on walls or something of the sort :P

I will upload pictures of the room some time when I get a chance.
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post #2 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 10:01 AM
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I think speakers is a great place to start. First you need to decide if you what Bookshelves or Towers. Your budget for the speakers should help you decide between the two. For serious 2 channel listening, I really like my towers more than my bookshelves, but I have a bigger room to fill with music, so Towers may be overkill. Your amp is probably fine, but I would recommend the HK 3490 as an upgrade, plus it includes a really nice DAC, so that kills two birds with one stone. Just take TOSLINK out of your PC to the 3490 and let it do the D/A conversion.
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post #3 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 10:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Tweaked05 View Post

I think speakers is a great place to start. First you need to decide if you what Bookshelves or Towers. Your budget for the speakers should help you decide between the two. For serious 2 channel listening, I really like my towers more than my bookshelves, but I have a bigger room to fill with music, so Towers may be overkill. Your amp is probably fine, but I would recommend the HK 3490 as an upgrade, plus it includes a really nice DAC, so that kills two birds with one stone. Just take TOSLINK out of your PC to the 3490 and let it do the D/A conversion.

Yeah I have seen the 3490 on amazon, it looks really good for the price.

Like I said, my budget is below $1000.00, preferrably much less though.

Also another question for everyone, does anyone have any good websites / links for guides to pre-amps and amps vs. integrated vs dacs and amps etc. There seems to be so many different ways to set up 2 ch audio, it is hard to find an in-depth explanation of the pros and cons of each set-up. And I was looking at some used pre-amps and stuff online, I don't understand how there are pre-amps that cost $6000.00 used? Like what could it possible do to make it worth that much money lol?
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post #4 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 10:19 AM
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The way I see it, a pre-amp/amp combo does the exact same thing as a receiver or Integrated, but gives you the flexibility of upgrading just the pre-amp or amp later without spending money for a whole new receiver or integrated. Integrated amps are just receivers without the AM/FM tuner. I have a both an HK 3490 and an Adcom Pre-amp/Amp combo, and have played around with mixing and matching and found that imo the HK 3490 is a phenomenal value based on it's feature set, power capabilities, sound quality, and price. I think I am going to sell my Adcom setup and put that money into other things, that's how much I like the HK 3490.
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post #5 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 10:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Ok, so I will get a 3490 at some point, probably in a year. But I plan on upgrading my speakers first. Any suggestions for speakers?
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post #6 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 10:34 AM
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Like I said, my budget is below $1000.00, preferrably much less though.
Then put your whole budget into speakers. Your current AVR is doing everything you need. Upgrading it would be a luxury, not a necessity.

As for speakers, your choices are:
1) bookshelves
2) towers
3) bookshelves + sub

From what you describe of your room, towers would not be my first choice. Your desk is going to be a big, unwanted source of sonic interference. I think bookshelves up on stands so the tweeters are about at ear height would be best. Stands are better than putting them on shelves, because you can place them a bit away from walls. Think about creating an equilateral triangle with your head and the speakers.

As for brands, sure you can buy in the States, but here in the States we all buy Canadian speakers! smile.gif Look at PSB, Paradigm, Energy, Axiom.

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post #7 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 10:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Then put your whole budget into speakers. Your current AVR is doing everything you need. Upgrading it would be a luxury, not a necessity.
As for speakers, your choices are:
1) bookshelves
2) towers
3) bookshelves + sub
From what you describe of your room, towers would not be my first choice. Your desk is going to be a big, unwanted source of sonic interference. I think bookshelves up on stands so the tweeters are about at ear height would be best. Stands are better than putting them on shelves, because you can place them a bit away from walls. Think about creating an equilateral triangle with your head and the speakers.
As for brands, sure you can buy in the States, but here in the States we all buy Canadian speakers! smile.gif Look at PSB, Paradigm, Energy, Axiom.

Yeah budget is 1000 per upgrade, so 1000 for speakers, then 1000 for pre/amp/integrated/dac/whatever is best to do lol.

I know my AVR is pretty decent, that is why I am wanting speakers first and waiting a year or two to upgrade the amp.
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post #8 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 12:33 PM
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Yeah budget is 1000 per upgrade, so 1000 for speakers, then 1000 for pre/amp/integrated/dac/whatever is best to do lol.
That's nuts. If your long-term budget is $2000, you should devote most of that to speakers. If that means waiting a little while to save up some more scratch, so be it.

But if you buy $1000 speakers now, and come back in a year or two to ask how to spend another $1000, the advice you will receive is to sell those speakers for $500, and spend $1500 on new speakers.

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post #9 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 12:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

That's nuts. If your long-term budget is $2000, you should devote most of that to speakers. If that means waiting a little while to save up some more scratch, so be it.
But if you buy $1000 speakers now, and come back in a year or two to ask how to spend another $1000, the advice you will receive is to sell those speakers for $500, and spend $1500 on new speakers.


budget as in like absolute max I would ever spend. I would prefer to spend way way less. So it looks like the HK 3490 is pretty much perfect for everything, with toslink off my computer for the source.

I still plan on spending under $1000.00 on speakers now, in a couple years hopefully I can get some nice 5000 dollar speakers when I graduate from school and pay off my loans biggrin.gif
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post #10 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 12:38 PM - Thread Starter
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I have my eye on polk LSI9's, but it seems that most AVR's can't power them properly (they are 4 ohms 88 db sensitivity). What do you guys think? Would it actually damage the AVR or the speakers, or would it be ok to use at lower volumes on an avr until I get around to getting a hk 3490 or an external amplifier?
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post #11 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 01:29 PM
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There are a lot of crappy-sounding amplifiers and receivers for under $1000, and only a few good ones.

One of the best I know of for under $1000 is the Music Hall A15.2 integrated amp, which Music Direct is selling for Only $499 right now (was $800). That would be a good unit to build a system around. It sounds great, has a built-in phono preamp, and puts out an honest 70 watts per channel, which will power 95% of the speakers you can choose.

The sound quality of the HK is not too bad, but the Music Hall amp is definitely better-sounding IMO.

A pair of Monitor Audio Bronze BX-2 speakers for $489 is another thing I would recommend; they are really excellent for that price.The Monitor Audio Silver RX-2 are even better for $850. Very good sound and very good value for your money there. I personally think anyone who hears those in direct comparison with the Polks will choose Monitor Audio every time.

I don't think there is a better bookshelf / monitor speaker anywhere than the Silver RX-2 for under $1000; nothing Polk makes even comes close IMO. It also has an 8-inch woofer that goes down near 40 Hz, which for many systems will eliminate the need for a subwoofer.

Put that amplifier with the RX-2 and you will have some sound that will amaze you; very very good stuff.
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post #12 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by WagBoss View Post

I have my eye on polk LSI9's, but it seems that most AVR's can't power them properly (they are 4 ohms 88 db sensitivity). What do you guys think?

I question the statement that "most AVRs can't power them properly."

I've heard this said, but I've heard a lot of things said that were pure opinion with little or no practical experience or theoretical analysis to back it up.

For example, the LSi9s are speced for 88 dB sensitivity, which is about average.
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Would it actually damage the AVR or the speakers, or would it be ok to use at lower volumes on an avr until I get around to getting a hk 3490 or an external amplifier?

A typical AVR will drive 4 ohm speakers right up to rated power and beyond just fine, as long as the amp stays out of clipping and it is used to play music. I know that my Yamaha AVR is rated for that kind of usage and I have no reason to doubt it. In the past I've found that AVRs meet their specifications. In 2.0 or 2.1 usage (with a powered sub) they are loafing.

You can further extend the capabilities of an AVR by adding a good powered sub. The LS9s have a specified lower -3 dB limit of 50 Hz, so there is a lot of music,. either classical or contemporary that has substantial energy at frequencies below that lower limit. Furthermore, not pushing speakers to their lower limits makes them sound audibly cleaner in the upper bass and lower midrange.

If money still means anything to you, you will get a lot more good sound for the dollar by going with a good popular-priced AVR and taking the difference between that and the high priced spreads and investing it in a good sub, like one of Polk's 12 inchers.
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post #13 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 02:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

I question the statement that "most AVRs can't power them properly."
I've heard this said, but I've heard a lot of things said that were pure opinion with little or no practical experience or theoretical analysis to back it up.
For example, the LSi9s are speced for 88 dB sensitivity, which is about average.
A typical AVR will drive 4 ohm speakers right up to rated power and beyond just fine, as long as the amp stays out of clipping and it is used to play music. I know that my Yamaha AVR is rated for that kind of usage and I have no reason to doubt it. In the past I've found that AVRs meet their specifications. In 2.0 or 2.1 usage (with a powered sub) they are loafing.
You can further extend the capabilities of an AVR by adding a good powered sub. The LS9s have a specified lower -3 dB limit of 50 Hz, so there is a lot of music,. either classical or contemporary that has substantial energy at frequencies below that lower limit. Furthermore, not pushing speakers to their lower limits makes them sound audibly cleaner in the upper bass and lower midrange.
If money still means anything to you, you will get a lot more good sound for the dollar by going with a good popular-priced AVR and taking the difference between that and the high priced spreads and investing it in a good sub, like one of Polk's 12 inchers.

Yeah I said "it seems most AVRs can't power them properly" as in, basically no AVR is rated for 4 ohms.

So for music they are fine, does that mean that for movies they would not be ok? What does loafing mean? lol. I actually do have subwoofers I can add, if need be.

Would the LSI9's on a normal AVR be ok for movies if there is a powered sub crossed over at say 80 hz?
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post #14 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 02:03 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

There are a lot of crappy-sounding amplifiers and receivers for under $1000, and only a few good ones.
One of the best I know of for under $1000 is the Music Hall A15.2 integrated amp, which Music Direct is selling for Only $499 right now (was $800). That would be a good unit to build a system around. It sounds great, has a built-in phono preamp, and puts out an honest 70 watts per channel, which will power 95% of the speakers you can choose.
The sound quality of the HK is not too bad, but the Music Hall amp is definitely better-sounding IMO.
A pair of Monitor Audio Bronze BX-2 speakers for $489 is another thing I would recommend; they are really excellent for that price.The Monitor Audio Silver RX-2 are even better for $850. Very good sound and very good value for your money there. I personally think anyone who hears those in direct comparison with the Polks will choose Monitor Audio every time.
I don't think there is a better bookshelf / monitor speaker anywhere than the Silver RX-2 for under $1000; nothing Polk makes even comes close IMO. It also has an 8-inch woofer that goes down near 40 Hz, which for many systems will eliminate the need for a subwoofer.
Put that amplifier with the RX-2 and you will have some sound that will amaze you; very very good stuff.

I really like the look on Monitor Audio too smile.gif There's a dealer near my house I will definitely go give them a listen.

Just wondering, have you actually heard the LSI9's? They are available from polk refurbished for 550 a pair, so they are considerably cheaper then silver rx-2's. Are the silver rx-2's $300s better in your opinion?

Thanks
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post #15 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 02:12 PM
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I've heard this said, but I've heard a lot of things said that were pure opinion with little or no practical experience or theoretical analysis to back it up.
I think what's behind it is AVR user manuals, many (perhaps even most) of which caution against using 4 ohm (or sometimes even 6 ohm) speakers. Of course, they're anticipating a full set of 5 or even 7 speakers, which really might tax the amp section. If they're only driving two speakers, they've probably got far more juice than they need.

BTW, Chart #4 here indicates minimum impedance for the LSi9s at 50 Hz. So if you're rolling off to a sub above that point, you're taxing the amp even less.

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post #16 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 02:21 PM
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So for music they are fine, does that mean that for movies they would not be ok?
...
Would the LSI9's on a normal AVR be ok for movies if there is a powered sub crossed over at say 80 hz?
Unless you're watching a movie with a huge explosion with a fundamental frequency at 50 Hz, you're fine. And even if you're watching a movie with a huge explosion with a fundamental frequency at 50 Hz, you're still probably fine. Having a sub would remove every last doubt.
Quote:
What does loafing mean?
That it doesn't have to work very hard to drive just 2 speakers.
Quote:
Just wondering, have you actually heard the LSI9's? They are available from polk refurbished for 550 a pair, so they are considerably cheaper then silver rx-2's. Are the silver rx-2's $300s better in your opinion?
Just FYI, his opinions tend to correlate very well with the brands he sells. You should listen and make up your own mind.

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post #17 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

I think what's behind it is AVR user manuals, many (perhaps even most) of which caution against using 4 ohm (or sometimes even 6 ohm) speakers.

The manual for my AVR rates it at:

110 watts @ 8 ohms
130 watts @ 4 ohms
180 watts @ 2 ohms

IHFM Dynamic (20 msec) Power for the front speakers, which correlates well with actually playing music.. Front speakers crossed over as low as say 25 Hz will still stay well clear of the 20 msec limit.

Clearly, playing real world music into 2 ohm loads is within its ratings.
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post #18 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by WagBoss View Post

Yeah I said "it seems most AVRs can't power them properly" as in, basically no AVR is rated for 4 ohms.

I'm looking at the user manual for a common mainstream model that is rated for as low as 2 ohms. Its the first one I looked at.

To make it worth my trouble, what bounty are you paying for receivers that are rated for 4 ohm or below usage? ;-)
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post #19 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 05:21 PM
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The manual for my AVR rates it at:

110 watts @ 8 ohms
130 watts @ 4 ohms
180 watts @ 2 ohms

IHFM Dynamic (20 msec) Power for the front speakers, which correlates well with actually playing music.. Front speakers crossed over as low as say 25 Hz will still stay well clear of the 20 msec limit.

Clearly, playing real world music into 2 ohm loads is within its ratings.
Your sample of one suffers from selection bias, as in, "the kind of AVR Arny Kruger would buy." smile.gif

I've never seen an AVR spec sheet with figures like that. And I can't count how many user manuals I've seen that insist on 6-8 ohm speakers.

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post #20 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

I'm looking at the user manual for a common mainstream model that is rated for as low as 2 ohms. Its the first one I looked at.
To make it worth my trouble, what bounty are you paying for receivers that are rated for 4 ohm or below usage? ;-)


Not sure what you mean by that question, but are you looking in a manual for like a $4000.00 flagship model lol?
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post #21 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 07:09 PM
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I'm no more interested in doing a formal market survey about this question than Arny is, but I went to Crutchfield's listing of top-selling AVRs. The two most expensive AVRs listed in the top 20—Denon AVR-3313CI and Marantz SR7005—both specify a minimum nominal impedance of 6 ohms in their user manuals. I'd be shocked if most of the others didn't say the same.

Now, I'll bet all of them could handle 2 4-ohm speakers, and it wouldn't surprise me if many could even handle a set of 5 reasonably efficient ones. But unlike many audiophile myths, the myth that AVRs can't handle 4-ohm speakers derives partly from what manufacturers are actually telling customers.

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post #22 of 48 Old 07-30-2012, 08:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

I'm no more interested in doing a formal market survey about this question than Arny is, but I went to Crutchfield's listing of top-selling AVRs. The two most expensive AVRs listed in the top 20—Denon AVR-3313CI and Marantz SR7005—both specify a minimum nominal impedance of 6 ohms in their user manuals. I'd be shocked if most of the others didn't say the same.
Now, I'll bet all of them could handle 2 4-ohm speakers, and it wouldn't surprise me if many could even handle a set of 5 reasonably efficient ones. But unlike many audiophile myths, the myth that AVRs can't handle 4-ohm speakers derives partly from what manufacturers are actually telling customers.

I can see a problem being where someone hooks up 7 4 ohm speakers to a standard 7.1 AVR, and tries to blast em in a 20'x20' room and then complains to the company that their amplifier caught on fire. lol.
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post #23 of 48 Old 07-31-2012, 02:45 AM
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Originally Posted by WagBoss View Post

Not sure what you mean by that question, but are you looking in a manual for like a $4000.00 flagship model lol?

Actually, the AVR in question is a Yamaha RX-V371, street price $229.

The yamaha web site page with the RX-V371 download link is here: http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/av-receivers-amps/rx/rx-v371_black__u/?mode=model

The information I quoted is on page 69. I did not use any special selection methodology when I obtained this receiver. In fact, one reason I bought it was that it was on sale at a local appliance dealer's store.
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post #24 of 48 Old 07-31-2012, 03:02 AM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

I'm no more interested in doing a formal market survey about this question than Arny is, but I went to Crutchfield's listing of top-selling AVRs. The two most expensive AVRs listed in the top 20—Denon AVR-3313CI and Marantz SR7005—both specify a minimum nominal impedance of 6 ohms in their user manuals. I'd be shocked if most of the others didn't say the same.
Now, I'll bet all of them could handle 2 4-ohm speakers, and it wouldn't surprise me if many could even handle a set of 5 reasonably efficient ones. But unlike many audiophile myths, the myth that AVRs can't handle 4-ohm speakers derives partly from what manufacturers are actually telling customers.

The manufacturers are telling customers one of many truths. This particular behavior is forced on them by the US government Federal Trade Commission. It dates back to the 1960s if memory serves.

The number that you are referring to is probably the one that is based on tests with steady sine waves, and that requires continuous operation for something like 20 minutes or a half hour. In real world usage while playing music that is not egregiously clipped, nothing like this ever happens. One might say that the FTC tests are completely unrealistic, and in fact this has been repeatedly argued court.

One of the relevant questions is what does the word "handle" mean? It is true that in the past some power amplifiers have become unstable with 2 ohm loads. I think we can all agree that instability or a total melt-down with attendant permanent damage is not properly "handling" the load.

Almost all modern amplifiers will deliver enough steady sine wave power to a 2 ohm load to make a reasonably good showing The power levels at which they can do this in a FTC-style test is unimpressive in advertisements no matter how potentially useful they may be with music and regular speakers. Under realistic consumer usage scenarios they can perform well.

As has been correctly pointed out, adding a subwoofer to a system which makes sense for many other reasons, lessens the stress on an AVRs power amplifiers.

It is true that I have a 12" Paradigm subwoofer that I use with my Yamaha RX-V371. My main speakers are 8 ohm units that are claimed by Boston Acoustics to have 91 dB/W sensitivity.
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post #25 of 48 Old 07-31-2012, 03:07 AM
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Originally Posted by WagBoss View Post

I can see a problem being where someone hooks up 7 4 ohm speakers to a standard 7.1 AVR, and tries to blast em in a 20'x20' room and then complains to the company that their amplifier caught on fire. lol.

I've inadvertently destroyed 2 AVRs, one on the test bench, and one in my living room in actual use. (these events happened about 10 years apart) Both simply stopped working. The one I killed on the test bench was inadvertently left pushing full power @ 20 KHz into a resistive load. Based on what the room smelled like when I returned, had I been there to monitor the test, I probably would have stopped the test due to the odor and saved the receiver.

The other one happened right before my eyes and ears. It was due to over-amplifying a TV set with excess ultrasonic noise. The tweeters survived but the receiver did not. Oh, well it was cheap, albeit good sounding when it was new which was already many years back.
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post #26 of 48 Old 07-31-2012, 05:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Actually, the AVR in question is a Yamaha RX-V371, street price $229.
The yamaha web site page with the RX-V371 download link is here: http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/av-receivers-amps/rx/rx-v371_black__u/?mode=model
The information I quoted is on page 69. I did not use any special selection methodology when I obtained this receiver. In fact, one reason I bought it was that it was on sale at a local appliance dealer's store.

hmm, interesting. I have a rx-v671 .
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post #27 of 48 Old 07-31-2012, 08:01 AM - Thread Starter
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So I'm definitely going to be looking at Monitor Audio BX1, BX2, RX1, and RX2's. Does anyone have any insight on the difference between these and what is a better value? Any other bookshelfs comparable to these at this price range I should look at ?

Also, where is a good place to buy strong, nice looking stands, but not expensive ? XD I'm a fan of just the simple looking, thin-ish black metal stands.

I don't know anywhere I can listen to LSI9's frown.gif

I heard LSiM 703's, and loved them. But they are a bit out of my price range (1500 for a pair) unless there is a sale or something. I saw an open-box for 800 for the pair... shoulda picked em up but had just spent $1200 bucks on a subwoofer driver and an amp for it :S
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post #28 of 48 Old 07-31-2012, 09:58 AM
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hmm, interesting. I have a rx-v671 .

Please check page 126 of your users manual, column two near the bottom, for the 2 ohm power rating of your receiver. ;-)
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post #29 of 48 Old 08-01-2012, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
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nobody has any advice/opinions/suggestions on what speakers to get?
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post #30 of 48 Old 08-01-2012, 11:30 AM
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Seems like what you want is near-field speakers that I'm not familiar with. But for mid-field and under $1000 budget, try Focal Chorus bookshelves or Paradigm Studio 10s. Biggest upgrade you'll see over your Polk.
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